Elbows on the Table

There are some etiquette rules that are so ingrained in our consciousness that we don't actually know when to properly apply them.  We were all scolded relentlessly for placing our elbows on the table during dinner, but there are times when elbows are a-ok.  To recap for the sake of our mothers:  Elbows are kept down near one's sides at all times while one is eating or at any time during a formal meal.  But in any other scenario it's permissible to rest elbows on the table between courses or to get close enough to your dinner partner to chat in a noisy restaurant.  Take note that you should never 'sprawl' at the table - elbows are ok, but keep your extremeties to yourself.  Legs tucked under your chair and no tinkering aimlessly with the salt shaker or your silverware.  Hooking your arm around your plate would be dreadful.  But if you pop those elbows on the table top like the ultimate American darling, Miss Hepburn, you're right on track!

Note: A "formal meal" is a meal in a five-star, white tablecloth restaurant with formal dining service or a meal in someone's home served with the marks of formal service (this is actually a very high standard and includes things like formal attire and being announced before dinner).  But if you are at your Grammy's house for Christmas or Easter dinner or Passover seder, it won't kill you to follow the rules of formal dining.