Home Australia TOM UTLEY: I bet those Gen Zers couldn’t tell you why a right-handed gentleman should always sleep on the left side of the bed…

TOM UTLEY: I bet those Gen Zers couldn’t tell you why a right-handed gentleman should always sleep on the left side of the bed…

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A right-handed knight always sleeps on the left, to keep his sword arm free and to defend himself against intruders during the night.

Adult instructions echo throughout the years of my childhood: ‘Sit up straight! Elbows off the table! Stop playing with your food! Do not talk with your mouth full! Hold your knife and fork correctly! Don’t sip your drink! Wait until everyone’s finished before asking for more!’

Like all kids over the years, I found these rules extremely annoying as I got older, and I confess that, at 70, I don’t always follow each and every one of them when it’s just the two of us at the table. .

When Mrs. U and I eat alone, I have been known to prop myself up on my elbows and help myself a few seconds before she finishes. From time to time, I also break more modern etiquette rules, for example by checking my texts and emails while we eat (smartphones didn’t exist when I was a kid, or they definitely would have been banned at the table).

A right-handed knight always sleeps on the left, to keep his sword arm free and to defend himself against intruders during the night.

You might even catch me, horror of horrors!, lighting a cigarette between courses when we’re alone. This is a vice I inherited from my late father, who always indulged in what he called the “sex cigarette” of him, a little joke that he never failed to find funny, even after years of repetition.

But when we have guests, or other people invite us to dinner with them, it wouldn’t occur to me to behave like that. Like most of my generation, I do my best to follow the old rules.

However, if a survey published this week is to be believed, old-fashioned table manners will soon be consigned to history. A survey of 2,000 teens and adults found that 60 percent of those ages 12 to 27 (known as Generation Z) think table manners in general are no longer important.

More than three-quarters of them, according to Censuswide, say they don’t mind their elbows at the table, while more than half think it doesn’t matter which way the knife and fork are held.

Now, having raised four children, I know that many in this age group, left to their own devices, would collapse on the floor in front of the TV, eating takeout pizzas with their fingers, rather than sitting at a table. with cutlery.

But Generation Z appears not to be the only ones who think table manners have come to an end, as the survey found 54 per cent of Brits of all ages say they are “a thing of the past”.

I can’t help but feel that if this is true, we risk wasting something very valuable. Because don’t table manners, like so many time-honored conventions of social interaction, simply come down to courtesy and consideration for others?

Take the elbow rule. Surely the idea is simply that we shouldn’t make those sitting next to us feel uncomfortable by putting up a barrier between us or invading their space, like those antisocial men who sit on the subway or bus with their legs spread wide. .

The same goes for sitting up straight, rather than slouching or leaning back in our chairs. It is a simple courtesy to our hosts, who may have gone to great trouble to prepare and cook our food, not to approach their hospitality with too much indifference.

I have a friend who no longer invites one of his oldest colleagues to eat with him because he finds his table manners so disgusting.

As for being careful not to talk with your mouth full, throw food, or make noises like pigs at the trough, well, there are pretty simple reasons for those rules, too: Many people find that behavior disgusting, and that turns them off from their food. . That’s quite apart from the danger of half-chewed morsels being splashed on us.

In fact, I have a friend who no longer invites one of his older colleagues to eat with him because he finds his table manners so disgusting.

Meanwhile, some people are apparently so sensitive to the slightest sound of eating that Lilian Baylis studio Sadler’s Wells has issued a “trigger warning” for this month’s production of an entertainment called Out (“reclaiming Dancehall and celebrating queerness among the bittersweet aroma of oranges’, if you’re interested).

This tells audience members with misophonia (an extreme emotional reaction to sounds) that they may “find some parts uncomfortable” as they eat oranges on stage!

Well, I wouldn’t go that far either (unless, perhaps, I was seeking publicity for a dreadful-sounding production). But we’ve all come across people whose gulps and sips make it difficult for us to swallow another bite.

Yes, of course fashions change from one era to another and from one country to another. After all, the rich of ancient Rome used to recline on sofas while dining, Tudor nobles ate with knives and fingers, thinking that forks were strictly for namby-pamby foreigners, while in some societies today, it is considered the the height of good manners. burp loudly at the table, in gratitude for the food.

So I accept that the rules are not set in stone, nor do I think they should be.

In particular, I will not regret seeing an end to the widespread, snobbish belief that there is a right and wrong way to wield a knife (“I can still hear my late grandmother’s voice declaring, Lady Bracknell-style: ‘My dear! , Mr. So-and-so holds his knife as if it were a pencil!’)

After all, making others feel uncomfortable or uncomfortable is the complete opposite of good manners.

Nor will I regret the disappearance of other old conventions, still practiced by rigorists. For example, for a long time it seemed wrong to me that we should all wait until everyone has been served before eating. This means that those who are served first simply have to sit there, while the food cools in front of them. — something that is especially unfair for women, in those homes where ladies are always served before men.

No matter how much we implore our guests to start while the food is hot, many find that they simply cannot eat until everyone else has food.

In the same illogical way, I cannot sleep on the right side of the bed, while facing the feet, since I was raised to believe that a right-handed knight always sleeps on the left side, to keep his sword arm free for Fight off intruders in the night without leaning on your lady.

I also feel terribly uncomfortable when I walk down the street with a woman, unless I’m on the “carriage side” of her, closer to the road. As older readers will know, this rule dates back to the days when the roads were awash with excrement, both equine and human, and it was considered a gentleman’s duty to bear the brunt of the spray when a carriage passed by.

It’s true that water companies seem to be doing everything they can to make this relevant again. But I don’t think such arcane conventions will survive much longer, and I won’t pretend to regret it.

But oh, what a mistake it would be to completely break the rule book, whether in the bedroom, at the dinner table, or in any other sphere of life.

In this era of the garbage bully, the highway hoarder, the Internet troll, the sidewalk cyclist, and the hooligans who refuse to give up their seats to frail old ladies on the bus, wouldn’t we be encouraged by a resurgence of some of the old courtesies? all up?

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