A business luncheon for two: Is it proper for a man and a woman to dine together? (1921)

Man and woman at quiet dinner 1922

Luncheon for two? When is it proper for men and women to dine together?

by Mary Marshall Duffee

A dinner lubricates business. – Lord Stowell

Man and woman at quiet dinner 1922
This is probably not exactly what they meant by proper business luncheon… and more the kind of restaurant meal that people in the 1920s gossiped about
The etiquette of eating out at a restaurant together

A young woman in business asks to know whether it is ever in good form for a young woman to take luncheon alone in a restaurant with a man with whom she is associated in business.

To be sure, there are times when it would be distinctly unwise for her to do so, and other times when it would not only be in perfectly good form, but almost necessary to the smooth running of her business relations. For more and more men and women in business meet on a basis of good fellowship and with none of the consciousness of sex that characterized the treatment of young women in business some fifty years ago.

Though the over-prudish one might say that an unmarried woman ought never to take a meal alone in a public place with a man to whom she was not closely acquainted without a chaperone, no sane person can feel that this applies to the woman who is earning her living.

Imagine asking the business associate to permit you to send for your married aunt or mother, when obviously the object in lunching with you was to save time by talking business at the same time that you have luncheon, and to better understand each other’s business methods under the favorable influence of some hotel’s good cookery.

In general, having luncheon with a business associate is something that almost every business girl of any experience would at times consent to do, while having dinner is quite another matter. The young businesswoman can always excuse herself on the ground that she does not wish to remain away from home at dinner time or that she never lets business concerns intrude on the evening hours, but she has no excuse for luncheon and, in truth, no one misjudges a woman nowadays who goes to lunch alone with the men she knows in business.

Vintage men and women with blueprints - architects - business in the 1920s

If you ask a young woman to have luncheon with you, always defer to her in the matter of choosing the place. If you know of some interesting place, you may make the invitation to go to that place. If it is not mentioned in the invitation, then the young man should always ask the woman whether there is someplace that she would prefer. If she mentions none and has no preferences, then he might suggest a couple of places where he knows the cooking is good.

The gracious young woman will always decide on one of these unless she has some reasonable objection to them. If no suggestion is made, then she should not suggest the most expensive hotel in town.

When a young man has taken a young woman to luncheon with him, he should always remember that it is up to him to thank her for having given him her society for the time. A young woman should hardly thank her escort, but should assure the man that she has had an enjoyable time and convey by her manner the feeling that she is enjoying the “treat.”

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