One of an occasional series of photo essays of instructional signs in public, usually designed to encourage humorously Perfect Propriety. Etiquetteer admires the creativity!
Etiquetteer found a couple questions in the mail bag than can loosely be filed together under "Back to School." Please contact Etiquetteer with your own back-to-school queries!
I recently got married, and have decided to hyphenate my last name (until my kids are 18 anyway.... easier to deal with if my last name matches the kiddos for school purposes). So, I am going to be (after I get my card) Ashton MacDonald Islesworth-Min. (It's a mouthful, isn't it?) My question is.... what are my initials? AMI? AMIM? AMI-M? How does one initial documents with a hyphenated last name?
Congratulations on your recent marriage! Etiquettteer wishes you and your family long life and happiness.
These days monograms are very much a personal choice, so you can do almost anything you prefer. It's so rare for Etiquetteer to say anything like that that we should pause for a moment to take that in. Your initials may be whatever you choose.
With four initials, a block monogram - a simple row of all four initials from first to last names - seems to be the standard. But even before you, many ladies drop a name to keep their total initials down to three. For instance, you likely have a middle name, and dropped it when you married your first husband to keep your monogram to three: AMI. Of course with that MacDonald, could it also be AMacII?
You might now wish to drop your maiden name to keep your monogram to three: AIM. But if you keep all four, just keep it simple: AMIM.
When you initial your documents, no need to include the hyphen. When monogramming your lingerie, keep it small!
My son is looking to buy some new shoes. Most of his work dress is casual as with everyone else these days, but he does own two suits, one grey and one navy blue. He's wondering if black shoes go with a navy blue suit? (I hope so, since that's what I always wore/wear.) Does brown go with either? And cordovan? We look forward to hearing what you think.
Dear Well Shod:
Etiquetteer's first reaction to your query was to remember Michael in The Boys in the Band complaining about "those ten pound cordovan loafers and those constipated Ivy League clothes," and then having to pause as he realizes that one of his guests, Hank, is wearing ten pound cordovan loafers with a classic Ivy League ensemble. You can never go wrong with a classic, but it's how you wear it that makes you stand out.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, Etiquetteer turned to Business Insider for a fairly comprehensive guide to pair suits and shoes. You'll see that they allow brown shoes with navy blue and medium or light gray, but they don't allow it with charcoal gray. Cordovan, it seems, goes with anything but black.
Etiquetteer would be rather more traditional (unsurprisingly) and prohibit brown shoes with navy blue. Indeed, once upon a time Etiquetteer vaguely remembers reading someone's memoir's story about Alfred Hitchcock advising Gregory Peck "No brown in town." Of course that might reflect the Sort of People Who Don't Weekend in Town . . .
In your son's case, investing in two pairs of good black shoes would be the conservative path, but he may want to shake up the mix with a pair of cordovan. It's interesting to note that only lace-up shoes were once thought proper in an office environment. Loafers and slip-ons were thought of as casual shoes, and of course sneakers, tennis shoes, and other athletic shoes were considered only for the activities for which they were designed and not everyday wear. But those footwear distinctions were eroded decades ago, first by airport security measures and then by St. Elsewhere.
Today's important message from Etiquetteer is a simple one: Don't Upstage the Deceased.
If Etiquetteer learned anything observing the national scene in 2017, it's that women will no longer tolerate being told what to wear by men. Men can and will have opinions about what women wear, but women will no longer be told by men what they may and may not wear. Civilizations have been talking about and expressing a lot more interest in women's clothes than men's for centuries. Etiquetteer doubts very much that's going to change, but the way it happens is changing.
It seems like a lot of women on the internet are saying "A woman may wear anything she wants!" Well, she can, but that won't stop her getting called out for it (by women and/or men) if it's Not Suitable to the Occasion. Even more important, men are getting called out if they behave inappropriately with women (regardless of what the woman is wearing). And they should be. To Etiquetteer's astonishment, no less than Aretha Franklin's funeral brought us an Unfortunate Combination of these two trends.
Singer Ariana Grande was invited to perform at the funeral, to which she wore an extremely short sleeveless black dress that included a sheer panel to screen (ineffectively) her deep décolletage. The general consensus, with which Etiquetteer agrees, is that it's Perfectly Proper for a nightclub, but not for a church, and especially not for a funeral service for the Queen of Soul. The real purpose of mourning is not to call attention to oneself. That's counterintuitive for entertainers, as they depend on calling attention to themselves. A funeral is held to call attention to the deceased, and it is Most Unwise to take attention away from the Queen of Soul! In other words, we shouldn't even have to be talking about this because Ms. Grande (or her stylists) should have understood that Mourning is about more than just an Unadorned Black Dress, and being invited to participate in a funeral program - anyone's funeral program - is not about Hogging the Spotlight.
(At the other end of the spectrum is the Hat of Enormous Ruffles worn by Cicely Tyson, which has met with Sometimes Overheated Admiration worldwide. Her milliner must have absorbed the lesson Cecil Beaton wrote about in The Glass of Fashion, which is that Royalty needs to be seen by the public, and that enormous hat brims need to be anchored off the face. Etiquetteer reveres the tradition of the Sunday Best hat kept alive by churchgoing African-American women. But again, this adoration of Ms. Tyson's awe-inspiring hat is taking attention from the deceased.)
Now, whether or not Bishop Charles Ellis would have behaved differently had Ms. Grande worn something More Suitable doesn't matter. Bishop Ellis got called out for two things: touching or grabbing Ms. Grande's breast when he hugged her after her performance, and for trying to make a pun on her name as a menu item at Taco Bell. Ms. Grande's dress is not to blame for Bishop Ellis's behavior; he is. To his credit, the bishop apologized. Etiquetteer, who has had to emcee programs before, has a certain amount of sympathy for the bishop's predicament. As he expressed it "When you're doing a program for nine hours, you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there." But improvisations don't always work. This one did more than just that: it appeared culturally insensitive.
So to bring attention back where it belongs, Etiquetteer is going to leave you with "Eleanor Rigby," because really, when mourning a Great Artist, it is most Perfectly Proper to remember and magnify their Great Works. Rest in peace, Ms. Franklin.
You know, Etiquetteer doesn't just make up these random, silly holidays. There's a whole website of them! Some have True National Importance, others are Frankly Commercial Ploys, but really - everyone needs a bit of silliness, and that includes the world of etiquette. It can't always be about weddings and forks and Lovely Notes . . .
So here we are on August 30, National Toasted Marshmallow Day, appropriate as we consider the Waning Days of Official Summer, a symbolic last chance to toast marshmallows over the candelabra - uh, campfire (glampfire?) - before Labor Day sends us back from the beach, linen, and seersucker, to the office, wingtips, and tropical weight wool.
Just how does one toast a marshmallow with Perfect Propriety? First off, don't let your attention be distracted so much that it catches fire. Aside from charred marshmallow not really being very tasty, it takes attention away from any of the Traditional Ghost Stories being told around the campfire. A well-toasted marshmallow is browned fairly evenly on all sides, which means rotating it slowly over the flame. If you go too quickly it doesn't really get a chance to brown, but if you go too slowly you risk charring. Patience is definitely a factor!
Your marshmallow should be taken from the fire just before it starts to sag on the skewer. A skewer! Etiquetteer has seen wire hangers used in emergency situations, but that's Not Quite Perfectly Proper.
Blow on it to cool it (no sense in scalding your tongue) and consume plainly or as a s'more. If the latter, keep those pinkies in! Be sure to have plenty of paper napkins on hand for sticky fingers.
