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From the Head Bitch’s Mail Bag: Olives

Q: How the hell am I supposed to eat olives politely in restaurants? Is it impossible? It seems like it might be impossible.

Your Head Bitch says: It often does feel impossible, because for some reason all the best kinds of olives are not only never served pitted, but cling to their pits for dear life while you are trying to eat them. And because olives are so fucking delicious, you want to eat every bite you can, which, unfortunately, with unpitted olives is damn near impossible to do without grabbing on to one end and just gnawing on it like it’s corn on the cob. Did you just grimace imagining it? Yeah, well, it’s even worse to watch in real life. Don’t do it. What you have to do is transfer the olive to your mouth via fork/olive fork/toothpick (whichever is provided) and do your best to eat off all the good stuff without cracking a molar. When you have gotten as much as you can, transfer the pit (via your fork) from your mouth to your side plate for disposal. Make peace with the fact that there will be a lot of good stuff left on the pit before you remove it from your mouth, because there is nothing that can be done about it in polite company. You just have to let it go. There are other olives to be eaten. Focus on those instead. 

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If only this were polite. It seems so satisfying.

**A programming note: There will be no new BPBTY tomorrow, because your Head Bitch is dealing with some sad news from home that has left my funny bone feeling a bit deflated. I’m also, by happenstance, off to Dublin for the day, so I’m giving myself permission to be very English and take Good Friday off. I’m still an American though, so Easter Monday is a bridge too far. I’ll be back first thing Monday morning as usual. In the meantime, a very happy Easter to all who celebrate, and a belated happy Passover to our Jewish readers as well. See y’all Monday.

Miss Manners on: Addressing Babies

Q: My daughter gets so upset when strangers call her baby girl a boy because she has very little hair. She is dressed in pink girly clothes. What would be a good response to these people who are oblivious to what she is wearing?

Miss Manners says: Here’s one that your daughter will still be able to use (in a pleasant tone, Miss Manners hopes) in future years, when her daughter is wearing jeans and a boyfriend’s sweatshirt: “She’s a girl.”

Your Head Bitch says: Look, I know someone shouted the baby’s gender out to you the second it was born, but not everyone gets that kind of head’s up before they interact with it. Your Head Bitch (who is notoriously terrible with children) usually avoids the issue of gender all together by just sticking with broad statements like “Oh, so cute!!” until the parent follows up with something like “Yeah, isn’t she a doll?” so that I know for sure which gendered pronoun to use from that point on. But, some people feel more comfortable just guessing. Cut them some slack. It’s nothing to get worked up over — if it wasn’t your baby you might not be able to tell either. Just smile and say (sincerely!) “She’s actually a girl, but thank you for your kind words.” I became the proud owner of an ill-advised bowl cut at the age of ten and was confused with a boy well into my early teens when it grew out, and I managed to survive just fine. The baby will too, I promise.

I also had round gold glasses and basically looked exactly like Harry Potter, but before Harry Potter was a thing. Stop it, I can hear your jealousy from here.

Miss Manners on: Shoelessness

Q: In a college class this past semester, two or three of my classmates complained to the instructor about my smelly socks (because, in class, I often remove my shoes to feel more relaxed). Although they had every right to file that complaint, should they not have politely asked me first to either sit far away from them or put my shoes on? I honestly doubt that I look like a mean or scary guy, and, if I were to react angrily to their polite and reasonable request, they would have every right to tell the instructor. A few years ago, a young woman sitting near me (in a different class) discreetly asked me to wear my shoes; I immediately complied and heard no more complaints about my socks.

Miss Manners says: And what were the lessons to be learned from all this? Miss Manners is afraid that you weren’t paying attention. The first lesson is that people find public shoelessness offensive — not everyone, perhaps, but enough for you to realize that it isn’t safe to assume that no one will. The second lesson is that polite people are understandably reluctant to offer criticism. They therefore prefer to complain through those who have the authority to correct the problem. For extra credit, you might try finding comfortable shoes and washing your socks.

