Friday, April 13, 2007

The Bread is Not a Projectile

I'm going to be outright and say it. There are certain places you should simply not bring your children. Hot night clubs, trendy bars, and nice dining places are among these places. I know sometimes parents can't help it. The sitter canceled and you had no choice; so be it. I understand. I really do.

But this post pertains to the parents who take their kids and then tune them out.

Sure, you're used to junior running around like a little psychopath using the bread as a projectile, but I'm not and damn it it's my night out too.

Is your child screaming? Don't ignore it. Is your child throwing things? Tell them to stop. Is your child rude and obnoxious? Teach them otherwise.

My parents took my brothers and me to cotillion to learn ballroom dancing, and we were required to attend dining etiquette classes. Yep. It's true. I can I.D. eight types of forks. I learned the importance of my "please" and "thank you"s. I know it's good manner to hold a door or help seat your dining companion. To treat your waiter with respect, and you'll be given respect back. To always act with decorum, and still have fun.

I'm not a stickler for manners but I don't chew with my mouth open or bring up taboo topics at the dinner table to the mortification of everyone there. My elbows sometimes find their way to the table (mom would stab us in the arm with a fork if we did), but nowadays I think we're all a little more at ease with that one.

But what really shocks me is that some people just don't get it. Not a bit.

Take my old roommate, a rebel fighter against table manners. He would literally shout out protests to them and denounce them. Chewing with your mouth closed, and forbidding topics of discussion at the table (anime porn at a Professor's luncheon? I was embarrassed for you) was a way for people to put ideas of control and elite classism on society. It was a way for people to think themselves better than others.

Which, I suppose is partly true. Part of the show of certain manners and presentations is about feeling high and important (do you really need 9 various types of spoons?). However, a lot of etiquette exists simply for the comfort of others and for the sake of being polite out in public.

They're like laws, they help keep society running as a cohesive whole. When people are using manners to show simple everyday respect, we all get along a little better. I don't want to hear about your nasty bunion over brunch, your "crack addicted girlfriend's nasty apartment" while I try to eat cheesecake a table over, and I really don't want to see you masticating with your chomping and smacking noises talking about whatever drivel you think I might care about. It all irritates me and I'm sure others as well; my only thought at all this is to snap at the perpetrator which is nothing in itself, but if we all feel that way towards each other when eating in a public setting then a wrench is thrown into the cogs of society. This is a grand example for sure, but I feel the point is made.

Plus manners make all the difference at important dinner functions such as business dinners or at an interview or presentation. Maybe you're meeting the parents or having a first date? Belching the ABC's (which I can do thankyouverymuch) will not be helping you in any of those situations.

But manners must be learned and from the beginning at an early age from parents and other role models; like I learned good table manners from my parents, my friend learned the opposite from his. One time his father dined with us at a Baker's Square. Some girls sat down in the booth near us and began oo-ing and ah-ing over all the pies in the menu. My friend's dad leaned in and smirked, saying under his breath, "I know what kind of pie I want..." Bear with me now.

"Fur pie."

"Ew! God! Ew! Sweet crackers, dear Jesus, strike me deaf and please let no one else have heard that." I can only imagine the look on my face. My friend seemed just as upset, but I think more for my sake than his.

Needless to say, I was sufficiently icked out. I was mortified. I wanted to vanish. I seriously cannot look at pie without thinking of that anymore. The man destroyed pie for me. (Okay, well I can still eat it, but I have to put up a serious mental block at the time. It's a serious undertaking for me, eating pie.)

Back to where I began, if you bring your kids out to eat, please make sure they know their manners. Sometimes kids can be crazy, I know, I've dined with my nephew before. You do your best and do what you can. They're kids and they can be a bit loud, and it's okay. There is a line however, and when it's crossed, don't tune it out or ignore it. Take care of it. "Chew your food Suzy, don't swallow it like an anaconda with a sheep." See? Simple. The rest of the people eating want to enjoy their night too, so take the time at home to go over the importance of manners.

