Growing up in my family as the oldest of seven children, I suspected that there were niceties at the table that we were not being taught. We always ate well, and good manners were required (woe to the ones who talked with their mouth full), but the table settings were utilitarian at best...the bare minimum dish and utensil count to keep after dinner clean-up quick. We never ate out because no one would invite so many children to any but the most informal picnic-style meal and my parents could not afford to feed us in restaurants. When I went away to camp and made the horrendous error of passing a dish of food across the table, I was treated to one of those Mabel-Mabel-strong-and-able-keep-your-elbows-off-the-table kind of rhymes sung by all of my tablemates to remind me never to do that again. Of course I didn't, but until then I had no idea that there was any such rule. Books and pamphlets about proper behavior and etiquette occasionally came my way, usually written in decades past about the arcane uses of pickle forks and when it was acceptable to use placemats (informal ladies' luncheons) instead of a full cloth (10" drop minimum, please, white or ivory only). This showed me a different standard of living and pointed out intricate areas of knowledge of which I was ignorant. I've always felt that ignorance is dangerous, and so tried to absorb what I could about things that were not in my experience. One of the sweeping pronouncements I took to heart was that colored glassware on the table was vulgar. Suspecting in my heart that I was vulgar, I could not abide colored glasses. Even in the sixties when casual entertaining began to supplant the old formality and tableware became much more varied I would turn away from colored glasses with a sniff.
Fortunately even such rigid shibboleths as this can be worn down by time and eaten by the growth of self confidence. Some years ago, when table setting became more and more interesting to me, I began to collect such tinted glassware as looked well on my tables, going so far as to acquire some of the old pieces that I had secretly admired but could not countenance from years before. My pink wine glasses and green Morgantown tumblers were some I remembered from the seventies and I love them both. I have received lovely colored glasses as gifts and they have made my tables much more engaging. Every time I get them out though I hear that hoity toity voice proclaim them to be vulgar and I have to laugh at the smug assurance that would say such a thing and the insecurity that would believe it.
This weekend colored glass ran riot on the table as we gathered to celebrate my son's birthday. It was a happy occasion and no one gave a thought to vulgarity, except in terms of the election.