On Manners: Nostalgia for a Simpler Time

Sarah Ritchie Families and Kids Leave a Comment

I’ve never been clear on the algorithms or artificial intelligence that Facebook uses to lure us in with sponsored ads.  But, they are pretty clever with this user.  The other day, I noticed a new book “Manners begin at Breakfast: Modern etiquette for families” by Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece. 

One might not think that a single, middle-aged woman from New York would have use for this book, but I disagree.  I have become fascinated with the ideas of how we train our young people about manners, in the broadest sense, in a time of what feels like the decay of norms of decency.  Part of my interest stems from my friendship with Carey Sue Vega, the manners maven of Oklahoma.  We grew up together in a tiny oil town Ponca City and attended the First Presbyterian Church, where proper manners were the order of the day.  After a snazzy career as a cruise director (literally), she “dropped anchor” (her words) in Oklahoma City.  As she raised a young family, she started Expeditions in Etiquette, a brilliant business model where she teaches tweens and teens about all-things mannerly.  She also runs programs for working professionals.  I am curious what she would think of the Marie-Chantal’s book, the second in her manners series.

As a side bar, I was also keen to see what Marie-Chantal had cooked up.  She is one of the three daughters of the uber rich and successful duty free guru Robert Miller.  Back in the day, she and her sisters were not only “it” girls in the New York City social scene, but they all landed husbands that are part of the highest reaches of the social stratosphere.  In addition to Marie-Chantal’s Greek Prince Pavlos, her sister Pia married a member of the Getty family and Alexandra married Prince Alexander von Furstenberg.  Sadly, the marriages of her two sisters ultimately ended in divorce.

Although I’ve no children and some might argue that my manners are a little rickety, I was delighted with the book.  First, I found the illustrations absolutely charming—totally retro.  I appreciate the fact that the language is straightforward and appropriate for all families, regardless of social standing.  I like that each chapter includes a portion for the user respond to, creating something like a family scrapbook on topics of manners and grace.  She addresses thoroughly modern topics around the new digital age we live in, giving me food for thought about how parents should/should not be involved in their children’s online life. 

There were plenty of good ideas for adults, too. She covers travel tips, play dates, and thoughts on social gatherings.  Kudos to the Princess as she covers on holiday celebrations—so important these days with inter-faith families and a multi-cultural society.   It’s a fun, easy read and great reference tool for any person or family.  I always believed manners was about the Golden Rule…do unto others as you would have them do to you.  But more recently, I’ve been introduced to the “Platinum Rule”—do unto others as they’d like done unto them, regardless of our particular orientation and preferences.  In the hard days ahead, either one will do just fine!

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