Archive for the ‘Etiquette’ Category

The Apartment Jack Lemmon

Among such articles as “How to Clean Like a Man” and “Heading out on Your Own: Establish a Simple Cleaning Routine,” you’ll find an article at The Art of Manliness blog site, entitled “How to Make a Great First Impression with Your Place.”  It’s all about preparing your place for a date to first meet your place.  I like it because it’s practical and applies to anyone wishing to make a good impression with their home or apartment, but I especially like that the article does not lead to the unmarried couple in bed.  It’s just a straight article on preparing one’s place for a special guest.  Although its first tip is to “get rid of the man-funk,” the advice is sound for anyone looking to have guests and wanting to make a good first impression.  Here’s a summary of the game plan:

A.  Get Rid of the Man-Funk (odors) – said to be the “most cited infraction for men’s bachelor pads.”

1.  Start a couple days early – even ask an outside party to help identify the worst.

2.  Eliminate the most obvious smell offenders – dirty laundry (include bed sheets), bathrooms, dirty dishes (don’t forget to run the disposal).

3.  Go easy on the Axe (or any other masking scent) – the mixed odors are a “recipe for disaster.”

B.  Be Clean, Not Sterile – deal with general cleanliness issues, it doesn’t have to be a furniture showroom.

1.  Vacuum – while attesting to the clean feel vacuuming leaves, the author says, “No bachelor in the world vacuums his place enough.”

2.  Mop or dust all wood or tile floors and baseboards.

3.  Dust flat surfaces – this means a cloth and spray.

4.  Have all the dishes put away.

5.  Make the bed – personally I’ve always thought that when one’s bed is made, the tone for the rest of the housekeeping is set.

6.  Pick up and organize – a small stack of books here or work still out on the desk can make a home look lived in, but find a place for everything and have most things in their places.

7.  Making a habit of these practices makes lighter the preparation for the occasional guest.

C.  Display Your Personality

1.  “Manly” art – lose the babe posters and the never-ending sports memorabilia.

2.  Display some photos that say something about your life – family, travels, interests, etc.

3.  Don’t hide things – if there’s something you enjoy, don’t hide those things that best reflect you.  Just don’t overdo it.  “If your’e questioning whether it’s too much, it probably is.”

4.  Be prepared for some snooping – don’t have anything in “eyeshot” that you’d find embarrassing.

D.  Pets – corralling the pet for a first visit may be best.  Be aware of pet sensitivities or allergies and be sure to vacuum the furniture on which your pet lounges.

E.  Bathroom – the room for greatest offense in which basic hygiene and simple considerations are often neglected.

1.  Clean it… thoroughly (note: no hair anywhere).  Use multi-purpose cleaner on all surfaces, make that toilet bowl sparkle (note: clean under the seat well too), and tidy the vanity.

2.  Keep an air freshener at the ready – subtly scented not overpowering

3.  Have toilet paper.

4.  Have a fresh soap and a well laundered, dry towel out.

5.  Have a bag-lined trash can.

6.  Advertise your good hygiene, by washing your hands after using the bathroom no matter what did or did not happen in there.  (Exiting seconds after the flush, can take away your guest’s enthusiasm for dinner.)

F.  Kitchen

1.  Have, at the very least, the essentials in your cupboards and pantry – if you’re uncertain what the essentials are… there’s a post for that too!

2.  Have at least one set of matching dishes… that aren’t plastic.

3.  Have more than just junk food – examples: fresh fruit and veggies, pita chips and hummus, etc.

4.  Offer a variety of beverages – at least a few – soda, coffee, tea, ice water with lemon, iced tea, juice, wine (if you drink)

5.  Keep it clean – spic and span and smelling nice.

G.  Bedroom – unkempt bed and strewn clothes are a common sight in men’s bedrooms, but “if your most personal space is messy, it’s a good bet that’s closer to the real you than the rest of your place.”

1.  Make the bed – build the habit by making your bed every morning.  When giving a tour of the place, a made bed shows you care about the details.

2.  Pick up your clothes and don’t have an overflowing hamper – clothes folded and put away (a good practice at any time).

3.  A bed frame and headboard help – at least no mattresses on the floor if you want to convey stability and “put-togetherness.”

H.  From the comments –

1.  About the bathroom:  trash can – emptied; toilet seat – down

2.  As an extension to the inside of the home…

            a.  Keep your car reasonably clean – quick vacuums, car washes, dash/surfaces wiped down.  As another put it: old food wrappers and cups do not impress.

            b.  Yard and deck – Lawn cut, deck furniture and grill clean, cover is not torn, etc.

3.  Have movie-time snacks: popcorn, pretzels, etc.

4.  Have 2 sets of sheets so one is always clean and ready for change.

5.  A couple houseplants if you can keep them alive (this was mentioned by several readers).  As a bonus:  English Ivy, Spider Plants, and Peace Lilies are all good air cleaners too.

6.  To freshen the air, open the window – the longer the better.

7.  Bake some cookies to make the place smell “homey.”  Other ideas: bread baking, fresh brewed coffee.

8.  If you can afford it, get a cleaner – job done.  Another added:  This does not mean that your house is dirty or un-hygienic until the cleaner comes, but I am big believer in paying ‘experts’ to do things in life, or things that you don’t enjoy doing, especially if you can afford to.

