Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | April 19, 2010

Ringside Seat

With the median age of Americans now just over 35 years, my 53 years on the planet give me a perspective on life that is shared by a minority of my countrymen alive today.   I have had something of a ringside seat on history since the 1960s,  and I can look back over these five decades of first-hand experiences and consider how life has changed in the United States over that time.

One of these changes—for the worst, I would think—is the decline in common courtesy in our everyday relationships.  While there is still plenty of courtesy to go around—and I think most of us experience many pleasantries daily as we deal with people—I still have the sense that courtesy is not quite what it once was.

Perhaps we have become too casual in our relationships with strangers and in our comings and goings in public.  If you watch old movies, as I love to do, the actors are nearly always featured in full formal or semi-formal attire—men in suits, and women in dresses or skirts.  They always address each other as Mr., Mrs., Miss, or with some other title.  Nowadays, a 16-year-old will address a new 70-year-old acquaintance as Earl or Vern, and the youngster probably doesn’t even know what a suit is, much less own one.  Could it be that our casualness is somehow related to the decline in courtesy?  I don’t know; I am simply posing the question.  Perhaps I’ll explore this question and other aspects of my witness to history in future posts.  Stay tuned!



  1. I found myself smiling a bit at the irony of this entry. You and I grew up in the 60s and became adults in the 70s. Remember how the old-timers–“The Establishment”–way back then despaired over OUR generation? Most of the guys I went to school with didn’t own a suit, and if they did, their folks had bought it for them to attend Grandma’s funeral.

    So I wonder, is this a generational thing… you know, each elder generation convinced polite society it going to hell in a hand-basket?

    I enjoyed this post. Made me think. 🙂

  2. Courtesy or Respect….I am not that far behind you and Robin as I can look over 6 generations…but my generation had a ‘dress code’ for school. We girls couldn’t wear jeans or slacks and definitely NOT shorts! …it had to be dresses or skirts and they had to be mid-calf length and no T-shirts. Blouses [which today’s generation calls Shirts] had to be WITH collars. The boys couldn’t wear jeans either. In our “annuals” or “yearbooks” the senior boys all wore suits in their pictures. As I look back over some of my school yearbooks…I am seeing a generation of respect…that I am proud to claim a part of.

    Boys and Men ALWAYS stood up when a girl or a lady entered the room and remained standing until she sat down. They also opened doors for us….and we called adults Mr. and Mrs. Whatever happened to ‘those days’!

    Parents made the rules back then and we didn’t question them…now days the kids tell the parents what to do or argue with them as to what they want to do….or they will say ‘whatever’ and then do whatever they want to do. Now days…I just don’t see that kind of ‘respect’ among kids.

    If you look at pics of downtown areas in the 50’s and 60’s you will see a similar dress code that we had in high school…unwritten of course….but everyone abided by it. Now…it’s jeans for everything…and I must confess that I have come to the ‘Jeans generation’ and have actually learned to like it. Jeans are comfortable…what more can I say…but I don’t like to see the jeans with holes in them and the worn look jeans. Jeans can look great if they are all one color…which is becoming harder and harder to find today. And… a comfortable belt always looks great too [huh Mike]. And you can always dress Jeans up with a nice top if you choose to do so. Notice I said ‘top’…not blouse or shirt. Does this mean I am conforming to the current generation!

    Courtesy and Respect certainly isn’t what it used to be….perhaps the current generation can work on that…. as things seem to come full circle.

    I too enjoyed this post…made me think after I read Robin’s entry that perhaps it was your generation that started the change…only I don’t think you thought it would go as far as it did….like boys showing their underware at school….can you believe the school dress code allows this!

    As Benjamin Franklin once said, “The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to your father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; and to yourself, respect to all men, charity.”

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