Posted by: cassymuronaka | December 18, 2013

Polite pays off

It doesn’t say much for Americans that there is a negative, rather than a positive spin, to all the articles and blogging I see on a little cafe in France that rewards etiquette.

La Petit Syrah in Nice, France charges  less if a customers asks in a polite way for coffee or latte.  And if you are very very polite, you pay even less. And this is clearly posted in a blackboard.

La Petit Sarah

Say what you will about the alleged rudeness of the French, but I don’t see any restaurants in the United States with signs like this.

I am not the only old fart who sees etiquette as a lost art.  It is very strange that Baby Boomers whose manners were pounded into them within an inch of their life (or so it seemed when I was 10-years-old) have not managed to leave the me-me-me 1980s mentality behind when it comes to their own children.

Because I had a child late — I was almost 40 — I had a great deal of time before that to watch my peers indulge for typical toddler crimes (tantrums, conversation domination, violence to younger siblings) which would have caused my mother or father to send me to my room for life.

When we decided to have a child, my husband and I promised each other than no matter how many stumbles we made as parents,  instilling etiquette in our son would not be one of them. We had both just too many bad experiences with otherwise normal friends who produced offspring and then had gone and lost their minds when it came to disciplining them. And we had been in too many supermarkets and department stores where children screamed or ran wild throwing clothing or toys all over the place.

My husband has told me that his parents actually added a wall in front of the stairs leading from the second level to the first level of his family home — where the living room was located — because his parents wanted to keep the children seen and not heard when his mother and father hosted company. This always seemed a little extreme to me, but the Japanese are freaks for politeness and, then again, I don’t go to friends’ houses to end up as a captive audience for Small and Cute when I think I am arriving at a party with adults.

My favorite memory of Boomer parental delusion is at an evening party when the firstborn of the hosts came out in her pretty little pink dress and spent more than an hour singing, dancing  and monologuing in a circle of paralyzed adults. She adored being the center of attention, which is what most five-year-olds want, of course.

The parents thought this was just terrific.  In fact, when the little girl finally paused for breath, the mother turned to me with a huge smile and said, “M—- is just so intelligent.  She gets bored so easily.”

A giant lightbulb went off in my head when I heard this.  I had been wondering for years how parents rationalized their ill-behaved children.  Suddenly, I had my explanation: The children were so bright that they needed the mental stimulation of performing for adults and never being disciplined for anything that came out of their mouths or off their tiny little fists.

M—- was a perfectly nice little girl who just needed her parents to yank the chain back and put her to bed. However, there is no doubt in my mind that while she probably is brighter than many in her generation, she also is one of the ones who texts endlessly in the middle of dinners in restaurants and has long, loud conversations on that same cell phone in the waiting room of doctor’s offices.


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