Trying to get on track and not succeeding very well

  • Posted on: 27 February 2009
  • By: MeiLin

I have written perhaps five words on the story. I can't come up with anything for the Anniversary (besides the awesomeness that is the t-shirt--so far, one other person besides me has bought one, so our awesomeness will be relatively solitary). I had chiropractic this morning and it opened up something; I've felt like crying ever since. Right now I just want to sleep and I know I won't. Especially because we have company and dinner needs to go in the oven and BSG is on in two hours (we watch the Eastern feed, because really, why wait until 10 for the non-HD version when you can have HD at 7?).

The better news is that I found my copy of "A Guide to the Manners, Etiquette and Deportment of the Most Refined Society," by John H. Young, A.M., circa 1883. It is a treasure trove of hilarity and inspiration, and yet there is something in me that longs for a world where you ACTUALLY HAVE A MANUAL. That must have been wonderful in a horrible, constricting way. Don't know what the proper response is to a situation? RTFM, baby. Here, we wing it.

Also good news: A came over with a big stack of Georgette Heyers, which always puts me in a good mood. Anyway. meh.

Comments

Capriox's picture

Embodiment

*hugs*

I, too, love old etiquette and social topic manuals and pamphlets from roughly 1840 to 1930. Of course, I also am very glad to live in the here-and-now, but still. I'm pretty sure we threw a few babies out with the bath water when our society abandoned all those old social guidelines.

The Vixen's picture

Devotee

I feel some of your pain. Stuck in bed with what is most likely the flu for a week now, AND my dermatitis (DH - part of my Celiac's) flared up about a month ago, and hasn't gone away since. I'm SOOOOOOOO ITCHY!!! It's gotten so bad now, it's spread to my elbows and I even have some blotches and bumps around my eyes. I'm going to have to go to the dermatologist soon and get serious medicine. I don't even know what I had that was contaminated, it wasn't even enough to give me stomach discomfort.

Trying to get laundry done today, but mostly just watching reruns of Highlander on Hulu.

Pete Tzinski's picture

Douglas Adams called it "the Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul"

Boy, do I have those days too. All I can suggest is tea, and love, and TV is good too. And when I'm really glum, I read interviews by writers I admire and, I dunno, live vicariously.

And I LOVE old books and old news articles. I, too, think we threw out some babies with the bathwater (what a wonderful phrase, in this context). I can't bring myself to full nutter-luddism and wish we didn't have the modern world (I'm not nuts; I know what the dentistry and surgery was like back then. NO THANK YOU) but I do think there are some elements of that world that we could use today.

And the language was so wonderful. I regularly read stuff at http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/ and just revel in the magnificence of this odd, beautiful language which is sort of like ours, but with fewer uses of the word "dude." Wink

*hugz!*

JZ's picture

Something you might want to check out one of these days: Norbert Elias' The History of Manners. Basically he ends up looking at a history of manners in western culture and notes how they change and what those changes say about how western culture grows more sensitive to certain issues over time.

It's an extremely interesting book -- more interesting probably if you're working on a degree in sociology than if you're looking for casual reading material, but I had a great time reading it. Can't find my copy though at the moment. I'm hoping I didn't loan it out.

Anyway, the sort of thing that they end up talking about in old books of manners is hilarious to modern sensibilities. For example, I recall something from a medieval book of manners that assumed that it was perfectly okay to urinate in corners in a castle and then pointed out what sort of places in the castle one shouldn't urinate in.

Another thing that amused me? Apparently it was customary that the wedding party stay in the chambers watching until bride and groom had definitely had sex at the beginning of the Middle Ages. By the end, they only stayed until the couple was lying on the bed in their clothes.

These days all that remains of that particular custom is the bit where it's customary for the British royal family to appear publicly the morning after the wedding.

Anyway, all I'm saying is you might get a kick out of reading it sometime.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

What I've had trouble finding out, and this is a weird thing to want to know about but I really do, is one you bring up: urination! Apparently during dinner parties in the 18th century it was common to use a commode in the dining room...? I cannot remember where I saw the reference, but it's been bothering me ever since because it sounds so ridiculous. Where DID one go to pee in the pre-19th century?? Or post before the invention of the water closet! I know about chamberpots for nighttime use. Were they used during the day? Why do I care! I don't know! Smile

A long way of saying I should very much like to read that.

JZ's picture

It seems to be available on Amazon. Also, you'll probably be able to find it at most universities' libraries. I don't know if precisely what you're looking for will be in there, but I know that he does cover the general topic.

His focus is largely on where the threshold of embarrassment changes. Urination in public is okay at one point, but not later. Ditto farting, etc...

A's picture

Postulant

There are also about five more essential Heyer titles I need to aquire, reread, then loan to you.

Wraith's picture

Petitioner

I've always found some of the etiquette from prior times fascinating. That and seeing how it's extrapolated into the various fantasy and sci-fi books I read.

