Thursday, February 22, 2018

Please do not do this at a cocktail party


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Dear Readers:

As stated in my column of Jan. 02nd 2013, because my book "Manners and Entertaining with Marguerite Gordon" is (at the moment) out of print, I would be serializing specific chapters of this book, namely the chapters focusing on gentlemen and their romantic (or lack of) knowledge of how to be "successful" in this important "department".

I am so pleased to tell you that quite a few gentlemen have phoned or approached me (in a most agreeable manner), about some advice in this department. Last week where I introduced ladies "Single-Separated-or Somewhere In Between" giving them all one name Serena, I also described some guys out there. There is "Rocco" " (nice guy with a future), "Mac" (married and insincere) "Percy" (lives at home, perhaps with Mom and is just too comfortable) "Cal" (dangerous and wants a "trophy' wife), and of course "Jasper" (not the normal marriage type). Comments on that column ranged from, "I want to meet Rocco" - "I only seem to know Macs" - "You have described Cal to a T" - "I really believe this guy who has been dating me for three years is definitely Percy", "I now understand that my friend is a Jasper!"

And to my headline and picture of "Serena's" outfit asking is it too sexy and revealing for her first dinner for two at her home? Well, more about that and her dinner party another time.

However, I did write on Jan 02nd that I would also address anything that just might "pop up". So just what has popped up to stop (for the moment), my serializing these particular chapters of my book? Actually, one of the two questions I am now going to answer is answered in my book - which certainly encompasses not only social but also business etiquette - and many other situations. These are questions asked of me by participants of different levels in the different types of courses I do for companies.

The first question is, "I am a Personal Assistant and have found over the years that there seems to be a bias against us females in this position. All other Admin Assistants seem to resent me. Why?"

My answer to that is to put over 75 per cent blame for this situation squarely on the shoulders of the 'Boss,' who has decided he needs to have this type of assistant. He/or she should explain to his/her staff the basic responsibilities of this Personal Assistant whose meteoric "rise to indispensability" has been quite remarkable. And yes, this position is usually held by a woman and the job entails more than business appointments and computer knowledge, it may also include her attending meetings, arranging travel schedules, event planning and other personal help in balancing cheque books, etc. But this 'Boss' must be careful of the "power" he is delegating because it might just snap back at him.

It is not only staff whom the Personal Assistant can run afoul of, she can completely irritate the wife or partner of that 'Boss' especially if this PA has an unfortunate personality, takes herself too seriously, is full of her own self-perceived importance, wears low-cut, figure-hugging and short clothes and literally on an occasion (as I was reliably informed by a justifiable annoyed wife), decided unwisely to stand beside the CEO to greet guests, attempting to leave the wife in the background. She did not succeed. So 25% of resentment to the PA can be caused by the PA herself. Having said that, there are some sterling ladies out there who keep their cool, when those around them may be losing theirs.

Question 2: Do you approve of chicken legs and Buffalo wings being served at important cocktail functions? And how can I get rid of something that is already in my mouth and I just cannot swallow!

This answer is in Chapter 13 "Eating Out and Dining In" from my book.


First, let me address the thorny subject of chicken bones. Very few people look dignified when eating in general, especially the many who may chew vigorously and enthusiastically (or slowly), with open mouths. Unfortunately, those who cannot resist their love of chicken legs, fall into this category. Once juicy chicken legs and wings get into hungry hands it would seem that many people, except of course those with strong determination, lose control and, with visions of Mayaro, Maracas Beach in Trinidad or Lime Cay in Jamaica, and childhood days dancing through their heads, proceed to behave as though they are indeed in their bathing suits on a sunny beach. I have observed people 'going to town' on this particular hors hors d'oeuvres and (horrors) have once, even overheard an 'addicted to the bone' gentleman tell his companion how much he loved the marrow. This conversation was audible between slurping sounds and then completed with a quick lick of fingers at a rather sophisticated cocktail party.


Do I approve of chicken legs and buffalo wings (why buffalo, I wonder), being served at cocktail parties and receptions? A resounding no! May I respectfully suggest that hostesses remove these from their menus and substitute instead delicious boneless goodies such as honeyed garlic chicken nuggets on toothpicks. (Guests should resist the temptation of using these toothpicks to do dental hygiene), sahinas, samosas, mini crepes and anchovies on toast. There are many other types of snacks, plus wonderful Chinese hors de'oeuvres that one can order. Remember the cameras may be upon you.


Some photographers appear to lie in wait until someone is eating, or has just opened their mouths to take a bite of something, to snap a shot. Do you realise that no one has ever seen a picture of the Royal Family of the UK eating? I understand that photographers are banned from showing them consuming food! But what a pity they did not get a picture of A VERY important lady, whom I understand once spat out whatever she had in her mouth.

It happened at a large official function held outdoors in a gracious garden. Bad enough if it was on a lawn, totally unbelievable if it was inside a room. But if this food cannot be swallowed (and she is at table), what should she have done? She should have put her fork to her mouth (prongs down), taken it gracefully from her mouth and deposited it on the side of her dinner plate. Not on the side plate (if there was one), for all to see, because what came out of her mouth would have been totally unattractive. Using her napkin for this would definitely be a no-no!


The situation, however, differs if at a cocktail party or even when having drinks and snacks before dinner. She would have been given a cocktail paper napkin, which is perfectly acceptable at very large functions. This is when a napkin can be used to remove offending food from the mouth. She should have moved away from the group, turned her back and gracefully and clandestinely completed her task.

Okay, some 'smart" person is going to ask suppose she had no paper napkin? Well, hopefully, she had a handbag and hopefully inside this bag she had tissues. So, a tissue could have been used, then she should have looked for a waiter or waitress collecting empty glasses and/or plates and politely asking, ''May I place this here?'' deposited the small evidence of this minor calamity. Whatever happens, ladies and gentlemen PLEASE do not spit, anywhere at any time.