I have a problem.
A sickness some may call it.
You see, I call women ‘ma’am’ and men ‘sir’ when I deal with them. Now, this is even if they are family or friends. It’s meant as a sign of respect and it’s a bit of formality that I like. It’s also POLITE! I worked retail for a good many years and then have worked in an office and ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ just seem appropriate. I am casual enough in the way I speak as it is and throw around curse words like they are going out of style (and who knows, they may one of these days!) so I try to keep things clean on here, and to keep things a little more polite and formal and in the average conversation.
For me it’s out of respect and because truly, TRULY, we are a society that has gotten too comfortable in our own skin. What a shame it is that we are so casual as to wear slippers and pajamas as if they are daily wear, have our phone conversations at levels that explicitly involve the casual passerby, and where we assume that the world should bend to our will and not we bending to its. We have become human bulldozers that push through one another and post every last intimacy for our most tenuous acquaintances to see and we have forgotten what it’s like to be polite. We have traded politeness and empathy for a plastic political correctness that serves only to protect us from a world that only hurts us if we let it. We aren’t learning to do better, be better, and to be stronger but are forcing the world to acquiesce to our fragile egos while we take selfies of every inconsequential moment of our droning lives.
Ah, but to call one sir or ma’am, oh, now THAT is something you just don’t do.
Time and again I am chastised and berated for calling someone one of those things, as if I had called them ‘buddy’, ‘pal’, or ‘hon’. I have not. I have used proper conversational etiquette to my understanding and if I haven’t then my greeting still comes from an honest, kind place. People tell me, no, call me ‘whatever my name is’, not knowing that I usually don’t care what their name is. I don’t intend to make them a part of my daily life so it doesn’t matter what their name is to me. Or they want me to call them ‘miss’ – now THAT sounds offensive to me! – or any number of alternates that just don’t sound the same. The funny thing is a lot of what upsets people is THEIR FAULT! It’s because they have an issue with their age and don’t like to consider themselves a sir or ma’am. Heck, I get that, I am 40 now and it’s weird to think I am a ‘mister’ or ‘sir’ but I also don’t like strangers calling me by my first name as if they know me. But people are so strange about their age that the idea, the very notion that they are a sir or ma’am bothers them so much that they literally have to stop someone who says it and chastise them. I had a man go to great length to tell me that he is not a sir and all I could respond with is – okay.
BECAUSE IT’S CRAZY!
WE ARE CRAZY!
We have literally lost ourselves.
Part of it is technology, is the casualness of social networking and texting, and for some reason – probably laziness to be honest – we have taken those short cuts and short-speak and have grafted it onto our everyday conversations and interactions.
Part of it too is that we have lost OURSELVES. We don’t know how to define ourselves. The many things we have used in the past are passé now. Religion. Sexuality. Politics. All of these things have changed, and it isn’t that they’re out of favor, or wrong, but how we personally view them has changed and how others view it has changed. We’re all so darn opinionated and in being that we are also so thin skinned and fragile that we don’t want to put TOO much out there despite needing everyone to love and respect what we love and do. Yo, don’t dis me, man!
We are floundering.
We are the children of the television, computer, and cell phone.
We are the orphans of technology and we are struggling to figure out who we are.
THAT is why we hate politeness. It is that we just don’t understand it anymore. We aren’t used to people holding doors, or saying please and thank you or just giving half a darn about someone other than themselves. We have gotten so out of practice that when others behave politely we think they are screwing with us. When someone does something nice for me I tell them ‘bless your heart’ because it was sweet and kind of them to do whatever they did. Ah, little did I know that some genius decided that saying ‘bless your heart’ with a certain inflection then makes it sarcastic so that now when folks hear that phrase they think you are being rude. Uh, no. Not at all. You’re just being stupid!
Quick story –
I heard this at work. A co-worker who heads up a program was sitting at an elementary school watching a program with out of town performers at a family night. One of the mother’s in the audience grew bored so she started playing music loudly through her phone, music that was very, very vulgar. My co-worker asked her to turn it down. The woman got very upset and in very blue language told her ‘no’ and how dare she speak to her that way? My co-worker asked again and reminded the woman that there were children around. This opened the floodgates for a whole lot of foulness which spread to the woman’s teen son who also partook of the swearing and cursing out of this woman who simply asked they be a little more considerate of where they were. My co-worker gently told this woman that she was the director of the program and that if she didn’t check herself she would be escorted out by security guards. The woman rolled her eyes, muttered a lot, but finally shut up.
THIS is where we are as a society.
We are so self-involved and blind to the world that we forget where we are and why we are there. For goodness sake we take selfies at funerals! We need to all take a very long breath and to think about whom we are, what we are, and what the heck we are doing. We need to remember not how our parents brought us up but how we prefer to be treated and how that makes us feel. If we are so self-focused then we need to safe-guard ourselves from people being rotten to us. The way to do that? To treat one another well. Sure, there will still be jerks and folks that take their aggression and angst out on us but those folks have to live their rotten lives with themselves. That’s their reward. Our reward is that we get to feel as if we are taking a stand against the steady degradation of civilization and civility. We get to know that at least we refuse to bend to the fickle winds of fad.
As for me, I will still say ‘ma’am’ and ‘sir’. I won’t change. Not for people who have no real reason to dislike the terms other than their own hang-ups. People are stupid. I am not.
Good day to you.
2 thoughts on “The Death Of Politeness.”
Great stuff. I’ve Tweeted this to my classes.