Bright Ideas and True Confessions: How and What to Do and Why
Etiquette

How to Figure Out The Rules on Your Own
Ælflæd of Duckford

Perhaps you learned things as a child, either at home, school, scouting, or somewhere, that apply here, but you didn't know it. Consider rules about shaking hands, tipping hats, rising when a woman (or, for girls, an elderly relative) comes into the room, who walks where on the sidewalk, who eats first. You can use those same principles to decide how to treat people in the Society.

Were you taught in third grade or so how to make introductions? I was always puzzled, and just memorized the rules verbatim. I didn't really understand the concept or word "introduce," so they would say "you introduce a younger friend to your mother." "You introduce a gentleman to a lady." Even when they said "You say the lady's name first," I could recite it back but I couldn't understand it. By creating a more extreme picture in my mind it comes clear. If you have a beggar and a king, you don't say to the beggar, "John, this is the King of Ansteorra." You say, "Your Majesty, this is John, a beggar." Okay. With that in mind, I can figure it out between a viscount and a countess.

If you didn't learn etiquette as a child or can't remember what you learned, it's not too late. There are etiquette books in all libraries and many used book stores. I recommend the oldest you can find. I've heard that 19th century etiquette books have become hot collectors' items, so try for things from the 1920's. There was still quite a bit of talk then about servants and guest houses, livery, butlers' duties, etc. These servant/employer rules are the direct descendants of practices that go back to the feudal period. In a discussion of the formal relationship between an employer and chauffeur, you can see the lord/servant relations even though the horses and coaches have been replaced with some twelve-cylinder marvel and a bunch of tools. The etiquette books are hilariously funny sometimes, to kids like me who never lived around anyone with servants, and fascinating in the fact that traditions begun in Europe a thousand years ago are still being played out behind big walls somewhere in the United States. (I don't believe it's in New Mexico much.)


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