Now, aside from overdressing being a greater sin than underdressing, have you noticed something Not Quite Perfectly Proper in this picture? It's those outrageously large cuffs! A gentleman's cuffs should barely protrude from his jacket sleeves, certainly not for miles and miles like Etiquetteer's here. Etiquetteer will certainly have to have a stern talk with that valet . . .
And remember, the most Perfectly Proper thing to do when toasting a marshmallow is not starting a wildfire that could consume thousands of acres. Be sure to follow Smokey the Bear's Campfire Rules to ensure a Safe and Perfectly Proper campfire.
Etiquetteer would like to wish you a Perfectly Proper National Bow Tie Day. Celebrate it by wearing an old or new favorite!
Just in case you were wondering, no one owes you a wedding - except possibly your parents. Etiquetteer isn't going to inquire into your private life. But no one owes you a wedding, and you shouldn't expect everyone you've ever met in your entire life to pay for it, and you should certainly not charge a four-figure "entrance fee" to attend your wedding.
Have you seen the story making the rounds, about a bride's internet meltdown while cancelling her wedding only four days away because none of her friends or family would pay $1,500 each (!) to come to her wedding? Etiquetteer even heard two women talking about it on the subway this evening. (Read the Fox News coverage or the Bored Panda article for details.) Etiquetteer isn't entirely sure this isn't a hoax, but it does prompt some commentary about the Gaping Maw of Bridal Need.
First of all, it's never Perfectly Proper to stage a wedding so very out of keeping with one's own social status, precisely because it creates such surreal stress about finances. It's also tacky. Etiquetteer has never seen A Catered Affair, but that's the same situation: a cab driver's family pressures themselves to give their daughter a fancy wedding they can't afford (and which she doesn't really want), sacrificing a business opportunity that could make a profound difference for all of them. In this case, Bridezilla - who was raised on a farm and met her fiancé there well before high school - wanted a dream wedding inspired by the Kardashians (!) and including a honeymoon in Aruba. And now let Etiquetteer say it: America is a land of freedom, but Jackie Kennedy is an inspiration; the Kardashians are an abomination.
Second, what are we really celebrating about a wedding that makes it so particularly about the bride only and what she wants? That a man chose her above all others? No, that's patriarchial. That she "snared," "trapped," or "used her wiles to get" him? Etiquetteer hopes not; that only makes Bridezilla look like an insincere Conniving Temptress*. You see where Etiquetteer is going, yes? There is no reason to focus exclusively on the bride and everything she particularly wants. As has been said before, no one cares about the bride! Let's focus on the Happy Couple as a couple instead, and bypass completely the Gaping Maw of Bridal Need.
Lastly, a wedding is not about a blow-out "once in a lifetime" party; it's about two people committing to each other for life, and the families and friends of this Happy Couple assembling to wish them well - often with a meal, and especially so if you're making people fly in from hither and yon. How many "once in a lifetime" weddings ended in divorce? (If you have that datum, please share.) Much better to simplify arrangements and guest lists rather than generate so much wedding angst that the marriage doesn't have a chance (as in the current case).
This young woman (if this is a true story) has jeopardized her relationships with the love of her life (who is also the father of their child), her family, her best friend, and pretty much everyone she's ever met in her entire life. Was the vision of a Kardashian-inspired wedding worth all that destruction? Bridezilla, beware!
*If Etiquetteer has to hear from one more married woman (or divorcée) that she "earned" her wedding and/or engagement rings . . . once they had a name for women who "earned" their jewels, and it was something no Nice Woman wanted to be called.
The clever insult replaced the gallant compliment.
- Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale, from their excellent Misia: The Life of Misia Sert
Can you explain to me if there's a difference between snark and sarcasm? Maybe I've lived overseas too long and dislike sarcasm as a result, which to me is an excuse to say something nasty to or about someone or something masked as humor, but snark seems to be acceptable by many around me as sharp wit with city edge humor.
Your query had more than a whiff of hair-splitting about it, so Etiquetteer felt the need to define exactly the terms "snark" and “sarcasm” as well as “snide." Amusingly, Dictionary provided only the original definition of “snark:" "a mysterious, imaginary animal." How often we forget that it was the late Lewis Carroll who created this term in his nonsense poem “The Hunting of the Snark!”* Urban Dictionary provides the definition "Combination of “snide" and "remark". Sarcastic comment(s),” and defines snide as "a mean, snobbish, or spiteful remark." So at least according to Urban Dictionary, snark contains sarcasm.
Sarcasm, according to Dictionary, is “harsh or bitter derision or irony” or “a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark.” Urban Dictionary is franker: “The ability to insult idiots without them realizing it.”
So, tossing all these definitions together, Etiquetteer discerns the difference between snark and sarcasm thus. If sarcasm is the ability to insult idiots without them realizing it, snark is the ability to insult others who will realize it and will a) appreciate the effort made and/or b) respond in kind in a perpetual snarkfest, making them a worthy opponent in a battle no one should have to fight.
Long story short, Etiquetteer sees both terms as insults delivered with irony, which often leads them to be mistaken for wit, which is defined as “clever or apt humor.” So Etiquetteer would encourage aspiring snarkers to give up now. Because let's face it, if you're not the late Dorothy Parker, you'll never get it right.
Etiquetteer pines for the days when the well-turned compliment was more common, and more valued, than the snappy comeback. For instance, Etiquetteer was recently asked by an old friend’s new lover what his favorite flower was. Not knowing, Etiquetteer responded “You are always his favorite flower!” We don’t have nearly enough of This Sort of Thing these days.
*Decades later this was surrealistically translated into French by the Last of the Bright Young Things, Nancy Cunard, as “La Chasse au Snark."
Thanks to the Internet, anything can become a holiday. Somehow August 5 has been designated National Underwear Day, and Etiquetteer wants to remind you that, actually, no one needs to know about your underwear.
In an earlier volume, Etiquetteer offered advice on how not to celebrate National Underwear Day. And really, the best way is still just to be sure that no one can see the underwear you are - or are not - wearing.
The necessity for This Sort of Reminder keeps being displayed on the public streets. Just last week Etiquetteer witnessed a Young Woman out and about with friends in the Unforgiving Light of Day. Under her near-transparent sleeveless yellow dress, Etiquetteer could not help but observe that she was wearing mismatched underwear, white underpants and a black bra. That's a big no-no! Ladies, please take care not only to match your undergarments, but obscure them from public view with a Perfectly Proper slip when necessary, such as this one famously modeled by the late Rita Hayworth.
This is a problem for everyone during the summer months, when men and women all drift toward not just the color white, but also light and often gauzy fabrics. This never was a problem in all those Ingmar Bergman films; even though everyone wore white all summer long, they wore multiple Edwardian layers! Not much of a chance to see any Visible Panty Lines through all those petticoats or full-length drawers. These days we can barely manage two total layers of clothes without complaining about the heat. Still, we should at least be able to manage wearing solid white undergarments under gauzy white clothing.
Your own queries about underwear, and other aspects of dressing with Perfect Propriety, are always welcome!
It's too darn hot this summer, and Etiquetteer got so fed up it was time to make a video about how to use your hand fan this summer ('cause you're probably not carrying one . . .):
Etiquetteer is always pleased to hear from readers, and has a couple items to share from the mailbag:
In response to a recent column on Sarah Huckabee Sanders vs. the Red Hen, a Facebook follower commented: "I'm curious how Etiquetteer would have counseled Ms. Huckabee Sanders in light of the widespread social media attention engendered by the restaurant staff posting about the incident. Does Perfect Propriety require one to stay silent in the face of Social Obloquy, or may one offer, as Ms. Huckabee Sanders did, one's own, respectful (in the opinion of this Humble Commenter), take on one's experience?"
