Monday, March 17, 2014

How It Should Be

Let's talk about manners today! Are you sure you know the correct way to do things? In the 1930s, ladies' magazines actually used to teach the rules of decorum and give useful advice instead of publishing celebrity gossip and feminist propaganda. So here is a series of pictures featuring a rather impolite couple who keep shocking others by their lack of good breeding. First we make acquaintance with a young woman invited to a dinner at someone's home. What is she doing wrong?

She is wiping her plate with her napkin, something which is only permissible in a restaurant (though I wouldn't do it there, either), which is clearly insulting to the hostess (suggesting that her dishes are probably not that clean).

Her transgression against the rules of good breeding, however, pales in comparison to the real black sheep of the article, a very thoughtless young man, who proceeds to make not one, but several unpardonable mistakes:

After arranging his napkin in a really peculiar manner, this particular young man, starts eating before the hostess gives a signal to commence. Notice the look of total disbelief on the faces of his two neighbours. Far from being embarrassed, he then starts drinking while the master of the house is still busy pouring himself a drink! As if this were not enough, he lights a cigarette while his neighbour (a lady from the first picture) is still eating.

Since the two obviously have much in common, our young man apparently invites her to go to a restaurant with him. In the picture below we see him with a bunch of flowers, but our lady is apparently late, while a really well-bred woman will never keep a gentleman needlessly waiting!

In the picture number 6 his fair companion is attending to her make-up during dinner. Now it's his turn to look embarrassed. The young man, however, seems to be really determined to win the competition of the most impolite character of the year 1940. At the next party he is invited to, he shows his lack of manners in full:

Can you see what exactly is he doing wrong? Talking to a woman with a cigarette in his mouth and sitting quite comfortably while the lady is standing!
 This particular "lord of creation" as the article calls him, finally proves that in spite of his fine clothes he is really not a gentleman, by doing this:

Have you seen it? In total violation of all the norms of the civilised society, he offers his hand to a lady, instead of waiting for her to do it first!

The clothes they are all wearing may be old-fashioned, but the rules of etiquette basically didn't change, it's just that less people try to follow them. Here at Adventures In Keeping House, we are trying to keep people informed so that I hope that none of my readers will ever find themselves in such a situation:)


  1. Dear Sanne,

    thank you for posting this! The last pic was a real eye-opener!

    I am observant of something called shomer negiah ( ) and I was delighted to see that this modern hugging craze that we are surrounded is nothing but bad behavior. In eastern cultures it still is not appropriate to approach opposite sex with an intent to touch her/him, and somehow we in the west find it oppressive. Let love reign! Group hug!

    Manners, please!

  2. Dear Miriam,

    you are welcome! People in general used to be much more reserved in the past. An old book on manners which I possess states that it's very ill-bred to walk arm-in-arm, even for the husband and wife, let alone kiss and hug in the street. As I understand, the meaning of the last picture was that it's up to the lady to decide if she wants to shake hands. Well, at least he took off his hat so he must be not totally hopeless:)

    1. 'it's up to the lady to decide if she wants to shake hands'. Exactly! But nowadays every man comes with an outreached arm and it's considered rude not to shake hands. It smells like feminism to me...

  3. I would say that if someone offers you the hand to shake and you ignore it, it can be cosidered as pretty rude, that was the whole point of the last picture, the man placed the girl in such a position that it would be rude to decline his hand, but it was apparently entirely up to the lady to decide how far she wanted to go. He simply left her no choice on the matter.