The curtsey

‘And you just disappeared,’ said Mother-of-witch as we were out walking one day. I was probably about eight. I didn’t disappear. I curtseyed. Because we’d just walked past my headmaster in town, and you had to curtsey to people like him. Or so I’d been told. I was very obedient.

So I bobbed down, which was what she meant.

I blogged about an earlier curtsey a while ago, and felt like a dinosaur. (Do dinosaurs curtsey?) Back then, Swedish girls were brought up to bend their knees on all sorts of occasions. With adults. Teachers and other school staff. The King, if you happened to meet him. Maybe you didn’t have to for school staff outside school. I don’t know. To me a rule was a rule. You just did. And Mother-of-witch apparently didn’t recognise my headmaster.

(He probably didn’t even notice me.)

These days I doubt anyone curtsies. I wonder when they stopped instructing girls to do it? Boys had to bow, so it wasn’t just the one sex who had to be polite. They also had to take their hats/caps off.

The trouble is knowing when to stop, and by that I mean, when are you old enough not to be required to dip down? It becomes instinct, thus is hard to stop doing. I stopped very early. Partly because I felt like an idiot, and partly because Mother-of-witch told me not to do it when we visited England ‘because English girls don’t curtsey.’

When I arrived at the G’s house, at the age of 21, I was simply the latest in a long row of Swedish students they’d had living with them. Mrs G sounded amused and a little embarrassed when she told me that the other girls had curtsied to her on arrival. She must have felt rather Queen-like, I imagine.

That in itself made me pleased I’d given it up, because I could see that I too, would have ‘disappeared’ downwards. Purely from habit.

6 responses to “The curtsey

  1. Although American girls really never mastered the courtesy, I feel that there have been many occasions in my life, and particularly my childhood, where my intention to do right has been interpreted wrongly.

    Not that I always intended doing right, of course. Disillusioment set in early.

  2. Marianne Wheelaghan

    How fascinating. I didn’t know about that custom/tradition Sweden. it seems sort of quaint but as you suggest, just because a way of behaviour is a tradition it doesn’t mean it’s a good thing or we should continue to do it. Vive the rebels!

  3. Seana, as you are a few hours my senior, I hereby offer a brief curtsey in your direction. Has to be brief, or the knees would collapse.

  4. I don’t know how my brain changed curtsey to courtesy, although I guess they have something to do with each other.

  5. Apparently, it’s more a harkening back to the past

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