Emily Gilmore: Etiquette Hero

We missed the first round of Gilmore Girls thinkpieces because I didn’t even think of doing an etiquette themed Gilmore Girls post until Jaya offhandedly mentioned how rude Lorelei is (she talks during movies at the theater! The worst etiquette sin!) As fun and relateable as Rory and Lorelei are, the older I get the more I find myself appreciating Emily Gilmore. While she does have her many problems, in many ways she reminds me of my own mom (except my mom is loving and wonderful, not so cold) in that as a woman of that generation, she has very specific ideas about what is proper and what isn’t.

Emily must have made an impression on me during my original watch because I even joined the DAR paaartly because of how fun it looked in GG (there are no games of which Founding Father-ILF in real life [because everyone knows it’s Alexander Hamilton, duh- just go look at a $20 bill!]) I think actor Kelly Bishop deserves special recognition because in the wrong hands, Emily could have been insufferable instead of charming and humorous.

So after binging on many hours of Gilmore Girls on Netflix (for research, yo), I have found many instances of Emily Girlmore’s etiquette prowess:

1.9 Rory’s Dance

Rory is getting ready for her first formal. Emily pops by their house to take pictures before Rory leaves. Dean honks and Rory runs for the door:

EMILY: You do not go running out the door when a boy honks.
LORELAI: Mom, it’s fine.
EMILY: It certainly is not fine. This is not a drive through. She’s not fried chicken.
RORY: But I told him to honk and I’d meet him out there. We agreed.
EMILY: I don’t care what you told him. If he wants to take you out, he will walk up to this door, and know, and say ‘good evening,’ and come inside for a moment like any civilized human being would know to do.
LORELAI: Now, Mom, this is silly, I have met him already.
EMILY: Well I haven’t.
LORELAI: Yeah, but–
EMILY: We will wait until he comes to the door.
RORY: He doesn’t know he’s supposed to.
EMILY: He will figure it out.
(Rory sighs and crosses her arms. They wait in silence. A minute or so later, Dean honks again.)
EMILY: He’s not a very bright boy, is he?
LORELAI: Mom, please.
(The doorbell rings. Rory starts to run to the door.)
EMILY: Don’t rush. A lady never rushes.

5.13 Wedding Bell Blues

Emily is going Lorelai’s house before her vow renewal to Richard. She runs into Luke outside the house and they briefly chat. Luke offers her congratulations on the vow renewal and she corrects him: “You congratulate the groom. You offer the bride best wishes.”

5.20 How Many Kropogs to Cape Cod?

In this episode, Rory offhandedly mentions to Richard and Emily that she had had dinner at the Huntzbergers the week previously and Richard and Emily freak out that they haven’t reciprocated:

EMILY: Richard, it’s already been a week!
RICHARD: We need to invite him right away!
RORY: Who?
EMILY: Logan! The ball’s been dropped!
RICHARD: I’ll put an invite in the mail first thing tomorrow.
EMILY: We really should have had him over first. We probably should call him as well.
RICHARD: We could messenger it in by tonight, it isn’t even eight.
RORY: Well, it’s really nice of you to want to have him over, really, but you don’t need to.
EMILY: Rory, if you could mention it to him yourself, preferably tonight, I’ll get a note over to him tomorrow.
RICHARD: He’ll need a choice of dates.
EMILY: I’ll get my book.
RICHARD: I’ll get mine, too.

Later on, Emily chastises the maid for putting fragrant flowers on the dinner table (FYI you aren’t supposed to use scented candles during meals either!): “I don’t know how you think my guests are supposed to enjoy their dinner with this floral reek wafting up their noses! Move them to the living room and bring the peonies in here.”

6.05 We’ve Got Magic To Do

Rory organizes a DAR fundraiser and many etiquette situations ensue. At the beginning of the party, Rory is concerned that no one is dancing, Emily explains that people will dance after dinner but Richard cuts in and says they will dance now, Emily says: “Richard, it’s before dinner. There’s no dancing during appetizers”

Then, the Huntzbergers show up after not RSVPing. Rory and Emily are in a tizzy trying to find them a table, because as Emily says “If we don’t find better seating for the Huntzbergers, it’ll be a major faux pas, and it may be the only thing people remember from this otherwise wonderful event.”

However, Emily and Richard finally find out what Mr. and Mrs. Huntzberger have done to Rory (telling her that she isn’t the right person for their son to date) and Emily commits a major etiquette breech but takes down Mrs. Huntzberger spectacularly:

EMILY: Well, that’s what’s confusing me. They both come from good families, both have good values. Money doesn’t seem to be an issue. We all have money.
SHIRA: Frankly, Emily, there’s your money, then there’s our money.
SHIRA: And our family has a lot of responsibilities that come with that. An image to maintain.
EMILY: Ah, yes! Well let me tell you this, Shira. We are just as good as you are. You don’t think Rory is good enough for your son, as if we don’t know Logan’s reputation. We do. But he is welcome in our home anytime, and you should extend the same courtesy to Rory.
SHIRA: Emily…
EMILY: Now let’s talk about your money. (she bends over Shira’s chair) You were a two-bit gold digger, fresh off the bus from Hicksville when you met Mitchum at whatever bar you happened to stumble into. And what made Mitchum decide to choose you to marry amongst the pack of women he was bedding at the time, I’ll never know. But hats off to you for bagging him. He’s still a playboy, you know? Well, of course you know. That would explain why your weight goes up and down 30 pounds every other month. (Shira laughs uncomfortably) But that’s your cross to bear. But these are ugly realities. No one needs to talk about them. Those kids are staying together for as long as they like. You won’t stop them. Now, enjoy the event.

