In The Magazine

Social Sensation

Monday, August 3, 2015
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Q: Dear Mr. Manners,
Can you help persuade the East End seafood restaurants to stock up on shellfish tableware and stop forcing us to eat with meat knives and forks? I carry my own lobster picks to the Lobster Grille since no one can possibly eat crab legs with shrimp forks. I have finally gotten the waiters to provide me with a finger bowl rather than those dreadful chemical wipes they provide. Will Mr. Manners please help the East End to stop being known for poor, uncivilized service?

Evelyn Konrad
Attorney-at-law
Southampton

A: My Dear Evelyn,
Bravo! Mr. Manners tips his Panama to you, Evelyn, for coming out of your “shell” and not sailing adrift to poor table etiquette. Particular types of seafood calls for unique accessories to access the meat from within the shell. Lobster demands a proper lobster pick. (And one needn’t be in nappies to don a bib, an external requisite for all that squirting and spraying when breaking the shell like a nutcracker). You shouldn’t be relegated to toting your own hardware when dining out for the evening. A succulent lobster is something of a slovenly delicacy. We hereby call for a petition for the Lobster Grille (among others) to duly supply the requisite finger bowl (lukewarm water and lemon wedges) rather than a pint-size wet wipe that smells like a New York taxi air freshener. If necessary, a (nonviolent) protest is not out of order: placards reading “Finger Bowls Now!” (Bear in mind, though, that we’re not speaking of Le Bernardin here.) And while we’re taking a poke at matters piscine, let us address the quickly vanishing fish fork. Mr. Manners vividly recalls a poor friend, stuck with a fish knife resembling a meat cleaver, who recently saw a piece of his salmon fly off and land on the silk gown of a woman a few seats away. What’s a gentleman to do? If noticed, fess up immediately and ring the expert cleaning specialists at Madame Paulette. If not, be something of a shark (plenty of those in the Hamptons) and claim ignorance.

Q: Mr. Manners,
Do people tip anymore other than with a waiter? Is it still done? I don’t want to come off as presumptuous by doing so. Yet I’m 24, doing well working at a hedge fund in the city, and it’s something I always saw done frequently in old movies (or by my grandfather, I think).

Aspiring Gentleman
c/o My Parents’ Pad (Groan)
Sagaponack

A: Dear Movin’ On Up,
How good of you to ask. Yes, tipping, when done gracefully, is a courteous way of showing one’s gratitude. If the maître d’ has outdone himself, by all means discreetly slip him a neatly folded $20 bill when you shake his hand while being seated. (It is a gesture of confidence and, as you practice the art, you’ll become less fearful of a flock of bills flying everywhere.) In a men’s room such as at the 21 Club or Cipriani, remember to leave a couple dollars even if you didn’t quite take advantage of the attendant’s services. A waiter’s gratuity should be judged by the service—not the silly calculations supplied on the bill (and, please, if some fellow diners start taking out their iPhone calculator to split the bill down to the very last cent, roll your eyes and make for the door). Bartenders should receive a percentage commensurate to what you imbibed, particularly if you plan on returning. Here’s a tip for traveling: compensate skycaps after checking your bags for first class; the hotel concierge (immediately upon arrival, bestow some monetary munificence: the concierge knows all); as well as bellhops, doormen and, yes, the housekeeping staff (upon departing). The smaller the role, the more aware one should be. (Taxi drivers in most countries abroad do not receive a gratuity except by Americans who don’t know otherwise). It is inexcusable to check out of your hotel room without leaving a monetary thank-you to those who turn your bed down at night (and tidy up, ahem, whatever else).

Q: Dear Mr. Manners,
I recently went on a date at a well-known Upper East Side French bistro, and when I showed up, she looked at me as if I was Richard Simmons in hot pants. It was a fetid, disgustingly humid weekend night so I showed up in shorts and a Malo polo. Even worse, once we sat down, I couldn’t even hear myself flirt due to the loud chatter from a table of four young women next door. By the end of the night, I resembled a misogynist. What’s a guy to do?

Mr. Ready, Sweat, Go
Upper East Side
New York

A: Dear “He Who Shvitzes,”
At least you didn’t show up in flip-flops (or dare I say Crocs). Man Rule Number One: Shorts are a no-no in the big city. Particularly on the Upper East Side (Mr. Manners will make an exception for gents of a certain age who live in the East Village or Williamsburg and its neighboring environs.) Linen is not a term used solely for one’s Frette sheets. It is for nights just such as these and, when your shirt is mixed with silk or cotton, it does not wrinkle upon arrival. If wearing a long-sleeve cotton shirt, layer it underneath with an undershirt (whether Hanro or Uniqlo) so you don’t perspire through the outer layer of the fabric like a wet mop (you will not feel any warmer—provided you purchase the right undershirt). Belgian loafers or the like, sans socks, are both permissible and sporty. Mr. Manners empathizes with you when it comes to having a cackling gaggle of loud twentysomething young women whose only idea of multitasking is to constantly peer down at their phones while they spout noise pollution of the most unseemly sort. They should know to keep their voices at the right decibel, but their stentorian presence and uncivilized behavior has become a veritable plague throughout New York. It’s come to the point where it’s not even uncommon to see them hover over the table on their elbows while gripping their silverware like bayonets. It pains me to say, but they look at a man in astonishment if he stands up from the table to greet them or opens the door for them. Pull their chairs out, and they’re likely to flop to the floor—they’re all so unaccustomed to gentlemanly behavior. Regardless of the befuddled look on their faces, always walk on the outside of the curb even if there isn’t a Sir Walter Raleigh–esque puddle in sight. Most women relish a gentleman. The bad apple of cacophonous millennials out there shouldn’t spoil the whole bunch, dear. 

Illustration by Gary Hovland
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