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Frequently-Asked Questions

Some questions seem to be on Everyone's Mind. Rather than bore our Faithful Readers by answering them over and over, we've collected them here-- think of it as the Etiquette Grrls' Top Ten List.

1 a) "Can I wear White Shoes / Linen / Sandals / Straw Handbags / Seersucker / Other Warm-Weather Clothing before Memorial Day or after Labor Day?"

Nope. Unless you want to look like a Fashion Victim, that is. We'll make an exception for Brides and Nurses on the White Shoes, and for Monks on the Sandals, but in all other cases, the answer is a firm no.

1 b) "But what if it's 90 degrees out?"

Obviously, the EGs don't think you should Suffer Heat Stroke wearing a Black Cashmere Overcoat in Winter just because you live in a Warm Climate, but we think you can be cool and seasonally-appropriate at the same time. If it's October and terribly hot, how about a little sleeveless shift dress in lightweight cotton, in a autumn-y color like brown?

1 c) "What if I live in a country that doesn't celebrate Memorial Day or Labor Day?"

Well, chances are there's some sort of similar set of rules for Your Country. If not, we'd just pick a day in spring and a day in fall, whenever spring and fall occur for you (if there are any holidays around that time, it makes it easier to remember) and use them as we do Memorial Day (end of spring, beginning of summer) and Labor Day (end of summer, beginning of fall).

2) "Can I wear stockings with sandals?"

Why would you want to? Stockings with sandals look bizarre-- the toes are all weird! And if we're talking about Colored Stockings, it's even Worse! Some Would-Be Entrepreneurs have tried to Get Around the Problem by coming up with toe-less nylons, but come on; these are Simply Insane. So, if you want to wear sandals, no stockings, please. If the stockings means more than the sandals, try Slingbacks, which are perfectly appropriate with stockings.

3) "How do I invite people to a party at a restaurant but make it clear they need to pay for their own meals?"

How about, "Bring your wallet, 'cause I'm stingy!" You really can't do this without being Rude. Look at it this way: when you host a party at Your Home, you don't expect Your Guests to Fork Over Cash to cover the cost of the food and drinks they've had, do you? (We certainly hope not.) Well, if you're throwing a party for someone in a Restaurant, you need to Foot the Bill there, too. The ENTIRE Bill. If that's too costly, something we can certainly understand, consider throwing a different type of party where you can actually treat everyone-- maybe there's a less expensive restaurant, maybe you can have a lunch instead of a dinner, maybe you can tighten up the Guest List, maybe you can have it Chez Toi.

4) "Can I host a baby shower for someone's second (or third, or fourth, or fifteenth) child?"

Not if you want to Behave Correctly. The purpose of a Baby Shower is to "shower" a New Mother with advice, friendship, support, and gifts to help her prepare for her New Role in Life. If you have more than one child, you already have Experience and Necessary Supplies-- having a shower for you just Looks Greedy, as if you just want to accumulate more, or more expensive, stuff. The EGs would like to remind everyone that Tiny Babies will be Perfectly Happy wearing, and playing with, Hand-Me-Downs from an Older Sibling. They do not need a Whole New Wardrobe from BabyGap and all the latest toys on the market. They're BABIES, for Crying Out Loud (hardy har har). This is not to say that a second, third, fourth, or fifteenth baby is not to be Welcomed and Celebrated-- to the contrary! We're just suggesting that the Gift Obligation of a Baby Shower for a subsequent child seems to equate Material Things with being Welcomed and Celebrated. Anyone who wishes to give a gift to a second, third, fourth, or fifteenth baby absolutely may do so. Many people probably will. It's just Not Right to Have a Shower.

5) "Can boys wear hats indoors?"

Good Heavens, where have you been for the past several decades? No! We don't care how attached you are to Your Favorite Baseball Cap, it needs to come off your head when you step indoors. (And for that matter, if Said Baseball Cap is Dirty, Ratty, or Otherwise Non-Pristine, we don't think you should be wearing it outdoors, either.)

6) "Can I ask for cold hard cash instead of gifts for any occasion?"

No, no, no, a thousand times, NO. You shouldn't ask for anything specific as a gift for any occasion, lest you Look Greedy. This means no including your Bank Account Number in Your Wedding Invitations (which we actually have heard of happening), no "registering" for a Honeymoon or AmEx Gift Cheques, no saying that there will be a "Wishing Well" or "Money Tree" at any event whatsoever.

7) "What should I do if I need to get a gift for someone, but I just can't afford to spend very much?"

Don't panic! There are lots and lots of Wonderful Gift Options in every single price range, and the EGs have always believed that it's not the amount you spend, but the thought you put into selecting a gift. So what if Your Best Friend has invited you to the Most Lavish Wedding Reception Ever at the Four Seasons, with the New York Philharmonic as the Dance Orchestra and the entire Troupe of Cirque du Soleil as Entertainment Between Courses? If you're in Grad School, and can only spend a few dollars, that is Absolutely Fine. Your friend is inviting you because you are friends, not because she's expecting you to give a present roughly equivalent to the cost, per person, of the Event. (If she is inviting you for That Reason, then, Dear Reader, she is Horribly Rude and Misguided and you should seek out a New Best Friend.) Go ahead and make something-- maybe you're quite good at Needlepoint and could make something Lovely for the Newlyweds' House! Or maybe you can select a few very, very inexpensive used books about a subject you know Your Friend and Her Soon-to-Be-Husband Love! Give what you can; your thoughtfully-selected present will undoubtedly mean more to Your Friend than the most Pricey, Yet Generic Gee-Gaw anyone could Bestow Upon Her.

8) "Can I bring a Date / My Children to a Wedding or, really, any other event to which they have not been specifically invited?"

The point of an invitation is to specify Who, In Fact, Is Invited. If the invitation you received has Your Name upon the Envelope, but not "And Guest" or "And Family," then guess what? They are Not Invited. Which means you have the simple choice of attending without them, or Sending Your Regrets. You are not allowed to R.S.V.P. saying they will be coming with you, or, worse, to Simply Bring Them Along as a Surprise. This is Incredibly Presumptuous and Rude. Nor are you allowed to call up the host of the event and whine about how you really, really, really NEED to Bring Your Boyfriend Everywhere You Go, or about how you think Small Children Belong at Weddings and it's just Not Right to make Your Little Angel Stay Home with a Sitter. It doesn't matter what you think (though, for the record, the EGs think both of these opinions are Quite Silly)-- it's the Hostess' Decision, and you must not complain about it or decide it doesn't apply to you. It will not kill you to go to a Social Event sans Your Boy- or Girlfriend, or to Leave the Kids Avec a Babysitter. If you think that it just might kill you, nothing's stopping you from Staying Home!

9) "Can I e-mail a condolence note, wedding invitation, or a bread-and-butter letter?"

E-mail is great, but for many things, including those listed above, one must Take Pen to Paper. Period.

10) "Will the EGs tell me the history and origins, complete with proper citations, of any aspect of etiquette? My term paper is due tomorrow."

We are the Etiquette Grrls, not the Reference Desk. A trip to The Library will undoubtedly answer Your Queries. Furthermore, if you've been assigned a Research Paper, the whole point is for you to do the research yourself. Sorry, but we won't finish your Calculus Problem Set, list the expressions that take the Subjunctive in French, or Dissect Your Frog, either.


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