"Your obligation is to respect whatever occasion you're walking into," von Bidder says. "If the situation is new to you, recognize that there's great power in simply being able to say, 'I don't know'; and, again, being willing to ask questions is crucial."
I take this as my opportunity to say I don't know what to do with the fish bone I've got stashed in my left cheek. He mimes a discreet removal and recommends placing it on my bread plate. "It's far more sophisticated to turn to your dining companion and say, 'I don't really know anything about wine—can you teach me?' than to try to fake your way through. And how that person deals with my lack of knowledge tells me a lot. Does he laugh and admit to the same weakness? Does he pounce on it? And if so, do I really want to spend time with somebody like that?"
One strawberry shortcake arrives with two spoons, despite the fact that we'd each ordered our own. "Okay, Alex, now what?" I ask, hoping to sound sophisticated.
Gentleman that he is, von Bidder offers to have them bring a second dessert, but I demur. He smiles, hands me a spoon, and says ever so gallantly, "After you."
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