9.  “A room without books is like a body without soul.”  ~Cicero
(Several mentioned putting good book collections on display.)

10. Have at least one comfortable place to sit.

11. Your apartment or home shouldn’t look like a random collection of crap you’ve collected from the street. It should look like it was put together with some thought.

12. Health and cleanliness show responsibility and long term thinking, women dig that!

13. Wash the shower curtain if you have one. Otherwise clean the cubicle.

14. A box of Kleenex in the bathroom, not just t.p.

15. Bad impressions: Piles of dirty laundry on the floor, with more piles of clean stuff on the couch. A big brown waterline in the toilet and no soap or clean towels in the bathroom. Dirty dishes in the sink.

16. Light a lightly-scented candle in the bathroom.

17. Get a set of matching dishes and glassware.  “No one, including your date, wants to drink wine from a coffee mug.”

18. “Any man older then 28, with stable professional employment, should have real furniture and not just a collection of mismatched furniture acquired in college.”

19. Make your home feel warm and inviting to her. It’s a big deal for most women to feel at ease in their man’s home. Offer basic hospitality like taking her coat, providing a glass of water and snack if dinner is far off, etc.

20. It is alright to ask your guest to bring something if she offers, like a bottle of wine or a side dish. For whatever reason, when you do this a woman then has a mental stake in the dinner date at your place.
21. Learn how to make five or so basic recipes and make them well.

22. Make sure you clean under and behind the toilet bowl. Even if you’re being accurate when peeing, inevitably some will end up on the floor and this builds up over time. A toilet with streaks down the pedestal or a honky smell down the back is a major turn-off!

23. Finally this from Carol:

Just remember, if you do these things to impress, but they aren’t actually your regular habits, then:
a. eventually the truth will come out;
b. I’ll be disappointed you aren’t actually clean/neat/a reader, and the fine opinion you tried to cultivate will dissipate;
c. I’ll wonder what else you’re presenting to me as you is also a sham, or in what other ways are you not being very honest.
So, as the article suggests multiple times, make these regular habits of your own, not just something you do the first few times a lady comes over.

[Photo: Jack Lemmon in The Apartment]

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As a collector and reader of vintage etiquette books, I often pine for the days of thoughtful manners, the days when rules of etiquette were carefully taught and practiced at home and were considered necessary for a polite society.  We sacrifice so much with the “like it or lump it,” ego-centric attitude that seems to prevail in our culture today.

I think this is part of my attraction to old black and white movies.  Watching these movies, my husband and I will often remark about the days “when men were men and women were women.”  What we really mean is when women acted lady-like and men acted like gentlemen.

Perhaps contradicting myself, our family has always been big fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (especially, the Joel Hodgson years), being introduced to MST3K by my sister, Heide, who worked as business manager in those early years at the Best Brains company while they were producing the show.  We particularly enjoyed when a feature movie was not quite long enough for the time slot and needed to be padded out with a short, as they were called.

The short was usually about a ten minute, black and white educational film produced in the 50’s, meant to round out a student’s education with topics related to health, social skills and character development.  The films seem cheesy to us today (as the MST3K lampooning attests), but they were instructive in their day.  If we can get past the overacting, we catch a glimpse of a more polite time in American history, when thoughtful niceties and common courtesies were the norm, not the exception, and adults took the time to teach and re-teach these lessons to the next generation.

I share the following black and white short as a window to a kinder, gentler time…when men were trained to be gentlemanly and nice girls aspired to be lady-like.  Enjoy!


[Black and White title photo is from the movie, The More the Merrier, starring Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea; a personal favorite of mine.]

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One of my favorites…


Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you—

not because they are nice, but because you are.


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A quote from Douglas Wilson’s new book, Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families (Thomas Nelson, 2012), caught my attention:

“When a man opens the car door for his wife, he is doing far more than just getting the door open. It is not a matter of utility. It is not a question of pragmatics. Granted, we could save energy all around if both individuals opened their own doors. But he is making a statement in addition to getting the door open. He is disciplining his own heart and soul, which need it, and he is honoring his wife, who is glorified by it. The role of the man here, if we may speak this way, is not just to get the door open. His central role is the liturgical act of saying that women everywhere should be held in honor by men, and that he adds his amen to this, as everyone in the parking lot at Costco can now see.”

At some point in the past, my husband began opening my car door for me.  I must admit that I’m often uncomfortable with it to varying degrees.  I often feel uncomfortable because it does seem inefficient and it causes my husband to be inconvenienced and to endure poor weather longer as he waits for me to get in.  At the risk of sounding self-effacing, well…I am.  I tend to aim to be inconspicuous in public and do not usually seek public attention.

What Wilson helped me understand is that my husband’s gesture, makes him conspicuous and declares to believer and unbeliever alike a created order.  This stood out to me yesterday.  It wasn’t Costco, but the local movie theater.  My husband opened my door as usual.  Just a few seconds later a young man and woman and a couple children got out of the car near us.  I was keenly aware that it couldn’t help but be obvious to this young couple that despite women’s “liberation,” despite the new casualness, despite the hardening of the womanly spirit in our country, here was someone who displayed a manliness not often seen anymore and demonstrated his acknowledgement of his creator’s order…and His grace to womankind.


“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).


[Illustration: Tom Lovell]

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