On the Street and in Public
WALKING ON THE STREET
A GENTLEMAN, whether walking with two ladies or one, takes the curb side of the pavement. He should never sandwich himself between them.
|A young man walking with a young woman should be careful that his manner in no way draws attention to her or to himself. Too devoted a manner is always conspicuous, and so is loud talking. Under no circumstances should he take her arm, or grasp her by or above the elbow, and shove her here and there, unless, of course, to save her from being run over! He should not walk along hitting things with his stick. The small boy’s delight in drawing a stick along a picket fence should be curbed in the nursery! And it is scarcely necessary to add that no gentleman walks along the street chewing gum or, if he is walking with a lady, puffing a cigar or cigarette.||2|
|All people in the streets, or anywhere in public, should be careful not to talk too loud. They should especially avoid pronouncing people’s names, or making personal remarks that may attract passing attention or give a clue to themselves.||3|
|One should never call out a name in public, unless it is absolutely unavoidable. A young girl who was separated from her friends in a baseball crowd had the presence of mind to put her hat on her parasol and lift it above the people surrounding her so that her friends might find her.||4|
|Do not attract attention to yourself in public. This is one of the fundamental rules of good breeding. Shun conspicuous manners, conspicuous clothes, a loud voice, staring at people, knocking into them, talking across anyone—in a word do not attract attention to yourself. Do not expose your private affairs, feelings or innermost thoughts in public. You are knocking down the walls of your house when you do.||5|
GENTLEMEN AND BUNDLES
Nearly all books on etiquette insist that a “gentleman must offer to carry a lady’s bundles.” Bundles do not suggest a lady in the first place, and as for gentlemen and bundles!—they don’t go together at all. Very neat packages that could never without injury to their pride be designated as “bundles” are different. Such, for instance, might be a square, smoothly wrapped box of cigars, candy, or books. Also, a gentleman might carry flowers, or a basket of fruit, or, in fact, any package that looks tempting. He might even stagger under bags and suitcases, or a small trunk—but carry a “bundle”? Not twice! And yet, many an unknowing woman, sometimes a very young and pretty one, too, has asked a relative, a neighbor, or an admirer, to carry something suggestive of a pillow, done up in crinkled paper and odd lengths of joined string. Then she wonders afterwards in unenlightened surprise why her cousin, or her neighbor, or her admirer, who is one of the smartest men in town, never comes to see her any more!
A GENTLEMAN OFFERS HIS ARM
To an old lady or to an invalid a gentleman offers his arm if either of them wants his support. Otherwise a lady no longer leans upon a gentleman in the daytime, unless to cross a very crowded thoroughfare, or to be helped over a rough piece of road, or under other impeding circumstances. In accompanying a lady anywhere at night, whether down the steps of a house, or from one building to another, or when walking a distance, a gentleman always offers his arm. The reason is that in her thin high-heeled slippers, and when it is too dark to see her foothold clearly, she is likely to trip.
|Under any of these circumstances when he proffers his assistance, he might say: “Don’t you think you had better take my arm? You might trip.” Or—“Wouldn’t it be easier if you took my arm along here? The going is pretty bad.” Otherwise the only occasions on which a gentleman offers his arm to a lady are in taking her in at a formal dinner, or taking her in to supper at a ball, or when he is an usher at a wedding. Even in walking across a ballroom, except at a public ball in the grand march, it is the present fashion for the younger generation to walk side by side, never arm in arm. This, however, is merely an instance where etiquette and the custom of the moment differ. Old-fashioned gentlemen still offer their arm, and it is, and long will be, in accordance with etiquette to do so. But etiquette does not permit a gentleman to take a lady’s arm!||8|
|In seeing a lady to her carriage or motor, it is quite correct for a gentleman to put his hand under her elbow to assist her; and in helping her out he should alight first and offer her his hand. He should not hold a parasol over her head unless momentarily while she searches in her wrist-bag for something, or stops perhaps to put on or take off her glove, or do anything that occupies both hands. With an umbrella the case is different, especially in a sudden and driving rain, when she is often very busily occupied in trying to hold “good” clothes out of the wet and a hat on, as well. She may also, under these circumstances, take the gentleman’s arm, if the “going” is thereby made any easier.||9|
A LADY NEVER “ON THE LEFT”
The owner always sits on the right hand side of the rear seat of a carriage or a motor, that is driven by a coachman or a chauffeur. If the vehicle belongs to a lady, she should take her own place always, unless she relinquishes it to a guest whose rank is above her own, such as that of the wife of the President or the Governor. If a man is the owner, he must, on the contrary, give a lady the right hand seat. Whether in a private carriage, a car or a taxi, a lady must never sit on a gentleman’s left; because according to European etiquette, a lady “on the left” is not a “lady.” Although this etiquette is not strictly observed in America, no gentleman should risk allowing even a single foreigner to misinterpret a lady’s position.
