How to handle your phone at the dinner table : It's So You!

How to handle your phone at the dinner table

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 12/28/15

Grandma's advice on cell phones

An updated entry from the back of the rack!
When is texting appropriate? When isn’t it? How should one use hashtags while tweeting? And, under what circumstances may you “unfriend” someone on Facebook?

At this moment in history, everyone has an opinion on etiquette in technology. Preferences on the smaller details vary, but most users agree that the bottom line guideline for our digital interactions stem directly from the time-tested, common-sense, person-centered values which inspire good manners.

So, I decided to turn to my very well-mannered Grandma Brown for her take on the whole topic. Below is her advice on manners for our digital world, specifically regarding the use of the cell phone.  (Yes, Grandma Brown hasn’t been with us for a little under 20 years, but work with me here.)

Me: Hello Grandma Brown. How are you feeling these days?

GB: Very well Mary Catherine. What is that little black thing on the table next to your elbow which is also on the table? Yes, that. My stars! It’s lighting up! Is that a portable television set?

Me: It’s a portable telephone Grandma.

GB: Why is your husband’s face lighting it up? Oh dear, that's frightening. And where’s the cord?  You can’t have a telephone without the cord…God bless America, is that xylophone music?

Me: It’s ringing. I can ignore it right now and call Robert later.

GB: Well I hope so. I thought you wanted to speak to me about Digits in Etiquette. I have directions here for manicures…

Me: That’s “digital etiquette” and I certainly will put this phone away while I speak to you.  My first question is about cell phones.

GB:  Phones for prisons?

Me: No, this portable phone is called a cell phone, or “smart” phone?

GB: Oh dear.  I didn’t know other phones were stupid.

Me: Let’s say that I have something really serious to tell someone but I am nervous about telling her face to face. What’s the next best way to speak to her?

GB: Write a letter.

Me: Oh yes, I forgot about that option. Well, suppose that my three choices are 1.) calling her on the phone, 2.) texting her, or 3.) emailing her. Which would be best?

GB:  Do you live near her?

Me: Yes. Let’s say she lives right here in this neighborhood.

GB: My stars! Why would you waste 15 cents on postage for an F-mail when you can see her in person? And what’s wrong with US mail anyway? Has it come to that? Franklin Delano Roosevelt would never recognize this place anymore.

Me: Grandma, email and texting are forms of writing. Just not on paper.  You can do both from your smart phone.

GB: So a smart phone does the talking more eloquently for you because it’s smarter than you. I’m sorry Mary Catherine but I can’t see how fancy written words and flowery expressions make bad news seem better. Especially when you’re in prison.

Next week: Real help from Grandma regarding other issues in a world without FDR.

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