Polite company

Cynthia Arregui and Amy Lee

Photo By Devanie Angel

Soup-slurpers, restaurant cell phone-answerers and interrupting children take note: Cynthia Arregui (left) and Amy Lee have arrived to bring manners back to the Chico area via their new business, Etiquette Today.

The pair’s classes start this October. Arregui will target businesspeople, while Lee will instruct younger folks 8 and up. For prices and location; call 345-1084.

Both women were trained and certified in etiquette skills by the prestigious Protocol School of Washington, located in Yarmouth, Maine.

How did you decide to start an etiquette business?

Lee: We were talking about the topic and our passion for this area. And it’s needed.

Arregui: We’re both really passionate about it. I enjoy helping students get their first job, improving their interview skills.

Why is etiquette important?

Lee: Manners still matter. They represent our social skills and our respect for other people. Family dinners are a thing of the past. Families are in a hurry. They’re eating in their cars. Dinners are competing with the phone and the television.

Arregui: You enter in a group more comfortably if you have the social skills. You know in any situation you will present yourself in the best light. The idea is not to feel stuffy, just confident in yourself. It just requires a little practice. … It should [eventually] come naturally to you. It should not be fake.

What do you teach?

Arregui: We teach everything from “don’t put your elbows on the table” to how to converse with other people. … It depends on the situation—really thinking about what you say before you say it depending on the environment you’re in. [Manners] are about courtesy and respect and, of course, knowing what fork to use.

I’ve never really understood why I shouldn’t put my elbows on the table.

Arregui: Why should you? [Pauses to consider how blunt to be.] My mom used to tell me if you’re that tired and you have to hold yourself up at the table you should take a nap. It just doesn’t look right to hang over your food.

Are you two always so formal?

Arregui: No. I’m very relaxed in front of my friends. We’re not looking at people through a microscope.

Lee: We don’t want anybody to feel uncomfortable in any situation.

What’s the rudest thing someone could do at dinner?

Arregui: Burp.

Lee: Any bodily function.