When I was a kid, my mom was a stickler about napkins. She put out those nice Vanity Fair quilted napkins for every meal and I had to put that napkin in my lap before eating. I hated doing this. I didn’t like how the napkin felt on my legs, so I would stuff it BETWEEN my legs after every use. At the end of dinner, I would produce a marinara-stained ball of wadded-up paper from my crotch and dump it onto my empty plate. Appetizing.
I now have kids of my own and, even though I have adopted many of my mom’s etiquette hang-ups, proper napkin usage still eludes me. My family and I don’t bother to put our napkins on our laps. They sit right atop the placemat all dinner long. True caveman behavior, and I’m still quite talented at making a mess when I eat. Just a torrent of crumbs and fatty drippings falling all around my plate. Clearly mine is a place setting that demands a napkin, which is why I keep one on hand at all. The bad news is that, despite napkining routinely while I eat, I still get food and condiments all over my shirt anyway. I have switched out of white shirts right before dinner for this reason. Otherwise, they’ll be instantly and permanently soiled, even with a napkin at the ready.
There’s a simple fix for this. To protect my shirt, I could simply tuck my napkin into my collar, re-fashioning it into a temporary bib. You already have an image of this in your mind, and it’s not a pleasant one: some Ralph Kramden-ass pig coming home from work, taking off his dress shirt and tie, and tucking his napkin into his undershirt before digging into an overcooked steak. You can’t tuck your napkin into your collar without looking like this. It demonstrates that you’re a person of low class. A slob. A true bastard.
But hear me out: What if we just ALL started tucking our napkins into our collars? Aren’t we past all of this bullshit napkin decorum? Did the great Anthony Bourdain not teach us that, in order to appreciate food and the culture behind that food properly, we must get our hands dirty? And our mouths? And other appendages? Must our chins not dribble with the wondrous creations of the vast epicurean landscape?
When you ponder those questions, it becomes obvious that the time-honored tradition of placing your napkin in your lap has become not only outdated, but disrespectful (sorry, Mom). To properly enjoy food, it makes all the sense in the world to tuck your napkin into your collar, eat like a pig from a bucket, and then throw away that napkin in triumphant élan. That way, your clothes stay clean and your tummy stays happy. WHO SAYS NO TO THIS? Are you, the tightass at home, so obstinate that you refuse to even entertain the idea of the collar tuck? Well who died and made YOU grand emperor, shitboy? There could be a future where the tuck would not only be accepted, but seen as a showing of great respect to the chef. Just as slurping ramen is both polite and enhances the flavors of the noodles, a collar tuck could tell your hosts, Oh wow man, that curry you made look so fucking good I’m gonna paint my body with it. We could create an entirely new cultural paradigm this way. All we have to do is open our hearts and abandon our needy laps. Think about it.