Claim: A man having dinner with his fiancée’s parents zips the edge of the tablecloth into his pants by mistake.
Example: [Smith, 1986]
Ian was very anxious to impress his girlfriend’s parents so he was particularly pleased when they invited him round for dinner. They all seemed to get on very well and the meal was a really sumptuous spread. Their hospitality knew no bounds and they constantly pressed him with extra helpings. In fact it was probably a mixture of their hospitality and his willingness to please that led to his downfall.
After the second helping of the main course he was feeling so full that he decided he had better secretly loosen his waist band a little. Unfortunately in doing so his zip fly came open. He wasn’t too worried as no one could see it under the table. As the meal finally came to a close he surreptitiously zipped up his fly and prepared to adjourn with his girlfriend’s father for a drink.
It was as he stood up when the ladies left the table that the incident occurred. He had unfortunately zipped the table-cloth into his fly, and, not realising, as he walked away he made a pretty fair job of clearing the table.
- Overeating may have inspired the young man to undo his pants during the meal, but in other tellings he’s unaware he’s come unzipped and only notices this situation part of the way through the dinner. In his haste to correct the matter, he unknowingly catches part of the tablecloth in his zipper.
- In “unknowingly unzipped” versions, sometimes it’s his fiancée who spots the problem and secretly communicates this state of affairs to him.
- Though often told about nervous fellows dining with their girlfriends’ or fiancées’ families, this story translates well into other venues; specifically, the formal dinner. Guests of honor seated at the head table have, according to lore, zipped the tablecloth into their pants, making for one heck of a table-clearing opening to what otherwise promised to be a rather dull speech. Men dining in the company of their wives at the homes of their wives’ super-critical friends have similarly been said to have committed this social faux pas.
Origins: Groom, long-time husband, or honored guest seated on a dais, each victim manages to inadvertently make an ass of himself in a social setting through zipping the edge of a tablecloth into his fly. Whatever the discomfited’s personal circumstances, the setting of the tale makes it utterly clear he’s managed to pull this stunt in front of the wrong crowd. Had he done the same thing on
a Friday night out with the boys, his friends would have laughed and made him buy the next round. As it is, he’s humiliated himself in front of the unforgiving, the one great social fear harbored by even the socially sanguine.
Though the original focus of the tale has to do with the imagined scene of dishes crashing to the floor as the unknowing butt tries to rise from his seat, once that
mental image has played out, another realization hits. The table clearing was but the opening
edge had been tucked is the second face-reddener.
For that cloth to have gotten in there, that fly had to be unzipped. Had the fellow been walking around that way even before the dinner? Had others noticed? Had he
perhaps had to adjust something during the meal, leaving those present too keenly aware that he’d had to have been handling himself even while they were eating?
Because the penis is considered dirty (morally and literally), its handling is supposed to be followed by a handwashing. The social fiction that it’s now okay to eat with those hands is created by one event being distanced from another. But let a fella go directly from winky-tucking to buttering a roll, and it just doesn’t bear thinking about.
Our tablecloth story has been known to complete a related dating disaster tale involving an unsuitable suitor. A socially disadvantaged lad manages to get himself
into a situation at the dinner table that requires a bit of manual adjustment on his part. His efforts to distract his fiancée’s family’s attention from what he’s
doing go awry when he inadvertently points them to the sight of
Barbara “antimacassar disaster” Mikkelson
Sightings: Comedian Shelley Berman recounts a version of the tucked tablecloth legend on his album A Personal Appearance.
Last updated: 21 March 2010
Brunvand, Jan Harold. Too Good to Be True. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999. ISBN 0-393-04734-2 (pp. 138, 142-143). Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Vanishing Hitchhiker. New York: W. W. Norton, 1981. ISBN 0-393-95169-3 (pp. 138-139).
Also told in:
Holt, David and Bill Mooney. Spiders in the Hairdo. Little Rock: August House, 1999. ISBN 0-87483-525-9 (pp. 32-33). Schafer, Kermit. Blunderful World of Bloopers. New York: Bounty Books, 1973 (p. 335). Smith, Paul. The Book of Nastier Legends. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986. ISBN 0-7102-0573-2 p. 26).