Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why I love Emily Post

I know it’s hard to believe that someone who says fuck as much as I do gives a whit about etiquette. Yet, I do.
I know Emily Post is seen as being the ultimate in snobbery. But, nothing could be further from the truth. Emily was the highest of high society ladies. But, she married an asshole. After her fancy husband had an affair with a stripper, she got herself a divorce and a job. In 1905. Back when such things were just.not.done.
We can pretend, if we like, that America is a classless society. But, we only are kidding ourselves. Even as race, gender, and sexual identity become less and less important … class remains.
The way Emily saw it, the only thing that separated high society from the rest of us was knowing the rules. If you could know the rules of high society, anyone could join. So she wrote all the rules down. What’s more inclusive than that?
There is a growing sentiment that manners and etiquette are outdated. According to Miss Manners, “etiquette is no longer a ladder for social climbers or a bludgeon for snobs; it's a tool for transforming ourselves and our society into something nobler, by bringing the ideals of mutual respect, dignity, and equality back into our everyday lives by the way we teach each other.” Manners are the grease that keeps society moving along.
In the introduction to Mrs. Post’s 1922 opus, there is an almost eerily prescient passage.
“The polished gentleman of sentimental fiction has so long served as the type of smooth and conscienceless depravity that urbanity of demeanor inspires distrust in ruder minds. On the other hand, the blunt, unpolished hero of melodrama and romantic fiction has lifted brusqueness and pushfulness to a pedestal not wholly merited.”
If only Sarah Palin had brushed up on her Emily Post, she might be Vice President.

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