Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

C: Mind Your Manners

This weekend we held a shower at my house for V's soon-to-be-daughter-in-law. V's middle child will marry this sweet girl on September 5--I am certain there will be pictures on this blog.

Weddings always bring etiquette to my mind--all those rules about whose (bride's? or grooms?) responsibility this or that is and whether you are "supposed" to do this or that thing. I observe the everyday rules of etiquette most of the time, like writing thank you notes and telling someone "so nice to meet you," but weddings, well they bring out the Emily Post, don't they?

About 20 years ago I was doing library duty at my son's elementary school and I ran across the Emily Post book,"Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage" from 1941. As I whiled away time between checking books out for kids, I read through it. It was so fascinating that I took it home to read and, finally, I just had to buy it. The librarian recognized that it had little use in her school's little library, and she let me purchase it and so now it is mine. Since that time I found another copy at a garage sale and snapped it up, so intrigued was I. So, now I have TWO!

The rule structure is amazing, and it became clear to me as I read through it that Emily's "rule book" was so intricate that none of us "commoners" who were not born into the system could ever "pass." A "faux pas" was bound to happen if you were not born and bred into society. Breeding will, after all, tell!

As I got ready for the shower, I wondered what Emily had to say about this tradition of "showering" a bride-to-be with gifts. I reached for the antiquated etiquette book, half expecting to find that showers are held only by "common" people. I was pleased to see that 1941 Emily not only approves of the shower tradition for new brides, but has several interesting suggestions for throwing one. Er, uhm, for "hosting" one (how vulgar to use the term "throw" when speaking of a social occasion!)

Emily points out, as well, the difference between gift giving for wedding as opposed to gifts for showers: Weddings gifts are sent directly from the shop where the gifts are purchased, not hand-carried, don't you know? Shower gifts, on the other hand, are given personally, either upon arrival or sent ahead for presentation at the shower.

Let me give you one of Emily's suggestions for a delightful bridal shower:
...the most effective way of giving the presents is to have them all sent to the hostess several days beforehand. She leaves the packages wrapped as they are, but puts each in a uniform 'gift wrapping' so that the whole stack of packages shall be attractively alike.

See how much more attractive the "matching" pile is than that dreary mishmash of wrapping paper?

Now, let me understand this...I would re-wrap already-wrapped gifts so that the packages are alike but as you unwrap, the original wrapping paper appears to then also be torn off??? I'm thinking I simply don't have the time for this (I'm sure these women relied on staff to do this), and Emily certainly was not "green!"

Emily also suggests a type of treasure hunt (think scavenger hunt, although I am almost certain Emily would not approve of this term!) The bride-to-be is given clues with each succeeding gift and finds them hidden all over the house. What fun! If you live in the Biltmore mansion. In my home, however, I just don't have the hiding places to make this fun game a reality!

Here is a picture of my maid greeting my shower guests:

Ha! If only...Emily's caption to this photo says,

A GEM OF A HOUSE. It may be no size at all, but its details are perfect, and its bell is answered promptly by a trim maid with a low voice, a quiet courteous manner.

Ah, well, we girls made do without a maid ("low voice" or not), and had a great time. And hauling the Emily Post book back out has me, once again, obsessed with this glimpse into "society" of nearly seventy years ago.

In the next few days, I will post a quiz to see how well you readers can score on Emily's requirements for "best taste," as she puts it. And, from your entries and comments, we will choose one to win your very own copy--my spare!!

See you next time! C


Debbie said...

What a great post. An 'Emily' post, to be sure. I enjoy reading older books and comparing those times to these. I realize some of these rules of etiquette may seem extreme or out of touch with our culture today. But I believe we've thrown out too much 'baby with the bath water'. Etiquette has been pretty well abolished on all levels of society, especially in weddings and showers. The manners many of us were raised with and consider common knowledge are ignored or absent. I miss them. They were good playing rules that could be counted on. What we're left with is unappreciation and thoughtlessness. Manners are kindness. The slogan 'kindness matters' is actually true.I don't think we'll be seeing a comeback in the future.

Me said...

Oh goodness! I used to have a copy of that book. Like you, I found it impossibly fascinating - and insane!I also remember bringing it out around the time of my wedding. It truly is the perfect occasion for such things. What a wonderful world she paints, neh? I do agree with the PP, though, the most basic manners and etiquette has all but vanished from society as we know it. Ms. Post is turning in her grave, no doubt!

Glad your shower turned out nice, even if the gifts didn't all match - or arrive a week early!

