The Indispensible Blog

Aug 5

Written by: Tom Jackson
8/5/2011 9:40 AM 

Pull up a chair, willya? [here I find I'm channeling Sinatra on behalf of the Chairmen unit officers]

I want to talk with you fer a moment.  My friend, I've no intention of being disrespectful. See, pals like us, we should sometimes look each other in the eye and speak some straight-up advice. This is given in that same spirit.

There's always one in a crowd: Have you seen him? He's noticeable because he's got the least class in the place. Sometimes it's the same guy, again and again, or maybe it's someone new. They tend not to get invited back.

It's not that 'the guy' is especially rude, nor drunk. He may be highly educated. But the fella lacks common sense, and thoughtfulness.

See, the Book of Frank [Sinatra, of course] explains that a gentleman should take care of his appearance. Part of that self-awareness means an assessment of 'how one comes across.' Beyond grooming and clothes, ya gotta ask yourself, "Hey, am I acting like a chump?" The more cultured we think we are, the more risk there is that we gloss this over and never consider the other person's point of view. 'Specially in these days, when every young idiot in Hollywood thinks the world revolves around them. It's the man with EMPATHY who doesn't need to pay his posse to show up.

Maybe dis is you. Maybe not. But we're talkin' to all our pallies the same way, to make sure the message gets across.

Between you and me, I know some really, really smart people who mess up in this area of their lives. It's sad. So don't be that guy.

You ask, what specifically are they doing wrong?  As this is a big topic, I'm going to list a few ideas, and put it out there. Others can add to the list, with comments.

1. Don't show up at a party empty-handed.
2. Don't be the worst-dressed guy in the place.
3. Don't be the last to leave a house party.
4. Don't be early, or late for a planned meal with friends.
5. Don't be a 'taker' in life...

This time, I want to address the first point. The Art of Manliness website just had a swell post regarding gifts for your host.
Read it here. An empathetic, classy guy realizes that his friend or acquaintance doesn't have to invite him over. Even those couples who simply love to entertain and have the facility and means to do so, still, they are under no obligation to play host to someone who chronically takes advantage of them.

Ouch. Tough language?

But that's what it is, when a guest stops by, expecting to be entertained, fed, and refreshed, without carrying his own weight, as it were. A nice dinner party might cost your host $15 to north of $100 a person, depending on your ZIP Code, you know? A good fillet on the grill could cost him $15, and so could each shot of that good stuff you like to drink.  A few o' those items, times ten guests, and we're talkin' a G note.  So a man ought to make a little mental calculation. Ritzy affair? Take time to buy a thoughtful gift, that shows you EMPATHIZE and appreciate their efforts. Or is the party a small, backyard event? Then bring an equivalent amount of the drinks you and another person might consume. The more thoughtful and unique - but still useful - your gift is, the classier you will appear. Your host will notice. Your hostess will really notice. And if you are a single guy, she's going to mention what a sharp fella you are to her single friends. Capice?

But what to bring? Lots of things are appropriate.  Alcohol can be routine, but it's OK. Some fellows invest in a case of a wine they've tasted and which they really like, to use as holiday host gifts, one or two bottles at a time. They avoid the cheap stuff they wouldn't drink themselves. A case purchase is a good strategy, as you'll be prepared without having to shell out the single bottle price, and won't have to take a detour to the bottle store. The host or hostess will appreciate it if you tell them a little about the gift: why it is a likeable vintage, etc. But let it be their choice to open it that night, or not.

Oh, and a bow or gift bag are nice; leave the brown paper bag in your car. 

Lastly, that AOM article I linked earlier also advised not to bring oddball liquors, like schnapps, as your gift. To explain why, I'll tell you a story which taught me this lesson as a young man. See, growing up, there were these three brothers that I knew, 100% Swedish, who remain good friends of mine today. They had a healthy respect for their heritage. So, smart guy that I am, for a few years as a young man I would show up to their informal holiday gatherings and bring with me a bottle of Aquavit as a gift. For those who don't know, this is the national drink of Norway and Sweden, drank ice-cold in shots like schnapps. It's made from caraway seeds, and is an, ah, acquired taste. Well, Jim is a good enough friend that, one year, he looks at the bottle, then at me, and said, "Geez Tom, another freakin' bottle of this crap! It will match the other two you left here!" We had a good laugh over it. But my friend taught me a good lesson.

Now I bring bottles that are more likely to be enjoyed, or I call and ask what I can bring.

Your thoughts?

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Re: Gentlemen Never Arrive Empty-Handed

A few comments have come in, anonymously. One offered, and I concur, that if you are a non-drinker, by all means, feel free to bring a non-alcoholic beverage, food or some other gift. This is 100% reasonable and acceptable. Alcohol can sometimes be an old-stand-by, and your alternative gift may be seen as more thoughtful. Also, consider that some hosts may be alcohol free themselves.

In the case of planned house parties like the Churchill meetings, held in homes, our general agreement is that hosts that year need not bring something to another host's home. --Figuring it will all balance out. But many of these guys will do so anyway. If you are not hosting a meeting that year yourself, perhaps every third hosted meeting you might consider bringing something nice as a gift. This way, a few brothers will always be there to help offset the not inconsiderable burden of hosting a dinner party for 30 of the fellows. In doubt? Ask...

By Tom Jackson on   8/26/2011 3:22 PM

 

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