Dwight Garner has an article in the June/July issue of Town & Country that I wish everyone could read. (It's not currently online, so that involves picking up an actual copy of the magazine.)
The article, called "Table Trouble," laments our current moment in restaurant manners. Garner's big point is that both diners and restaurant staff are misbehaving at every turn. He's right - and it drives me crazy.
Garner praises the service at a couple of very formal restaurants - Le Bernardin and La Grenouille. But he's not a snob. "We're living in an unpretentious, informal, well-tattooed restaurant moment, and here's a hearty toast to all of that," he says.
But unpretentious doesn't mean unmannerly. Garner's complaints include overzealous wine-pouring and plate-clearing staff (the plate-clearing is a particular pet peeve of mine), cranky servers (that's a meal-killer) and boorish diners, who can't let go of their cell phones...or even close their mouths when they chew.
As a parent trying very, very hard to instill manners in a six-year old boy (and six might be the least mannerly age ever), I want to give Garner a standing ovation for suggesting that just possibly, we should demand more of our waiters and ourselves. He cites Arther Schlesinger, writing in Learning How to Behave that manners don't, "complicate social life as much as they simplify it." Garner adds "He understood the best thing of all about good manners: They aren't snobby by egalitarian. They are open to all. They are free."
Dixon, of course, is impervious to the "manners are free" argument right now. For a little boy, it simply does not trump the hilarity of acting gross at the lunch table. (The lunch table, BTW, is my nemesis. He had far better manners before he ever set foot in a cafeteria. But that's another post.)
One day, Dixon will appreciate Cooper's and my repeated - REPEATED - requests to keep his elbows off the table.
Maybe by then, American culture will have turned and manners will be cool.
It's unlikely, but a girl can dream.