The Correct–and Safe–Way to Request Information or Ask Directions in Public Places

When Seeking Information or Asking Directions

When seeking information or asking directions, the best place to start is at a designated Information Center, today internationally identified by the letter “I” in public facilities around the world. Absent an easily accessible Information Center, the next-best option is to request assistance from uniformed personnel. However, when approaching armed, uniformed personnel such as police officers, security guards, or military servicemen, a gentleman, from about ten paces away, with his hands exposed, should first obtain the attention of the armed personnel by saying, for example, while walking towards the person, “Excuse me, officer, would you be so kind as to assist me?  I would like information on….”  Announcing one’s intention prior to approaching the officer or guard helps to put the armed personnel at ease. (It would be unwise for gentleman, for example, to approach an armed guard from behind, tap him on the shoulder, then proceed to ask for assistance. In today’s world, with heightened security as a result of the prevalence of terrorism, even trained personnel may become startled or feel threatened by otherwise innocent or benign behavior or gestures. When asking civilians for information or directions, a gentleman should smile, extend courtesies appropriate to the time of day, then present his request:  “Pardon me, ma’am.  Good afternoon. Would you be so kind as to tell me how to get to the nearest pharmacy?”  Whether the person is able to offer assistance of not, he or she should be thanked.

 

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The Correct Way for a Gentleman to Offer His Seat While Using Public Transportation

When Using Public Conveyances

If there is ever a test-site for manners, it is the public transportation systems of the world’s great urban centers. There, people are likely to be on their absolute worst behavior and, consequently, be in need of gracious displays of manners.

It is easy to be on good behavior at a baby shower, a funeral, or the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club; but when rushing to work on a blisteringly cold February morning, or when exhausted at the end of a rigorous day at the office, or when trying to get through a long, slow-moving queue at a security checkpoint at an international airport, many people tend to “relax” their normal standards of good manners and assume personalities somewhat like food-aggressive animals. Gentlemen, however, do not. To the contrary, true gentlemen look forward to such situations so that they may don their imaginary superhero capes—emblazoned with a big letter “M” (for manners, of course!)—and go about the business of combating bad behavior by showing good behavior. Class, it is sometimes said, is grace under pressure, and true gentlemen thrive under pressure-ridden circumstances.

In train stations, in elevators, at bus terminals, in airport concourses, on subway platforms, on ferry docks, and at taxi stands, for example, a gentleman is bound to encounter people in need of courtesy. Unfortunately, the “less refined” feel little or no obligation to total strangers in public places, but such behavior (or lack thereof!) is unbecoming a gentleman. A true gentleman sees persons in need as his personal responsibility—even in this dog-eat-dog, 21st-century world. And a true gentleman knows that random acts of kindness are perhaps the most heartwarming gifts he can ever bestow upon a stranger (and upon his own soul in the process).

There are few greater feelings in life than the feeling one receives upon seeing the face of a person in need who has been helped unexpectedly. It truly is a priceless sensation, worth every bit—and much more—the inconvenience endured in offering the needed assistance.  A young man, therefore, must be on the alert and welcome such opportunities for helping others. And when he is blessed with such opportunities to assist, he must render his assistance from the bottom of his heart—and with a smile! A true gentleman should be perceived by others as an Earthly Angel, always ready, willing, and able to assist those in need. And he should make a conscious effort to perform at least one random act of kindness per day, for by doing so, he will help make the world a better place and help elevate his soul in the process.

On any given day, a young man is likely to encounter a person in need of a seat, directions, a mobile phone to make an emergency call, assistance with carrying extra bags, a sturdy arm onto which to hold while crossing the street, or a few spare coins for a meal, for example. The elderly, the indigent, the infirm, foreigners, and expectant and young mothers, for example, are frequently in need of some form of assistance, and a young man should be ready to assist whenever possible. In the instances when he truly cannot assist, or decides, for whatever reason, not to assist, he should apologize and continue on his way, being sure, however, to say a prayer or offer a blessing on behalf of the person in need, for that he can always do, no matter how busy or otherwise occupied he may be.  In the instances when the young gentleman can assist a person in need, he should render the service, thank the person for accepting the assistance, and continue on his way, making sure that it is clear that his service was altruistically motivated and in no way inspired by a desire for compensation or reward of any sort. Giving for the purpose of receiving tenfold in return is not true, pure giving; it is called receiving a windfall! Do the math…. Divine Recompense for good deeds should be incidental to, not the reason for, rendering the deed.

