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The Etiquette Grrls' Q & A Archive: April 2003

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I really appreciate your site. I have a question. I live in New York and my boyfriend lives on California. I will be flying up on May 17th with him to stay at his mother's house for roughly a week. May 11th is Mother's Day. Should I buy a gift for her? I have never met his parents before, and we've only been going out for about 6 months now. I feel like I should especially if she is letting me stay in her house but I don't want to seem overly friendly, suffocatingly so, especially since this is going to be out first meeting. But then I'm also flying up after Mother's Day. Maybe this isn't even a problem?

Angst-ridden,
Joyce

Dear Joyce,

You do need to bring a Gift... a Hostess Gift, not a Mother's Day Gift. Whenever you are a Guest in Someone's Home, you must show your appreciation for Their Hospitality by giving a small gift (the Hostess Gift) and, upon your return home from your visit, writing a note of thanks (known as a Bread-and-Butter Letter). It doesn't matter what holiday falls near or during your stay—these Little Polite Acts are Separate from any other Gift-Giving Exchange. A Hostess Gift doesn't have to be Expensive, just Thoughtful. A batch of Homemade Chocolate-Chip Cookies, a box of Pretty Scented Soaps, or, if you're taking a Long Journey, something from Your Hometown (e.g., someone from New England could bring a Wee Jug of Real Maple Syrup) are all appropriate.

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

There is no Chocolate in a Real Martini.

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I'm asking for a small favor, more than a question. I love your site (and need to get your book). I've been enjoying myself reading the Q&A archives, and I've learned quite a bit, however at times I've run into acronyms that I don't know their meanings. Often, I will find the meaning elsewhere in another letter or response.

Would it be too much for you fine and elegant ladies to post a list of your most commonly used acronyms, like THOR and LBD, to assist new readers of your site?

Thank you very much for your time, and I hope you have good days and interesting nights.

M.G.C. (my initials, not an acronym)

Dear M.G.C.,

Sure, no problem! Actually, the EGs did include a Full Glossary at the back of Things You Need to Be Told, and many of our abbreviations are covered in detail there. (And we do mean in detail. The Etiquette Grrls' Patois chapter covers about 10 pages! We even used them in Sentences, just like on Vocabulary Tests!) But we can include a few of the Acronyms here to acquaint our New Readers with them.

AWOL: Absent WithOut Leave (the EGs didn't make that one up, naturally, but we do use it often, as things like Our Favorite Fountain Pen tend to Go AWOL far too frequently)

EGs: Us, the Etiquette Grrls

EGs.com: This site

E.V.: The Etiquette Volvo

F.S.F. '17: F. Scott Fitzgerald, who graduated from Princeton in 1917. (EGL is also a Princeton Alum, and, well, Princeton is Rather Fond of using Class Years as Suffixes. This is Useful Knowledge for Everyone, because you never know when you will come upon a Princeton Yearbook at a Flea Market and consider Buying It. If it's from the Class of '17, Dear Reader, it's Valuable! If it's priced at something like $5, snap it up! Then you can send the EGs a Nice Thank-You Note for the Tip, and we'll all deplore the fact that College Students are nowhere near as cool now as Good Old F.S.F '17 was.)

G&T: Gin and Tonic

L.B.D.: Little Black Dress.

S.U.I.H./S.M.I.H.: See Us/Me In Hell

THOR: The Height of Rudeness

T.M.I.: Too Much Information

T.T.F.W.: Too Tacky For Words.

Acronyms can be a Smashing Lot of Fun when they're not used in a Boring Business Context! ("FYI, the RFP from R&D is TBA...")

Also, just to kill Two Birds with One Stone here, the EGs employ Random Capitalization in our writings because it allows us to emphasize Important Words in a Very Retro Manner. No, we're not German Scholars, and yes, we have a perfectly keen understanding of English Grammar and Usage. And yes, the "Random" in Random Capitalization is Rather Ironic, as there is absolutely Nothing Random about the EGs' Capitalization. TRuE raNdOM CApitaLiZaTIoN wouLD LoOK lIkE THis. (We'll leave that to the Hackers.) People who know the EGs well can hear the Capitalization when we speak!

T.T.F.N.,
The Etiquette Grrls

There is no Chocolate in a Real Martini.

Dear Ladies,

I have come to the end of my rope. If I see one more girl in the city wearing NUDE (read: far-too-dark beige) stockings I am going to lose it. You must alert all females to Donna Karan's wonderful line of truly invisible stockings, "The Nudes." While a bit pricey, they are worth every penny. Not shimmery, not too matte, perfectly sheer, they are the ideal stocking for all skin tones. You have brought so many women this far, let's try to banish this horrid female fashion mistake!

