In the past few weeks since I've been back in Johannesburg, and living in my dad's house I've been very sensitive to how people act, especially around my father and how my guests treat my home. I've also been thinking a lot about people and friends and the differences and similarities in how we conduct ourselves in the different situations that speak to the way we were raised, this thinking and sensitivity sparked the following conversation in my head.
Through our young years we live by our parents rule, their law and do so until the 'while under my roof' stage is over – but do these lessons they exact on us stay in the house? Do we leave them behind when we grow up, shed our youth and exercise our independence? Surely, what we were taught, in any manner or form, were and are the things our parents wanted us to use to guide us through adulthood and help us become adults who are not socially inept.
Obviously situations change and circumstances differ, but for the most part, we all have some sort of basic understanding of manners and etiquette. We use some, and leave some
It's the little things we are taught; from making your bed before leaving the house, wearing clean underpants in case you are in an accident, washing the dishes before sleeping, offering guests something to eat or drink when they, not dishing up too much food on the plate as this is considered a way of kicking someone out, as a child, leave the room when adults are in discussions, to serving the men or elders first, each family has their own little things.
Outside the home, when you go visiting friend's overnight we don't go empty handed by having a gift or money for the home you will be attending a sleepover for, knowing not to over stay your welcome, not putting your feet on the couch, maybe even taking your shoes off at the door, not talking on your cellphone in a meeting or at the table and so on and so forth, these, I believe are some basic social skills we learn at an early age and should by all means carry with us into adulthood.
Today, for example, I would never attend a dinner party without a bottle of wine, if it's a non-alcoholic home or I am unsure, I would bring dessert or flowers. Even something as small as waiting for everyone to be settled and served before scoffing down your food, to offering your seat to elders are some of the things that speak to our breeding, grooming and understanding of etiquette or manners.
On the point of 'elders', sometimes I refer to and understand it as everyone older than you by even a year. Obviously if I'm on a bus with friends of varying ages, there are certain etiquette exercises I won't practice, but if an associate or stranger older than I, by say a few years, needs a seat, I will most certainly show respect and offer mine. Of course, there are exceptions to the rules and discretion must be used in certain conditions.
In other basic (to me) matters of sense, I believe that older men and women are essentially your uncle, your aunt, your mother or your father and should thus be treated with respect, without discrimination by status.
This does create certain difficulties when in a restaurant and I am waited on by an older man or woman, or even asking the housekeeper to wash the carpets, or interacting with an elder shop assistant due to this learned understanding of respect. All these people are also humans; I will greet and smile in a polite manner no matter who they are or where they are, as this is basic human, dare I say 'black', and maybe 'Ndungane family' etiquette.
Inside or outside the home, how you conduct yourself is a reflection of your parents; as it was when in school; you represent your school while in school uniform, on or off the school grounds. Although there were cases when kids from my high school were recognized at the local shopping mall smoking while in their 'civvies' clothes, and got called into the principals office the next day, and at the weekly assembly we were all reminded of being ambassadors of the school at all times. Would it then be wrong to expect us as human to understand that we are ambassadors of our roots; be it our homes, social clubs, school, work place, city, and even our respective countries when we conduct ourselves?
So what about guilt by association? My friends and how they behave is in large part a reflection of me. Maybe this is my judgy judgison talking, but I want my parents to be proud of how they raised me, not only by my actions but also by the kind of people I surround myself with, and how those people carry themselves. I also don't want to be judged negatively because of the company I keep, so why then when I have made to effort to move out of home together with my large suitcase of manners in tow should I associate myself with or forgive people who've shoved their etiquette luggage far under the bed with their porn stash and love letters to collect dust and only be retrieved when they are in their parents house? Do I then take it upon myself to teach friends of my expectations of their behaviour or do I just not associate with people I feel are not up to par?
I know we are not raised the same, but there has to be some level of common and basic sense in the world. Right? This is not me being a snob (Lord knows I can be), or even acting all holier than thou, it's that as I am growing up I'm realizing that these little things are becoming very important to me. I am by no means saying that I am perfect, but I am, however, on a mission to create the kind of world I want to live in, with the kind of people I want to breathe in, the sort of situations I want to be in or want navigate, and even finding love, I am now aware that the things I want are affected by the way I carry myself, through the lessons I have learnt, the way I was raised and the lessons I choose to take with me. It begins at home, and home is inside me.
I guess I'm just getting to a place where I know and am learning about who I'll be taking with me into the next phase of my life, including the parts of myself, and therefore need to act according to the standards I am setting out for the people I want to be surrounded by.