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Written by Debbie Mayne
Courtesy and good manners never go out of style, but there are still some old rules that need to be revisited. Many of these guidelines were created for a reason that no longer exists, while others simply need to be tweaked.
Remember that, even if you no longer hold onto certain old-fashioned etiquette rules, some people do. Show respect for their sensibilities and understand that you may be in their position someday when what you consider polite may no longer be in vogue.
Also consider the fact that etiquette is about showing respect to others. That will never go out of style.
Opening and Holding Doors
Holding a door is a nice gesture but no longer necessary.
The old policy of men opening and holding doors for women has all but disappeared. However, some men still like doing it—either because their mamas taught them that’s what gentlemen do or they want to take the extra step to show good manners.
Ladies, most people know that you can open your own doors, but try to refrain from making a big deal out of it if it bothers you. If it’s a stranger holding the door, smile and thank him. After all, he feels like he’s doing a nice thing. If it’s someone you know, have a private conversation and let him know that you prefer opening your own doors. Or perhaps you can agree for the first one who arrives at the door to be the one who opens it. It gives you a chance to do something nice for him in return.
Picking Up the Tab
It no longer matters who picks up the tab. Gone are the days when men were always expected to pick up the tab when dining out or going to the movies with a woman. Back in the day, many women didn’t work, or if they did, they were stuck in much lower paying jobs. Now that women are equally prominent in the workplace, many of them can pay their own way.
If the man and woman go out frequently, they may choose to take turns paying to keep it simple for the server. Sometimes that’s easier than asking to split the bill. Another way of handling this is that the person who does the inviting pays. The risk here is that one person may take the initiative more often than the other.
Some people feel that if they pay the whole tab, the other person owes them something. That’s not the case. Paying the bill should come without ties or obligations.
If you’re unsure about what to do, there is nothing wrong with discussing it before you’re put in an embarrassing situation. You can say, “My treat,” or “Let’s pay our own way so we can do this more often.” Most people will appreciate your straightforward approach.
Leaving With the One Who Brought You
If you feel unsafe with a date, find another way home. In most cases, this rule should still be followed. If you go to a party with a date, don’t ditch him or her and leave with someone else. However, there are times when things go in a bad direction that may make you feel unsafe. Then it’s fine to find another ride home.
It’s always a good idea for a woman to have a car ride app on her phone in case something goes wrong on the date. In the past, women were advised to carry a dime (or later, a quarter) for a payphone. Now all it takes is a click on the cell phone to summon a service such as Uber or Lyft, and you can be whisked away from whatever—or whomever—you want to escape.
Asking Permission to Smoke
It's better not to smoke in anyone else's home. It wasn’t that long ago that it was okay to smoke indoors, as long as you asked permission of the host. Now, most people wouldn’t even think about smoking in someone else’s home, which is a good thing because it saturates the air with all sorts of toxins that can shorten your life and make those around you very sick. If you must smoke, take it outside, as far away from the building as you can get.
Wearing Hats Indoors
Most people are fine with hats indoors. Until a couple of decades ago, wearing a hat indoors was considered rude for a man but acceptable for a woman. The act of a man removing his hat began when head covers were worn to protect people’s eyes from the dust and dirt outdoors. Men put their hats on a rack by the door to prevent the dirt from falling on the floor inside the house.
Now that both men and women wear hats for fashion as much as sun protection, it is no longer considered rude to wear a hat indoors. However, there are still some people who hold onto that outdated rule and expect a gentleman to remove his hat. It’s up to you whether or not you want to embrace the old rule when you're around these people, but you're never in the wrong to show respect for the sensibilities of others.
Talking Politics or Religion
Be considerate when discussing politics or religion. Many folks were raised with parents who said to never discuss politics or religion. Back in their socially active days, breaking that rule could cause the party invitations to stop arriving. Now, being politically savvy will often be the ticket to some of the best parties in town.
Even controversial discussions are welcome by many people who love the drama. Some hosts and hostesses will seat people with opposing views next to each other, simply to liven up the conversation. If you're uncomfortable discussing either topic, it's still fine to let others know you'd prefer to change the subject.
Bragging About Anything
Give others a chance to brag. Once upon a time, bragging was considered rude. Now it’s expected. When you get an award, your child brings home a good report card, or your grandchild does something cute, the news get posted on every form of social media out there. This is fine, as long as it’s not strictly all about you and yours.
Give others a chance to do their own bragging, and don’t forget to congratulate them. Failing to do this may have others dropping you from their social media or party guest list.
Wearing Gym Clothes While Running Errands
Gym clothes are comfortable for everyday errands. Years ago, women reserved their leggings, sports bras, and other workout gear for the gym. After they discovered how much more comfy that stretchy material was than what was once considered proper attire, it became the staple outfit of moms and grandmas everywhere.
Go to any grocery store today, and you’re likely to see half the women in there looking like they just left the gym … only they probably haven’t been in a while. However, if you do your workout first, you might want to consider having a change of clothes to freshen up—even if it’s another pair of leggings and T-shirt.
Handwriting a Thank You Note
Handwritten thank you notes are always considered good manners. With the convenience of sending emails from your laptop, tablet, or phone, many people have given up the act of jotting a thank you note on a pretty card or stationery. While it’s still a good idea to send a handwritten note, an email is better than nothing when it’s time to thank someone for a gift or act of kindness. It’s also okay to do both.
A fist bump is fine in lieu of a handshake. Although a firm handshake is still a great way to greet people, there are times when you’re better off fist bumping instead. This is especially true during cold and flu season so you don’t wind up spreading germs or getting sick.
Bride’s Family Pays for the Wedding
It doesn't matter who pays for the wedding. The cost of weddings has risen so exorbitantly, it’s unrealistic to expect the bride’s parents to foot the entire bill. Many families of the groom pitch in, or in some cases, the bride and groom pay for all or part of their own wedding.
Good Manners are Always in Style
Good manners should be more about showing respect for others than following rules just because they’re written in an etiquette book. However, if you like the traditional manners guidelines, by all means, continue following them. The worst thing anyone will be able to say about you then is that you’re too polite. And that’s not a bad thing.