It's not terrible if you knock over a glass, but don't be a bore.
Tiffany's Table Manners for Teenagers was written by Walter Hoving, immediately following lunch with his grandson John Hoving. Though impishly suggesting he had no idea what role he played in such a creative work, his grandfather said to him "Johnny, it takes a person just as much effort to have bad manners as it does to have good manners, so why don't you take the time to learn some good ones." Here Here!
This is the Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, (2011)
This is a great book. And although I wasn't raised in a kennel, of course I am (or was) missing a few beats to the measure in this department. Take this gem on page 10,
"When you both have been seated, don't look around like a startled beetle. Turn directly to the young lady on your right and start talking."
I like this idea of never lacking vigor and purpose and of always being at the helm of a moment.
Oh, and the book is small. He doesn't make so much ado about it all that it feels heavy and tedious. It's short, delightful and the writing is clear and concise all the way through; (you know, the way everyone wrote in the 60's). Also, a running theme is that if you mess up at the table, don't apologize (not even for removing grizzle from your teeth), and don't make too much fuss about anything. In a word: Relax. Page 78 tells us:
"If you knock over your water glass, don't say "Oops." Right the glass and keep talking to you partner, Don't start mopping the table with your napkin. If you spill the water on your partner's dress, offer her your napkin and say you're sorry. But don't start mopping her. It might be misunderstood."
Thank you, Mr. Hoving, because yes, it will be misunderstood! At a party in college a boy name Hector spilled beer on me, and then went to town on my shirt trying to mop it up. Thereafter, he was known as 'Hector the Molester'. Unfortunate and unfair, yes; yet totally appropriate and unavoidable.
Missing from the book is a guideline that many Italian (even marginally Italian families like mine) would do well to follow. If someone has had enough food, don't keep asking them if they want more! Or if they are really sure they are full, ad nauseum. Oy! But I guess that would be another book - Manners for the Host. Although Mom, sending us downstairs to eat with the cat when 'we weren't civilized enough to eat at the table' may have been a stroke of genius. And you know, it wasn't that bad. Smokey ate all that weird stuff you made with Campbell's soup. But I digress,Of course Mr. Hoving hits the basics - what all the forks mean and how you're supposed to hold them and all that. Including what positions your utensils should take to communicate "done" or "still eating" But there's a few bits that might suprise you, like this one -
"Asparagus is eaten with the fingers, unless stalks are too long."
In addition to table propriety, he alights on the social graces as well,
"...Be more interested in hearing the other person's views than in expressing your own. That is the essence of good conversation. When the table 'turns,' don't get left staring into space. Turn immediately to the girl on your left. If she doesn't turn to you, lean over and say something like this, 'How about getting rid of that fascinating fellow on your left and paying a little attention to me?' Don't forget, faint heart never, etc., etc."
Remember that a dinner party is not a funeral, nor has your hostesss invited you because she thinks you are in dire need of food. You're there to be entertaining. Be gay. Do your part. Don't be a gloom.
Yes, don't be a gloom!