Ever wonder who wrote the rules? Who “they” are?
“They” say you can wear white after Memorial Day but it’s taboo after Labor Day.
“They” say a best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
“They” say women over 40 shouldn’t wear hair below their shoulders.
“They” say don’t put your elbows on the table.
“They” say which fork and spoon to use and when.
“They” say to pull out a lady’s chair, stand when she comes into a room, and open the door for her.
“They” say don’t eat with a mouthful.
“They” say don’t brush your hair in public.
“They” say never to curse in public.
“They” say never to cut in line ahead of others.
“They” say to always offer a “Bless you” when others sneeze (wouldn’t want those pesky evil spirits getting in without a verbal barrier!)
“They” say to flush the toilet after using it and always wash your hands.
“They” say men and women shouldn’t travel together in the back seat if they don’t know each other.
“They” say girls can wear pink, but not boys.
“They” expect a “please” when asking for something and “thank you” when receiving it.
“They” say don’t pick your nose or burp in public.
“They” say you can’t fight city hall.
“They” are the rules meant to create a system where everyone knows what is expected of them to gain approval and live comfortably within a group.
I can’t remember exactly who taught me these rules but many are so ingrained they pop out habitually with little thought. Thankfully over time and changing norms “they“ have had less power over our lives.
Many make common sense. No one wants to see partially eaten food, someone picking their nose, wondering exactly where the refuse is going to end up, or get a server’s hair in their dinner. Honestly, “yuck!”
Health issues, especially now with COVID, reinforce the need to wash hands after using the restroom or to cover your mouth with every cough or sneeze.
Others are just common courtesy. Saying please and thank you is a way to maintain civility and keep courtesy a priority, something we can desperately use in today’s atmosphere of polarization and divisiveness.
But many are based on superstition and gender bias.
Did you know shaking hands wasn’t just a welcoming gesture but a sign of trust and a way of saying you come in peace and aren’t hiding a weapon? Even though that hasn’t been a necessity for decades, it took a world-wide pandemic to end that greeting altogether.
Most societies no longer enforce hair and clothing styles on men and women. Although we are all expected to “dress appropriately” what that exactly entails is left to each individual in most places.
I’m truly appalled by the lack of constraint used in public when it comes to foul language or talking on the phone. When did it become an acceptable way to express yourself regardless of those around you?
And young Greta Thunberg fighting for climate change or high school kids so impacted by devastating shootings that they changed the face of gun control have proven you absolutely can fight city hall!
“They” are the rules we turn to as a society to maintain a sense of unity and cohesiveness. If “they” are always followed, we know what’s expected and the consequences of ignoring them.
Some are outdated.
Every society needs a consensus. Without it we’d live in fear and the resulting chaos would only destroy.
In the 70’s, kids fed up with rules that put their lives at risk said enough. They “dropped out and turned on.” No rules became the mantra of the times.
But it didn’t work any better.
And not surprisingly, the very ones who hated the “establishment” and fought against the “man” and “fat cats” became them in later decades!
Social norms are necessary. We all need to know where the lines are drawn.
But today, we can’t seem to agree on much of anything.
How about we start with these:
Respect is earned.
Honesty should be valued.
If you can’t be kind, be quiet.
Do to others as you’d have them do to you.
He who is without sin cast the first stone.
Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
Forgive others. Not because they deserve it, but because you do.
Open your mind and heart.
Those who think they know everything will learn nothing.
Before you speak, THINK:
T-is it true
H- is it helpful
I- is it inspiring
N- is it necessary
K- is it kind
“They” could make tomorrow a little better for us all.