As much as I like to think I’m a modern girl, I do have a fair few old-fashioned values that might not sit well with your average 21st century forward-thinking mid-twenties Londoner. I wouldn’t consider having children unless I was married, I firmly believe in the importance of good manners, and I feel that certain rules of social etiquette should be adhered to at all times.
Social etiquette – what’s that? Well, to me at least, it’s the standards by which we should behave in public so as not to unduly offend others. This might seem a rather alien concept to people who claim to not care about what other people think, but if you spend as much time as I do on the Tube, on buses, in bars, at restaurants, and any number of places where you have to be in close proximity with other members of the general public, the complete lack of social etiquette is fairly gobsmacking.
The London Underground is perhaps where this is most prevalent. There we all are, poor sods having to commute every day, none of us enjoy it, but we all have to do it. Quite often there’s a sense of camaraderie about the whole thing: a shared rolling-of-eyes at delays, a collective tutting at the idiot who’s got his leg stuck in the door… So WHY are there people who completely disregard this and act as if they’re not stuffed into a tin can with hundreds of other humans? Case in point: The Hair Brusher. This wasn’t just a quick taming of unruly locks that took about 3 seconds. Oh no. This girl was going to town with a Tangle Teezer on her abundantly scruffy thick wet hair. She was standing up, meaning that those of us sitting down near her got showered with a lovely mix of water and split ends. And of course after this 5-minute grooming session was over, she picked all the hair from her brush and dropped it on the floor. Nice.
Then there are the nose-pickers, the fingernail biters, the hot smelly food eaters, and the let-me-adjust-my-belt-and-general-crotch-area-right-in-front-of-your-face-ers. I’ve seen girls squeezing their spots in a packed carriage at 8am, and a suited and booted man floss his teeth whilst using the window as a mirror. Ok, if you really don’t give a damn about what other people think of you, then you’re probably not the type to be jealously poring over Facebook and Instagram and wishing you had aspects of other people’s lives, and maybe you’re a happier person overall. Yay for you. But for crying out loud why can’t these people see that their habits are truly disgusting and make other people feel quite ill? I certainly wasn’t the only one giving the Hair Brusher death glares by the end of the battle with her bed head.
I can predict a response to this: ‘it’s a free country, I can do what I like’. Fine. In which case, you won’t mind if I gather up all the hair you’ve just shed all over my lap and pop it in your handbag, or attack your fingertips with a bottle of Stop N’ Grow. After all, it’s a free country. I can do what I like…
The old adage ‘good manners don’t cost a thing’ has never been more pertinent. I can’t be the only one whose mother issued edicts such as ‘never eat whilst walking’ and ‘always cover your mouth when yawning’. Perhaps my attitude towards social etiquette is a little dated, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Why should advances in technology and social mobility reduce the need for good manners and personal hygiene? Aren’t politeness and consideration of others two of the things that make us a civilised nation? I’m well aware that I sound like the Dowager Countess, but I’d much rather that comparison than that of, say, Josie Cunningham or Dappy. Being aware of your surroundings and those who are in it isn’t old-fashioned: it should be second nature.