Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Price Of Gas

We had to discuss it sooner or later, so here we go. Passing gas or flatulence is a natural process. It is not a crime.  First, a little background - everyone has gas. Men seem to have more but not really, they just get away with it via jokes and the noisy guy factor. 

For some vague, healthy reason, a good friend of ours was taking the supplement Brewer's Yeast. It gave him a lot of gas and not the quiet, odorless kind. One day he was on packed elevator in a department store and everyone's worst nightmare happened to him.  
"I couldn't act like it wasn't me so I turned around and explained that I was taking a supplement and it gives me gas." He said no one responded because their faces were all scrunched up.  

Some think that they can run away from their gas. But like the saying goes, "Wherever you go, there you are."  Others try and blame it on someone else by looking in the direction of an oblivious, innocent bystander. We think you should own your gas. No one else made it but you.

The ideal situation is if you're alone or in a bathroom. But life isn't always so convenient. If you're with close friends, say, "You know this only happens when I'm really relaxed. I'm so happy to be here and have you as friends." It gets tricky if you're on a date. You can either disappear forever or just say, "Excuse me, did you hear something?" If you're with someone who is well-mannered, they will feign ignorance. 

What do we really think you should do?

Gas isn't always unpredictable. If you feel discomfort, remove yourself from the area. Try and change your diet, learn which foods are gas producing. Uncooked broccoli before a party could bring new meaning to 'life of the party'.  

Don't lose your manners because you're mortified. Keep your head up high and just say, "Excuse me." If anyone makes fun of you, excuse them from the room because they have no manners and for that - they stink.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Old Bag Problem

Memo to all handbag carriers: Keep your bags to yourself, preferably in front of yourself, not behind as if it doesn't exist because it does, usually in someone else's back or stomach.

Many women don't seem to handle their handbags well. They think nothing of letting their bag trail them as they make their way through a crowded bus, train, store and worse - a cocktail party! It's as if they don't acknowledge that there is life behind them. The bigger the bag the more pronounced the detachment between owner and object. You wanted that bag, now carry it properly.

When you're in a crowd, keep your purse in front of you and if it's large, keep it low. Not only is this courteous but it's more secure if you want to keep an eye on the contents. You can't have your wine, cheese and oversized bag too. If you know that you're going to a cocktail party at the end of the day, consider carrying a handbag that'll allow you to gracefully have a drink and an hors doeurve. Do not enter a party and act like you're not carrying baggage.

Thank goodness the mania for pricey backpacks seems to have subsided. The faux hiker's seemed to have an attitude that said, "It's all right if this is in your way, I paid a lot of money for it."

Oh, an about that evening purse on the table, tacky, tacky. We know it's a tricky situation because if you're like us, you don't believe in putting your purse on the floor because it's bad luck - you'll never have money. Actually, that is true, especially when thieves use umbrellas in restaurants to remove your bag that you've placed on the floor. You can place your beaded bag behind you in the chair. It shouldn't be uncomfortable if you're sitting straight.

Remember, the next time you choose your handbag for the day, don't bag etiquette.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Your Friend the Bread Thief

Yvette was having dinner with a friend recently and he kept eating her bread. She's not a big bread eater but would have liked the option to tear off a piece (more on how to eat bread later).
Apparently, he didn't know that Yvette's bread plate wasn't his bread plate. I asked her if she pointed this out to him and she said,"No, you should never point something like that out. It could be embarassing, so I acted like nothing." She's right.
Bread plates are to the the left, not to the right. One way you can remember this is by asking yourself, "Any bread left?"
Once you've figured that out, you're on your way to the bread experience - step one, at least.
What will you do if there's a basket of bread and no bread plate?
Select the roll or slice of bread you want without touching or searching the basket as if you're looking for treasure. Take the whole slice or roll out of the basket. Tear off a piece, butter it and eat it. The piece should be bite size. The remainder of the roll or piece of bread can be placed on the table next to your plate or if that makes you feel barbaric, put it on the edge of your plate.

Try not to slather the whole piece of bread all at once with butter as if you're on a sandwich production line. Relax, you're dining, the bread won't run away from you.

Since we're on the subject, I might as well add this - try not to get upset when the bread basket isn't stuffed with warm bread. It shouldn't be cold but room temperature is fine. Don't write off a restaurant just because the bread isn't warm. Funny, we expect things from restaurants that we don't do at home. Do you warm your bread at your house at dinnertime? If a restaurant serves warm bread, that means they have a bread warmer (they just don't throw into the oven). If it they don't serve warm bread, they didn't invest in a warmer. Do say something If the butter arrives in frozen pats.  Frozen butter gives new meaning to breaking bread.

Enjoy the rest of the meal!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How To Leave The Table

Most of us know how to come to the table.  We sit, we unfold our napkin and put it on our lap. We know where our bread plate is  (see Your Friend The Bread Thief) and we know which glass or glasses are ours. We eat, we try not to make noises and we thank our host. Now it's time to go.

Some guests in trying to be nice and considerate will carefully fold their napkins as if they are making it easier for them to go back to the linen closet or wherever they live in that particular household or restaurant.  This isn't necessary or expected. Just leave it next to your plate, not in a ball but just in a loose, narrow and neat - somewhere between a cone and a triangle, the easier to throw into the washing machine.   In Italy when someone folds their napkin it's seen as a sign that you'll never come back to that house again. They don't like that especially if they like you.    

Another nicety guests will offer is to stack their plates, again trying to make clean up easier. Maybe if you're at a super casual cookout or picnic, the plates are paper and if you're volunteering to help this is fine. When you're at a  dinner table or in a restaurant stacking actually makes clearing the table more complicated.