Your Head Bitch says: Sigh. You know, lots of people feel more comfortable without their shoes on, but as I’m sure you’ve noticed, you are the only one without your shoes on in class. This is not because you are sneaky and have figured out how to game the system — it’s because most people who are concerned with politeness value not grossing out other people over adding a modicum of comfort to their lives for an hour, so they keep their shoes on. This is especially true if one knows from previous experience (!) that one has an odor problem that goes along with achieving this comfort. The solution to this problem is not other people sitting further from you to avoid the smell, which is a technique most frequently exploited by homeless people on subway trains. The solution is that you either need to make it so that other people can’t tell you have your shoes off at all, or you need to keep your shoes on. You’re not in yoga class after all.

And yes, the polite thing to do in response to you is to ask you discreetly and personally to keep your shoes on, but if it’s a big enough problem that multiple people felt the need to address it, perhaps they felt it would be gentler coming from a professor as a rule for “everyone” rather than a personal thing. Anyway, the politeness you need to be concerned with here is your own — don’t create a situation that other people feel they have to complain about, and there won’t be any problem in the first place.

No, seriously. Wash them. Hygiene is not something that’s supposed to be an afterthought, guys.

Miss Manners on: Politics at the Table

Q: I am a political appointee. During a recent dinner party at which I was a guest, one of the other guests asked about a controversial policy issue relevant to my agency. I tried to answer factually, but this seemed to inflame the guest further (she had had quite a lot to drink already) and ended with her insisting that I was fabricating information and delivering propaganda. After the event, the other guests told me they were appalled by her behavior. What should one do in that circumstance, when the dinner-party conversation is overtaken by a belligerent boor who accuses another guest of lying? Should the recipient of the insult have any particular response?

Miss Manners says: You didn’t get much help there, did you? Apparently the hosts said nothing, and the guests sympathized only from a safe distance after it was over. Miss Manners guesses that everyone was afraid to invoke the etiquette rule against discussing politics, religion or sex at social functions (except among people who are known to be in agreement or unfailingly polite). They know that someone is bound to ask witheringly: “Well, what are we supposed to talk about? The weather?” No, too controversial: Climate change is only too likely to provoke an emotional argument. As the host didn’t say, “This is neither the time nor the place for this discussion,” and the other guests didn’t quickly begin another topic, you should have done so.

Your Head Bitch says: I think there is — among Americans anyway — a deep-seated belief that when armed with the courage of one’s convictions and all the relevant facts, even the most differing political minds can come to agreement in light of unassailable proof. I blame The West Wing and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington for this belief which is, unfortunately for us all, deeply inaccurate. (For a fascinating read about how and why this is the case, I recommend this article most highly.) Anyway, this is why you always have people like me crowing about how politics and religion are inappropriate topics of discussion at any event where it might dampen the mood to have someone shrilly (and drunkenly!) accused of being a lying propagandist (i.e. most events).

Anyway, I think this is the reason that most people won’t immediately change the conversation when someone brings up politics at a party (although let’s be honest, you probably could have guessed she didn’t want to have a mature and nuanced conversation when she drunkenly cornered you about something controversial). Nevertheless, this is exactly what you should do — say jokingly, “Oh, I have to talk about work all day, don’t make me do it at dinner too!” and then try and move the conversation along to something less likely to end in yelling. And Miss Manners is right — if the guest can’t take the hint then the host should intercede on your behalf too. The “no politics at the dinner table” rule exists for a reason — don’t feel bad about enforcing it.

And before anyone starts being all like “grumble, grumble, the world today!” let me remind you that when Dorothy Parker was told Calvin Coolidge had died she replied, “How could they tell?” So, none of this is new.

Miss Manners on: Cutting The Line

Q: How do I properly address someone who cut the line in front of me?

Miss Manners says: As “Sir” or “Madam,” continuing with, “I believe that the end of the line is over there.” Miss Manners doesn’t want to know what you were thinking of saying, but you will only incite worse behavior unless you give the breaker-in a dignified way to retreat.

