Since it is Friday, the day that we historically published our “marriage situation” posts, we decided to re-introduce that particular blogging habit. Today we will outline a common marriage situation and then give what we consider a biblical solution in a follow-up post. As always my comments will be normal shading and Paul’s will be bolded.
Our pastor is fond of saying that no matter how alike couples are, their marriage is a union of two very different cultures, namely, he is a man and she is a women. Allowing for the stanadard deviation of those groups, that difference alone begs for all kinds of adjustments. If you pile up additional non-gender related variety, you’re just asking for trouble (a.k.a. opportunities for love:-). Enter family culture. From birth onward each person consciously or unconsciously absorbs their parents’ values, traditions and habits. By adulthood we consider our unique family dynamic “the norm.” It simply IS the WAY its done. While we could tackle any number of family culture issues, we decided to discuss personal etiquette (yep, you heard that right!)
I remember my first real, knock-down, drag out argument with Paul. We’d been engaged for a few months and were having a phone conversation. After making an offhand comment about some a protocol faux-pas I’d made that day, Paul emphatically stated that “his children would never be subjected to such a ridiculous social standard as a set of manners.” (And a written statement can’t capture the disdain I heard in his voice!) After a short, shocked silence I jumped right in with a rebuttal for such a silly declaration. I mean really, what kind of person wants to raise a bunch of hooligans! What followed was an hour-long and very heated debate over the value of manners (as defined by Emily Post :)
Basically, each of us ended up listing the merits of our own family culture, and the demerits of the other person’s family culture when it came to area of personal etiquette. Both of us had some type of personal experience which led us to believe that our way was clearly, the right way. Consider the following situations:
Holiday Breakfast at a Hulshizer Family Gathering
So, along with my girlfriend of one year, we drove to her relative’s house for a formal family breakfast. Did you know that there was such a thing? I didn’t either.When it was time to eat, I did what any *normal* person would do. I reached the table and sat right down. Buuuut…everyone else kept standing behind their chairs. So I surreptitiously stood back up until some imperceptible cue (which I didn’t catch) impelled everyone to sit at the same time. Once seated, and since I’d learned my lesson, I didn’t start eating until I saw someone else begin. However, it turned out that there were more utensils than I knew what to do with (at breakfast!) and a delicate, thimble-sized coffee cup (with a saucer!) that I dared not handle. As I gingerly sipped my coffee, and fumbled with forks, I noticed that Liz and her family were taking turns watching me with slightly sympathetic, slightly bemused expressions. I felt embarrassed and very much annoyed at the “fakeness of it all.” I didn’t eat very much and said even less. (I won’t tell you about taking my shoes off and putting them on the coffee table later:-). I LOVE big Hulshizer gatherings. Everyone brings a dish to share and we all sit down and gladly pass those dishes (from right to left) around the table. It’s very orderly and very predictable. Sipping coffee from a cup and saucer leds a sort elegance to the meal. The get together gave my aunt a chance to use her fine china, which we appropriately admired. People chatted with the family members near to them and there was soft music playing in the background. All in all, a very cheerful, organized and tasty meal. I thought it was kind of cute that Paul didn’t know how to handle a cup and saucer and didn’t understand the use of a teaspoon and butter knife, but I just figured that he’d watch me and get the hang of it, all the while enjoying the opportunity to get to know my family better.
Sunday Night Family Dinner at the Snyder House
Sunday nights, after church, used to be reserved for a Snyder family meal. The main requirement of the meal was a huge serving of meat. Chicken, beef, venison – it didn’t really matter. Sides were optional and varied depending on what Mom had found on sale at Meijer that week.When dinner was announced each family member would grab a plate and the required utensils from the kitchen and head to the table. Once seated, plates were passed around and each person served the food that was closest to them to everyone else. All this movement was accompanied by a very lively conversation (or two, or three, or four.) In fact, the general rule was that that if you couldn’t be heard by the person three people down, well, you should just feel free to talk a little louder. It was happy chaos with good food and lots of debating (usually we boys gleefully challenged Dad on some minor point made during his morning sermon :-) I remember my first Snyder family meal. Paul wasn’t even there to help me navigate this crazy social gathering! I remember standing in the kitchen doorway, not knowing where to sit, when to sit, or even what to do when I sat down! My future brother in law, Bryan, noticed my hesitation and being a non-native himself, helped me acclimate. During the meal I said very little and snagged the food closest to me. I remember feeling left out and a little overlooked. Everything was loud and seemingly chaotic. There were conversations happening, but I didn’t know how to enter them, or if I was even suppose to enter them! At my house, we generally one had one discussion at a time, and it was held in well modulated tones and with turn-taking used to give everyone a chance to weigh in on the topic. Bryan had insisted that once I got used to this rambunctious group of people I would love Sunday dinners, but I wasn’t so sure.
This is a small sampling of some of the differences within our respective families when it came to etiquette. On Sunday we will post our reactions and give our conclusion to the question, “What are manners and are they important to the believer?”
But what do you think? Is mannerliness next to godliness? What is/should be the purpose of employing the right etiquette? Is having the right etiquette still relevant now that there isn’t an agreed upon standard?