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Parties Extra!---20-40-60 Etiquette---What goes ON the table?

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To ask an etiquette question, email helen.wallace@cox.net.

YOU ASK! WE ANSWER! YOU DECIDE!
By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace

QUESTION: Recently I had lunch with a co-worker. She put her purse, sunglasses, keys, iPad and cellphone on the table by her plate. It took up most of the room on the table. Is that proper?

CALLIE'S ANSWER: If we are talking proper, the answer is no. The reality though is yes. She could put her purse, keys and sunglasses on a chair. The iPad and cellphone might need to stay, depending on her job.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: No, it isn't proper. It has always been my understanding that we shouldn't leave anything on the table. Sometimes you might need to keep your cellphone close by (for work or babysitters), but try to keep it in silent mode and off the table, or explain to your companions why you need it. Ignore the phone unless it really is an emergency. But we all need to do our best to find a place for other items instead of on the table -- whether they go in our lap, hanging off the back of the chair or underneath it. However, I'm not sure you can point out your friend's manners, unless there isn't any room on the table for food.

HELEN'S ANSWER: Everything should be off the table, including her purse. Sunglasses, keys, cellphones and iPads should be put away until after lunch. The purse goes to the side of her seat, in her lap (if it is small) or behind her in the chair.

It is really important to focus on your luncheon partner and to communicate with your co-workers and friends in a way that connects. Having all the screens available so you can check them frequently does not lend anything to a good social atmosphere or good manners.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Linda Miller, author of Fashion Matters Blog: Not only is it improper, according to etiquette experts, it's a nuisance and distraction.

In a restaurant, the top of the table isn't the place for what should be kept in your purse. What's more, putting it all out on display might send a message that those items are more important than your dining companion. Or that your purse is too small.

Just use common sense and keep personal items in your purse, and your purse off the table. She should never place items such as sunglasses, keys, a portfolio or her cellphone on the table when dining. Such items belong on in her bag. Her handbag belongs down to the side of her seat, or, for a small clutch or crystal embellished stone bag, by all means, she should keep it in her lap.

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Helen Ford Wallace

Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for... Read more ›

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