And Etiquetteer replies: Dignified Silence is always preferable, but even Etiquetteer understands how difficult that can be to maintain in the face of worldwide Twitter-shaming. Ms. Huckabee Sanders' tweet, for the record, said: "Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for POTUS and I politely left. Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so." Ms. Huckabee Sanders could have omitted that comment about the behavior of the restaurant owner and focused instead on the good behavior of herself and her party in leaving the restaurant without making a scene. Otherwise, Etiquetteer does have to give Ms. Huckabee Sanders credit for bringing less heat to the discussion of this topic than her boss.
Thank you also for your use of "obloquy." Etiquetteer is fond of quoting the late Mame Dennis Burnside, who memorably said "An extensive vocabulary is the hallmark of every truly intellectual person."
Another reader responded to Etiquetteer's column on how Wimbledon is using honorifics for married ladies competing in its tournament: "Thank you for another very well written article! I remember when I married my husband back in 1989, when I was young, I decided not to take my husband's last name. He had even thoughtfully asked me first what I would prefer to do. Having recently graduated from college, I decided to keep my maiden name. We didn’t really discuss it again for almost ten years when our son was about to be born. How was his name to end? I helped us decide this by giving my maiden name as a second middle name. My husband's last name is the name passed down to our son. This has proven to work for all three of us."
And Etiquetteer replies: Thank you very much for sharing your family's choices. The use of family names as middle names is not unknown - indeed, the New York families of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence seem only to have family names! Your solution seems a particularly elegant one, since it doesn't involve you assuming a hyphenated name at marriage and then changing it later once the children are born (as has happened).
While there is greater acceptance today of brides retaining their maiden names after marriage, Etiquetteer hears tell that those who have the most trouble with this practice are the mothers of the groom . . . readers, is this what you've witnessed?
The movies are a far from reliable guide to How We Once Behaved, but sometimes they offer an interesting time capsule of the Perfect Propriety of the Past. So Etiquetteer became enchanted with a B movie from the annus mirabilis of 1939 produced by MGM, These Glamour Girls. Here's the original trailer:
Based on Jane Hall's stories published in Cosmopolitan magazine, today These Glamour Girls gives us a look at what Prom Weekend used to be like - the Perfect Propriety of an era when marriage was the only Perfectly Proper career for a woman.
Once upon a time, for a weekend dance or a big occasion like Homecoming or the Junior Prom, a college man invited his best girl up to his college for the weekend. If he didn't have a best girl, he invited any girl, or got a friend to fix him up with a good friend of his best girl, or went single, or "stag," to the dances. (This is where the expression "stag line" comes from.) There would be cocktail parties, formal dinners and dances, and some sort of athletic competition.
So, what does Etiquetteer miss about those Long Gone Days? Coats and ties for everyday wear. Porkpie hats. Engraved invitations with dress codes that didn't need to be deciphered - and which everyone obeyed. Dormitories with servants. People playing the piano at their own parties. Dance music you could talk over. Conga lines when dancers actually danced the conga and didn't just shuffle forward. Well-cut black satin.
Etiquetteer does not miss institutionalized sexism, classism, smoking at meals, and fruit cup as an appetizer.
Here's our story: all-male Kingsford College is about to host its annual House Parties weekend, when each student residence hosts a formal dinner and a dance "from Friday until wrecked." No expense is spared and there are heart burnings among the New York debutantes who covet invitations. (Because a girl just couldn't show up without a date.) Ann (Mary Beth Hughes) has been invited by Greg (Owen Davis, Jr.), who isn't acceptable to her mother; he's not in the Social Register. Daphne (the delicious Anita Louise) is eager to broadcast that three different beaux have sent her "bids;" Daphne is very much the "mean girl" of our story. Carol (Jane Bryan) is routinely invited by Phil (Lew Ayres). It's assumed they'll eventually marry, even though Carol's family has lost their money and Phil's father is one of the most successful Wall Street titans. Petulant Mary Rose (Ann Rutherford, taking a break from the Civil War picture that came out that year) is frantic that Homer (Tom Browne) hasn't sent an invitation, and plans to escape social humiliation by heading to Bermuda.
Class conflict comes into the picture with Joe (Richard Carlson), who's working his way through Kingsford as a houseboy for several of the characters - and who's burning a torch for Carol. Then there's Jane (Lana Turner, in her first starring role), a taxi dancer who took Phil's drunken invitation at the Joy Lane Dance Hall to "come up for the weekend" seriously. How the debutantes treat her - and how she eventually bests them - is the central story line.
But just as central is the story of Betty (Marsha Hunt), "the last of the too too too diviners," just enough older than the other girls to have a reputation for being older than the other girls, a "prom trotter," and not yet married. "Why, she must be twenty-three at least!" "My dears, a hag!" Her "technique" is outdated - "Poor Betty! She doesn't know that sincerity is back" - and the hard bright veneer of her gaiety turns off everyone, including the men. In a little pamphlet called "Private Lines and Party Conversation" from Elizabeth Woodward, the "sub-deb editor" of Ladies' Home Journal, young girls were taught: "If you go in for sophistication, you will appeal to a smaller but more interesting group of men. But ultra-sophistication is out! A little dewy freshness and appealing ingenuousness will get you farther." Betty obviously missed the memo.
Nowadays, the College Kids don't feel bound to attend big dances or formal events in pairs, and men and women go stag or in groups as they choose. And why not?
The lessons begins almost immediately. A gentleman meets his lady at the train station and has arranged for her accommodation. We see the debutantes six to a dorm room sleeping on camp beds, and not minding it, their long gowns hung on the walls. Would this even be possible today? Gentlemen rise from their seats when a lady joins their table. And everyone comes to the table already knowing what knife goes with what fork. (Daphne, unfortunately, uses bad table manners by planting her knives in Jane's back . . . )
And dear to Etiquetteer's heart, if the invitation is formal, one dresses formally or does not attend. The Kingsford "Glamour Boys" are resplendent in white tie (imagine a college boy in white tie today!), and the girls in a variety of ballgowns that didn't compromise their décolletage. Joe shows up in a tuxedo, which emphasizes that he's doing the best he can working his way through college. But he doesn't show up in a dark blue suit.
One thing These Glamour Girls gets wrong is gloves. At a ball everyone wore gloves, especially the men. With one hand on his dance partner's back, it might leave the mark of perspiration! In an emergency a handkerchief could be used, but gloves were essential equipment. And not one of these college kids is wearing gloves at any of the House Parties. Tsk tsk tsk.
With marriage the only possible career option Back in the Day, and higher education considered "mannish" and inappropriate, it meant women had to be awfully nice to a whole lot of Dudes Who Were Duds. Etiquetteer winced to hear Jane say to Phil, "But no girl can figure out things like . . . like a man!" Thank goodness women no longer have to appear less than men!
And thank goodness a woman no longer has to accept attentions from all men, something unthinkable now with the #MeToo Movement. Etiquetteer refers to the custom of "cutting in," which left women at a disadvantage. Back when everyone actually held each other while they danced, a man could tap another man on the shoulder and he'd have to surrender his dancing partner - "cut in" on their dance. Homer calls "Tap tap, old boy!" to Skel, and Skel dutifuly yields his partner, Daphne, up to Tom. And no matter what she might really think of him, Daphne's "Oh, aren't you wonderful?!" expression clearly keeps the boys coming.
