Chapter 32: How “Great Rooms” Have Undermined Western Civilization

Great Rooms have undermined the very fabric of civilization.  When I made my list of people going to hell, I can’t believe I forgot to include the person who invented “Great Rooms”.

For generations, we understood that one behaves in certain ways in certain places and scenarios.  In other words, there are walls that define social interaction.  I believe that good walls, like good fences, make good neighbors.  One behaves a certain way in a formal dining room or in a living/drawing room.  Or in a restaurant or other communal public space.  This behavior differs from how one may behave in a “den”.   Most of my generation grew up with living rooms that were only used to receive guests.  We learned our manners in the dining room.  We understood place-specific behavior.

Great Rooms destroyed this differentiation.  They have led to the collapse of manners, decorum, style and etiquette in American Society.  Now people just wallow around in front of their televisions dressed in sweat pants in their Great Rooms all the time.  As a result of this, they think one behaves this way all the time in every place.  Since “Great Rooms” removed the walls, people now seem to think that how one behaves in one’s “den” is the default behavior.   Today people think how one behaves in one’s “Great Room”  is now how one behaves in public.

This should not be the case.  Call me uptight or old-fashioned, I don’t care…

People used to understand that one behaves one way in private and another way in public.  This created a much more pleasant and civilized social interaction.  I’m sure this idea seems somewhat quaint to the younger generation, most of whom I frequently, affectionately call SJI’s (Slack Jawed Idiots) due to their lack of social skills.  It’s not really their fault.  The fault belongs to their parents who worshiped at the alter of informality so they could be their children’s “friend” instead of doing the hard work of preparing them for adulthood and public life.

See, people forget that how one dresses and behaves impacts the focus of their attention and how they relate to a situation– or do their job.

I’m sorry, but it’s understandable if people dressed in shorts, T-Shirts and flip-flops have difficulty behaving professionally or understanding the concept of “professionalism”.  They think, “If I can talk, dress and act this way in the den, then what’s the big deal?”  That’s become their only point of reference.

If people spent more time studying etiquette than watching “Jerry Springer” on their “Great Room” sofas, we would live in a better world.

The downsides of “Great Rooms” are vast.  Now people think they can put their hooves on the back of chairs in movie theatres, by my head,  instead of on the floor where they belong.  People share the most personal secrets while speaking on their cell phones in public.  People don’t dress differently for work, a night on the town, church or the theatre than they do for washing the car.  This is all the result of “Great Rooms”.  They have undermined society as I knew it and I firmly believe it should be.

People used to understand  the importance of these “walls”, be they real or societal.  Walls led to a sense of privacy and decorum.  People understood that some things could be said in public and others only in private.  This  produced an understanding that one did not need to share the fact that they were trying to hire a Private Detective to watch their paramour while they were out of town with everyone in the break room.  Or talk to their son’s bail bondsmen at full volume in the grocery store.  Or reveal their sexual escapades of the previous evening to everyone in Target.  The combination of cell phones and Great Room behavior has really been deadly.

My generation may have been the last one taught to always present our best selves to the public.  Only our lovers, family and close friends got to know who we really were.  This not only made for a more pleasant social interaction, but allowed us to purvey a sense of mystery in our public lives that was intriguing.

Without walls and a sense of public vs private, you can’t have secrets.  Let’s face it, secrets can be fun.  If you spill it all on your cell phone in the Great Room of life, you lose the magic.

And that may be the root of my concern.  To paraphrase one of Tennessee William’s great characters, I never wanted to present realism or ask for realism in public.  I wanted magic.  Or intrigue.  Or mystery.  I wanted to pick who I took the journey of getting to really know and appreciate the fact that them sharing their secrets and revealing their true selves was a gift given to me by choice.

With “Great Room” behavior ,the magic disappears and you are left with realism.  It isn’t always pretty.  Or appropriate.  And now, you don’t always recognize magic when you see it…

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This is a repost from my other blog:  www.lostinthe21stcentury.com

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2 Responses to Chapter 32: How “Great Rooms” Have Undermined Western Civilization

  1. Karen says:

    Wonderful insight! We bought a house with a great-room 9 years ago and I bought the big fluffy chairs and sofa. It was fine until my daughter’s boyfriend flopped into a supine position everytime his buttocks hit the sofa. It led to me buying new, harder, smaller furniture.

  2. suburbohemian says:

    I don’t that great rooms started it , but it sure is a motivating factor!. Any place where you could walk through the front door and see the TV, the dining table and the kitchen all in one space spelled the end of civilization for me. I don”t want people to arrive and see my kitchen first thing. .The grandiose name was a dead giveaway. Build a house in the middle of the burbs, takeaway walls as if it were a NY loft, and give it the name of a castle hall.

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