Your Head Bitch says: If the first rule of BPBTY is “don’t be a dick,” then the second rule of BPBTY (I know I’ve made a number of things the “second rule” over the years, but just go with it — they’re all second to “don’t be a dick”) is “don’t ever assume that other people are being dicks.” In the vast majority of fights which are later described as “misunderstandings,” the misunderstanding in question is almost always that one party was intentionally being a dick. By not assuming this, you can head a lot of trouble off at the pass. There is no situation in which “Hey, asshole, the line starts back there!” is going to go over well. Whereas, “Excuse me, sir? I’m sure you didn’t see, but there’s actually a line,” both makes you seem like a super kind person and gives the offending line cutter a chance to save face. And, if they don’t respond to your helpful nudge to go to the back, the resulting group muttering and side eye throwing will get the “asshole” point across well enough without anyone having to say it. But, because it more than likely was just an honest mistake (as few adults are truly sociopathic enough to just blatantly jump a line), you’ve made the whole thing come to a courteous resolution that everyone can walk away from feeling good about, instead of it devolving into a screaming match at like a Kroger or whatever, which is a fucking embarrassment for everyone within hearing distance.

Also, just as a side note, while “sir” is fine, there is literally no faster way to come off as sarcastic and/or patronizing than by calling someone “madam.” Stick with “miss” or “ma’am” for everyone’s safety.

I said good day, Madam. GOOD DAY.

Miss Manners on: Eye Patches

Q: I am a young, twentysomething man who works directly with the public. Recently I had some work done on my right eye, which required the use of an eye patch for a few days. How should I respond to curious strangers who ask, “What happened to your eye?” My response has been on a few occasions, “My name is John, and yours?” to call attention to the fact that the inquirer doesn’t know my name but is demanding my medical history. One woman even went as far as saying, “I’m a doctor. Tell me about your eye.” Although I appreciate the offer for free medical advice, my doctors are more than proficient. Help! I’m starting to be rude about it.

Miss Manners says: No, no, don’t do that, when you can instead say, “You are kind to be concerned, but I’ll be fine. Now what did you come here about?” As for that unprofessional doctor, Miss Manners would have said, “But I can see well enough to know that you are not my doctor.”

Your Head Bitch says: Yeah, “Yo, what happened to your face?” does not make the cut for my list of acceptable greetings. Especially for people you don’t know, you know? I mean, come on. I know you all know better than that. The polite thing to do when you encounter someone with a disability or a health problem is to ignore it unless they clearly need help. So, walking up to someone in a wheelchair and saying “Hey, why can’t you walk?” = being a dick. Walking up to a blind person who seems to have gotten turned around or is unsure about which direction to go and asking if they need to be pointed in the right direction = being a good citizen. As all that is in danger for this poor young man is that his depth perception might be a little off, everyone, MD or not, should just leave it be.

As to what he should say when other people bring it up, I’m inclined to agree with Miss Manners that something along the lines of, “It’s nothing to worry about, how can I help you?” is appropriate. Though if he wanted to say, very sadly, “Arr, it’s lost to Davey Jones’ Locker,” I would also consider that to be an acceptable response.

I can either help you, or you can walk the plank. Your choice.

The rationale that etiquette should be eschewed because it fosters inequality does not ring true in a society that openly admits to a feverish interest in the comparative status-conveying qualities of sneakers. Manners are available to all, for free.

Judith Martin

Miss Manners on: Playdates and Lawsuits

Q: My son is invited to spend time in the home of one of his classmates. The classmate’s parents request that I sign a release of liability before my son arrives. I think this is unbelievably rude - as if to imply that I would sue them if there is an accident or injury! Am I overreacting, or has our society really come to believe that anyone who visits your home, and is injured, will sue?

Miss Manners says: Well, there is an awful lot of suing going on. But that is all the more reason to be wary of people who harbor anticipatory litigious thoughts about their children’s playdates. But that is not the only worry that Miss Manners would have if she were you. What goes on in that household that such a precaution is necessary?

