Your glass is not a microphone

Etiquette tip while chatting with someone over food:

Let’s say that you’re meeting with a friend for brunch. You order Eggs Benedict, she orders banana pancakes. During your chat, you bring the cup of water to your lips. Just as you’re about to take a sip she asks you a question. You answer your question with your mouth right over the glass.

Please don’t do that. Take the time to take a drink of water, put your glass down, then answer the question. Time isn’t so pressing that you need to answer it right as you’re taking a drink. This behavior indicates that you are so pressed for time that you can’t slow down and enjoy the moment. Talking into your glass muffles your response so that she can’t hear you. It makes conversation more difficult.

Also, use a straw when you can. Those glasses aren’t always cleaned well.

Year’s End

It is now 12:13 AM on 12/31/12 here. It is officially New Year’s Eve.

I’d like to write a reflection on this whole year to date later, but first I want to say something about this time of year. I hear people greet each other at this time with “Happy New Year!” in preparation for the season to come. There is certainly excitement about this time; we all face this new year with anticipation of blessings and good things (as well as unforeseen difficulties and trials.) We are all looking forward to what lies ahead.

Yet this is also an apt moment for reflection upon the previous year. While it is true that we live life day by day, experiencing every moment as it comes, we also have the privilege of memory and wisdom to guide us in examining and learning from the past. We can celebrate the previous year; even with all the hardships and obstacles, we have lived and have grown. In fact, it would be amiss for us to neglect this chance to consider the past twelve months, for before long age will cause our memories to fail us.

So Happy New Year, of course, but also Happy Year’s End. We’ve made it.

Be patient

When someone else is engaged in conversation, don’t interrupt unless necessary.

A few weeks ago I was working in the church office on the Christmas Party. I asked someone there for some help in brainstorming ideas for food. As we started talking, another person asked me a question related to another project that would take place later that day. I responded, “Excuse me, I’m talking with this person right now. Would it be alright if I answer your question later?” He looked embarrassed and sheepishly said yes.

Please be considerate and not interrupt another person’s conversation. If you do need to interrupt, do so graciously. Don’t simply barge in with “Hey, what do you think of this?”

You are a host

Bear in mind that when people come to your place, you are a host. Whether it is your home, your school, or your workplace, anytime you have a guest with you, you are hosting them. Tell them where the restrooms are, offer them something to drink, sit down and chat with them.

Of our closest friends and companions, we may say “Well, they’re like family! I don’t need to offer them anything because they know that what I have is theirs.” True as this statement may be, it can be used as an excuse for our own lack of thoughtfulness and initiative in extending hospitality. Calling someone family should not be a cover for laziness.

Take the extra step. Be hospitable to your guests. It’s only considerate.

General Napkin Etiquette

If you are at a restaurant with a cloth or very sturdy paper napkin:

Don’t unfold it and cover your lap. It’s not an apron, after all, and what you’re communicating is that you’re not competent enough in using silverware to keep food from splattering on your clothes. Definitely don’t tuck it into your shirt as a bib, unless you wish to be treated as an infant for the duration of the meal.

Keep it folded neatly on your lap. When using it, unfold it and use the fold for your lips. The goal is to keep the used part of your napkin unseen. Your neighbors on either side of you at the table would rather not see stains of the marinara sauce or blueberry compote spotting your napkin.

Dab, don’t wipe or smear. Wiping may have the unfortunate effect of getting the food onto the rest of your face and damaging your lipstick (if you’re wearing).

If you need to leave the table momentarily, put your napkin on your seat. Don’t put the napkin on the table. Putting the napkin on the table is a sign that the meal is over and you’re ready to leave. Place the napkin neatly folded on your seat; don’t toss it down unceremoniously. When you are leaving, put the napkin next to the plate, not on it.

Don’t blow or pick your nose or clean your teeth with the napkin. Go to the bathroom if you need to do that (and remember to put your napkin on the seat).

If the napkin falls to the ground, it’s perfectly appropriate to ask the waitstaff for another one.

If someone spills a beverage on the table (hopefully not you), it’s alright to use your napkin to try to help clean it up as you flag down the waitstaff. It is a minor emergency, after all, although it would be preferable to get a fresh napkin. However, if the beverage spilled on someone else’s clothes, ask the waitstaff for a napkin or get one nearby. Don’t try to clean off the iced tea on someone’s blouse with your chocolate mousse-tinged cloth.

Dancers in Vegas

At the Vegas bachelor party for David, we went from casino to casino to take in the sights. We explored the opulence of Caesars Palace, scarfed down pizza at New York-New York, and caught the water show at the Bellagio. We stopped by the Venetian and decided to order some drinks at a lounge. We settled into our seats with our beers and watched the musicians set up on the stage. Guitar plugged in, mics set up, lights on. Then… “Just a small town girl, Livin’ in a lonely world!” A Journey tribute band. Nice!

As the band played on, a middle-aged couple (maybe in their 50’s) came up and started dancing. Then another couple came up, and then another. Soon the dance floor was a sea of Hawaiian shirts and pastel cardigans, socks-with-sandals clad feet kicking it with Skechers Shape Ups. They were definitely grooving, pumping their fists and singing “Dooon’t stop… Beliiiievin’!!!”

These people, in their ordinary lives, are probably not very exciting. They are probably librarians or mail carriers or accountants. It’s been a long time since anyone has told them that they were sexy or suave or desirable (in general, they had very well-fed physiques.) Yet in that moment, on that dance floor, they didn’t care how silly or dumpy or awkward they looked. They were taken back to their youth and the crazy cool feelings they had about life, music, and each other. Love, nostalgia, and a healthy dose of I-don’t-give-a-crap-what-you-think-I’m-going-to-dance-my-heart-out came together in a flash of glory. Hold on to that feelin’

Hospitality

Whenever a guest comes into your home, always offer them something to drink. Anything will do (water, juice, alcohol if appropriate). More than just the beverage itself, it is a simple act of welcome. You are tangibly providing a benefit to them for free; you are extending generosity, even in if it is only in a small thing. It surprises me how many people forget this.

Thoughts on being a parent

First, let’s set things straight. I’m not a parent and probably won’t be for at least a couple years. But a thought about parenting has come up.

I heard this weekend about a new Korean movie that was just released called Don’t Cry Mommy. A recently-divorced woman’s daughter gets gang-raped by some classmates in her high school, which causes emotional trauma leading to suicide. Since they are minors, the boys are given a light sentence, much to the distress of the mother. She then goes on a rampage to exact excruciating physical harm on each of the perpetrators in an act of vengeance.

I haven’t seen the movie nor plan to, but I do want to comment on how heartbreaking and fearful parenthood can be. When parents rock their little infants at night or watch them go to school, there must be moments of panic and worry. Will they be ok? How will they navigate the strange and at times disturbing social world of their peers? How will they live today? Will they live today? It’s horrifying that any parent even has to think about this, but it’s an unfortunate reality in this world.

It’s true that those who don’t have children will never suffer this fear. Yet they will also never experience the great joy of parenthood. True love risks dismay, distress, and heartbreak. True love is risky.