What Is Etiquette?

Astridcropped

Astrid

Many transgenders develop a heightened interest in etiquette when they start going out in public as women, for, in some strange way, etiquette seems to be a “female thing.”  In their everyday lives, most men don’t direct much thought to what they vaguely perceive to be an abstract code of conduct no doubt written by some uptight Victorian types.  And while most men get through their day without drawing excessive negative attention to themselves, what man hasn’t had the experience of doing or saying something only to have the woman in his life roll her eyes, glare at him, sigh, or look totally embarrassed.  Or perhaps she remains silent until later, but I can promise you that in the meantime she is thinking some very unflattering things.  At a certain level most men are aware of this gender-based pas de deux and simply accept it as part of being a man.

womanly manners, learning etiquetteBut what happens when the man suddenly takes on the role of a woman?   Does panic set in as (s)he realizes that she must now become the great arbiter of manners for herself?  How can one suddenly be knowledgeable in this mysterious code that so many genetic women seem to have absorbed by osmosis somewhere during their early years?

The good news is that etiquette, meaning society’s standard for good manners, isn’t nearly as complicated as many people think.  Assuming that none of you has an upcoming date for a White House dinner or presentation to the queen, there truly are not long pages of intricate rules that must be committed to memory.  Most of the etiquette issues we will cover here are half common sense and half practice.

The most basic definition of manners is simply doing what makes those around you feel comfortable.   One of the reasons for rules is simply to keep everyone on the same page so that no one ends up feeling odd-man-out – or, in our case, odd-woman-out.    Some of you may have heard the tale of the Manhattan socialite of a certain age who watched in surprise as one of her dinner guests picked up his finger bowl and drank it like a broth.  As a shocked silence fell over the table, she hesitated only briefly before picking up her own finger bowl and drinking it in the same manner.  Several other guests then gamely followed suit, and an embarrassing situation was avoided.  This old-guard woman understood that genuine Woman Drinking, Fingerbowl,  Manhattan socialiteetiquette demanded first and foremost that her guest not be humiliated.

I personally think that this is one reason why so often the topic of manners seems to be a feminine one.   Women tend to be more aware of those around them and thus more inclined to do something to put another at ease or to have noticed the usual way of doing things within a given group or situation.

Beyond this starting point for etiquette, though, there are some basic rules that most women follow in public, and it is these that we will concern ourselves with in this column.  Being a genetic woman, I don’t consciously think about most of them, so I encourage you to send in your questions and I will use them as the basis for future columns.

In the meantime, relax and enjoy being a woman.  Being comfortable with yourself is a surefire way to put those around you at ease, and once you can do that, people will already see you as a polite person. Astrid

 

 QUESTIONS FROM OUR READERS

To get the ball rolling, I’ve started with a question that I’ve heard several times within the TG community.   This particular question may be a bit “philosophical”, but it is also about courtesy.   

Q:  Sometimes when I’m in a restaurant I feel like the server has an “attitude” towards me.   How should I handle this?

rude waiter, eating, c ourtesyA:  I once heard an African-American woman say that one of the hardest lessons she had to learn was that not every act of rudeness towards her was because she was black.   Some people are simply rude, and it has nothing to do with who they’re dealing with.   Others may usually be polite but they’re having a bad day and don’t have the emotional maturity to keep it out of the workplace.   And then of course there is a third group who is intentionally and selectively being rude because of some trait or behavior in the customer that they don’t approve of.

In most cases it’s very hard to know what kind of rude you’re dealing with.  I would suggest that you handle this exactly as you would in non-dressed mode.   If you think that the rudeness or poor service warrants calling it to the manager’s attention, do so.   You’re the customer and have every right to expect to be treated with respect.   I wouldn’t mention any aspect of your own dress as that’s not really pertinent.  I’d simply say that the server had been discourteous (or had repeatedly ignored you, or whatever.)

On the other hand, if the rudeness is simply a minor annoyance or a nagging suspicion on your part and you’re not comfortable elevating it, write it off as one of life’s less stellar moments, and make a mental note to avoid that restaurant in the future.