Fondly,
Concerned in Chicago

Dear Concerned in Chicago,

You have hit upon one of the EGs' Biggest Fashion Pet Peeves! If something you're wearing is supposed to be Skin-Tone, it should actually be Skin-Tone for you. By this we mean that it should approximate your ACTUAL Skin Tone, not the one you hope to achieve after you've spent a Week on the Beach. This goes for Foundation, of course, but also for Hosiery! Now, it is Deplorable that most manufacturers of Foundations and Stockings seem to think that there are only 4 or 5 skin colors out there, and all of us should just Deal With It and Look Foolish, but a few companies are Branching Out to include a Fuller Spectrum of Shades! Hurrah, we say! Donna Karan's line is one good one, and also, we need to mention Calvin Klein Hosiery (better shade range than your average brand, and we give them good marks in the Not Shiny, Not Deathly Matte, Good Sheerness categories). Another tip: the sheerer you go, the better luck you'll have finding a color that blends in well with Your Skin.

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

There is no Chocolate in a Real Martini.

Hello Grrls!

I love the book and can't get enough of this site! I am hoping you can help me with my pressing problem.

My grandmother makes world-famous apple pies. All of her five children simply adore them. On Easter, two of my father's siblings were taking Granny out to dinner and then she was hosting dessert at her home, for which she had baked two of her delicious apple pies. My father was not attending the dessert. Early on Easter morning he went to pay dear Granny a visit and bring her a lily. My grandmother did not offer him a slice of pie. Upon returning home, my father mentioned this to my mother, sister, and me, just in passing. My mother was simply appalled. She feels as though is was THOR to not offer your son a piece of his favorite pie on Easter morning. My father, sister, and I feel that because he was there before her dessert party, she did not need to cut into her pretty pie and offer my dad a slice. We feel as though it would be much ruder to serve a pie with a slice missing. Besides, who needs pie before noon anyway? EG's can you please offer your expert opinion?

Much thanks,
The Pie Police

Dear Pie Police,

Hee hee! Sorry, the EGs are just getting a Bit Silly thinking of Actual Pie Police. ("Sorry, Ma'am, we need to confiscate that Peach Pie, and we'll have to write you a Citation for using Canned Filling.") We can think of a Lot of Foods that could use a bit of Policing, actually. The Bread Police could come in and clear the Pseudo-Italian Bread from the Supermarket Shelves and replace it with real, high-quality, crusty loaves; the Sweet Potato Police could enforce a Restraining Order against Marshmallows; the Maple Syrup Police could conduct a Sting Operation and take possession of all of the Vile "Pancake" Syrups and require everyone to use Real Maple Syrup... But the EGs digress.

We're with you, your sister, and your father on this one. Of course she needn't cut into a Whole Pie just for your father if she was expecting to serve it to Guests later that day! Now, if she were famous for Cookies, or something else made in Small, Individual Servings, she could have definitely given your father one to try. Or, if she were planning to cut something up before serving it anyway (like brownies), then that would be fine, too. But no Self-Respecting Hostess would serve something that's supposed to be Whole with One Piece Missing.

Yours sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

There is no Chocolate in a Real Martini.

Dearest Grrls,

I am your biggest fan. I have no way to prove this, but I've read The Book and force any friend I can to do the same.

I'm contemplating buying The Book for a Friend...or someone I thought was a Friend. I've been asked to be in a wedding in June. Since I was asked in October, Horror upon Horrors have mounted. I'll try to make this as short as possible. The bride is a girl that I once knew for Four Months. Since I encouraged her to pursue More Than a Friendship with her fiancé, I have been asked to be in the Wedding Party. It will not be a Wedding Party, yet a Wedding Nightmare.

I have been told that I am not to cut my hair (we must all have matching French Twists and my hair at the time I was asked was Chin Length). I am not to dye my hair (I must have Brown, not my normal Auburn, hair so that she has an equal amount of brunettes, blondes, and redheads). I have been instructed what piece of lingerie she would like for her shower (from Frederick's of Hollywood, no less). I was shamed by her when I turned down a trip to Las Vegas where she and the other Single Bachelorettes would go to Male Strip Clubs (I am married - and that's just plain GROSS). I've been told to come the night before her shower so that she can take me bar hopping (one of which is a Country Hoedown sort of establishment), and she doesn't seem to care that I have Grown-Up Responsibilities, I live 6 hours away, and have a Full-time Professional Job. I could go on, but I digress.

Grrls, whose advice I value above all other: my Husband is mortified as much as I am. He's told me to back out of the wedding, as Bridezilla's demands become more and more outrageous (she's changed her dress three times and the bridesmaids three times - after I drove 6 hours for a fitting). She was not like this when I knew her in college or when I accepted the invitation.

Is backing out allowed? I would never have accepted if I knew that this situation would be growing to such Monstrous Proportions. I've already paid for half of the dress (which I will never ever ever wear again based on its hideous color and cut).

Mortified & Furious in California

Dear Mortified & Furious,

Holy Mary, Mother of God! The bride told you what color your HAIR needs to be? So she can have "an equal amount of blondes, brunettes, and redheads"?!?!?! Can anybody say A-#1 Insane Control Freak of All Time? If she wants that much control over what the Bridal Party Looks Like, then she should hire a bunch of Models and spare her friends this agony! Do you all have to be the Exact Same Height, too, like The Rockettes? The EGs are simply appalled!

