Proper etiquette is a funny thing. It doesn’t matter to you until you know it and then you can’t help but notice it. It is worth knowing because some who know it will judge you solely by it. I think the first time I realized that Melanie and I were with some very ‘highflauting” folks in Atlanta when we were fairly newly married and I was trying out for a job. After a ride past ‘the old home place” (a huge colonial mansion on a hill) we met with the elders and their wives for a meal (and a grilling). Before the meal I had warmed tomato juice with the men, while Melanie learned about instructing your “help” to not mix your fine silverware with your every day, a principle she has never broken, primarily because we don’t have both! At dinner as the patriarch sliced the prime rib and put it on each plate before passing it around they also shared bread and cute HUGE butter pats molded into the shape of magnolia blooms. Melanie took a roll and a part of one of the blooms, to which the woman of the house said “It is customary in our house to take the whole pat.” My sweet quiet wife told me later that she wanted to respond: ”It is customary in our house to only take what we need.” Over the last 40 years I have learned many such “rules” of etiquette. I continue to learn. Once they are in my head, they don’t want to leave. Some might be useful for some of you.
So here are a dozen not so well known rules of etiquette I have learned, some the hard way. over the years.
- Stand when a woman comes in the room: Most folks know this one. While feminist see this as an affront most women still appreciate the gentlemanly gesture.
- Do not pick up the dessert fork until the hostess has: I did not know this one until about five years ago. It will change the way you dive in. And if you are the hostess, take your fork and stick it in your dessert if you are serving so everyone else can enjoy your creation. An odd and confusing variant of this rule says that no one is to take a bite until a guest does.
- Do not extend your hand to a woman unless she extends her hand to you: This is somewhat antiquated but women who know it will appreciate your courtesy. Those who do not may be offended and think you are snobbish.
- Do not show the bottom of your shoes by crossing your leg where the bottom of your shoe points toward a person. I learned this one from an elder about 20 years ago. The idea is that one of the dirtiest parts of your clothing would be the bottom of your shoe. Who knows what you have stepped on or in.
- Do not extend your left hand: Sorry but this one is sort of gross but in India in especially poor areas and for years when people were less sanitary than today they would wipe with their left hand. So, yeah. Cured you of that one didn’t I?
- Don’t cough into your right hand: If you do then you share your cold or other germs with anyone who shakes hands with you.
- Don’t point at people: It is rude. Preachers should remember this too. I actually learned a workaround for this from President Bill Clinton back in 1988 when he was just gaining national recognition. He used a crooked finger to gesture with. It works. You might also consider using an open hand gesture.
- When walking with a woman, if at all possible walk on the outside of her: That will make it easier to open doors, etc. It also puts you closer to the street should a car run off or hit a puddle.
- Keep personal conversations and arguments off social networking sites: While these next two are more 21st Century you should know them. You will never win someone over to your side with a clever meme or what you believe to be a cute political comment.
- If you take a cell phone call in public, take it outside or to the side if possible. Better yet, just mute your cell phone and sit it aside during any meal (I’m not saying I keep all these).
- Remember that if you feel a need to respond immediately to every incoming text, you’ll lose more in the eyes of the person who’s in front of you than you’ll gain from the unseen people who are benefiting from your efficiency.
- Never call a woman who is wearing heels “older.” First, I didn’t. But I was told this by an upset older lady in heels (she was in her mid-80’s).
I bet I missed a million. Comment below and be nice: What rules have you learned that have helped you are you have laughed at.