Consultant Educates in Etiquette

Article excerpt

Byline: Bill O'Brien Daily Herald Staff Writer

Mind your manners.

At least that is what Ruth Kern has in mind for Americans, specifically dining manners, social manners, business manners - any kind of manners.

Kern, of North Barrington, is an image and etiquette consultant, and she doesn't mind telling people the proper etiquette they should use in various venues.

In fact, she has published two booklets and three videos, and more are on the way. Her latest video, due out soon, is "Tips on American Business Etiquette."

Kern, 57, said exercising proper etiquette is not just for the "unwashed masses," as she puts it. In many cases, it is the very educated and sophisticated people who need help, she said.

"I was at a big luncheon a few years ago with a lot of very educated people, and the table manners around my table were absolutely appalling," Kern said. "Some of them literally were holding their knives like daggers."

Kern believes that proper etiquette began to slowly unravel in the 1960s, partly as a result of the national protests. But she said the pendulum is beginning to swing back, and there is a renewed interest in doing things the right way.

"Now some 30 odd years later, I think finally people have settled down, and now we're starting to see some structure," she said. "At least I see the interest."

Still, Kern has some pet peeves. And mind you, this is only a sampling:

- People who go to restaurants and don't realize which plate is for the bread and butter. By the way, it's always on the left.

- Failing to hold your knife in the correct manner at the dinner table. The right way is with the index finger down the handle and slightly above the blade.

- Wearing blue jeans to church or a nice restaurant, something she finds particularly disturbing.

"I don't wear blue jeans anymore because when people started wearing them to church, I threw them out in protest," Kern said.

Kern, a tall slender woman with blond hair and hazel eyes who looks more like she's in her 40s rather than her late 50s, got her start as an image and etiquette consultant just before she appeared as a finalist in the Mrs. …