In Defense Of The Middle


Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 3.58.51 PMI met a friend for coffee this morning and we got on the subject of how extreme our world seems to have become. I say seem because I like to think it’s just that those with extreme positions and opinions are the ones who are making the most noise.

I don’t care for heavy duty political debate, although I have my opinions, I try to keep them out of my relationships and I try to be respectful of the opinions of others even if I don’t agree. It can be challenging, but I think it is worth the effort to try and understand a differing point of view. That is what builds bridges of compassion and understanding.

Call me crazy but I’d like to see people get along and be productive. Always move forward and continue to make this world a better place, I believe that is our responsibility for the privilege of living this life.

The extremes have hijacked the media coverage and the social media platforms painting those with opposing views as evil or nefarious. Compromise has become a dirty word. Respect and manners have been lost, leaving civilization without its civility.

I shake my head sometimes and wonder if the young people of today will think this is how we should treat others. Will society continue to decay or will the next generation turn things back around to a society where respect, manners, and compassion dictate our interactions with others.

I like to think we won’t have to wait for the next generation. Those of us in the reasonable, moderate middle, who see both sides of an issue and can envision what a compromise might be, need a clarion call to reclaim the message. I believe there are more of us than those on the extreme ends, it’s the bell curve. We need to be loud enough in our demands to quiet the noise and move this world forward.

I’m not a revolutionary, I don’t wish to weigh in on political issues, but I’d like to turn on the news or read the newspaper or a newsfeed and see the reasonable people better represented. We are the bridge between the extremes and it’s time we stop shaking our heads mystified while the two sides batter the issues back and forth as if we are watching a tennis match.

I will not write my own opinions on specific issues, the world is flooded with enough of that, but I hope that more #reasonablepeople will start demanding compromise, compassion, and civility from those who make our laws, preach from their bully pulpits and hash out issues across the airways.

Maybe this Valentine’s Day we can bring a little love back to the world.

Southern Girl Rule #2: Ladies have lovely lips.


My growing collection of Lipsense products

Rule two has two parts. part one, what goes on your lips and part two, what crosses your lips.

Part one I’ll admit has always been a hard one for me, that is until my co-worker Amber introduced to me to a lip product I can’t destroy in minutes. I had a love-hate relationship with lipstick. I loved the colors and how polished wearing lipstick made me feel, but I hated how it ended up on my teeth, my glass etc. and was basically off my lips within twenty minutes of me applying it.

This lip product stays put all day and never leaves marks on anything, so I can kiss and not tell. I have become a major fan. Southern women know it’s important to leave the house put together even for a short run to the market. Lipstick can give the illusion of put together without having to do up your whole face. So part one of rule two I can follow with fidelity.

While lipstick is fun and girly it is not the important part of rule two. My friend Rachael who taught kindergarten and now pre-school has a saying that I have adopted and use with my students on a regular basis. “If it isn’t lovely, it doesn’t leave your lips.”

If only the world, particularly the political world would follow this simple rule, perhaps respect would grow and things might actually get accomplished. I am not advocating for women to be meek and un-opinionated, rather that we speak our thoughts with kindness and respect.

The most beautiful lips in the world will become the ugliest, if the words that cross them are cruel. With careful thought we can express strongly opinions, disagreements etc. in a way that doesn’t disparage the person we are conversing with. Empathy and compassion should be the screen through which our words are filtered.

So put on that Goddess, or Aussie Rose with a layer of Bombshell and gloss, just make sure your words are just as lovely.

Civility For A Chaotic World


Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette circa 1980’s

For my twenty-first birthday one of the gifts I received from my mother was my very one book of etiquette.  It was a rite of passage akin to my first string of pearls. My mother had her own time-worn etiquette book by Amy Vanderbilt that she received in her youth. In my childhood I learned things like table setting and envelope addressing  from it.

There are some who probably think a book of etiquette is old-fashioned and not applicable to our modern world. I beg to differ, not just a little, but vehemently. We are instantly plugged into one another around the clock these days. We speak and write our thoughts without filter or contemplating the effects our words have on others or the people who love the targets of our fury. People in the spotlight from celebrities to politicians are not seen as human beings and therefore fair game to threats and persecution. People who speak for a cause or a policy position are immediately vilified by the opposition on a personal level rather than a debate of the issue or issues at hand. Oh, I say we need rules for interactions more than ever before.