Offering Seating

When using public conveyances such as buses, trains, and subways, numerous occasions will arise when a gentleman should rise in order to offer his seat to another person within his reasonable vicinity:  the elderly, the infirm, expectant mothers, and a lady with a child in her arms, for example.  And a clear, direct statement, rather than a question, is usually the more effective way of accomplishing the courtesy. Rising and saying, “Ma’am, please have my seat,” is usually much more efficacious than sitting and asking, “Would you like to have my seat, ma’am?”  Once the seat has been successfully yielded, the gentleman should distance himself as much as possible from the beneficiary, preferably focusing or directing his attention elsewhere (such as towards his newspaper or a book) so as to minimize or deflect any prolonged sense of obligation on the part of the beneficiary. A gentleman should execute such courtesies in a very matter-of-fact, second-natured manner. Also, and very importantly, it is socially inappropriate for a man to offer his seat to an able-bodied young woman on a public conveyance, for it is likely to be interpreted as an advance rather than a courtesy, thereby rendering the lady who either refuses or accepts the offer even more uncomfortable than she was prior to the offer.

 

 

 

The History and Evolution of Men’s Swimwear

The garments and equipment a gentleman will need in order to engage in active sports are largely dictated by his sport(s) of choice. The cardinal rule pertaining to outfitting oneself for active sports, regardless of the sport, is:  safety, first; efficacy, second; quality, third; comfort, fourth; style, fifth.

There are lots of sports in the world; and each sport has its active participants. But if there is one sporting activity that unites most men, it is swimming. And as such, an essential part of any gentleman’s wardrobe is swimwear.  (Even a man who lives in a desert must have one for when he happens upon an oasis!)

The famous mosaic—of ancient women dressed in bikinis—at the 4th-century Villa Romana del Casales, in Piazza Armerina, Sicily, is one of the earliest surviving depictions of what could be regarded as swimwear.  And all seaside and water-going peoples, from  time immemorial, have no doubt worn garments while swimming. But it was the advancements in rail travel in the mid-1800s, facilitating mass visits to seaside areas, that was the impetus for swimwear becoming a designated category of clothing. Since the 1800s—when ladies would wear full-length dresses with added weights to keep hemlines from floating upwards while swimming, and men would wear full-bodied swimsuits that resemble long-johns—swimwear has evolved.  During the Edwardian era, the “long-john” swimsuit look became emboldened, sporting short-sleeves and a pants-portion shortened to cover up to the mid-thigh. By the 1920s, men were wearing sleeveless union suits that extended to mid-thighs. But it was the 1930s that forever liberated men’s swimwear:  Men were swimming topless, with swimwear shortened to expose even the upper-thighs! Today, men almost always swim torse nu, and their swim trunks range from knee-length surfer shorts to thongs; and women’s suits—especially those worn on the Riviera and the beaches of Rio de Janeiro—are notorious for concealing only for the revealing.

What type of swimwear a gentleman wears should be primarily determined by culture and his physique.  In some regions of the world, swimwear is very brief; in others, it is very generous in cut. But within the confines of what is culturally and regionally accepted, a gentleman must make sure that his swimwear of choice fits him “just so.”  Because swimwear is typically mercilessly revealing, the difference between flattering and unflattering swimwear can oftentimes be determined by centimeters or inches.  Finding the perfect-cut swimwear is a matter of a good mirror; honest self-assessment; and lots of try-ons. And once a gentleman finds his cut, he should remain loyal to it until his physique changes and suggests otherwise.

 

How To Remove Stains (Blood, Ink, Red Wine, Rust, and Food) From Garments

Removing Stains

Most stains are best removed if treated before they are “set” into the garment in the laundering process. When stains appear on white garments, chlorine bleach is generally the go-to solution, but chlorine bleach is generally bad for fabrics—especially linen and silk—even if it is generally good for removing stains. Commercially available non-chlorine bleaches are another option. But there are less harsh and equally effective remedies for stain-removal. And when stains occur on colored garments, non-chlorine bleach remedies are generally required.

-Blood—even dried blood on white garments—is best removed by squirting hydrogen peroxide directly onto the stain before the garment has been washed or saturated with water. A second application of hydrogen peroxide, along with gentle agitation of the stained area, may be required.

