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by Jennifer Brown Banks

Don Imus, Dixie Chicks, and Public Protocol!

What does Don Imus, The Dixie Chicks, and Michael Richards all have in common?

Give up?

They are all “performers” in the field of entertainment, that perhaps due to a lack of sophistication, found out that “freedom of speech” ain’t all that free! Although the Dixie Chicks (after making a critical remark about President Bush), later redeemed themselves in fans’ eyes, and won several music awards, their careers took a serious nosedive for a long time!

So what does all this have to do with dating? I’ll tell you. Here’s the connection. In personal and professional matters, public protocol matters!

As a beautiful woman of color, I felt compelled to use this forum to enlighten folks to acceptable decorum in this day and age, particularly in the wake of the Don Imus’ deal.

So whether you’re on the airwaves, on a dinner date in a downtown restaurant, or at your cousin Pookie’s wedding, know this. There is always an “audience” in the midst, and their presence should dictate how you behave and what you say.

Here’s a case in point. Last year I attended a posh event sponsored by one of my clients. At this event, there was an open discussion session during the evening’s festivities, dedicated to improving relationships in the African-American community.

One of the young ladies in attendance, shared with gathered guests how she had gone on a date with a great guy who was sexy, successful, and someone in whom she held great interest. Then during the evening, he took a big wad of green gum from his mouth and placed it on his dinner plate. Needless to say, that gesture diminished his image in her eyes!

As the evening progressed, one of the gentlemen in attendance at this event also shared how he stopped seeing a young woman because she had an awful habit of digging in her nose while they were engaged in conversation!

So, here’s the deal.

Be it your first date, or your fiftieth, here are a few things you should consider a “no-no” when in the company of the opposite sex, or in public forums in general!

» Scratching or handling your private parts

» Breaking wind

» Belching loudly

» Putting both elbows on the dinner table

» Vulgar language

» Malicious gossip (the world is indeed small)

» Racial comments

» Jokes that are offensive or in poor taste

» Airing your dirty laundry

» Drunken and lewd behavior

» Rudeness to service staff

» Displays of public affection that are “too expressive” (get a room!)

» Applying makeup at the dinner table

» Constant cell phone ringing and constant conversations (unless you’re a doctor)

» Dialogue about your tax scams or any other illegal activities

» Results from your last gynecology exam

» Constant criticism about your boss, ex-wife/husband, neighbor, etc.

» Removing food lodged in your teeth with a fork at the dinner table

» Shouting across the room to get someone’s attention

» Eating off someone else’s plate (unless it’s an informal, small gathering)

Why it Matters
In adulthood, with maturity and perspective, we recognize that what we say and do is as much a part of our “packaging” as the designer clothes we wear, the cars we drive, and our titles. If we are savvy, we choose our public actions as carefully as we would fine china for important company. We know that having a certain degree of social grace can win friends, as well as garner long-term business alliances. And we take others’ feelings and comfort level in consideration.

So if you want to be held in high regard, hold on to this thought….”you never get a second chance to make a first impression!”

Class still counts.

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Jennifer's Gems is a weekly column written by award-winning poet and writer, Jennifer Brown Banks. It is published every Wednesday. Click here to read her welcome letter.

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