The most important thing is to not let someone else’s problem ruin your meal.  Don’t let their unhappiness spill over onto you.

This entry was posted in Ask Astrid by Astrid. Bookmark the permalink.

About Astrid

Astrid is our in-house etiquette expert. She comes from an environment where traditional manners were the rule – where tables were always set completely and where women never appeared at the dinner table in anything but skirts. While she actually knows the difference between a pastry fork and a dessert fork, we will be using her for more down-to-earth questions that arise in today’s more casual life....

Read more about Astrid→

14 thoughts on “What Is Etiquette?

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  4. Hello ladies… We here at Countessa’s Closet have many luncheons and events.. WE also offer free classes in ettiquette, If you wish to join us… Just contact us at , 818 568 3064, You may speak to me personally if you wish or my staff may help you.
    or just ask to speak to” Countessa Personally ” I try to answer the phones when I am available as most all do wish to speak to me personally…

    WE offer many free classes in ettiquette, style. fashion, walk and grace.Also how to carry yourself and walk in high heels . We offer many areas of free consultation and we are very dedicated to the Tg/Ts communities..Our staff is 98% from within the Tg/Ts communities so we know what you are wishing for and dreaming of..No question is too silly or too small or large.. We are here to help and we are on your side…
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    We are busy in the early mornings so the best time to reach us is any time after 2 pm pacific time..We are located in wonderful Tg friendly California…
    We wish you a “Forever Fashionable week ahead ! ”

    Our motto is. Femininity is an art, It is a gentle form of power !

    Love to all
    your Countessa.

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  6. One of the best ways to stop a servers attitude is to find something very nice to compliment them about… a pretty smile.. pretty eyes, saying thank you, smiling is something that usually keeps others smiling when they see that gorgeous smile of yours ! If a server is acting very rushed and you have a bit of time.. just say. ” I see you are busy, I can wait a bit for you to come back and take care of my order !” if you are in a rush.. smile and say I am in a bit of a hurry. If you don’t mind , may I order right now.. ?” keep that smile going and also let them know that you appreciate their helping you with having only a short time to eat.

    A bit of kindness can go a long way.. If they are outright rude.. Get up and go to the manager, and ask for another server.. Say it with a smile but let the manager know in a soft but firm way that you felt the server was rude.. I know that the next server that will go to your table will be told to be extra courteious and they will most likely do and take care of all that you will ask for as the manager, ( their boss! ) has told them he had a problem there and wants the customer happy.. If that still does not work.. find out the corporate office and write them a note.. That will get things taken care of immediately and they will usually offer you a treat or free meal the next time you go in..No business wishes to lose customers and clients. all business is in business to make money. if the customer is not happy they do not make money ! its reallly that simple… Its not your fault and its not your problem !

    have a great day and a forever fashionable one..!

    Countessa
    http://www.countessasscloset.com

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  10. Hello to all the lovely gals here and of course our wonderful Astrid.

    I have been in the restaurant and hospitality industry for a very long time.I was even a cocktail waitress and bartender and have even ran a few upscale restaurants and nightclubs for a bit in my younger years, But that was Before I was really in the fashion design or a beauty advisory industry. I was also a past professional petite model and when you work in fashion shows, you do also come across others that may be rude or curt and seem to have no time to explain anything to you. especially when you only have minutes to change your wardrobe and many pieces to put on .. I now have many social events, gala formal affairs and this is pretty much what I have learned in my life and in my career when it comes to those that are curt, rude or just cranky, and you must, due to the circumstances, deal with them . .
    I have found that sometimes we all have bad days or one of those
    ‘ Bad hair days” too many customers at once, the chef has an attitude and is mean to the servers, or its just one of those days when all customers seem to be ” cranky “or ask a zillion questions about what they wish to order.

