It’s interesting and a little appalling when people ask me: What exactly is etiquette? In my mind the first thought that comes to the forefront is, you don’t know? Really? The second thought that bubbles upwards is empathy, followed by a concise explanation goaded with patience. Sorry, I can’t help but wonder why on earth so many people don’t know what etiquette means or even worse, why they think it’s solely in reference to table manners. It is not.
Perhaps the most common question I am often asked is: why are manners so important? To be as brief as possible, good manners are indicative of how you treat others and are a reflection of your own sense of worth and purpose. It is a form of selflessness in social situations and respecting those around you as opposed to being selfish and thinking primarily of your own needs. As I’ve stated in my previous entry, in a rapidly growing digital age, I personally feel that there is an incessant need to uphold a solid set of manners and to know how to apply good decorum into all that we say and do.
N.B: Who you are at home is what you are outside – to be used as post-it to inspire. Don’t have two sets of manners; two sets of living, or a mindset that being your very best is reserved for ‘very best occasions’. Be that everyday.
In continuation of the last post (here), I wanted to share a few of the topics that the girls I consult with have spoken about along with some of the questions that they had asked me.
Before I have my diatribe on the subject I should interject that it is not becoming to discuss money. A gentleman will never bring up finances, nor will a lady. It is vulgar to discuss how much things cost, what you earn or if you are on a budget or not. It’s a massive turn-off for me. However, I feel this was a good question and one that has many young women confused.
Frankly, I think the entire concept of men paying for women has changed. Keep in mind I am talking about currency here and not chivalry, two completely different things that seem to get confused. Many professional women I know don’t like when a man pays or don’t expect them to. Initially women never had any rights, they weren’t able to work and earn, so naturally they depended on their suitor to foot the bill. But times have changed and much to the chagrin of staunch preservers of traditions past, (mainly women that want men to pay) the role of a woman has changed greatly. We have fought for equality, the right to vote, drive, earn, have equal pay (almost) to be heard and wear a pantsuit for Pete’s sake, so why regress and pick and choose the traditions that we feel benefit us? It’s a little selfish.
Having said all that and to answer the question with respects to proper decorum, on a first date the man should pay. Most gentlemen will know this and insist upon it. If the date does not go well, or you simply have no desire to see him again then the right thing to do is to split the bill. Chances are he may still be courteous enough to rebuke your offer, if that matters to you. If however, things went well and you have flying hearts dancing around your heads and want to see one another again, then the next time you can pay and alternate taking turns.
If a man insists on paying and you’re comfortable with that, then go with it. If you want to pay or split it, go with that too. It depends on your situation. Independence is very attractive; not equating relationships with finance is also very attractive. I find that who is going to pay the bill winds up affecting so many aspects of a relationship when it shouldn’t. You’re missing the point entirely, you’re getting to know someone and enjoy a good meal. That should be the main focus.
What about paying on same sex dates?
In terms of same sex couples, the person whom is asking would normally pay.
A guy told me he likes women to pay, that he’s tired of paying. What should I do?
Lovely. Moral poverty at its finest. No one person is expected to do anything if they don’t want to. If I want to pay for my friends, I’ll insist and there isn’t anything they can usually say. Split the bill, you don’t have to pay for him and he doesn’t have to pay for you, although now I’m questioning why you would even entertain such an ignoramus. You can’t be that bored? In certain situations when you pay for yourself, you walk away knowing that you don’t owe the idiot anything.
Is it ok to ask someone how much something was, for example, an outfit that they are wearing or a bag?
Never. Unless its your family or closest friends and there are lines not to cross there as well. I personally don’t like being questioned about my finances by anybody, family included, it’s beyond irritating when a person inquires how much my accessories are or if I get paid to write my blog. Just don’t ask. Full stop.
Is it bad manners when you first meet someone and ask, what do you do?
Yes, it is bad form. People love to talk about themselves, they’ll tell you eventually.
Conversations had about chivalry…
Some women take offence when a man opens doors and is gallant in general. How idiotic. I don’t. I quite prefer it. It doesn’t make me any less of a woman, in fact I’m grateful to the mothers and fathers that raise such courteous gentleman who open doors, drop a woman to the front of a building when it’s raining, offer their coats and walk on the curb because some women like and value that. It is a symbol of good breeding. Obviously I am capable of opening my own door and I don’t know of any woman that isn’t, but if a man enjoys chivalry then I’m very happy to be on the receiving end of it and extremely appreciative. I enjoy being a woman, it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing and if I wanted to be a man then I would have had the right biology. There is no desire to constantly prove that I am self-sufficient by holding a Gloria Steinem biography on a date; I am certainly able to fend for myself. That’s all I really have to ruminate on the topic. The women that grumble and complain about chivalry ruin it for the ones that love it.
