Much has been written in recent years about the declining standards in table manners. The reasons given are many, but regardless of what they may be, it’s important that we, as women who aspire to being ladylike, do not follow this trend downwards.
How do we ensure that our own table manners remain above reproach? Well, one of the hallmarks of ladylike eating is simply being so graceful and at ease that no one really notices what we’re doing. Our behavior slides smoothly under the radar rather than calling attention to itself.
That sounds simple enough, but how exactly do we appear “graceful and at ease”? The most important way is simply to avoid mannerisms that call attention to themselves or that are unpleasant for those around us to watch. We can avoid calling attention to ourselves by using minimum movements rather than maximum. Elbows, for example, should be kept close to our sides rather than sticking out at awkward angles or even bumping into other diners.
Another way to appear graceful and at ease is to not struggle with our food. One of the unfortunate trends I’ve noticed is that adults no longer know how to cut their food smoothly. They rip it and saw it with great energy, as if they were subduing it rather than simply enjoying it. And many, as the title suggests, seem to be playing the cello.
These musical wannabees spear the food with their forks, which they hold vertically in a full-handed death grip, and then use their knives to saw vigorously back and forth. I admit to being fascinated by this practice and have to remind myself not to stare when a diner near me is playing his knife and fork in this manner. It seems so cello-like. (The photo here isn’t as bad as some I’ve seen. The fork grip is horrible, but the knife is almost OK. You can see the elbow sticking out, though.)
Etiquette books tell us that silverware should be held at gentle angles to the plate, not at 90-degree ones, and gripping a fork with the whole fist marks you as anything but ladylike. If you hold your utensils closer to the plate, it will help remind you that your motions should be contained enough that they don’t cause wind currents.
Try to make your movements so smooth and effortless that the people with you are surprised when they realize you’ve finished eating. There was nothing along the way to call their attention to your movements. You ate gracefully, like a lady.