Snippets of Etiquette


A few weeks ago I attended an etiquette dinner. When I told my friends, I received either "I've already been to too many etiquette dinners in my life" (this friend hails from the South) and "Is that where they teach you how to use a spoon?" Me to the latter: "Please don't come if that's your attitude."

Anyhow, I will never deny free food and you never know when you'll be dining with an interviewer who's testing how you break your bread (use your hands, not a knife! Did you know that?). Also, I instinctively knew this would make for a snarky blog.

I sat with several friends – ones who had never attended etiquette dinners before (*sigh* northerners) and who had higher expectations than learning how to use a spoon (watchBeauty and the Beast). We were also joined by the Luna Lovegood of the room aka no one knew her and she wore Barbie shoe earrings. Like, actual shoes that belong on a Barbie doll.

Luna seemed okay at first. I love meeting new people so I asked her name, and she signed back something. Yes, sign language. So I assumed she was deaf until it became pretty clear she wasn't (she understood what the dinner coordinator was saying while her back was to the coordinator). The coordinator told us to assign a table host aka the person who initiates when we start eating, what we should order, etc. Luna volunteered to be our hostess, and suddenly she was circling the table offering us bread. Confused? Me, too. Don’t we just pass the bread? Meanwhile, Luna says, “This is what the host is supposed to do.” Is she going to bathe our feet in oil, too? Also, at no other table was a non-server walking around offering bread. Maybe Luna was deaf?

I realized my neighbor had a whole wheat roll and my other neighbor had ciabatta. Meanwhile, I had boring French bread. What is the proper etiquette for asking for the bread basket again so you can swap your current bread for a better piece? Unfortunately the coordinator didn't go over this.

Snippets of advice we received:

  • Never wave down your waiter. Always make eye contact. I don’t like this; I struggle to make eye contact with myself in a mirror, let alone my server.
  • Once you use a utensil, never lay it back down on the table. Even if there’s a tablecloth. That’s “gauche,” according to the coordinator. She hates when they do this at weddings. (My table then discussed how one spells gauche.)
  • If you drop a utensil, let the server get it. That is their job. We tend to forget this in America because we’re “democratic” – the coordinator’s choice words – but “servers have a place.” I interpreted this as etiquette implies inequality implies servers are Avox if you've ever read The Hunger Games.
  • Speaking of The Hunger Games: Don’t come hungry to dinner. It’s never about the food. Marriage also isn't about love.
  • The bread plate is your repository for trash, e.g. inedible pieces of meat, the lemon slice from your tea, the gum you forgot to spit out (well, maybe not that), etc. Apparently the well-mannered are aware that bread is just throwaway calories.
  • If you are toasted by someone, don’t drink. Aka please never toast me because that’s, like, an insult: “The room will now drink while you don’t.”
  • Never tell your server that your food “looks disgusting, can you take it away?” Keep your plate and pretend to be interested. Guess who made this faux pas? LUNA.
  • There is an American and continental style of eating. Of course there is; Americans always have their own way, don’t they?
  • Men can only remove their sportcoats if the host does so. You’re out of luck if you only have a hostess. Meanwhile, ladies can do whatever they please with their cardigans, hostess or not. Gender inequality right there.
  • If a piece of chicken falls down your dress, you should excuse yourself to the restroom to deal with this, not remove it in full view of guests. (During story time, Luna relayed the latter version of this tale.)
  • Never say you’re using the restroom for its practical purpose aka “you've seen the waiter refill my glass five times in the last hour, so now it’s time for me to refill the commode.” No, no, you must lie and say, “I need to freshen up.” No one wants to hear about your distended bladder.
  • You should also use the “freshen up” excuse for more mundane reasons, e.g. you need to put up your hair. Because it’s obscene to watch a woman put up her hair at the table.
  • Cut your food one bite at a time. What is up with this inefficiency? Why can’t I cut it all at once and then eat it one bite at a time?
  • Direct quote from coordinator: “All of it’s silly.” No duh. It’s all pretension, and who doesn't hate the pretentious? ~smokes cig~

Overall, I learned I really don’t care what glass you put my alcohol in, and I’m more of a one spoon sort of soul.