An Etiquette Dilemma – Biscuit Manners Part 1


Over the past few months I’ve started really getting involved with the world. Doing things. Volunteering.

I’m not saying that prior to 2013 I was a recluse, but I hadn’t done “group activity” for a very long time. University Seminars and Extra-Curricular groups were probably the last time I was plunged into a group of strangers and flapped wildly to make connections.

As a result, I’ve forgotten some of the basic (is it basic?) etiquette of being around a group of strangers.
I don’t mean like I wonder if it’s okay to take my clothes off, or pick my nose. I mean more subtle etiquette that (hopefully) cross everyone’s mind.

Over the past 6 days, I have been faced with one particular question which has taken a lot of time to think about.

Can you dunk a biscuit in a tea/coffee when you’re among strangers?

We’ll call this “Biscuit Manners Part 1“, because when I fully considered my dilemma, it turns out that the art of successfully consuming biscuits in the company of strangers is a massive deal, with more than one part.

The first time this question came up, I was among semi-strangers. One of the volunteer groups I meet with is made up of myself, and two other incredibly supportive, positive and generally lovely women. We are all just about getting to know each other.
I had a cup of tea, and I instantly knew I was safe to dunk my biscuit, I didn’t even have to think about it.

The second opportunity for reflection on biscuit etiquette came about on Saturday afternoon, when I visited a new hair stylist for the first time. Again, I was presented with a cup of tea and a saucer with 2 biscuits on it.
The 2 biscuit thing raised another question which had not properly revealed itself at my meeting with the volunteer group. I will call the question “Biscuit Manners Part 2“, but we’ll get to that later.
So, I was getting my hair cut, which meant restricted movement in general. This meant that the windows available to me for tea-sipping were hugely reduced, and even more so for biscuit eating.
I found myself desperately wanting to dip one of the biscuits into my drink. It was a custard creme after all.
However, fearing I’d be judged, I resisted.
I drank the tea, and didn’t touch the biscuits at all.
Nobody seemed to mind.
It was a good day for biscuit etiquette, I seemed to have won the approval of my hairdresser peers.

But when I left, I started to wonder.
Did I win?
I wanted the biscuit. I wanted to dunk it.
Technically, I lost.

I resolved to ‘dunk the biscuit’ next time I was presented with a biscuit dunking situation.

Little did I know I was to be faced with this situation just two days later.

I hadn’t even prepared.

Yesterday, I attended my first of 6 classes to become a voluntary youth worker.
There are 17 other people attending the class.
I arrived and sat, feeling suspiciously like I was in a seminar, perhaps to debate the influence of Baseball as a metaphor for the American Dream. Perhaps to analyse the Journey of “The Bush” in Porno from the 70’s until the Present Day. Who knew?
All I knew is when I walked in, my Terminator eye zoomed in on the tea and coffee making facilities, and I noticed a basket of biscuits.

Fast forward through until break time, and I made a lovely, milky, strong, sugary coffee. Just what a hard working girl deserves at the end of a double-job day. I also picked up 2 home made treacle biscuits, whatever they are.

Slowly, with the delicacy of a Bolshoi Ballet understudy, I cradled the drink and biscuits back to my seat. Without spilling a drop, might I add. With all the grace of a North-England rugby team, I tore open the biscuit and dunked it.
Quick, like ripping off a plaster. I didn’t even give the crowd time to think about what was going on.

To my surprise, nobody cared, though I’m sure they could hear my heart pounding.

This has set rolling so many theories of acceptance I can’t even comprehend them all.
At first, I thought that it was only suitable to dunk a biscuit in a situation where you were highly familiar with the others who are present. (i.e at your Nan’s kitchen table).
My first experience dunking for the Volunteer project made me realise that as long as you feel un-judged, you can dunk, even if you haven’t fully gotten to know the people you’re with.
Its a question of having unconditional positive regard (or feeling like you have it).
This point seemed concreted at the hairdressers.
Due to some sort of petty complex, going to a hair dresser is a huge source of discomfort for me, although I love going as well.

I was uncomfortable that second day I was presented with a Dunking Dilemma.
I didn’t eat the biscuit, or dunk it, to avoid being judged on wanting the biscuit.

The third time, I had made a conscious decision not to care. I probably acted hastily to mask my own worry at committing a socially unacceptable gesture: the Dunk.
But either nobody noticed, or nobody cared.

The moral of the story?

I don’t think there is biscuit etiquette in this sense.
You want to dunk a biscuit? Dunk it.
Nobody cares.

What do you think?
Did I over think it?



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