One morning while wandering about the house, I had the television on for background noise. It was the morning news, and if something struck my interest, I stopped to listen. The local station was doing a fluff piece – instructing the viewers on the finer art of being a good Thanksgiving Dinner Guest. Really? I had to stop in my tracks. Have we reached the point in our social evolution that we need instruction on proper behavior from the television. Aren’t manners taught in the home anymore? Or have the rules somehow changed? They had my attention.
- RSVP. While the importance of an RSVP wasn’t covered directly (yes, no, and how many), the need to respond was touched upon in a strange, indirect way. It seems that proper etiquette today requires a guest alerts their host of any dietary restriction well in advance so that the menu can be planned accordingly. Things such as gluten-Free preferences; vegan dietary needs or food allergies should be brought to the host’s attention. Now food allergies and some dietary restrictions makes good sense. I am a diabetic. I am also lactose indolent, and have difficulty processing foods that are high in potassium such as bananas or sweet potatoes. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems rather selfish to expect the host to cater to my particular needs. Heck, I don’t even cater to my particular needs, why should I expect others to adjust their Thanksgiving traditions accordingly. Rather, I pick and choose what to eat and how much to eat. Can you imagine if all your guests responded with a list of what they could/would eat and expect you to cook accordingly? You’d go nuts! Never mind sending a list, just say yes or no to attending and leave it at that.
- Ask if there is anything you can do to help. Again, I ask – really? I call that good manners and common courtesy. I cannot imagine being invited to a friend’s home for dinner and not asking “is there anything I can bring?” Granted, at a formal affair, such a question might be considered rude, but a homey gathering of friends and family, it should be a part of the “count me in” response. The fluff news took this advice one step further. When bringing a dish, bring a way to serve it. Really? Again, common sense. This “common sense” rule is a two-way street. If your guests are traveling; don’t ask them to bring the mashed potatoes for goodness sake. On the other hand, if your traveling guest is famous for their awesome gravy; it wouldn’t be out of the question to suggest they make the gray upon their arrival. Just be sure to have whatever they need on-hand and not expect them to bring the pots and gravy fixings on the plane with them. (Can you imagine going through air port security with a sauce pot and giblets tucked away in your carry-on?)
- Bring your host a gift. Who are you people?! Once upon a time, this would have gone without saying. If you are not contributing to the meal itself, you bring a gift. A nice bottle of wine, a simple flower arrangement in a vase, a tin of cookies, home made jams, a basket of imported cheese – any of these gifts were the norm. No one showed up at your door empty handed. Today we need to be told to show our appreciation for the invite rather than simply “showing up.”
- Be aware of time – Don’t show up too early or too late. Most of the invites I send include this some guidelines such as “We plan to serve dinner at 5:00. You’re more than welcome to arrive anytime after 3:00.” This indicates to your guests that there will be time for socializing prior to the main event. Thanksgiving preparation tends to be extensive and very busy for those hosting the dinner. Unless you are there to “help”, showing up too early can be viewed as a bothersome intrusion. Again, the advise took this one step further. NEVER ARRIVE MORE THAN 45 MINUTES LATE. Really? Since when is forty-five minutes late to a dinner party acceptable? I’m sorry, folks but that’s just plain rude. It’s one thing to split your time between the in-laws, having dinner at one home and dessert at another. We’ve all been there, done that. But if someone is expecting you to show up at a predetermined time – show up!
- Be an attentive guest and avoid your phone. OMG! Unless your job requires you to be reachable at all time (say a doctor or priest for example) or circumstance warrant it (my sister/daughter in another town is having a baby) nothing is more important than the people around you at that moment. It boggles the mind to think “a good guest should avoid checking their e-mails during dinner” needs to be said. Unplug for goodness sake!
- Don’t complain. Again, I am at a loss for words. Who are these people? Are we so disconnected to the world around us that we need to be told not to hurt the feelings of those around us? Don’t we know that it’s insensitive to say to someone who was gracious enough to open their hearts and their home to us “well, my dear, the bird was a bit dry” or “I can’t eat any of this”. What have our social skills come to when we need to be told not to complain?
- Remember to say Thank you. I repeat – remember to say thank you. The fact that this is on the list of tips speaks volumes as to just what the world has become. I don’t know about you, but I was taught from a very early age (as in old enough to speak at all) that you should always say “Please” and “Thank you.”
I don’t know what bothers me more – that we, as adults, need to be told these things or that we are getting our instructions from fluff news stories and social media. Which leads me to ask this all important question – is there an app for our smart phones for manners?