The pithy, opinionated, and sometimes brutally frank Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke challenges average guys to live a life less ordinary and embrace classic style in the broadest sense. it's time to rise above the trite, the boring, the predictable, the mundane, the banal, and the commonplace. It's time to stop behaving like barnyard animals at the trough and leave behind the perpetually sloppy man-child aesthetic of the last two decades or so. It's time to learn once again how to present and conduct yourself like an adult with some grooming, finesse, and sophistication. And here is where you can learn how.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Throwback Sunday. . .

Yours truly in mid-September 2012, wearing a tweed jacket by Magee and a pair of loafers that I used to wear on rainy days given their corrected grain finish.   The jacket, while a nice specimen, was always just a bit green and mustard for my taste, so I donated it to our local thrift/charity shop along with some other things that weren't quite right before we left Illinois in June 2015.


The Young Master, taken at the same time, at play in his old room on the second floor of our old Craftsman house.  He was nearing his third birthday here and already sported some rather stylish autumnal tones of his own with a rather natty rugby top.  Perfect for constructing improvised Space Needles in imitation of the real item in Seattle where one set of grandparents resides.


Looking through some other older photographs this afternoon, I stumbled across these two from mid-September 2012,  Yours truly is slightly heavier now and with a bit more gray in his hair, while the Young Master, now 9, is much taller than he was in this photograph.

-- Heinz-Ulrich



As luck would have it, I managed to score a vintage Polo Ralph Lauren camel hair-wool blend polo coat, very like the one pictured above, via Ebay for a very reasonable price.  Pennies on the dollar really.  The coat is on the way, and after the usual dry-cleaning, will become a part of the regular winter rotation.  I've wanted one of these for a number of years now, so this late birthday-early Christmas gift to myself is kind of exciting.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Minimalist Advent Style. . .

My take on an Advent wreath this year sans the violet or purple candle for the fourth Sunday.  Sadly, I could not find one that is unscented, so white it is.  Of course, the red berries are fake (I know, I know), but they provide a bit more visual interest than simply four white candles sitting there at the center of the table.


The Advent period is almost upon us, so I took a couple of hours today to hang some honest-to-goodness evergreen wreathes on either side of the front door outside, set up the Young Master's Advent house, and put up some white icicle lights along the eaves at the front of the house.  

We don't go crazy with Christmas decorations here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold, and we get a few weeks closer to Christmas before putting up and decorating a couple of trees, but it's nice to have a few seasonal items around the interior of the first floor to help brighten the dark mornings and evenings between now and the first few days of January when we put everything away and get on with the job of winter. . .  plus the start of the new semester (Groan!).  

In the meantime, here are a couple of photos showing how we brighten up December in the run up to the solstice and the start of the Christmas festival in earnest.

-- Heinz-Ulrich



Finding Poinsettias small enough to fit on the mantle is always a challenge.  We've got cats, and these are highly poisonous to felines, so they need to be small enough to keep out of easy reach.  So, two small plants in each basket, which, along with the Advent star in the window, dresses up the library a bit until we put up the trees later in the month.  No sense in rushing things.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Advanced Edge and Heel Care. . .

Winter Sports 1935 Style. . .

An interesting vintage winter sports poster from the mid-1930s.  Can you tell where my thoughts are this morning?


Well, we've had four or maybe five inches of crunchy snow on the ground since Monday here in Mid-Michigan.  Not quite enough for cross-country (Nordic) skiing, but we are certainly thinking in the direction.  The Young Master is due to receive some new skis, boots, and poles from ol' Saint Nick this Christmas since he has outgrown his inaugural pair from Christmas 2014, which he has used the last four winters (he's actually a pretty good skier at this point).  Time for some longer waxless Fischer skis with normal step-in NNN bindings.

