Welcome to A Gentleman's Quest for the Perfect Night Out, a four-part guide written by etiquette expert John Bridges meant to instruct our more testosteroney readers on how to comport themselves during the evening hours. With the help of Clear Men Scalp Therapy, which gives you 100% dandruff protection* (because, after all, perfect hair ensures a perfect night), the guide covers all the man-questions you were always curious about, but were too ashamed to ask your dad. Don't worry. This is a safe space.
When a gentleman is invited to dinner, he does not simply expect to be entertained. He also expects to be entertaining.
That does not mean he has to be particularly quick of wit or full of snappy patter. It does mean, however, that he is willing to do his part to make the evening pleasant, not just for himself but also for anyone within earshot of him. Sometimes that means knowing the right thing to say, but even more often it means knowing the right questions to ask.
And then a gentleman actually listens to what the other person has to say (which means that he does not text, or send or check messages at the table). He does his best not to be bored; that way, he runs the least risk of boring others.
A dinner party, after all, is a participatory event, which does not make it a competition sport. Nobody has to be the brightest or the cleverest person at the table. If a gentleman spends too much time aiming the spotlight on himself, everybody else's dinner is likely to get cold.
At a dinner at somebody else's home, it is always best to try to eat the food that is put in front of you, as long as it is palatable, does not contradict your social concerns or your religious beliefs, and is not likely to send you to the hospital.
However, if you truly cannot (or will not) eat what is served to you, there's no reason to play "Let's Pretend." Instead, it's wiser, and kinder, to be direct and say, as cheerily as possible, "Millicent, I'm wondering if I might have some more of these great Brussels sprouts. I'm not a meat eater." Then, once the extra ladle of sprouts arrives, you drop the subject. Talking about your personal dietary restrictions is even more unpleasant than politics, and certainly more dreary than religion.
A few ground rules must be followed, in any case: You sit where your host or hostess tells you to sit, you do not talk with your mouth full, you introduce yourself to anybody you do not already know, you turn off your cell phone, and you say "Thank you" before heading for the door.
It is, after all, very nice thing to be invited to somebody else's dinner table. It is even nicer, however, to be invited back.
Etiquette expert John Bridges is the author of How to Be a Gentleman, and is also the coauthor, with Bryan Curtis, of seven other volumes in the best-selling GentleManners series. He is a frequent guest on television and radio news programs, always championing gentlemanly behavior in modern society.
*No visible flakes with regular use.
Image by Alexandra Cannon