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Opinion: The death of decorum

I can’t swear decorum is actually dead, but I think many would agree it’s on life-support. The “do your own thing” movement that began possibly as early as the beatniks of the 1950s brought about a serious shift in what is considered by many as acceptable behavior.

While the loosening of the straight-laced behavior isn’t all bad, much of it is horrible. I remember as a child hearing whispered gossip about babies born out of wedlock.

Code words and euphemisms were used for many of the most scandalous parts of the conversation. But at a young age, I figured out what the ladies were saying even though they used phrases such as “a bun in the oven, a visit from the stork and the always popular PG.”

In too many cases, not only was the woman in question ostracized by polite company, but the innocent child bore the shame of its mother.

While the news of an unmarried pregnant woman can still raise a few eyebrows, at least among the older generation, the parents and children don’t suffer the scorn of society they would have received in the first half of the last century.

All babies are beautiful and every birth is a joy to the family, etc., seems to be the readily accepted thought process.

Fred and I held an entirely different perspective which reads, “Life as you know it has ceased to exist!”

When I was a young lady, my criteria for a possible mate included meeting a man who rode a Harley and didn’t want children. Keeping women barefoot and pregnant is nothing but an attempt by men to control their women.

I am often surprised by the political incorrectness of some common phrases. Apparently, the correct nomenclature for females in our society is a woman and calling her a lady is somehow demeaning. All ladies are women, whereas not all women are ladies. Do parents still impress on their daughters the importance of acting ladylike?

Bear in mind, please, that my worldview is primarily affected by living the majority of my life in California. For the most part, decorum is widely the only acceptable behavior in the southern part of the country. The use of the honorifics ma’am and sir is still alive and well in the south. The year I spent living near Nashville, Tennessee, taught me how — and when — to say, ma’am and sir. That isn’t something kids weren’t taught in California. Failure to add ma’am or sir rated corporal punishment from my teachers in Murfreesboro.

My homeroom teacher, Mrs. Grubbs, would have her students hold out their hands for a hearty smack from a paddle made from a two-by-four-inch board. That same punishment was doled out for not doing your homework, too.

I remember the time I got the paddle for neglecting my studies. One time was all it took for me to get with the program and I don’t detect any permanent damage done to my fragile 12-year-old psyche.

Today, and especially in California, a teacher would be fired or worse for daring to strike a child no matter how atrocious the kid’s behavior is.

I have a dear friend who got into serious trouble with the school district for tapping a high school kid on the back of the head with a file folder.

There is a huge difference between discipline and child abuse. In an effort to eliminate one, corporal punishment has been banned from childrearing.

I’m going to leave this part of the discussion here and move on to another aspect of the death of decorum.

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For many years the advertising geniuses that inhabit Madison Avenue have been pushing the boundaries of good taste while selling its clients’ products.

Personally, I miss the days when many products weren’t advertised on television.

Given the power, I would ban all the commercials for toilet tissue, erectile dysfunction and feminine hygiene products — just to name a few. Also, medication to treat ailments of the reproductive system shouldn’t be aired in mixed company.

The days of avoiding uncomfortable and embarrassing conversations, while not completely gone, they are mostly a thing of the past.

Ever wish you could go back in time to have a heart-to-heart talk with your younger self? I would love to return to my freshman year at Madera High School, but only if I knew then what I know now.

My first employer gave me a piece of advice when I was 19 that still resonates with me to this day:

He told me that my values, the things I thought were so important today, in five or 10 years I wouldn’t walk across the street if they were giving them away by the bucketful.

I can’t count the number of times my mother’s sister, Clara “Kirk” Banks, scolded me saying, “Tamara Jo Hill, has it ever occurred to you that you’re not always right?”

I said no I haven’t! I was never her favorite niece. I spent a lot of time living with her and her husband Curtis Banks, because my mom was sick a lot when I was a kid, and Aunt Clara’s daughters were grown and gone.

By the way, I guess we aren’t supposed to call minor children “kids,” either. I recently had someone point that out to me. In school teachers would correct me saying a kid was a baby goat.

My “whatever” attitude didn’t score me many points with the California instructors. In the south, it might have warranted the paddle.

And that is still something I don’t understand.

I did refer to them as stupid, smelly or ugly kids, so what exactly is the big deal?

In spite of mourning the near death of decorum, I don’t always practice it, either.

What can I say? I’m a conundrum.

Long days and pleasant nights, have a blessed weekend.

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Readers may contact Tami Jo Nix by emailing or following @TamiJoNix on Twitter.


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