In The Magazine

Houseguest Extraordinaire

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Q: My Dear Mr. Manners,

Rather than rent a home in the Hamptons this summer, I’ve decided to become a “professional houseguest.” Luckily, I have a number of Friends with Benefits who have spacious homes on Lily Pond and Gin Lane. How do I properly show my gratitude? And without breaking the bank?

Always a Visitor, Never a Host, Upper East Side, New York, New York

A: Dear Hamptons Homeless,

Your newfound bereft status aside (quel dommage!), Mr. Manners suggests you first invest in some decent stationery. Tout de suite. Cartier, Mrs. John L. Strong, Dempsey & Carroll or even Crane (if in a pinch, that WASP bastion Merrimade will do. Barely). The art of the handwritten note has gone the way of hieroglyphics, and so will you if yo u don’t start mastering your penmanship. And do be prompt with the post. I myself prefer for my first stay to come bearing a gift à la the Greeks: it presents a welcome flourish of gratitude (and might garner you a better room overlooking the sea or the Meadow Club, far away from the noisome sound of tennis balls bouncing below). Consider an opening sally of a bottle of Whispering Angel Rosé. One must assume you already know your hostess’s hue of preference (i.e., the divine Tory—as in Burch—adores orange), florist and luxe bath oil (the latter only if available on the Continent). If not, consult their interior designer or gardener, and immediately upon arrival ingratiate yourself to the staff. Do not go gaga with the prezzies on the following Monday. Think the very best of brands (not labels), but with a modicum of modesty: say, a Pratesi dopp kit or a changing towel for the beach; a giggle-some Smythson something; or the ol’ Pucci summer scarf (go vintage). Better Yet: Tap into something relevant to your stay. An early edition (second or third will suffice) of their fave writer or some novelist who came up in conversation (with the exception of Elizabeth Gilbert). Do curry favor with the master of the house: make note of his Labrador’s favorite gluten-free organic treat (or go fetch a Bottega dog leash: Mr. Manners’ mutt, the omniscient Baxter, likes Paul Smith) along with a six-pack of sirloins from Lobel’s for the golf-obsessed (yawn) hubster. Don’t opt for gift certificates from Saks in Southampton; Kabbalah bracelets; or that catchall cliché, the candle (although Mr. Manners welcomes insatiable fans to messenger Hotel Costes candles—signature Brown only, please—to his AVENUE P.O. box for his gracious know-how. Or to simply to meet him. As if!). Word to the wimpy: When in residence, be a sport like Mr. Manners’ nearest and dearest, the impeccable Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, and rise at dawn and whip up a simple breakfast. Your hosts will consider you forever brilliant. And do go easy on the loo paper. Asking your host for a plunger is unsavory. Or do like Mr. Manners and simply smuggle in your own.

Bespoke, of course.

Note: Another indispensable carry-on is Post-Poo Drops by A.P.C. Particularly when shacking up with bowel-obsessed Brits.

Q: Dear Mr. Manners,

I was recently at a sit-down dinner, and I noticed the gentleman to my left Google me during the first course. We were having a lovely conversation and then he abruptly ignored me from thereon. I’m mortified! Not to mention my self-esteem à la table has plummeted. What’s a girl to do?

Dinner Party Paranoia, A Fancy Backyard Soirée, East Hampton, New York

A: Dear Poor Placement,

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Turn off thy cell phone. The gentleman—dare I grace him as such—clearly needs practice, practice, practice. The same noblesse oblige applies to table manners, no matter the setting (or seating). You, my dear, behaved most admirably: conversing with those to both your left and right and then moving on. Think of yourself as the 740 Park Avenue jilted spouse who nevertheless reaped billions in the resulting settlement. You’re better off without him! (Although you might have your hacker teenage son tweak the hierarchy and content the next time one Googles you. And apply a touch of Facetune to your façade. Trust your ever-faithful Mr. Manners . . . it can do wonders! Everywhere.) And when in doubt about your self-worth, simply kneel by your trundle bed each night and utter Mr. Manners’ redoubtable Dog’s Prayer (for which we credit his Supreme Highness Baxter the Mutt): “Please, God, make me the person my dog thinks I am.” Be like Baxter and you’ll be fine, my pet, and never again be ruffled by some untoward ruffian.

Q: Mr. Manners, I’ve just been asked to accompany friends on holiday. But they only travel by private jet. Is there such a thing as private jet etiquette?

Erica All-Wrong, author of Fear of Flying Well, address withheld, New York, New York

A: Dear Virgin Airline-r,

Don’t fret. Mr. Manners to the rescue! With nary a moment to spare. Suffice to say, one salient slipup and you’ll never fly PJ again. (Reverting to commercial is for the birds. MM knows what he speaks of and only goes wheels up at Teterboro.) First and foremost (are you taking notes?), testosterone-stoked hosts like to think of themselves as captains of the skies. Upon entering the aircraft, do not sit down first. There are understood rules, and everyone—most of all, He Who Is Chartering or Owns the Plane (there is a difference) always has his preferred seat. For all you illiterates, picture the young William Shatner at the bridge: i.e., you do not have the conn. Don’t be the first to beam down and unravel the Hermès blankets draped over the back of each seat—and, despite their insistence, be a good trooper and graciously decline one of the beds later offered while crossing the Atlantic. In which case be prepared to be a listener extraordinaire: the husband’s insomniac wife is likely to drown you in 10,000 miles of drivel (if you’re prone to snoring, have your deviated septum done before. Any unwanted sonorous interruption on your part is the death knell of free flying). And don’t try to utter some conciliatory remark when approaching the plane and you notice the inevitable PJ envy in the burning eyes of your host. It’s a hopeless endeavor. Brush up on your backgammon or canasta, have some oh-so-naughty YouTube videos at hand to amuse all and, upon arrival, simply book a table for ten at GreenGo or the Jockey Club and let the champs flow. One needn’t pretend to do more (or less: MM knows of one silly guest who baked cookies for the plane—only to later realize she had confused them with her daughter’s batch of edibles). Your host well knows (and takes unconscious pleasure in) your bank account being comparatively paltry. Why do you think they ever invited you in the first place? In ego veritas, my dear.


R.I.P. Mario Buatta, 1935-2018

The Prince of Chintz has died after a life of loveliness and laughter.

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