Sunday, September 09, 2007 1:11 PM
From the U.S. Open to the New York restaurant scene, the death of the grown-up is, um, alive and well. That is, perpetual adolescents are in charge. Which isn't to say they haven't been for a long time, but some new observers are beginning to notice--even at The New York Times.
"Pump Up the Cacophony: The Days of Etiquette Are Over at the U.S. Open" declares one headline over a feature about bratty crowd behavior. "Business Is Hot, But the Vibe Is Cool," reports a Food Section round-up of new restaurants that seem to offer everything except, as the article puts it, "formality."
All around town, bare tables have shed snowy linen, customers' shirttails are hanging out as ties and jackets are left in the closet, flip-flops replace Ferragamo, and an assortment of small plates, often shared, fills in for traditional three-course dinners.
Even hotel dining is no longer the bastion of gleaming silver, tuxedoed waiters and elaborate folderol....
It goes on (and on) from there, not exactly bemoaning the change so much as cataloguing it. Indeed, Tim Zagat of the famous restaurant guide puts a happy face on it all while pointing out there are far fewer restaurants he would call "impressive" that in the past. "Almost all the formal high-end restaurants are gone. Now it's much more fun and young and hip." He went on to describe the new restaurant-goer whose deep pockets are, of course, likely to be in Armani jeans: "They don't want fine dining in the classic sense. They just don't eat the same way. They don't dress the same way."
The Times story continued:
An extreme version of this view is in a new book "The Death of the Grown-Up" by Diana West (St. Martin's Press), in which the author observed that parents behave like their children and dress in the same outfits.
(The NYT is right: That was very "extreme" of me.)
She argues that this generation, which subverts traditional values, has been disastrous for Western culture. It has not been good for dress codes in restaurants.
And, of course, that's what counts.
Meanwhile, at the U.S. Open, flip flops are the least of the problem when there's rock music blasting over loud speakers, people talking on their cellphones, babies crying, fans climbing up and down the aisles at all times, cameras snapping flash photos during night matches. It's not just formality that's missing, it's any sense of what was once known as "decorum." But don't call what's taken decorum's place bad manners. As Arlen Kantarian, the chief executive for professional tennis of the USTA, put it to the New York Times, "Now the fans are able to express themselves."
And thank goodness for that. Whoever would want tennis fans who looked glamorous, turned off their cellphones, kept their seats (and kept quiet) during matches, and left the kids at home with the sitter?
"We used to be very persnickety about spectators sitting down during play, but a few years ago, we began to take a more liberal view of what fans can and cannot do," said Michael Morrisssey, a tournament supervisor and former chair umpire.
Remember the old saying: If you can't beat 'em, take a "more liberal view."
Morrissey continued: "It was less, `Quiet, please,' because that sounded like we were treating them like naughty children. We were killing the energy."
And we certainly wouldn't want to do that.