I’ve learned to accept fuss. There is kindness in receiving, too

Coco Khan


The first time I experienced silver service, I was 18. A boy I was seeing (whom I now realise was posh, when I just thought he was tall) was throwing a birthday party. His parents had organised private caterers for a black-tie dinner. Expecting a rave like the one where I met him, I made quite the entrance, wearing trainers, clutching a bottle of vodka and yelling: “This area must be heaven for burglars!”

For the uninitiated, silver service is a style favoured in pretentious restaurants. It’s where waiters stand unnervingly close and spoon things on to your plate as if you’re a tyrannical child king. It’s meant to be “fancy” but, to me, it’s torture.

“Can I interest you in some carrots?” said the waitress at the party, wearing pristine white gloves.

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“Sure,” I mumbled, wanting to disappear.

“Peas?”

I nodded yes, sitting bolt upright.

“More peas?” Why does she keep asking me about peas, I wondered: is this a trick?

“Don’t worry,” I blurted out on a reflex. “I can do it myself.”

She laughed. “I’m sure. But let me.”

I find it hard to accept fuss. I enjoy spoiling others, but being on the receiving end burns: a hot, clawing embarrassment. Ask what I want, and I’ll say: “Anything, it’s fine.” Compliments will be rebuffed “Nice shirt? Oh, it’s full of holes.” Last week, my boyfriend surprised me with tickets to a play I’d mentioned in passing. I panicked, and couldn’t find the right words.

But I’ve come to learn that there isn’t just kindness in giving, there is kindness in receiving. It’s good to let people know their efforts have been seen, their generosity noted, their love let in. It turns out, I knew the right words all along. “Thank you,” I said. “You’ve made me really happy.”