Ask Madamoiselle Mannerisms

By Abigail van Lines

The Westmoreland News, July 11 1994

Working at the Westmoreland News in 1994 was the best summer job I ever had. I worked for peanuts and had a two hour drive each way from Richmond, but I got to do it all at a small county newspaper where I was a reporter, feature writer, copy editor, layout editor and photographer (because there was nobody else to do those things). Best of all the paper’s editor, Lynn Norris, gave me the freedom to write whatever I wanted – way more journalistic and comedic freedom than anyone should rightly give a know-it-all 21-year-old writing for a weekly in the deeply rural Northern Neck of Virginia.

Dear Mme. Mannerisms:

Last night my husband and I had some dear old friends over for dinner.  After our repast, we had some light sherry cocktails.  In fact, our dear old friends had about fifteen each and began behaving inappropriately.  We tried saying that we were out of sherry but they ran upstairs and drank all our cold medication.  We tried excusing ourselves but they said, “That’s fine.  We’ll just stay here and break things.”  Eventually we got them to leave, but only after they had destroyed our china and eaten our drapes.  But today I wonder if this was the proper thing to do.  What is the acceptable way of dealing with cherished visitors who have gotten bombed out of their minds?

Signed, Worried in Waukeegan

Dear Worried:

Politely ask them to be more sociable in their behavior.  If they keep it up, shoot them.

Dear Mme. Mannerisms:

Is it proper to serve three silver forks if one is having a seafood appetizer between the salad and cognac, but before the main dinner course?

Signed, Questioning in Quamsattucket

Dear Questioning:

Yeah, right.  Just steal a bunch of those plastic “sporks” from Kentucky Fried Chicken.  You can eat anything with those.

Dear Mme. Mannerisms:

Is it proper for a lady to ask a gentleman out on a date?  If so, should the lady first request some sort of social activity with other persons in the party, if an unchaperoned date is too forward?

Signed, Confused in Cleveland

Dear Confused:

Get with it.  It’s the nineties.  You should not only feel free to ask a guy out, but to insist that they go out with you and threaten them if they don’t.  The next time you meet a man in a proper social situation, like a church function, funeral, or sleazy topless bar, ask him out and tell him that if he says “No,” you’re going to tell all his friends that he is gay.  If he is gay, tell him that you’ll tell all his friends that he’s straight.  Or you can tell a young gentleman politely that you have a snub-nosed .38 pointed at him that you’re not afraid to use.  It works surprisingly well.

Dear Mme. Mannerisms:

I was at a dinner a few nights ago and I was eating the veal course when I took a bite and found that my veal was very undercooked.  I excused myself and placed my napkin over my mouth and placed the veal in the napkin, but I was left with a soiled napkin and an uncomfortable situation.  What is the best way to remove unpleasant food from one’s mouth at a polite dinner?

Signed, Embarrassed in Edgeville

Dear Embarrassed:

Spit it out at the host who served you the crap.

Dear Mme. Mannerisms:

What is the proper gift for a couple on their sixth anniversary?  I know that certain anniversaries have a certain gift intended for them: first anniversary, paper; fifth, wood; twenty-fifth, silver, seventy-fifth, diamond; and so on.  What are the proper gifts for anniversaries six through ten?

Signed, Unknowing in Underwood

Dear Unknowing:

Sixth anniversary: dried leaves

Seventh anniversary: fake rubber cat droppings or whoopee cushions

Eight anniversary: lint

Ninth anniversary: magnesium

Tenth aniversary: loose change

Dear Mme. Mannerisms:

I am horribly worried about the impending arrival of my cousin, who is coming to visit for a week.  He always brings his cat, which is not housebroken, and his 8-month-old daughter, who is not housebroken either.  Furthermore, he insists on commandeering the television set to watch Hee-Haw reruns at all hours of the day and night, and becomes violently mad if everyone else does not “Hee-Haw” with him.  Worst of all, he has not brushed his teeth since 1978, and I am afraid that his breath will melt my porcelain collection.  I am so upset about his arrival that I’m fretting at all hours of the day and night.  What can I do?

Signed, Sleepless in Seattle

Dear Sleepless:

Move.  If he does find you and come to visit, ask him politely to be more sociable in his behavior.  If he persists, shoot him.

It seems that we have run out of space for this week, but please keep your questions and comments coming – by the way, a check for $20 will help – to:

Dear Madamoiselle Mannerisms

c/o Westmoreland News

Montross, VA   22520

And remember: manners are as good as gold, but not as good as an American Express gold card.