Happy Valentine’s | Now Listen Up


By Marica Bernstein

Love is in the air! What better time to review the complex rules of etiquette regarding “courtship– the word which sums up a man’s attentions to the woman he wishes to marry”? I say “complex” because we have a tendency to think of days bygone as simpler than those in which we now live. As “The Book of Good Manners: A Guide to Polite Usage for All Social Functions” (published in 1923) shows, there was nothing simple about courting in the 1920s. Let’s begin with some definitions. Good manners are based on “kindness of heart and courtesy of mind.” Etiquette is the “great body of rules [this book is over 500 pages!] to which good society conforms.” Culture is achieved when “good manners in every detail have become second nature.”

“A courtship, as a rule, develops naturally out of the propinquities of the same social circle.” (I had to look that up. Propinquity means nearness in place, proximity, similarity.) A young man finds attractive a particular young woman he has met “on the tennis court, at dances, in the home of her friends.” He pays her a call. He may call at her parents’ home only between the hours of 8  and 10 o’clock in the evening. He should never overstay his first call. This puts the young woman in an embarrassing situation.

Please read the rest.

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