Undaunted, Shelly went on to demonstrate her point, holding a knife in her right hand, and a fork in her left hand with the tines pointed inexplicably downward. Her index finger was on the back of each utensil, and she explained that you should continue holding the knife even while you're not sawing on a dead animal.Yup, same thing. And his excuse is identical to mine:
Against all odds, Shelly's words penetrated the fog of my feeding frenzy. As her explanation sunk in, I started to go into traumatic etiquette shock. That's the feeling you get when you realize that for several decades people have watched you eat and probably compared you unfavorably to a stoned raccoon on garbage day.
The world started moving in slow motion as I looked around the dining room to verify this stunning revelation. Sure enough, every adult diner was using the method Shelly described. How could I have gone my entire life without noticing? I was shocked and ashamed.
In my defense, I grew up in a small town, in a farming environment. We valued efficiency over ritual. Inefficiency was synonymous with stupidity. If there had been a way to eat faster by somehow involving your ass cheeks, that's how I would have learned to do it. If someone sneezed where I grew up, there was no reason to say "God Bless you," because either God was already handling it or he didn't exist. God didn't need a middle man to handle a simple sneezing transaction.Etiquette rules, like the downward fork tines rule, that deliberately hobble the person making the display have a signalling value: it's the peacock's tail. Folks who've been able to spend hundreds of hours practicing how to eat in a deliberately hobbled fashion are then able to demonstrate finesse in that form of eating. Everyone else at the table will recognize them as being from the leisured class, whose parents either had sufficient servants to spend time drilling that technique into the children, or who invested that time in lieu of other pursuits in early adulthood. Either way, you're demonstrating that you've had time and leisure to spare. Scott almost sees the point, but not quite:
Anyway, back to my story, I was horrified and humiliated by my lack of forking knowledge. I started to panic, wondering what other rules of etiquette had somehow escaped my notice. Was I supposed to open doors using nothing but my elbows? Should I dial my phone with a single knuckle? Should I salute anyone wearing a hat and ask, "How's the war going, Captain?" My point is that there's no way to deduce etiquette from logic.If you could deduce etiquette from logic, it wouldn't be etiquette. If it's not a costly signal, it can't induce the separating equilibrium that keeps the farm boys like Scott and me from having airs when dining with our purported betters.
Down with the tyranny of etiquette and its oppressive class-entrenching function! Up with efficiency! Ecraser l'Infâme! Join me in the revolution! All you have to lose are your chains!