I too have a pair by Fischer that are really fast, but my go-to skis are a pair by Madshus that I purchased in Norway many years ago when I learned how to schuss-schuss-schuss through the snowy forests outside of Trondheim.  These got a bit slow last winter, so I've just ordered some Swix base cleaner to remove almost 20 years of dirt from the kick zone and old glide wax from the rest of the ski bases.

Naturally, we are supposed to have somewhat warmer temperatures and rain for a few days before another cooling trend with the possibility of more snow, but we have almost a month before Winter begins in earnest.  Plenty of time to clean my ski bases and those of the Grand Duchess, apply some new glide wax, and wait for the Young Master's new gear to arrive.  Come on Winter!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Snowy Tuesday Tweed Suit Style. . .

 Above, featuring a vintage wool challis necktie hand blocked in England.  I found this several years back for a couple of dollars in one of my three old thrift/charity haunts in Central Illinois before we decamped for Michigan in June 2015.  The shirt is a Land's End Original Oxford, purchased way back in 2003 or '04 when the company still sold mostly 'must iron' shirts.  The pocket square is a silk number from Put This On and features flowers in mid- and light blue that look more like snowflakes to me, so it seemed fun to add it to the pocket of today's suit before I ventured out the door and into the cold early this morning.



And the bottom half, featuring red SWIMS overshoes atop the usual Allen Edmonds long-wing brogues.  Not visible are the gray Fair Isle socks from Dapper Classics and the braces I wore with today's suit in lieu of a belt.


Quite cold with about 5 inches of crunchy snow underfoot here in Mid-Michigan, which made it an ideal day to trot out this tweed suit by Chipp for the first time this season.  It is easily the heaviest suit I own, and it absolutely must be cold outside before I can wear it comfortably.  I topped everything off with a tweed overcoat, a long maroon and white wool scarf, and some green fleece gloves from REI, which were given to me by the Grand Duchess for Christmas four or five years ago.  I'm sure I look bizarre to most whose paths I cross, but ah well.  If I can give a few people something to laugh about, so much the better.  To me, that is far preferable than simply blending into the crowd.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, November 26, 2018

Holiday Dinner Style. . .

 The Young Master, already a bit silly and eager to sit down to the Thanksgiving table here.



 The Young Master and yours truly, the old so and so.



The Young Master and his mother, the bright lights of my life.  He has, for better or worse, inherited his father's sense of humor and class clown approach to the rest of the world.  As my wife observed last night at dinner, living with both of us is like living with a combination of Peter Sellars, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Martin Short, and Jerry Lewis.  Good.  We'd be big in France.


Three photographs taken a few minutes before Thanksgiving Dinner was served last Thursday evening here at  Totleigh-in-the-Wold.  The Young Master, as always, was the star of the show, but ol' Mom and Dad look pretty good too.  Accumulating snow today (Monday morning), and school has already decided to close due to the weather, so the long Thanksgiving weekend will last a day longer than expected.  Not a bad thing at all.

-- Heinz-Ulrich



 The view up our street from the front stoop this afternoon just after running the snowblower for the first time this season -- it started like a charm -- and shoveling out a few tighter spots. 



 And down the same street. 
L.L. Bean 'duck shoes' and Bean Boots, ladies and gentlemen.



 And the woods across our back yard.  I never tire of the winter landscape here in Mid-Michigan.  While we have some wonderful places for cross-country skiing not too far away, it is possible to set a reasonably interesting course around the house for those times when we can't get away.

Friday, November 23, 2018

A Late Birthday Gift. . .

 A wrist-selfie featuring my new Bulova wristwatch, which arrived the day before Thanksgiving.


One of the few acceptable pieces of visible jewelry that a man can get away with, besides a wedding band, or perhaps a signet ring, is a nice, understated wristwatch.  Now, some guys with big wrist bones and muscular forearms might be able to pull off a sports watch, a Rolex, or one of the many Rolex wannabes out there.  I have always felt, though, that this type of watch -- unless you actually happen to be an oceanographer, a fighter pilot, or an astronaut -- is on the ostentatious side and even veers wildly into needlessly garish territory depending on the model of watch and how prominently it is on display for the world to see.  Thank you, Mr. Agnelli.  

