Have You Noticed The Loss of Formalities?

My cousins and I dressed for a family
holiday dinner. Circa early 1970's
when families dressed for such gatherings.
When I was a girl, there were formalities.  I miss some of them. 

When I was a girl, the first day of school was quite an occasion.  During the summer, we shopped for our school clothes.  We made sure to buy one very special outfit for the first day.  We bought our school shoes and they stayed in the box from the time we purchased them in August until that first school day in September.  An anticipation built from having that box of shoes and bags of clothes that we weren’t allowed to wear.  The first day of school was so special.  Our parents didn’t have smartphones to take multiple pictures of us leaving the house to post on social media.  That first day wasn’t about posing and parental posting.  It was about feeling special in our brand new outfits.

There were other days that were made special with clothing.  We dressed nicely to visit family.  We wouldn’t dream of attending a religious service in jeans or shorts.  We had special clothes for birthday parties and outings and those rare occasions when we ate in restaurants.

When I was a girl, 5 year old children didn’t call their friends’ parents by first name.  Those people were Mr. This and Mrs. That until and unless we were told otherwise.  As a mother of two grown children, I will admit that I smile when my sons’ friends call me Mrs. Terebush and allow me to say, “Call me Cindy” when I deem it appropriate.  I don’t always deem it appropriate.  If I don’t know you well, “Mrs. Terebush” works for me. 

Today, college students call their professors by first name.  When I was in college, the professors were Dr. Someone, not my buddy Dave or Sue.  I wonder if that changed for the same reason so many preschool teachers are called by their first name by students.  There is a perception that it creates a friendlier environment.  I think the environment is made warm and friendly by the attitude of the people and not by the informality of the name. 

Many of my peers talk about young people having less respect for places and people than in the past.  Perhaps part of the problem is that we have made everything equal.  Many children dress the same for playing with friends and attending houses of worship.  They address adults and other authority figures in the same informal way that they address their peers.  There is no differentiation between place, age and educational level. 

When I was a girl, the formalities weren’t a burden.  We didn’t resent them.  I don’t even think I noticed when they started to disappear.  Slowly but surely, they just fell away.  I miss them….

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  1. Formalities have fallen off. This means that parents need to model it more than ever before.


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