Monday, November 27, 2006

Op-Ed: Pardon Moi?

Today’s Polite World, Explained
By Amber Sutherland
      What can I do to make a good impression when I’m meeting people?
      I cannot over-emphasize the importance of a good handshake. My boyfriend’s a big wheeler-dealer, so I have to meet a lot of jerks and I notice at least half the time that their handshakes are clammy, weak and otherwise unpleasant.
      Imagine you are holding an unopened bottle of champagne or sparkling white wine by the neck. That is about the degree of pressure you should exert. Not so gently that the bottle will slip from your fingers and crash to the floor, thus ruining the party, but not so firmly that you’ll break it with your big, brutish claws.
      Look into the eyes of the person you are meeting and repeat their name. “It’s delicious to meet you, Julio.” This is a little trick I learned from the classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. People love to hear their own names and it will help you remember, so that 10 minutes later you don’t have to resort to feigning camaraderie by calling them “captain,” or “lover.”
      I noticed recently that Neil Gordon, Chair of the Lang Writing Department, has a fab handshake. Observe him for a demonstration.
      How can I be a good guest while traveling over the holidays?
      Being a guest in someone’s home is more stressful than hosting. I was only a little mournful when a dear guest recently shattered a very sentimentally valuable snow-globe in my apartment. But I still cringe when I think about the antique plate I knocked over at a boyfriend’s parents’ house in England.
      Starting conditions are everything. It is very nice to bring a small gift as a token of your appreciation. Perishable goods like specialty chocolates or Pynchon novels are customary.
      Remember, your hosts are essentially inviting you to live in their home for a given period of time. Try not to take advantage of this generous gesture by relying on them for anything else. You aren’t in a hotel—bring your own toiletries. Most people don’t keep a mini-bar in the guest room, either, so don’t forget your $12 jellybeans and mini-bottles of vodka and gin. I always keep a few in my purse.
      Leave a thank-you note once you’ve stayed your welcome. I wrote about thank-you notes last semester, so you can search your glossy scrapbook of this column for a reminder.

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