My mother owns a dog-eared copy of Miss Manners’ Guide to Raising Perfect Children by Judith Martin. She does not have (and did not expect) perfect children. I read it as a teenager with no desire to be civilized let alone perfect. So why did we both read it? Miss Manners is funny. Sarcastic. Roll on the floor hilarious. She deserves a read because you’ll laugh out loud every page. And also, who doesn’t need a “mind your manners” nudge?
A sample, on the disappearance of family meals at the table:
“Most households, whatever their size, have a room or an alcove dominated by a large table surrounded by chairs. Why? Some of the people who live there think it is storage space. Others think of it as a communal desk or the home for the 500-piece puzzle (or so it claims on the box, although actually there are only 497 pieces). But you can also eat there. Miss Manners knows that sounds silly.
There are so many rooms in which to eat: the kitchen, of course, every room that has a television set; every room that has a computer; every bedroom, even if they don’t have both; the bathrooms if they have Jacuzzis or at least tubs with ledges for trays; and the front hall on the way out the door. Why mess up another room?
Miss Manners will tell you why: because a household where the members do not sit down at dinner together nearly every night is a convenience store, not a home. A home is a place where the residents, whatever their relationship to one another, perform the nightly ritual of breaking their bread and news together.”