Your Head Bitch says: ACTUALLY, in a lot of cases, protection against lawsuits from people who might be injured in your home is included in your homeowners insurance. Just, you know, for future reference/in case you were thinking about putting together your own liability waiver before inviting the neighbor kids over to go swimming. Ah, the joys of childhood.

Anyway, no, that’s completely and totally bonkers, and probably not even legally enforceable if we’re being honest. Not to mention that yes, it’s incredibly rude to imply that people you invite to your home would sue you. I would write back and say that you can’t sign anything without your lawyer’s approval and that you’re sorry to have to cancel the playdate since you know how much the kids are looking forward to it. If that doesn’t get them to blink, you’re dealing with some real bona fide crazies. If your kids are close friends, maybe the playdates should happen at your house from now on. If they’re not, maybe try and phase that friend out a bit. God only knows what will await you when they’re old enough for sleepovers.

I bet these people totally have a trampoline they live in constant fear of. Those things are fucking death traps.

Miss Manners on: Meetings

Q: One of my children is a very accomplished, high-profile woman. Since she went to high school in our community, her name is well-known here. Many times, when I am introduced to strangers and they realize that I am her mother, they will say to me, “Please let me know when she is in town. I would really like to meet her.” How do I say politely, “Why do you think she would like to meet you?” Of course, I don’t say that, but I sure would like to. Can you suggest a pleasant way to get this message across?

Miss Manners says: Not that message. You would be doing your daughter no favor to be rude to her fans. Rather, Miss Manners suggests that you thank them for their interest and say, with a sort of motherly helplessness, “Really, when she comes here, she wants to hibernate. Sometimes she makes an exception and sees a childhood friend, but that’s about it.”

Your Head Bitch says: Eek, that’s kinda weird. Sure, I’ll just call you, person who I have just now met, so that you can stalk my daughter when she comes into town. Great plan. I’m obviously comfortable with that. But Miss Manners is right, these people clearly like your daughter, so being rude to them is not the way to go. However, I think if you go by Miss Manner’s plan, it still seems like you have some involvement with who she sees. Frankly, if I were in your position, I’d just say apologetically, “Oh, you know, she’s always so busy but her office handles her schedule. I’m sure if you called them to set something up they would know if she has any spare time.” This is a tactic successful people have used for years — the “call my secretary” diversion. That way, the secretary can get a definitive answer from your daughter about if she does actually want to meet with them or not, and deal with it from there.

Let the secretary be the bad guy. She’s a pro at it, I promise.

Miss Manners on: Getting Cornered

Q: Every so often, a stranger buttonholes me and tells me that I look “just like” someone else they know. (I am a woman in my late 30s, but this has been happening for some time.) They then wait for me to say something. What is a proper response?

Miss Manners says: As there is no sensible follow-up to such a comment, any polite response will do. Miss Manners has heard, “I get that a lot,” but as that appears to shoulder blame, she prefers an enthusiastic, “Thank you so much for letting me know.”

Your Head Bitch says: Oh yeah, that SUCKS. I once got cornered in a museum by a weird dude who asked me if I was Irish (uh, nope) and then proceeded to tell me that I looked “exactly like” one of his ancestors (??) and told me all about her, and then asked if he could email me some of his poetry. It was, needless to say, incredibly uncomfortable. Eventually I lied and told him I “didn’t have an email address with me” (again, ??) to make him go away. Now, this was not my first effort to get rid of him, mind you. I tried everything from “Oh, how interesting but I really must be going” to just flat out saying “Alright, well, it was nice to meet you, goodbye” and trying to walking away, but nothing took. And it’s weird, but you feel rude for doing that, even though it’s actually the person who has cornered a complete stranger and started taking up their time without any regard for what they might have otherwise been doing that’s the one that’s really rude. So don’t hesitate and don’t let yourself feel bad, just give them a tight smile and say, “How nice,” and then press on authoritatively with whatever you were trying to do before some crazy person decided to decode your lineage.

