MISS MANNERS HERE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Good Morning, Miss Manners

I am 72 years old and I still don’t know which side of the plate one puts forks versus spoons and knives. My son knows because his father taught him, but in my house, my mother — who hated cooking and refused to spend money on paper napkins (she used tissues which stuck to your fingers – yuk!) — basically threw eating implements on the table. We had no manners at all and whatever I’ve learned since childhood is at least good enough to get me through most dinners without everyone staring at me and giggling.

Manners tend to be species oriented. My dogs are very neat and always eat all the stuff they drop on the floor. Birds and squirrels too. None of them worry about where to put the forks and spoons.

On the other hand, I’m pretty persnickety about verbal manners, as in being polite, civil, and not shouting except with enthusiasm. Funny how different we can be about the same thing in different places, isn’t it?

It’s just that being a klutz at dinner will embarrass you, but being an uncivilized nasty asshole — you know, like our President — hurts a lot of other people. I’m not in favor of hurting people’s feelings unless they’ve really gotten under my skin. And it’s not easy to get that far under my skin. In the physical presence of others, I try really hard to be kind and polite. I even try to do it when writing, though I think I’m better in person. Wit can be hurtful and when I write, I too often go for “wit” when maybe I shouldn’t.

The trees are wearing their best manners today too. Our maple tree has a bunch of red leaves on it this afternoon which weren’t there yesterday. If not for the incoming storm, I think another week and the trees would be stunning and definitely better than civil. Downright glorious!

Tell me I’m not the only one who can’t set a table properly, please. I always feel like a total dunce when I’m trying to make the table look “fancy.”

14 thoughts on “MISS MANNERS HERE – Marilyn Armstrong

  1. You aren’t the only one. I have a LOT of ‘fancy’ dishes, which sit in my china hutch and gather dust. I’m not into dinner parties though, so they don’t get used. And doing a fancy table was wasted on hubby, who didn’t care if the plates were paper, as long as the food was plentiful. I have no idea why anyone would need or use seven different forks and three sized spoons, and a finger bowl. Seems like a lot of unnecessary fuss to me.

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  2. The only way I can remember it, these days: the knife and fork go on opposite sides of the plate, and correspond to the way you pick them up to eat or cut your food. For the non-lefties among us, that means knife/right, fork left.
    Europeans make it so much easier, without the damn hand switch.

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  3. I know how to set a proper table. We learned it in Home Ec class in high school (another “joy” the younger generations are missing). But I’m too lazy to actually set a table, even for company – we just use paper plates and throw them out after. My good china and crystal are sitting in a bin in the basement, probably never to be unearthed again.

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  4. I am fine with the basic cutlery and I know the rule about using the cutlery from the outside first but Naomi and I don’t really go in for multi-course dinners. Knife, fork, dessert spoon and bread and butter knife are all we need. On special occasions, we get out the mother of pearl handled cutlery mum got as a (first) wedding present. That is fancy enough for us. On the subject of cutlery mum was always aggravated by one of our dad’s sisters who would refer to cutlery as “tools”. She thought it was common. Naomi and I sometimes still say “Get the tools” as a joke when setting the table.

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    • I sold my solid silver years ago. I never felt like polishing it and no one cared. I have some (cheap) silver dipped stuff that I mainly use when I need a LOT of cutlery (it’s a big set). I gave away my set of 12 porcelain dishes. It took up an entire cupboard and I used it MAYBE once a year. Now, what I really like is mixing up all the different dishes and making a very bright and unexpected table … for whenever we bother. But you know, even the kids are tired of giant meals that require more time cleanup afterward than they do to eat. I think the days of big dinner parties are done.

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