But there were several rules for cutting in, put forward even by Emily Post Herself. A gentleman didn't keep cutting in on the same gentleman all night long. A gentleman couldn't cut back to his original dancing partner until she'd danced with at least two other gentlemen. But Mrs. Post made it clear that cutting was an American custom that was thought rude elsewhere. "This seemingly far from polite maneuver, is considered correct behavior in best society in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Chicago, San Francisco, and therefore most likely in all parts of America. (Not in London, nor on the Continent.)"* But a girl could not refuse to dance with anyone. According to Mrs. Post, this led some girls to dance with their eyes closed as a defense mechanism. Continuing to cut in on the same girl all night was called "giving her the rush."
Al Jolson comments on a variation on the theme of cutting in here:
Nowadays, people just get on a dance floor and move as the music moves them. But back then you had to know how to dance. All the etiquette writers of the period emphasized that a ballroom was no place for dancing lessons. When a rhumba begins, Joe says to Carol "I haven't learned to rhumba yet!" That's her cue to take his arm so they can leave the floor. But Jane is ready with all the moves when Skel cuts in and tells her "You're now dancing with one of the ten ranking dancers of the civilized world, including Omaha." And do they cut a rug!
Of course a gentleman does not make a lady conspicuous, even with an exhibition dance, but as it happens this is necessary for the plot to proceed. Daphne publicly calls out Jane as a taxi dancer (scandalous!). But her plan backfires as Jane becomes the belle of the ball!
Then as now, it's not Perfectly Proper to make a scene. And the Perfect Propriety award in this story gets handed to Jane Bryan's Carol, who handles the news that Phil really invited Jane with impressive aplomb. "Everyone knows the Griswolds aren't in the run of average men," she says - and then enlists Joe for a dance to get away. Could her heart belong elsewhere?
How does this end? Some predictable romantic pairings get paired. Mary Rose's "inspiration girl" technique fails to keep Homer ("What do you think I am, a fugitive from a day nursery?") And Homer behaves like a cad to Betty ("That's why I like older women!"). After their abortive visit to a marriage parlor, Betty heads down a shame spiral to a smashing denouement. Etiquetteer really wishes that Mean Girl Daphne had learned a lesson, but in spite of misleading three men, publicly trying to demean Jane more than once, and purposely giving Mary Rose bad advice on How to Keep Her Man, she gets off scot free.
Etiquetteer, with special thanks to the Hunter family for introducing this "exposé of the upper crust," hopes you'll search this film out and enjoy it.
Devotees of another great film of 1939, The Women, will recognize Dennie Moore, Jane's dance hall gal pal Mavis (incorrectly pronounced MAH-vis), as Olga the manicurist, as well as some dance tunes from the Casino Roof used at the Joy Lane.
*Etiquette, by Emily Post, 1922 edition, page 269.
Since Etiquetteer couldn't possible be considered one of Those Sporty Types, it takes a matter of manners to draw Etiquetteer's attention to the athletic arena. So how convenient, now that Wimbledon is well and truly launched for the season, for The New York Times to run a piece about how the All England Club uses honorifics for married female competitors. Forms of address are most decidedly a matter of manners!
The Club continues to use what Etiquetteer calls the Pre-Ms. Practice of referring to married ladies as Mrs. Husband's Name. This hearkens back to the era when ladies had no choice in what they were called. Once a lady married, she took her husband's name, and that was that. Then came the 1970s, and not only did Gloria Steinem give the world the new honorific Ms., but more and more ladies decided to retain their own names after marriage. Now, almost 50 years later, ladies most definitely have a choice in how they are addressed, and Etiquetteer thinks those choices should be honored. All England Club . . . get with it! Protocol author Robert Hickey best explains the current state of feminine honorifics on his Honor & Respect website.
The situation at the Club is made a shade more complicated by the fact that, although it is a private club for members (and can therefore establish its own rules), it's hosting an event with unrelenting television coverage and everyone competing in it is already a worldwide celebrity. Very, very few people are going to recognize that "Mrs. L.W. King" is really Billie Jean King, for instance. Expecting the rest of the world to understand a private club's rules is not, perhaps, very realistic.
All that said, Etiquetteer must betray some impatience with Serena Williams, who has said she is "still figuring out how she wants to be addressed." Good gracious, that is something that should have been "figured out" before the wedding took place to prevent just this sort of confusion! Having expressed that Fit of Pique, Etiquetteer recalls that this Change of Status does present unique challenges for Prominent Women. The great Letitia Baldrige Herself, after her marriage to Bob Hollensteiner, went through a brief period of being known professionally as Letitia Hollensteiner. But then several people begged her to go back to her maiden name in professional life. Not only was that how everyone knew her, "Letitia Hollensteiner" was a real mouthful to get out over the phone!*
So ladies must be addressed as they wish to be, but Etiquetteer draws the line at Royalty. "Her Royal Highness, Megan Markle" is not Perfectly Proper. She is now properly addressed as Her Royal Highness Princess Henry of Wales, Duchess of Sussex.**
*This charming story from Baldrige's wonderful memoir A Lady, First, page 222.
** Etiquetteer absolutely expects to hear from a few Devoted Royal Watchers who will take issue with this one way or another.
The week concludes with another "etiquette in the news" kerfuffle about a political figure. In brief, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press secretary of the President of the United States, was asked to leave a restaurant called the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, because of her position in the Trump Administration. She was asked to leave by the owner of the restaurant, Stephanie Wilkinson, after Ms. Wilkinson had consulted with her staff. The first course had already been served. Ms. Wilkinson didn't ask Ms. Huckabee Sanders to leave in front of her party, but spoke with her on the restaurant's patio where they could be private. The check was comped by Ms. Wilkinson when the party left.
Unsurprisingly, people have opinions about this - just like they did about Melania Trump's jacket a few days ago - and Etiquetteer has an opinion, too. This could have been handled differently. It would have been less controversial if Ms. Wilkinson had waited until the end of the meal and then spoken quietly to let Ms. Huckabee Sanders know that she would not be welcome to return in the future. And if everyone had kept from posting to social media about it.
This Uncomfortable Situation made Etiquetteer recall two previous incidents. The more recent was Ruth Madoff's dismissal from her expensive Manhattan hair salon Pierre Michel after her notorious husband Bernie's exposure as a financial fraud. This Uncomfortable Situation was handled with Perfect Propriety under the circumstances; when Mrs. Madoff called to schedule her next appointment, "she was told not to return." This solution wasn't possible in the case of the Red Hen dinner; the reservation had not been made in Ms. Huckabee Sanders' name.
The other incident is much more relevant, and might make you retch. One summer Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt had the German Ambassador Count Bernsdorff to stay at the Breakers in Newport. And that would have been just dandy except that it was the summer of 1914, and World War I was declared while he was there. Oops. Invitations to a dinner in August had already been sent out, and when Count Bernsdorff just would not leave anyway to go see about the war, Mrs. Vanderbilt felt she must go ahead with the dinner. She knew her guests would behave like ladies and gentlemen (this didn't stop her from making a few calls to emphasize No War Talk at the table) . . . "But she had forgotten to make allowance for the patriotic feeling of her servants, and as luck would have it her entire kitchen staff was composed of English, French, and Belgians."* Oops!
The night of the dinner came, and everyone including Count Bernsdorff talked (perhaps rather ostentatiously) about everything under the sun but the war. The soup was served . . . but nothing else. Mrs. Vanderbilt actually had to ring her little bell . . . and still nothing happened. At last, a Swiss maid in tears brought Mrs. Vanderbilt a note, which read:
"We the undersigned regret to inform you, Madam, that we cannot any longer serve the enemy in our respective countries. We have thrown the rest of the dinner into the dustbin and we have all left your service. There is nothing else to eat in the house. We hope you all enjoyed the soup, for we took good care to spit well into it, every one of us, before it went to the table . . . "
"It was signed by the entire kitchen staff." Etiquetteer wants to note that the staff of the Red Hen did not display such behavior - and also that Ms. Wilkinson consulted them before taking action.
