It’s truly impressive how many questions posed in Amy Vanderbilt’s Everyday Etiquette, originally written in 1952, are completely irrelevant to life today. Check some out (with their original spelling intact) along with an abbreviated version of her reply.
1. Is it really correct to drink bottled drinks right from the bottle?
Amy Vanderbilt replies, “This is something like eating a wedge of pie right from the hand,” which shockingly enough means: Yes, it’s OK in informal situations.
Do people hang around in casual wear eating wedges of pie with their hands? I have never witnessed this.
2. How do a man’s bow and a woman’s bow differ?
A man bows slightly from the waist, a modification of what he learned in “dancing class.” Women make a slight inclination of the head.
Men always sit next to strangers and the aisle, so in the case of two couples, the women would sit side by side.
While I’ve never heard anyone worry over this question, I regularly see male significant others seat the women beside each other at the movies and sit on either side of them. Gentlemanliness prevails!
4. Do you feel a woman public speaker must always wear a hat?
Not if she’s in evening clothes. But “a veil, flowers or perhaps a velvet ribbon” would be a good idea.
A veil? Really?
5. For years I have wondered what a girl is supposed to say to a fellow after they have danced together and he takes her back to the table. The fellow usually says, “Thank you.” Then what does the girl say?
I’ve wondered this for years too!
No I haven’t.
The answer from Amy: “I enjoyed it too.”
6. Is it ever correct for a man to go without garters?
“The matter of garters for gentlemen is a very touchy question.” To paraphrase her reply: They look neater but men hate them! And some are side-stepping the whole thing by wearing magical socks that stay up on their own.
7. My mother says nice girls don’t call up boys. I think this has changed, don’t you?
Somewhat. “A girl should really have some excuse for calling up a boy.”
And we’re still making excuses….
8. What do you think of those meaningless cliches that some people seem to adopt as trade marks? I’m thinking of such gems as “Good-by now,” “You can say that again,” “like so,” and “out of this world.” Don’t you think this sort of thing sometimes gets out of hand?
“Yes, I do,” says Amy, and they “sound particularly inept from a grown man or woman.”
If this is what the person asking this question worries about, they couldn’t possibly handle Miley Cyrus.
9. I have a friend who is a very strict Methodist. When he visits us, is it incorrect for us to serve wine at the table?
Serve it, just expect him to refuse it.
10. Is it proper for a single girl to have dinner in a bachelor’s apartment without a chaperone?
“Social convention can do very little to protect a girl really bent on getting into difficulties.” Ain’t that the truth, Amy, who continues to say, roughly: No way for a teenager, but a “career girl” can as long as she leaves by 10 or 10:30. And she can stay till midnight if others are present.
In general, she recommends: “Avoid the appearance of evil,” which in all honesty, is kind of solid advice for most situations still.
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