Alternate plan: Claim to be half wolf.

Miss Manners on: Commoners

Q: I am confused upon hearing references to “American commoners,” as in, “Edward VIII abdicated in order to marry the American commoner Wallis Simpson.” Does the phrase “American commoner” have any meaning? If so, can you explain it to me and perhaps offer me an example of an American non-commoner?

Miss Manners says: When Article I of the U.S. Constitution banned “title(s) of nobility,” it had the side effect of rendering the designation “commoner” meaningless. It is nonsense to have the one without the other. Therefore, the only meaning of the phrase “American commoner” is as a sneer, used in circles where the term “American” was once sufficient condemnation. A character considered equally unsavory by the same set, the “American heiress,” once brightened British impoverishment by casting a shadow on the family escutcheon. This feat, however, was possible only when more sunlight shone on the Empire. Today, that same heiress and her cash are more likely to be thought of as your American non-commoner. It should be noted that Americans often make an opposite mistake about English commoners. In that system, a living nobleman’s children are commoners, although they are addressed with the courtesy titles of “lord” and “lady.” And yes, this includes your favorite television characters.

Your Head Bitch says: Well, you have to keep in mind that the royal family REALLY didn’t like Wallis. She was American, which was bad enough, but she was DIVORCED (twice!), and she listened to JAZZ and she accepted LAVISH PRESENTS and, worst of all, she had a quick tongue and she knew how to use it, which is to say she was overly familiar with people who felt she was below them. So, while I’m sure there were a number of things she was called in private, the only thing that they could say in public to demean her and still appear proper was that she was a “commoner.” And 9 times out of 10 that is still what people are trying to express when they use that word — skank, upstart, nobody — though of course they would never say that in so many words. Fuck that. It’s a dickish word for dickish people, and anyone who would use it is someone you don’t want to be friends with. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat people that they think are beneath them (and also animals, just fyi), and “commoner” is a word that tells you everything you need to know. Plus, Miss Manners is right, there is no American nobility, so at least if we’re commoners we’re all commoners together.

Oh no you didn’t!

Miss Manners on: Wedding Planners

Q: I am 78, my husband is 85. We fell in love and married last year, and now his 60-year-old daughters are complaining that they never got to plan the wedding for their daddy — and they say they are “family,” and that he needs to choose to be with family or with me. Is this accepted etiquette? Was it really their right to plan our wedding? Or is it the right of the bride to plan and pay for the wedding? Or is it the right of the couple getting married to plan it? Also, since when is a wife not family?

Miss Manners says: Do you really not have a glimmer of what these ladies mean when they say they would have liked to plan Daddy’s wedding? They would have planned it to take place without you. In any case, you seem to have accomplished it without their consent. Inventing an etiquette problem (there is no Declaration of Planning Rights) is not going to enhance family relations. You should ask for your husband’s help in that. But Miss Manners advises you not to tell his daughters to call you Mother.

Your Head Bitch says: WOW that’s creepy. Uh, no, there is definitely no rule of etiquette that says a man’s children should plan his subsequent weddings, and thank god for it, because the whole thing fucking screams Electra complex, doesn’t it? While parents obviously frequently include their children in later weddings (see also last year’s post on how that can get a little creepy itself), he clearly chose not to do that (I wonder why?), and as we’ve established many times here, it’s his wedding, so he was allowed to do what he wanted. The daughters obviously feel that this is an issue they can’t take up with him (I can’t imagine “It’s us or your new wife, buddy!” would be well-received) or they have already approached him about it and been rebuffed and have decided to go after you instead because you’re the new guy — you’re the antelope with the limp as far as they’re concerned.