"Well, that's all well and good, Etiquetteer," you might be saying. "And thanks for the history lesson. But where does that leave us now?" First off, Etiquetteer wants to observe that a need for vengeance is being expressed in American life, much more so than before, and on both sides of the divide. Many on each side want not only for the other side to lose, but to be humiliated. Etiquetteer deplores this trend. Etiquetteer does not agree with those who argue that calls for decorum are delusional and only benefit the empowered.
Etiquetteer would much rather see everyone embrace, and want to embrace, the best of American behavior in spite of the towering differences on both sides. In other words, we need not to follow the example set by President Trump. His inflammatory words and cruel nicknames, not to mention his casual relationship with the truth, are already too well known. The use of profane words and hashtags to criticize the President and members of his administration and family do not help. Being photographed shooting the bird (under any circumstances) doesn't help. (Really, the most Perfectly Proper gesture to make would be to turn one's back.) It feels good to make those gestures, cathartic - but it doesn't help.
In this latest kerfuffle, many have already turned to the Suprene Court's Masterpiece Cakeshop decision to say that Ms. Wilkinson was wrong. Etiquetteer doesn't see these as simliar cases at all. The baker was ready to decline serving an entire class of people. Ms. Wilkinson was evicting just one person, and for the sole reason of the position she holds in the government. " . . . it was important to her that Sanders was a public official, not just a customer with whom she disagreed, many of whom were included in her regular clientele." The restaurateur made clear that the rest of the party was welcome to stay. They did the Perfectly Proper thing, though, by departing with Ms. Huckabee Sanders.
Etiquetteer understands why this happened, and wishes it had happened differently. For instance, Etiquetteer very much wishes the matter had stayed in the restaurant and not been publicized on social media by the restaurant staff and by Ms. Huckabee Sanders. It is quite obviously distracting us from more important matters! So many people who are cheering this move now may think about it differently when one of their own idols is treated in the same way on another occasion. Let's hope we don't see a rash of copycat incidents.
In the meantime, Etiquetteer will be dining at home for awhile.
*From Elizabeth Drexel Lehr's memoir King Lehr. Read Etiquetteer's review here.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
You know, Etiquetteer was not always so Perfectly Proper. Once during the Rebellious Teenage Years, Teen Etiquetteer wore a button with a Profane Suggestion on it while out in public. Teenagers are always eager to test the limits of adults, yes? Well, Etiquetteer will never forget getting called out by a teller in a crowded bank. "Take that button off!" she almost shouted in the bank. "Take it off!" And Teen Etiquetteer, abashed, did exactly that. The lesson of how what we wear impacts those around us was learned.
And now, only hours ago, the First Lady of the Land appears after visiting a detention center for immigrant children separated from the parents wearing a jacket with the legend "I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?" spray-painted on the back. Slack-jawed, Etiquetteer was astonished to discover that this wasn't some hacked photo; she really wore this. And you know that the first thing Etiquetteer thought of was wearing that provocative button and getting called out for it.
Now Etiquetteer is not one of Those People who think Melania Trump is some Dumb Cluck. She is a smart and savvy woman and, if she knows anything about anything, as a former model she knows about clothes and the impact they make. We've already seen in her Inauguration Day ensemble her awareness of the fashion legacy of Jackie Kennedy. And as the New York Times said, "She rarely makes an accidental fashion choice." She chose that jacket deliberately.
Let's not ask the question "Was it the right choice?" The real question is "Was it the Perfectly Proper choice?" The answer is a resounding NO. Etiquetteer cannot know whether it was chosen to punk the press, to garner television ratings, to rally President Trump's base, or to express genuine contempt for those detained by the government. Regardless, whether she intended it or not, Mrs. Trump has now negated the value of her visit to the detention center and identifed herself as Insincere. And that is a very difficult thing to live down, especially on the world stage as she is. The statement of her press spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham that "It's a jacket" is laughably disingenuous.
Now comes the question for the wider world: is a jacket with a message like that really Perfectly Proper for anyone to wear, in any circumstances? For Etiquetteer, the answer is again a resounding NO. No matter what the occasion, clothing advertising one's disinterest - disrespect, even - isn't appropriate. Zara has been selling this jacket since 2016. How many people now still have this jacket in their closets, and what are they going to do with them? Continuing to wear them in public will make more of a statement than they want! And indeed, the backlash is already beginning, as altered images of jackets with other messages are already circling the globe.
Proper dress conveys to the world not only our opinion of ourselves, but our opinion of those around us. Choose what you wear to convey respect for all around you.
I had an idea for a blog post that I figure I would share. I'm currently in the market for new stationery. An article explaining the different types of stationery and their usage would be excellent! Perhaps recommendations for a 'starter' set of stationery. If not too much trouble, the inclusion of a few recommendations for where one could purchase his/her stationery. Thank you.
Your query is so refreshing for Etiquetteer, who continues to pine for the days when handwritten correspondence was the norm. Crane, of course, remains the top American stationer, and you'll find their guide to the different sizes of letter paper most helpful. You'll find even more information than you thought possible about North American paper and envelope sizes here.
Business stationery is 8.5 x 11 inches and fits into a #10 envelope. Monarch size is smaller, and for more informal personal correspondence. Monarch size folded in half is what we now think of as note cards, and Crane's offers an excellent selection. Foldovers are notecards engraved with your name or monogram. Then there are informals, flat cards 4 1/4 x 6 3/8, which can be used for all sorts of brief social correspondence just as note cards are.
Now let's talk about some dos and don'ts for Perfectly Proper stationery:
Obviously pale colors are best for stationery because it's easier to read dark letters on pale paper. (One occasionally sees black paper with white or metallic ink; please don't - not even for a novelty.) White, cream, and ecru are the most Perfectly Proper choices; you're walking right up to the border if you choose pale blue or pale gray, and pale pink is simply not an option unless you are a girl under the age of 16. (Etiquetteer has had to restrain That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much more than you can imagine to keep from getting bright orange stationery. Every day is not Hallowe'en.) Please note that this refers to the color of the writing paper, not the color of the paper lining the envelopes. Envelopes for note cards and informals are often lined with colored paper, sometimes with fanciful patterns. Remember, simplest is best.
All that said, the environmentally conscious miss Crane's Old Money stationery, a beautiful smooth green paper made from recycled American currency. It's also worth noting that red is a tricky color for envelopes that might be run through a postage meter (obviously not for social correspondence!); the red ink simply disappears.
For engraving, simplicity is best. One school of thought says that one's name should be spelled completely (Chauncey Percival Pauncyfoot, for instance), another that middle names may be abbreviated (Chauncey P. Pauncyfoot). Honorifics should not be used for personal stationery.* Once upon a time it was not considered Perfectly Proper to include the ZIP code, but even Etiquetteer realizes how impractical that is; include it! The font you choose should be severely simple and easily legible. Etiquetteer admits a strong preference for Caslon Open Face, but certainly Times Roman gets a heavy play. Devotees of sans serif fonts might want to stick with the classic Helvetica. And for those who might get all Uppity about being able to express their individuality and that they should be able to do whatever they want: good Heavens, your name will be on it! What could be more individual than that?
As you review different stationery websites and shop at various stationers, you'll notice a lot of note cards with the words "Thank You" on them. Technically this is not Perfectly Proper, the idea being that no one should be so lazy that they cannot write those Two Important Words by hand in a Lovely Note. Etiquetteer tends not to use thank-you cards, but there are also Those People who (wrongly) believe that they aren't properly thanked if the card doesn't have those Two Important Words engraved on it. Etiquetteer thinks that's petty; with the current state of handwritten correspondence, gratitude for any Lovely Note is most Perfectly Proper.