AWKWARD QUESTIONS OF PAYMENT
It is becoming much less customary than it used to be for a gentleman to offer to pay a lady’s way. If in taking a ferry or a subway, a young woman stops to buy magazines, chocolates, or other trifles, a young man accompanying her usually offers to pay for them. She quite as usually answers: “Don’t bother, I have it!” and puts the change on the counter. It would be awkward for him to protest, and bad taste to press the point. But usually in small matters such as a subway fare, he pays for two. If he invites her to go to a ball game, or to a matinée or to tea, he naturally buys the tickets and any refreshment which they may have.
|Very often it happens that a young woman and a young man who are bound for the same house party, at a few hours’ distance from the place where they both live, take the same train—either by accident or by pre-arrangement. In this case the young woman should pay for every item of her journey. She should not let her companion pay for her parlor car seat or for her luncheon; nor should he, when they arrive at their destination, tip the porter for carrying her bag.||12|
|A gentleman who is by chance sitting next to a lady of his acquaintance on a train or boat, should never think of offering to pay for her seat or for anything she may buy from the vendor.||13|
Notwithstanding the fact that he is met, all dressed in his best store clothes, with his “lady friend” leaning on his arm, in the pages of counterfeit society novels and unauthoritative books on etiquette, there is no such actual person known to good society—at least not in New York or any great city—as an escort. He is not only unknown, but he is impossible.
|In good society ladies do not go about under the “care of” gentlemen! It is unheard of for a gentleman to “take” a young girl alone to a dance or to dine or to parties of any description; nor can she accept his sponsorship anywhere whatsoever. A well behaved young girl goes to public dances only when properly chaperoned and to a private dance with her mother or else accompanied by her maid, who waits for her the entire evening in the dressing room. It is not only improper, it is impossible for any man to take a lady to a party of any sort, to which she has not been personally invited by the hostess.||15|
|A lady may never be under the “protection” of a man anywhere! A young girl is not even taken about by her betrothed. His friends send invitations to her on his account, it is true, and, if possible, he accompanies her, but correct invitations must be sent by them to her, or she should not go.||16|
|Older ladies are often thoughtless and say to a young man: “Bring your fiancée to see me!” His answer should be: “Indeed, I’d love to any time you telephone her”; or, “I know she’d love to come if you’d ask her.” If the lady stupidly persists in casually saying, “Do bring her,” he must smile and say lightly: “But I can’t bring her without an invitation from you.” Or, he merely evades the issue, and does not bring her.||17|
THE RESTAURANT CHECK
Everyone has at some time or other been subjected to the awkward moment when the waiter presents the check to the host. For a host to count up the items is suggestive of parsimony, while not to look at them is disconcertingly reckless, and to pay before their faces for what his guests have eaten is embarrassing. Having the check presented to a hostess when gentlemen are among her guests, is more unpleasant. Therefore, to avoid this whole transaction, people who have not charge accounts, should order the meal ahead, and at the same time pay for it in advance, including the waiter’s tip. Charge customers should make arrangements to have the check presented to them elsewhere than at table.
IN STORES OR SHOPS
Lack of consideration for those who in any capacity serve you, is always an evidence of ill-breeding, as well as of inexcusable selfishness. Occasionally a so-called “lady” who has nothing whatever to do but drive uptown or down in her comfortable limousine, vents her irritability upon a saleswoman at a crowded counter in a store, because she does not leave other customers and wait immediately upon her. Then, perhaps, when the article she asked for is not to be had, she complains to the floor-walker about the saleswoman’s stupidity! Or having nothing that she can think of to occupy an empty hour on her hands, she demands that every sort of material be dragged down from the shelves until, discovering that it is at last time for her appointment, she yawns and leaves.
|Of course, on the other hand, there is the genuinely lethargic saleswoman whose mind doesn’t seem to register a single syllable that you have said to her; who, with complete indifference to you and your preferences, insists on showing what you distinctly say you do not want, and who caps the climax by drawling “They” are wearing it this season! Does that sort of saleswoman ever succeed in selling anything? Does anyone living buy anything because someone, who knows nothing, tells another, who is often an expert, what an indiscriminating “They” may be doing? That kind of a saleswoman would try to tell Kreisler that “They” are not using violins this season!||20|
|There are always two sides to the case, of course, and it is a credit to good manners that there is scarcely ever any friction in stores and shops of the first class. Salesmen and women are usually persons who are both patient and polite, and their customers are most often ladies in fact as well as “by courtesy.” Between those before and those behind the counters, there has sprung up in many instances a relationship of mutual goodwill and friendliness. It is, in fact, only the woman who is afraid that someone may encroach upon her exceedingly insecure dignity, who shows neither courtesy nor consideration to any except those whom she considers it to her advantage to please.||21|
REGARD FOR OTHERS
Consideration for the rights and feelings of others is not merely a rule for behavior in public but the very foundation upon which social life is built.
|Rule of etiquette the first—which hundreds of others merely paraphrase or explain or elaborate—is:||23|
|Never do anything that is unpleasant to others.||24|
|Never take more than your share—whether of the road in driving a car, of chairs on a boat or seats on a train, or food at the table.||25|
| People who picnic along the public highway leaving a clutter of greasy paper and swill (not a pretty name, but neither is it a pretty object!) for other people to walk or drive past, and to make a breeding place for flies, and furnish nourishment for rats, choose a disgusting way to repay the land-owner for the liberty they took in temporarily occupying his property.|
Post, Emily. Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1922. Bartleby.com www.bartleby.com/95/.