25th October 2010

Don’t judge me

Etiquette expert William Hanson discusses the banes of being an etiquette consultant in the dating game.

Psychiatrists have a terrible time at parties as when they tell people what they do for a living the other guests will be struck down in fear that their every move is being analyzing by the shrink.

Another example of this kind of job hazard is being an etiquette consultant, like I am. When people get told this they somehow seemed to seize up and panic about how they are behaving. When I started teaching etiquette and manners at my school about five years ago I was accosted by a parent (whom I had known for years) who said ‘ever since you started teaching manners I am scared of you’. Scared of me? Have you met me?! I couldn’t hurt a fly!

The condition gets worse when I find myself at a dinner table. People will instantly assume I am going to be waiting to pounce on them if they butter their bread the wrong way. In truth, I may occasionally pick up the odd faux pas, but I would not dare pass comment: I would lose a lot of friends that way. The reality is that when I am not working I switch off and any misdemeanors will oft pass me by. I go to great lengths to explain this to people, but sadly they do not believe me.

It gets worse when it comes to dating. People soon find out what I do (if they have not already heard about me or seen me in a newspaper, magazine or on television) and will presume I am a pompous windbag and ignore me. This means it has become very difficult to meet people. Of course, this is not helped by the fact I do not drink and thus rarely set foot in nightclubs and the like. By eleven o’clock on a Monday most people my age are footloose and legless; at eleven o’clock I’m in bed, watching Newsnight.

My ‘fame’, and I use that word very loosely indeed, also prevents internet dating. My friend one evening suggested that he put me on such a website. Reluctantly I agreed to go along with it. Within 36 hours I had a message from someone asking me if I was ‘that guy who does the etiquette’. I swiftly removed myself from said website. It gets worse: the guy that recognized me wasn’t even fit!

People that know me will tell you that I am not judgmental, snobbish, or indeed prudish (quite the opposite!), so if you know of any potential boyfriends for me, do please do come and find me. And if we ever find ourselves breaking bread at the same table, please do not worry that I am critiquing your every move. I’m really not. I am actually one of the nicest people I know.

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