Then there are special Life Events. Mourning is probably the Life Event which has the most requirements for handwritten correspondence, and Etiquetteer has already written about it. Birthdays, on the other hand, are almost always expected to include a novelty birthday card (usually humorous) from one of the big greeting card companies and not on engraved stationery. Etiquetteer likes to shop for birthday and other greeting cards when traveling.
So, what does Etiquetteer recommend as a Perfectly Proper stationery wardrobe? Here are some suggestions; choose a quantity based on your anticipated usage.
- Business size, with matching #10 envelopes (for your most professional/serious letters).
- Monarch OR foldover note cards OR informals (based on your personal preference, for all informal correspondence).
- Novelty birthday cards.
Etiquetteer wishes you joy in your handwritten correspondence, and many handwritten replies.
*Perhaps you have noticed, as Etiquetteer has, a distressing trend of omitting honorifics altogether when addressing correspondence. Etiquetteer blames the casual nature of email and doesn't approve at all.
At times Etiquetteer has to wonder if people are actually behaving worse than they used to, or if the press is just writing about it more. Recent news stories of Absolutely Appalling Behavior have been more than distressing to Etiquetteer.
First, we have the case of a white man asking a black woman if her daughter showered before swimming in a hotel swimming pool. This is wrong on so many levels it makes the head spin. First, and most obvious, it's bald racism. Second, it's rude to comment publicly on the manners of total strangers. The excuse that he "was perfectly within his rights to ask such an intrusive question" is no excuse. We have the right to do many things that we should not do, and this is so very clearly one of them. If this man really did have concerns about the hygiene of a fellow hotel guest, he should have directed them to a hotel staff member. But the fact of the matter is, if he was really that concerned about hotel pool hygiene ("Google it"), he should have reconciled himself to going without a swim.
Next is the mysterious resignation of Harvard Pilgrim CEO Eric Schultz for "behavior that was inconsistent with my personal core values and and the company's core values and code of conduct." The mere phrasing of this statement, as well as the absence of any specific follow-up in the press, indicates that some Very Powerful People are trying to spare a scandal, and perhaps Mr. Schultz's reputation, as much as possible. Now everybody can have an off day every once in a while, but that usually doesn't lead to resigning from a high-profile position after a three-week investigation. And while humiliation should never be the goal of a public announcement, honesty should be. As distressing as this no doubt is, Etiquetteer hopes that more information will be forthcoming, if only to cease a lot of Unseemly Speculation.
Then there's the spectacular fall from grace about three weeks ago of Roseanne Barr after an especially racist tweet. (Etiquetteer is a bit late to the ball on this, as the rest of the world has already stopped talking about it. Sic transit gloria Dei nuntium.) This experience should prove to a whole lot of people, regardless of their views, that sharing every Random Thought in Your Head as it appears is not a very good idea. Let that thought marinate for a bit before firing into the Internet; you might feel differently about it in an hour. We must always remember President Lincoln's good advice to write the angry response to the letter - and then not send it.
Of course Etiquetteer never understood how Roseanne Barr could ever be considered seriously after her unpatriotic rendition of the National Anthem in 1990:
And since it's Father's Day, let Etiquetteer conclude with the words of his own Dear Father: "We must concentrate on lovely, pure, and virtuous things."
Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the summer season! The time when traditionalists untree and brush up their white shoes, when mixologists turn back to the lighter, fresher palette of flavors around gin and citrus, and when biblliophilc beachgoers prepare their reading lists for the 15 Weekends of Summer (including this weekend and Labor Day weekend). Etiquetteer has 12 books, both old and new, to suggest for a summer of Perfect Propriety . . . or not. Some of them will clearly need more than one beach day to get through.
What makes good summer reading? Well, it should be absorbing, but it shouldn't be too taxing. Anything that lines the brow should be off the list, so anything political is strictly Off the List. And it shouldn't be too acid, which will curdle the lips. So that leaves out Dorothy Parker and Saki. Some spice and scandal, while Not Perfectly Proper, bring a welcome flush to one's cheeks under that traditional coat of tan. The Thorn Birds, of course, remains the pinnacle of a summer novel bestseller; no summer home should be complete without a paperback copy.
So, in random order, Etiquetteer's somewhat Anglophilic picks for Summer Reading in 2018:
Citizen Kane: A Filmmaker's Journey, by Harlan Lebo (2016). While this film has consistently remained in the Forever Top Ten of Films, Etiquetteer hasn't been a student of it, or of the brilliant Orson Welles. Lebo paints a sweeping but detailed picture of the oscillating fortunes of Welles and the frantic excitement of experimenting with film in the Golden Age of Hollywood studio system. From the alcoholism of Herman Mankiewicz to the incomparable collaboration between Welles and cinematographer Gregg Toland to the fury of William Randolph Hearst, this has it all.
Wait for Me!: Memoirs, by Deboraph Mitford, Duchess of Devonshire (2010). Youngest of a family of talented and controversial children, Debo Mitford went on to marry the second son of the Duke of Devonshire; they became Duke and Duchess themselves after the death of his older brother in World War II and his father. She made Chatsworth, the family seat, one of the greatest house museums in Britain and along the way mingled with friends and family either distinguished or talented or just plain wealthy (often all three): Somerset Maugham, Cecil Beaton, Harold MacMillan, the royal family, Kick Kennedy and her family, and many others. Etiquetteer is particularly fond of her account of her debutante season of 1938. Her love of farmyard fowl and Elvis Presley have their place in her memoir, too.
The Riviera Set: Glitz, Glamour, and the Hidden World of High Society, by Mary S. Lovell (2017). Focusing on the history of one house, the Chateau de l'Horizon, Lovell recounts the development of the Riviera as a playground for People With Money. Its first era was defined by a then-retired theatre star, Maxine Elliott, who became hostess to Society in the south of France, especially Winston Churchill. Social drama rears its head with any arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor; will the ladies curtsy, as the Duke wishes, or not, since her true title doesn't require it? This period also included the likes of inveterate partygivers Noel Coward and Elsa Maxwell. After an intermission caused by World War II, the English disappear and Hollywood takes over as Aly Khan acquires the chateau after Elliott's death - and marries Rita Hayworth there.
The Outer Beach: A Thousand-Mile Walk on Cape Cod's Atlantic Shore, by Robert Finch (2017). A worthy counterpart to Henry Beston's iconic The Outermost House, Finch's essays, arranged in geographical order from south to north, span over 50 years of the changing shapes, lights, and lives of the Outer Beach. An essential book for anyone who loves the beach in general, and Cape Cod in particular.
The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld, by Christine Wiltz (2000). Norma Wallace ran a House of Ill Fame for 40 years in the French Quarter without getting busted by the cops. A powerful and attractive woman, she enjoyed younger men - and married one after her career ended with a dramatic raid and a six-month stint in prison. The end of her life will surprise you. The Last Madam is also a piquant portrait of the Crescent City in mid-century, when the French Quarter transformed from the Greenwich Village of the South to a neighborhood of glamorous supper clubs, to decline, to tourist mecca.
A Venetian Affair, by Andrea di Robilant (2003). Illicit passion, class differences, coded letters, unwanted pregnancy - these are all elements of the Heaving Alabaster Bosom school of romantic fiction. A Venetian Affair has the advantage of being a true story concerning di Robilant's ancestor Andrea Memmo's romance with Giustiniana Wynne, set against the perpetually decaying glory of 18th-century Venice. Also starring Casanova (seriously), who was brought in to help end the unwanted pregnancy.
Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, the Chef & the Rise of the Leisure Class, by Luke Barr (2018). Barr recreates the excitement of a thousand parties in his account of how the union of César Ritz and August Escoffier made the Savoy in London the first truly luxury hotel in Europe. Who knew that Richard D'Oyley Carte of Gilbert and Sullivan fame was really the owner of the hotel?! Along for the ride: royalty (led by Edward VII when Prince of Wales - "Where Ritz goes, I go!"), the beau monde and Sarah Bernhardt, who said that Escoffier made the best scrambled eggs anywhere. (Did they have a romance while they were both living in London?) D'Oyley Carte's dismissal of this Dream Team in a financial scandal resulted in the Ritz Hotel in Paris, and then a chain of Ritz-affiliated hotels, and then the Carlton Hotel, scene of Ritz's nervous breakdown.
Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane: A True Story of Victorian Law and Disorder, by Paul Thomas Murphy (2016). No summer reading list is complete without a bit of murder. "The Unsolved Murder That Shocked Victorian England" says the cover of this riveting account of the murder of a servant girl found to be with child. The arrest and trial of the son of her employers shocked and rocked England, but of course did not lead to improved conditions for the servant class. Murphy makes a strong case for the true identity of the murderer. It's not easy to put this book down.
The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, by Nancy MItford (1945/1949). Debo Mitford's oldest sister Nancy fictionalized their family life to put all the quirky eccentricity of country life in the 1930s into these two novels. Narrated by their plain cousin Hon. Fanny Logan, we see the outrageous antics of close-minded Uncle Matthew, the vagueness of Aunt Sadie, and especially the singleminded focus on love of their favorite daughter Linda. Love in a Cold Climate continues these adventures with the addition of the Montdores, whose astonishingly beautiful daughter Polly decides to marry her uncle after the death of her aunt. Amusing and poignant by turns, these novels stuffed with character and characters, succeed in charming.
The Flower Girls, by Clemence Dane (1954). Almost two inches thick (think Gone With the Wind), Clemence Dane's novel of post-WWII London concerns twentysomething Jacy Florister, former child star of Hollywood, visiting his late father's family in London for the first time ever, after the recent death of his mother. It just so happens that his father's family is also the First Family of the British Theatre, the Floristers. Headquartered in a dusky and dusty Covent Garden block, Jacy's aunts, uncles, and cousins fill almost every role in the performing arts - and almost all his cousins seem to be having relationships with each other. Indeed, Jacy falls under the spell of his fascinating cousin Olive, the leading lady of the new generation - but what's really going on in her little bead shop on the street level? Etiquetteer's favorite character is Jacy's Uncle Paxton, the de facto head of the family and manager of the theatre, who spouts off things like "I do not pretend to understand why tiaras should make so much difference to my enjoyment of the evening, but they did. Certain objects are romantic on their own account." The story takes its own time to unfold, but for those who love the English language and Perfect Propriety, it's a gentle pleasure to be savored.
Elegance, by Kathleen Tessaro (2003). Decidedly what is called "chick lit," Etiquetteer just adores this story of Louise Canova, an American in London who turns her life around using a beauty guide found in a used bookstore, Elegance by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux (which is a real book). From an overweight former actress in an unhappy marriage with a wardrobe of comfortable thrift store rags, Louise takes action to make changes, often with hilarious, heartbreaking results. (The bit with the spray-on tan, and her unfortunately sluttish wardrobe choice for a dinner at the Ritz must be read to be believed.) The ultimate message of the book: "Never be seduced by anything that isn't first-rate." And that's mighty Perfectly Proper advice, too.
And the best for last . . .
Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susann (1966). Before The Thorn Birds there was Valley of the Dolls. Nothing but booze, sex, and dope as we follow the stories of three young women in New York out to make their futures: beautiful Brahmin Anne Welles (is she frigid?), statuesque chorus girl Jennifer North (why is her ugly sister-in-law so protective of her husband?), and fiery, phenomenally talented Neely O'Hara (who first gave her those pep pills?). The iconic film makes the entire story seem as though it's set in the Swinging Sixties, but the novel truly gives the reader a sense of the passage of time, from V-E Day in 1945 to 1970. And what they had to leave out of the movie to get it made! Jennifer North's relationship with a senator, for one, and other things it would be Far from Perfectly Proper to mention.
I was dismayed recently attending a show at the [Insert Name of Large Boston-area Theatre Here]. I had not been in some time and two things struck me. First, so many people arriving late, being let in after the first song, looking for their seats in the dark, climbing over people to get to their seats. Just be on time. Very distracting. I've never seen so many tardy people.
Second, while it's an interesting concept to offer beer and wine for sale in the lobby, I found it so odd for people to be walking into the performance hall with cans of beer (and glasses of wine). Someone's empty beer can fell to the floor during the performance. There were cup holders! (and I kept hitting my knee on it). I love wine but can't people just take a break from consuming long enough to watch a show!? What do you think of this?
Food, Entertainment, and Bad Manners have gone together "since Thespis first stepped in front of the chorus," to quote the late Addison DeWitt. One has only to think of the orange wenches of the Restoration theatres, ahem proffering their wares, and of Marguerite Gautier with her bag of raisins glacés perched on the rim of her box with her bouquet of camellias and her opera glasses. And haven't theatres always had bars and/or refreshment rooms? Heaven knows they used to have smoking rooms.
Somewhere along the line - Etiquetteer cannot be sure when, but the rise of the widescreen television is likely involved - theatre owners started relaxing the rules in order to keep business from falling further. This is manageable whlie people can manage to enjoy their refreshments without inconveniencing others and carrying out their plastic cups and other detritus when they leave. But when they cannot manage, the entire practice comes into question. Etiquetteer will not forget the story told by a friend in Manhattan of a man in a cinema who spilled a cardboard tray of gooey, cheesy nachos in the aisle.
And of course Etiquetteer has been Wagging an Admonitory Digit these two weeks at That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much, who knew better than to order a manhattan in a Perfectly Proper glass at the theatre! One third of it sloshed all over the floor, and even if he did mop it up with his handkerchief, he shouldn't have brought it to his seat, and he knew that.
As to arriving late, indeed, it's getting worse and worse. Etiquetteer deplores late arrivals; they truly inconvenience everyone else. Many orchestras and other performing arts organizations will accommodate late arrivals at a given pause early in the program. Others follow the practice you witnessed, when late arrivals are accommodated at a given point without a pause. Etiquetteer has a shade more sympathy than hitherto with latecomers, because of traffic. Traffic has always been bad, but it's reaching a state of Perpetual Gridlock. And if even Etiquetteer, who doesn't have to drive in traffic, notices this, it must be bad!
Now, all that said, Boston is much more tolerant of latecomers than New York is. but then, New York was laid out in a grid, and Boston was laid out by cow paths, so there you are. Etiquetteer will look forward to toasting the Moral Rectitude of Early Arrivals with you in a theatre bar, and then not carrying glasses back into the theatre.
Why yes, Etiquetteer did get up before dawn to attend an informal viewing party for the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, complete with coffee, scones, and Festive Gentlemen in fascinators. Now styled the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the bride and groom enjoyed flawless weather and a rapturous ovation from the commoners. Just like all the other billions of viewers, Etiquetteer has opinions:
While lots of people are going on about Audrey Hepburn and Givenchy (since the gown's designer is the new head of Givenchy), Etiquetteer got much more of a whiff of imperial Russian court dress (that oval neckline, straight skirt, and looooong train) stripped and streamlined by Balenciaga. Meghan approached the altar with no beading, no trim, no fringe, no braid, no flounces, no ruffles, no lace, and no problems. It was perhaps the most awe-inspiring exercise in pure form ever to walk down an aisle, and Etiquetteer hopes more brides will abandon ill-chosen strapless gowns for this style.
