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Modern Manners

Local author Jason Tesauro talks about why drug etiquitte is more useful than escargot tongs.


"The Modern Gentleman" delves into the dark, dangerous side of contemporary life that would send most Victorian etiquette aficionados running for cover. Some of these unmentionable tips are the subtle protocol involved in smoking marijuana, how to respond when your girlfriend tells you she's pregnant and the polite way to handle every clumsy subject of contraception, or what the book dubs "prophyletiquette." Also included are more serious matters from the responsibilities of the Good Husband to lists of current gentlemanly music and reading. Written with a wry sense of humor in the style of a turn-of-the-century rascal, Mollod and Tesauro make their topics charming and fun. The book shows the reader not only the importance of good everyday manners, but also the polite way to act in the grip of vice.

Style had a chance to sit down with one of the authors, Jason Tesauro, who lives here in Richmond. Here's what he had to say:

Style: What made you guys want to write a book like this?

Tesauro: First of all, we felt like we really needed a book like this, and there was nothing on the shelves like it. There were plenty of staid, classic treatises written on shrimp-fork placement and how to address a diplomat, but when we went looking for contemporary issues, prophyletiquette and dealings with the cumbersome condom, or just a man's wooing and civil vice, there was very little written on the topic.

Why did you decide to write this book as a joint project?

Well, I'm a poet at nature and Phineas is a lawyer, and putting us together we made more of a complete gentleman than either one of us apart. He's more sharp-tongued and I'm more silver-tongued, and it was a great way of bouncing ideas back and forth. Each one of us had some manners, some savvy and a lot of vice, and it was a great way to balance. I mean, how can one person possibly write about the entire gentlemanly spectrum anyway?

Do you think the consideration of vice is important to male etiquette?

Oh, of course it is. First of all, if all we had were manners and savvy, we'd be bland creatures. How a gentleman manages his intimate affairs and civil vice says a lot about his character. My problem with some of the older books is they go all the way up to vice, and then they stop and because there have never really been rules written on vice, I think that people have this impression that … all of a sudden it's like "If I'm taking off my clothes then my gentlemanly ethic is left behind as well." We're saying that in these times we know that people are drinking and are partaking in activities that are shady in some people's eyes. Why can't we bring the same amount of courtesy or ethic or manner to our behind-closed-doors activities? What's more important to a 22-year-old these days, how to use escargot tongs or how to handle themselves when marijuana is raised in conversation? S

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