Today is the 139th anniversary of etiquette guru Emily Post’s birth. We’ve got a copy of the eleventh revised edition of her classic tome Etiquette here in the mental_floss New York office, and it’s a terrific read if you ever need pointers on how to behave in 1965. In honor of Mrs. Post’s birthday, here are 10 helpful tips and admonitions from the text.
1. On eating corn on the cob: “To attack corn on the cob with as little ferocity as possible is perhaps the only direction to be given, and the only maxim to bear in mind when eating this pleasant-to-taste but not-very-easy-to-manage vegetable is to eat it as neatly as possible…The real thing to avoid is too much buttering all at once and too greedy eating.”
2. On proper attire for dates: "It is always better to be under- than over-dressed. Should she discover that her date is dressed for bowling while she thought they were going to a cocktail party, she should excuse herself for ten minutes - no more! - while she hastily changes into something more casual."
3. On the behavior of an engaged couple: “It is unnecessary to say that an engaged man shows no marked interest in other women.”
4. On greeting other guests before a wedding: “At a wedding it is proper to smile and bow slightly to people you know - even to talk briefly in a very low voice to a friend sitting next to you. But when you find yourself among strangers, you just sit quietly until the processional starts."
5. On refusing to dance:
“To refuse to dance with one man and then immediately dance with another is an open affront to the first one – excusable only if he was intoxicated or otherwise offensive so that the affront was justified.”
6. On dressing for an audience with the Pope: “The rules of dress for visitors to the Pope are not so strict as they once were. But even now for a private or special audience, men traditionally wear evening dress with tails or sack coat and women long-sleeved black dresses and veils over their hair. No one may wear any but the most functional jewelry.”
7. On women dining together: "When several women are dining out together the problem of the check is one that can cause concern to and confusion among the waiters, the nearby diners, and the women themselves. Women so seldom are able to separate a check into several parts with grace and speed that the cartoon of feminine heads clustered about the waiter's tab, captioned, 'Now let's see, Ethel, you had the Tomato Surprise,' is familiar to all of us."
8. On refusing wine: “If you do not wish wine, it is best – because least conspicuous - to allow a little to be poured into your glass. Unless your host happens to be looking at your glass when the wine is poured, he will not know later on that your almost empty glass was never filled. On the other hand, if he did happen to notice, he could not feel that much wine was wasted.”
9. On eye makeup: "Heavily made up eyes belong only on the stage or in the chorus line."
10. On the similarities between being witty and opium addiction: “In great danger of making enemies is the man or woman of brilliant wit. Sharp wit tends to produce a feeling of mistrust even while it stimulates. Furthermore, the applause that follows every witty sally becomes in time breath to the nostrils, and perfectly well-intentioned people who mean to say nothing unkind in the flash of a second 'see a point' and in the next second score it with no more power to resist than a drug addict has to refuse a dose put into his hand.”