Miss Manners

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dear Miss Manners:

I live in a town that bestows standing ovations as routinely as one draws breath. As a child, I was taught that one gets to one's feet when the performer is at the absolute top of his game and has moved one deeply. Otherwise, one applauds appreciatively, or, in some cases, politely.

Within two weeks, I attended a number of events where standing ovations occurred: choral music at an evening church service, an annual meeting in which certificates of appreciation were handed out, a concert performance by three tenors, a high school performance by students and a bar association luncheon at which 1,000 lawyers leapt to their feet both at the appearance of the speaker (a Supreme Court justice) and at the conclusion.

All events were enjoyable and interesting. None qualified as "top of their game" and/or emotionally moving.

Am I hopelessly out of touch? Just being a curmudgeon at my resistance to peer pressure? I do not wish to be unkind but find all this aggravating.

It is called Ovation Inflation, and serious aesthetes deplore it. It leaves them with no way of expressing real joy.

Performers ought to deplore it as well, because it precludes enjoying a genuine triumph. Instead, many have taken to seeding the reaction by applauding their fellow performers and occasionally, Miss Manners regrets to say, themselves.

Sharing your regrets -- and let's not have any of those "out of touch" insults for proper behavior -- Miss Manners urges you to sit these ovations out with quiet dignity, waiting for those special moments.

Dear Miss Manners:

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company