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Apparently, I’m Not Polite Enough

I consider myself to have excellent manners. I’m still unclear about on which side of the plate to place the forks. But my etiquette skills were so well ingrained in me as a child that it is still hard for me to call my parents’ friends by their first names. [caption id="attachment_5439" align="alignright" width="300"]What was my mom thinking? What was my mom thinking?[/caption] But if you ask my daughters, I am woefully lacking in my technological etiquette, and it’s all because I have made the obviously ridiculous assumption that a cell phone is to be used as A PHONE! For instance, my friends and I do text each other, but when making plans, we do what is apparently hopelessly old-fashioned: we dial the phone and talk to each other. So much easier, it seems to me, than what my daughters do. I can’t tell you how many times one of them has sat home on a Friday night because she texted a friend to confirm plans made in school that day and the friend didn’t text her back. Another scenario is that three girls text each other to coordinate a plan, but one forgets to respond, and the plans fall apart. It’s maddening for me to watch. And if I dare to say, “Why don’t you just call each other?” based on the reaction I get, I think they hear: “Why don’t you run over a litter of cute puppies?” My latest breach of etiquette is that I did not get the memo that my cell phone voice mail is no longer of use. According to my daughters, who say ALL of their friends know this, what you’re supposed to do is call and if the person doesn’t pick up, hang up immediately. Your friend understands that means they’re to call you back. Do not, under any circumstances, waste their time with a message. I learned this new rule from my oldest when we had a miscommunication recently. She was away with friends and I was trying to give her space so I waited for her to call me. Not knowing the rule, when I missed her call and didn’t get a message from her, I assumed she had changed her mind because perhaps her friend had come into the room. This went on until I got a very upset text from her asking why I wasn’t taking her calls. When we finally spoke, my daughter told me that what I had done was rude. Honestly, I have never felt the generation gap so strongly as at that moment. I mean, I just don’t get it! I adjust very fluidly to my girls’ changes in friendships, interests, and moods. But this new development, that I am not as polite as I thought I was, well, it will take me a while to get used to. It’s funny, because not long ago I had to remind my daughters that they should hold the door open for their elders.  That was one of the many etiquette rules I learned long ago. I have not heard from anyone—yet—that that has changed. For me, good etiquette is mostly intuitive, based on compassion and consideration for others. I do understand that manners continue to evolve. I just never expected my children to be correcting me.  I do wonder what more we have to do as parents to teach our children manners beyond please and thank you. Has proper etiquette really changed that much? I hate to think that our children will have such a vastly different set of manners than we do. Meanwhile, I intend to be old-fashioned and use my phone as it was originally intended. But I can’t guarantee I’ll set the table correctly.


Author: Liza N. Burby is contributing publisher of "Long Island Parent" magazine. See More

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