Your fork and knife should be placed at 5 o'clock, next to each other on the plate. This is universal. Wherever you go in the world they'll know that you're finished with your meal and your plate is ready to be removed.

A friend of ours hates to see as he puts it, 'spent food on a plate.'  The host is probably waiting for everyone to finish and it would be rude to start clearing the table any sooner. If everyone is finished, there's nothing wrong with offering to help. There is no need to say how much you hate looking at bits and pieces of leftover dinner on the plates. 

It's not up to just the guests to do the right thing at the end of the meal, hosts have their jobs to do too.  One thing we never do when we give dinners at our apartments is to disappear into the kitchen and clean up everything.  We think it's unacceptable to get a head start on cleaning while you still have company. Stack the dishes in the sink or on a counter and go back to your guests. They didn't come to hear the rumble of your dishwasher. If you're just hanging out with good friends or close family, that's another story. But that usually isn't the story.

The next time you're invited to dinner, have a good time, you're the guest.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Can You Spare A Seat, Man?

A teenage boy was going for a seat near the back of a bus when his father stopped him, pointed to a woman in the front of the bus and said, "There's a lady standing. Never sit if a lady is standing." I was impressed and encouraged that there are still gentlemen who are raising gentlemen. They don't make them like they used to, a well mannered man is a rare breed these days. Maybe it's backlash or a misunderstanding of the feminist movement.  Maybe they don't want to offend today's woman, including today's elderly woman and today's pregnant woman. Whatever the reason, they're doing a wonderful job of showing off their rudeness at its best.

Our parents always told Yvette and me, "What you do reflects on us." These days men will race a woman to a seat, they will sit in sections reserved for the elderly or sit down and act like nothing even when a woman is standing in front of them.  That's not saying much for their parents. Boys take their cues from the people around them. Are we to assume that the man who doesn't offer a woman or elderly man a seat never saw anyone around him do the right thing?  

Poor manners are like viruses and we're in the throes of  an epidemic.  Just because women want equality doesn't mean we don't want a seat. Our feet get tired after trying to climb ladders day in and day out. James Baldwin once said that when you open your mouth in England, you're telling who your mother is, who your father is, you're telling your whole history just by the way you speak. We say when a man can't show a woman a simple courtesy, he's talking about his parents.  And we don't buy into the fact that many boys are being raised by women. Everything can't be our fault.

But we have to do the right thing too. When a man offers a his seat we should accept it graciously.  Don't say as I heard one lady say, "Thank you. Do I look that old?" She looked at me and said, "I guess I look old." I couldn't help myself, I turned to her and whispered,  "Why don't you just say thank you?" 

We have to allow men to show us their gentlemanly ways, it'll take a lot of wear and tear off our Manolos.  

Monday, August 11, 2008

Drinking What You're Bringing

It's summertime and the living is fun and easy - parties, barbecues, etc.. When you tell your hosts that you're planning on attending and you ask her/him what shall you bring, what will you do? Take a bottle of what you drink? A gift of something other than alcohol or nothing?

If the host responds by saying, "Bring what you drink." Listen. They are looking out for you especially since you've asked.

Taking a bottle of wine when you know very well you prefer vodka is downright rude. Sure there are wines that could cost as much as a bottle of vodka or even more but are you being fair to your host? Many of us were raised to never walk into someone's home empty handed. But that doesn't mean you put any old thing in your hand.

If you drink wine, you should take wine. One reason is if your host is not an oenophile you can get stuck drinking a glass of warm white wine that some brought years ago to the party. Maybe your host and most of their friends prefer hard liquor and wine's not their thing.
On the other hand, if you like your vodka, you should take vodka, not a bottle of wine that you have no interest in drinking. And when the vodka runs out, don't start in on the gin - not only is it rude but you may have a problem.

What you decide to take also depends on the party economics. If you're being hosted by wealthy people, walking in with a bottle maybe tacky. If it's special send it ahead of time or after the party with a note.

If your hosts entertain more casually and you know what they like, a bottle what they like is fine. In this case you're can bring a bottle of wine and drink vodka or vice versa. Since they did not ask you to bring what you drink, they already know what you like and here's your opportunity to reciprocate - nicely.

Yvette and I wish you lots of fun. Drink responsibly. Cheers!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Gone Fishing

We will be taking a few days off. While we're away, some of your favorite posts in the archives will mysteriously post themselves.


Yvonne and Yvette

Monday, August 4, 2008

Baby Mammas And Little Feet

Parents worships the ground their little ones walk on. But it seems that they don't realize that the ground their kids walk on is just as filthy as the ground the rest of us walk on. Is it because children's feet are smaller that moms and dads think that the dirt on their soles is not as dirty, so it's all right for them to walk on furniture or stand up in their seats on buses and trains? We suggest that parents allow their children to stand on their laps. This way, they make a seat available to a passenger who has paid full fare and maybe the seat will be sans footprints. People on their way to work don't want to walk around with a small footprint on their clothes.

There used to be a line the MTA used - Little enough to ride for free, little enough to ride your knee. Paid passengers should have the right to have a seat when available before a child who has not paid. That child should sit on the parent's lap. If a passenger wants to give up a seat for a child, the parent should accept the seat and put the child on her lap. Caregivers can be the worst offenders. Maybe they fear losing their jobs if the kids run home and complain about not having a seat.

Our parents used to say that we are a reflection of them. It's not the children who are displaying poor manners, they really don't know any better until someone tells them. So, the next time your child wants to stand up on a piece of furniture that's not yours, tell him to have a seat. If someone offers your child a seat, you take it and give him a seat on your lap. Besides, you're the one who has to go home and do ten things before you go to bed.