Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A real class act

The story has been making the rounds all month: White House advisor Valerie Jarrett was attending a recent Washington dinner when Four-star Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli walked behind her. Jarrett, sitting down, only saw the general’s striped pants that resembled a waiter’s.

So she asked him for a glass of wine.

Ouch! Talk about embarrassing. But haven’t we all had some seriously red-faced social mistake? True, it probably wasn’t with someone who has Chiarelli’s rank (although if it was, you should tell us about it!) - but just the same, it might well have kept you up at night as you replay your mistake over and over.

So, what did Chiarelli do?

He got her some wine.

“It was an honest mistake that ANYONE could have made,” Chiarelli wrote in an e-mail to CNN. “…She apologized and will come to the house for dinner if a date can be worked out in March.”

As one journalist and author wrote, Chiarelli’s kindness should be the rule, but is sometimes the exception—as in the case of one famous singer, who demanded that an usher who didn’t recognize him be dismissed.

We may not be famous, but we can all learn from Chiarelli’s example.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Time to make the aspic

We have a soft spot for old etiquette guides.

Are you young? Modern?
Are you young? Modern? Great! This book is for you! (1954, Scholastic)

Or maybe you need to grow up a little first. (1962, Harper & Row)

Some of the advice dispensed in these books holds true today. Some is completely outdated. Some borders on cringe-worthy. But oh, the illustrations!

What career will she ever choose? (Spoiler alert: if she follows the advice of the book, it will be to get married and have babies. "Basically, of course, every girl wants to get married and raise a family," writes author Candy Jones. "...And when she does marry and finds herself darning socks or rinsing out baby's diapers - even when she gripes about how terrible her fate is, don't believe her...sock darning and diaper rinsing are part of what she wants out of life, deep down inside. Meanwhile, however, one has to pass the time some way, before the right marrying man shows up." ("Time to Grow Up," By Cindy Jones, 1962, Harper & Row)

"Let them paw you"
Look at that cool customer! This part of the book warns readers about the dangers of being "fast." This is probably advice parents will give their children until the end of time. (From "Time to Grow Up")

Or perhaps you are looking for some solid napkin advice.

Beware the "lapkin"
Beware of the "lapkin"! I wonder which "high authority" "daringly suggests" that you sit on your napkin? "Quite beyond the pale" indeed! Fetch me some smelling salts! By the way, this same book says that dunking your food in sauce in acceptable "only in the bosom of your family." Remember that. ("The Complete Book of Table Setting," By Amelia Leavitt Hill, 1949, The Greystone Press, NY)

Many of these books provide meal suggestions, and it is amazing how much aspic is included.
Mmmmmmm, aspic
(from "The Complete Book of Table Setting")

Table setting ideas are abundant, from styles suited to sitting side by side (a bit awkward if you've ever actually tried that) to "little people" at Halloween to duck hunters.

I think sitting side-by-side is a little weird
Very little people!
This will come in handy at my next Duck Hunting Luncheon.
(all from "The Complete Book of Table Setting")

Good manners never change, but etiquette is a living thing, adapted for each new generation. Teaching the waltz can co-exist with teaching texting etiquette. When our young people grow up, the world will be yet more different, but there will always exist the need to treat others with respect!

Have a great weekend - may it be filled with proper table settings.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

LL Cool J cares about etiquette

LL Cool J is quite the family man. Not only is the rapper and actor the featured Celebrity Q & A in the February issue of Family Circle (the hardest part of being a dad? "Remaining open-minded"), but now he's singing the praises of children's etiquette.

To be more precise, he said in a recent interview that he has hired an etiquette consultant to work with his children.

"I want my kids to know how to walk in a room and to have some manners and to know how to be polite," LL Cool J told TV Guide. "You have to learn that somewhere. You don't just assume that it just happens."

As children's etiquette teachers, we meet a lot of caring parents just like LL Cool J who want the best for their children, including the tools to be successful in life. And we are more than happy to provide those tools. Knowing how to behave in different social settings not only gives children confidence, but it reinforces the importance of treating other people well, and we're all about that. Thanks, LL Cool J!

