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Modern Manners+ Etiquette: Handling Overly Flirtatious Guests

Thursday, July 19, 2012

 

What is a person to do when they've witnessed a houseguest coming on way too strong?

Summer sizzles with etiquette dilemma questions at Didi Lorillard's NewportManners.com this July about dealing with flirtatious guests, the etiquette of making new friends, telling a coworker he has bad body odor, and how to eat Oysters Rockefeller.

Dear Didi,
Recently, we went to a casual cocktail party to see the restoration of one of Newport's more beautiful private houses. The proud new owner took five of us at a time through the house on a personal tour. A newly separated woman in her fifties on our tour unabashedly flirted with the new owner while his wife entertained the rest of the guests on the veranda. Her blatant flirting was embarrassing to us all, including the host, who is new to the community. She made us all uncomfortable. After the tour, I wanted to apologize to the host as we were saying our thank-you-goodbyes, but I decided that bringing up her bad behavior would only emphasize the faux pas in his mind. Plus, I don't know him well enough. Should I tell his wife that she's after him? I don't know her well but she's brilliant and certainly smart enough to have picked up on the woman's bad behavior.  R.T., Newport


Dear R.T.,
It sounds as though the community is already on to this hussy and that even her husband has smartened up to her insidious ways. Alerting your smart hosts to the behavior of one of their guests could be perceived as rude behavior on your part. If you don't know whether they know her well or if she latched on to another guest as as guest of a guest, then tread gently. If someone like that can sway the host away from his family, the relationship between the host and hostess isn't solid.
Best not to create another faux pas. The hussy will shoot herself in the foot before too long and limp along alone.  ~Didi

Dear Didi,
We're preparing a menu for a popular restaurant and we want to know the proper way to serve and eat raw oysters and Oysters Rockefeller so we can prepare our waitstaff. Also, do we have to provide oyster forks?  J.N., Saunderstown


Dear J.N.,
Chilled live oysters can be gently poured right into the mouth, but in a restaurant an oyster fork is provided. Warm cooked oysters, such as Oysters Rockefeller, are eaten with a small fork.

Fortunately, we have oysters in abundance here in New England, so buying oysters on the smallish side shouldn't be a problem: a good chef will make sure the oysters used are bite size. An oyster fork is the smallest fork—even smaller than the snail fork—measuring no longer than 4 inches, it has three wide, curved tines, with the tine on the left a bit stronger to aid in dislodging the membrane from the shell when the oysters are raw. Baked, as in Oysters Rockefeller, the heat most likely would have released the oysters from the membrane—but not necessarily. Provide oyster forks, or any small fork. For instance, you can use the same fork provided to eat shrimp cocktail.

As for the lovely experience of eating baked oysters served in its shell, you can demonstrate the following to your staff so they get the full visual: With the thumb and first finger hold the oyster shell securely on the plate while the other hand scoops the baked oyster from the shell with the small fork and brings it up to the mouth. With raw oysters you would provide the option to gently dip the freed oyster into a very small vessel containing a dipping sauce of either a mixture of fresh horseradish and cocktail sauce (tomato) or a 'Mignonette' (a shallot vinaigrette). Always serve a couple of wedges of lemon with fresh oysters because a true connoisseur will want to test the oyster with a drop of lemon juice to watch it squirt. If it squirts, it's alive and fresh.

Oyster forks aren't used in formal dining, but when dining informally they are found to the right of the knife or tucked into the Oysters Rockefeller on the plate. In the absence of oyster forks, you can also use a seafood fork, which is about five inches with a slightly longer handle and flatter tines. The oyster fork also has three tines but is bowl-shaped to facilitate the dislodging and the scooping.  ~Didi

Dear Didi,
My husband and I are academics in our forties who moved to the Providence area recently and are gainfully employed. However, we've left all our friends behind in the academic town we lived in for twenty years and I'm not making new friends. We've had dinner with one couple with whom we seemed to hit it off, but there must not have been enough chemistry. We haven't seen them again. Another couple acted as though they were having dinner with us out of a sense of duty and weren't much fun. How do I meet people I can run with, walk the dog with, or have as a gym buddy? Ideally they would have a husband who gets along with mine.  name withheld


Dear Friendless in Providence,
If nobody else will welcome you, I will. Don't give up. There will be dicey times ahead: not all relationships take off. It's inevitable that there is awkwardness in the beginning of a relationship. A casual friend or two is better than none. Often people are reluctant to pursue a friendship out of fear of seeming pushy, but you won't know until you try. Look at it this way. It's flattering when someone wants to befriend you.

There are several social media sites which can introduce you to women like yourself, who have relocated, with similar interests, such as SocialJane.com, GirlFriendCircles, GirlFriendSocial, all of which are designed to help a woman find female friends. Some social networking sites charge a small fee of under thirty dollars for six months, but by then you should have a new best friend, a few close friends, and lots of casual friends in your new community—just in time for you and your husband to host a holiday party.  ~Didi

Dear Didi,
What should you say to a fellow employee who does not bathe often enough? He is very sensitive.  H.C.,  Boston


Dear H.C.,
There are people whose own noses do not pick up on their own bad odor. Hygiene is important not just because a person cannot smell when he or she smells bad. We pick up our grooming and hygiene habits from our parents, and it is difficult to break those lifelong habits. If you are a guy and he is a guy, you might say something such as this, "Dude, you need to change your dry cleaner."

If you can get the person questioning his body odor, that is a start. If he is super sensitive, then he probably is trying and it might not be his fault. Also, as we grow older, our bodies no longer produce pheromones, which means we can become less sensitive to our own odor. If you think that this problem is really just about the fact that he does not bathe enough, try to make a joke out of it. If you are good friends, you should be able to ask about, say, what soap, body wash or deodorant the person uses. I tried that once and my friend said that her boyfriend didn't have a good sense of smell and didn't notice, so she didn't care. It is hard to help people when they don't think that they need help. ~Didi

Didi Lorillard researches shifting etiquette at NewportManners by answering questions on relationship dilemmas, wedding etiquette, dress codes and manners. Or find Didi on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn after reading her earlier GoLocal columns, some of which are listed below.

 

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