Etiquips: How to mind your Ps, Qs, RSVPs and ETCs this holiday season

By on December 20, 2017

There are the things your mother taught you, like the importance of saying please, thank you and RSVPing to dinner parties.

There are also the things you wish she would’ve taught you, and y’all  file the following, along with “why didn’t you teach me how to reconcile my male privilege?” in the category of things we wish she would’ve. Here’s the thing, though: She may have taught you these lessons, but chances are we weren’t listening.

So here’s a brief lesson in how not to be “that person” at the dinner table, updated for the rapid-cycling social and cultural landscape of 2017. Like your mother once said: Those who can’t do, teach (you some manners).

Know Your Audience

Even if you were raised by a pack of wolves, y’all know certain subjects aren’t suitable for the dinner table. Even still, get to know the group you’re dining with before committing to any potential controversial comments. Remember, it’s 2017 and almost anything can be considered controversial.

Know whether or not the group will allow a casual “not my President” without turning it into an orchestra of presidential enmitity that just serves as a stroke to the ego. Worse though, is not knowing if you’ll be entering into a partisan pissing match that neither of y’all’re actually going to win with that phrase. Don’t think the Russians are going to meddle in that.

Want to talk about issue of gender, race or general inequality at dinner? How progressive. Just know that you’re unlikely to change any hearts or minds during the course of your meal, which also isn’t going to come with a complimentary social justice cookie for feeling and expressing your wokeness to the lone black girl at the table. Nor does your gay dinner guest want to hear about how marriage equality solved homphobia in your heteronormative eyes. First off, you’re wrong. Secondly, you’re basic and you have bad manners. These folks have waited long enough for their seats at the table, and they ain’t there to hear you appropriate and exploit their problems as you flex your social issue muscles over a poorly-paired
bison steak and chablis.


The Hole Has Eyes — and Ears

Jackson is a small town, and we all know it. But, for some reason, we also seem to forget that the standard seven degrees of separation connecting the world’s citizens shrinks to basically two here. That said, anything you mention over dinner about someone else who lives within the confines of the Hole, or even its surrounding areas, knows someone who knows THAT person.

That ethically-questionable music writer you’re discussing turning in to The Guardian for reclying their reviews? You know your waitress is one of his main groupies who’ll be quick to tell him about your squawking and scheming, right?

Folks, it happens. Say a few savory words in the company of your friends and feet are inevitably put in mouths as someone else hears it. Years of weird eye contact around town are bound to follow. But it’s also real easy to avoid. Bottom line, don’t shit-talk your townsmen in public. Plus, unless your dining companion is a rotten pot-stirrer, they probably don’t want ot hear about it, anyway. If you really have to say something, and really need to let it out over food, box it up with the unfinished bites of your burger and tell it to your dog as you toss those now cold fries to him when you get home. You’ll both be so thankful.

Oh. Oh, oh, oh. Y’all don’t think y’all were getting off that easy, did you? Of course we have to cover the issue of being seen at dinner with a very married person. Now, it ain’t my place to judge you for trying to wine, dine and 69 a married person, but know that folks will notice. It’s an inherent risk of the behavior, and one that’s rises exponentially in a small town.

And if you think the risk of being forced to march down Broadway with a scarlett ‘A’ pinned to your jacket is worth the reward of potentially free housing you’re after, you may actually be smarter than anyone is giving you credit for. Other options include just staying in and resorting to Netflix and cold pizza during the courtship process. I promise you there are far worse things to eat than cold slices. It’s called revenge, and it’s also best served cold.


Just the Tip

Speaking of serving, be mindful that your servers in town not only work for tips, but they also live on them, and likely another job or two. Y’all know it ain’t cheap to live here. So, if you can pony-up for that elk quesadilla, you can pay the server who laughs at your bad jokes while he brings it to you and refills your water. And you can pay him a minimum of 20 percent.

But what about bad service? Make sure you’re vocal and polite by bringing it to your server’s attention. Shit, ol’ son, they might not know they’re off their game that night. Give them room to improve.


Leave ‘Em Be

That magic box in your pocket that allows you to stay connected to the rest of the world? Leave it there. You’re here to share a meal and engage with the folks around you, not the ones who follow you.

Listen, I get it, you want to document the occasion of dinner with your favorite gal pals, or the first time you could afford to take your folks to dinner and pay the bill. Snap a few pics, but don’t make me wait for you to take the perfect picture of that chocolate cake I’m about to share with you. You didn’t make the damn thing. And I guarantee your social media following is more concerned with chocolate labs than chocolate cake, anyway.

Just remember, there are few things better in life than gathering with folks and sharing a nice meal. Enjoy yourself and don’t mess it up for the rest of the group. Just remember what your mother and I told you.

About Vaughn Robison

Vaughn Robison is an art and communication director based in Salt Lake City.

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