Cause I swear to God, next brat who smacks me in the back of the head with a piece of bread and the parents don't apologize (choosing instead to yell at the kid to sit down and eat his damn meal, while the other focuses on her salad) will be used as a flailing, blunt instrument of etiquette education on the parents.

And everyone will applaud my actions.

A Side Note: If you intend to travel, familiarize yourself with other cultures' table manners as well. It'll do you good and allow you to fully immerse yourself in the culture.

Helpful Links
Vanilla Garlic - Chopstick Etiquette 101
Vanilla Garlic - Sendback 101
American/European Table Manners
Japanese Table Manners
Thai Table Manners
A Meal in Kenya
Teaching Kids Table Manners


  1. Can I second that? I second that. Grrr...

    Luckily, I haven't dined with bad mannered adults. But my sister learned early on that if she was going to bring her son out to eat with us he was expected to behave. If not, Auntie Ashley would be more than happy to remove him from the situation...

  2. I think I will never think of pie in the same way again.

  3. I have some friends who are sending their son to cotillion, much to his mortification, but this just illustrates the necessity of this choice.

  4. I have 3 children and I totally agree with you. There is a time and a place for kids. Sometimes, however, I find the adults to be even worse...the pie example proves this so well. Oh my.
    I was laughing throughout this entire post. Thanks for the giggle!

  5. Oh G, I agree. It's not just kids. I was out to lunch (literally) last week and a woman on a cell phone decided she would air her very dirty laundry to all of us who were trying to enjoy lunch. I wanted to shove my chopsticks up her nostrils. kids, if we misbehaved, we were escorted out by my mom, promptly spanked, and put in the car (and that was at home!)

    Fur pie...I have one in the frig that needs to be thrown out. :)

  6. YES!!!!

    And I want to know if my husband's cousin and the F-Pie guy were separated at birth.

  7. Amen!

    I have two kids. They know their damn manners!

  8. I feel your pain as my husband has used much worse phrases than that. Lucky gal I am.

  9. I feel your pain. I now have two groups of friends, well three actually.

    Those with kids - strictly home visits at their place ONLY, those without kids - my place, your place, restaurant (of the variety you never see kids in), etc.

    Then the third group - I speak to on the phone. Their children are just too wild and undisciplined for me to cope with in person...

    Lack of manners does seem to be a bigger issue now than when I was a kid (or maybe that is simply a cultural thing with Europe being a bit more relaxed than Africa about these things...).

  10. I'm a mother and I completely agree with you here. That's why there are certain places (restaurants) that we just won't take my daughter to. For the most part she is well-behaved, but like any other child, she has her moments too!

  11. Thank you. I've gotten to the point where we're taking a hiatus from restaurant dining because of the frequency with which we're subjected to running, shrieking, spitting, nose picking, food throwing children who are being ignored by their parents. I live in a nation where waitstaff and cooks are paid a decent living wage, so restaurant dining is pricey. It's hard to hand over seventy bucks at the end of a meal that has been disturbed by repulsive behaviour by children who are being allowed to do anything they like, without reprimand or control.

    I was going to make a pie for dessert tonight, but I think I have the ingredients for cake instead ...

  12. Thank you!!! I feel exactly the same way. I mean, I can understand a curious toddler wandering ahead as the family sits down/prepares to leave, but letting your child have free reign of a restaurant is so damned rude! Ever been in a restaurant with booth seating, and had a kid from the booth behind you sit up and start making eyes at your companion? Yeah, it's cute... for about the first 5 seconds.

    I'm taking a cue from your parents. When I have children, they're going to hate me for all the etiquette and music lessons they're going to take. They'll thank me later.

  13. I really like your essay on dining etiquette! I see that you attended charm school, but I feel that kids shouldn't always be on the same boat as you when it comes to restaurant manners! If their families are Christian, they may want to check out Hermine Hartley's manuals! They show that manners are not all bow ties, country clubs, and cotillions - they all stem from the wisdom of God! If you have the chance, check them out!

  14. HAH. OKAY. It is 5.30 on a Friday and I am still at work reading your blog because the weather is too crap for me to be able to leave but I think this just made it all better. I want to print it out and stick it absolutely EVERYWHERE.


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