Molly Watson was raised in Minnesota and has come to see her Midwestern common sense as her greatest strength. She now seeks to use it for the common good.
Thanks for the kinds words all! And @Paul Yee - dab away. Quickly and discreetly, but it is inhumane to ask you to suffer through a delicious meal with sweat running into your eyes (plus, how distressing to witness!).
@RaptorEsq - Thanks! We aim to please!
@Teachertalk - Sounds like you've found perfect dining companions, treasure them like gold. If every runs and every wipes and nobody minds, it sounds like a slice of heaven.
@diearzte2 - Have you found in life that such generalizations tell you much about an individual? Fascinating!
tes-and-syncope - In a world without copy editors, all writers depend on the good will of quibbling readers. Much appreciated.
TimoG, I quite smartly do nothing because I have no restaurant, but if such a thing happened to me I suppose I would feel very sorry for myself as I cleaned up the unspeakable. I might also feel very smug that the incidence proves yet again that I'm right: a central element of good manners is "don't be gross."
Osomatic, I think we could get a pretty solid debate going on which is worse, the super-sad drunk or the unbearably obnoxious drunk.
@BostonAdam - One example: in most restaurants in France it would be very odd to sit down at lunch or dinner time and not order a starter and a main, at higher end places dessert is assumed as well. I'd love for readers to weigh in with examples from other countries/cultures or specific types of eateries!
@Steve Baker - That is certainly the classic approach and I don't fault anyone for taking it.
@cyberroo - Hilarious. Definitely not an etiquette rule, but an excellent rule-of-thumb to keep yourself in check!
Just to be clear on where I stand on the "who pays" issue in general: It's true, in most social circles people split bills. I addressed this issue in an earlier column (http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/02/introducing-our-new-etiquette-column-manner-manners-how-to-split-check.html):
"Traditional etiquette rules that the person who issues the invitation pays. This is a fabulous fall-back position for many situations, but is clearly out of step with how many of us socialize. Those of us inhabiting 21st-century America tend to either split the check more or less evenly or divide it out based on what everyone ordered. Some friends take turns treating, or shift between one person footing the bill and the other person leaving the tip. In short, most of us work within an (often unspoken) agreed upon system with our friends."
@darklighter - If I say "Hey, let's got out to celebrate your birthday," or even just initiate a coffee or lunch or anything within a few weeks of a friend's birthday, you better believe I'll insist on paying. Etiquette does say, however, that the person who initiates an event host it (unless there is a standing agreement to the contrary, which is fairly common these days). I think most married people would agree that if they invite people out to celebrate their spouse's birthday, they fully expect to foot the bill. Many good friends, like your kind self and the writer's gracious husband, would insist on paying anyway. An ever-enlarging circle of kindness of generosity is a fine thing, and I would never argue against it.
Thanks @LondonLite! You can always write in to my other column, Ask a (Sensible) Midwesterner (http://askasensiblemidwesterner.com/) where I tackle any problem readers care to throw my way. Write to: askasensiblemidwesterner at gmail
@lhg - that quote pretty much sums up all marital advice I have, so I'm glad you liked it!
@chi_type - that is precisely the spirit of reciprocity! Excellent example. I don't have a rigid one-for-one rule, but I certainly pay attention to who initiates plans and that it doesn't get too lopsided one way or the other.
MargieNash: Ugh. Weird utensils - particularly ones with overly heavy handles - are a serious pet peeve!
As one who used to teach undergrads history, I absolutely concur.
Finsbigfan, your husband sounds like my kind of guy.
Great ideas here! Love it. Chickenfog, I so hear you. Years ago I led cooking class parties and I remember one lady who refused to participate. She was older and beautifully dressed for a nice dinner party. "I've done my cooking," she said, with the tone of someone who got dinner on the table every night for decades, sipping her wine. I thought she was awesome.
There are two aspects of being a good conversationalist: talking and listening. And guess what? The listening part is more important. Since you're very interested in what others are saying, keep it going by asking them questions. If you have a decent talker on hand a simple "Tell me more about that" may even suffice!
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