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Mind your Manners

By Staff – Seventeen Magazine – 07/07/2000 – 12:00am

Everyone knows that teens and manners mix like Olive oil and mineral water. The years between 13 and 18 are meant to be a time of serious rebellion – piercing various body parts, using the salad fork on pizza – not a time to be learning the ABCs of etiquette. So what’s up with the growing number of teen manners academies – Etiquette Survival in Los Gatos, and Ideal Images in Arlington, TX, and why are kids voluntarily enrolling in these programs?

No, they’re not the Stepford teens. Some sensible kids, like ninth-grader Gail Swedroe of Saratoga, are just thinking of their futures – college, grad school, jobs – and want to polish their social skills. “First impressions count, and I don’t want to look sloppy, ” Gail says. Other Emily Post wannabes, like 14 year-old Cat Gold, are just tagging along: “Lots of my friends were taking classes, and it sounded like fun.”

Both Gail and Cat are students at the Etiquette Survival, where they are learning intricate social skills: how to shake hands, set a proper table and make polite conversation. Plus, they get advice on posture and dress.

Okay, so some of this sounds a bit spooky, but it’s not as 1950s as it seems, says manners maven Sue Fox, owner of Etiquette Survival. “We’re not little old ladies with white gloves on our hands and a book on our heads, ” she says. “Today’s kids want to return to an era of courteousness. Plus, this is about more than just manners. It deals with improving your self-image and self-esteem.”

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