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Some Final Prep

Introducing Manners & Etiquette

We all need manners and etiquette, definitely. We need them because without them, weíd all do exactly as we like, and because if we all do exactly as we like, then everything would pretty soon fall apart. In other words, manners & etiquette arenít really a list of what you should do in good company. Rather, they are a list of things you shouldnít do in good company--a big stack of doníts. Now donít get me wrong. I would never, ever recommend that you blow off using good manners, because if you donít use them, the only statement youíre actually making is that youíre a rude, gross, dirty, probably stupid and inconsiderate little slob who doesnít understand anything about anything--and that is not a cool thing to be. No, manners are really important; much more than you might think, in fact, because manners are what separate us from animals, and they are also what turn other people on or off to us. If youíre a disgusting bitch-slob, for example, how many people are going to invite you to their parties, or how many guys are going to invite you to dinner, or how many business professionals are going to want you at their board meetings? None, thatís right. Youíll turn them all off, and eventually youíll be stuck with other disgusting bitch-slobs in some basement somewhere, broke and friendless.

The fabric of public society lies in the manners of the individuals that make up that society. To hold this fabric together, you have to have those manners. If you donít have them, then public society will kick you out.

The basement thing is an exaggerated version of what can happen, obviously. But my point is important: the fabric of public society lies in the manners of the individuals that make up that society. To hold this fabric together, you have to have those manners. If you donít have them, then public society will kick you out. And ultimately, that means youíll lose out on the good things the society offers, like better education, better jobs, access to the richest and best guys, best professional contacts, etc. And this is no joke!

So, the lists of manners & etiquette are long and often really complex. But in most cases theyíre also common sense because, after all, you grew up with these manners all around you. Think of the times your parents told you not to talk with your mouth full, for example. Or think of the time you were in the mall and farted next to the cashier. Or think of how James Bond behaves when heís wearing his tux. Manners are everywhere, and youíre always exposed to them, so youíve already got half the battle won. In most cases, all you have to do is fine tune some of the things you do. Below, then, is a list of fine tunings, stuff you mostly already know, but which it is probably a good idea to review before prom night--just in case.

The most obvious are table manners, so weíll start with these. Afterward, weíll just give you a few pointers on basic manners when in public.

Table Manners

At the dinner table. What you should not do. And, where everything goes so that you know whatís yours and donít take someone elseís fork, or bread or glass.

The master list of do-nots at table:
  • Donít burp at table (or at any other point during the evening).
  • Donít slurp your soup or other liquids.
  • Donít take a drink without first using your napkin.
  • Donít hold the glass to your mouth and take long, long drinks.
  • Donít blow your nose at table.
  • Donít chew with your mouth open.
  • Donít pick your teeth at table.
  • Donít slouch at table.
  • Donít let your elbows touch the table.
  • Donít bring your face toward the plate when you eat.
  • Donít fart at table.
  • Donít scratch at table, especially not your feet or rump.
  • Donít lift the corner of your soup plate to get the last drops.
  • Donít lick the plate or the utensils.
  • Donít take someone elseís plate or utensils or food.
  • Donít reach over to grab the things you want, ask instead.
  • Donít sit and start eating until everyone is pretty much seated.
  • Donít play with your utensils or plates.
  • Donít bang your soup spoon in the soup plate, or against your teeth.
  • Donít pick at your food.
  • Donít make little castles with your mashed potatoes, or count your peas, etc.
  • Donít cut up your entire steak or other meat and then start eating.
  • Donít throw food.
  • Donít feed your date from your fork (or his).
  • Donít gobble your food as if you were in a race.
  • Donít talk with your mouth full.
  • Donít put junk on the table, like purse, false teeth, etc.
Where everything goes:

a) Your plates goes in the middle.

b) The knives and spoons go on your right.

c) The forks and napkin go on your left.

d) Liquids, including water, juice, etc., go on your right.

e) Solids like bread go on your left.

So when you sit, take a look at all this stuff in front of you and make sure you know whatís yours.