However, all of that being said, it honestly is Bad Form to back out of an invitation you've accepted. That's true for, say, a Dinner Party, and it's also true for being in a Wedding Party. But that doesn't mean you need to submit to such Ridiculous Demands. Cut your hair however the heck you want, dye it whatever color you want, buy her whatever present you want, and arrive perfectly on time to attend her shower but not the Night Before. If she throws a tantrum and says you HAVE to do what she says, then calmly say, "Well, I guess we just had different expectations going into this. If you'd rather have someone else, I'll certainly understand." We think it's better form to Offer to Resign rather than to Up and Quit.

But, Dear Reader, look on the Bright Side. As we said to another Dear Reader recently, if this is the Worst Wedding of All Time, at least you will have gained a Good Horror Story to relate at Parties, over lunch at the office, etc., for Years to Come! You Poor, Poor Dear.

With sympathy,
The Etiquette Grrls

There is no Chocolate in a Real Martini.

Dear Grrls,

Thank you for your wonderful question and answer column. I'm afraid I have dilemma that I hope you can solve.

Suppose one buys a somewhat pricey wedding gift off the registry and that there is an opportunity for a price rebate if one mails in the proof of purchase printed on the box. Should one carefully razor the POP off the box, wrap the box, and then send away for the rebate, risking both appearing tacky and precluding the couple's opportunity to return the gift? Or should one forgo the rebate, wrap the gift, and eat ramen noodles for dinner the entire next month? I'm assuming that one should not leave the POP on the box and then ask the bride for it in the event that the couple loves the gift and decides to keep it. Unfortunately, it's not practical to wrap the gift without the original box, if only because the couple might want to return it...

Sincerely,
Guest

Dear Guest,

There's a much better option: Don't buy a Wedding Gift that is Quite So Pricey in the First Place.

Seriously, there is absolutely no reason to purchase something off a Registry, especially when it is Beyond Your Means. We think it would be Very Bad to razor a Proof of Purchase off a box for the very reasons you've mentioned: most importantly, it looks Tacky, and secondly, it would prevent the couple from returning the gift. (Obviously, the EGs are not suggesting that Ease of Return for the Recipient should be your primary motivation in selecting a gift: we think One-of-A-Kind Items and Vintage Items make splendid gifts, and most of those can't be returned at all. But if something already is relatively easy to return, like a pair of Asparagus Tongs from the Couple's Silver Pattern, there's no reason to make it More Difficult just so you can get a bit of money back. What if the couple received 10 pairs of Asparagus Tongs, and everyone razored off the POP? What if the Asparagus Tongs you bought were actually broken inside the box and they wished to get a Replacement from the Store?) The best solution is to Buy a Different Gift that you can Afford Sans Rebate.

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

A Very Polite Martini

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have three roommates, two boys and a girl, and we all share one phone line. One of the boys uses the phone a lot more then the rest of us, for multiple hours at a time. We have call-waiting, which he selectively uses. Now I understand that there are some calls where it would be rude to interrupt, but the thing is he is calling his girlfriend for hours, every night, and his mommy and daddy pay his phone card bill (she lives in another state). When he does use call-waiting, he will flip over, tell the person to be quick because he is on the other line, hand it to us, and tell us he is still on the other line. I find that very rude, especially when it is my mom calling me. Do you have any advice?

Rose

Dear Rose,

You and your other roommates need to Sit Down avec Mr. Telephone Hog and tell him this isn't Acceptable Behavior. If you all share one line, you must have Equal Access to it, and some Basic Rules about Call-Waiting must be Followed By All. If he absolutely needs to spend hours and hours and hours chatting away with his girlfriend, there is nothing stopping him from acquiring a Cellular 'Phone or paying for the installation of a Private Line for his personal use. Unless and until he avails himself of one of these options, he has to learn how to Share. It's just part of the Deal when one Lives With Roommates.

Best regards,
The Etiquette Grrls

A Very Polite Martini

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Earlier this week I was having dinner at a restaurant with my boyfriend. Towards the end of the meal I noticed that sitting a few tables over were a couple of very good friends, but friends who I haven't kept in touch with for some time. I got up and went over to say "hi" and do some catching up. We were all very happy to see each other and during the course of catching up they extended an offer to come over on Friday nights because they have a big core group of people they have over every Friday night and they would love for me to come. I mentioned my new boyfriend and they said to definitely bring him too. I said that sounded great and after a little more small talk went back to my table. Upon leaving the restaurant we stopped at their table and I introduced my new boyfriend to them. They were very pleased to meet him and they reiterated their invitation to have us both come over on Friday for drinks.

Here's where it gets fuzzy. While they invited us over for Friday drinks I'm having a hard time remembering if they specifically said "This Friday". Or if they meant we'll have you over some Friday night we'll call you and let you know which Friday. Since I know through mutual friends that they hold this drinks party every Friday night I know that they will be holding one this coming Friday. However, I'm wondering if I should wait for a more official invite—since that's kind of what I picked up from them. But then again, I'm not sure I picked that up from them. It's all so vague.

As to etiquette... I really want to clarify with my friends which Friday they meant. Should I e-mail them? Or call them and just ask? Were they just being nice yet insincere by being vague about the exact Friday? Should I just wait for them to call and invite me? While they are very good friends, as I mentioned, we have been out of touch for awhile and I'm not sure if it'll come across as being pushy to come right out and ask. I really want to go to the Friday drinks party, but how can I politely get a clear invite without it being awkward?

