- Are the men permitted to sit during meals with the Ladies or do they serve and eat elsewhere after clean-up?
- Are they permitted to sit on chairs ever in the presence of any Lady?
Saturday, March 15, 2014
dennis: TWO QUESTIONS ON MALE PROTOCOL IN A MATRIARCHAL HOME
(Note from Mark Remond: Here’s another reader comment followed by dennis’ response, not published before. This Q&A deals with some of the finer points of Joan’s Protocols of concerning male etiquette and female privilege which dennis has been sharing here.)
Concerning your post "Dennis: Meeting Joan & Learning of ‘The Protocols" : Women have always hated housework but it was their role and they did it. Here we have a behavior control situation where the men are taught to love housework and talk about its joys with other men. I love it. Here are two questions among many:
The answer to your first question is a resounding “it depends!”
For a small group of two or three Women, such as a weekday dinner then, yes, after the Ladies are served, i am welcome to sit at the table and enjoy dinner with them—and even participate in their conversation if invited. Afterward, the Women retire to the living room for desserts and drinks, and i go about cleaning up. The Women will, on occasion, ask me to join them, but most times i have to excuse myself as i have other tasks to accomplish; they understand. An even rarer treat is to be invited to share a cigarette or drink; a rare privilege that takes little time but which i greatly appreciate.
If we have a larger group of Women, then my duty, and my desire to serve, takes precedence. i'll serve dinner and hover near the dining room to tend to the group’s needs, but not so close as to be seen as listening in on the conversation. It's rare, but i may be extended the privilege of dining with the Women after they are served. As noted below, being allowed to dine with the Ladies does not convey the privilege of participating in their conversation.
After dinner the Ladies move to the living room for conversation and drinks. Once everyone has been served drinks and desserts, i'll eat and begin cleaning the dining room. Sue [Nancy’s mother] prefers that i minimally interrupt the living room conversation, so instead of looking in on the Ladies periodically, they will summon me by ringing a bell. The bells, which i've written about previously (“I Hear Bells”), are Nancy's Aunt's throwback to the Edwardian era, when servants were summoned by a bell and a light in their quarters, indicating that service was required and in what room. We don't have lights, but we do have different-sounding bells in each room. The bells allow me to efficiently take care of my kitchen clean-up while taking care of the Ladies without disrupting them.
The answer to your second question (“Are males ever permitted to sit on chairs in the presence of any Lady?”) is a resounding “yes,” but again with conditions.
A man's being invited to sit with the Women is indeed a compliment, not because Women think he has something to say, but rather because they likely feel he can learn something from the discussion. Remember the directive? Men should “Shut up and listen!” The Protocol for men speaking or participating in a conversation is to “speak when spoken to, to give a response when asked.” Men aren't allowed to hover near the conversation, even to listen; they must be invited in, at which time they take the seat offered, usually one in the back of the room. Often, to reinforce the man's status, he will be seated on a stool.
But, no, i don't have to sit on a stool, unless told to do so, although the wise male will take a stool periodically to demonstrate his deference. But men do have other Protocol-dictated restrictions on where they may sit. Men are not to sit in a chair with arms—EVER! In the dining room a chair with arms has traditionally been the “head of household” chair. In our home we have six such chairs, all reserved for Women in the family or Female guests. One is always reserved for Nancy and another for Her Mother, Sue. This Protocol extends to other rooms in the house. If there’s not a chair without arms available, the man stands. This Protocol also extends to outside establishments. such as restaurants where practical—and it usually is practical!