Defining Class versus Crass: July, 2015

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When I posted about the wonderful woman who was still stringing pearls, when

she could have decided to retire, my Mom felt wearing pearls showed “class”

and “distinction,” especially in the years from 1950 until late 1960’s. She has

mentioned her ideas of what she considers the opposite of classy behavior

to be “crass behavior.”

Back in her teaching days, she liked to ignore spit wads, rude (farting) noises

and continue on in her lessons, unperturbed. She felt this was a good strategy

when I was a student teacher of third graders up at Conneaut Elementary, in

Bowling Green, Ohio.

Her attitude about teachers who she felt ‘gossiped’ represented her definition

of “unclassy” behavior, or “crass” behavior. I have mentioned this before, she

would take her lunch into her classroom and close the door, during her lunch

sometimes placing her head on her desk. She would ‘designate’ every year,

or quarter if the courses changed, a special ‘teacher assistant’ who would

help ‘wake her up’ should she miss the bell ringing for class to start. She

also would leave notes in her lesson plans to denote the persons the

substitute teacher could count on. These were not always ‘straight A’

students, either. Sometimes she would choose ones who were on the

“fringe” and almost like we now call kids, “slackers.” They took their duty

or responsibiilty and sometimes they would ask to bring their lunch in to

eat with her. On those days, Mom said she was happy to have company

and still relieved of having to go in the teacher’s lounge. She did not like

that some teachers “stereotyped” students in their freshman year, that

“label” being carried out and passed on to the next grade. She preferred

to decide on her own.

So, in this longer section she would say no area of society is removed

from lack of class. She would say “gossiping” or trying to “besmirch”

a student’s reputation was “crass behavior.” We all in our household

were aware of the ‘druggies,’ ‘pregos’ (pregnant girls) and the ‘lesbos’

existing. She told us no names of her Westlake students while we were

at a whole different school. She wanted us to be aware to still ‘be nice’

to anyone we saw who looked left out. This advice may have saved at

least one life in our school due to my brother being kind, many more

in her school since Mom’s antenna was up and trying to focus on this.

“Chico and the Man,” series was based loosely on two different skits

that Cheech and Chong ‘took on the road,’ the creator followed them

and recorded details to help him create the situation comedy, first

asking the comedic duo if they were interested in ‘signing onto the

deal.’ When Freddie Prinze, who was born in 1954 died in 1977, I

was in my junior year of college. This was the year my ‘baby’ brother

graduated from high school. We will never know what was going on

in his mind, maybe it was accidental drug overdose. His son, Freddie

Prinze, Jr. never knew him, because his father died while his mother

was expecting. This kind of ‘brought it home to us,’ you never know

if someone, a coworker, friend or neighbor needs to have a friendly

smile or kind word.

Class was also taught from my grandmother’s words, as we were very

familiar with her experiences as a waitress at New York City’s Waldorf

Astoria Hotel. She served meals to many of the upper echelon of society.

It was interesting to hear her ideas on ‘classy’ versus ‘low class’ behaviors.

Grandma Mattson drew a hard and fast line in the delineation of the two:

“If someone is bossy towards a waiter, waitress or hotel housekeeper,

then you know they are ‘Nouveau Riche.’ They have come upon some

money, but were not raised knowing how to behave ‘properly.'”

Grandma M. also let us know that we must wash our hands, this is a way

to show we are not ‘dirty’ people. It doesn’t matter what kind of clothes

you wear, as long as they are mended and clean, in her ‘book.’

Grandma M. said that people who ‘have money’ may be ‘stingy’ with tips,

again, this denotes their not being very classy. If they had class, they were

more generous and friendly. A waiter, waitress or any other hotel personnel

were discouraged from acting ‘too friendly’ with any of the clients of the hotel.

By showing restraint and ‘proper manners,’ you may get complimented and

if this is passed on to management you may get promoted.

Then, Grandma would emphasize this:Ā  “If you show manners while working

in ANY job, being polite, not gossiping, being quiet, listening more than

talking and going out of your way to help someone, you may find yourself

promoted and viewed as intelligent. You never know if the owner or manager

may have sent someone to ‘test’ you, or someone from another place will

discover your abilities and offer you an even better job.”

The benefits of being ‘classy,’ include manners and good language skills.

When my brothers went through a phase of saying a ‘silly’ slang expression,

they were given a similar lecture from my Mom, as if Grandma had whispered

in her ear.

I could go on, but I will include just one big pet peeve, which is not original but

needs repeating: “Using cell phones while out to eat, watching a movie or play

in a theater, or just generally interrupting people to say, “I need to get this. . .”

has become my denoting lack of class or ‘crass behavior.’

