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CONTEMPORARY COURTESIES

Etiquette column: Napkin misuse just one kind of table faux pas

Friday, November 2, 2012 - 12:01 am

Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at www.news-sentinel.com.

Q. Karen, I am often surprised at what I see people do at the dining table, even professional people. I was at a recent business dinner and observed someone use a napkin as a handkerchief. I consider this very bad manners. Do you?

A. Yes, I consider using your napkin as a handkerchief bad manners. The only time it would be acceptable would be to cover your mouth and nose during an emergency sneeze when you don't have a handkerchief or tissue.

There are a lot of things done at the table that are not appropriate. Here is my list of absolute don'ts:

•Don't use your napkin to blow your nose; excuse yourself and take care of blowing your nose in the bathroom.

•Don't leave soiled tissues on the table for the wait staff to clear.

•Don't remove retainers at the table. Remove them and put them in a tissue and in a safe place before coming to the table.

•Don't use a toothpick at the table or in public.

•Don't clip or file your fingernails at the table or in public.

•Don't floss at the table.

•Don't apply makeup at the table.

•Don't comb your hair or flip long hair around at the table.

•Don't pop out contacts and put them back in at the table.

•Don't take phone calls, text or check messages at the table.

•Don't use the water glass as a finger bowl.

•Don't blow on your soup to cool it.

•Don't ask for a doggie bag during a fine dining experience or during a business meal.

If you look at this list carefully you may notice that most of these things are things we do in the bathroom at some point during the day. So, the rule is if you do it in the bathroom don't do it at the table!

Karen Hickman is a certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy LLC. Do you have a question for her? Email clarson@news- sentinel.com, and we'll forward it to her.