On Being Seated at a Restaurant

The Plaza Athenee in Paris, whose chairs are paricularly unwieldy.

These days a woman typically takes her seat unassisted.  But what about those moments - like dinner at a five star restaurant or in the home of someone truly genteel - that a woman is seated with the help of a man?  If you don't know how to do it just right, you're likely to be jammed under the table only to kick your dinner partner in the shins - or the opposite - seated six inches apart from the table and unable to reach the remains of your pre-dinner cocktail.  (An out-of-reach cocktail is the only real tragedy here.)

So here's the trick.  Like most moments of etiquette-based deference it's at least partly a sham.  A lady gives the appearance of being helped while doing most of the heavy lifting herself.  And so when a waiter or gracious host or dinner partner helps a lady be seated the lady discretely pulls her own chair to the table while the man lays an affectionate but ineffectual hand on the back of her chair.  His attentions are returned with a gracious smile.

Gentlemen: It is always proper for you to help the woman to your right to be seated.  You should speak with her, too.

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Photo credit: Business Insider