Thursday, September 10, 2015

Etiquette and the Unfamiliar

It's sad, but true; People will judge you by how you stand, walk, talk and evidently, how you eat your celery or oysters. So it is good to learn all the etiquette and manners one can, in preparation of social success.

"The prettiest face in Christendom will not counteract glaring signs of ill-breeding. I can call to mind a perfect specimen of young womanhood who came from the heather fields of Scotland to a city famed for its culture; She was a joy to the eye, healthy, sweet, young and gifted with that greatest of all blessings — style. As you might imagine, masculine attention awaited her at every turn, and among her admirers was a wealthy bachelor, who gave a dinner in her honor. 
The girl had one other gift that I forgot to mention — she talked very little, and was thus able to hide many deficiencies in education. Her great beauty would cover up minor faults, naturally. To the dinner, over which I would not dare say how much time and thought had been poured by the host, went this girl and her married sister. It was perfect in every detail and the guest of honor did it credit by her irreproachable toilet. Amongst other good things out of season was celery, which, when passed to the young woman, was accepted as a matter of course, although she had never seen a piece until that evening. She calmly ate the leaves and discarded the succulent stalks, while her host was simply helpless from amazement. He ate little or nothing, was uncommonly silent all through the meal, and ended his attentions when he deposited the girl and her chaperon at the outer door of their home. She wondered at the falling off, but never knew the reason— that she had cured him of his infatuation by a bad break which, everybody noticed. 
Look for etiquette clues and cues from others who are socially welcome everywhere. You'll find that grooming before dinner, away from the table, makes a much better impression on others. As does watching how hosts and hostesses use their dinglehoppers.
Two years later I met her again, still healthy and pretty, still stylish, but with a tinge of coarseness in her manner which savored of companionship somewhat lower in the social scale. She had drifted downward simply because she did not possess tact enough to make the most of her advantages, and had grown bitter with the change. You see, she was not the least bit clever, despite her ambition. She could not adapt herself to circumstances — those in which a kind fate had placed her. She ought to have avoided strange food, like celery, until she had learned something of it: she should have been able to assume good manners by imitating those near her. Lack of this kind of cleverness deprived her of worldly advantages to which her stock of good looks entitled her, yet she did not seem to be able to avoid the vulgarity which is now her portion. 
In contrast to this, I can cite the case of another girl to whom nature had been unkind. She had not a single personal charm outside of small and delicately formed hands and feet, both of which were made much of, by the way. As compensation for her ugliness she was given a brain which landed her at the top of the line of fortune's favorites, and she is now enjoying the fruits of it. I do not think more than one story will be necessary to give an idea of her nature.
She was dining with a number of state dignitaries who were being entertained on shipboard. It was a brilliant occasion, and the opening course of the elaborate dinner was the usual plate of oysters. She took one and suddenly realized that it was not all it should be. Just then a prominent man at her right turned toward her with a remark which called for an answer, and all hope of getting rid of the oyster except by way of the throat was gone. It required some will power to avoid a breach in good manners, but it saved her from something far more unpleasant than the flavor of a bad oyster— the sacrifice of a position she was striving to hold against heavy odds. It was by just such means that she realized her ambitions and became an honored member of society, not the little circle of 400 or so fashionable and wealthy folk, but the big, big world of refined men and women. By tact she won, by tact she will retain her hold upon the world. –By Mrs. Martha Taft Wentworth, in San Francisco Call, 1901

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber is the Site Editor tor for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia