On June 4, 2009 the entire eighth grade of my older daughter’s school will descend upon our house, specifically our backyard, for a graduation dance. When I grew up, we had a seventh grade activity known as “Fortnightly.” Don’t ask me why this series of eight dance lesson and good manners classes was called “Fortnightly,” but it was. We had to wear party/church shoes, a dress or skirt, the boys had to wear a tie, no sneakers were allowed and we were told to have a shower or a bath so no one would smell bad.
The classes were held in the gym at the local Park District that gave the space to the neighborhood schools. I remember vividly that the boys were short, the girls were tall, I hated going, and even more, I hated being there. We learned some basic manners such as to talk softly, not to shout for someone across the room, how to stand and have a boy take a girl’s coat/jacket, how to get in and out of a car in a dress and with modesty, and many other details that have stayed in my conscious mind.
We were indoctrinated with the importance of good manners and how having good manners can get you the school acceptance, the better job, the promotion, and just farther in life than people get who have bad manners.
Looking back, I realize that “Fortnightly” reinforced what I learned from my parents. But, today there is no “Fortnightly” at least where I live and rear my children. So, besides setting a good example, talking about good manners and what is acceptable and unacceptable, I found a great book that each of my children passes down to the next sibling who is entering adulthood, aka puberty. The book is called, From Clueless to Class Act, by Jodi R. R. Smith. There is a version of the manners book for men and one for women. The best advice it gives is the importance of looking at etiquette as a series of guidelines. Respect for oneself and common sense dictate what manners are appropriate in specific situations.
Cross your fingers that our graduation dance guests will all bring their very best manners!