In the South, we strive not to boast (unless it is about a football win—then swaggering is an expected, acceptable behavior). That said, Southerners take pride in displaying their politeness and courteousness. Growing up, we are taught to “mind our manners” and to be kind to others.
There has been a bit of erosion in our display of manners over the years, both in the South and elsewhere. But the reason to exercise good manners will never go out of style. Using our good manners shows others that you care about people and RESPECT them. Yes, manners are about R-E-S-P-E-C-T. (You called it, Aretha.)
This leads me to a reader’s question that hit my inbox recently:
Dear Ms. Bea Wright,
My husband seems to care more about his smartphone and tablet than he does me. His constant checking of his email, Twitter feed, and other nonsense is breaking my heart. I am lonely, even when he is in the room beside me. In my opinion, this new technology age bytes. Please help.
Lost in the Twitter Field
My dearest Lost, you are not alone. This phenomenon of being constantly connected is wreaking havoc with relationships across the board. The problem is real, not just with the romantically involved, but also among friends and family.
I don’t care how precious and witty someone’s emoji-laden posts may be, they are no substitute for eye contact and being fully present with another human being.
No mincing words here—the behavior is rude—another way of saying “bad manners.”
So, what is to be done about it? Oddly, the answer to the noted communication struggle is, in fact, communication! Not via text or email or even a phone call, mind you, but in a non-confrontational, charming, face-to-face conversation.
To Lost, I say engage in a dialogue when your mate does not have his phone in hand. Stay positive and start by telling him how much you adore time with him, particularly when neither phone nor iPad is within reach. Together establish some boundaries to assure he gets his social media fix and you get the attention you need to assure your relationship thrives. Consider these options: No phones/technology at the dinner/breakfast table and definitely not on date night. Settle on a time limit for usage or even a location that is technology free (such as the bedroom, an obvious choice). And, importantly, model the same behavior for him.
Data Plan // Ms. Wright’s suggestions for quality time sans social media? Keep the dinner table, and bedroom, technology free.
Final suggestion, agree to a safe word—like “Aretha!” —to alert him when you are on the verge of an emotional breakdown and need him to look you in the eye for longer than ten seconds. After all, “All I’m askin’ is for a little respect when you get home (just a little bit).” Until next time, y’all behave.
Send Ms. Wright your questions regarding relationships, personal concerns, and etiquette at firstname.lastname@example.org. Inclusion is anonymous and based on editorial discretion.