Manners Maketh Man
TABATHA LEGGETT investigates the decline in common manners, and questions whether Sarah Ferguson has finally found the answer.
The words ‘credit crunch’, ‘global warming’ and ‘famine’ flash across the screen. Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, sits in the back of a limousine. She flicks back her hair and pouts.
“The world is changing; the future never more uncertain, with an increasing population and a scarcity of national resources. The demand for well paid jobs that are spiritually enriching is far outstripping supply.”
Fergie has spoken. We are living in an uncertain and dangerous time. Until now, nobody has found the answer; nobody knows how best to escape this myriad of problems that we currently face. But, fear not. Fergie’s ‘English Mentors’ programme marks a revolution: they’ve finally found the answer.
‘English Mentors’ offer students courses in leadership, personal administration, interaction and etiquette. Essentially, they help rich families get their kids into top British schools and universities, and train them in the ways of the landed gentry. The students are taught how to be guests in stately homes, eat soup properly, shoot grouse and get into Oxbridge. How lovely.
Watching Fergie spout this rubbish got me thinking about etiquette. Are common manners really on the decline? Yes, I think they probably are. Only yesterday the woman in front of me in the Sainsbury’s queue asked the cashier if he “had half a brain cell.” The truth is, he probably didn’t, but shouting at him and being rude wasn’t going to make him scan her food items any faster.
In the interests of common manners and in the pursuit of becoming more like our favourite ginger royal (Is she royal? I’m never quite sure), I urge you to take a quick look at The Tab’s etiquette guide.
If you live in halls, chances are you’ve probably come home after a night out, got the munchies and realised that you’ve ran out of food. In such cases, you have to know your limits. Stealing is okay, but only in moderation. Stealing a piece of toast is fine. Stealing a toaster is not. I woke up one morning, wandered to the kitchen to make myself a slice of toast, and found that our toaster had been replaced by a post-it note from its owner that simply read ‘Dude, where’s my toaster?’ This was not cool.
Bearing in mind, if you’re fining someone, you’re probably at The Mahal, covered in curry and just a little bit inebriated, fining laws have to be a bit lax. Some fines are okay, others just aren’t. Fining people on the table who’ve got with each other before is funny, especially if one of the involved parties can’t remember it. Fining someone for having sex whilst doing a handstand during Fresher’s week (true story) is also pretty funny. But, fining anyone whose period is mysteriously four weeks late is just never going to be a good idea.
These rules apply for those of us who are lucky enough to live in the depths of Homerton or Girton. Depending on the time of the taxi ride, etiquette rules differ. On an afternoon trip to the train station, or on the way to Fez, banter with the taxi driver can be fun. The morning after the night before, it’s not. How, at 8am when you’re still wearing last night’s clothes and are in a taxi back to your own college, do you answer the question: “You’re a bit dressed up for lectures, aren’t you?” Or, how do you answer the old man who innocently asks you, “You’re leaving very early, are you on the way to an interview?” “Yes. I decided to dress as a rabbit to my interview this morning, and I think this mascara smudged down my face enhances my business look.”
Keep communal areas clean: flush the loo and wash your dishes. Don’t, for goodness sake, hook up with someone you live with. Your flatmates will hate you more for this than for bringing strangers home every night. On that note, don’t pass judgement on the person who comes back from the night before, looking like a rape victim, at the same time as you come back from your morning lectures. Chances are, they’re not feeling great, and you shaking your head at them disapprovingly won’t help.
If you miss what the lecturer says, it’s okay to peek over my shoulder and copy what I last wrote. If you spend the entire lecture copying every sentence I write, it’s not. I have neat handwriting, so my lecture notes tend to be quite coherent. This does not mean that you should take advantage. Furthermore, this does not mean that you should write ‘cock’ on my neat page. If it looks like your neighbor is anal about neatness, she probably is, and won’t appreciate your writing scrawled messily across the middle of her page, however sophisticated your humor may be.
It’s all pretty basic stuff, or so you’d think. Fergie’s ‘English Mentors’ programme will, however, make it all the more basic. Plus, you’ll learn, and I quote, “how to tell an anecdote without showing off”. Bonus.