7.3 Lorelai’s First Cotillion

This is Emily’s ultimate etiquette episode. She has been charged with preparing a bunch of 10 year olds for cotillion and is thus full of wise etiquette advice (ummm, although, doesn’t cotillion usually happen in late high school or early college?)

The episode opens with Friday night dinner at the Gilmore’s, where one of the little cotillion children is taking a make-up etiquette class at dinner. The child offers to mix drinks for the adults, which Lorelei questions. Emily says “You’re never too young to learn to make a Martini.”(agreed, but in my house it was a Manhattan.) Then they go into dinner:

EMILY: Now, tonight we’ll be dining with service a la Russe, which has nothing to do with Russians — thank god — because in my experience, their table manners are nothing to emulate. All it means is that the servers will be passing each course in turn instead of plopping all the food on the table at once, like some mukluk picnic. Now, it is the duty of the gentleman to help a lady to her seat. Richard.
EMILY: Now, immediately upon sitting, one should place one’s napkin in one’s lap. And, mind you, no need for a flourish. The ability to use a napkin is nothing to brag about.
LORELAI: What’s with all the forks?
EMILY: Every piece of silverware has a purpose. You simply work from the outermost utensil in towards your plate. Can you name each of these forks?
CHARLOTTE: And then the fish fork, and then the entrée fork, and then — is this the dessert? Oh, wait — it’s for the roast course, isn’t it? (FYI, when Charlotte is eating, she takes a bite out of her roll instead of tearing it and no one noticed. Who is the etiquette consultant on this show?!?!)

They chat for a while and it gets awkward:

EMILY: Now, Charlotte, when the conversation lags, a good guest ought to be prepared to introduce a new topic. Keep it light — no politics, no religion. My little trick? Think of things in the middle three sections of the Sunday New York Times — travel, arts & leisure, Sunday styles — and forget the rest of the paper exists.

Emily wants to arrange a tea for the girls, and ends up having to host it at the Dragonfly Inn because:

EMILY: Actually I was going to take them into the city for high tea at the Pierre. But the Maitre d’ at the Pierre apparently believes that proper high tea includes club sandwiches and a juice bar, and I simply couldn’t subject these impressionable young girls to such tasteless effrontery.

The day for the tea comes up:

EMILY: Now, remember, ladies, the dress you’ll be wearing at the cotillion on Saturday will have much fuller skirts. Several of you may be working with a crinoline, so sitting will be an entirely different experience. What is the rule of thumb we can always apply? Tiffany?
TIFFANY: Bottoms out.
EMILY: That’s right. Bottoms, sit. Very good.
MICHEL: Such elegance, such a sense of decorum, manners, grace, charm — everything my childhood could have been but wasn’t. Oh, to go back and do it right.
EMILY: Caroline, we do not grab or grope our dinner partners.
CAROLINE: Sorry, Mrs. Gilmore.
EMILY: Always maintain proper spacing and distance.
LORELAI: [to Michel] Err, it’s all coming back to me. Proper spacing and distance. Other kids were hugged and kissed. I was taught to maintain proper spacing and distance.
EMILY: …In which case, the utensil rule still applies. No utensil, once used, may ever touch the table again. Imagine leaving a ring of raspberry preserves on a set of fine linens. Granted, these linens aren’t the best. But at the cotillion on Saturday, everything will be of the highest quality. All right, ladies, choose your first sandwich.


12 thoughts on “Emily Gilmore: Etiquette Hero

  1. “You congratulate the groom. You offer the bride best wishes.”

    Isn’t the spirit of etiquette making sure everyone feels comfortable and pleased? Wouldn’t that mean taking a compliment in the spirit in which it’s meant, instead of adhering to the very letter of the law and tradition?

    Like when Emily forced Lorelai to take her coat off and reveal her terrible outfit when they first go to Chilton. It’s Emily who made that situation awkward, not Lorelai.

    • Yes, in an ideal world, you would let all of that slide. Emily is more of a letter rather than the spirit of the law type of person and I think one of her biggest flaws is needing to always be right.

  2. I just love GG! I own the series as I can’t get enough.

    Emily always had the best intentions, even if Lorelai didn’t understand. Their banter is usually amusing but often I find myself fast forwarding as Lorelai is so rude to Emily for offering her opinion–not courteous at all.

    Great post!


  3. Pingback: Julie Andrews is an Etiquette Icon in The Princess Diaries | Uncommon Courtesy

  4. Pingback: Paul Walker: Etiquette Hero | Uncommon Courtesy

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