I seem to recall that I was once told there was a certain placement for a knife and fork following a meal to indicate whether the person wished to have dessert -- for example, aligned parallel to each other or crossed, each position having a meaning.
I have dined at very nice restaurants and have occasionally asked the wait staff; however, I did not receive an answer. Of course, this means it would not make any difference, but I would still like to know the proper etiquette in this matter, and I know you can help me.
The only way to broadcast your desire for a dessert using only cutlery is to bang on your highchair table with it until someone caves in and feeds you what you want. Miss Manners does not endorse this.
Nor is there a way to reject dessert in a restaurant other than to say, "No, thank you, I'm skipping dessert."
Perhaps you are thinking of the placement of knife and fork diagonally across the plate to signal that you have finished your main course. This does not, however, reveal whether or not you are still hungry.
Dear Miss Manners:
I recently got involved in a difficult situation regarding my boyfriend's ex-girlfriend. E-mails were written by both of us that were rude and insulting; mine more so than hers. This girl's boyfriend then e-mailed others involved and it has, of course, become entirely a mess.
I know that I cannot take back the things I said nor would I want to. I do not feel remorse over my negative opinions of her behavior.
Apologizing for my behavior and my words would be false on my part and I believe would not produce any positive results.
However, this couple is now telling mutual friends that if I am going to be at social functions they will not be there and doing so in a manner that suggests the hosts should "take sides" and tell me I am not invited.
This is putting hosts in very difficult positions and my boyfriend as well, since these people involved are his friends and have been for many years but they don't want me invited to their gatherings.
I have no idea how to get out of this situation and would appreciate any suggestions you could give.
No, you probably won't appreciate them. You have already rejected the entire etiquette arsenal of defense mechanisms for getting out of trouble that you have gotten yourself into.
These are: showing (if not feeling) remorse, claiming that what was insulting was not really what you meant and apologizing. Oh, and flowers, but Miss Manners somehow doubts that these are what you have in mind.
By your own admission, you were rude and insulting. Although the other party doesn't sound charming either, you admit you were worse. Having offended them, you should not be surprised that they were offended. And apparently others agree.
Miss Manners is sorry, but she is fresh out of ideas about how to be rude and get away with it. Claiming identity theft?
Dear Miss Manners:
While I believe you've clarified that inedible parts of food are discreetly taken out the way they went in (fork or fingers), with the exception that, although fish is eaten with a fork, the fingers are used to remove bones from the mouth, I wonder if that applies to seeds. In particular, watermelon seeds.
Is it proper to spit out the seeds if you're at a picnic outdoors? Should you pick out as many seeds as you can before trying to eat a melon with a fork, with a spoon or like a cookie? At many of the buffets I frequent, the melon is sliced to be eaten by hand. Can I "gently spit" the seeds into my hand before depositing them on my plate? Sadly, most of the watermelons I consume are not seedless.
That's only sad if nobody ever invites you to a watermelon-spitting contest. Until that happy time, you cannot practice spitting, even if you have not been issued any utensils with which to pick out the seeds. But perhaps Miss Manners is only quibbling over the word. You can deposit the seeds into your cupped hand, but the wind power necessary to do so must not be audible.
Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.
(c) 2004, Judith Martin