Fast away the Old Year passes, and Etiquetteer often likes to look back of the Perfect, and Imperfect, Propriety of the Old Year. And 2018 had plenty of both to offer.
Someone’s bad behavior dominated the news all year long; you know who it is without Etiquetteer having to say his name. The words of India Wilkes in Gone With the Wind still come vividly to mind: “You’ve done everything you can to lower the prestige of decent people.” And of a Great Nation, too. His behavior should goad us all to Set a Better Example of our own in our daily lives.
And so, to specific stories:
Early in the year Delta Airlines announced that it would be cracking down on abuses of the rules for traveling with emotional support animals. “Ignoring the true intent of existing rules governing the transport of support and service animals can be a disservice to customers with real and documented needs.,” said the airline in a statement. Sadly, the filp side of that Encouraging Development was the death of a French bulldog puppy on a United Airlines flight after the owners were ordered to put the dog (in its carrier) in an overhead compartment. The airline announced that it would now be working with American Humane to review their policies, and Etiquetteer hopes this will also result in improved employee training.
In the spring a French court denied citizenship to an Algerian woman who refused to shake hands with an immigration official citing religious custom. This put the old saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” up against the other old saying “A gentleman never forces his attentions on a lady.” Etiquetteer sides with the lady. Still, it’s embarrassing when a profferred hand is refused, and it can be humliating when it happens in public. So Etiquetteer has a certain sympathy with the official. But is refusal to shake hands grounds for a denial of citizenship? Etiquetteer finds that penalty extreme.
What people display on their lawns, and how disapproval was expressed about them, also made the news. The first case had to do with hanging laundry out to dry and an anonymous letter requesting that it stop. There’s Nothing Improper about hang-drying laundry, though one’s front yard should be used only as a Last Resort. The second had to do with a December display of inflatable dragons that one anonymous neighbor felt was too “cult-like” to be Perfectly Proper for Christmas. Observe that in both cases the issues became public when the anonymous complaints were made public via social media by the recipients and then picked up by the news media. Anonymous letters are possibly the most cowardly way to resolve a problem. Etiquetteer doesn’t recommend it. In fact, they backfired. Public support for both the laundry and the dragons was very encouraging, thereby defeating the aims of the anonymous complainers.
The House of Windsor celebrated two weddings: Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, now known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, now known as Princess Eugenie and Mr. Brooksbank. Etiquetteer certainly enjoyed covering the weddings, especially from the point of view of the show-stopping Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara that used Princess Eugenie as a Tiara Delivery System.
One of the biggest issues on the restaurant front was when Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her party were asked to leave a restaurant because of her position in the current administration. That certainly made Etiquetteer reflect on the dinner Mrs. Vanderbilt gave for the German ambassador . . . after World War I was declared . . .
Also in the restaurant world, one waitress took action against bad behavior. Lots of men, including many who think of themselves as gentlemen, used to get away with patting women on the backside or “copping a feel,” but no more. Over the summer one waitress had enough and decked a restaurant patron who felt her up. The man was arrested, too.
Aretha Franklin’s funeral made headlines in September, not least for a bishop’s inappropriate (though probably unintended) contact with the bosom of singer Ariana Grande. Etiquetteer used a few examples from the funeral to discuss How Not to Upstage the Deceased.
People who care about matters of manners made news, too. Former White House social secretaries Mary Jane McCaffree (Eisenhower) and Nancy Tuckerman (Kennedy) died, and UK etiquette expert William Hanson started a hilarious podcast with radio personality Jordan North, “Help, I Sexted My Boss.”
Aaron Gouveia, the father of a five-year-old boy who paints his fingernails, took a stand against bullying after his son was publicly shamed by his schoolmates. Etiquetteer voted Mr. Gouveia Father of the Year in a column on manicures for men. Also from the schoolroom, a Connecticut school put an end to parental visits to the lunchroom. Etiquetteer cannot even imagine why this Parental Indulgence was allowed in the first place.
Bad behavior on public transportation continued to make news. In Boston a woman named Jada Campbell not only refused to move her bag off a seat when asked by a 71-year-old woman, but then punched her when she tried to move the bag. Your bag isn’t entitled to a seat. Period. And violence is never the way to solve a problem. Etiquetteer hopes Ms. Campbell’s arrest has changed her attitude. In December another rider brought a gigantic live Christmas tree onto the Red Line at rush hour - NOT Perfectly Proper!
The list could go on, of course, but by all means share your best and/or worst moments of 2018 Perfect Propriety with Etiquetteer. Let’s all do our best to make 2019 a Most Proper Year Indeed!