This post is a part of TMP’s Historical Context series, in which I share excerpts from my collection of vintage magazines and books.
From True Story’s “Family Feature” section comes the January 1954 etiquette column, “How to Behave in a Restaurant.” Here are the mag’s tips to keep in mind next time you decide to go on a time-traveling 1950s restaurant date!
- Ladies, your date should walk behind you, and you behind the hostess/host while being led to your table.
- Your escort should give both of your orders to the waiter. “When you are dining with a man you never address the waiter yourself.” (Oh, how times have changed!)
- You can, however, speak up if your date orders a dish you don’t like. Tell your date what you would rather have, and he will tell the waiter.
- Don’t order the most expensive menu item unless your date suggests it.
- If you’re unfamiliar with any dishes on the menu, ask your date to ask the waiter about them. (Sorry, you still can’t speak to the waiter!)
True Story also offers up some advice for dining with a friend:
- If you’re splitting the bill, either friend may do the ordering… but only one of you may speak to the waiter.
- If you aren’t splitting the bill, she who is paying the bill shall do all of the ordering.
- Only order individually if you are in a particularly large group, to avoid confusion when serving the food or dividing the check. Otherwise, only one person should speak to the waiter.
I wonder why in the past only one person could speak to the waiter or waitress?
You know, despite all of the additional research I’ve done on ettiquette I haven’t been able to find a straight answer from an ettiquette book or column on the origin or reasoning of it. Today we’d be quick to point out male and economic privilege (when a man’s around he has the power and when he isn’t, the woman with the money has the power) but of course the people who practiced this didn’t think of it in those terms.
I noticed one of the other magazine’s articles was ‘Forced To Be An Old Man’s Bride’. If people today think a woman of the ’50s having to keep her mouth shut when ordering at a restaurant was bad, what will they think of THAT story?
I might have to do a post on that one and see how many angry mobs show up!
Personally, I don’t have much of a problem with etiquette and etiquette columns. I generally regard them as a source of amusement. Women may be able to speak to waiters now but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our own host of ridiculous social conventions to abide by, and those deserve more criticism (in my opinion, anyway) since they’re currently in practice.
To this day, I’ll have the woman I’m with walk beside me and away from the sidewalk curb, so horse-drawn carriages won’t splash mud on their dresses!