How to eat:

1. As soon as you sit, put the napkin in your lap. Not tucked under your chin or on your head or under your arm, but in your lap.

2. If youíre going to take a piece of bread and butter it--which is what 99% of us do as soon as we sit--then do it like this: put the piece of bread in your bread plate (on your left). Take a blob of butter from the main dish (or open up one of those little covered ones) and put this in your plate. Then rip off a piece of bread from the slice or bun and butter that. Do not butter the entire bread.

3. Youíll probably find a couple forks and knives sitting next to your plate. Which do you use for what, or which do you use first? Do it this way: start on the outside and work your way in. When the first dish of whatever arrives, use the fork furthest away from the plate, and the knife furthest away from the plate. When the next dish arrives, use the next fork and knife in the line, and so on. If your eating area gets a little disorganized, then follow this rule for your fork: the smaller fork is for salad. The larger fork is for your main dish. If both are the same size, then donít worry about it.

4. So how do you hold a fork and knife, anyway? Fork goes in your left hand, knife goes in your right hand. The forkís tines (business end) should be facing down. Donít hold your fork or your knife in your fist. Place your index finger on top of either of them and push downward with that. Spear your food with your fork, then cut the piece you want to eat, then put your knife down in the plate. Switch your fork from your left hand to your right hand, its tines still pointing downward, and eat. You wonít be in Europe for prom. But if you were, then donít switch your fork from your left to your right. They donít do that over there.

5. If youíre going to put your fork or other utensils down while you eat, make sure you always put them inside the plate. Never let them touch the table again after youíve started using them. This includes your bread knife and everything else. When you put your fork and knife down inside the plate, make sure one is on each side, never both on the same side, not until youíre done.

6. Placing your utensils and finishing up. If you want to take a break in the middle of your meal, or if you have to get up for something, then place your fork and knife inside your plate in the form of an X. The fork goes on the left, the knife goes on the right, and both their pointy ends should be pointing away from you. If youíre finished eating and you want the waiter to take the dirty dish away, or youíre getting up for good, then place your fork and knife side by side, again with the pointy ends facing away from you. These should be placed in the eleven oíclock position, that is, pointing up at eleven oíclock like the hands of a clock.

General Manners

  • Donít be rude, ever.
  • Donít whisper, because whispering is rude.
  • Donít whisper and giggle at the same time because that is one of the worst things you can do--someone might take it personally and be hurt by it.
  • Donít poke others with your finger, or nudge them with your elbow, when you want to get their attention.
  • Donít pat them or slap them (lightly, of course), either.
  • Donít talk or laugh loud enough to attract attention.
  • Donít walk slouching or aggressively, and donít swing your arms all over the place as you walk.
  • Donít make out with your date in public.
  • Donít make sexual gestures (like ass patting) with your date in public.
  • Donít swear, or spit, or burp, or fart, or sneeze, or do other gross body things in public.
  • Donít chew gum (or tobacco!).
  • Donít hold private conversation with your friends if thereís someone there whoís not part of your usual group and wouldnít know what youíre talking about.
  • Donít, just donít do anything that might offend others, or hurt them, or be disrespectful.

Sure there's lots more. There's so much, in fact, that Emily Post wrote a book on manners which is hundreds of pages long, and after Emily Post, others wrote equally long books on manners. So do you need all that stuff? No, not really. It's not that important anymore, for example, if the guy takes off his hat when he greets you (guys don't wear hats to prom or to dinner these days). And it certainly would look strange today if you curtsied when presented to a person older than you (what, you don't know what curtsying is?). Anyhow, the actual basics of general manners is, and has always been this one single rule: don't be offensive to anybody at any time. To follow this rule, all you have to do is be a little aware of the people around you, and be considerate in your behavior so that you don't hurt or offend them--that includes laughing so loud that they are distracted from what they are doing and look over at you, or whispering and giggling so that they suspect you might be talking about them, or blowing snot onto the floor so that people jump back in surprise and disgust--I think you get the general idea. And if you do, then that's all there really is to good manners.

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