Friday, August 30, 2019

But, He Has Awful Table Manners

Normally, Philip Galanes is a sane and sensible etiquette columnist. He is not Miss Manners, but, then again, no one is. This time, he offers a bizarre and incorrect commentary, one that is so far off the mark that we wonder whether he knows something that he is not telling us. 

I doubt that you will have much difficulty with this situation. As always, we know nothing about the people in question beyond the man’s appalling table manners. We do not know what he does for a living. We do not know what his fiancee does for a living. We know nothing except what we read in this letter:

Our polite 33-year-old daughter is about to marry a man with dreadful table manners. He chews with his mouth open, slumps and shovels his food, and brandishes his cutlery like weapons. His table manners revolt her. She won’t bring him to social events because he embarrasses her. She’s asked him to change, but he thinks she should love him as he is. (I weighed in and was also dismissed.) I’d love to hear an argument for table manners and how to learn them later in life.

Let’s be clear. This is a deal breaker. If she cannot bring him to social events she will not be able to make a life with him. Under any circumstances. Besides, if his table manners are that bad, his career prospects will be very dim indeed. He might come from money. He might have a trust fund. He might be a genius. But, clearly, his imperious demand that she love him as he is should be instantly rejected. You start wondering why this woman has such poor judgment. And you wonder how many of her friends have told her to bail.

Sadly, Galanes gets it completely wrong. Examine his thinking:

Right now, my priority is saving a man from marrying a woman who is revolted by him and by whom she is too embarrassed to bring into public. Where’s the love and respect here?

If this couple is unable to communicate and compromise effectively about something as low stakes as table manners, they should skip the honeymoon and proceed directly to divorce court. And you, S, should untangle yourself from your daughter’s most intimate relationship and let her sort it out like an adult on the verge of matrimony — which, perplexingly, she seems to be.

How many mistakes can you make in two short paragraphs? Let us count them.

First, we should concern ourselves with saving the woman from marrying a man whose table manners are revolting. If you want to save the man you should send him to charm school. Frankly, he is a boor, a social misfit. To imagine that the issue involves love and respect is absurd.

You cannot reasonably respect someone you cannot take out in public. And, what about bringing him home for Thanksgiving. Will his manners be so revolting that he will ruin the festivities for everyone? And what will happen at the wedding reception when she feels completely mortified by her husband’s bad behavior?

The woman is revolted by her fiance because he is revolting. Only a high school student would not know that true love will be killed by such a character flaw.

Galanes is also grievously wrong when he labels table manners “low stakes.” In the business world, people are routinely interviewed over lunch or dinner. If a job candidate has bad table manners, he will not get the job. His failure to observe proper decorum counts as a significant character flow. If you cannot get such low stakes issues right, if you cannot control your behavior in favor of producing a harmonious dinner table, then you are not going to be able to control yourself when the issue is of greater import.

True enough, if this marriage does take place, the couple is headed for divorce court. The issue should be, whether there is any way to persuade the woman that her fiance is a loser and should be discarded as soon as possible… even if that means not showing up for the wedding.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

Who is this guy, Galanes? Never heard of him before.

"If you want to save the man you should send him to charm school." Given what little we know, I'd say save your money, cut and RUN. He won't go, anyway.