Thanks for your help,
Freaky Friday

Dear Freaky Friday,

Sure, why not drop them an e-mail? It sounds like a Real Invitation, not something Insincere (after all, they are Good Friends, and they certainly didn't need to mention Their Party if they didn't want you to come), so all you really need to know is whether they meant This Friday or Any Friday. You could say something like, "It was great seeing you the other night! I'm looking forward to spending a little more time catching up with you. It would be great to join you some Friday for Drinks; let me know when and where!" Don't feel bad for asking for Un Peu de Clarification. It's not like you already R.S.V.P.ed to someone you'd attend Her Wedding and then happened to forget when Said Wedding Is... that, on the other hand, would be Rather Horribly Embarrassing.

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

A Very Polite Martini

Dear EGs,

I am a grad student in Boston, and have a fashion question for you:

What do you think of the Absolutely Vile quilted-paisley-flowered fabric shoulder bags that so many young women insist on carrying? I do hope you know which ones I am referring to. From what I gather, they are pricey, although I don't understand why. Why on earth would any fashionable young woman insist on carrying one of those—they look like diaper bags! Or something my Great-Aunt Grace would tote her embroidery in. Most unpleasant. My girlfriends and I agree that they are Simply Terrible. Perhaps you could either explain why they are popular, or advise all young women NOT to carry them? It is Most Distressing to see a well-coifed young woman wearing a nicely-cut suit and quality shoes and one of those Monstrosities slung over her shoulder.

Thank You,
Sara

Dear Sara,

Oooh! We do know the bags you mean, and We Don't Get It Either! Perhaps their Great-Aunt Grace gave the bags to them, and they are on their way to Meet Her for Lunch? We think if you're in a Business Suit, you need a Leather Handbag. There might be a Cloth Bag out there somewhere that you could Get Away With, but it certainly isn't one that's Quilted, Flowered, and Paisley-Printed all at the Same Time! At best, this sort of purse should be saved for Very Casual Occasions.

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

A Very Polite Martini

Dearest Etiquette Grrls:

First off, I Adore your Weekly Q&A and Loved the Book. I Simply Cannot Wait to Read the Second Installment of Good Taste.

This Weekend, my Friend and I Drove Out of Town to attend a Bachelorette Party (which was, of course, very Tasteful). Long Story Short, she Drove and on the Way Home she Received a Speeding Ticket. Now, since I was in the Passenger, should I offer to Split the Cost of the Ticket with her? Another Friend said I should, but my Thought is I was not Pressing on her Leg or the Gas Pedal to make her Car go Faster. I did Offer to buy her Dinner this Week, because we are in Similar Financial Distress, and Thought that was a Courteous Gesture. Please Help. I try to do the right thing!

Perplexed in the Midwest

Dear Perplexed in the Midwest,

No way! You're absolutely right—you weren't Making Her Speed, so you don't owe anything toward the cost of the Ticket. When you're a passenger, you should contribute toward Gas, Tolls, and Parking, and you should offer to Share the Driving, but you're not responsible for someone else's Lead Foot.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

A Very Polite Martini

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My husband and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary with a party. How can we hint ahead of time that we do not wish to receive all those silver platters, bowls, etc.?

Thank you so much,
Margaret C.

Dear Margaret C.,

Many congratulations on your Upcoming Anniversary, but the EGs are sorry to tell you that you can't. It's not polite, in any circumstances, to go out and tell Your Guests what to give you or what not to give you. Of course, if someone asks you directly, you can say, "Oh, we really don't need anything—just come and celebrate with us!" But otherwise, you must be Silent As the Grave, and gracefully accept whatever gifts—silver or not—you receive.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

A Very Polite Martini

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I am soon to complete doctoral orals and plan to take three friends along with my husband out to dinner.

Then on May 15th after the commencement, I want to go to a restaurant on the waterfront for lunch.

I am also giving an open house with desserts and champagne on the 17th.

I was wondering who pays for the lunch after the commencement. As you can see, I am already spending a lot of money, but I did want to celebrate with friends and have lunch after the commencement. What is the proper way to handle this??

Thanks,
Soon-to-Be Doc

Dear Soon-to-Be Doc,

How splendid that you're going to finish Your Doctorate Soon! We can imagine why, after such effort, you'd want to celebrate! However, Dear Reader, there is an Etiquette Rule that applies to any sort of Celebration, no matter what it's for: Whoever issues the invitation must Foot the Entire Bill. If your friends took it upon themselves to throw a party for you, or if they invited you to Lunch after the Ceremony, then they would pay. However, if you're the one inviting people, you're the Hostess, so it's your responsibility to cover all costs. It doesn't matter how many other events you're having, or what the individual events are—if you plan them and invite others, you absolutely must pick up the tab for everything.

Most sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

A Very Polite Martini

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I simply adore your site! Thank you for being an oasis of uncommon sense in the desert of common rudeness.

