Sunday, May 27, 2007

Broken Rules

Tonight we hosted a dinner party for our friends who have twin boys the same age as my eldest. In the chaos of getting the table set and cooking dinner for four adults and five children, I let my friend, TWAPilot, set the table for the adults. As I never entered the dining room until I sat to eat, I don't know how she positioned the drinks so that each adult could identify their seat.

(Note: I do not like to wash too many dishes. This means that I do not serve family style where the food is set on the table in serving dishes. In my house, you must get your food directly from the pot on the stove.)

The men, pushed by TWAPilot and me to load their plates and GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN, were the first to sit at the table. By the time that the women were in the dining room, the men were seated next to each other on one side of our oval table. We were directed to sit opposite them.

The first words I said were, "We're breaking all kinds of seating etiquette rules here."

The men rumbled a bit. Phill spoke up about how I was writing a book in which one chapter began with improper seating. Our poor guest just didn't get it.

TWAPilot was delayed in sitting (kid related), but when she brought her plate in the room she made a comment as well. "Now, Phill, aren't you supposed to be at the head of the table?"

More rumbling from the male side.

Although many rules were broken, our conversation never flagged or became split between the male and female side of the table. That happened after when the time arrived to clean the kitchen. I think the men's posteriors were glued to the chairs. Too much beer, perhaps?

(In case you want to read the whole seating problems of the novel. Those entries are here and here.)


jmb said...

Poor Sarabeth, you'll never sit at a table again without analyzing it to death.
I think it's hilarious that at your house the men sat together on the same side instinctively.
A little story about dinner seating on our cruise. We had a fabulous rectangular table for six pushed short side against a window. Three couples, always arriving at different times. Whatever couple arrived first sat next to the window opposite each other. The next couple sat next to them, with the man 2 always sitting next to the woman 1 and woman 2 next to man1 and then couple 3 usually us, I sat next to man 2, never woman 2. So we had a diamond pattern with everyone sitting next to someone of the opposite sex, but not their spouse.

Of course this may be an age thing and perhaps we were all taught this when we were young (we were all 55 and up). We all seemed to know to do this without any discussion.

It's so ingrained in me I just automatically do it and at my house always seat people alternating gender wise and no one is allowed to sit next to their spouse.

Or maybe it's even a British thing since Australians definitely followed British protocol in my day.

It's easy to keep conversation general when you only have four but I usually have 8 with four on each side. Then sometimes it's general and sometimes broken up.

Sorry this is getting as long as long as your post.

Trixie said...


Only in your house!

Ami said...

I live in the wild west and I never learned seating etiquite. It may also have something to do with not entertaining a lot of people at my house growing up, either.

Vladimir, a trained chef, and I try to have people over, but we don't have a dining room. I take that back. We have one, there is a very ugly table that came with the house in it, and we will eventually break the wall out to make our kitchen bigger.

We always serve from the table or buffet style from the counter if there is too much. We have enough to serve about 20 on real dishes. Adults go on our table in the 'breakfast nook', and kids go on the ugly table. Couples always sit together. If there are too many even for that, then the chairs get pushed to the walls and people also sit in the family room. We haven't had a good BBQ since we moved here, but that is an open door affair with people in and out.

Kell said...

Perhaps an etiquitte book would be a good one to write!