When I was a boy good manners were fundamental.
Not important, or crucial but fundamental.
Like breathing, eating and sleeping; good manners were the backbone of any functioning life and without them we would be worse than savages.
My mother always instilled a rather odd sense of ethics in me and my brother regarding “good manners.”
When I was a guest in someone else’s house I should always say “thank you for having me” when I left, even if only there for ten minutes.
The amount of times as a boy I went back in tears in my best clothes to the birthday party I’d just left, to confront some confused looking woman on the doorstep.
“Hello again Lance…oh what’s wrong?”
“Thayouforavvingme!” (tears and sobs choking my belated gratitude).
“Thayouforavvingme!” (trying to calm down but failing).
“Lance I can’t understand you, did someone hit you?”
(Deep breath) “No. Thankyoufor havingme!”
(Woman looks confused) “It’s alright.”
I would then go home and say to my red faced mother, “she said it’s alright” to which the predictable reply would be:
“SHE’S ONLY SAYING THAT! SHE THINKS YOU’RE A RUDE HORRIBLE LITTLE BOY AND SHE’S NEVER GOING TO INVITE YOU BACK THERE AGAIN!!!”
Turning down food was another Tantrum Tripper. If I tried it in my house I would be made to sit there until it went cold and my parents had left me on my own at the table. We’d then get the trade-off of “two more mouthfuls, then you can get down!” I’d hold my breath and shovel the first mouthful in, fighting the gag reflex and knowing the ordeal was only 50% over.
I was rarely fussy about food but had always had a bad reaction to bananas as a kid. My mother once hid them in my food, thinking I was being a brat and I still threw up once I tasted them. So, a biological reaction I had no control over.
When on a trip to
I had been forewarned of the dire offence I would cause if I refused to eat
anything the cuisine-proud French put in front of me. I asked if they’d be
likely to serve bananas and the answer was “no, they don’t eat them.”
As luck would have it, day 2 of the trip and my host’s wife came out with a big silver tray of bananas, sliced lengthways and marinated in a sweet sauce.
I tried to communicate via their son, who spoke English, my dilemma. After listening to the explanation his father asked “you don’t like?”
I panic. My refusal is based on not wanting to power puke all over the tablecloth, it is NOT based on personal choice or God forbid…. A LACK OF GOOD MANNERS.
“NO! NO!” I shout frantically.
I explain again and the host nods, smiles and says “it’s ok, more for me!”
I explain again and the host nods, smiles and says “it’s ok, more for me!”
To be polite I try a little bit of the sauce and remark just how good it tastes and it’s a shame I can’t eat the whole thing.
and predictably the bollocking from my mother is based on an especially
cretinous interpretation of events.
“That was rude!”
“How was it rude? I can’t eat bananas. They make me throw up. If I’d eaten it I would have been sick!”
“It was rude, you should have just eaten it and not said anything.”
“Then I would have thrown up! Surely it’s more polite to say ‘I’m sorry I can’t eat that’ than to eat it and then vomit everywhere!”
“STOP trying to be clever. It was rude!”
Another time I was out with my mother’s extended family to a pub for a meal. We were very rarely together with the various clans and it was an annual event at most. Knowing full well my mother would be watching me like a hawk for “good manners” I was impeccable the whole way through the meal. I put my cutlery on the sides of the plate if I hadn’t finished, to the front and together if I had. I wiped my mouth before taking a drink. I was brimming over with “good manners.”
Then my cousin asked to get past me to use the bathroom.
“Sure” I reply and move back, still holding my knife and fork.
Before 5 seconds have passed my mother says in a loud voice “you’re supposed to put your knife and fork on the side of your plate when you move away from the table Lance. Not sit there with them clenched in your fists!!!”
Later that afternoon when we got home she whinged to my father about my lack of “Good Manners”, saying loudly while pointing at me “didn’t put them on the side of his plate like a civilised person! Just sat there with them CLENCHED IN HIS FISTS!!!”
So…GOOD MANNERS were like looking both ways before crossing the road or not talking to strangers.
One day when I was 11, my one and only friend at school came round for dinner. My father made macaroni cheese and as he put the bowl down on the table, my ill mannered little cunt of a best friend pulled a face like someone had just farted.
I looked at him smugly, thinking “we’ll show you. My mum and dad don’t put up with fussy eaters in our house.”
My father had clocked the reaction and growled “take it or leave it!”
My mother glared at my dad and said in sing-song voice “oh, don’t you like it? Well just try a little bit and see if you do.”
She put a tiny portion on the little turd’s plate and he took the merest fly speck onto the tip of his fork and tasted it. Grimacing theatrically he went “no” and pushed his plate away.
By this point he’s violated about 19 penal codes and committed actions that would have got me or my brother a 6 month spell in solitary confinement. I look at him thinking “we’ll show you. We don’t like fussy eaters in this house!”
Then my mother pisses and shits on my entire upbringing for the last 11 years and says convivially to the little bastard “what would you like instead?”
“Bacon and eggs” the little cunt replies, beaming.
She walks into the kitchen takes the big iron frying pan off its peg on the wall and turns on the gas hob. I look around confused and upset. What the hell’s going on?!! I’ve never been allowed to behave like this? The few other friends I’d had round for dinner have never been treated like this wretched maggot!!! I remember a while back when a friend of my brother was over for lunch. He had chronic asthma so bad that he wasn’t expected to live beyond the age of 30. He insisted on scrambled eggs for lunch and when my mother gave it to him he then said he didn’t want it.
Cue an hour long tantrum after he’d gone, with my mother crying and saying loudly “I know he’s got asthma and I know he’s not very well but his mother shouldn’t spoil him like THAT. I went to a lot of trouble to make that for him!”
As the frying pan warms up in the kitchen I shout back “well if he’s not eating his then I don’t want mine either.”
My mother stagger-runs into the dining room and snarls “you eat that! Your father made it specially!” She then turns to cunt face and says sweetly “won’t be long now.”
After about a quarter of an hour she emerges with a plate of bacon and eggs and puts it down in front of the ill mannered little twonk. I remember that her face was devoid of anything but the most neutral of expressions. As the little shit’s piggy eyes light up with gluttonous delight my mother asks pleasantly “is that alright?”
I was confused about this for days. I couldn’t understand why the manners that I had been told were so important could be discarded like a sweet wrapper. Upset and bewildered I wondered why my supposed best friend would be so rude and why my parents would abandon what had effectively been the 11th Commandment.
“Thou shalt eat what thou art given (and say ‘thank you for having me’)”
I approach git face at school and remind him. He smiles and says “oh God yes, it was terrible!”
I point out that he was rude. He looks offended and replies “no I wasn’t I just said ‘no thank you I don’t like it’ .”
I later approach my mother and she blames my father, looking away and sneering “well it was one of your father’s SPECIALS!!!”
This doesn’t gel either. I’d heard her say many times just how much she liked my dad’s cooking.
Finally I approach my father to ask why him and mum hadn’t said anything to my one and only friend for his lack of Good Manners. He gave me the true reason. However it was 10 years before the significance of what he said sank in and made sense.
“Well normally we would do. But it’s mum’s boss’s son so it’s different.”