Melanie Morris: What's happened to the old, noble art of good manners?
RUDE: It may be considered passé, but a bit of respect goes a long way
Am I the only person on the planet who removes their headphones when at a supermarket checkout, or at the service counter in the bank?
Am I the only one who still carries gloves at formal events like weddings, Christenings and funerals?
Am I the last one who still stands up when someone older joins my company? Who still uses a butter knife?
Are my manners now so totally out of whack that they're no longer in keeping with today's society?
I ask, because it seems that way. When judging the Best Dressed Lady competition at Punchestown recently, I was standing up on the stage erected specifically for the event and the lady standing beside me turned her back on me, effectively whooshing me into the wings. I'm sure it wasn't deliberate, but she never considered the human being at the fringe of the proceedings.
I was also taken aback recently at work when a series of photo shoots were booked in around one lady's availability.
The photographer had to come from Britain and the various loose ends took ages to tie up. Eventually we were all set when, bingo! -- the star of the show announced she wouldn't be available.
I was totally astonished. The complete disregard for me, for Image Magazine, and most importantly, for the photographer who was coming in from London to do the job. What if he'd gotten a bigger paying gig at the last minute? We'd all flip.
The fashion for hedging and bailing is becoming all too prevalent. I have one friend who has now sworn off hosting dinner parties because the last time he did, he invited nine guests, but, for one reason or another, just one guest bothered to turn up on the night.
If this was an isolated case, it'd be one thing, but it's happened to me too. The girlie night with pizza, manicures and face packs became a rather low-key, intimate gathering for three at short notice, rather than the intended whoop-up for eight.
One's excuse for not showing was due to a hangover, another got a last-minute hot date, two never bothered calling, and the last texted so say she was sorry, she'd forgotten.
Those who offend are usually not entertainers themselves.
Otherwise they'd know the amount of trouble -- and expense -- we hosts go to. And how immediately asking "who else is going?" grates, implying they'll only come if the guest list is up to scratch.
My mother, the most considerate woman on the planet, has always been an encyclopedia of courtesy and good manners.
Whatever the social dilemma, it always comes back to "What would Valerie do?"
Well, for a start, Valerie would cancel her plans to accommodate the visiting photographer. She'd offer to swap places with the girl at the end of the Punchestown stage and she'd arrive at the dinner party -- come hell or high water -- with an orchid for her hostess, and write the next day to say thank you.
And as for acceptable behaviour in the boy-meets-girl arena, the abundance (or abundant lack) of a gent's manners is something I'll note with far more interest than the thickness of his wallet.
But I'll leave the last words on the subject in the hands of my most eloquent friend Siobhan.
"Mel, it's as simple as this," she recounted enthusiastically, after a rather successful recent date. "Good manners get a girl's knickers in a twist faster than a bloke can open a car door."
I rest my case.
Melanie Morris is editor of IMAGE Magazine