Do you spend your weekend being invited to private parties by Governor Patrick because he is impressed with your table manners? Of course you don't, you uncouth lout. You're no Dr. Manners. I'm Dr. Manners, a certified Doctor of Mannerology (D.M.), according to the certificate I printed out for myself. And that's why I'm qualified to share my wisdom on modern manners with you. Here's this week's letters: Dear Dr. Manners,
My boyfriend seems to think it is acceptable to eat with your elbows on the table. I have explained to him that "elbows off the table" is the most basic rule of manners, but he persists in claiming otherwise. Please settle this for us once and for all!
-- Adamant in Adams
As a general rule, you are correct; elbows should be kept off of the table. This has been the case since 1814. Prior to that, everyone politely placed two elbows on the table to steady their hands as they ate all their food with no silverware. However, in the early 1800s, the French began dining with silverware and keeping elbows off the table, and as this custom spread, so did their empire. Indeed, Napoleon recognized table manners as a bellwether of his reign, and upon being surrounded by an island of people dining without silverware, was heard to utter "Able was I, ‘ere I saw elbow," knowing that he was defeated.
However, after Napoleon's defeat, it is still considered good manners for anyone of Russian descent to keep their elbows on the table. Aside from that, you should keep your elbows off of the table -- but it is perfectly acceptable for you to keep other people's elbows on the table, as they make a lovely centerpiece.
Dear Dr. Manners,
I have a friend who always wears skimpy outfits and acts sex-obsessed, and I think she does not understand what is appropriate behavior in public. How do I get her to tone it down?
--Aggrieved in Egremont
There's an old saying about bringing Mohammad to a mountain, or a mountain to Mohammad, or coals to Newcastle ... never mind. The point is, if you have a mismatch of appropriate dress and behavior and appropriate place, and you can't change the behavior, change the place. Just remember that decorum should follow a bell curve: You can do what you like in the privacy of your own home, once you are somewhat public you should exercise good judgement, but if you are very public you can throw decorum to the winds and do whatever you want, especially if you're on a stage.
Alternatively, you could just send me your friend's phone number.
Dear Mr. Manners,
Some of my friends keep arguing with me on my Facebook page. Most recently, I posted something about how stupid it is that Bradley Manning wants to become Chelsea Manning, and then my liberal friends start commenting about how I'm being unfair. I say, he's still Bradley, and I can say what I like on my own page. Right?
-- Dubious in Dalton
Dear Dolt in Dalton,
Are you annoyed that I didn't call you by your preferred name? Well, my name is Dr. Manners. I didn't become an officially certified Doctor of Mannerology just so people could call me Mr. Manners. We get to choose our names. You also get to say what you like on Facebook, but people get to disagree with you. If you don't like disagreement, unfriend anyone who doesn't agree with you. The other option is the one Dr. Manners uses, but it is more difficult:
Try not being wrong.
Seth Brown D.M. is a humor writer, the author of "From God To Verse," and eats with his hands. His work appears weekly in the North Adams Transcript, and weakly on RisingPun.com.