Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bad Mannered Mommy

In the middle of a conversation about the decline of manners, K jumped in and shared how she, a homeschool mom, made it a point to teach her children manners and etiquette as well as academic subject matter. I was on board with the head nods and the good-for-yous until K shared an anecdote about an acquaintance of hers, who displayed terrible manners. What happened: K's friend objected to being called "ma'am" by an African-American cashier, and told him that he wasn't her slave and didn't have to address her that way. Wow. Just wow.

First, it seems like maybe the woman in question (a) resents being called "ma'am" instead of "miss"; (b) feels guilty about some latent racist feelings; or (c) needs to work on her social skills...or maybe (d) all three. However, in the telling of this story, what struck me was not the inappropriate outburst, but rather the way K prefaced it: the reason behind this rude outburst is that the woman is a Yankee (said with a sneer). Oh, and by the way, K's ten-year-old son was there with her. So, it seems that in addition to reading, writing, 'rithmatic and manners, K is teaching her children that it is OK to make generalizations about people based on their origins, and that it's acceptable to disparage someone based on where they are from. Yes, that boy will hold the door open for you, but if you are a Yankee*, he will be sneering at you as you pass through. However, the truly sad thing here is that, even though we are living in the 21st century, K still categorizes people by their origins. OK, we can't control what goes on in other peoples' heads, but it's ironic that, for all her prattling on about teaching her kids good manners, she failed to display them herself.

Maybe part of the reason K's sneering condemnation irritated me is because I'm from Pennsylvania. However, her obvious antipathy toward Northerners gave me pause. Most people display that amount of venom when talking about a rival school, or a different political party. I held my tongue and didn't address her critique in front of her son, but I was thinking a non-stop stream of things I would have liked to say.  (You'll get to read them in a separate post, up soon!)

*The term "Yankee", as used in the southern United States, generally refers to someone from the following states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

No comments:

Post a Comment