20-40-60 etiquette: Toothpicks, or not?
YOU ASK! WE ANSWER! YOU DECIDE!
(Got a toothpick story? Tell us about it.)
QUESTION: How should one use a toothpick?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: If you are actually picking your teeth with a toothpick, never do it in public. Or the car for that matter, I can still see you.
The bathroom is your best bet. I have seen a lot of men chewing on a toothpick and then randomly fidgeting with it. What is the point of this? Not cool, and not cute.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: Here’s how you shouldn’t use a toothpick: at the table, in front of other people, unless you’re using toothpicks in a craft project. In the United States, using a toothpick to clean your teeth at a dinner table ranks on a list of offenses with flossing at the table and clearing your nose by blowing it loudly and often.
This subject, however, has generated so much discussion over the years that people have written entire books on the history of the toothpick. Henry Petroski found 464 pages to write about the single subject in his book “The Toothpick: Technology and Culture,” reprinted a few years ago. Did you know that at the turn of the last century there was even an “American Anti-Toothpick Society”? I don’t know how much influence members had or what offense led them to form one, but they were fervent about their cause.
So while the toothpick has its fans, in public, it belongs in cocktails decorated with skewered fruit. While you may need one if you have a piece of food stuck in your mouth, it’s very easy to excuse yourself and head to the bathroom in order to dislodge it in private.
HELEN’S ANSWER: People still love their toothpicks. For sentimental reasons my friend carries her mother’s silver toothpick in a wonderful holder in her purse. When I visited the Czech Republic one year, there were numerous beautiful crystal toothpick holders to purchase.
Some men love to chew on them and I remember cinammon toothpicks for sale.
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