-Ink is best removed with isopropyl or ethyl alcohol (70% or 90%). Alcohol should be poured or squirted directly onto the ink. Thereafter, the ink-stained area should be gently agitated as additional alcohol is applied to the area. (Ink stains that have been laundered are significantly more difficult to remove).

-Red wine—even dried-on red wine—is best removed with isopropyl or ethyl alcohol. Alcohol should be poured or squirted directly onto the stain before water or any other solution, as recommended by “conventional wisdom” (such as club soda, white wine, or salt), is used in an attempt to remove the stain. Oftentimes, once in contact with alcohol, the stain will dissolve without agitation. When necessary, however, additional alcohol, assisted by gentle agitation of the stained portion of the garment, should be applied.

-Rust stains are traditionally removed with lime juice and salt; or with mild detergent with ammonia. Today, there are commercially available rust-removal products that are very effective.

-Most food-stains are best removed by soaking the stained garment for several hours is a washbasin containing a solution of hot water, transparent cider vinegar, and baking soda. Occasional agitation may be required. A paste consisting of transparent cider vinegar and baking soda may also be applied directly to the stain and allowed to “set” for at least 30 minutes, with occasional agitation, thereafter rinsing the garment in lukewarm water.

How to Remove Sweater Pilling–those unsightly lint balls that accumulate on knitted garments

How to Remove Sweater Pilling

.There are four principal ways to remove “pilling,” those unsightly lint balls that tend to accumulate on knitted garments: with a hand-held, battery-operated sweater shaver; with a “sweater stone”; with a pumice stone; and with a standard, double-edged razor.

Reasonably priced and available at many crafts and fabric stores, battery-operated sweater shavers provide the quickest and most efficient means of ridding sweaters of pilling. For best results, the sweater should be laid out flat onto a firm surface (such as a tabletop onto which a towel has been spread so as to prevent the sweater from sliding). Once the areas in need of de-pilling have been identified, the hand-held device is switched on and passed, in small, circular patterns, over the pilling as the sections of the sweater being de-pilled are held taut between the thumb and index finger of the other hand so as facilitate the movement and efficacy of the device. When the transparent pilling receptacle becomes filled, the device should be switched off, the receptacle emptied, and the process repeated as necessary.

Sweater stones are in effect pumice stones packaged and labeled as “sweater stones.” For best results, the sweater should be laid out flat upon a flat, sturdy surface as described above. Starting from the neckline and working downwards towards the bottom of the sweater, the pilling is scraped off the sweater in a downward direction by holding sections of the sweater taut with the thumb and index finger of one hand as the sweater stone, held in the other hand, is used to scrape the pilling, as it accumulates, towards the bottom and then off the sweater. Pilling from the sleeves are removed by scraping downwards from the shoulders of the garment towards the cuffs.

Drugstore-bought pumice stones, marketed for pedicures and manicures, work exactly like sweater stones and are oftentimes less expensive.

When using a double-edged razor to remove sweater pilling, the sweater is laid out flat onto a firm, flat surface as described above. But unlike the circular motions of the battery-operated devices and the downward scraping of the stone devices, the razor is most effective when pilling is removed from the bottom of the sweater, working upwards, on a straight path, towards its neckline and shoulder sections. Sections of the sweater are held taut between the thumb and index finger of one hand as the razor, held in the other hand, is passed over the sweater to shave off the pilling—as if shaving a man’s face. As the shaved-off pilling accumulates, it is periodically removed with the fingers so as to facilitate the movement of the razor and to observe its efficacy. The process is continued until all the unwanted pilling has been shaved off. (Just as a carefully shaved face is not “nicked” by a razor, neither is a sweater). Approximately two new razors, one for each side of an adult-sized sweater, are needed to complete the job. For many gentlemen, because of the typical availability of razors, the razor method is preferred.

What should be avoided is attempting to remove unwanted pilling by pinching them off with one’s fingers. That procedure tends, over time, to destroy sweaters.  And attempting to snip off the pilling with a pair of scissors is a method prone to accidents.

 

The Protocol of the Chinese Wedding—From the Red Hóngbāo Envelopes to the Tradition of the Bride Changing into Three Different Wedding Gowns During the Wedding Banquet

-Today, most Chinese couples—especially those living in urban areas—meet each other and decide when to get engaged on their own, without the assistance of traditional matchmakers. Generally, the man presents the lady with a diamond ring. But while modern engagements may differ from traditional ones, some traditional elements still remain: the offering of betrothal gifts; the bridal dowry; and consultation with a fortune teller, for example.

