Happy New Year. My book Manners and Entertaining with Marguerite Gordon is at the moment out of print locally, though you can still (for a short while), access it on Amazon. I, therefore, thought that I would start in 2013 giving chapters (abridged), of my book in my columns. So for the month of January I intend to concentrate on: Romance, Courtship and Engagements (and whatever pops up).
This first chapter is for the men. Please read carefully (OK, if you are married DO NOT READ this, please pass this on to some unmarried man).
HOW TO BE A SUCCESSFUL 'ROMANTIC BACHELOR'
This short chapter is for the guys who cannot understand why they are always failing in their relationships. Why do the women they like always seem to be leaving them? Sometimes after the first date and going out with others. Are these ladies going out with other men who have more money than they do? Perhaps. Is something wrong with their personal hygiene? Perhaps. (And their best friend has not even told them). Have they been loutish in their behaviour by never opening any door for her, sitting down before she did, ordering their meal first and trying to ''rush'' her at the end of the night? Probably many or all of the above.
Who are these men and where do they live? All of these guys could live in Trinidad and Tobago, in the East, the South, Central or in the North in Belmont, in Laventille, in Maraval, St Clair, Ellerslie Park and in the West in West Moorings, Goodwood Park and Glencoe.
Do you know enough about women? Let me now address the individual young (or middle aged or older), man directly. You perhaps need to be more skilful in understanding women! Nearly every woman, though some may deny it, wants and needs a little, or a lot of... romance. So here is what you need to know. Work on 'Good Manners', select the right kind of music, soft lights in the evening, and if that first date is in your apartment or house or whatever, make sure it is clean and neat. And please pay attention to the bathroom. Is there toilet tissue? Is the basin spic and span? Is there a clean hand towel in place? Is the soap good-looking or does it look as though it has come a long way and is now exhausted (and if you really are caring and are determined to create a sizzling first impression. . put the toilet seat down). But the most important asset you need is the ability to cook! Do this first meal by yourself.
Great manners and attire please!
Good Manners can be the key, but the following is really applicable in this scenario. If she is transporting herself to your place, meet her at the door properly dressed. Look, I am not going to go into details here, if your shirt is unbuttoned to your waist because you feel you have a good looking chest and six-pack abs so be it, but be aware that you may thoroughly frighten the lady. The only six-pack that should be visible (in the kitchen), is a six pack of beer. Of course, there may be some ladies who will not be alarmed at all, but it is best to assume that they will be, so please be decently buttoned up.
Extra action on the home front
Before she arrived you would have mopped the floor and vacuumed, you would have removed the running shoes but if, as there is a knock at the door or a ring of the bell and you still see the dirty socks on the floor, grab them up swiftly and stuff them under the sofa cushions please. Try not to forget them there.
Setting the ambience...
lighting... flowers... plants
Consider dimming the lights but not overly so, or the place will look suspiciously like a dark alley. A gentleman once told me that he would just take out a few bulbs and tell the visiting lady that the sockets were faulty. That could look as though you are cheap with maintenance. Get some dimmers or turn off the overhead lights, but be sure to have a few lamps that work.
Now IMPORTANT TIPS:
Put even two flowers and a bit of greenery (a palm leaf or any other leaf), in an old kettle or a tall glass or a water jug on your coffee table and wham, you have just scored a point, she will think you charming, sweet and feel touched and a little sorry for you because you do not have a real vase. A potted plant in a corner of the living or dining area is a guaranteed winner. If you are NOT possessed with the proverbial ''green thumb'' read the following intently. The morning of this fabulous dinner party find some flower pot, hopefully with earth and find some bamboo leaves as tall as you like (Chinese Bamboo is best because they do not grow to towering heights) and after cutting them, stick them in the middle of your pot. Put some water in before you go to work. You will obviously have to scout the terrain for this type of plant before, so always be on the lookout for this great ''setting the mood'' plant. Check your neighbour's garden. I promise you that for a couple of days these bamboos will look alive and green and thriving. Women like to know you like plants even if they do not (like me), have a green thumb.
That table for two!
You would have set your table for two. Use as your tablecloth, a checked material, some table mats, and repeat that clever little flower or two in a coffee mug this time and at least one candle — any sort, any colour. This is a just wonderful touch and boy, are you looking romantic. Do not forget the cloth (never paper, I repeat, never paper) napkins, that you have folded into squares of rectangles or triangles (that's easy enough); forget any other shapes, no fancy shapes with these napkins please. You must NOT look too ''arty''. Place these napkins on the LEFT of the table settings, not in the water glasses. I am not going to go into colour schemes with you, just put cloth napkins on the table. Actually, if the colour is a bit off, we women will again feel just a little sorry for you because we all know that many men are just a little bit colour blind and this is not their fault, it allegedly has something to do with a gene inherited from their mother's side.
Knives and forks
The knife and the fork, I presume are, in the right position (you know the cutting edge of the knife is in, NOT out and on the right). We now need wine and water glasses. This is not the appropriate time to mention the correct shape wine glasses - that can be discussed another time - but what I will ask is this... isn't it about time that Caribbean men take their wine seriously? Learn about the grape gentlemen; learn about, "smelling, tasting, and observing the colour of the wine". Learn about the correct shape of a glass so that a particular glass will enhance the taste of the wine and let it linger in the mouth, and if it is a ''great'' wine you will experience that ''afterglow''. But for now, you have arrived from work late, so just put your stemmed wine glasses on the table.
Wine glasses. What, no stems?
Do not go into an agony of despair if you do not have wine glasses at all. In Europe at many informal and very casual occasions, even in sidewalk cafes and taverns, wine is served in short drinking glasses with not a stem in sight. So find a short water glass to use as your wine glasses, but promise never to let this happen to you again. Get some wine glasses please, and remember that shape is everything (so is function), and it is best to have the correct shape but it does not necessarily have to be crystal. Use a plain glass! Try to put the water glasses on the inside of your table setting (right side, above the knife), and your wine glass (pretend you are the guest and looking at the place setting) should be placed on the RIGHT OF THAT WATER GLASS. So what's happening in the kitchen? Are you going to make cocktails before dinner and what's on the menu?
Next week, perhaps recipes that will make ladies fall in love! Women LOVE guys who cook! Or perhaps some hints to ladies about the kind of guys to stay away from!