Cole: You’ve been advising Americans on how to behave–how to
mind their manners–since 1978. How did this all begin? What in your
background led you to become Miss Manners?
Martin: I was twelve or thirteen. We were living in Greece. My
father was an economist with the American government, but he would take
United Nations assignments one year at a time.
Both my parents were big history and archaeology buffs. We went for a
vacation to Egypt and in the Cairo Museum there was a tablet that was a
letter from a man to his son, a Polonius-type letter. Do this and don’t
do that and don’t forget this and that. We started to laugh because we
realized we got a very good picture of what the kid was like, as the
father knew only too well.
My parents said to me at that time, "If you want to understand a
society and what they do, look at their rules. Whatever they are being
told not to do, that’s what they are doing, because otherwise you
wouldn’t have to tell them not to do it."
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