-Traditionally, the engagement consisted of six courtesies: the marriage proposal; the asking for names (and other vital information); praying for good fortune; the sending of betrothal gifts; the sending of invitation; and the welcoming of the bride.

1) The marriage proposal: a family would hire a matchmaker, who would approach another family to seek a proposal.

2 and 3) Both families would then consult a fortuneteller, who would analyze: the man’s and woman’s birth years, dates, and times; names; and other vital information. If the fortuneteller deemed the man and woman compatible, traditionalists would confirm compatibility with three matchmakers and six “proofs,” namely an abacus, a measuring vessel, a ruler, a pair of scissors, a set of scales, and a mirror. If compatibility was confirmed, a marriage deal would be brokered.

4) Betrothal gifts would then be offered by the man’s family to the woman. Gifts typically included food and cakes. Once accepted by the woman’s family, the wedding planning would begin.

5) The Chinese calendar would then be consulted in order to select an auspicious date for the wedding. Thereafter, invitations would be sent, either by mail or by hand-delivery. Chinese wedding invitations are almost always of red paper with gold text and enclosed in red envelopes that are longer and wider than “hóngbāo” envelopes (the red envelopes used for cash-gifts at weddings). The invitations feature the names of the bride and groom and details pertaining to the wedding and banquet. In China, guests are invited to the reception, not to the wedding ceremony, where vows are exchanged. So a Chinese wedding invitation is, in effect, an invitation to a lavish banquet to celebrate the marriage. Invitations are sent out anywhere from several days to several weeks in advance.

6) The bridal dowry is comprised of gifts that the bride will take to her husband’s home, symbolizing that the bride has left her family and is now a part of her husband’s family. (In the past, the value of the dowry determined the status of the wife in her new home).

-The Chinese wedding ritual begins with the groom going to the bride’s home to fetch her. If the bride is young, she is likely to have several female friends at her home who will tease the groom and encourage him to hand over gifts to them before they hand over the bride to him. And grooms come prepared for the “barter” with red envelopes (“hóngbāo”) stuffed with cash for the girlfriends. Before leaving the bride’s home, the bride and groom bow to the bride’s parents then depart for the groom’s home. Traditionally, the bride was taken to the groom’s home in a sedan chair carried by the groom’s male relatives and friends, trumpets sounding to announce her arrival. But today, most brides are transported by car.

-Upon arriving at the groom’s home, the bride and groom bow to Heaven and to Earth in front of the groom’s family altar in the home or at a local temple. Thereafter, the bride and groom bow before the groom’s parents, then to each other.

-At the groom’s home, the bride and groom offer tea to their elders. On the occasion of a wedding, protocol of “eldest first” is adjusted, requiring that parents be served before grandparents.

-Most Chinese couples are married in understated ceremonies at their local city hall. Religious Chinese may opt to exchange their vows at a religious ceremony, which has legal effect. But whether by religious or civil ceremony, there are no invited guests.

-The traditional Chinese wedding gown is the “quipao” (or “cheongsam”), a one-piece dress with origins dating back to the 1600s when the Manchu ruled China. Originally a loose-fitting, wide-cut garment of embroidered silk that revealed only a lady’s head, hands, and toes, in the 1920s the dress became form-fitting and more revealing (with one or two side-slits) to suit the tastes of the upper classes and celebrities. The traditional bright colors and embroidery of the original quipaos, however, remained.

Today, most Chinese brides wear three wedding dresses during the course of the wedding: a quipao, a Western-style white wedding gown, and a ball gown. A wedding banquet is traditionally comprised of nine courses, and the bride changes at the end of the third and sixth courses.

-The groom typically wears a tuxedo or a Western-style business suit. Like the bride, the groom also changes his garments during the course of the reception. Some traditional grooms wear a Zhongshan suit (also called a Mao suit), the Chinese version of the Western business suit. (Traditionally, Mao suits come in gray, navy, or olive).

-Guests traditionally wear bright colors, especially red, which symbolizes luck and wealth. As in Western culture, wearing white is discouraged as it detracts from the bride; and black is still regarded as a somber color in China and is therefore not typically worn at weddings. Male guests wear Mao suits or Western-style business suits.

-Traditionally, the Chinese wedding reception is financed by the groom’s family.