I desperately need your advice on a matter. My fiancé and I have a coworker whose wedding we have already R.S.V.P.ed to (despite the inclusion of the registry information in the invitation and the incorrect addressing of the invitation; we put it down to them just not knowing any better). I found out a couple of weeks ago that they're including a "dollar dance" several songs long. I was aghast, and my fiancé and I agreed that we would simply sit the thing out. Unfortunately, I overheard said coworker speaking to his best man (another coworker—it's a close-knit office) about this "dollar dance" and how to *make* everyone participate, shaming those who try to sit it out.

Help! We can't really leave the wedding early, and we've already R.S.V.P.ed. There is no way I can suggest that forcing people to participate in this atrocity might not be the best idea without causing "office drama" (and probably my own etiquette offense in the bargain.) What can we do shy of both of us hobbling in on crutches?

Thank you for your time, and again, congratulations on a marvelous site (and book!)

Sincerely,
Dance Me to the End of Funds

Dear Dance Me to the End of Funds,

Sometimes, just when the EGs think We've Heard It All, along comes a Question that Absolutely Floors Us. We're not even going to Waste Our Breath detailing What We Think About Dollar Dances (our Dear Readers can probably surmise what we think about them)... but Holy Hell, if there's a way to pile Greediness Upon Greediness, we think your coworkers have found it! Stretching it out for several songs? Forcing Guests to Participate?!? Why not just make your Motives Plain and Charge Admission? Sigh.

What to do? The Crutches aren't sounding like Such a Bad Idea. Well, Dear Reader, it's not as if they're going to Lock Everyone Inside the Reception Hall whilst this Tackiness is taking place. (They might want to try to Lock You In, but it would probably Violate All Sorts of Fire Codes.) This might be a Good Time to need to Make a Telephone Call to Check On the Baby-Sitter, or Step Out for Some Fresh Air, or Have the Darnedest Time finding your way back from the Powder Room. Might Your Absence be Conspicuous? Perhaps, but unless you really want to Fib and make an Early Exit just to Avoid This, you'll have to take your chances that someone might notice you're gone. Or you could just put up with their silly plan to "Shame" you for Sitting It Out. Chances are, this is just ridiculous talk, and it won't be nearly as awful as it sounds. Look at it this way, Dear Reader—even if it is the most dreadful wedding ever, in the History of the World, you'll have an Entertaining Wedding Horror Story to tell for years and years to come.

As ever,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

A co-worker / superior of mine is extremely aware of calories, fat grams, and sodium of anything she puts in her mouth, which I think is good, but she takes it to the extreme. During lunch she is constantly reading the Nutrition Label aloud at the table, not only with her food but with other people's as well. If myself or another co-worker get take-out, she peers over our shoulders and says, "Ooohhh, look at that salad, what is that? Oooh, lots of cheese and ranch dressing!" as if it were a sin to eat it!

Finally, with every bite she takes she justifies to us why it is okay she is eating this: "I only had half of my bagel this morning and so I got the large soup!"

I find this behavior annoying as well as rude. Is there a way to approach her and say please do not judge what I choose to eat for lunch, I do not judge you, and also, we could do without the nutritional commentary during our lunch hour? Please help me have an enjoyable lunch hour without having to approach her in a rude fashion!

Signed,
Lunch Hour Drama

Dear Lunch Hour Drama,

Arrrgh! The EGs know Exactly the Sort of Person You're Talking About, and those people drive us batty! Is she the Sort of Person who could take a Wee Joke? It might be Rather Amusing to print out a few plausible-looking, yet fake Nutritional Information Labels, stick them over the labels of what you're eating ("Calories Per Serving: 10 Billion."), and wait for her to read them aloud. When she does, you could say something like, "Heehee, we thought it was High Time to introduce some Fiction into those labels if you're going to read them aloud while we're all having lunch!" Or, rip the labels off your food so she can't read them at all. Finally, if she makes comments about what she's eating or what you're eating, you can respond in a way that should make it clear you're not interested in discussing this. Some examples:

Miss Nutrition Info: Ooooh, you're eating CHEESE! That's so FATTY!
You: Yes, indeed I am, maybe it is, and I'm enjoying every single bite of it. So, anyone seen any good movies lately?

M.N.I.: How many calories in THAT?
You: Why do you ask?

M.N.I.: How much fat is in that?
You: I don't know. I don't believe in counting fat grams.

M.N.I.: I'm having this pretzel only because I skipped breakfast.
You: Wow, keen. I'm having these French Fries because they're really good.

If nothing seems to work, you'll have to start having lunch somewhere else without inviting her, or say something to her directly. If you choose the latter, be polite and gentle, yet clear: "Charlotte, we find it difficult to enjoy having lunch with you when all you want to talk about is the amount of calories in the food. If you're on a diet and need to watch what you eat, that's fine, but other people aren't. It's hard to say this, but I know you'd want me to tell you that you're inadvertently making other people feel bad."

Yours most sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

First, let me say that I adore your website and book! Three cheers for the Etiquette Grrls!

I have recently been faced with a situation that I do not know how to handle properly. My sister will be getting married next spring, and my parents are covering most of the cost. A few weeks ago, I learned that my father is planning a job change soon after the ceremony that will require my parents to move abroad and take a considerable cut in finances. I am now under the impression that, when it's my turn to marry, they will be unable to help with the wedding costs. Is there any appropriate way to approach this subject with my parents without appearing selfish or greedy? If they are not going to be able to help, I would like to know now so that I might start a special wedding savings account.

