The casual, hang-loose world in which we live may have opened some doors previously closed to many folks, but along the way, the rush to informality has had some casualties. Among them: manners. While we may no longer dress for dinner, a civilized approach to table etiquette remains pretty important. That is, unless you wish to dine with wolves.
To a greater degree, the girls still have a clue about all this. Leave it to the ladies to keep the guys somewhat on track. Young men, however, over the last 50 years since the liberation generation dominated the 1960s cultural revolution, have not been educated in the art of civilized behavior. Make no mistake, fine manners are a human art form, and they must be taught. Taught by example and demonstrated by mothers and fathers for daughters — and for sons. Manners are not about showing off or presuming an upper-class status. They are about respect. A casual world requires respect just as strongly as a formal world.
Last Sunday evening in Newport Beach in a bayfront dining room on chic Lido Isle, an organization called National League of Young Men (NLYM), Class of 2015 gathered for dinner, joining young women members of National Charity League, also from the Class of 2015. In all, some 43 high school juniors associated with both organizations came together to celebrate the art of conversation over dinner.
Organizers called the affair simply "Etiquette Dinner." Susan Werner, an etiquette coach, welcomed the young men arriving prior to joining the young ladies from NCL. The invitation called for arrival at 4:15 p.m. to participate in a pre-dinner session with Werner. Topic addressed: dining etiquette (how many 17-year-old boys know what to do with their utensils when finishing the meal?); conversation skills (yes, there is still such a thing as inappropriate dialogue during dinner); table settings (what is the difference between a salad fork and a dessert fork?) and even information on the proper way to thank your host at the end of the meal. Werner made the class fun for the boys. There was plenty of laughter as lessons were learned.
Mothers in charge of the NLYM committee included chapter president Cindy Dole, Jill Welton, Robin Brewer, Pam Martin and Allyson D'Eliscu. Marena Padden chaired the dinner with assistance from Lisa Johnson and Angi Evans. The moms supervised dinner catered by Seaside Catering featuring a three-course Sunday meal, with an entree of chicken piccata with lemon caper sauce. The dining room was decorated using classic white linens accented with taupe details. Verdant white hydrangeas and white roses flowed from clear vases centering the tables.
The young gals from NCL arrived at 5 p.m. under the supervision of NCL representatives Lorraine Gulay and Nikki Winsor. Dinner was preceded by an hour of mingling and hors d'oeuvres. At 6 p.m., the men from NLYM, attired in blue blazers, khaki slacks and neckties, escorted the girls from NCL to their seats at dinner tables. An ice-cream sundae bar topped off the experience, and then the guys escorted the young ladies to their cars.
Hooray for good old-fashioned manners.
Participating in the etiquette dinner were NLYM members including Brett Beaudette, Ryan Braun, Bennett Brewer, Harrison Carter, John Connelly, William Davenport, Campbell D'Eliscu, Jack Dole, Rigsby Duncan, Charlie Evans, Davis Hanscom, Wills Johnson and Cole Martin. Also attending from NLYM were John Moores, Charlie Padden, Reed Pfeiffer, Nick Schroeder, Peter Seidner, Nick Silvers and Hunter Wetton. Young ladies from NCL dining with the men included Erin Barth, Carli Carpodian, Daniella DeSantis, Daniella DiGiorgio, Taylor Fogarty, Bailey Godber, Mallory Gyulay, Anna Hancock, Katie Junkins and Reece Luebke. Additional NCL members joining in the fun were Gabriella Mangano, Molly McCunniff, Brooke McGee, Taylor Olson, Amanda Pittman, Josephine Schott, Bailey Super, Madison Tenebaum, Alice Kate Willett, Ali Willson, Jaclyn Wison and Kira Woods.
THE CROWD runs Fridays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.