ETIQUETTE: Unless you are at my home, wine glasses should be filled about two-thirds full. According to our old friend Millicent Fenwick from Vogue’s Book of Etiquette, this is done so the glass is “full enough not to look niggardly, not so full as to spill easily.” The solution in my home is to fill the glass up to the rim, but serve it in a highball glass. Highball glasses don’t easily tip over. Millicent goes on to note that very fine wines are frequently only poured up to the halfway mark of the wineglass. This is another thing we don’t have to worry about in our home.
To make sure that wine does not fall on the table or dribble down the side of the bottle, you may want to employ a slight twisting motion when you are finishing the pour.
SUPERSTITION: It’s good luck for someone to spill wine on you. Really. Well, not in Rome. It’s really bad luck in Rome. If you are in Rome and you spill some wine, put some of it behind your ears and everything will be okay. If you aren’t in Rome, congratulations! Also, if someone spills salt and it falls in your direction, you are going to have bad luck until someone pours wine into your lap. Congratulations!
ETIQUETTE: When you are a houseguest, you should remember to make your own bed in the mornings even if you don’t normally make your own bed at home. On the last day of your visit, it’s a very nice thing for you to strip the guestbed of its sheets, make the bed with just the blanket and bedspread, and deposit the dirty sheets in a hamper or at the foot of the bed.
SUPERSTITION: You should not let anything interrupt a bed-making chore; a bed made with interruptions will give the sleeper therein a fitful night of slumber, or something worse. If you change the sheets on a Friday, the devil has control of your dreams for a week. Three people should not make a bed, unless they want a death in the house within a year. Death will also come to the family of anyone who washes their blankets in May.
After doing a few image searches for “foot,” “barefoot” and “shoeless,” I am quite confident that I do not have a foot fetish. In fact, I feel a little queasy now. I am also now quite confident that my boyfriend in college was wrong when he said I have ugly feet. My feet are at least an 8 out of 10 compared to the feet I’ve seen today.
ETIQUETTE: You should remove your shoes when visiting a person’s home in Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, Iceland, Japan, Norway, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. In many places, guest slippers will be provided. In Japan, there are separate slippers you should wear when you are in the bathroom. Be sure to take the slippers off when you leave the bathroom, or be prepared to cause a scandal.
SUPERSTITION: Encountering a barefoot person, particularly a barefoot woman or child, is considered unlucky. Worst of all is meeting a barefooted red-haired woman in the morning; if this happens to you, just turn around and go back to bed.
Photo by shoelessphotography on Flickr
Benny and I went to a public swimming pool this afternoon to cool off, and while we were in the water we saw a little kid near our towels applying an alarming amount of sunscreen to his upper arms and a diagonal stripe across his back. His arms and that one back stripe were like a Van Gogh painting, if Van Gogh only painted in optical while. Every once in a while the kid would very thoroughly wipe his hands off and go to the side of the pool for a minute, but his main activity was blorting out sunscreen onto his upper arms and a small portion of his back.
At one point we thought he was applying sunscreen to his feet, but then we saw that he had merely moved on to his calves. Blotchy knee socks made of sunscreen. When I got out of the pool and came back to my towel, I got a closer look at him and noticed that he was getting a bad sunburn on his shoulders. I didn’t say anything because I don’t think adults are supposed to talk to strange children at public pools. Anyway, after less than an hour at the pool, the lifeguards told everybody to get out of the water because they had to close the pool. The filtration system was backed up. Benny figured it must have been clogged up with sunscreen, but I didn’t see that kid even go in the pool.
ETIQUETTE: While it is not rude and in fact possibly helpful to point out to an adult stranger (or familiar child) that they are starting to get a sunburn, it is quite rude to point out the situation after the fact. Unlike spinach in the teeth or an unzipped fly, there is nothing the person can do to fix the situation at this point.
Or is there? According to the 1909 book Household Companion: The Home Book of Etiquette, a sunburn can be cured by the application of green grape juice prepared with alum, or cucumber-infused milk, or buttermilk with tansy. Polly Bergen used to recommend applying lumps from milk of magnesia. I’ve also read that equal parts baby oil and blue Listerine will work. I don’t know; these all sound like superstitions to me.
SUPERSTITION: If you get a sunburn, go quickly and find yourself one of those people that can talk the fire out. All they have to do is mumble something (possibly Ezekiel 19:9, but it’s hard to tell because they’re mumbling), maybe wave their hands over the burn, and for a second you feel terrible but then suddenly ta-da, you feel better. There aren’t many of these people around, because they’re only supposed to train one other person in their lifetime the secret of sunburn soothing.
Photo by tuppus on Flickr
I sewed myself a new shirt yesterday and now I’m sort of afraid to wear it. It’s not like I did that great a job on it or anything, but I always get weird stains on things and I just don’t want to ruin this shirt so soon after making it. Maybe I should sew myself a bib.
ETIQUETTE: Removing a stray thread or piece of lint form another person’s clothing is a relatively intimate act. If you are on such close terms with the person in question that you would not hesitate to remove a booger from his beard or a piece of spinach from her teeth, by all means tidy the person up. Otherwise, simply direct their attention to the offending material in a direct but discreet manner. If you are a seamstress or quilter with overly familiar friends always picking stray threads off your person, think about investing in a lint roller or alternately do your sewing/quilting au naturel.
SUPERSTITION: If you find a piece of thread on someone’s clothing, take it off and drop it to the ground. It will form the first initial of the person you are going to marry. If the thread doesn’t form an initial, pick it back up and wind it around your finger while reciting the alphabet to determine the first initial of your future betrothed. The thread ends on the correct letter. Or maybe it’s just the first initial of somebody who is about to send you a letter.
