Social Question

Ame_Evil's avatar

Why do people put napkins on their laps when eating?

Asked by Ame_Evil (3046points) February 6th, 2010

This is just a question concerning the mannerism of putting a napkin on your lap whilst at a fancy restaurant or whatnot as I do not understand this. I originally thought it would be to stop food falling there, but do people really fail this much at eating in order to warrant this? I can count with one hand the amount of times that I have dropped food on my lap in my lifetime.

And also surely if this is the case, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to tuck it in your shirt to avoid food falling on your lovely white shirt?

Giant meh. Sorry if I offended anyone D-:

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19 Answers

casheroo's avatar

I don’t know why it started, but I like it on my lap so I can wipe my hands easily or my face if needed. Plus, it’s out of the way of the table and not tucked into my shirt…which I think looks funny.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Yes, people really do fail more often than you think. If I wear something nice to a restaurant where I’m brave enough to try foods I wouldn’t make at home then chances are something will drip or plop onto my lap… if I’m lucky and it doesn’t hit my chest first. My partner has even worse luck with foods, it’s like he can’t take a meal without something falling on him and he’s not a sloppy eater, it just happens.

jaytkay's avatar

It’s mostly to wipe your mouth and hands, Keeping it in your lap (as opposed to on the table) is a bonus when you spill in your lap.

SuperMouse's avatar

I cannot speak to where this started, but I do it because if, as a child, I began eating without my napkin on my lap, I would be smacked and sent to bed. To this day I feel completely naked eating any meal without a napkin on my lap.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Partially to keep food off your clothing and partially to keep the soiled napkin out of sight of other diners (the idea is your food-stained napkin might be unappetizing to others).

slick44's avatar

So any food or crumbs fall into the napkin and not your lap

DominicX's avatar

I’m sure it started out to prevent food from getting on people’s clothes because it can happen and I have seen it happen. However, as often with manners, it soon turns into something that people just blindly follow without giving any thought to its practicality. I never eat with my napkin on my lap; I just don’t like it. It’s more convenient for me to have it on the table. I never get food on my clothes; it’s just never been an issue with me.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It’s makes a fun trampoline for chunks of steak.

princessa's avatar

so food won’t fall into your clothes. It will just fall into the napkin! nd especially if it was a fancy restaraunt you would look ridiculous with food in your lap.

marinelife's avatar

So food won’t fall into your lap.

TheBlackRanger's avatar

My dad always says it is proper etiquette and it prevents your pants from getting soiled if food escapes. It also allows easy access if you need to wipe your face, and placing it on your lap keeps it very discrete.

Merriment's avatar

Unless you are very bosomy or a total spaz (which I am, spaz I mean, the “girls” aren’t that impressive) any food you drop is likely to make a direct path to your crotch area rather than on your shirt.

All it takes is a big splotch of fettuccine sauce over your crotch area to convince you a napkin in the lap makes a lot of sense.

ubersiren's avatar

Probably because nobody wants to see someone else’s gross used napkin on the table as they eat. Also to keep your trousers tidy. I learned that you’re really supposed to fold the napkin once or twice so that you can slip your hands between the layers to wipe them off and keep the mess inside.

Buttonstc's avatar

Well, all I can say is that whenever I do make the mistake of putting my napkin on my lap, it inevitably winds up falling on the floor. Not so great for wiping your mouth with after that.

I guess I must be a really neat eater as I can’t recall EVER having food land in my lap. And if it ever did, the napkin wouldn’t do me much good as chances are it would be on the floor :)

In short, unless I am at a black tie, super fancy event where absolutely everyone is doing the lap thing, I just leave it right where it is.

Oddly enough, unless there’s tomato sauce involved, I just don’t seem to produce any noticeably gross stains on napkins.

And if perchance there is a stain, that’s easily remedied by a few strategic folds so that others are not subjected to the horrendous sight (good grief!)

I think the entire issue is a big whooptie-doo over nothing. At least for me, personally. I’d just as soon spend the time pleasantly conversing with others rather than constsantly bending over picking my napkin off the ground for the umpteenth time.

I can’t imagine I’m the only one with this problem. But, to each his own.

john65pennington's avatar

Etiquette. its proper etiquette. the definition is in the dictionary.

thriftymaid's avatar

It’s proper table manners. Ever heard of that?

DominicX's avatar

@john65pennington @thriftymaid

I think the question is why is it considered “proper etiquette”? I’m pretty sure he already knows that it’s standard and that’s why he’s asking the question. Or is etiquette just something we should never question ever or try to understand further? This is essentially what bothers me about etiquette in the first place…

zenele's avatar

I do it. I usually put it on my left leg, and then I’m 50% covered if I spill… come to think of it, you should put two napkins, one on each leg.

TravisR's avatar

My dad is in the military so we have lots of rules in our house. When eating any meal, we all wear a napkin in our lap. When eating messy stuff like spaghetti or BBQ the kids have to wear a napkin tucked in our shirt collars. This keeps our clothes stain free and if you spill or splash sauce it lands on the paper and not on your clothes.

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