I Can't Even...
by Sara "Zarine" Jessop
… Social Etiquette
Lately I have been delving into the world of fashion rules with you, and this week, dear reader, I need a break. Not a break from telling you all what you are doing wrong, you won't get that lucky. Just a break from fashion. Besides, I think you all need some time to let all of my recent advice really sink in and percolate in those dull minds of yours.
This week I want to talk about something very important: social etiquette. Let's start first with a definition of the very word: Etiquette: a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group. Now, I know there were a lot of big words, but I have faith in you.. alright, that's a lie. Just buy a dictionary.
Now, I am sure that all of you are thinking to yourselves “But Zarine, I always saying please and thank you and hold doors for people, I'm a good person.” Well, first off, being polite to someone's face isn't what makes you a good person. Second, there is a lot more to good manners than all that! There is a ridiculously long list of proper etiquette procedures for different occasions and places, but I will stick to the ones important for feasting season. Arriving, eating, and departing.
Seek out and greet the host. They should know that you have arrived. Make sure to complement them on their home or event venue, even if it's terrible.
Greeting people: There are several ways to greet an individual, including but not limited to, handshakes, hand kissing, cheek kissing, hugging, bowing and curtsying. Know whom you are greeting. Do you know them well and have a good personal relationship with them? Perhaps a hug is in order. Are you a gentleman courting a lovely lady? Then bow and kiss her hand. (Just kiss, no slobber please.) Are you meeting a nobleman or noblelady? Bowing or curtsying would be appropriate. Are you meeting someone for the first time? A handshake is probably the way to go, as you can't possibly know what they will find acceptable. (Unless a lady holds out her hand daintily to a gentleman, in which case if you do not know what to do, then I can't possibly help you). Are you a lady greeting a dear friend? Then perhaps a good cheek kissing ritual is in order if you're into that sort of thing.
Now, dear reader, I have some advice on hugging. I can't count how many times I have hardly gotten to an event and am still carrying my traveling items when a well meaning friend attempts to hug me. My only options then are to attempt to put my packages down, only to have to pick them all up again once the friend has wandered off to hug the next person, or try to hug them with packages in hand, thus knocking them and several bystanders in the head. Wait patiently for someone to settle in a bit before you accost them with your totally innocent and not at all sexual hug. Or offer to help someone with their packages, it's the polite thing to do, you know.
Do not, by way of greeting, ask someone where their significant other is. It's insulting and insinuates that they are only valuable if they come with their “other half”. Do you even know how many times I have been asked where Trent is as someone is hugging me and all of my travel paraphernalia? “But Zarine, I've never..” Stop. Yes, you have. Trent is not even my significant other. He is a friend with some minor benefits, not least of which is access to his “Realms Elderly and Infirm” discount card. We very rarely travel with each other to gatherings, and even when we do, I neither know nor care where he is. If you really must inquire about someone else's whereabouts, at least wait until after you properly greet the person who is actually in front of you. Ask how they are. Ask about their job or their trip there. Converse with them a bit. Then ask, in a way that doesn't make them feel less important than the person you are asking about. It's really not difficult.
It amazes me just how many of you plebs masticate incorrectly. For the love of whatever god you claim to worship, chew with your mouth closed! None of your fellow diners wish for you to share your half chewed food with them by way of projectile spittle. It's disgusting and it needs to stop.
Use a napkin. Your tabard is not a napkin. Nor is your belt favor or whatever other trinket you use to remember what nation you're in. It's neither fashionable nor patriotic to smear your heraldry with the remains of your dinner.
Use the correct implements. Too many forks confuse you? Just start from the outside and work your way in. I myself feel that it's quite impossible to be over-forked, but to each their own.
Don’t place your elbows on the table while eating (though it is okay to prop your elbows on the table while conversing between courses). It's rude. Why? My friends on a council called CulinaryLore.com (weird name, right?) have this to say: any appearance of being overly indulged in your food might be seen as low and peasant-like. So leaning forward, placing your elbows on the table, and, God forbid, embracing your plate with one arm while you lean over it to shovel food into your mouth, would show you to be of "low stock." You are not supposed to make a big deal about your food and act like you are starving. Good enough for me. If it's not good enough for you, too bad, don't do it anyways.
Do not murder people while they are eating. Everyone knows that you should wait until one has finished their meal before stabbing them to death. My friend Soft is quite concerned about the level of violence at social events. "No matter how much you detest someone or feel the thrum of violence in your blood, whipping out weapons Willy nilly like so many people are fond of is no way to behave!" So please, lets not upset my dear friend's sensibilities and stick to whipping it out at an appropriate time, shall we?
Always thank your host and let them know that you are taking your leave. It's quite rude to take advantage of someone's hospitality and then simply disappear into the night like some sort of blood sucking creep. They deserve to know that you appreciate them opening their venue to you and that you have left. Perhaps they have been waiting for you to leave since you got there.
Do not over stay your welcome. Are the host and servants cleaning up and getting ready to leave? They are giving you a social cue that you should follow right out the door. The exception to this is if you offer to help and they accept. Helping at the end of a function is always fashionable and you should do it. But if you can't, or you are just a terrible person, then you should excuse yourself and allow them to clean up so that they might leave at a reasonable hour.
Make sure that you pack up all of your traveling gear and clean up the area that you were seated in. Double check that you have everything that you brought with you. Throw away any trash that you have created. Also, remember to take any living beings with you that you are responsible for returning home. The hosts of a social gathering have enough things to do without having to pick up after you and your slovenly friends.
My dear reader, there are so many more social graces that I wish to share with you, but my time for this week is running short. I have other things to do than educate all of you on things that your parents should have taught you. At least I think that's what parents are supposed to do. I have a business to run and a quest to prepare for. But I have many more excellent pieces of advice, including more on this very subject to be published at a later date! Don't worry, I'm not done with you all yet. See you next Tuesday.
Zarine is the proprietor and Madam at Alchimia Lupanar, a magic marshal approved practitioner of medicine, and has 35 years of experience in giving her unsolicited opinion.