The shared roots of civility and civilization is no mistake. I believe without civility we risk the loss of civilization. I cringe at the idea that history will judge our era by the horrendous disrespect that flies on all sides of the issues that face our society today. It seems we think if we are louder and meaner,we can somehow drown out and thus defeat the other side.

History shows us the danger of this behavior. Remember that guy Hitler we read about in school? I was appalled recently when an elected official thought it was acceptable to call for a violent death to a political opponent. It broke the bonds of a democratic society on so many levels. History also shows us that big problems are only overcome when various sides work together to garner consensus and practice the art of compromise, that is the greatness of democracy.

I am all for varying opinions. if you stop and listen to someone with a differing viewpoint, you can learn a new appreciation or come up with a solution you couldn’t think of on your own. At the very least you can develop empathy and understanding for others. Civilization works best when everyone can contribute their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses.

So how do we keep our civilization strong. It begins with civility in our daily interactions. Look at the first line  in the photo above. We have to be thoughtful about what we say and do. We have to be respectful of others even when we don’t agree with them. We are quick to judge and condemn our fellow citizens. Just spend sometime on Facebook and see the shaming photos people post even when they do not personally know the target of their abuse or the circumstances that person might be in. Hateful rhetoric of the personal kind has no place in our civil discourse. By all means, speak your position and explain with facts and data why your way is the better way. Build up instead of tear down.

Our world is hurting right now on so many levels. We have a choice to fuel the fires and be part of the problem or be part of the solution. We have evolved enough as human beings to realize that the biggest threat to a healthy civilization is hate. The only true weapon against it is love. We can create a better society with respect and understanding. It is the onus of each one of us. Not just how we view the world and our nation on the large scale, but how we interact with each other on a daily basis.

My etiquette book may be outdated because it was pre-social media era, but some of its content is timeless. No matter how many years go by the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have done to you, will forever be a measuring stick for our words and behavior.

Why Manners Matter and are alive and well in the Modern South and Elsewhere

I was a bit taken aback this week when the media decided to make a news story that a university study had declared that  the simple act of a man opening a door for a woman was rife with the message that said man thought said woman was inferior.  WHAT!?  I was left scratching my head in confusion.  Had the proverbial wool been pulled over my eyes all these years?  Did all those men: dates, cousins, my Daddy, friends husbands and boyfriends who had held doors for me secretly think they were superior to me?  No, Daddy spent my whole childhood telling me I could be anything I wanted to be and I could do anything I put my mind to, that certainly did not jive with what this study said about his behavior. I always saw a door held as a sign of respect and just plain good manners.  I myself hold the door regularly for folks just behind me entering or departing from a building, not even taking their gender into account.  I will admit I make the extra effort for my elders, not because I see them as frail incapable beings, but I want to show my respect.  I understand that cultural norms of behavior change and evolve, but I would argue a culture devoid of civility and everyday courtesies runs the risk of ceasing to be a culture.  I decided to consult my reference book on etiquette, no it is not the version published in the 1920’s that belonged to my grandmother or the 1960’s version one my mother received as a bride, it was the one I received when I graduated from college in the 1990’s and I happen to know there are newer versions out there that address on-line etiquette as well as proper wedding invitations.  As I stated before, times change and call for adjustments in the norm for civil behavior, not the absence of civil behavior.  I pulled my book off the shelf and found the above paragraph.  Note where it points out such behavior is just common courtesy, not a statement on superiority or inferiority.  A lot has been made of this study’s findings here in the south, mostly that holding doors and offering arms to women is a badge of respectability and manners for a southern man what is wrong with everyone else?  We southerners sometimes think that we hold the market on manners and we do think it is part of a child’s essential education.  I would argue it is also true in places like New England, where one of my male cousins who grew up in rural Maine, opened doors and offered an arm on and off boats to women from three to one-hundred.  I find it hard to believe that any modern woman feels her intelligence suffers because a man held a door for her and if she does I would question her self-esteem, not if the man in question had a subversive plan to keep that little woman in her place.  In this day and age mutual respect between people, shown via common courtesies, regardless of a person’s gender, race, or other identifying qualifiers is what will make our culture thrive.  If we remove those acts of respect known as manners then the fabric of our society deteriorates.  Not only do manners matter, they are the thread that holds our society together.  So as a self-assured modern southern woman, let me finish by saying, “Thank you darlin’ for holding the door. Now, what kindness can I show you? Bless your heart.”

Some sound advice from Emily Post's Etiquette A Guide to Modern Manners (14th Edition)

Some sound advice from Emily Post’s Etiquette A Guide to Modern Manners (14th Edition)