People’s reaction to etiquette is either to dismiss it with a sniff or declare that they know, oh they know all about etiquette. Ha! The people who are insulting run back to etiquette’s loving embrace when they want permission to behave badly and the ones who brag are unaware that the first rule of etiquette is never state that you know how to behave. Simply and silently behave well: hat is the sacred decree of all etiquette mavens which I am breaking solely for your benefit, Darling.
And this idea that etiquette is easy? Ha! Here’s a simple one for you: Edwina and Gilbertina go to lunch. The bill is $60. Edwina presents a membership card which gives a discount – the bill is now $50. Do they split the bill based on $60 or $50?
Etiquette Central lives and breathes for questions like this, word puzzles that make people who aced the LSATs sob into their duvets. To answer correctly one must know – Did one of them invite the other? Was it clear to both of them that they were splitting the bill? Who has more disposable income? Further: What is the financial relationship between the two? Have they been to this restaurant before and who choose it? Then we up the ante: Did Edwina PAY for the membership or was it given for free? Does one of the two have a habit of trying to wiggle out of paying? And onward: Was the total of what they ate about the same? Did one have more taxable food than the other?
We can do this for hours. HOURS.
Giving the proper answers to etiquette questions is not a matter of looking in a book (or, Heaven Forfend!, look on-line) it requires skill, rum, delicacy, time, a huge library, hot buttered-scones, decades of experiences, mystic qualities and high-quality chocolates. You can’t rush greatness. You need to be thoroughly versed in alchemy, astronomy, astrology, ergonomics, economics, Pooh-sticks, reading runes and badminton.
People toss you a question like: “I am a bride-to-be and I would like to have only two dessert options at my wedding. Is that OK?” “Halt!” cries etiquette. Is it Tuesday? Is the barometer rising or falling? Are the peonies in bud? Hand over your coffee cup so I can look at the dregs and do you do your car maintenance as the manufacturer recommends?
Do you think I got these emeralds from the Viscountess because I rattled off an answer in three minutes? If you want a three-minute answer, you will get an answer that will result in you acquiring hives and a six-month suspended sentence with 400 hours of community service. Greatness takes times.
What is your favorite vegetable? How do the odds for betting on the Preakness look? What is your birth order and are you allergic to apricots? Questions such as these have resulted in my owning THREE, yes THREE, tiaras and a diamond brooch that would choke a hippopotamus.
Darling, I have too-too fabulous cuticles and enough bling to out-shine Vegas; when I walk into nice cafes, the waiters toss rose petals and lay down velvet cloaks for me to walk on. Etiquette wins.