Allow me to add the disclaimer that I am mostly writing this post for myself. Okay. I’m entirely writing this post for myself. Table manners. Something I’ve somehow lost, if I ever had any in the first place. I can only guess that the combination of laziness, eating alone and just being extremely hungry have inspired me to revisit the standard rules of etiquette. In preparing to research this topic, I knew the most reliable source would be Emily Post, the Grandmother of etiquette. In a world of portable wireless distractions and being in a hurry, she’s just as relevant today as ever before.
Post’s first etiquette manual, Etiquette: In Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home, was published in 1922 and rose to best seller fame, becoming a reference for all of your mannerly conundrums. Keep in mind, some of Ms. Post’s advice is outdated, however, let us review this piece from a section titled Etiquette of Gloves and Napkin:
Ladies always wear gloves to formal dinners and take them off at table. Entirely off. It is hideous to leave them on the arm, merely turning back the hands. Both gloves and fan are supposed to be laid across the lap, and one is supposed to lay the napkin folded once in half across the lap too, on top of the gloves and fan, and all three are supposed to stay in place on a slippery satin skirt on a little lap, that more often than not slants downward.
This tip of etiquette raises a few questions for me: Who shows up to dinner with a fan? And how do I get invited to the kind of dinner party that assumes female guests will arrive wearing gloves?
Since I’m a beginner in this matter, I found the children’s guide to be much more my speed. Tips such as “come to the table with clean hands and face,” “stay seated and sit up straight,” and “say ‘please pass the potatoes’ instead of reaching,” are all very basic principles that I’ve let slip in my somewhat small repertoire of manners.
For readers much more advanced than me, here is a selection of books from the Library you might want to borrow:
The New Book of Table Settings: Creative Ideas for the Way We Gather Today, Chris Bryant and Paige Gilchrist
Elements of Etiquette: A Guide to Table Manners in an Imperfect World, Craig Claiborne
Miss Manners’ Basic Training: Eating, Judith Martin
The Art of the Table: A Complete Guide to Table Setting, Table Manners, and Tableware, Suzanne von Drachenfels
Excuse me, please, and thank you,