Friday, October 07, 2005

Social conduct

There are many social conventions I flagrantly flout, but there are some that I was brought up with that still remain. Problem is that I'm not sure if I am alone in believing that certain niceties be preserved or if I have somehow slipped out of the loop into a limbo where social conventions are as difficult to define and maintain as holding sand in your hand.

Case in point: I sent a birthday card to someone I know casually, but someone who is facing a big milestone with a lot of doubt and questions in their mind. Some friends encouraged me to celebrate her birthday with a card and I felt I knew the person well enough to do so. I chose a card, wrote a little something positive and sent it winging out into the virtual world. It was picked up; I got an email informing me it had. There was, however, no email from the recipient to thank me or acknowledge the card.

Maybe I am too old-fashioned in this way. I have been taught that a gift, even a card, is noteworthy enough to be acknowledged with a thank you or a nod or something tangible to let you know your wishes and gift were received and appreciated. This leads me to believe that my card was not appreciated, even though I know it was received.

In the days when snail mail was all the rage, you never knew when or if a gift or card was received. Before phones, the only way to know if your missive had been received was with a return missive of some sort, even if it was a small thank you card. In this age of virtual worlds and speedy communication, as well as return receipts and notifications, we almost always know when something we've sent has reached its destination. There is no reason to send a card or letter to let the giver know. But is there a social reason for letting someone know their gift/card was received and appreciated?

Am I being overly sensitive or am I just that old-fashioned and should wrap myself in a dusty shawl, let the silver grow out and wrap it into a netted bun, and sit in my rocking chair on the old folks' home porch and realize that common courtesy is a thing of the cobwebbed and distant past?

I have gotten used to -- and when I'm angry and frustrated use -- profanity everywhere. I have become inured to displays of disrespect from people who haven't the time or interest in using disrespect instead of diss. I have hardened myself to accept the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune without too much fuss and I rarely take it to heart when people claiming friendship smile in my face and plunge a knife up to the hilt in my back. I have survived much worse. But it is difficult for me to accept the death of the last social convention I have always happily embraced -- common courtesy.

It is said that for evil to flourish it takes nothing more than that a good man remain silent. The loss of common courtesy is not blackest evil, but it is a sign that gracious and polite behavior is as rare as hen's teeth and going the way of the dinosaurs. I wonder if I will be able to go quietly into that good night without losing my last shred of dignity.

I'll shut up now.

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