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28 September 2008

Polite Subtlety


"In love silence is of more avail than speech…there is an eloquence in silence that penetrates more deeply than language can." Blaise Pascal

This post has been mulling around in my head for quite some time - I am finally deciding to just put it out there and see what you all think...

Some part of me wishes that we only called those who are very close to us - like family - by their first names. Using titles, creating what at least appears to be a respectable distance with everyone else. Then again I wish men still wore hats and women, gloves. I think there was an implied genteel politeness. And I think these things once acted as visual reminders of our need to be courteous. And no, I realize the good old days weren't always good - I know this didn't always work and that people don't like to be told what to do - but this is all part of the American tradition of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater". Of not understanding subtlety. The whole "You're not the boss of me" mentality we are so good at. Sounds a lot like toddlers and teens if you ask me - we are an entire society lacking self-restraint and good manners - but hey! No one tells US what to do. Or what to wear. Or how to behave... right?

Anyone who has ever read Jane Austen for instance realizes that there have always been ways to buck the system. But they were quiet and subdued. Double entendre and silent glances ruled and there was plenty of blushing to go around - even without the ass-slapping vulgarity that we are plagued with today. Look at the french for example... The french word séduction CAN mean persuading someone to go to bed with you, but it is typically used in a more general way to reflect the idea of trying to charm someone. The french seduce everyone - men - women - doesn't matter but in the second more general way... without the sexual proposition behind it... Think about it - this kind of attention is, well, nice... who doesn't like to be on the receiving end of kind words, compliments, warm feelings. Why do Americans always have to assume everything to be sexual? (back to the teen thing I think, no?)

At least that's how it looks from my chair.

7 comments:

Frog said...

I hear you. Just because I'm naked, it doesn't mean I'm being sexual :)

( I think I'll leave serious answers to you Americans!! )

Daisy said...

Cheekiness (and obvious puns) aside - you make yet another solid point... nude is not lewd. So the fact that the neighboring town here is all up in arms over a full-size replica of Michelangelo's David displayed in front of a restaurant just proves how ridiculous we can be. This work of art had been around for over 500 years and we have to deem it inappropriate and distracting. Weird...

Shana said...

I blame Frog.

Drowsey Monkey said...

I don't think I'd fair very well in a more gentile world, lol.

But I think I hear what you're saying. I could do with less Jerry Springer, for example.

Marvin the Martian said...

Robert Heinlein proposed a world where it was perfectly acceptable to kill someone for being rude. Imagine how quickly society would straighten up, were that to become true! And we'd have a lot more room since so many people would be gone. ;-)

However, a little gratuitous ass-slapping wouldn't be unwelcome in certain circles. ;-) As long as they kept a certain sense of decorum about it.

iFred said...

Just because I'm sexual. it doesn't mean I'm nekkid. :)

iFred said...

It's kind of fun looking back. In time, the customs we know so well will only be read about in books. There will be no one left who remembers them first-hand.

One day in 1959, at the age of 23, while I was on the staff of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper, I needed to go way out Peachtree Street, beyond the Fox Theater. Rather than pay to get my car out of the garage, I decided to take a city bus.

Later, on the bus ride back to the newspaper office, I was sitting behind two ladies who were around 60 years of age. They were very well dressed including their hats and white gloves.

One of the ladies looked out the window and saw a younger woman pushing a baby carriage on the sidewalk, and she was wearing shorts! Right downtown on Peachtree! One of the older ladies told her companion, "Look at that! I can't believe she would go out in public dressed like that, let alone right here on Peachtree Street!" Those ladies were in shock to see such a sight. They continued to talk about how wrong that was for several blocks as the bus made it's way back down Peachtree toward Five Points.

Upon reflection, I've come to realize that in that moment, I was witnessing the end of an era and the ushering in of another.