Something that I find really interesting is one of my friends is going to be starting an experiment soon. She grew up as a tomboy, quite aggressive, and crude at times, pretty much the exact opposite of most "traditional" women. So she has been doing some research, and is going to try to spend a month acting more like a "traditional" woman. It's really a blend of social rules from the renaissance/victorian period (not sure which) through to about 1950's housewife. I am lucky in that I am part of what we're calling the administration group. I'm one of 5 people that know all about the project ahead of time. Most of the people she knows know nothing about it, and that's a large part of the project, to see other peoples reaction. She also wants to see how it affects her and she kind of wants to see what she might have been like if she had remained more of a girly-girl (her words, not mine) growing up.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

I am absolutely fascinated by her experiment. Brava.

kawaiikune's picture

Embodiment

Except in mine, the biggest change was that I stopped wearing jeans and baggy t-shirts for a month, and borrowed a bunch of my sister's skirts, boots, fancy shoes, and blouses or sweaters for a month my senior year of high school. Not only were people a lot nicer to me, but I, who had never been invited to a single party before, was promptly invited to six, and I found that a lot of popular boys wanted to try to get in my pants (pretty much all of them were jerks about it, but they were still trying). I guess that's not quite the same experiment, but I thought it was interesting.

Davik's picture

Embodiment

My version of that experiment was one day in senior year of highschool. I changed out of my typical black and put on khakis and a white shirt. I was used to getting some weird looks, but on that day just about every last person in the school was looking at me like I'd totally flipped and was about to blow up the place }:)

Tirael's picture

Well, although i'd probably still toss it out the window 90% of the time, it would certainly be nice to have a structured, recorded compilation of proper etiquette to refer to. Powers know my life would be a lot easier if i had a manual on how to act around other people. Methinks the problem nowadays is that even though our society is as rigid and unflexible in relation to people's behaviour today as it was 100 years ago, we pretend that people are allowed more freedom in how they act, and so many of the rules and laws we act by in our relations to other people are left unspoken, which is particularly troublesome for people like me, who never were able to pick up on that sort of thing.

As for MeiLin's question: I don't know about the rest of the world, but in polite society in Denmark, it was actually considered bad manners to leave a dinner party in order to urinate. Guests were expected to hold their water untill the dinner was concluded, which i imagine can be an exceedingly rigorous affair when faced with a 20-course meal. Actually, some people died because of it, due to ruptured bladders (one must consider that nobility back then were often heavy drinkers, and as alchohol drives water, well...)
I imagine that people had to get rather inventive in order to relieve themselves, so peeing in a cup-board, a vase or any other easily accesible container was probably standard practice.

Capriox's picture

Embodiment

Tirael wrote:
I imagine that people had to get rather inventive in order to relieve themselves, so peeing in a cup-board, a vase or any other easily accesible container was probably standard practice.

See, my mind went there, trying to imagine that, and it generated a picture of a fat nobleman on a bench at a banquet table in a medieval, rush-floored hall, with something like a cross between a wooden chamber pot and a cup on the floor between his feet to sneak a leak. And then I thought, "A tinkle cup between your toes!"

I'm sorry, I obviously have not caught up on my sleep from the last two weeks of kidding seasons because my sanity & sharing filter still seems to be stuck on "random." Apologies, and off to nap now...

LaurenF's picture

Petitioner

All I have to say is, I absolutely love the picture that goes along with this post. I look at that child and cannot stop giggling.

You'll get there Meilin, and in the meantime, maybe post some amusing excerpts from that wonderful etiquette book of yours Smile

kawaiikune's picture

Embodiment

there are a ton of books. I had this book calledHow Rude when I was a kid, and it was really helpful. I think my mom was just trying to get me to behave a little better, but it was funny, had lots of good examples and was generally pretty useful. It even had a section on lying (when you should lie to be polite, etc.) Not exactly a manual, but definitely some good guidelines.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

there's always Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Freshly Updated. Dear Miss Manners. I met her. She is exactly who you think she is.

kawaiikune's picture

Embodiment

feel like she would be very disapproving, and that she wouldn't like me very much. I also always feel like she would have some choice things to say about my sense of humor. Blum 3 The book could be good, though.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

And Miss Manners is very polite and kind, at least in public. I have no idea how she is in private. But always remember dears, the very definition of politeness is kindness, at least in MY book of manners.

kawaiikune's picture

Embodiment

Even if it's a ridiculous movie, my favorite quote on manners is from Blast from the Past:

Troy: You know, I asked him about that. He said, good manners are just a way of showing other people we have respect for them. See, I didn't know that, I thought it was just a way of acting all superior. Oh and you know what else he told me?
Eve: What?
Troy: He thinks I'm a gentleman and you're a lady.
Eve: [disgusted] Well, consider the source! I don't even know what a lady is.
Troy: I know, I mean I thought a "gentleman" was somebody that owned horses. But it turns out, his short and simple definition of a lady or a gentleman is, someone who always tries to make sure the people around him or her are as comfortable as possible.
Eve: Where do you think he got all that information?
Troy: From the oddest place - his parents. I mean, I don't think I got that memo from mine.

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