We all want to get back to some form of normal, and are looking forward to the days when we can book shows and gigs, promote our work, and attend events without having to do it all through a computer screen.
Hopefully, we make some serious changes to the way we treat each other, such as recognizing that those who work in service jobs deserve a lot more money and a lot more respect than they get, being more mindful of other peoples’ health, taking mental health seriously, and recognizing that the arts are essential.
But we are also looking forward to more lighthearted things, like our first restaurant meal that doesn’t come in a bag left by the door, getting our hair done, and going shopping or to the gym offline again. But whether we’re planning to focus in on our careers, relax for a while, or do a bit of both as soon as it’s safe to do so, we should all be glad we will not be returning to any of these strange, outdated etiquette rules.
Men must never reach to shake a woman’s hand.
There are mixed opinions on all the unwritten rules about what it is okay to say and not to say in a variety of settings today. Some think all the rules are necessary, some think no rules are needed, and others allow that while some terms and topics need to be avoided or discussed only with select people, things have gone too far with all the “trigger warnings” and “political correctness” of today.
But did you know that at one point in history, simply reaching to offer a handshake was considered inappropriate? Men were expected to wait until a woman offered her hand, and women were to present their hand in a delicate, “princess” fashion (think of offering one’s hand for a kiss), rather than actually shaking the man’s hand.
Avoid talking about anything someone else might not enjoy.
Today, we talk about everything in front of everybody, if not offline, then via social media. The guy who sat behind you in ninth grade History knows you like butterscotch, because you added him on Facebook and post pictures of every butterscotch cookie you eat. One teacher I know says their biggest challenge is getting students to research and write about the topics they have chosen for their projects instead of talking about themselves and their feelings in every assignment.
In the past, it was considered bad manners to talk about events you enjoy attending, or to speak at length about your passions, because someone else in the room might not find those things interesting.
Okay, maybe we don’t need to see every cookie you eat, and there is more to most topics than how they make you feel about yourself, but how would the person know we were the right fit for their venue or job if they knew nothing about us?
Show up late to everything.
This is where the term “fashionably late” comes from. Today, we expect people to show up around the time the scheduled event begins. If you are meeting someone for dinner to discuss having a show in their gallery at 6, or invited to the company retreat for your side job and told that the group will gather at 10 a.m., you are expected to be there at that time. Walking in the door at 6:30, or expecting the bus to still be waiting for you to go to the retreat at 10:45 would send the message that you are not serious about the work or respectful of others’ time.
In decades past, it was considered a sign of respect to show up much later than the stated time. Showing up on time was considered an imposition on the host.
Don’t use exclamations or talk loudly in public.
Perhaps we are so used to being on phones and computers, we forget that we are not always in our own home. Maybe we are becoming increasingly narcissistic, and are starting to think our every whim and convenience is more important that others’ right to go about their basic business. Either way, we can be too loud at times. Adults carry on full volume cell phone conversations at volumes that force you to listen to them instead of the person you are meeting. Kids are allowed to run around and scream in restaurants and stores, instead of being required to restrict that behavior to back yards and parks and play areas, disrupting social and business gatherings on the entire floor. Today this behavior ranges from mildly annoying to anxiety inducing. In the past, it would have been unheard of.
In Victorian times, even mild exclamations like “Oh wow!” or “No way!” would have been as shocking as screaming obscenities today. Conversations were not to become loud enough for anyone else to hear them. Even gestures were to be kept under control, as talk should not become “too animated.”
It may be irritating to be asked to enter through only one door for a gig or greet every customer with a fake smile at a side job. But hey, at least we don’t have to wait for someone to present her hand like a princess, whisper small talk, or wait for an hour for people to show up to everything!