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No, not that seat. Heavens no! Not that chair either. No, you shall sit at the other table furthest from the hostess with the other plebeians of your kind. Does this sound awfully rude to you? Have you ever felt slighted at a seating arrangement at a dinner party? Or worse yet, due to the pelle melle nature of contemporary seating, have you wondered how you happened to be seated at the table with the most uninteresting of human specimens?

Photo Credit: Roger Kirby

Photo Credit: Roger Kirby

The importance of seating is crucial to me as a hearing-impaired person. While I appreciate the egalitarian stance of one enormous table with people, regardless of age, crammed around; it makes paying attention to conversation unnecessarily stressful. There are far too many cross-conversations and my neighbor might be engaging in a dialogue with a person clear on the other side of the room. It is just not feasible for me to entertain in this way. In this manner I do prefer the Children’s/Singles’ Table as it only consisted of a maximum number of six persons. In addition, it is best for me, and usually any hearing impaired people, to sit with their back to a wall. The sound reverberates off the wall and is amplified by the microphone, typically situated on back of the hearing aid. Open floor plans and sitting with the back to the open air allows for more noise pollution, disturbances, interruptions, or what have you. Remember I can hear everyone’s clanking of silverware and dishes as loudly as I can the voices. My hearing aids and brain do not diminish some noises and in exclusion to others. Perhaps a better metaphor would be a camera. The lens on the camera has the ability to focus on a foreground, midground, or background object. In fact,  a solitary object in entire frame may be in focused and everything along that “ground” will blurred. Not so with my hearing. Everything is in focused. Crowds are consequently stressful at times. Thus, it is important to me to place interesting and amicable people near me.

Having place cards solves a portion of the conversation dilemma. It also is a subtle way to double check the name of a person, as I often times do not catch the introductions. More importantly, a place card prevents clashing personalities within arm’s reach of one another. This is assuming, of course, where people sit in front of their name and not strike out on their own path. Aside from a show of status and rank, this was an etiquette tactic to mitigate hostilities and keep the party jovial. Seating arrangements and their respective place cards is the duty of the hostess to carefully calculate the personal politics of each guest.

It is common knowledge the most favored seat is next to the host and hostess. The further down the table, the less important the person to the hosts. In the previous centuries, the men escorted the women to the dinner table and held out their chairs for them proper gentlemenly fashion. However, which man leads which lady usual depends on social standing and age. In formal events, children were not allowed in the dining room. Once a girl came out she was allowed to grace the coveted dining room.

What I describe is on a microcosm compared to what the early First Ladies had to deal with the influx of visiting European dignitaries.

These social protocols were followed at both private and state events. The rules of etiquette dictated who visited first, who was invited to what event, who was introduced first and by whom, who escorted whom where, and who was seated where. Violations of protocol could be, and often were taken as national insults, and a failed introduction or improper invitation or seating arrangement could provoke an intense national incident.

To recapitulate, should anyone entertain a family member or person who is hard of hearing. It is ideal to have a small table in a closed room with interested parties seated nearby. Be sure to put their back close to a wall or high portion. This cannot be stressed enough! Place cards and nametags are highly suggested if there are unfamiliar people seated at the same table.

As for me, I await the day I shall be called into the dining room to sit amongst the adults!

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