Ever Grateful,
Confused Southern Girl

Dear Confused Southern Girl,

We know this isn't the answer you want to hear, Dear Reader, but Nope. There's no way to bring this up without looking Greedy or Selfish. Why not open a Savings Account anyway? Even if you don't end up using it for Your Wedding, it's always good to have Something to Fall Back On.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

As a graduating student, I had been hoping to buy a class ring. However, I found out today that the rings are being supplied through a certain large company, so the available designs are horrible, gaudy, and far too big for my narrow hands (the smallest women's ring still makes me look like I'm wearing a men's ring), and the prices are atrocious. The deposit on these rings is more than the entire price of my high-school ring!

My high-school ring was made by a tiny, locally-owned jeweler in the small town where I grew up. It is simple and elegant, and I've received many compliments about it. I was thinking of going back to that jeweler and having them make me a university class ring in the same design as my high-school ring, but I'm not sure if this is appropriate. The high-school ring was the same for every student, the only variations being ring sizes and stone sizes, so I don't know if that design belongs to the high school or something (although it's very simple, without any crests or anything, so people probably wouldn't notice if it did). Similarly, I don't know if the rings available from the large company are somehow the official ring designs of the university, or if the university name is just applied to some standard template. I guess my question is, can I get a class ring made to my own specifications by an independent jeweler, or is it incorrect not to have an official ring?

Thank you for your guidance,
Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

Those Horrid, Giant, Gaudy Rings from that One Large Ring Company give us The Vapors, too! The EGs have Perfect Advice for You: try to find a Class Ring from Your College from a Bygone Era! You'll be amazed at what you can find on eBay these days. You don't need to buy the ring (unless it's in your size and you're happy with the price and condition), but you can get a good idea of a different, yet absolutely Authentic, Ring Design for your school. Another option: does your college have an Archive of Memorabilia? There might be rings in there that could give you some great ideas. Also, try looking in Nice Jewelry Stores near Campus. EGL found her College Ring that way—one day, when window-shopping, she spotted a display with a College Ring in the window of a Local Jeweler, and it was, oh, about a Trillion Times Nicer than the cookie-cutter ones for sale in the University Store. It was Just Plain, like a Signet Ring, and had the Princeton Seal stamped upon it. Perfect!

Or... (The EGs are really getting into This Question, Dear Reader! Thanks for asking it!), you could probably call up Tiffany and Cartier and ask if in the past, they ever made rings for Your School. (Back in the Day, this wasn't uncommon.) God only knows if they'd let you research Their Archives (especially sans intention to Buy Anything; we imagine their prices for something like this would make the Regular Class Ring Company's seem like Pocket Change), but it might be worth a shot. If none of these options works, then yes, Dear Reader, we think it's fine to go to a Jeweler You Know and commission a ring. We would say that it would probably be nice to get something slightly different from Your High-School Ring, so it wouldn't look like the exact same ring. Perhaps a different stone, or a slightly different shape. Let us know what you end up doing!

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Upon receiving an invitation to a close friend's wedding, I asked my friend, Noah, whether he had sent a reply. He said no, as his girlfriend maintains that a reply is unnecessary if the reception is simply punch and cake. I say it is always proper form to send a personal reply to a wedding invitation. Can you please clear this up for me? I'd like to make sure I do it correctly in the future.

Sincerely,
Ann

Dear Ann,

If an invitation says R.S.V.P., it means R.S.V.P. It doesn't matter if they're serving a 12-Course Meal, Cake and Punch, or Bread and Water. A hostess would certainly want to know if she should have Cake and Punch on hand for 15 people or 150!

As ever,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Hello! Thank you for taking a moment to consider my question. I have looked at several sources and found no answer. My husband and I live in a small town with a thriving amateur artist community. One of our dear friends is an artist who often invites us to art shows in which one or two of her paintings are included. Since this is such a small town, her work appears in most of the affordable art shows. We do not like her paintings at all, but that has never impacted our friendship. The problem is, sometimes we see a beautiful work by some other artist at the same show that we would like to buy. We never buy it, because we are afraid she will recognize it in our home and be offended. We are looking for large, affordable pieces for our front room, so we can't hide our purchase in the bedroom. We see opportunity after opportunity go by, and then we see the talented artists' prices rise. What should we do? Thanks very much for your input.

Artist's Friend

Dear Artist's Friend,

Gosh, we would think that Artists, of All People, would realize that People's Tastes Vary! As long as you didn't say something like, "Look! We got this great new painting by Joe Artiste because it was the only thing at that Art Show you both exhibited in that wasn't Hopelessly Amateur! Why don't you paint more like this?" you should be okay. We wouldn't make a Big Deal out of it when she does see it, but really, we'd be surprised if she were somehow offended. If you really wanted to be safe, you could always buy a small work of hers to put in a different room, but we don't even think that's necessary.

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

What is wrong with business professionals in today's world?!?

