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Etiquette Expert Points the Way to ‘Social Savvy’ for Teen-agers

ASSOCIATED PRESS

What was the most “miserable moment” of your life when you were learning the social graces? Getting food caught in your braces at the dinner table? Forgetting names at introductions?

Etiquette consultant Judith Re hopes that her book “Social Savvy, A Teenager’s Guide to Feeling Confident in Any Situation” (Summit Books, $19.95), will steer today’s teen-agers away from these and other “miserable moments.”

“Social savvy is more than just etiquette and manners,” explained Miss Judith, as her students call her, during an interview before a weekend seminar for youngsters. “Social savvy is a way in which you present yourself, a way in which you believe in yourself.”

Re, 35, says the lack of manners in her generation’s children prompted her to found her Boston-based consulting business five years ago. She felt sorry for children she’d watch in restaurants. Waiters blamed them for bad manners when their parents were at fault for failing to educate them, she said.

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“There’s been a breakdown in the family. There’s no longer the family dinner,” says Re.

She has been trying to remedy the situation through classes at The Judith Re Academie for Instruction in the Social Graces, private lessons and her “Weekend of Social Savvy” for 8- to 12-year olds at hotels throughout the country.

Re learned her P’s and Q’s growing up in private schools and from her parents with whom she frequently travels to their native Portugal.

She says her clients have ranged from an only child wanting to learn how to plan her parents’ funerals to a Seattle clan seeking to polish their manners.

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Re opens her 208-page book, written with Meg F. Schneider, by discussing social savvy, which she describes as “a quality of interacting with the world with ease and style.” She teaches teen-agers to achieve this by working on five “building blocks,” namely by exercising responsibility, compromise, respect, sensitivity and know-how.

“The book was based on my classes and students in private instruction,” she says.

Participation is key to her method of teaching, says Re who lives with her husband and preschool-age daughter Alexandra, in Boston.

Re’s book draws on questions raised by students and some of the “miserable moments” that they have shared.

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To help minimize these, she offers chapters on table settings, dining out (including how to deal with making reservations, the maitre d’, the check and tips), partying, money, conversations in person and by telephone, friendships and sensitive subjects like drugs, divorce, prejudice, religion, illness and sexuality.


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