Photo by fras1977 on Flickr
ETIQUETTE: Contrary to the beliefs of idiots and spring breakers, whiskey is not a spirit “for old men.” Whiskey is for everyone. Emily Post notes that whiskey “is always proffered” to a gentleman as an alternative to wine at a dinner party. Our pal Millicent Fenwick of Vogue’s Book of Etiquette reminds us that for men and women “whiskey and soda is the traditional post-hunt breakfast drink” (though if it was very cold outside on the hunt, sherry may be served prior to the whiskey). One last note – Emily says that calling a whiskey and soda a “highball” is “a social tabu.” So grab your eggs and call your whiskey and soda by its long name while you bitch about that fox that got away, and everyone will think you’re swell.
SUPERSTITION: If you are in Scotland on New Year’s Day, you had better not be the first person to walk through the threshold of a person’s home without being a dark-haired male bearing whiskey and shortbread, because that dark-haired guy with the booze and cookies is the one who brings good luck into the house for the coming year.
If you are drinking a Manhattan (or any other drink with a cherry in it) and notice that the cherry is floating, be aware that this means your luck is going to reverse. If you are currently feeling relatively lucky and don’t want your luck to reverse, you need to reverse something you are wearing in order to counteract the cherry – your hat, shirt, wig. Don’t interesting things always happen when you reverse your wig?
Photo by huggs2 on Flickr
ETIQUETTE: When swimming laps in a pool lane occupied by more than one person, the manner in which the lane should be shared depends on the number of people in the lane. If there are two people in the lane, the lane is split down the middle line with each swimmer occupying one side of the lane. If there are three or (ugh) more people in the lane, the swimmers stay to the right side of the lane, proceeding in a counterclockwise manner to the observer. If one swimmer wishes to overtake another swimmer in a three-or-more situation, he should tap the foot of the swimmer about to be passed, and then pass on the left, watching of course for oncoming traffic.
SUPERSTITION: If one is not a strong swimmer, it is best to avoid swimming in West Ireland or Scotland. It is believed in those areas that each river or sea in the area requires the taking of one human life per year, and if someone attempts to save a drowning person in one of these bodies of water, he will drown instead. A couple of rivers in Germany have a similar drowning allowance, but their entitlement is limited to one person per day solely on Midsummer Eve, Midsummer Day and the day after.
If you want to find a drowned body that has not yet floated to the surface, put some mercury in the middle of a loaf of bread and float the bread in the water. The bread will stand still over the body.
Photo by Lee Edwin Coursey on Flickr
A word to the squeamish: I do not recommend doing an image search for the phrase “eating mice.” For some reason I was trying to find a cute photo of a little rodent with stuffed cheeks, and now my day is ruined. I do, however, now have an etiquette & suspicion topic.
ETIQUETTE: If you find yourself in the Mekong Delta or at a dinner party in the 19th century hosted by William Buckland, you may be offered roasted or fried mice for dinner. Unless you are a vegetarian, you should at least give it a taste. If you pull the lame “my doctor has me on a strict diet” deflection to avoid eating something unpleasant, you run the risk of missing out on the best dessert you would have ever tasted in your life that was to have been the next course. Come on; give it a try. Maybe you can get it prepared with a nice little garlic sauce, which I hear is really quite good.
SUPERSTITION: The eating of a roasted mouse is said to be an excellent cure for whooping cough, epilepsy, sore throats, measles and bedwetting.
Photo of mice eating peanut butter by n28ive1 on Flickr
My mother calls rat excrement “rat coodles.” She does not call dog excrement “dog coodles”; it’s only the rat that leaves a coodle. I have never heard anybody else use this word in the same manner. Anyway, today we are not talking about rat coodles.
ETIQUETTE: If you have a baby and need to change its diaper while you are at a friend’s house, do not throw a poopy diaper into the bathroom trash can. Instead, ask your host where you should deposit the used diaper. They may be fine with you using the bathroom trash can provided the diaper is well wrapped up, but they may prefer that your little snowflake’s waste matter be deposited into a receptacle located outside. If you do not feel like bringing up the subject with your host, you can always wrap up the diaper in a plastic bag and put it in your diaper bag for later disposal at home.
SUPERSTITION: If a woman is infertile and wishes to bear children, she should take the first poo made by a newborn infant, dry it out, and stick it up her vagina.
Photo by ike4014 on Flickr
I would have gotten this post finished earlier, but there is a dude here wearing a gingham bowtie who keeps trying to get my attention. Oh, now he’s cleaning his feet. Maybe I can finally get this done.
ETIQUETTE: In Eleanor Roosevelt’s Book of Common Sense Etiquette (New York: Macmillan, 1962), Ms. Ellie suggests that a person new to a neighborhood, particularly an urban neighborhood, may use one’s pet dog as an ambassador and acquaintance maker, particularly to other dog owners. Once two pet dogs have become acquainted with one another and find each other agreeable, it is perfectly acceptable for one of the dog owners to extend a social invitation to the other dog owner. At this point, they know that at the very least they have a love of dogs in common. Ms. Roosevelt goes on to explain that walking a dog in public may garner friends even outside of dog-owner circles, as people loitering about parks are frequently interested in dogs and may start up a conversation with the owner. Of course, Mrs. Roosevelt was the widow of the only American president to serve three terms, and the dog she was walking was the beloved Fala (remember this when you are doing a crossword puzzle, folks), so your results may vary from hers. Perhaps you might want to try a bowtie.
SUPERSTITION: If you love dogs, you probably want to try a different cure for whooping cough or the measles than the following: place some strands of hair of the afflicted person between two pieces of bread and feed the sandwich to the dog. This will transfer the disease to the dog. Now your dog has whooping cough or measles. No, I have not yet found a superstition relating to a cure for canine whooping cough or measles, but I am working on it.