I know every generation, when they find themselves teetering on the edge of middle age, questions the behaviour of the young.
“We never had that in my day,”
“I’d never have stayed in bed until that time!”
“Don’t they make coats anymore?”
These, and other such phrases are used so often but I do wonder if they are not tinged with a little jealousy of the carefree days of youth which have long since passed us by. Recently, I heard myself exclaim in horror at the shortness of skirts worn by some girls I saw in a pub. I have a sneaking suspicion that it was more to do with the fact that I’m nearing 30 and am unable to show as much of my once lithe legs anymore, rather than the skirts actually offending my sensibilities.
Manners, or lack thereof, are something else together.
I mean, it’s just so easy. If you want something you say please and omit the I want. If someone passes you something or holds the door open, you say thanks. Although, if someone holds the door open these days, you might first need to recover your composure, as rare an occurrence as this is, before expressing any appreciation. It’s much more likely the door will be slammed in your face –deliberately – whilst being filmed on someone’s iPhone.
We blame kids for this of course. They have no respect; teenagers are given too much freedom; there are no boundaries. There’s an almost never ending list of supposed reasons.
But can we really blame them?
Not a day goes by when I don’t see a woman having a conversation on her telephone whilst also paying at the supermarket; a man pushing the elderly to the side to get down as escalator quickly, usually dragging some poor toddler along behind.
And this is just how we treat strangers. I am filled with sadness when I see children trying desperately to engage their parents in a conversation to be greeted only with ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’ in the right places. Are they really listening? No. They’re playing Candy Crush.
If children aren’t valued themselves and they see their parents behaving so appalling towards other human beings, then that’s the behaviour they’re going to copy, surely?
I was talking about this recently with a stranger in a museum. We had both witnessed a woman click at the museum attendant for attention. Seriously.
‘You,’ the woman said, clicking faster. ‘You should be explaining to us about the Mummy.’ She seemed oblivious to the children she was escorting running around the room, ducking under exhibits, bouncing off display cases and shoving other visitors out of the way.
The stranger and I, who were both visiting the museum with our children, both gasped simultaneously. I couldn’t find any explanation or excuse for the lack of manners, whereas the man suggested it was due to skewed priorities and too fast a pace of life.
And I suppose he is right. We have been programmed to believe that everything should be available instantly. One click to download; buy-now-pay-never; new updates for our gadgets seemingly everyday. We are so used to this, that we seem unable to cope with having to wait our turn. Or even ask for something. It is our right, we are entitled to it. Now.
Added to this, we live in a society where we are forever short of time. It has become almost a competition to see who is the busiest, who can jam more into their day and take their kids to more places. We compete to have the latest models, the newest gadgets, the most luxurious holidays. Everything has a value. A monetary one.
We don’t read to our kids, we let them watch a DVD on the ‘9 ft wide-HD-ready-smart’ tv that none of their friends have. We don’t take them to the farm, we let them stroke the animals on the ‘so-slim-it’s-almost-invisible’ tablet that we were one of the first to get hold of, dont-cha-know?
Cost has taken over worth.
So here’s my idea: Let’s make manners into a commodity. Download them from i-tunes as a fancy app; order them on next day delivery from amazon; even have them hand-delivered and wrapped in the finest silk.
And I bet they’ll soon be back.