Wednesday, August 29, 2018
When it comes to the rules of etiquette between men and women, admittedly I'm what you might call old school. It was taught to me by my mother in childhood and it has fit in well with my current job as a butler in a billionaire's home.
Things like holding a door, pulling out a chair, or opening the car door for a lady are second nature to me. Giving up a seat on the subway, especially if it's an elderly woman or a mother with children, goes without saying.
And when it comes to dining - whether in a private home, a 24-hour greasy spoon cafe, or a posh five-star restaurant - serving women first seems like it's built into our collective DNA.
But now it seems there's something new afoot, and proper etiquette might be evolving. Our friend Caroline Muller (known as the Master Concierge on Twitter) shared an article by Grace Perry from Eater.com about a new trend going on in some surprising places.
Entitled "The End of Ladies First Restaurant Service", I took a deep breath and dived right in.
Grace explains that several trendy restaurants are responding to the various social movements of how women expect to be treated in this world today by offering what's called Neutral-Gender Service. Which basically means forget about serving ladies first and treat everyone at the table as equals. From water and wine, to dinner plates and dessert, guests are served clockwise around the table, regardless of male or female - or age for that matter.
While this rocks my world, I totally get it. The long-standing feminist struggles and more lately the Me Too movement have awakened us not only to grotesque physical assaults against women but also the pervasive and subtle ways of sexism and gender discrimination lingering in our society today - even in such simple things as restaurant service.
We all know that social change is agonizingly slow. Not so long ago, until the Suffragettes had finally had enough, were American women finally allowed to vote in 1920 - although driving a car or smoking a cigarette was still unthinkable for them. Going to a gathering of homosexuals, whether in a private home or a public bar, could get you arrested and thrown into jail on morals charges. But the revolts in the revolutionary 1960s put a stop to all that and the Gay Rights movement was born.
It could take years, decades, even generations for this gender-neutral trend to become universal, if ever. Especially among the royals in Europe as well as the overindulged and coddled new rich in America who are drunk on attention and personal service. Not to mention all the unique and complicated relationships between men and women in various cultures around the world. Only this past year were women in Saudi Arabia allowed to drive a car.
At the very least, gender-neutral service is a start - like a courageous first step and a new beginning. Most likely it will smolder and simmer as a lovely niche for a long while, like comfortable sanctuaries in a hostile world.
But I get it. And I'm writing this post tonight so we won't be shocked if we wander into one of these enlightened places. I doubt we'd see a sign on the door or menu about being gender neutral, but we'll know it when we see it.
Here's a link to Grace Perry's fascinating and brilliant article.
When you have time, please take a look. Personally, I myself doubt if I could ever treat an ancient Grand Dame coming into this house like one of the guys! But I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments below.
And as always, thank you for stopping by this evening,