Thursday, February 10, 2005

Speaking Softly and Carrying The Proverbial Big Stick

I address people with "sir" and "ma'am" quite frequently. I can't help it, it's simply ingrained in my nature. Amazingly enough, I was not trained as a young monkey to say "please", "thank you" or other such etiquette driven ideals. Quite the opposite in fact, it is a reaction to the lack of it's use among denizens of my generation. Unfortunately, it has the unexpected result of making some people feel absolutely archaic! This is not my intention.

If I happen to refer to you with any sort of honorific title please be aware I'm not attempting to instill in you any illusions of grandeur, and you are not in fact an ancient beast, it's merely because I like you and I am paying my respect in the manner I think suits you best. If it truly bothers you I'll stop of course. Just say so. I'm good like that.

This made me think, perhaps I'm not as progressive a person as I perceive myself to be. I suppose the stigma associated with this type of polite behavior is a direct descendant of an oppressive and deceptive by-gone era. I can understand this. It's probably why the number of people in whom I encounter gentlemanly behavior are few and far between. But I will still call you "sir" even if you are rude to me. I am the king of avoiding confrontation, if you couldn't tell already.

That must be part of my problem. I dwell in the notions of chivalry and altruism too much and indeed it backfires sometimes. I make no qualms that mannerisms do carry weight in the minds of others. But I don't wish it to be simply a facade to pull off successfully, I hope it to be an active part of my identity. I would be pleased to be known as a "Gentleman Rebel." Respectability within activism. Dignity coupled with change. Maybe the two aren't so mutually exclusive as we might think. It is a new century after all.

Of course, this might mean I'm in for some serious trouble when my monkey's rebel.



Michael said...

Manners can really be such a nice thing.

I think it's a bit sad that people really do consider them archaic and a relic of an oppressive era: I use sir and ma'am out of respect, not submission. I was raised that way, yes, but the older I get the more I feel that these little things - just stopping a minute every morning to say goodmorning to the security guard in my office building, and goodnight in the evening (though admittedly I call him by name, not 'sir') - really helps smoothe the path of life, and makes things easier. Only one spare umbrella left? Guess who doesn't get wet.

I'm continually appalled by people's lack of manners. People who routinely show up to a party underdressed and without so much as a bottle of wine for the host. Walking past your neighbors sitting on thir porch without stopping to say hello.

I guess I grew up just far enough south of the Mason-Dixon to say.

Alan said...

Manners are simply supposed to be the little rules that grease our social interactions. I can't imagine that someone would be annoyed to be called "ma'am" or "sir". If they are annoyed, it isn't your fault for being polite, it's their problem for being boors.

Manners make the man, I think.