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CHEZ BOBO: The Art of Sophisticated Dinner Conversation (Pt. 1)

BOBO: Bourgeois Bohemian

“The word bobo, [David] Brooks’s most famous coinage, is a portmanteau of the words bourgeois and bohemian. The term is used by Brooks to describe the 1990s descendants of the yuppies. Often of the corporate upper class, they claim highly tolerant views of others, purchase expensive and exotic items, and believe American society to be meritocratic.” – Wikipedia

Lo and Behold: The symbolic entrance gate to social acceptance in the highest possible circles. Difficult but highly possible with enough effort.

As college students (and in due time, graduates), we are well aware of the realities we have to face outside the ivy-bricked walls. There are dinners with friends, dinners with co-workers, dinners with your boss’…assistant, and so forth. There are also more important dinners that require one to put on their Sunday Best, and here we mean social etiquette that transcends basic table manners – those that are characteristic of social climbing.

And that’s what this series will be about. Tasty Tufts will teach you some skills (some ridiculously random, others purely satirical) that may or may not be useful should you choose to apply them on the field. So let’s investigate dinner conversations as a sociological art. Let us better ourselves as BOBO (Bourgeois Bohemian – a term coined by pop-sociologist and author of Bobo’s in Paradise David Brooks) conversationalists that will win the heart of trust-fund babies.

Below is our first official chapter of our Dinner Sociology series.

Now the format will be simple. There will be a quiz, which will act as a revealing mechanism as well as a guide that will indicate where you stand on the class-placement level. Don’t be nervous and answer these questions truthfullyas it is only to your benefit, because not only are these quiz questions a test, but also a guide that will mold your beliefs and groom you into a more polished dinner conversationalist. Don’t worry – eventually you’ll be worthy enough to dine on vichyssoise and caviar blinis at socialite dinners. Secondly, there will be an explanation paragraph that will explain your results in depth. Don’t forget to add up your points as you go.

This quiz puts you in the hot seat of the one being surrounded by curious and annoying nosey personalities. You’ll answer the questions, not ask them. Until you are adept at this art will you be able to cunningly throw answers and belittle newbies. Good luck!

The Situation

Let’s start simple. You’re not at your future mother-in-law’s glitzy Park Avenue townhouse, nor are you at the Astor Bar at the St. Regis. Let’s just say it’s almost 10:30 pm (not exactly midnight, but it’s late for dinner nonetheless), and after going out to see Madame Butterfly at the Opera house with some random but deceptively wealthy people you met through your mutual friend George, you all decide to finish off with a healthy post-dinner binge at Blue Ribbon Sushi. You’d fired off your orders of chopped toro on rice and a clear soup (whatever the circumstances, please do not be caught dead ordering “salmon sushi” or “California roll”) and now these rando’s finally get the chance to spill their load on you. PLEASE NOTE that honesty is absolutely crucial – that is, your answers may not necessarily be the truth (is it always?) but you will likely answer in that fashion.

1)      “So Jorge (not your real name – chill there is no racism implied here), we’re absolutely dying to know. What did you think of that opera?”

  1. Stunning, absolutely stunning. The lyrical qualities in her voice is just magical. (+5 pts)
  2. Swell! Cannot wait for a sequel! Do they have like a Mr. Butterfly or something? (-5 pts)
  3. This is the first time I’ve watched an opera, and honestly I don’t like it. I did like ABBA’s Dancing Queen when they were on Broadway, though (-15 pts)
  4. Um, I thought it was fairly decent (+0 pts)
  5. I found the singer a bit lacking in her vocal ability. Preferred her in Carmen, to be honest. Also, the costume design there is like Marie Antoinette meets Batman, in a horribly twisted  way(+15 pts)

2)      “That is agreed – we feel the same way. One of these days we should probably go see a ballet, perhaps after pre-theater dinner at Café Boulud.”