Conversations had on eating…
I actually know of someone that went on and on about the importance of table manners but had two sets of rules for eating. 1. Semi-decent when he was at a restaurant because he was slightly and I mean ever so slightly conscious. 2. Dining like a caveman when he was at home. It was hard to watch. If he found his meal hot, he would spit it out on a plate, wait for it to cool and then barge it back into his mouth. He inhaled his food, chewed loudly and bit indecent amounts of it as if the meal were going to run away. He’s a prime(mate) example that I’m throwing under the bus because he bored me to death on the importance of good social skills yet failed to act upon them. Remember my upgrading the battery analogy? Ironically he’s quite the tech junkie.
It can be off-putting when someone can’t hold a fork and knife or chew properly. Those are simple things to learn. If you’re out eating at a fine establishment or anywhere really, respect those around you and eat well, otherwise just stay at home in your sweatpants and pig out in front of the sofa. I should gently remind you again, that who you are at home is who you are in public.
Finishing before everyone else.
Beware the socially challenged speed eater. I have had to endure this atrocity many times from both men and women. The purpose of dining at an establishment is to enjoy oneself and the company of whom you are with. Eat at everyone else’s pace and not just your own. Good decorum is about selflessness, not being selfish. Therefore if you finish your meal at Olympic speed whilst your party is still eating, it is considered very rude. If you arrive at a dinner famished then you will have to exercise patience out of respect for those you are with. I get very irritated with fast eaters, although I don’t outwardly say it.
N.B: If you are absolutely starving before a dinner, have a light snack an hour or two before so that you do not attack your meal when it arrives. There is nothing more awkward than having to eat a meal when the company you are with has licked their plate clean.
How is a man supposed to ask out a woman? Is text acceptable?
No, text is not acceptable and neither is social media. Telephones work, bring them up to your ear and make a person feel like they are valuable. There is something sexy about hearing a person’s voice, it’s very human. Incase you were wondering, an Emoji with hearts for eyes is not the least bit gallant and by no means romantic.
Ideally, it’s attractive when a man will look you in the eye and ask you out. I said ideally; it’s a bit of a rarity now.
Texting when courting?
Oh don’t get me started. I loathe this. I don’t mind texting my close friends all day long because we have a sense of one another’s schedule and sometimes are too busy to pick up the phone, but we always meet in person to catch up properly. However, having a full-blown conversation via a handheld device when I’ve just met someone is a turn-off. Pick up the phone! I don’t want to hear about your life with Emoji’s and weird memes, it’s a bit immature. This is a huge bugbear for me. I’ll just ignore a man when he does this because he should know better.
Can a woman ask a man out?
Yes, although it is my sheer preference not to do so – personally speaking.
What do I do if someone posts something I don’t like on Social media, like if there’s a FB post I don’t agree with? I usually say something.
I am going to sound redundant because I have mentioned this in the previous blog, but sometimes I find when we’re inundated with social media, we find it hard to mind our own business because everyone is hanging theirs out on a nice technological line of laundry. It can be an eyesore but just because someone posts something online that you don’t agree with, even if it’s public, it doesn’t give you the right to be rude. I don’t like when people say, if you don’t want the criticism, don’t post. For the most part, people are posting their personal opinion, what they like and are passionate about it. More often than not it comes from a place of good intention. What gives anyone the right to critique someone else without them asking for it? You don’t like what you see? Move on. That’s all. If something is on-line it doesn’t mean its subject to critique because that would mean you are and no one is flawless. Even if someone is posting something negative, just move on, why give it more negative energy? As long as no laws are being violated and there isn’t any form of racism, bigotry, misogyny or homophobia let it go.
Is it ok to leave my mobile phone on the table when I am out for dinner?
You cannot leave your mobile phone on the table. The rule bends slightly if you’re a parent and your children are with a nanny or you have a relative in the hospital because sometimes restaurants tend to get noisy and you may not be able to hear your mobile ring if it’s in your dinner jacket pocket or your bag. If this is the case, then politely tell the people you are dining with why the mobile has to be out and if they would mind terribly. If you have to take a call, leave the table to do so. No one really wants to hear about your Aunt Beatrice’s catheter falling out.
Is it ok to post relationships on social media?
