17 November 2008

Social Taboos: Regency Etiquette Rules Quiz

By Lisa Marie Wilkinson

It is November 17, 2008. "You" are a young woman, unmarried and under the age of thirty. During the course of your day today, you have done the following:

1). You live on the second floor of an apartment complex. When you left your apartment this morning, you reached the stairs at the same moment as your hunky male neighbor. Wanting to display good manners and make a positive impression, you waved him on, indicating he should go ahead of you down the stairs.

What Regency rule did you break?

If you had been walking up the stairs, you should have let the man lead the way. When going down the stairs, the gentleman should always follow the lady in order to lessen the chance he’ll accidentally see a glimpse of your ankles.

2). You grabbed a Tall Café Mocha and a pastry from your local Starbucks and stopped by your friend Jason's apartment on your way to work.

What Regency rule did you break?

A lady never calls upon a gentleman. A lady is never with a man without a chaperone. And, moderation in all things! Books of the day would advise against gorging yourself.

3) It's a lovely day, so you decide to take a walk during your lunch break. The sun is shining and a walk is just the thing to help burn off some of those Starbucks calories.

What Regency rule did you break?

A lady never exercises when the sun is at its strongest. And where was your bonnet to protect your complexion? What were you thinking?

4). Today was casual day at work and you wore jeans and a nice blouse. You met friends for dinner and then went to see a movie after dinner, still wearing your comfy jeans and blouse.

What Regency rule did you break?

A Regency lady dresses for each occasion and often changes clothes up to six times a day. She spends hours in preparation for the dinner meal, and her selection of clothing is a statement of her social rank. And let's not even get started talking about the fact that you're wearing pants when riding a horse is not on the agenda.

5). After the movie, several people in your party commented that your friend Jason is probably a back gammon player. You blithely agreed he probably was.

What Regency rule did you break?

"Back Gammon Player" is Regency slang for sodomite. You may not have broken any rules, but your friendship with Jason might be over.

6). During the evening out, you and your friend Jason happened to meet Michael, a man with whom Jason works. When you were introduced, you and Michael shook hands.

What Regency rule did you break?

You and Michael both broke the rules. A lady never offers her hand for shaking, and a gentleman never offers his hand to a lady.

7). After the movie, you and your friends decided to stop by a local dance club for an hour. As you sat sipping your drink, a man came up and asked you to dance. There was something sort of creepy about him, so you declined. Fifteen minutes later your favorite song started to play, so Jason asked you to dance, and you accepted.

What Regency rule did you break?

You are obligated to dance with the first man who asks you, or you will not be allowed to dance at all. And Jason should have known better than to ask!