And an Apple Watch is just so. . .  I don't know.  Intentionally obsolescent after about a year?  They don't exactly scream classically stylish either.  More like Dick Tracy meets The Jetsons.

No.  Far better to err on the side of something more subtle and traditional.  Hence the acquisition above, subsidized by my in-laws for a recent birthday at the beginning of the month.  I already have and routinely wear a gold tone slim dress rectangular Seiko with an oxblood leather band, a 36th birthday gift from good ol' Mom back in 2002, but I've been on the lookout for a similar silver tone watch with a black leather band for ages.  This one nails both requirements, not always easy to do.

Here's an menswear accessory savings tip.  If you're looking at various company, or department store websites, be sure to check Amazon first before making the purchase.  Often enough, Amazon will offer the same item but at a substantial savings.  Such was the case with the watch featured here, meaning that I was able to cover the purchase price and tax -- free shipping thanks to our Prime membership -- with the birthday funds sent to me by the in-laws.

The watch is one of Bulova's more modest men's models, fairly understated, about 6mm in depth and 40mm across.  The strap is black calfskin.  The watch itself required only setting to the correct time before it was ready to put on my wrist.  No days, dates, or any other superfluous gadgetry to tinker with and get right before use.  

If you too are after a fairly plain, easy to set up model of wristwatch, I recommend this one, or another model similar to it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving 2018!

A vintage Thanksgiving greeting from many years gone by that seems appropriate on at least a couple of levels for today.


Gentlemen, start your engines!  The 2018 holiday season has begun in earnest.  To any U.S. visitors dropping by Classic Style today, Happy Thanksgiving!  

Please remember, gentlemen, to dress nicely for dinner, place your napkin in your lap, chew with your mouths closed, don't talk with your mouths full, ask for things to be passed to you (no boarding house reach), and keep your elbows off the table during the meal.  Now, pass that pumpkin pie and coffee!  

As for me, I'm off to make the green jello salad.  I know, I know.  But it's actually pretty good.  Happy Thanksgiving!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Say "No!" to Another Holiday Season Fraught with Stress. . .


Not overtly seasonal, true, but this vintage dinner party illustration helps set the right tone for the last seven weeks or so of 2018.  Can you believe it?


Although it is just November 21st, and Thanksgiving Day is not until tomorrow here in The United States, the annual holiday season, as it is called here, is upon us.  It will last, in some instances, until after January 1st.  So, you might be excused for feeling exhausted by the prospect of almost two months filled with all of the preparation, travel, and planned festivities either real, or imagined.  

I suggest, in my usual contrarian way, that we strive for a more relaxed and understated holiday period than has become the accepted norm for many people between the end of October and the beginning of January each year.  Here is a short list of ways we might achieve that aim:


1) Don't leave things until the last minute.  
Enough said really.  You can fill the blanks here, but taking care of things ahead of time is its own reward, and hopefully will result in fewer Billy The Singing Bass chatchkes, or similar, being purchased as last minute gag gifts.  To my way of thinking, any physical gifts you might purchase for someone ought to have more thought behind them than that.


2) Learn to say , "No, thank you.  Not this year."  
And stick to your guns.  You don't have to accept every invitation to every party, open house, or extended trip somewhere if the prospect of fighting holiday traffic and/or air travel fills you with dread at the mere thought of packing your roller bag one more time.  Especially if your Monday through Friday job involves frequent time on the road.  Hopefully, Aunt Belva and Uncle Homer will understand.


3) Scale back a bit on the shopping, gift-giving, and decorating.  
Likewise, you don't need to feel like absolutely everyone you know needs a physical gift of some kind.  Often, a handwritten Christmas or holiday card with an actual note inside (not the impersonal mimeographed annual Christmas letter you understand) is fine and might be even more appreciated.  For those closest to you and for whom you plan to buy gifts, keep your shopping time and spending within reason, and do that online to avoid the throngs.  It might also be a good idea, in the name of reducing stress, to cut back just a wee bit on the sheer amount of seasonal decor your erect outside on, in front of, and around the house.  Some quiet white lights, maybe a lone wicket reindeer or two in the front yard, or a lovely wreath or swag hanging from your front door.  But do we really need one more house featuring a 20-foot inflatable snowman in the front yard, huge illuminated candy canes, enough colored lights to be discernible in satellite images, and signage out near the mailbox to the effect of "Santa stops here!"?  Remember, when your house resembles the inside of big box arts and crafts stores like Hobby Lobby or Michael's, it takes that much more effort and time to take down and put away everything after the first of the year.


4) Don't rush right back out into the fray the day after.  
Thank about it for a moment.  Is that really necessary in the delightful lull that follows Christmas?  Of course, people will be eager to spend those online gift cards and gift certificates as soon as humanly possible after the big day, not to mention make the inevitable returns and exchanges, but give yourself a break.  As an adult, I find the quiet of December 26th and Christmas Week to be as wonderful in its own way as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are in theirs.  Take some time to mull over the possible purchases to which you might apply those gift certificates and cars.  Enjoy the daydreaming in other words, and the exchange of that hideous Christmas sweater for something more understated and practical can wait a day or three.  Tune out, turn off, and unplug for a few days.  AI is already here folks, and we should be concerned.  We're practically cyborgs already.  How about making a more concerted effort to remember what life was like, and how delightful, it was before we were all 'wired' around the clock?


5) Accept that you can't (and won't) do it all, or be all things to all people.  
So, stop trying.  This gets back to Point #2 above.  Too often, it seems, our decisions and behavior are driven by those around us and their expectations for how and where we should spend the holidays.  We are, perhaps, more reactive at this time of year than proactive.  I humbly suggest that more of us climb into the driver's seat of our own lives a bit more.  If you would prefer not to uproot your own family to drive ten hours each way to spend a frantic two days with extended family, some of whom you might prefer NOT to see if we are quietly honest with ourselves, then don't.  There is nothing wrong having Thanksgiving, Christmas, or another holiday in your own home on your own terms without all of the hubbub.  And others will have to accept your decision.  If not, that is their problem, not yours.  If we look at life in 2018 with absolute clarity for a moment, it becomes clear that there is already more than enough of that clamor and confusion to go around day-to-day.  A few days without that are fine, and it is amazing how refreshing a lack of holiday pandemonium can be. 


6) Set aside ample time for yourself and your closest loved ones.  
With that in mind, do a few things you want to do but don't usually have the time to enjoy.  Read a book.  Stare idly out your front window at the world going by over a fresh cup of coffee.  Amble around a local park on a chilly day with that special someone.  Reconnect with your spouse or partner without the children underfoot for a few minutes.  Turn off the TV or Netflix, and have a dram of something medicinal by the fireside after the kids' bedtime.  Find what it was that first drew you to him or her in the first place all those years ago.  Or pick up the phone and give your parents a call if you have chosen to spend the holidays apart.  If your grandparents are still alive and compos mentis, drop by with a bottle of something festive and spend a few hours just chatting together.  It will make their day.  I used to do this in my 30s when my maternal grandparents were still alive and living not far from my parents in Pittsburgh, where I used to spend the Christmas and New Years period while in graduate school.  We'd sit at their dining table with coffee or hot chocolate and just talk about everything for hours on end.


7) Take pleasure in small, simple, and quiet things.  
Listen to some music.  Take a walk in the snow with a loved on.  Meet a friend or two for a coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and good long chat about whatever (see where the conversation takes you) at your local cafe.  Take the kids tobogganing, build a snowman, or have a snowball fight if snow is on the ground.  Take the family to the beach for the day if it's not.  The point is, turn off those new chirping, burping, buzzing, and vibrating iGadgets for a while.  Find out once again what life was like before the bells and whistles took over, and we had to find other forms of entertainment.  Life is about so much more than that peering at that tiny screen with all of your new gaming apps, boys.  Have you ever sat outside and really listened on a snowy day?  You'll be sure to hear all kinds of sounds besides the new snow landing gently on the ground.


8) Steer clear of toxic people.
Why is it that the holidays seem to bring out the worst in so many people?  Whether family members or acquaintances, too many just plain suck the air out of any room they are in with their whining, nitpicking, victim-playing, bullying, arguing, passive-aggressive dynamics, etc.  The answer?  See only the people you want to see this holiday season.  Steer clear of any gatherings where toxic personalities are likely to be present.  You needn't be so crass as to ask who else has been invited when you receive an invitation to a gathering of some sort, or offer what amounts to a long-winded explanation about why you won't be there yourself.  Just give some careful thought to the invitation before responding, calmly, rationally, and concisely.  Often, you can figure out a guest list of potential invitees pretty well anyway if you have a history with the person doing the inviting.  Anyway, let the hosts know in plenty of time that, regretfully, you can't attend this year.  Just say something along the lines of, "Thank you so much for thinking of us, but Jane and I  have already accepted an invitation to another dinner party that same evening.  Please keep us in mind for next year."  Short, sweet, and it gets the point across without hurting any feelings.  Even better, it gets you off the hook when it comes to enduring, yet again, known boors, belligerents, and sloppy drunks.  Why continue to put yourself through that? 


9) Above all, remember to put up your feet.
It's ok.  Really.  As I have mentioned already in different ways within this post, it seems far too easy to get caught in the undertow of 21st century life before we realize what is happening.  Often, many of us might feel it is just easier to go with the flow rather than attempt to swim against the current and rock the boat.  I suggest, on  the other hand, where the holiday season is concerned, that it is time to grow some backbone and assert more control over our own lives, how we spend the festive season, and with whom.  I am not suggesting complete selfishness and turning our back on others.  Far from it.  But, in the interest of de-cluttering and de-stressing our lives just a bit during what can be, let's be honest, a difficult time of the year, it might, just might, be nice to be a bit more strategic in how we approach things each November and December.  After all, we don't really want our lives to resemble all of those saccharine family holiday disaster films on Netflix, right?


 
In closing, your first reaction after reading all of the above might be, "Easier said than done, old man."  However, I would counter that, since our world has become so over-connected, busy, and fraught with activity around the clock that MUST be seen to, and very often we never really enjoy time truly away from work anymore, it is vital for us to have more downtime during the festive season than has been the case in recent decades.  We owe it to ourselves and whatever shreds of sanity and calm we have left.  

As for yours truly, I am off to prepare a pumpkin pie and a green bean casserole (Shades of 1940s Betty Crocker recipes there, right?) with The Young Master for Thanksgiving Dinner tomorrow.  The three of us will enjoy a quiet Thanksgiving here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold with good food, a fire in the fireplace, piano music from the hands of The Grand Duchess and The Young Master, who is making great strides in this endeavor, with maybe a brisk walk around the neighborhood before pie and coffee on our return.  

At some point early in the afternoon on Thanksgiving Day, we'll speak to our respective families in Washington State and North Carolina on the telephone, and end the day later with some bedtime reading for The Young Master and myself.  We are currently working our way through Series Five of The Geronimo Stilton books.  Good fun and even educational in places.  Afterwards, I hope for a quiet couple of hours talking before the fire with The Grand Duchess while enjoying a nip or two some nice liquor and/or single malt scotch .  A quiet, calm, and collected Thanksgiving holiday for all.  Ahhhhhhh. . .

-- Heinz-Ulrich



 My helper, The Young Master, earlier this afternoon.  Truthfully, he did most of the work on the pumpkin pie, I simply assisted as necessary and handled the oven.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Annual Classic Style Plea for the Routine Practice of Pleasant Table Manners. . .

A reasonably formal table setting for the coming Thanksgiving holiday in two days' time here in the United States.



The holiday season is once more almost upon us, and with it the annual lead-up to the rather frenetic Christmas and New Year's period in a little over a month.  While I naturally hope that regular and occasional visitors to Classic Style will have the good graces NOT to show up to any special holiday dinners or other events dressed in hoodies, sweatpants, sagging jeans, and flip-flops or sneakers -- or, frankly, any other common attire of the sort -- this post is not about that.

Nope.  Instead, it's a yearly reminder to average guys everywhere to remember and practice polite table manners.  Not just on special occasions either, but everyday.  With that idea in mind, here is a reprise of a post from November of 2012 (with a few small recent edits by yours truly), which presents all kinds of useful tabletop information, most of which used to be common knowledge.  At least in my particular dimension.  Sadly, however, the very knowledge about how to conduct oneself pleasantly at the table seems to have become more arcane and even enigmatic in recent decades.  Much to our collective detriment.  In any case, here we go.


*****

In the blogosphere right now, you'll come across any number of blogs and websites that talk at great length about men's clothing style, grooming, appearance, and how these things contribute to our being/becoming/conducting/perceiving ourselves as gentlemen.  Good.  That's a decent enough goal by itself.  However, it's only one small part of the picture.  There is another hugely important and related topic that no one seems to mention on the many blogs and websites on the subject that I peruse and read each week.  What is it, you ask?

Why, table manners of course.  Shock!  Horror!  Gasp!  Yep, I said it.  And I'm making no apologies.  Table manners should be as much a part of our daily personal style as our attire and grooming, if not more so.  Average guys ought to keep that in mind.  Even when we are at home with the door closed.  Newsflash!  Our close family is just as deserving of polite behavior as people we work with, ride public transport next to, or pass on the street.

However, because table manners are associated with upbringing and/or perceived socio-economic class, they are a potentially explosive issue, prompting knee-jerk accusations of snobbery, exclusion, and arguments about elitism.  Regardless of your position, basic table manners are clearly a challenge for many these days based on what you'll observe in most any restaurant or dinner gathering in which people from different backgrounds cross paths.

Sadly, too many people in the 21st century labor under the delusion that table manners -- or indeed polite behavior and social niceties in general -- are stiff, overly formal, old-fashioned, not genuine, and outmoded with no place in modern society.  And if that's your attitude, fine.  I can't change it.

But let me make a few relevant points.  We aren't talking about state occasions, bowing to our social superiors, curtseying to the Queen, shrimp forks, or finger bowls here.  Just common decency and ensuring that we remain pleasant to have around.  We are not cavemen, dogs, or farm animals eating from troughs after all.  Moreover, actions speak louder than words.  And just like our attire, our behavior speaks volumes about us and conveys a great deal about where and who we come from, as well as the kind of person we are beneath the fancy clothing, excessive education, certifications, and impressive-sounding titles.  

Of course we want to make a good first impression with the various people we meet and those we work with.  But we also want to maintain that positive initial image over time.  Likewise, and I would argue even more important, we want to remain attractive, likeable, and desirable to our chosen mates and partners.  The people with whom we share our lives and selves on a daily basis 24/7.  Why risk spoiling that with crass or even just downright crude behavior?

Finally, if we have them, we want to set solid examples of decent behavior for our children.  We want, hopefully, to teach our youngsters to be gentlefolk with good grooming and at least a modicum of refinement and sophistication before they are unleashed upon the world.  Basic table manners are a part of all that like it or not.  After all, do you really want to come across like a ravenous street cur that knows no better?

So, without belaboring the point any further, here are 15 tips to remember that will go a long way in helping average guys become more pleasant dining companions -- and become more gentlemanly in the process -- whether we are around the family table, having a working lunch with colleagues, or meeting that special person's parents for the very first time with a sit-down dinner as part of the equation.  Here we go:


1) Above all, use the words, "please," thank you," and (if necessary) "excuse me" liberally.  Don't forget it!

2) Sit up in your chair with both feet on the floor in front of you.  Don't slouch in your chair, and keep your feet confined to the space beneath your seat.  Don't swing your feet or stretch out your legs beneath the table into someone else's space.  Keep yourself to yourself.  Finally, keep your feet off the darn chair!  In other words, don't bend one of your knees and rest your foot on the seat of the chair with your bent knee at face level. . .  something that seems to have reached epidemic levels these days.  Buck the trend, and just keep your feet where they belong.  On the floor. 

3) Keep your elbows off the table and your napkin in your lap during the meal.  Oh, and you might want to use it to wipe your lips gently when necessary.  Your napkin that is.  Not your elbow. 

4) Ask for things to be passed to you.  Don't reach.   If serving yourself, don't pile heaps of food on your plate.  Take a small share (a slice or two of meat, and a serving spoon or two of other items), and leave enough for others.  You can always come back for a second helping later.

5) Cut your food -- or if eating a roll or bread, break it -- into bite-sized pieces.  Don't force huge hunks of food into your mouth.  Ick!

6) No one will take your food away from you, so don't hunch over your plate with an arm around it, stabbing at or picking through your food with your fork as though someone will swoop down and steal it.  We aren't vultures, so let's not act like it. 

7) Slow down!  Don't gobble your food as fast as you can.  This is not a pie or buffalo wing eating contest at a summertime county fair.

8) Don't slurp, burp, or make other noises at the table.  Excuse yourself if and when this happens although it really  shouldn't at a table of older children and adults.  Chewing with your mouth closed might help.

9) Likewise, avoid (like the plague) talking with your mouth full.  No one wants to see that. And just imagine how embarrassed you would be if you spit out bits of food in the direction of a dining companion in the middle of relating something to him or her.  Chew it up, swallow, and take a drink before you say anything.  Oh, and try not to leave food particles on the edge of your glass.  Better yet, make sure you don't.

10) Remember not to gesture or point at others with your eating utensils.  We're nearing the end of the meal here, guys, so stay with me just a bit longer.

11) When you finish, don't wipe up your plate with a piece of roll or bread.  Just place your silverware to one side on your plate (the right side in the 10 o-clock-4 o'clock position), and leave any remaining food residue where it is.  By the same token, DON'T lick your plate or utensils clean.  Yes, I know.  I've actually heard of families where this is the norm.

12) Finally, please don't wipe your mouth with your hand or the back of your wrist when you are finished.  Use your napkin!  That's what it is for, but be discreet.  Your napkin is not a washcloth/face flannel for Heaven's sake, so don't scrub your entire face with it.  And it should go without saying that you never, ever blow your nose into it!  If you run into nasal issues during a meal, excuse yourself from the table without going into details and, once again, take care of the problem in private, well out of earshot of your dining companions at the table.

13) Avoid picking food from your teeth with a toothpick or finger while you are still at the table.  I actually once witnessed a young woman engage in the latter yesterday in the dining commons of my former small college where I was holding late-semester meetings with students.  Ugh!  But then, she was sitting with one knee bent and a foot on the seat of her chair, airing her differences to the other three young "ladies" (sarcasm intended) at the table with her, so I should not have been surprised.  In any case, if or when you find yourself with food stuck between two teeth, excuse yourself from the table for a few moments to take care of the matter privately in the restroom. 

14) While at the table, there is certain subject matter (illnesses, certain surgeries, anything having to do with the bathroom, or bodily functions, related jokes, etc. ) that is best left for another time.  If you absolutely need to discuss it at all.  Talking about things like that during meals is just plain crude and will probably put at least one other person at the table off of their food.  Really.  Our mothers raised us better than that, and we are no longer 10-year old boys at summer camp trying to show our friends how gross we can be.  Hopefully, we have left that behind by now.  Right?