I am a young business professional in the pharmaceutical industry, beginning a promising career in Drug Regulatory Affairs. I do my best to dress appropriately, and have a limited but carefully cared-for wardrobe of pants suits and dress suits for my business needs. I recently attended a conference for industry professionals in Philadelphia.

The conference included many educational and professional seminars, with many representatives from pharmaceutical companies and regulatory agencies in attendance. Each day, a very rude man was not only leaning back with his arms draped over the chairs on either side of him, making it impossible for anyone to make use of those seats, but the sleeves of his dress shirt were worn completely through at the elbow! I was appalled. The least he could have done was taken the suit jacket he'd draped over a fourth chair and keep it on to cover such a shirt.

In addition, several women at the conference were not only dressed unprofessionally, but scandalously in miniskirts or leopard prints. Some women wore jeans or flannel shirts. And I can't help but wonder at the women dressed in such neat little dress suits who feel that it is okay to remove their shoes in the middle of the seminar.

Is there some sort of class out there, Business Attire and Professional Behavior 101, perhaps?

Confused in the Business World Today

Dear Confused in the Business World Today,

Well, we don't know about Classes, but there's Chapter 5 of Things You Need to Be Told.

May we just say we TRULY don't understand the thought that it's okay to remove Your Shoes in any work environment, unless you are, say, a Professional Barefoot Water-Skiier? It Baffles the Mind. If your shoes are That Uncomfortable, you shouldn't be wearing them in the first place!

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Much to my dismay, a friend of mine has decided that her June wedding will be "Black Tie optional." I explained to her (several) times why this was not a good idea, but she did not listen and now the invitations have been ordered. Even though she assures me that most of the guests will be in formal apparel, I am very perplexed as to what to wear. Last June, I attended a "Black Tie optional" wedding where the bride called me specifically to say that the vast majority of the guests would be formally attired, so we should be as well. My husband broke out his tux, and I went in a formal gown. We were one of two couples to do so—the other one hundred and fifty went in suits and much less formal "summer" dresses. We laughed it off at the time, as there was nothing to be done—but now I do not know what to do for this wedding, and I really do not want a repeat of that evening. Any advice you may have would be greatly appreciated.

With warm regards,
She Just Didn't Get It

Dear She Just Didn't Get It,

Nothing says, "The Hostess is Indecisive" quite like "Black Tie Optional"! It's either Black Tie, or it's Not, and making it "Optional" just makes things more difficult for the Guests. Make up your mind! We've been told some people say "Optional" because they want to make Guests feel like they don't need to run out and buy a Formal Gown or rent a Tuxedo if they don't own one, but honestly, Dear Misguided Hostesses, all you are doing is making matters worse for everyone. No one wants to be Over- or Underdressed, and by forcing Your Guests to make this decision themselves, you cause them Needless Anxiety and/or Embarrassment, as Exhibited by Our Dear Reader's Question! If you say something is Black Tie, Period, and your guests Thomas and Betsy don't wish to Augment Their Wardrobes for this one occasion, they will simply Send Their Regrets. If, however, Thomas and Betsy accept your "Black Tie Optional" invitation and choose not to wear Black Tie, and everyone else in attendance is Dressed to The Nines, then you can bet that Thomas and Betsy will feel Rather Ill-at-Ease. And it is The Height of Rudeness (THOR) to make one's Guests feel Ill-at-Ease! In our opinion, it is Particularly Thoughtless for the Bride to have assured you that EVERYONE would be in Black Tie when that was obviously Not the Case. Sounds like Wishful Thinking to us.

We can think of two things to do. First, we'd recommend doing a bit of Sleuthing to see what Other Guests will be wearing. Chances are they are as Confused as You, and a group of you could all simply agree to wear, or not wear, Black Tie. That way, you'll have a few other people dressed at the same Level of Formality as you, which should make you all feel less worried about looking Out of Place. Second, what else do you know about the Wedding? Basically, if you were hosting it at the same Time and Location, would you make it Black Tie or not? If it is in the evening, at an Uber-Formal Location, then Black Tie would be perfectly appropriate and you and your husband should go ahead and break out the Gown and Tux. If, however, the Bride is under the mistaken impression that it's okay for Black Tie to be worn to Any Wedding, Anywhere, Anytime, and she's saying "Black Tie Optional" for a Wedding that's taking place at the Crack of Dawn at a Rustic Mountain Lodge, then you should Opt Not to Wear It.

Finally, Dear Reader, if despite the above measures, you find yourself in a situation where you and your husband are the only ones dressed a certain way, then you just need to act Completely Unconcerned about it. It's Not Your Fault in the Slightest, so you shouldn't feel embarrassed—rather, the Bride should be embarrassed to have been so Indecisive.

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

It seems as if every time someone says they are coming over to do something for me (fix the computer, paint, etc.), they are ALWAYS late. Is anyone ever on time anymore and how late is too late? By the way, in case you're wondering, I'm paying these people. But most of the time it's either a co-worker or a relative. Rarely a close friend or a complete stranger. Should I stop hiring people I know?

Kimiki

P.S.: I'm as we speak waiting for my cousin who is supposed to come over to give me an estimate on painting my apartment. He told me he'd be here around 7 P.M. and it's now almost 9 P.M. and I still haven't heard from him.

