What It Means to Mind Your Manners in Montana
I'm not going to call myself old, but I am getting to an age where the, shall we say, "theme" of my social media feeds is shifting. I don't see a lot of wedding photos anymore, but there are still a fair number of birth announcements. But there are also posts that talk about just having kids. And one caught my eye.
It was a meme that said something to the effect of "Kids these days..." which is how you know it's from a person of a certain age. But the rest of the statement was, "...don't have any manners anymore." I thought, who does?
What Manners Do You Practice?
I've been in "fancy" restaurants where I've seen people with their elbows on the table, a habit once considered rude. When I eat with anyone, most of us will be caught talking with our mouths full at least once. Even the idea of waiting until everyone's food arrives before you start eating has gone out the window. It's almost rude not to start eating because your tablemates are likely telling you, "Don't wait for me. Your food will get cold."
Then I wondered, are these manners universal? Sure, manners are different in foreign countries--an example is the widely different expectations on tipping. But what about in the United States--do manners differ from state to state? I think so.
Manners That Are Practiced in Montana
A Montanan's favorite pastime is to make fun of tourists who think bears and bison are "cuddly" but our respect for boundaries when it comes to wildlife extends to other animals too. Don't touch a Montanan's dog/cat/horse/cow/bird/ferret/chicken etc. without permission.
I mentioned this one when I wrote about the ways to identify a wealthy person in Montana. Farmer and ranchers typically don't want to tell you how much land they have. Why? Montanans are private people. People in other states may boast about how many boats or houses--heck, you may be expected to compliment them. Not here in Montana.
This one is an older tradition/courtesy, but tipping a hat used to be another way to say hello. It's also a way to show respect. And don't you dare wear a hat in church.
If you know about the two-finger wave, then you know about this one. I think waving on backroads is as much about safety as it is about manners. If you give a fellow driver a wave on a backroad, and they wave back, you both know that if that backroad is winding or narrow, they see you, and you're both going to do your best not to run the other person off the road. It's like the opposite of a game of chicken.
No, we don't need a plate of cookies when we move in (even though that's very nice), and please don't blast your loud music or disrespect property lines. But if a neighbor's house is on fire, or their cows got out, you bet a Montanan will help out. It's more than polite. It's what you do.