We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Are manners all about social signaling? I don't think so. I find bad manners to be an aversive stimulus, and poor table manners cause me to lose my appetite. To term that a "signal" is to stretch the definition. Once a society agrees on manners, unmannerly behavior becomes offensive.
It's not rocket science. The basics, for kids:
Take your elbows off the table. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Don't pick up a fork until everyone is seated and the hostess picks up her fork. Eat slowly, and converse during meals. Look people in the eye when you speak to them. Avoid talking about yourself: Assume that only relatives and close friends care. Say "Please" and "Thank you," and say "How do you do?" when introduced to elders. Give a firm handshake. Write your thank-you notes in a timely fashion.
Dear Mr Barrister,
Thank you so much for the very thoughtful and enlightening post on the subject of manners. With your kind permission, I will print out your list and discuss it with all the little children of my acquaintance. I shall of course attribute the source, and thereby bring the barrister profession into high repute with the younger generation.
Warmest regards, Grace Browner
Those are the basics, B, and will get you through a lot of dinners. My favorite, drilled into me by Mom was, "Anticipate the needs of others at the table." Frinstince, someone asks you to pass the basket of rolls, wouldn't it make sense to send the butter along, too? Or, even better, if you see the person doesn't have bread and butter yet, ask them if they would like some? Good post.
Thank you notes. A lost art. We write thank you notes. Gratitude is important. My children know how to write a good thank you note and I'm convinced that one day, that skill may open some important door for them.
As Steve in CT says, it is all about others. If feeblemind doesn't mind breaches of The Barrister's simple rules, how does he feel about belching loudly at a dinner table? That is tolerated, nay expected, in some other cultural systems. But here? How about farting? Here or there?
Manners is about making the meal, or any social interaction, as pleasant and engaging for other people as possible.
Sophistication is the art of understanding the expectations and standards of others and conforming insofar as possible within the requirements of one's own standards. Belch. Don't expose the soles of your feet. Whatever it takes -- but within your standards.
Hey, feeblemind, don't thank people for gifts; just don't expect any in the future. Talk, heck shout, with a mouthful of pizza - that doesn't offend you. Do you think others like seeing that partially chewed pizza?
However, it isn't about you -- it's about others, and how it affects them. Do you care?
Re Thank you notes. Mom made me do it but it ended when I left home. Men don't send thank you notes. That is the wife's job and I am not married. As for gifts, it hasn't stopped them from coming. It may come as a shock to you but one gives gifts from the heart. If you are giving gifts with the expectation of a thank you note you are giving gifts for the wrong reason.
Saying please pass this or that at the table annoys the heck out of me. It always happens as I am about to take a bite of food. So I put my fork down and and pass the item and before I can take another bite someone wants something else. Doggone it, just reach for what you want. That way my food doesn't get cold.
As for the release of the digestive gasses, doesn't bother me. One of my cattle pens is 100 feet from the house so I probably wouldn't notice anyway.
I eat because it is necessary. Not for sport. That explains the difference in our attitudes.
I can use manners if I have to, it just makes eating a whole lot less enjoyable.