Volume 12, no. 2
To the Manner Born
The lawyer thought he knew everything. After all, he left at least a 20 percent tip—and always let everyone at the table know how much he’d tipped, boasting that a good tip bought respect. At the top of his class, he routinely brought in the big bucks. But he had not the slightest clue about writing a thank-you letter, consistently left the toilet seat up, and regaled total strangers about his sex life. Barely a step above eating peas with a knife, the boor’s A-V rating meant nothing when it came to behavior in civil society. He was an oaf clad in Brooks Brothers. Who doesn’t remember the big firmassociate who left the famous message memorialized at www.gawker.com/topic/lawyer.mp3? You’ve met those kinds, and so have I. Couth knows no gender, nor class or education or station in life.
Just before a second grade classmate’s birthday party, my mother introduced me to Emily Post’s Etiquette, marking the chapter for “Junior Etiquette,” which led to a fascination with the rest of the book, which set forth rules for deportment at balls and dances, debutante parties, the vanishing chaperone, the lady’s maid, the butler in a smaller house, and the world of the Newell Riches and Mrs. Wellborn, Mr. Kindheart, and Mr. Clubwin Doe. It’s a world that only exists in the thinnest slice of today’s society, but fortunately, Emily Post ( www.emilypost.com) and her intellectual siblings Amy Vanderbilt ( www.amyvanderbilt.com), Leticia Baldridge ( www.letitia.com), and Miss Manners, a.k.. Judith Martin, have explored and set the rules for new frontiers. Even Slate.com is on the etiquette bandwagon with Dear Prudence. Today’s etiquette addresses issues that Emily’s first book, published in 1922, never contemplated: email, gay and lesbian couples, unwed parents, cell phones, and how to eat edamame.
What was once a single chapter in Emily Post’s earlier editions about business etiquette now fills entire volumes and newspaper and magazine columns. When a stenographer should rise when visitors enter the office may no longer be a pressing issue, but casual dress and sexual harassment are major concerns.
Lawyers know enough to research the law they don’t know. Amazingly, many fail to realize that resources abound to look up answers to compelling questions of etiquette. Why not pick up an etiquette book on your next trip to a bookstore? Some suggested titles are: The Etiquette Advantage in Business by Peggy Post and Peter Post, Letitia Baldridge’s New Complete Guide to Executive Manners, Letitia Baldridge’s Guide to New Manners for New Times.
jennifer j. rose, editor-in-chief of GPSolo, collects old editions of Emily Post in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico.