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17 Ways to Send the Wrong Signals. . .

Hopefully, the average guys visiting this blog aspire to something more than simply having all the mod cons and gadgets at their finger tips.

If you want to come across to others as a cultivated and polished man of the 21st century, be aware of some unconscious ways that many average guys might, just might leave the wrong impression in their wake during their social interactions.  

All of the points raised below used to be things that mothers and fathers coached and advised boys and young men against at one time in the not too distant past.  Sadly, that appears no longer to be the case across broad swaths of society if you spend anytime at all in public spaces with your eyes and ears open.  

What follows, then, are a number of common ways that too many boys and men unconsciously send the wrong signals about their upbringing and the kind of person they are beneath their overpriced athletic wear and ostentatious bling.  Naturally, an average guy concerned with kicking up his everyday style -- style in the broadest sense -- several notches would do well to eradicate the following habits from his daily behavior.

1) Sitting Down to a Meal -- any meal -- without a Napkin in Your Lap
Well, what can I say?  You either wipe you mouth delicately and discretely on your napkin when necessary during the meal, or you use the back of your arm or hand.  I notice an awful lot of the latter on campus and in public these days.  Is that really how you want to come across whether you have been invited to a sit-down meal, or you're scarfing down a couple of Chicago-style chili dogs at Boo-Boo's Dawghouse or Windy City Wieners?  Well?  Is it?

2) Blowing Your Nose into Your Napkin
Or wiping your nose with it frankly.  Yes.  I've bored readers with this point before here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style before, I know, but you just don't do this if you aspire to be a man with some polish, grooming, and sophistication.  You don't blow your nose within earshot of others at all, much less at the table before, during, or after a meal.  Excuse yourself, and go somewhere private to attend to the problem.  And no.  Table napkins are not intended as facial tissues either, ok Jimmy Durante?

3) Handling Your Cutlery Like a Plastic Beach Shovel.
If he has resolved to kick up his everyday style several notches, one area where an average guy might need some work concerns handling his cutlery at the table during mealtimes.  Now, while there are at least two different ways of doing so, the Continental and the American methods, neither of which I'll go into here (See what Emily and Peter Post advise on the matter), one thing you don't want to do is hold your eating utensils like they are plastic beach shovels or garden trowels.  Neither do you want to gesticulate in the air with them at your fellow diners on those rare occasions when you mouth is empty, and you ask about another helping of grub from the communal trough.

4) Chewing Gum
Or cracking/popping it too for that matter.  My maternal grandmother, who had a bearing not unlike Dame Maggie Smith's character in the currently popular series Downton Abbey, once advised something akin to the following.  Chewing/bubble gum is a nasty habit that makes you look tacky and cheap.  If you absolutely must chew it, go to your room and close the door.  Barring that, keep it in your mouth and quiet.  Nuff' said Bazooka Joe?

5) Chewing Tobacco/Dipping Snuff
Um. . .  Ick!  Just ick.  It causes mouth and tongue cancers too besides being a simply foul activity.  And it also makes your teeth look grungy.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

6) Burping/Passing Gas in Public
Here's another point that I've mentioned quite a few times before in various posts, but it's one that now seems to be so common among the people, that I'll bang the gong once again.  This particular behavior is about as crass and uncouth  as you can get.  Make the effort to control your body and simply don't burp or pass gas around others.  If it happens inadvertently, excuse yourself quietly, and don't let it happen again.  And if it truly is that much trouble for you to master control over either end of your alimentary system, see your doctor, or purchase some kind of over-the-counter remedy for the problem.  You aren't 7 years old anymore, and you certainly don't want to be seen as that poor slob who just lets it out whenever and wherever.  People used to be embarrassed by belching and flatulence.  What the hell has happened to us as a society?

7) Constantly Touching or Picking at Your Face/Nose/Ears/Body in Public
Eeeeew!  And we can include digging in your ears with a finger here too.  In short, don't do it.  This is one more area where, if there is a problem, you should excuse yourself without fanfare and retire to the men's room when you are out, or the bathroom if at home, where you can take care of the problem in private.

8) Poor Eye Contact during Introductions and Conversations
A cardinal rule of social interaction. . .  So, it is truly amazing the number of people who don't seem to know any better.  Look at the people to whom you are being introduced or speaking.  Not only is it polite, but doing so also helps establish rapport and makes a person come across as more trustworthy and just plain likeable.

9) Wearing Your Ski Cap/Beanie, Ball Cap, or Hat Inside 
Of course, times and society have changed since men commonly wore hats.  Regardless of whether their use fell by the wayside thanks to the election and popularity if John F. Kennedy, the arrival of The Beatles, or the hirsute late 1960s-early 1970s, it is still polite to remove your headwear when you enter a building, or sit down to a meal.  We aren't talking about religious practices either, so unless you find yourself in a synagogue or mosque, attending a service, when some kind of head-covering is generally preferred, get that eff-ing ski cap or backwards baseball cap off your head before you sit down to the table for a meal!  Or in the classroom while we're at it. 

10) Dropping the F-Bomb or Other Common Obscenities
Tacky, tacky, tacky!  Contrary to what many might think, even many overly educated, middle-aged adults in my experience, turning the air blue with obscenities during either social, or professional gatherings is not cool.  It simply succeeds in making you look like an idiot without much of any consequence to say.  And, believe it, or not, there are quite a few people around who continue to find this habit offensive and uncomfortable.  It's far better to control yourself and simply stop talking like the proverbial sailor.

11) A Habitually Loud Voice
Turn it down a few notches unless you are trying to make yourself heard from the front of a large room full of people, or in a sports stadium filled to capacity.  "Keep you voice down!" as my mother used to intone.

12) Biting/Picking at Fingernails and Cuticles
Like your shoes, eyes, and face, your hands and nails are another area that people notice.  It's time to become master of your domain, if you have not done so already, and stop any biting and picking here.  Not only should your hands and nails be clean, but the latter should be clipped, any rough edges filed away with ragged cuticles clipped or pushed back, using something like an orange stick sold at the drugstore or pharmacy (with the hand and footcare products), once a week.

13) Blowing Your Nose Loudly in a Public Space 
Really just a reiteration of point #2 above.  Suffice to say, this is a jarring, ugly noise under the beast of circumstances, so why treat others to it, or give at least some of your 'audience" any reason to question your upbringing?

14) Constantly Playing with and/or Checking Your Cell Phone.
Got an important conference later this afternoon with representatives from the G20 countries?  I didn't think so.  This particular habit has become epidemic in recent years, and there is simply no excuse for it.  None whatsoever.  It is just rude, rude, rude.  And very few of us are that important, or so vital to the daily running of the world that we can't turn the damn thing off and leave it alone for a few hours when we interact with other people.  Doing so is almost as rude as, say, Items #4 or #6 above for example.

15) Cracking/Popping Your Knuckles/Neck/Back/Etc. 
Unless you are Bruce Lee getting ready to go head to head with Chuck Norris, quit it!  Ok?  It's crass, coarse, gross, and just plain undignified.  Got it?

16) Working a Toothpick or Wooden Match in the Corner of Your Mouth.
Unless you are playing actor Taurean Blacque's character Detective Neal Washington on a Hill Street Blues reboot, you don't really want to be the guy with a toothpick or match stuck constantly in the corner of his mouth.  It just ain't the way to come across as an urbane sophisticate.

17) "Fixing" Yourself
Or a wedgie.  And it's not just professional baseball players either.  I've mentioned this point previously and elsewhere here at The Average Guys Guide to Classic Style, but this too seems to be another problem that has reached epidemic proportions among the general public.  Don't think so?  Look around any shopping mall or other crowded public space, and I guarantee it will not take five minutes before your notice some goofus mindlessly and without a care playing with his private parts or posterior.  It's like watching Rhesus Monkeys at the zoo only with hooded sweatshirts, cars, and disposable income for God's sake.  See point #7 above, please.  Basically, it's the same thing here.  Stop touching, picking, and yanking at your body in public.  Unless you take pride in remaining a Neanderthal, then by all means continue.  Let me assure you, however, that the rest of us really don't want to be privy to your ablutions and adjustments.  Know what I mean, Korg?  It's not 70,000 B.C. anymore either, so you need to move beyond that fascination with your nether regions.

There we are.  Without a doubt, there are additional and related points I have neglected to mention here -- If I think of more, I'll add them to this particular post. -- and some of them are favorite whipping boys at this point, I'll admit.  However, that does not mean that these reminders are, or have been rendered unnecessary.  

Indeed, with the apparent and marked coarsening of society over at least the last 40 years at least, I would say that there ought to be a two-semester sequence of compulsory general education courses on personal conduct and etiquette for young men (and their female counterparts, many of whom are just as clueless) on most college and university campuses these days.  I know, I know. . .  Fat chance that will ever happen.  The genie is out of the bottle on this, and has been for a long time now.  

 Some of you, and this is going back quite a way, might remember the old Goofus and Gallant cartoons from Highlights Magazine, a monthly publication for children in roughly Kindergarten through 
Grade 3 or 4, which is apparently still in publication.

Hence, The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style.  Remember, style is about so much more than our clothing and shoes.  I maintain that our behavior and conduct are actually more important determinants when it comes to personal style -- or the lack thereof -- than whether a guy is an adherent to the Ivy/Trad/Preppy triumvirate, Continetal, or British style.  And if even one average guy, at any age, becomes more personally aware and takes steps to smarten up his everyday appearance and behavior after reading about the various things under discussion here, then our efforts have not been in vain.  So, the only remaining question to pose is this one.  Are you a Goofus, or a Gallant?

-- Heinz-Ulrich (aka Grandma)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Self-recognition is the first step to solving the problem(s) that might ail a person. I rest my case.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich von B.

  3. Well I recognise what you are trying to do and applaud a well written (and amusing!) article. I look forward to more.


    Matt (a not so anonymous Englishman)

  4. Regretfully on one of those - constantly checking the mobile phone, you are truly standing in the path of a tsunami and you have no chance of changing current attitudes. I think for those aged between say 10 -50 nothing is more important or sacred. I keep a hammer at my dinner table. My daughters have been warned what will happen to the phones if I see them.

    Putting that a side as I truly think it is a lost battle, my personal bĂȘte noire is middle class white boys acting and dressing like LA gangsters. What is it with all these hand gestures and their underpants on show. Most of these yoofs were privately educated and have parents who are lawyers, doctors etc and would last 2 seconds in downtown LA, Kingstown etc.


  5. Thank you for posting these much needed reminders. Some of the best mannered children I encounter attend our mission school in a hardscrabble Philadelphia neighborhood. They greet each visitor by introducing themselves and welcoming you to the school and practice dining etiquette. There is hope for the future!


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All opinions are welcome here. Even those that differ from mine. But let's keep it clean and civil, please.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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