Suzan said...

As the proud daughter of blue collar Detroit "society" I learned kindness and gratiude. I'm not too much impressed with "etiquette" really:)

KathyB. said...

Yes, a great post on Post. Miss Emily must have had as you say, 'help', or a lot of spare time to muse over such trivialities!However, she also has many good rules of etiquette that are simply ways of being considerate to others and that should never go out of style.

We have hosted Japanese exchange students off and on and there is something special about observing traditions of respect. That book must be a lot of fun to read through and I think a party given to read and discuss some of her rules of etiquette could be a very entertaining time.( can't see anyone but Martha Stewart re-wrapping presents to have a coordinated and matching present display)

Terry said...

Oh this was a great post .
Lots of fun !
One of my memories of my MIL was
not a pleasant one but it did happen .
Hubby and I had only been married a little over six months and Christmas was upon us.
I was so excited until I was at MIL's home and a gift arrived for her from a neighbor .
Horrors it did not match her own chosen paper !!!
She pitched a fit ,her neighbor knew better !
It must be rewrapped to match :)
I being from a farm in a rural area had never heard of such a thing .
Needless to say I was pretrified.
Hubby and I had already eloped because of all the wedding discussion chaos .
Now must I run away from Christmas too ???
Let's just say I spent many years learning a lot of things I never knew I didn't know .
Have a great rest of the week.
Happy Trails

Anonymous said...

Hey C that is a pretty good idea. I bet I can pass the test after all I may be older than Emily Post herself and I went to an all girl's private school. Etiquette was one of the courses. Enjoyed your post.

lila said...

Very enlightening! I love your careful resuearch and humorous manner of sharing it with us!!!
Bet your shower was lots of fun! Looking forward to the test...Ha!

Melissa said...

I think your blog is simply beautiful.

I always feel so refreshed after visiting.

Thank you for your dear sweet comments.


kath001 said...

If laughter is the best medicine, then you have set me on the road to recovery.

Thanks for the sheer joy (coughing fit aside). :)

Leslie said...

Oh, we have much in common, I have a 1955 Emily Post's Etiquette book. I must pull it out again. It is fascinating. How wonderful that you would give away your extra copy.

I had a great aunt that was almost exactly like Emily Post and she had a big influence on me as a child.

I laughed at the "trim" maid, a chunky maid just wouldn't do.

Robynn's Ravings said...

OH! Are you simply kidding me? I would LOVE to own that copy but I'm an etiquette dolt I'm sure! My dogs do greet my visitors in a low "bark" though JoJo, my eldest, is far from trim. Minky fits the "trim" category but is too young for her voice to have lowered. I know this will never do. Emily, I need you just as Alexander Graham Bell needed Watson! LOVED this "POST," ladies!

Word Verification: Unwons

"One should not serve unwons to dinner guests who will be conversing in close circles all evening."

Anonymous said...

Love this, C. At one time, I had a secretarial manual from the 40's. I have no idea what happened to it, but I do remember it told you to store your hat and gloves in a drawer,out of sight. And it talked alot about lady-like behavior.

Susie Q said...

Always a joy to be here and read your wonderful words!! I love this! Hmmm....I wonder if it is wrong to have a no trim maid with a high voice? Not that *I* will ever have the chance to have either sort!
But being kind and generous never is out of style!!
Have a sweet weekend!

Farmchick said...

Love the picture of the maid. Please direct her to my house. I shall keep her busy. None of that answering the door business.

Melissa said...

I just wanted to thank you for your kind words and your shared words of wisdom.

Love Melissa

Linda Lou Rogers Averitt said...

loved it...my best joke on this is a very wealthy to do man married a very back wards farm girl, so he sent her to etiqette school, so she was having tea with the ladies and one lady said, my husband bought me a new diamond ring for Christmas, the farm girl said, oh really! how nice! the other said my husband bought me a new car and the farm girl said, oh really! how nice! The ladies ask her what her husband did for her for Christmas, as they looked at her, then the farm girl said, my husband sent me to etiqette school so I would learn to say OH, Really, how nice, when I am with you ladies instead of who gives a s...!!

ok, put me in the drawing I for sure need the book, I only got two of the questions right:)

Lisa said...

I've not read any of Emily's etiquette rules. Which means that I am sure to make mistakes quite regularly!

I'm glad you dropped by to visit. Indoor "forts" were quite fun, weren't they?


Anonymous said...


Related Posts with Thumbnails