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
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
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
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.