    It would often put me in a better frame of mind with a customer if they smiled at me and said hello . As I must say hello to them.. A response is always invited. If your server seems a bit curt or hurried or just plain rude, Try to ease them up a bit. Mention that maybe their name is the same name as your son, daughter or best freinds name.
    That is sure to sort of bring a smile .. or just say that you want them to know that their name, ( if a unique one , is one of your faves. ) Dont ask a zillion questions about their name, just state the fact with a great big smile..then gently ask any of the questions you wish about the menu or food specialities. A womans soft assuring smile is the best for calming those that are a but curt or rude, hurried or just plain in a bad mood. Let them know you are on their side. ” Wow, you are really doing a great job with all the tables I see you serving.” Everyone adores a compliment. Sometimes a little pink lie is ok when it offers you a bit more kindness and attention to your table and/or guests.
    If you are not in a bit rush, let them know it.. Let them know you wish your drinks or cocktails now, but can wait a bit for them to take your order. They will remember your kindness and often do something a bit more “special” for your order or service.
    If you wish extra olives, something on the side of the dish rather than it it.. Let them know this and ask, if it is possible to do this, with your lovely soft smile and at the the same time that you order your meal . A soft feminine and sweet smile is something that is so important . If you find it hard to offer that ” often needed smile” try to practice it in a mirror… a soft chuckle with your waiters silly jokes or verbage is also a way to soften their mood and upgrade their service.
    I have had many clients that tell me smiling is not something that comes easily to them.. At first this shocked me as I love to laugh and love to smile , but it is sadly true that some have a hard time putting on a smile unless they are laughing . A bit of practice and soft kind words. are what seem to work and if you are from the south and have that soft sweet southern drawl.. You really are going to soften the servers attitude… My Motto is ” Feminity is an art, it is a gentle form of power.’ think about this and you will find it really works in many uncomfortable or uneasy situations.

    A southern drawl is always appealing and softning to anyones mood .
    Just try to keep that soft feminine sweet smile while speaking to your server.. If you are from the south, you are so very lucky . Try to look interested when heor she explains things to you about the menu or such. He or she may have repeated this info all day long to every patron but if you look like you really are interested in what the salad is or what the sauce is, it does tend to make the server feel a bit more appreciated and will be much happier to answer all your quesitons on the menu and restaurant and such.

    You can’t make everyone in the world smile or be kinder or offer you more attention, but you can at least show them that you are soft and gentle sweet and kind and that will usually at least a tiny bit, make any one act a bit more patient and treat you with abit more respect.
    If they just remain rude or such… Hey, you can always get up and walk out… no one said you had to stay there, on your way out the door, let the manager or maitre’ D know your feelings on this and why you are leaving… That may also offer you some extra perks to get you to stay..
    But all in all… You are a kind and caring human being.. and are always due the respect and dignity you offer to others… If you are uncomfortable there, remember you can spend your money anywhere you wish and at any restaurant or business you wish…its their job to make you want to be there ! Its called ” Quality of service, dignity and respect and should be offered to all customers that enter any business establishements front door ! If they remain rude , Just get up and walk out.. You are always free to leave if you wish.

  11. I have had some experience in restaurants and, so far, have been fortunate enough to not have a negative experience in relation to who or what I am. But like many I have had experiences with bad service. In this case I always look discretely for a manager, in smaller places often the manager is the owner, I am always painfully polite, making the minimum of fuss, take my time but will relate my problem. I always find that the manager is grateful. They would rather be told so they can fix the problem than have you go away and complain to all your friends.
    On the other hand if the service is good I also make a point of telling the manager this. I think, again they are grateful for feedback. Actually one of my ‘things’ is after a good experience to ask for the manager, the staff ask is there anything wrong? I repeat, not smiling, ‘I wish to speak to the manager’. Manager appears, I say ”
    I have been out to many restaurants, different countries, different cuisines, have had many experiences but this”, pause to sweep hands over table, “Has been…………(longer pause, the manager is holding his breath)…..excellent. Your food is great and the staff are wonderful”.
    I love the expression as they almost have a heart attack.

  12. If you think the server is not at easy with you, change your seats, if you are comfortable with doing that in order to make the server more comfortable, as to having your back to the restaurant. If you don’t pass well it may easy the tension for the server. But only do what you feel comfortable with that will make your dinning experience a pleasant one for you. You are the patron, but if you can improve the experience for everyone involved that will not be a bad thing.

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