Because You Are Polite

by Ginger Philbrick

I would love to see [a column] about blowing your nose at the table. I have mentioned this to several friends and it seems to go over their heads.

Also, please comment on taking a piece of bread from the bread basket, tearing it in half and putting the other piece back in the basket.


White Stone

Dear Anonymous, thank you for bringing up two important germ and appetite related issues.

Let’s talk about nose blowing first. No one that I know of finds the sound of mucous being blown out of another’s nose appealing.  When done at the meal table, for many it is not only a deterrent to enjoyment of a meal, it can actually turn off an appetite. Therefore, it is never acceptable and always rude.

Instead, this personal cleansing should be done, no matter where you are, by excusing oneself and removing your nose to a location where others cannot hear. It must also never be done into a cloth napkin. The next time your friend begins to perform this off-putting, germ-spreading act at the table, you might say, “Sally, I just put a box of tissues in the bathroom. Feel free to use them.” If Sally doesn’t get it, you might consider taking her off the A list until flu and allergy seasons are over.

Now to the bread basket. I love to share bread, but I prefer mine without fingerprints. Bread basket etiquette requires that you take the entire piece of bread and, if you cannot eat it all, just leave it on your plate. Touching it and returning a portion for another person to eat is thoughtless. When a table is served a loaf of bread to share, and the pieces are not entirely separated, the polite and healthy way to share is for each person to cut off a piece while holding the remaining portion of the loaf with a napkin.

Unfortunately, Anonymous, as you no doubt have noticed from just being alive, we have very little control over others’ decisions. When it comes to manners, usually we can only model what we know to be considerate. If we are greatly offended by another’s manners, we have the choice of accepting (though not supporting) the behavior, avoiding situations where the behavior is likely to occur, or approaching the person privately and kindly, and explaining our feelings.

Anyone who thinks being polite is a characteristic of a wimp is terribly misguided!   

Ginger Philbrick is the owner of Because You Are Polite….LLC. You are invited to email your manners questions to her and she will respond as time and space allow. You may contact her at