Friday, February 11, 2011


Valentine’s Day is Monday. Today is Friday. If you are a parent, that means your child is likely getting preparing by either buying or making cards to bring to school. (Or, if you tend to procrastinate like many fine people, that means you are planning to get or make cards Sunday night.)

Keep in mind the following:

• You might think that Valentine's Day cards and candy go hand-in-hand, but keep in mind that some schools have policies on bringing candy or treats, whether it’s based on allergies or a preference not to bring sweets to school. Talk to your child’s teacher and find out whether you can send candy before you do so.

• Be sure that your child has enough cards for every student in the classroom so that no one is left out. If you need a head count, ask your child’s teacher. Don’t forget to include cards for your child’s teachers!

• If you are addressing each card, make sure you have the proper spellings of each student’s name. You can also leave the Valentine cards blank, and just have your child sign them.

• And of course, remind your child to say “Thank you” when receiving cards!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Candy hearts and first dates

Ah, Valentine’s Day: a time of red and pink hearts, candy and chocolate (no objections there) and...possibly your very first date, a nerve-wracking time for all involved.

Maybe you’re about to go on your first date. Maybe you are the parent of someone who is about to go on a first date. In either case, we are sure that you are contemplating many things right now. Are you about to meet someone’s parents for the first time? Are you the parent, about to be met? What joy, anticipation and panic is in store for you!

Don’t worry. We’re here to help!

Before the date
• Plan ahead. Don’t wait until the last minute to ask someone out on a date. Once you’ve got the OK, make dinner reservations in advance.

• Be clean. This goes for your car, your clothes, and your body.

• Have money. If you ask someone on a date, be prepared to pay for it.

• Be on time. Don’t make your date wait, and stick to the schedule for dinner reservations. If you are a young person, remember to abide by any curfews set in place—especially if you want to curry favor with the parents, which brings us to…

Meeting the parents
• Don’t worry if this feels old-fashioned. When your date or your date’s parents enter the room, stand up.

• Whether you are standing or sitting, keep good posture — don’t slouch over.

• Make eye contact and smile when you shake hands.

At dinner

• Make sure your cell phone is silenced and kept out of sight.

• If you’re dining at a formal restaurant, tell the maitre d’ your name and the time of your reservation. If the maitre d’ leads the way to the table, the lady should follow first, then her date — and don’t forget to thank the person seating you.

• Remember your basic table manners — chew with your mouth closed (and swallow before you speak), keep your elbows off the table, eat bite-sized pieces.

Door, Chair, Coat
If all else fails, think of three things: the door, the chair, the coat — as in holding car and building doors open, offering seats at the table, and helping your date in and out of her coat. You might have guessed that this advice generally pertains to the young man. This might sound old-fashioned to you. In our opinion, doing these things does not at all suggest that your date is helpless. It is not a commentary on larger male and female roles in society. However, it is a nonverbal way of telling your date that you like her and enjoy doing things that are helpful for her. It is a way to be kind.

And isn’t kindness a big part of the holiday? Happy Valentine’s Day!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Training - mark your calendars now!

Have you ever considered becoming a children’s etiquette consultant? Now’s a good time to get out your calendar and make plans, because we have three training weeks on the schedule for 2011.

We’ve blogged before a little about what it’s like to train with us to become a certified children’s etiquette consultant. Not only do you learn from the experts (Dorothea Johnson, the founder of the Protocol School of Washington, calls us “the nation’s most outstanding source of children’s etiquette training”), but you have a great time meeting other future consultants, spending time with the outstanding children we teach, and leave ready to start your own business.

When you train with us, you

• Attend a five-day, hands-on training course
• Learn from our trainers and experts, who have in-depth knowledge and personal experience
• Have access to knowledge from our extended team of experts
• Receive a universally-accepted, updated curriculum for 8-24-year-old students
• Receive resource guides for business operations, marketing and PR, and social dance
• Observe and participate in student-interactive classes
• Enjoy a six course dining tutorial
• Have a professional photograph session
• Receive our continued professional support long after you’ve been certified

Our 2011 training sessions are April 11-15, June 20-24, and Nov. 7-11. Feel free to sign up online, or visit our website for more information. Hope to see you soon!