Metropolitan Manners

Most of us deal with big city life as well as we can… while simultaneously trying to lessen the chaos around us. Join our bon vivant Mr. Manners Jake Gaines as he inspires us all to live a beautiful life, especially during the busy holiday season where emotions are heightened.

Dear Mr. Manners,
It is that time of year again. Time to give gifts for those who make our lives better year ‘ round. What do you recommend?

Holiday Preparedness

Dear Preppie,
The fact that all people are not as thoughtful as you is a great mystery. Of course you should compensate those around you with your acknowledgement of their value to you, your family and your office.

As people progress in life, things get more complicated. You depend on a “team” to help move your beautiful life along. That can mean a maid, grounds keeper, florist, hair stylist (and shampoo person), manicurist, valets for your high-rise residence, babysitters, live-in nannies, neighbors who do short term pet sitting, and so many more.

What to do? A gift card or certificate to a favorite store is always nice, an orchid that will last beyond the holiday season is welcome, a keepsake vintage ornament always pleases and a special CD of holiday classics, or a DVD of a holiday film, never fails to be played for years to come. Even a donation made in the name of the recipient to your (or their) favorite charity is a novel gift. No matter what you give, large or small, the intention with of holiday spirit and well wishing for the New Year is the kind that continues to give back to you as well. So, go ahead, give as you are able and inspire others to do so with your largesse, too. That is a feeling that will last way past the New Year’s resolutions.

Mr Manners

Dear Mr. Manners,
With the holiday season here, I am wondering if there is any official protocol for sidewalks, shopping mall aisles and other public spaces?

Savvy & Streetwise

Dear On The Street Where You Live,
What a perfect time of year for this question – it applies the other months of the year, too. Sidewalk etiquette seems like a quaint thing of the past, much like stockings with a dress and not talking loudly in public, yet there seems to be a few basic rules to keep in mind…
1. The right way to walk is well, the right way to walk. Always walk to bear to the right of where you are going.
2. If you seem to be headed straight for someone, both parties should unobtrusively take a step to their right, avoiding awkward sidewalk dances.
3. No one likes a slow walker, like one with a baby stroller, much less a group of people walking four abreast. If this is you, stick to the right and let other people go around you.
4. If you are texting and walking simultaneously, expect to get knocked down if you are not watching your way. We hope there are no injuries, yet the lesson will have been learned.
5. Men always walk on the outside of the sidewalk of women. On the right. Period. No other option. The notion comes from when streets were still unpaved and muddy…and gentlemen could help protect the outfits of the lady they were escorting from the possibility of splashing debris. No mud in the streets these days, but the rule still applies.
6. While we are on the subject, for both genders, if you see someone in need of help crossing the street, take them by the elbow and do so immediately.

Mr. Manners

Dear Mr. Manners,
My In-laws ignore my son and me on special occasions. I would like to say something to change the situation, but I don’t want a confrontation to ensue.
Silent and Suffering

Dear Noisemaker-To-Be,
The simple fact of the matter is that silence in concession. So many disenfranchised groups have gained their human and civil rights in the last 50 years because they raised their voices to be heard. I recommend you get ready to take a stand and do the same.

Unfortunately, when your in-laws fail to acknowledge you, a terrible message is sent: While your husband is surely a beloved part of the family, you are an outsider. That is bad enough; yet neglecting their grandson is even more mean-spirited and certainly not familial. If this keeps up, there is no way you can avoid feeling upset or angry, and not just toward your thoughtless in-laws, but also toward your husband for letting their intolerable behavior continue.

You cannot solve this problem alone. Your husband must get involved to support you and your son. He can remind them, in no uncertain terms, how much pleasure it gives a family member to be remembered on special occasions, and that there will be consequences if they do not do so (like a growing distance and resentment on the part of their own son) if the situation is not immediately rectified on your behalf.

Mr. Manners

Dear Mr. Manners,
Recently I attended a gala and the silverware was turned face down. I wonder why that was. Do you know?

Gala Gal

Dear Ballroom Betty,
That must have been quite a formal gala with silverware placed like that. It is a very European point of view that was created by the 18th century Duke of Devonshire at his estate, Chatsworth House. This rather Continental trend started because the lacey cuffs of both the male and female dinner guests would get caught on the silverware. That would turn an elegant affair into a challenging equation to be sure. So, with no fork tines to impede their fun, the civilized dinners continued with trine-down silverware. The fifth Duke of Devonshire was married to the Lady Georgiana Spencer, the celebrated beauty and society hostess, who was also an ancestor of Prince William.

Mr. Manners