Mothers, Manners, and Madness

Last week I
wrote about my ambivalence regarding modern technology. Now, I'm hardly the
first person to whine about the social pollution of cell phones,texts, and
iPads. But I knew the manners-meets-technology conversation had officially
gone off the rails when recently, at an opening-night reception for my
husband at an art gallery in Chelsea, my mother's cell phone started ringing and
she answered it.  My very proper mother who prizes politeness above all
else answered her cell phone and proceeded to shout into the phone,
"I can't hear you, it's very noisy in here!"

Now, call me
naive, but I would have thought that our parents, especially our
mothers—the very people who taught us to keep our hands in our laps and say
"please" and "thank you"—would be the most appalled by the
deterioration of manners thanks to technology. But I've found the exact opposite to be true.
Shockingly enough, my mother has been seen answering her cell phone in just about
any location she gets service. I feel like she's my 8-year-old daughter who
just got a new toy, and I have to restrict her usage.

And she's not
the only one: My mother-in-law, a very polite, sweet, mild-mannered
woman was out for dinner with family and friends, and immediately
answered her ringing cell phone. There wasn't even a moment of debate, she
just fished it out of her bag and proceeded to have a conversation
right there at the table, fighting to be heard above the din of the room.     


I repeat:
These are our mothers! People who grew up in the 50's, who wouldn't be
caught dead putting a fork on the wrong side of the plate, and yet there
they are, shouting in a bustling Thai restaurant in New York's Greenwich village,
"I'm fine, honey, how are you?"

My first
explanation is this: Since it's a whole new facet of their lives
, they've lostall sense of decorum. They have no rulebook to follow, no model from their
own upbringing, so it's a free-for-all—a Wild West of propriety. And
truthfully, I think they believe they're doing the polite thing by answering the
phone—as if it would be ruder to the person on the other end not to
answer. After all, my mother still finds it unthinkable for anyone to screen a
call, no matter what the circumstances. As she recently said to me, "In my
generation, when the phone rings, you answer it."

So maybe, in
addition to teaching our parents how to change their ring tones and how to
text, we should be teaching them when it's okay and not okay to use their
newfound toys. That is, as soon as we figure out those rules ourselves.

What do you
think? Am I being too hard on my Mom?