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The Crowd: A very, very polite group of teens

April 03, 2014|By B.W. Cook
  • Jack Dole, Hunter Wetton, Cole Martin, Brett Beaudette, John Connelly, Charlie Padden, John Mooers, Nick Schroeder, Campbell D'Eliscu and Harrison Carter.
Jack Dole, Hunter Wetton, Cole Martin, Brett Beaudette,… (Marena Padden )

The casual, hang-loose world in which we live may have opened some doors previously closed to many folks, but along the way, the rush to informality has had some casualties. Among them: manners. While we may no longer dress for dinner, a civilized approach to table etiquette remains pretty important. That is, unless you wish to dine with wolves.

To a greater degree, the girls still have a clue about all this. Leave it to the ladies to keep the guys somewhat on track. Young men, however, over the last 50 years since the liberation generation dominated the 1960s cultural revolution, have not been educated in the art of civilized behavior. Make no mistake, fine manners are a human art form, and they must be taught. Taught by example and demonstrated by mothers and fathers for daughters — and for sons. Manners are not about showing off or presuming an upper-class status. They are about respect. A casual world requires respect just as strongly as a formal world.

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Last Sunday evening in Newport Beach in a bayfront dining room on chic Lido Isle, an organization called National League of Young Men (NLYM), Class of 2015 gathered for dinner, joining young women members of National Charity League, also from the Class of 2015. In all, some 43 high school juniors associated with both organizations came together to celebrate the art of conversation over dinner.

Organizers called the affair simply "Etiquette Dinner." Susan Werner, an etiquette coach, welcomed the young men arriving prior to joining the young ladies from NCL. The invitation called for arrival at 4:15 p.m. to participate in a pre-dinner session with Werner. Topic addressed: dining etiquette (how many 17-year-old boys know what to do with their utensils when finishing the meal?); conversation skills (yes, there is still such a thing as inappropriate dialogue during dinner); table settings (what is the difference between a salad fork and a dessert fork?) and even information on the proper way to thank your host at the end of the meal. Werner made the class fun for the boys. There was plenty of laughter as lessons were learned.

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