Dinner party etiquette can be full of arcane rituals and prohibitions, from knowing your fish fork from your oyster fork and always passing the port to the left.
But one taboo has disappeared – Britons are now comfortable discussing sex at the table, according to Country Life magazine, and therefore the discussion topic is on the cards at your next dinner party.
The magazine encourages readers to dispense with the outdated regulations of Debrett’s, until recently the authority on etiquette.
So chatting with one’s guests about bedroom antics is acceptable – but leave out political banter and discussions on religion, Country Life says.
The magazine adds: “Whatever the subject, the only proviso is that one should never be a bore; always read the room and seek both to listen and to entertain.”
Relaxed attire more acceptable
The dinner party dress code has also relaxed, with smart trainers now seen as cool rather than declasse – and acceptable to pair with dresses and suits.
Smoking jackets and smart chinos are now seen as a good modern alternative to black tie.
“We might have left the EU, but we need to learn from our Continental neighbours that it is possible to be both smart and comfortable,” writer Annunciata Elwes said.
Other rules that no longer apply include helping ladies into their chairs, which often merely involves their knees being “clumsily banged against a table leg”.
The magazine adds that the tradition alternating male-female placements makes table plans too complex in an era of gender fluidity, although couples should not be placed together and must be encouraged to socialise.
Similarly, the edict of no elbows on the table can be given “the shove” as it is comfortable to sit with one elbow on the table, chin in hand, or even have two elbows on the table to lean forward to hear a fellow guest seated opposite.
Some rules have been retained – such as that men should speak first to the person on their right, and women to the person on their left, allows for easy sociability, ensuring that “nobody feels conversationally marooned”, while it is also still considered rude to leave the table before the main course is cleared.
Further new additions include no mobile phones at the table – not even simply just face down – as “they are a distraction to which it is all too easy to succumb”.
And children are encouraged to join the throng, given how immersed they often are in virtual worlds.
Lastly, while in times gone by it might have been sophisticated to sit with a post-prandial cigarette, smoking is no longer de rigeur. Even if leaving the table to smoke outdoors it is best to limit this to pairs to avoid breaking up the conversation.