Newport Manners & Etiquette: Picnic Tips, Handling Guests, + Women’s Short Shorts

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


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More questions about short-shorts, handling guests, how to address an honorable and the skinny on picnic tips, all to Didi Lorillard this week at Newport Manners.

Humiliating guests

Q.  Four of us have had a weekly tennis game for a dozen or so summers. This past June when we started up again something extremely humiliating happened. While cooling off at the water cooler after playing, the youngish clerk in the pro shop approached us to announced to our friend that her tennis fees had not been paid. The look on our friend's flushed face went from red to stark white. It was excruciating to witness. In unison we quickly turned our heads pretending we hadn't heard the accusation. The incident is haunting. We're still wondering how to assure that nothing as mortifying ever happens again.

Unbeknownst to the rest of us, one of our doubles group took the clerk aside to reprimand her and tell her how upset we were at seeing our friend humiliated. Apparently, she said that her boss had sanctioned such action. It is hard to believe. At the very least the clerk should have taken her out of earshot of her tennis buddies. Should we report the incident to the club president? Instead,wouldn't it have been more gracious if someone from accounting had called our friend to gently remind her that her account wasn't up-to-date?  Name Withheld, Stonington, CT 

A.  The question is whether to let this mishap slide or try to rectify it? An apology to the maimed primary victim is in order. The damage is done. On the one hand, you wouldn't want the scapegoat clerk who was following orders to get fired. So that leaves the culpability to the culprit, the person who ordered the clerk to embarrass the member in front of her friends.

It is best not to put such a complaint in writing because you never know who's going to see it. Tell someone close to the president your story and let them deal with it as they may. It sounds like a matter of policy. How to inform a member that he's not paid up.

Women's Short Shorts

Q.  My business partner and I have been arguing over the waitstaff dress code at our family-style restaurant. He's all for having college girls wearing short-shorts that look like undergarments. My wife and I feel it is humiliating for the girls to show off so much flesh in public, let alone in a family restaurant. Additionally, it makes the vetting process more about whether the young woman has a good figure, than if she is a smart waitress. He's not hiring women who don't look well in short-shorts.

He says it's good for business. I say it makes the waitresses feel self-conscious when they have to expose their upper thighs. PO, Newport

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A.  Your business partner may still be getting a rise fantasizing on a carhop waitress from his youth. Tell him that it is super cool to encourage, or provide, uniforms that are appropriate to a family dining establishment. 

The key to short-shorts is balance. They say that short-shorts are the Yin to Sports Bras Yang. Athletic short-shorts for sports are another matter. The wearer isn't looking for tips.

Suggest that your partner gets over objectify women and adheres to the standard dress code of black slacks and shoes and a white top with a collar and either a short sleeves or long sleeves. 

Whether the short-shorts are high waisted or low rise, if the length is shorter than where the tips of her fingers touch her thigh, they are too short for restaurant waitstaff. 

Tips for A Newport Picnic

Q.  We're planning an August picnic in Newport, RI and need some tips on how to make it work well. Please give us some dos and don'ts.  Jennifer, Providence

A.  When planning a picnic think about what guests will expect and surprise them. But at the same time make your picnic stress free by coming up with a short list of things guests can bring to contribute. As well as a long list for yourself. What should guests bring? At the very least, their own water for consumption.

  • Organize ahead of time, plan the menu and do the advance work.  
  • Base the picnic food around a signature drink: Pimm's cup, Dark & Stormy, Cosmopolitan and craft beer from a local brewery.
  • Even if you're serving sandwiches or prepared food from a local eatery, pack colorful napkins, bamboo flatware and plates, tubs for ice, spices, salad dressing, and colorful tablecloths or light weight blankets.
  • Include prep tools for putting the picnic together: a sharp knife and cutting board, serving spoons, opener for bottles and cans, trash bags and paper towels for cleanup. Be safe about spoilage and take a thermometer for the coolers to keep track of the temperature of any salads with mayonnaise, egg dishes and meats. 
  • Plan blankets for everyone to sit on and have a fully charged wireless speaker.
  • Text the location dropping a pin in a map app with the location.
  • Ask everyone to bring water, those with food allergies and restrictions should bring their own food. 
  • Know who is bringing what.


Not everyone will want to eat at once, so keep it casual. Don't stand on ceremony serving everyone with a sit down time, it's a picnic. Let people help themselves as they arrive. Don't over season because as hot food cools down its seasoning becomes saltier and in some cases more flavorful.

The Honorable

Q. When addressing a letter to the secretary of state of your home state, do you address them as the Honorable ….?

–HB, Torrington, WY


A.  When addressing a letter, message, or thank-you note to an elected or appointed official. you would address the Secretary of State of your home state as The Honorable. Whenever you use the  honorific The Honorable always make the T in The Honorable upper case.


Addressing the envelope


  • For official business: 


The Honorable Ed Murray

Secretary of the State of Wyoming

Cheyenne, Wyoming


  • Socially, a personal thank-you note:


The Honorable The Secretary of State of Wyoming


Letter Salutation

Mr. Murray


Complimentary Close


Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette at NewportManners for her upcoming book NEWPORT MANNERS & ETIQUETTE.


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