-The traditional Chinese wedding present is cash, presented in a hóngbāo, a long, narrow red envelope decorated with golden Chinese characters for “wealth” and “happiness,” for example. In Chinese culture, red represents luck, and gold represents wealth. (“Red envelopes” are also given to the younger generation by the older generation—grandparents, parents, relatives, close neighbors and friends, for example—on New Year’s Day and on birthdays. Employers also use “red envelopes” to give year-end bonuses to employees. When given at the Chinese New Year, red envelopes are typically unsigned. When given for birthdays and weddings, however, they may be inscribed with short messages and signed. Red envelopes are to be given and received with both hands. A recipient of a New Year or birthday red envelope should never open it in the presence of the donor. In the case of wedding red envelopes, however, the protocol is different. See below).

-Upon arriving at the reception, an invited guest hands over his red envelope to the wedding attendant, then signs his name in the registry (usually a large scroll). The attendant will then immediately open the red envelope, count its contents, then record the amount next to the guest’s name on the scroll. (Besides for bookkeeping purposes, the recording of the amount given allows the couple to reciprocate with a gift of greater value on some subsequent occasion).

-The amount of money to be given in a red envelope at a wedding depends on several factors, including the relationship between the couple and the grantor. But in no case should the amount be less than value of the meal to be consumed by the guest at the reception. Certain amounts of money are to be avoided: amounts containing the number four should be avoided since that number is associated with death in Chinese culture. Otherwise, even numbers are preferred to odd numbers. The number eight is regarded as particularly auspicious.  And the bills–which must be new–are never to be folded before being placed into the red envelope. Coins should be avoided on account of their relative insignificant value, and checks should be avoided as they are not generally used in Chinese culture.

-After presenting the red envelope and signing the registry, the guest is ushered into the banquet hall, where there will be assigned seating or open seating.

-The arrival of the bride and groom signals the beginning of the reception.

-After the couple—typically the groom—gives a welcoming speech, guests are served the first of nine courses.

-While the guests are eating and being served, the bride and groom are busy attending to the needs of their guests and changing into their various outfits (See above).

-Just before the dessert course, the bride and groom toast their guests. The groom’s best friend may also propose a toast. The bride and groom then visit each table, where the guests stand and toast the newlyweds. After visiting each table, the bride and groom exit the banquet hall as dessert is being served and eaten.

-Once the dessert course is concluded, the wedding reception ends. The bride and groom and close family members form a receiving line to bid farewell to their guests. Guests take photos with the newlyweds and receive a wedding favor, usually sweets, from the bride.

-After the wedding banquet, close family and friends visit the newlyweds’ room to extend good wishes to them. The couple then shares a glass of wine with those in attendance, then cuts off a lock of hair as a symbol of their union.

-On the third, seventh, or ninth day after the wedding, the bride returns to her family home to visit her family.

 

How to Eat Genips at the Formal Dinner Table

Genip [Melicoccus bijugatus]  (also called Kenep, Quenepa, Mamoncilla, Spanish Limes)

The genip grows  on a large tree that has a silvery-gray bark, somewhat like that of the European beech. Genips grow in clusters like grapes, though the fruit itself resembles a small lime—hence the name “Spanish lime.” Same-day international deliveries have helped the emergence of this fruit from its natural habitat onto the world scene since the smooth skin of the fresh fruit begins taking on a sandpapery texture within a day or two after being picked. And though the enclosed fruit retains its flavor and texture for about a week after being harvested, the genip’s overall appearance is at its absolute best on the day it is picked.

Eating a genip is almost an art form. Most hostesses will serve the fresh fruits on a plate as picked from the tree:  in grape-like clusters with some foliage. One by one, the fruit is plucked from its cluster and conveyed to the mouth, where the incisors are used to pierce the shell-like skin—which is similar to that of an avocado, but slightly more brittle—such that the incision by the teeth at the “equator” of the fruit causes the rind to partially split open, thereby revealing the succulent, peach-colored fruit. The consistency of a genip is perhaps best likened to a lychee, though the texture of the genip is smoother and glossier. Once the “shell” has been incised, the fruit is squeezed into the mouth and eaten by using the tongue and teeth to remove the pulp from its seed, which is almost the same size as the fruit. (The riper the fruit, the easier its pulp will yield). When the seed has been eaten clean, it is skillfully released from the mouth back into the breached shell-skin, where the eaten-clean seed is discretely—and elegantly—concealed before being placed to the side of the plate.