Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I can’t say as I was taught a whole lot of fancy manners when I was a kid.  Using the right fork was never an issue because there was always just one fork by each plate, not two.  I never had to learn about dipping fingers in a fingerbowl because there never were any such things on our table.  Paper napkins were de-riguer and often they could be found wherever they were probably going to be most needed – on a lap, tucked in under the chin as a bib or wadded up close at hand on the table.

What I was admonished to do was to chew with my mouth closed and not talk with my mouth full.  Beyond that, manners were really not an issue.  My folks were not hillbillies used to eating with their hands, nor were they high society blue-bloods who did, in fact, have two forks by their plates along with a fingerbowl, so I think my sis and I probably mostly learned what to do from what we saw our parents do.   
That was then, and this is now.  From reading an article in the LA Times this morning, I find that prestigious MIT has begun offering social etiquette classes so the eggheads that are so famously nurtured to genius status with their eyes focused on sine, co-sine, quarks, and the like will also fit into the business world when they leave the halls of academia.  These classes, and others like it at other engineering-type schools, range from table manners 101 to learning how to tie bow ties. 

Graduates from this non-credit course are given “Doctorates of Charm” certificates when they finish the class.  They learn that women should not wear open-toed shoes on interviews.  Men should wear socks with their shoes.  They learn that if they get to a door before their female boss, they should hold the door open for both their boss and any other of the party to pass through first.  They learned not to cut their meat into little pieces before they start to eat it.   They also learn it is proper to hand-write a thank you note, using actual pen and paper.
The kids in these classes may already be on their way to success, but MIT says social etiquette that is so different nowadays from what it has been in the past should be a part of their education and apparently those who take these classes often find themselves returning for several sessions before they move out into the big world of corporations and dinner parties and art openings.

Now I say “Bravo” for the modern etiquette mavens who believe this information is an important asset for those kids who often don’t have a clue.  But I’d like to pass on to them a few tips that over the years I’ve decided are a major turnoff at the dinner table.  Sorry to say, it mainly has to do with men, but actually it pertains to either gender.  And it has to do more with proper eating than using the proper utensil.

1.     Don’t talk while your mouth is full.  This way you will not spit food on the table.

2.     Don’t put so much food on your fork.  If you are a man, it often leaves particles of food hanging on your beard or mustache.

3.     Don’t open your mouth to add more food when you’ve still got partially chewed food still inside.  It looks gross.

4.     If your wife, friend or table partner indicates that you have food on your face, do not take offense and get stubborn about removing it.  Wipe it off, for crying out loud. 

5.     If you need to blow your nose at the table, get up and go outside or to the foyer; do not subject the rest of the table to snot on your hankie or worse yet, on your napkin.

As for females not wearing open-toed shoes on an interview, I think I would probably rather it say, “Always wear nylons to an interview.”  I know that nylons are passé and that I need to let go of thinking that a bare-legged woman in a business suit is inappropriately dressed, but it’s an ingrained value and I just don’t see it.  It shows my age, I know.  Fashions change with time, but don’t you agree a bad mouthful at the dinner table will never change?

1 comment:

Olga said...

Not showing already chewed up food is clearly a basic. I wonder what the manners class has to say about talking on cell phones or texting in a social setting.