Monday, September 17, 2012

The Pwease Defense

I don’t know about you, but teaching manners to my children often feels like I am fighting a tidal wave with a paper towel.  If one of my Baby Belles voluntarily employed a “ma’am” or “sir” while addressing an adult, I honestly think that I would expire right on the spot.  Honestly, if my children can remember which fairy is who on Twinkle Pix Town (or whatever it’s called) I don’t see why they can’t remember to throw in a little courtesy in their dealings with others.  They are Southern Ladies and that title is a lot to live up to for heaven’s sake!

Please.  I think we all agree that “please” is a critical word.  Baby Belle 1 rarely employs this word on her own, but Baby Belle 2 will throw it in every now and again to make me skip around and feel like a decent parent.  Of course, I am also forced to employ that soul-crushing parental exercise when my children demand something without using the Magic Word where I stand or sit stoically ignoring them while waiting to hear their request politely rephrased.  The soul-crushing part of the exercise is when I sit there forever and they hang off of me nagging horribly and loudly for what they want without ever catching on.  Really, one would think that they would figure out my tactic and intent after all these years.  It makes a Belle want a mint julep. 

On the other hand, “please” can be a bit of a double-edged sword.  Once the precious little ones learn the Magic Word and that their use of it can often get them what they want, they begin to think that their employment of the word should get them absolutely everything they want:

            Baby Belle 2:  Mama, I want that pink Barbie Jeep.

            Mama:  No.

            Baby Belle 2:  BUT.  I.  SAID.  PWEASE!!!

            Me:  I know and your manners are great, but that Jeep costs as much as a real Jeep.

            Baby Belle 2:  BUT.  I.  SAID.  PWEASE!!!

            [Cue the poked-out lip, the crossed arms and the sit-in protest at Target.]

I just imagine going to the jail to visit one of my clients for grand larceny, asking why they did it and hearing them say, “BUT.  I.  SAID.  PLEASE!!!”  Well, then it makes perfect sense that you should take that shotgun from the pawn shop.  Nice manners!

Thank you.  Once again, I can only hope that Baby Belle 1 simply likes to drive me crazy by withholding the thank-you’s at home while employing them out in the world as she should.  (Good Lord, give me strength with that child!)  Baby Belle 2, on the other hand, is better thanks to what I like to call “The Tickle System.”

When Baby Belle 2 was smaller, I gave her a little tickle and said, “You’re welcome!” whenever she said thank you.  She giggled and thought it was fun and it reminded her to employ good manners.  What could possibly go wrong?


Well, one day whilst in a public place (doesn’t it always happen whilst in a public place?) Baby Belle asked for something and I gave it to her.  I was involved in a conversation, so I wasn’t really paying attention, but my precious little thing thanked me for my service. 

All of a sudden the entire crowd heard, “I SAID THANK YOU, DAMMIT!”

It was an example of manners gone horribly wrong.

I’ve been pondering the subject and, now that my children are getting older, I’m thinking of new and cooler ways to advocate politeness.  I hate to go there, but it’s true that manners can cover up a wealth of sins and get you out of some pretty tight spots.  It’s the Eddie Haskell Rule:  If you’re polite to other people’s parents—and adults in general—you’re golden.

When I was in high school, Mr. Moore was my principal.  He was a great guy in a thankless job.  To tell you the truth, I felt kind of sorry for him, so I went out of my way to speak to him.  Mr. Moore always remarked on my manners and said it was so wonderful to hear such graciousness in a crowd of rudeness.  (Call me a suck-up if you want, but he really did get crapped on all the time and it was pitiful.  The inmates truly ran the asylum.)

Anyway, my high school had a sadistic “on-campus” lunch policy.  Blech.  On the days when rebelliousness kicked in 3 or 4 of us would jump in a car that was hidden off behind campus and go get better food for lunch.  Our plan was foolproof until one of us accidently bumped up against a piece of crap El Camino and set its car alarm off. 

The first member of faculty we ran into was Mr. Moore:

            Mr. Moore:  Hello Miss Culbreth.  Did you have a good lunch?

            Me:  Yes, sir.

            Mr. Moore:  I’m sure you ate in the cafeteria like you were supposed to.

            Me:  Yes, sir.

            Mr. Moore:  Because you know that you aren’t allowed off campus for lunch.

            Me:  Yes, sir.

            Mr. Moore:  Such nice manners.  Enjoy the rest of your day.

            Me:  Thank you, sir.  You too.

Mind you, the entire conversation was conducted with me holding a giant soda cup from Taco Bell.

Yes, manners cure many, many, many shortcomings.  I don’t suppose that I’ll use the aforementioned example as a lesson for my Baby Belles, but I’ll think of something.  The important thing to remember is that politeness is critical for Southern Belles and, quite frankly, please’s and thank-you-dammit’s can get you a long way no matter who you are.

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