15) And here's one last tip to keep in mind.  Silence your iPhones and leave them elsewhere.  Don't bring 'em to the table, guys.  Talk to each other (when your mouth is empty of course) and give your full attention to those with whom you dine this holiday season.  Be mentally present at the table in other words, and leave the digital bells and whistles for another time.  Do you really need to text your best dudebros from your three semesters on a college campus somewhere about the big game during the meal?  And for the love of Christ, remove those damn baseball caps or knitted skicaps before you sit down to the table! 


Remember, guys.  You might be wearing wild new statement socks, those nifty square-toed shoes, your best ripped jeans, and your lucky "going out" shirt (think about it) to Thanksgiving dinner this year at your latest on again-off again girlfriend's parents' house.  But behaving like an ungroomed slob at the table is not attractive (understatement of the year) and will rapidly undermine any decent impression you might otherwise make.

Unless, of course, Dad or her brothers either answer the door, lounge on the sofa, or come to the table clad only in  their underwear.  Then knock yourself out, disregard all of the advice above, and let everyone see the "real" you.  By all means.  Ask your date's mother to pull your forefinger between the main course and dessert if you want.  Go on.  Without doubt, everyone around the table will think the result is terribly clever and guffaw raucously.

On the other hand, it might be somewhat more civilized if you ensure that you are a pleasant dining companion by taking the necessary steps above.  Even when you are alone.  Make considerate behavior during mealtimes a normal part of your routine, a habit that is, and you will be well on your way for many of the situations you'll encounter during the holiday season or, indeed, anytime of the year.

-- Heinz-Ulrich  


As the Old Meatloaf Song Put It. . .

No, not a new suit, but new buttons!

As the old song by Meatloaf went, two out of three ain't bad on this Tuesday before the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States.  First, the two. . .

I picked up the above suit from my tailor's on the way home from campus this morning, where he had sewn on new buttons to replace to the original, truly awful solid tan buttons that came on the suit when I purchased it some years ago.  It looks like a different item!  I've always liked enjoyed the suit, but the better buttons take things to a whole new level.

Next, I dropped by the bank to deposit an actual check (remember those?).  Not one, but two of the 20-something male tellers, one who was the greeter, and another who actually helped me from behind the counter, had on full suits with neckties and leather dress shoes!  You could have knocked me over with a feather.  I can't recall the last time I observed male bank employees, who were not the branch manager, in actual suits.  The early 1990s?  We'll forget that one guy wore bright tan shoes with his charcoal suit, and the other guy wore a black suit, and simply marvel at the fact that they were trying to up their style game.  Well done late millennial males! 

I complimented them both as I concluded my business and prepared to leave, asking if their attire reflected a change in corporate policy.  The greeter smiled, thanked me, and simply replied, "No, this is what we do."  Clearly, there are two more people out there who get it.

Sadly, the run of good fortune ended there.  A stop at the barbershop, which is closed on Mondays, revealed that everyone else besides me had the same idea about a pre-holiday trim.  I didn't feel like waiting for the five men in front of me before I could take my place in one of the three chairs.  I'll try again after the holiday next Tuesday.  Maybe I'll have better luck then?
  
Last of all, a quick check of my voicemail once I arrived home resulted in learning that an approaching dentist appointment for November 30th needed rescheduling thanks to a new computer system due to be installed at the dental practice on that day, which means they cannot see any patients because. . . everything is now computerized.  No paper records or appointment book.

Normally, I wouldn't mind so much, but this particular dentists' office already changed the same appointment on me once at the end of September, pushing things back by two months before they had an available opening I could actually make.  It was also difficult to get the appointment set up in the first place when I initially made it back in July.  Sigh.  As the song went, two out of three. . .   And yes.  I realize my math is off, but it's the spirit of the thing you understand.

-- Heinz-Ulrich