Old World Manners Lost – The Dinner Invitation
It has been 40 years since Fred Astaire once said, “The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any”, and Mahatma Gandhi once said – “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”
These two observations have become society’s perfect storm for bad manners the last decade. People are in such a hurry these days that slowing down to be mindful of others feelings is a forgotten practice. We all operate at the speed of light, having the ability to multi-task like no other society in the history of time. People have a thought and they put it in motion via text, email, phone or social media. Patience was kicked to the side of the road in favor of a new turbo for your personal life rocket.
“A dinner invitation, once accepted is a sacred obligation” – Ward McAllister, 1850
The way people react to a dinner invitation today has deteriorated to a point that has made the invitation itself seem more like a kidney donation request than a compliment. Society tramples all over the dinner invitation process. It’s no longer sacred. It’s no longer taken as a compliment. People have completely forgotten its meaning and value.
A dinner invitation used to be the highest compliment. Friends want to catch up with you in a more private setting and offer you the gift of life – food and drink. What could be better than that?! Yet for some reason many people would rather have someone say “You look hot in those jeans”. Today people do not RSVP in a timely manner, if at all. Worse, they cancel at the last minute – another action that has been de-valued in modern times. Canceling on a commitment is one of the rudest actions in society but yet has become common behavior. Once you commit to a social event the only acceptable reason to cancel is illness or death in the family. Not having the ability to forecast your life out 24 or 48 hours to make good on a commitment is just bad personal branding, and disrespectful.
When you receive a dinner invitation, your obligations are to acknowledge the invitation as soon as you receive it, and RSVP within 24 hours. You cannot cancel. You cannot invite more people, and you certainly cannot change the restaurant, the menu or the plan in any way. Show up on time with a bottle of vino and accept the compliment of the invitation, or simply decline. It’s that simple and completely lost in today’s face-in-phone society.
Attending Your Dinner Engagement
Now for your obligations as a confirmed attendee; if your dinner engagement is at someone’s house then bring a bottle of decent red wine. The wine should not be over the top and trump the wine that will be served for dinner. This is one of those things where the gesture is more important than the gift. You are acknowledging the work done in creating your evening. Arriving with a bouquet of flowers for the woman of the house is also a nice touch.
Dinner parties at restaurants are typically where all hell breaks loose. People think that because they are in a public place, that they have possibly been before, that none of the manners above apply. Your main priority is to be early with no surprise guests. It’s unbelievable how many people arrive late with uninvited guests, thus jamming things up, making everyone wait while the hostess tries to accommodate six people at a four-top.
Lastly, this is no different than the movie theater. Turn off your smart phone. When you go to the restroom you can check your fantasy goofball scores and resume your critical game of Words With Friends. For the next hour you are required to act like an adult. You are required to be effervescent, positive and happy; contribute to the evening and ask how others are doing. At very least you should listen while chewing your food. The entire restaurant shall appreciate that!
Ward McAllister was right … an accepted dinner engagement is a sacred obligation, and high praise. It’s bad manners to treat it as if someone just asked you to light their cigarette. Slow down for two minutes and acknowledge that you were just given a compliment. There will certainly be a time when we are all yearning for such praise.
Thank You For Reading !