Short end or long end? Here’s the game of the “head of the table”


– by  Sante Galante – 

Appropriately seating an honorary guest, hosts and the others at a table is one of the key points to create a proper protocol and  not to cause hierarchies any trouble.

When I was little, my relatives used to make fun of me – “they joked me”, in Elio e le Storie Tese’s words – making me think that I  always sat at the much desired head of the table even on important occasions. Isolated on my short end of the table, I used to gorge on delicious dishes and on self-confidence, like a king on a throne. But I was left out of attentions and conversation and sometimes I hardly understood what the main topic was. So I started doubting, until I found myself in the big dilemma: is it really  always the excellence seat?

If you are also tired of being left out, have opened your eyes and gave yourselves a negative answer, before losing your self-esteem, self-control and risking to play not very gallant bumper cars in the dining room, be ready to go and play the great summer game: how to seat guests the best way possible? Are there any rules or is it just a matter of likability? As in every good game, there are some things to pay attention to and rules to follow but, if you have a little patience, you will find that reading can be fun, curious, but most of all useful.


Our travel companions will be the twin muses Quality & Quantity. Quality, agile, dynamic and slim, tells us, as first step, to identify our VIP guest: the person we have to celebrate or that we would like to be at the centre of attention for good gallantry or captatio benevolentiae. Of course be careful not to assign the honorary seat to the oldest lady in your opinion, but who’s nicely tanned and just went out from the fitness room: you may be freezing in summer as well. And you must avoid any gaffes.

The twin Quantity is very important too. Voluptuous and healthy, it suggests us that we must always think about the number of guests. If there are up to 8-10 people, the honorary seat will be the short end of the table (if assigned to a man, the other end is assigned to the hostess and vice versa). Things change if the number of guests is higher. Are we really sure that our Vip guest’s words, company, magniloquence will be precious at the other end too, as far as Cape Horn? So, with a coup de théâtre, the head of the table becomes the centre of the long end of the table and the hosts sit on its left and on the front.


Scene from “La bella gente”

Once we established the two twins’ rules, now we can amuse ourselves seating all the other guests, paying attention to some details: the seats against the wall are the most important (because they allow to observe the centre of the room without being noticed by anyone); switching men and women can give birth to pleasurable meetings and help avoid the classic face-to face conversation about moviola or a new love story; not seating wives and husbands next to each other surely makes their marriage longer. Last tip: they say the seats are the less important the farther they are from the Vip guests. Be careful to seat countess Cianferoni, marquis Strafottenti and the mother-in-law Tirasassi: the good outcome of the event and also your health depend on that!


 Pic taken from

The cover image is a scene from the film “The Leopard” by Luchino Visconti


Translated by Giulia Biagi

Proofread by Antoinette D’Arbela and Riccardo Gileno


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