All that being said, they are responding like this because they feel insecure  that you are replacing their mother and that this means they are losing their father to you, and it’s important to keep that in mind when you are dealing with them. The right thing to do is to be as warm to them as possible, reassure them that you love their father and weren’t trying to exclude them, you just didn’t want to “make a fuss” and that you are thrilled to be a part of the family now and get to know them better. Your new husband will probably have to help guide this process along as well, if for no other reason than what really needs to be said is, “Ultimatums didn’t work when you were little and they aren’t going to work now, young lady!” and he’s the only one that can get away with saying that. You guys aren’t going to be BFFs overnight, but you don’t have to be enemies either, and the kinder you are (and the more resolute your husband is) they sooner they’ll realize that.

NOT SUBTLE.

Miss Manners on: Party Cover Charges

Q: I am the godmother of a lovely girl who will be turning 2. Her mother and I have decided to throw her a casual party at a festival that includes hayrides, party favors, live music, a gazebo, etc., for a reasonable price that I am happy to cover. The cost of the party reservation does not include the cost of the entrance fee into the festival, which is $15 per person. Is it the responsibility of the hosts (my friend and me) to front the ticket cost for our guests? Or is it reasonable to ask the guests to take on this payment? I am a single 20-something young woman with limited income, and my friend is a single parent. We are just not sure how to go about this with fairness and grace.

Miss Manners says: If the party reservation does not include the entrance fee to any of the festival’s enticements, Miss Manners is not surprised that the price is so reasonable. Unfortunately, fairness and grace will not be forefront on your guests’ minds if they are invited to a party for which they have to pay (and pay not insignificantly, since presumably no 2-year-old is traveling without parents). As compromised as you and your friend’s financial situations may be, you are making the assumption that your guests’ are expendable. No party invitation should come with an entrance fee (a lesson lost on most adults celebrating birthdays at restaurants by “inviting” guests to pay for their own meals). Miss Manners is afraid that you must find an alternate venue — perhaps someone’s backyard where you could create a similarly festive atmosphere? At 2 years old, the birthday girl and her friends will have just as good of a time — and their parents will have an even better one for not being charged for the fun.

Your Head Bitch says: Genuinely, is this party actually costing you any money at all? It seems like decorations/entertainment/food are being taken care of by the festival, so that leaves your costs as what — invitations? I’m all for a bargain and all, but not when it’s a bargain disguised as making your guests pay for the party you are throwing for them. That’s shitty. Sorry. Either pick up the cost of the tickets yourself, or if that’s too expensive (and that’s ok too — it’s a birthday party not a wedding, don’t go crazy!) buy some streamers and beach balls at the dollar store and remind yourself that two year olds are incredibly easily amused and don’t need hayrides and live music (or…a gazebo?) to do the job. Also, added bonus, parking will probably be easier! Contrary to what you may see on the internet, a child’s birthday party doesn’t need to be a whole elaborate ordeal which has been pintrest’d to within an inch of its life. As long as the birthday girl has a good time, that’s what really matters.

If you’re really set on the hayrides, you can also just put this on and pull the kids around in a wagon.

Miss Manners on: Forced Showers

Q: My sister eloped and quickly became pregnant. They had intended to announce the marriage to family with a spring visit and small celebration, but instead shared all the news after her first trimester of pregnancy. She is very nontraditional and has never cared to have a wedding or be the center of attention. She waited for a long time before sharing her pregnancy with many people and has been reserved. Similarly, she does not want me to host a shower for her. Regardless, many friends and family will want to celebrate her new happiness, and I do not doubt there will be many people who would like to send a gift to the baby due in May. The generosity of loved ones is clearly a help to first-time parents, who have many supplies to purchase. What is a polite and not tacky way to share baby registry information when she feels certain she does not want a traditional shower? Should she do it after the birth with a baby announcement? Or could she share it now with an announcement of both the new marriage and expected arrival? I realize some people are starting to share this type of information in “virtual” baby showers on social media, but that seems tacky to me. What is your opinion?

Miss Manners says: That you fail to understand what is traditional and what is tacky. “Traditional” is leading a quietly dignified life, which is what your sister is trying to do. “Tacky” is prodding others, by whatever means, to do your shopping, which is what you are prodding her to do. Your sister could have announced her marriage in the truly traditional way, and she can announce her child’s birth when the time comes. But Miss Manners hopes that she will have enough confidence in her own good taste to avoid attaching to this the notion that others can be “clearly a help” by purchasing supplies.