It’s not entirely unacceptable to announce your relationship on social media but I just question the need, so I’ll give you a disapproving nod. You can post a photograph of your significant other to alert prospective suitors that you are spoken for but keep them to a minimum. Flooding someone’s stream with cutesy pictures of your partner and yourself however, is not good form. Kindly keep in mind that no one wants to know about a doctor’s visit, how much you love one another or an ultrasound of your unborn child. In addition, do not have conversations on your profile photos that pledge your allegiance to romance with your significant other. Ridiculous ramblings such as: you light up my life; I cannot live without you, my soul mate, twin flame, the reason for my happiness or other statements that induce regurgitation. Just don’t do it.
The worst offender: My wcw or mcm. This is just as bad as speaking in acronyms.
Can I apply lipstick in public or at the dinner table?
If I’ve been invited to someone’s home for dinner, do I have to bring a gift? Is alcohol or chocolate acceptable?
It’s impolite to arrive at your host or hostesses house empty handed. Send flowers beforehand because it’s annoying to fumble for a vase and arrange flowers when you’re receiving guests. Chocolates of good quality or a bottle of champagne is also suitable. Wine is pedestrian, even worse if it’s those boxed contraptions. If you know your host or hostess well, you can venture out of the boring realm of thoughtfulness and choose something for their home that you know they will like. If you do not know the host or hostess properly do not give them an accent piece for their home, especially if you are not familiar with their tastes. Stick to the mundane.
What about when a man picks you up for a date? Should he bring something?
It’s not necessary that he bring something if he is picking you up to take you out, unless you have invited him for pre-drinks and canapés. Having said that, I have had the experience of having my suitors bring me flowers each time they would visit, whether it was for coffee, dinner or simply to drive us both to our destination. If you are inviting your date to your home for the first time and he shows up with a smile, I wouldn’t bother with another date. A gentleman will never show up empty handed and will always find ways to enquire about your preferences beforehand, such as what your favorite flowers are.
N.B. Never tell your host that you were going to bring him or her something, vulgarly describing the item and then proceed by saying idiotic things such as:
“ I wasn’t sure if you’d like it, so I didn’t get it for you.”
“I tried to find something to bring you, but you’re so hard to shop for.”
This kind of classless tyranny is down-market.
What do I do when someone interrupts a conversation I am having with another person?
Feel free to give them a blank look and continue your conversation. Parents do this with their children all the time. In some situations you may have to let the annoying interrupter, clearly a social Neanderthal, have a go at rambling away. Remember, it’s never polite to deduce oneself to the offenders level and reprimand them, as tempting as that is. Simply ignore the rudeness because you are well above that.
Thank you and Thank you Notes:
A proper thank you can only occur when you are present of your surroundings. It’s inexcusable to forget those two words and it’s quite ghastly that a number of people actually don’t use them. I remember taking an acquaintance out for lunch and she failed to send a thank you message. I don’t expect people to whip out their best stationary and pen me a note. Well actually I do, but in this situation a telephone call would have sufficed; a simple- thank you for the wonderful meal. Sadly, that didn’t happen.
Ideally you would write a thank you note within twenty-four hours, stretching it to forty-eight if you must. Just remember the more prompt you are, the better it is. If this is too tedious for you then make sure to thank your host via telephone within twenty-four to forty-eight hours, never ever text. This bypasses tradition I know, but most people do not (unfortunately) seem to want to write a thank you letter let alone inquire of your address and trudge off to the post office. It’s truly quite sad.
N.B. There are standard sizes for thank you notes and letter paper, if you really want to do it properly I suggest Smythson stationary to start off with.
If someone opens a door for you, say thank you. If someone shows you hospitality, gives you a gift, does you a favor, say thank you. If anyone does something that requires gratitude in return the very least you can do is …… say thank you.
Now, sometimes there can be an over indulgence of those words. For example, if a man takes you out for dinner, say thank you at the end of the meal. If he drops you home, say thank you again. Nothing more is required. Do not send him a barrage of text messages relaying how grateful you were for dinner; he will think that you’ve never been out for a meal in your life. Moderation is key.
N.B: A real gentleman will always thank you for your company and presence even if he is the one that has paid for your meal or outing.
In the end, people do remember your actions, what you say and how you behave. As a result, they will either consciously or unconsciously determine how you are to be treated in return. These three things, if infused with proper decorum, make for a very beautiful marriage of manners. Not to sound trite, but if we are much kinder to ourselves and treat ourselves with the utmost respect and adoration, then we are able to resonate that to everyone we meet. You’ll find that once you’ve mastered the joy of being the best version of yourself, you will always leave others with a little bit of your magic, which is partially your own brand of charm amalgamated with an impeccable set of manners.