The veil, of course, was equally magnificent with its restrained embroidery of the 53 flowers symbolizing the 53 nations of the Commonwealth. That said, Etiquetteer feared for its integrity as the bride rounded a few corners. Where were the bridesmaids or other attendants to steer that thing?
The one thing - the one thing in an otherwise perfect day - was the bride's escaping tendrils of hair. Her otherwise elegant chignon needed to be immobilized by whatever means necessary so that she would not have to keep pushing it back from her face.
WHAT THE LADIES WORE
Really, everyone looked so Perfectly Proper, but . . . Etiquetteer just doesn't like it when ladies wear black to weddings. And you know that Etiquetteer has always encouraged ladies to Consider Navy Blue. So Etiquetteer was scowling at the scowling Victoria Beckham, who was clearly channeling Norma Desmond. And Etiquetteer was preparing to lead an attack from the village of High Dudgeon about wearing black at a royal wedding, only to find out that it's Really Navy Blue. There's just nothing like doing the right thing and having it look wrong anyway, is there? At least Etiquetteer found out before launching that attack!
On television Zara Phillips Tindall looked as though she was wearing a black maternity coat, so Etiquetteer was relieved to discover later that it was really teal, so that's all right.
Her Majesty's green and purple ensemble at first appeared one strand of gold beads away from a Mardi Gras, but the green wasn't, in fact, as bright as it first appeared. The overall effect reminded Etiquetteer of the color combinations of Christian Bérard, so bracing for spring.
Otherwise, dusty rose is such a reliably dignified color for a wedding, especially a spring wedding, and Oprah Winfrey clearly led the Ladies of Dusty Rose in Perfect Propriety.
Doria Ragland, the mother of the bride, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall coordinated so beautifully in muted green (Ms. Ragland) and pink (the Duchess). The Duchess's large and impressive pink topaz, worn with a dog collar of pearls, made Etiquetteer wish that the Duchess of Cambridge had worn One More Important Piece. Her earrings were beautiful, but unobtrusive.
But really, the greatest relief was that someone gave Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie a talking-to about their headgear. This time around they looked quite appropriate. But Etiquetteer can only stand back in awe of Karen Gibson, who led the Kingdom Choir. With hair like that, you don't need a hat!
Etiquetteer will conclude this section by bowing in admiration to Amal Clooney.
STAGE MANAGEMENT AND LOGISTICS
One of the loveliest unexpected moments of this beautiful day was seeing all the little bridesmaids and pageboys arrive at the church chaperoned by at least one mother (the Duchess of Cambridge). Was that not charming? And was not the toothy page holding the bride's train absolutely adorable smiling over her shoulder as she prepared to enter the church? (Still, it's not Perfectly Proper to upstage the bride.)
The bride entering the church alone, and not on the arm of a male relative, marks a significant departure from tradition, but Etiquetteer endorses it heartily. Indeed, this bride is far from the first to do so. Jeanette MacDonald Herself walked down the aisle alone at her wedding to Gene Raymond on June 16, 1937, and that's only one example.
There has already been a great deal of commentary about the successful blending of black culture into this weddng ceremony and Etiquetteer can only add that the overall effect was seamless. But Bishop Michael Bruce Curry went on just a wee bit too long. When he said "We need to sit down. We have to get you married," that should have been a clue - a gift from himself to himself - to leave the pulpit and sit down, not continue for the length of what he's already said. Oh yes, it was an inspiring sermon (even though some members of the Family were clearly hearing American preaching for the first time)! But any public speaker calling attention to the length of their speaking needs to pick up the clue phone on which he's calling himself.
Etiquetteer will conclude by observing the changing role of the Royal Closet in Saint George's Chapel. In the painting above you can see Queen Victoria, in her perpetual mourning black, looking down from the Royal Closet onto the marriage ceremony of her son Edward, Prince of Wales, to Princess Alexandra of Denmark. This time, for Prince Harry and Meghan's wedding, the Royal Closet was near bristling with lighting for television.
Over on Etiquetteer's Facebook page (you are following Etiquetteer on Facebook, yes?), there's been an unusual amount of commentary about a restaurant in Monterey, California. The Old Fisherman's Grotto does not allow disruptive children, specifically "children crying or making loud noises," and they've made it known with a prominent sign in the lobby and on their website.. A group of Bay Area mothers has made their opinion of the restaurant's policy known. Etiquetteer's repost of the article generated almost two dozen comments - pro, con, and nuanced - and almost two dozen reactions. A nerve, as they stay, was struck.
Etiquetteer approves of this policy, let's not be in any doubt about that. When it comes to Perfect Propriety, no one cares what you want or how you feel; manners come first. And Etiquetteer understands that it's shocking to many parents that other people simply do not care about their children and won't indulge or stand for bad behavior from them. The restaurant, though, has taken into account the size of their dining room, the ability of their staff to serve safely and well when access is impeded by strollers, high chairs, and other paraphernalia, and what their most frequent customers value about the restaurant. And they seem to have made the right call; business is strong.
Most commenters approve, though one, using ALL CAPS, plans to take her business elsewhere - a good idea IF THAT IS HER VOLUME LEVEL IN A RESTAURANT. The idea of a special occasion in a special place being marred by noisy babies or unruly children seems to have motivated many to take this view. And more than one reader noted that children who behave well are welcomed at the restaurant. Etiquetteer would rather like to see parents indignant at the thought of their Precious Snowflake being criticized start to think of the Old Fisherman's Grotto as a Final Exam of sorts, to see if their children can pass the test of dining out with Perfect Propriety.
Some reminiscence about parental training in restaurants also ensued, with commenters recalling maternal methods to get correct behavior. In the words of Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford, "Discipline mixed with love is such a good recipe." Certainly Young Etiquetteer was brought up to behave well by his parents in restaurants of all types. What seems to motivate so much heat around this issue is those parents who won't or can't instill manners in their children. Unfortunately, those parents are giving all parents an undeserved reputation.
And speaking of training, it's worth noting that once upon a time children ate at home in the nursery until they were old enough to have the proper table manners to dine with adults in the dining room. Etiquetteer remembers well seeing the back dining room of Beauvoir (the final home of Jefferson Davis), where the grandchildren would eat. Finer hotels of the 19th century would even have a special dining room for the children.
Several commenters used a word on many lips today, "discriminiation," and felt that the restaurant's policy was ageist. Diners of any age who are making loud noises must be banished, they say! (Reading those comments, Etiquetteer will have to admit to giving some Significant Side Eye to That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much, who's ahem Made an Impression at more than one "very gay dinner party" over the years.) Yes, Dsruptive Adults also impact restaurant dining, but Etiquetteer rather worries that setting expectations for grownups might not help business. Policies about children's behavior seem to be good for business, attracting clientele who want a dining experience guaranteed to be free from disruptive children. But policies about disruptive behavior from adults might lead too many Otherwise Lovely People to over-examine their behavior, decide they might not make the cut, and take their business elsewhere. Who wants to run the risk of the humiliation of being asked to leave a restaurant?
One commenter who Etiquetteer can only describe as Noble expressed the wish to project compassion toward misbehaving children and their parents. That is a truly admirable viewpoint to take, but Etiquetteer has to admit that it's easier to do when the parents appear concerned about the impact their children are making. Indeed, the principal reason there seems to be so much dialogue on this issue is the number of parents who take no action and seem not to care.
Wherever and with whomever you dine, Etiquetteer wishes you joy as you gather about the festive board.