Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The first question in this week's Miss Manners column brought back a memory. When I was in college, I was invited to a friend's house for dinner. He was from an "elite" family - or at least upper middle class. Educated parents. Classy neighborhood. The dinner was formal, and the two sons even changed into white shirts for the occasion (both were the jeans and tee-shirt type). When anyone spoke, all around the table put down their utensils and focused on the speaker with rapt attention. I was afraid the food would get cold if I talked too much! It was something I had never experienced before; in my family someone is constantly talking and vying for the floor. I never considered whether dropping everything to pay attention was proper etiquette, but it did seem excessively polite, and to have my conversation be so respected made me feel important. Later, however, sad life events regarding my friend - their son - made me wonder if the reason they did it was because they were unused to dinner time talk - if they sat silently eating through most meals, and having lighthearted chatter was a novelty?