  1. Oh yes that would be very nice (+0 pts)
  2. Cool beans! How much is dinner and the tickets to the ballet? I think I received a free coupon for a ballet a year ago and it is still valid. Oh wait, nevermind, that was a AMC coupon for Black Swan (-10 pts)
  3. Yes, please! Please have dinner at my place – I’ll make fried chicken and burritos. And then we can go to my little sister’s ballet recital. In fact I can get you all tickets! They’re free. (-20 pts)
  4. Café Boulud does not offer pre-theater menus. You must be talking about his other restaurant, DB Bistro Moderne. It serves a mean foie-gras and wagyu burger. Not Romeo and Juliet though, let’s do Giselle. I heard’ they’re bringing in serious talent for that one (+15 pts)

3)      “Your chopped toro on rice looks splendid”

  1. It’s mine! Don’t even think about it *slather saliva all over surface* (-20 pts)
  2. It’s the most expensive item on the menu. And that equates to goodness. (-5 pts)
  3. Chef Kikkoman could have rendered the fat a bit more though; nonetheless, it’s still quite something.  Would you like to try a little? (+15 pts)
  4. *Polite smile* it does, doesen’t it? (+0 pts)
  5. Yeah I picked this because they give you free rice refills for only this dish. Next time I’m coming with my family and we’re just going to eat of this with 5 refills. The pickles that come with are free anyway (-10 pts)


4)      “So if you don’t mind us asking, what is it that you do?” (In this situation, you do administrative work for Goldman Sachs)”

  1. Oh it’s just this little investment banking company known as GOLDMAN SACHS. (-10 pts)
  2. No not at all. I work at Goldman. (+10)
  3. Human resources at an investment bank (-5 pts)
  4. I work at Goldman Sachs, but I got it through connections. And I do none of that actual banking stuff I just like take phone calls and stuff (-15 pts)

5)      “Impressive! Where did you study?” (In this situation, you studied at Northeastern University in Boston but you took some drawing classes at MIT over a couple summers. To get rid of your presence, MIT awards with you a certificate to prevent you from going back there after you graduate)

  1. I studied around the Boston area (+0 pts)
  2. *Attempt to say Northeastern really quickly so it sounds like Northwestern* (+5 pts)
  3. Northeastern – the one in Boston, not the superior one In Chicago (-15 pts)
  4. Well it’s actually very complicated. I was fortunate enough to be able to get dual degrees from multiple universities, but I did enjoy MIT the most – the people there were just amazing to work with (+10 pts)

6)      “Interesting button-down shirt. The Ralph Lauren logo looks a bit peculiar to me though – where’d you get it? (In this situation, the shirt you’re wearing is a fake from China. You bought it personally.)

  1. China! Lots of fake things to buy there – everything you can imagine they offer fake versions, and very cheap too! I can buy some for you, but I need extra handling fee (-10 pts)
  2. Oh, I’m not sure actually, my housekeeper gave it to me. (+0 pts)
  3. It’s vintage. (+10 pts)
  4. Ralph Lauren personally sewed it for me. Can’t you see that the tailoring here is also different? (-15 pts)

7)      *The Bill has arrived*

  1. Oh let me see how much this is…*pretend to shuffle through wallet to wait for general consensus, because someone else might take up the cheque* (+0 pts)
  2. I calculated this all in my head during dinner already. Richard, you need to pay for the extra sake – I didn’t drink any of it. Also don’t forget to calculate tip and tax from what YOU ordered, not split from the total tax and tip addition. And I think we can get away with 12% tip (-15 pts)
  3. Oh, let’s go dutch? (-5 pts)
  4. Don’t be silly, this is on me. *Subtly pretend to look through your selection of credit cards, then pull out your American Express Centurion Card* (+10 pts)
  5. Crap. I got to run to the ATM. Give me like 15 min (-10 pts)
  6. Oh hold up guys, I gotta take a dump. Tuna is not agreeing very well with my stomach (-20 pts)

THE RESULTS

30 points and above: You’re a veteran. You are only taking this quiz to solidify the fact that you are either blue-blooded or that you’ve watched far too much Gossip Girl . Kudos to your accomplishment.

6 to 30 points: You’ve been there before and you know how to behave. If you work on it, you’ll be a proper socialite in no time.

0 to 5 points: You are as polite as ever, and there is nothing wrong with it, though you might or might not be invited to that next ballet. But they will accommodate your request if you politely ask.

-5 to 0 points: Perfectly normal. Sometimes your tongue slips and you just might need to work on that if you mingle in high circles

-30 to -6 points: Don’t be offended if you are not invited to any more dinners. Your behavior, although honest, does not make for fruity dinner conversation

-50 to -31 points (or worse): Stay at home.

– Jon Cheng

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