Thursday, November 26, 2009

Is it Proper or Tacky?

My mother tended to use the term "tacky" when she commented on something not being proper. For example, a young lady calling a young man on the phone would be "tacky". Having gnomes in your yard would qualify as "ticky tacky". Her sister, preferred the terms "correct" and "proper". Of course you need to keep in mind that my mother still has her southern accent while my aunt lost hers somewhere between Boston and Colorado on her academic road to professional unemployment.(See Sept 21.)

My aunt would comment that an invitation she just received was not addressed correctly, therefore it was not "proper". In one particular humorous case, the invitation was from her former roommate, Liddy Hanford to Senator Dole. She was offended that the envelope was addressed to "Miss" instead of "Ms". "She always was so plain," my aunt said. The family thought this whole affair was hilarious, given my aunt was a life long liberal democrat who was always competitive with her former roommate. Now we had to listen about how poor Liddy was giving up her life and any future to marry this "Mr. Dole." My grandmother called Liddy's family to offer congratulations. I then pointed out to my aunt that it wasn't an invitation, but actually just a formal announcement of the nuptials. She had no comment to that.

While my aunt was concerned with maintaining the policies of Amy Vanderbilt and Robert's Rules of English, my mother's concerns were more with the thin line between us and white trash. I think she felt if she didn't point out the differences we might just cross the line and it would all be over. Growing up, I found this all fairly amusing. Like I was going to put pink flamingos in my yard, move my appliances onto the front porch, or marry my cousin. I had my standards.

So the question was: Did I aspire to an educated view of the proper and correct or just stay the course and hopefully avoid anything tacky. I chose to walk the line.

(Note: Although she is known as "Libby" Dole, when she was young, her family and friends called her "Liddy". She was raised on a farm in NC and my grandparents and her parents, the Handfords, came to know each other when their daughters were roommates at Duke and later lived together in Boston.)

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