Am I being too harsh or old-fashioned?

Let me know. I enjoy your lively feedback, be honest!

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About reocochran

I am experiencing crazy and hapless adventures in dating that may interest people over fifty. I am now 60 and enjoy taking photographs, incorporating stories or poetry on my blog. I have many old posts which are informative and written like essays. I have several love stories collected from family and friends. Even strangers spill their stories, since I am a grown version of the girl next door. I have been trying to live a healthy lifestyle with better food selections and active hiking and walking. I have written four children's books and illustrated them. They are not published but a battered women's shelter used one about neglect and abuse for their children's program and a 4H group used my "Kissing a Bunny is like saying a Prayer" as a coloring book. Please comment or respond so I may get a chance to know you. Sincerely, Robin

23 responses »

  1. We need to preserve many of these “old-fashioned” manners. So many of our younger generation thinks that rudeness is acceptable. One young lady looked up from her texting as we sat having a “conversation” with her and said, “I know a lot of older people think that it’s rude to text when you’re with other people, but it’s really not. Everyone does it.” Isn’t that a sorry state of affairs?

    • Anneli, I believe meals and holidays are especially important to put phone con mute or away. I also think someone who says something like this may someday be like the lonely man in Harry Chapin’s song which was about losing touch with family. (“Cat’s in the Cradle.”) I fully agree with you, Anneli.

  2. It is much more classy to give the person you are with more attention than what you would give to a phone call. Unless someone is awaiting an important call (like having to pick up someone at an airport), it shows class to shut off a cell phone.

    I lost a longtime friend when I mentioned we had not communicated much after a visit because he spent more time on his phone than interacting with me and my wife during our time together. He got defensive and decided we should no longer continue as friends. I decided, if our friendship was that fragile to begin with, it was no great loss. – Mike

    • Your friend made the wrong choice of who meant more to him. It is sad to hear he did this while visiting with you and Florence, Mike.
      I do like your idea of setting up a list of exceptions with acceptable interruptions such as a pick-up at the airport. Some of my friends will put our phones on vibrate, glance to see if it is a family member. Since one never knows about emergencies. In the case of answering. Then if not important, making it brief would show the person you care for them.
      I am so glad you included this thought, Mike. Hope you have a great weekend and experience no rude behaviors šŸ™‚

  3. isn’t it amazing how one letter can change a word and meaning so completely? i agree about the cells and personal devices. to me, it’s as if people are ignoring each other when this happens, it’s rude and it’s sad in my opinion.

    • I like the way you combined the negative aspects of rudeness and how separate lives become detached, which is definitely sad, Beth.
      I think I would try to help young people understand how it feels to start a sentence and then have it interrupted a few times. Beth, you and I might even forget the subject matter.:) On the other hand, close friends understand when we interrupt and say, Did I tell you I found a cool sale? or My grandson did this cute thing, do you mind if I tell you before I forget?
      As Mike mentioned, we may need to interrupt. (Like pickin up someone at the airport.) People in a good relationship can establish their own guidelines. I would feel bad if it turned out one of my family members were in an accident or needed help and I weren’t avaliable.

  4. Many years ago, I was standing in line at store checkout. While I was waiting, the clerk took several calls. Each required her to look up inventory or answer questions. I thought that was rude. Times and expectations have changed, but I still try to be very careful not to be rude.

    • If a manager were there, I would hope they would tell the clerk something about serving the person who bothered to come in for help or assistance.
      Dan, this was a great example of how times have changed. I remember going to the Sandusky hardware store and my Dad was asking a lot of questions. It may have been stain or paint subject matter. The people in line were getting fidgety. The place was a family owned store not a chain store. The owner knew it was best to take customers one at a time. If people know they will get undivided help and the source is good, it is worth the wait. Recently, I waited an hour for a delicious meal. šŸ™‚

  5. Your Mum was not only a Classy Lady, but a very wise and intelligent Lady.
    You have obviously inherited your Mothers traits, your last paragraph shows this, you are not being harsh or old fashioned, you are displaying the traits of your Mother, that being Class

  6. Totally with you on the cell phones, Robin! (But maybe we’re both old-fashioned.) I think all the snippy dialog and behavior on TV has led to a general decline in what we consider acceptable behavior in daily life.

    One way to look at this is that we’ve become a nation of more honest people on the presumption that people are, generally speaking, basically crude at heart. Another way to look at this is that we’ve become a nation of snippy uncaring assholes. I lean towards the latter most days.

    Except for you and me and maybe three other people I know. WE GOT CLASS! šŸ˜„

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