The Collapse of Polite Society

Victorian Ladies by Southern Lady's Vintage via FlickrI tend to be a little old-fashioned in my behavior and expectations of others.  There are certain things you just shouldn’t (or should) do.  I’m not so naïve as to assume everyone else is on the same page, so I do try to give people a lot of latitude when they exhibit behavior that would have been viewed as downright boorish a few generations ago.  But surely some standards should still be expected.  Consideration of how one’s behavior affects others should not be considered outdated. 

My son had his birthday party yesterday at a “fun center” (go-karts, miniature golf, laser tag, etc.) about 30 minutes away.  It cost us over $20 per person, and I had to make two trips, both coming and going, because most of the teenage invitees said they couldn’t (or wouldn’t?) come otherwise.  From first pick-up till last drop-off, the whole event took about eight hours of my time (my husband couldn’t participate since he is still recovering from his ankle surgery) and cost about $200 (plus gas).  My son had a great time, and his friends seemed to as well, so the party could be judged a success. 

But the whole thing left me wondering what society is coming to.

First of all, why could no one find their own transport to the party?  Everyone said they had been to the center before, multiple times, so apparently their parents are not averse to the distance.  No one said, “Hey, do you have room in your car?  If not, it’s okay, my parents will take me.”  Everyone gave an ultimatum, saying, “I can’t go if you don’t give me a ride.” 

When I picked up the kids, all of their parents were home, and apparently unoccupied (two were lounging in their front yards). 

And it’s not like they decided that getting free admission wasn’t worth it if they had to buy a gift AND find their own rides.  Out of all the attendees, only two brought gifts.  What kind of upbringing did these kids have to think it’s okay to go to a birthday party without bringing at least a token gift? 

Giving further evidence to their apparent total lack of any sense of propriety, several of the invitees asked to bring guests.  Since they had all been to the center before, they knew it was kind of expensive, so how could they possibly not die from shame at making such a request?  At least one invitee declined to attend after being told that her guest was welcome to come, but would need to pay her own admission charge.  Another tacked-on guest accepted that deal (but needed a ride, and was thus the one-too-many that necessitated an extra trip), and I ended up paying for another tacked-on guest because my son just had to ensure that his ill-mannered friend who invited her would attend.

That tacked-on guest, by the way, was not ready when I arrived to pick her up, and no one came to the door when my son knocked.  The guest who invited her was already in the car, so she called her cell phone.  When her friend didn’t answer, she called the parents’ landline.  The mother said, “Quit freaking out and calling over and over again!  She’ll be out when she’s ready!”  When the girl finally came out, she offered no explanation, apology, or even salutation.

When I was a kid and someone else gave me a ride (which was rare), I would have been outside waiting on the porch at the appointed time.  I never would have dreamed of making my host wait.

It would be tempting to think that these kids just don’t really like my son.  But most of them (with a few disturbing exceptions) seem genuinely quite fond of him.  I’m strongly inclined to say that these are a bunch of freeloading, poorly reared ne’er-do-wells, but I fear that they are just a representational cross-slice of what kids are like today. 

My daughter’s “friends” and acquaintances are no better (and neither are their parents).  And I’ve spent enough time at school events to have learned that most of the kids (and parents) outside of my kids’ circles aren’t any better.  There is a pervasive climate of entitlement and non-accountability.

What has society come to?

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