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"Downton's Abbey's" got me thinking about good manners and all things proper. The denizens of Downton — both upstairs and down — pride themselves on proper form, tradition and civility, and I'm wondering if that's part of the show's massive appeal. (Anyone who watched Sunday night's premiere with Twitter cued up knows what I'm talking about. For those who don't, officially, everyone and their mother watched the season three premiere on PBS Sunday night. Trust me.)
I know English wit and form are part of the draw to "Downton" for me (also: great costumes, Maggie Smith, and O'Brien's zingers). I swear I'm not the only person who shares this (sad?) fascination with what some call "hysterical dramas." Indeed, I meet with a group of girlfriends for historical movie-viewings at each other's homes several times a year—a practice that grew from our common love of the "Anne of Green Gables" films, another gift from PBS we encountered as pre-teens. We watch "Anne" once a year, complete with tea sandwiches, "raspberry cordial" and lots of cake, which fuel a running commentary throughout the film. (It's a bit like Mystery Science Theater 3000, but with better costumes.)
Don't judge us: there's more "Anne" fans out there than you might think.
Annnnnyway, back to etiquette and manners. I'm no Emily Post, but I truly wish I was born into that family. The rules of etiquette fascinate me, and the lack of their employment annoys the crap out of me (scratch that; it's probably rude to use the word "crap" in this context huh? Revision: "...the lack of their employment distresses me to no end.") While the world likely won't end if we all don't know our salad fork from our...whatever the big fork is called, there are certain Rules for Everyday Engagement that, for me, are massive dealbreakers/grounds for dismissal from polite society. Behaviors that cross the line from quirky to inconsiderate.
Mine include: loud eating (I know some dogs who eat more delicately than some people I've heard at table/desk); nose-blowing at table or in office (maybe I should move to Japan); those who speak with food in their mouths; weak handshakes/bone-crusher handshakes (Seriously, what the heck?); loud talkers and/or those with no functional interior monologue (you know, that person who must speak every blessed thought they have aloud, apparently under the belief that everything they dream up is so fascinating, we must all behold it? That person.); those who talk over others in alleged conversations; those with no concept of how to end a conversation; and gentlemen of a certain age who think it's OK to call all women "dear."
I suspect we've all got some social pet peeves, and I'd love to hear what greatly distresses you to no end. Post them in the comments or email me, and if we get enough, I'll collect them for a spread in Daybreak. Consider it a public service toward a more genteel world. Otherwise, we'll have to commiserate on Twitter next time "Downton" is on.
I'm on Twitter: @TheMDesk.