Monday, January 24, 2011

A Date With Ice Cream and Confusion

At the Table The Bad Date Eichler Pop Sci Apr 1923 He will probably breathe a sigh of relief when he leaves, and she will probably cry herself to sleep.*

Uh oh.

So you think you've had some bad dates. Well, sure. We all have. That is just one of life's little inevitables, isn't it? But did you know that most of your bad dates were probably caused by a lack of manners? Miss Lillian Eichler, 1920s etiquette guru, allows us to tag along on this excruciating evening when Nick and Mae go out on the town.

First, they go to dinner. And what's on the menu? Embarassment with a side of humiliation, of course. He didn't know whether to go in to the restaurant first or let Mae go on ahead. So Nick just blundered on ahead, then tried to be extra polite to make up for it. That was when the snarky waiter first started laughing behind his linen napkin.

Then they both got confused about which fork to use. Hint: you work from the outside of the place setting in. See, that wasn't so hard! At last came dessert. A relief? Not so much. The caption for this picture (which didn't crop very well, so I left it out) reads:

And now, at the table, both are embarrassed. Indeed, can there be any discomfort greater than that of not knowing what to do at the right time - of not being sure of one's manners? It is so easy for people to misjudge us.

Which is all true enough. But they are just having ice cream! How can they not know what to do with a delicious dish of ice cream? Nick, Mae, listen: just pick up your dessert spoons. See them? They are over on the top of your place setting, I believe. But maybe they are worried about hot fudge sauce. I can see that. There's a lot that could go wrong there. The waiter is trying not to burst out laughing again, you can tell. He can't wait to tell the other waiters about the chuckleheads at Table 2.

But there is worse still to come. That moment - by the door, at the end of the evening. You know what I mean, and so do they: 

Say Goodnight Maisie The Bad Date Eichler Pop Sci Apr 1923Shall she invite him into the house? Shall she ask him to call again? Shall she thank him for a pleasant evening? In rapid confusion these questions fly through her mind. How humiliating not to know exactly what to do and say at all times!

Well, what should Mae say to Nick at the end of the date? "Come up and see me sometime" or, conversely, "I never want to see you or hot fudge sauce ever again"? At least Mae didn't order chicken salad for dinner - as far as we know.

I'll report back on Miss Eichler's rules of dating etiquette later this week. The illustrations are from an ad in Popular Science, April 1923.

* From the ad text, which is suitably dramatic yet vague.


Art of RetroCollage said...

It seems the world of that day was populated with ignorant people who had zero self esteem. Or at least, that book was trying to make people feel that way. I wonder whatever happened to Miss Eichler herself.

Dorfmunder said...

Elbow on the table? Also, it kind of looks like he's holding a very tiny gun in his right hand. That may not be the most gentlemanly way to get her to eat dessert after claiming she's too full, though.

Kath Lockett said...

Poor young things - who knew that dating was so stressful back then? Perhaps if she'd put out straight away they'd have got all that embarassment out of the way..?

Twisting the Spanner said...

All my dates are like this. I always just assumed it's because I'm British.

Cari Hislop said...

This brings back memories of a date who displayed very bad manners by trying to tell me how to eat my dinner. It wasn't a light-hearted, 'You appear to be having problems.' No, the expression on his face was 'You embarrassing idiot!' as he gave an impromptu lesson on how despots eat with chopsticks. I'm afraid my less than lady-like response only confirmed his opinion that I was a hick (and unworthy of a man who owned a pair of designer leather trousers). I never did get any dessert.

Bill said...

Oh, this reminds me of an evening at a French restaurant when I was in high school. I believe it was before I could drive, so my parents dropped us off. My date & I were so nervous that we didn't pick up any silverware throughout the meal before surreptitiously taking cues from nearby patrons.
And what did we order for the soup course? French onion soup...the authentic version with melted cheese that stretched a mile, bread with unconquerable crust, and unmanageable rings of cooked onion. And, of course, we were at that age when we felt that every move we made was being evaluated by all of the others in the restaurant.

Marcheline said...

If you watch classic films, you get the idea that everyone was glamorous, dressed elegantly, and displayed perfect etiquette in all situations.

If you read classic advertisements, you get the idea that they were all a bunch of boobs who had no idea how to act in public and actually cared what other people thought about it.

Such dichotomy! I'll have mine with fudge sauce, please.

Mags said...

So whatever the faux-pas with the ice-cream was, it wasn't so bad that she didn't consider "inviting him into the house" on the first date?

And I believe you save the thanks until after the, ahem, "coffee".

Dimestore Lipstick said...

Just found her 1924 edition on Project Gutenberg--this is gonna be fun!