It is a clear starlit night (yes, even Mumbai sees this every once in a while), the air is pleasant, the music gentle. There’s good food and fine wine and the people seated around you are dressed to the nines. And as you take your first bite of what promises to be a long evening you face your dinner companion...Here’s the moment of truth. Take your pick on who you’d like to be seated next to, or better yet, explore what sort of dinner companion you are:
The ‘Miss-Know-It-All’ dinner guest: She will be well groomed (maybe over groomed), well dressed, (maybe over-dressed) and well-mannered… or maybe not! She will tell you what you should order, as you’ve put on too much weight. She’ll tell you whom you should speak to, as you’re not mixing with the right crowd. She will give you the number of a manicurist and a skin specialist, because ‘you look over worked and tired, darling,’ and she will pick at your hair, your face and every bit of clothing you have on. While she probably means well, no one wants to be criticised when clearly they’ve dressed up for dinner! There’s a time and a place for everything, and a night out should be more about fun than introspection.
The ‘Wish-I-Had-A-Better-Seat’ dinner guest: This person will talk extra loudly and laugh too hard to show that they are having fun, but their eyes will constantly dart around the room. They’ll jump up to mingle with others at the slightest opportunity. If you are seated next to one of them, focus on the person on your other side, and hope for that to salvage your evening. And if you are one of those whose eyes are darting around the room instead of concentrating the person you’re in conversation with, you are socially not ready to be at this table. You are not finished with your climbing yet.
The person who comes late or leaves early: We all have these guests, and for the most part, their timings don’t matter, but at sit down dinners, they do. So make the effort to arrive on time, and sit through out. If you’re seated beside a person who falls in this category, it will be unpleasant for you. So, make sure you’re never one to do that. I think it is better to decline the invitation at the start, or better yet, make the effort. If you are invited to a ‘sit down’, you’re probably an important person in your hosts’ life.
The one who brings uninvited guests unannounced: This is usually fine at a large party, as long as you know your host well, and limit your guests to one or two. But at a sit down, for obvious reasons, bringing a guest along really should be discussed before hand. If this guest is your plus one, it should not be a problem at all, if it is not, he should be a really special guest for you to make this request.
The drunken slush: It’s always nice to get buzzed, to toast your friendships and get the party started. But an obnoxious slush as your dinner partner is probably the worst kind of guest. Someone who makes uncomfortable, crass statements in front of people they don’t know. No one’s saying you should not be the life of the party. But it is important to be considerate of people’s feelings all the same.
Some rules when at a sit down:
Praise the food to anyone who will listen. It is simply the polite way to go.
Sit where you are seated and if you have not been seated, ask the hostess where she would like you to sit.
Mind your manners: And while you may not have them all intact, basics like chewing with your mouth closed and not waving your fork in the air, are good starting points.
Do not arrive late and definitely don’t leave early. It spoils the balance and shifts the mood.
It’s easy to buy the good life, but to live it well, you need to know your etiquette and live and well!