I spent my childhood writing thank you letters for boxes of chocolates received on birthdays and gifts on my first holy communion. My parents always insisted I say thank you for practically everything I ever received. Nothing was to be taken for granted. And in turn, I never felt that I practised being rude. Well, rarely is the operative word here, because I do recall my father berating me for my terrible table manners. I guess I handled my knife and fork incorrectly. It devastated me to hear my father's voice as he constantly picked on me to eat properly, in the fashion, that he thought to be correct. Manys a meal was ruined because of this. I have to admit, though ashamedly, that his words stayed with me as I,in turn, decided that my eldest son, was incapable of eating in a proper fashion and I, then, took it upon myself to ruin many a meal before I realised what I was doing was wrong. That I was in fact, only reliving my horrible experience.
Is rudeness a perception? What is rude to one person might not be considered at all rude to another. Culturally too, we all differ on the topic of rudeness. I had a Dutch woman to dinner one night, who queried me on my Hollandaise Sauce. I spent a good hour putting it together to pour gracefully over the poached salmon that I spent most of the afternoon planning, along with the Asparagus and brown rice and delightful salad. She said in a matronly voice, is this Hollandaise and raised her overgrown eyebrows in my direction. Yes, I said, I made it from scratch. Very difficult to make, she said, I suggest package Hollandaise, more reliable, better taste. I was fuming. I could not believe her audacity. Was she being rude? To me she was. Maybe her culture accepted this criticism but not me.
Two summers ago, I ordered mussels in France, in French and was basically told to shut up and speak English. Was the waitress overworked and tired of people like me in her restaurant? I again, felt, belittled and angry about her attitude, her coarse attitude, her rudeness.
Rudeness is everywhere. It is the opposite of manners or what we think manners to be. It meets me on the road on a daily basis, in the store, in the blank stares of humanity, in the slamming of doors, in the silence that echoes down the halls. I struggle with it and sometimes I cave in. I want to escape rudeness but I cannot.
My son arrived home last weekend from visiting a friends holiday home down by the sea. Wonderful time, all laid out before him like a big platter of fun. How about writing a thank you card to the parents, I say. Mom, he says with a laugh, no one does that now, that's prehistoric. Look, I say, thank them, it matters. Believe me. I know. Believe me, thousands of dinner parties later (without a thank you), it matters. He concedes to my wishes. He writes ''thank you'' on a Getty museum card and I send it off. I want to tell him that rudeness has killed the integrity we hold, the basic premise of why we are here. Rudeness Rules Okay. It is black and grey graffiti on a wall that seeps into a blood red. It can never be erased. I know one thing though, rudeness is not an eight year old child sitting at a table trying to hold a knife and fork properly. Trying to fit into someone elses' world. I want to tell him all of this but I figure he'll find out in his own time. I hope he will anyway.