Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Fit-in ’50s and the Rebellious ’60s

Nobody can claim that Americans were not concerned with correct behavior during the 1940s and 1950s. Having good manners, fitting in, dressing right, and being part of the crowd were vitally important. Advice columns and magazine features on proper behavior remained popular, although the approach was perhaps more chatty than instructional.
Then came the 1960s, with hippies, the drug culture, long hair, shorter dresses, denim, and disobedience. There was a pronounced decline in the popularity of books and magazine articles written on etiquette. Etiquette became a word seldom heard except in jest. In an era of rebellion, etiquette was deemed unworthy even of protest. But even during these years, when “being real” achieved something of a cult status, experts on etiquette emerged and were at least consulted if not honored. The decades since the massive upheaval of the 1960s have brought enormous changes to our society, particularly the struggle against discrimination based on gender and race, and the electronic revolution. As the globe continues to shrink, as people from all backgrounds and cultures are thrown together as never before, and as computers change the way we communicate, civility—not chivalry—will be the mark of a sophisticated citizen in the twenty-first century.

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