Your Head Bitch says: Something tells me that if I google what on earth a “virtual baby shower” is the answer will only fill me with rage. But I will say this — I like how your sister straight up told you she didn’t want a baby shower and you interpreted that to mean she didn’t want “a traditional baby shower.” This is wrong. She doesn’t want a baby shower, period. I’m sure there are some women who love that whole microwave the candy bars in diapers and try and guess what kind they are/ measure the pregnant lady’s belly with a string/ pin the embryo in the womb (yeah it’s a real thing) bullshit, but your sister isn’t one of them (and god bless her for it). I’m sure she would rather die than post pictures of her ever increasing size on the internet too, are you going to sneak into her house and instagram pictures of her bump while she sleeps? When it’s your kid, you can do whatever you want to celebrate. Until then, leave it alone.

Also, I hate to further disappoint you, but the odds that your sister, she of the no wedding/no baby shower lifestyle, has gone out and registered for gifts at fucking Babies R Us or whatever is very, very low. If people want to send her something of their own accord when they receive the birth announcement or hear the news that she is expecting, they will do that, registry or not. You don’t need to plan an event where you humiliate your sister and guilt other people into buying things to make sure she’ll get presents, I promise.

I mean, who would want to miss out on these amazing memories, am I right?

Miss Manners on: Sneaky Salads

Q: It seems that the chefs of the nicer restaurants these days are attempting to outdo themselves (and us) when it comes to the presentation of our food. While beautiful to admire, it is often impossible to eat. Salads in particular pose a great challenge. I was served a salad wherein entire leaves of bibb lettuce were arranged on a plate to form a bowl of sorts. In the center, three or four cherry tomatoes were diced, along with perhaps one slice of bacon, and then drizzled with blue cheese dressing. Should I just eat the tomatoes? Cut the lettuce leaves individually in order to eat them also? Take my knife and cut everything into bite-size pieces all at once after an appropriate moment of admiration? Other foods artfully arranged — both entrees and side vegetables — provide similar conundrums. I don’t go to restaurants to merely gaze at the food; I would like to eat it and to do so properly.

Miss Manners says: No one — particularly not a chef — could fault you for eating the food that is served to you. A moment of admiration is polite, but then Miss Manners permits you to get to work putting the edible artwork into your mouth where it rightfully belongs. If no salad knife has been provided — and alas, one never is — you must use the tools at hand. Cut each piece of food as necessary before eating it and consume whatever appeals to you. Then, if you like, you may artfully arrange your utensils on the plate when you are done.

Your Head Bitch says: Someone once told me that anyone who served salad you had to use a knife to eat was someone who didn’t really like salad. This rule no longer applies (and I should know, because I now live in a country where I fear they really, really don’t like salads) because there is really only so much a chef can do aesthetically with your standard mixed salad leaves. I mean, we’ve certainly all tried to make art at the salad bar at the Old Country Buffet, and that’s pretty much the scope of what can be done, professionally trained chef or not. But there is not a chef on earth who would rather you spend more time looking at his food than eating it, I promise. Certainly a moment of appreciation is nice when you get your plate, but it doesn’t need to be anything more than a smile and an “it looks lovely” to the waiter before you commence with getting down with your salad (Instagraming your plate at this stage is optional, and not recommended).

And of course you’re supposed to eat the whole thing! Just because the lettuce leaves are underneath the rest of the toppings doesn’t mean they are there to function as some kind of conceptual second plate, mocking you with their edibility. Get your knife and cut your food up, girl! It’s a salad, not a trick.

This is how they “fancy” things up at the salad bar — they inexplicably shave half of the skin off the cucumbers. Why? Whose idea was this? 

P.S. If you missed yesterday afternoon’s post about how you can now follow BPBTY on Facebook, it’s uhh…right below this one. I don’t need to tell you that. You know how blogs work.