Dear Kimiki,

If you have any suspicion whatsoever that the Person in Question is Lazy, Irresponsible, or Sloppy, then no matter who they are, you shouldn't hire them. Cousin Billy doesn't show up to Thanksgiving Dinner on time, ever? Then don't expect him to finish Painting Your House anytime soon. (See, Dear Readers? This is why Promptness is Important, ALWAYS!) Sadly, though, there seems to be an across-the-board problem avec Tardy Contractors. Unless you've worked with someone before and can vouch for their promptness, you probably shouldn't be surprised if you're kept waiting. We're not Excusing This—heavens, no! You have every right to say to someone, "Sorry, but we agreed you would be here at 8 A.M. so I could let you into the house before I left for work. When you were not here by 9, I left. I can't work with someone who's not able to keep an appointment." We just think you're likely to encounter lateness equally as often from strangers as from acquaintances or family, so you shouldn't write off all the People You Know just because you know them—just be more selective about which People You Know you actually trust to Be Professional.

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear EGs,

I want to start by saying that I love you site and book! You are examples that modern ladies are polite and courteous, but never doormats.

This leads to me a situation greatly disturbed me and is still bothering me. Please forgive me if this is little lengthy. I was shopping on a very trendy street in Boston. I went into a cute little resale shop. I purchased a designer handbag. It turns out that the price was too good to be true. I looked more closely at the bag and discovered it was an imitation. The tag in the store said the name of the designer, but not that the bag was a copy. I went back immediately. I told the owner of the store that the bag was fake. She said of course, didn't I know a bag at the price it couldn't be real? I said that I didn't have much experience shopping resale. She said the she had not told me the bag was real. I said that it I thought it would have been mentioned on the tag if it wasn't authentic. She said that a tag cannot say that. She then said that she was not responsible for my ignorance. I was shocked. There are many times I wanted to tell customers I was serving that they were ignorant, but never would I even dream of actually doing so. She said that I needed to chalk this up to a learning experience. She said that if made an exception to her no returns policy for me, other people would expect the same. I was stunned. I just stood for a few minutes trying to keep my composure. I told that I wanted her to take the bag back. She said that she didn't know how much the amount I spent for the bag meant to me (I didn't discuss my financial situation with her, of course, but I am a starving grad student. I watch every dollar). She gave me my money back, but told me I was no longer welcome at her business.

Was I out of line? Should I have chalked this up to a "learning experience"?

Thank you,
Handbag Hell

Dear Handbag Hell,

Wow, with Customer Service like that, we're surprised this shop is Still in Business! Now, we aren't the Better Business Bureau Grrls, but we think the correct thing for the Business Owner to do would be to tag the bag as A Fake so this situation could never happened in the first place. Yes, most Vintage Clothing is "buy at your own risk"—the musty smell may not come out of the Lovely Dress when you Launder It, and the Store Owner wouldn't be obligated to give you a refund. And yes, the tag on the Bag Itself is obviously going to say "Gucci" (or whatever) rather than "This is a Fake Gucci Bag." And it is always best for a consumer to Be Cynical. However, we think that if the Owner knows something is fake, the only Ethical Thing to Do is to make that clear, if she's going to carry Fake Items at all. At the very least there should be a sign clearly indicating that the management makes no guarantees as to the authenticity of name-brand items, and that no returns are accepted for any reason. (And this sign should be in a Pretty Damn Obvious Spot, like right in front of the Cash Register, not Hidden Somewhere.)

Furthermore, no matter WHAT the Store Policies are, there is no excuse for anyone to Talk to a Customer like that! That woman is Simply Out of Line. Even if she had posted the biggest sign in the world saying that customers are responsible for determining authenticity and no returns are allowed if something turns out to be a fake, she shouldn't be That Rude about it! You're "Not Welcome at Her Business"? Oooooh. Darn. We bet you're just DYING to go back there and buy something else from a Mean, Unethical, Nasty Woman.

Sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear EGs,

I was wondering if you might be able to assist me with a small, but terribly annoying, professional etiquette problem.

I am a high-school teacher, and although I am 29 years old and married with a one-year-old child, I am consistently dealing with comments like, "Oh, Delilah, it's you! I thought you were a student! Tee hee!" and "My goodness, Ernestine, I know it's dress-down day, but in those jeans, I mistook you for a senior!"

Now, I will admit that I am young-looking for my age, and while many people would probably think I should be pleased and take these comments as compliments, I find them rude and in incredibly poor taste. The tone in which they are delivered often makes me feel as though I'm being treated like a child, instead of respected as the professional that I am. I often want to respond with some kind of snappish comeback, but I know that would be just as rude as the original comment.

What do you recommend I do, EGs? I want to be polite, but at the same time, how can I let people know that their comments are offensive and not complimentary? I would appreciate your guidance; I do so enjoy reading your site and hope you have some good advice for me!

Sincerely,
Not a Schoolgirl, Thank You

Dear Not a Schoolgirl, Thank You

Before we give you some tips, we need to make sure of one thing: are you certain that nothing you wear to School looks like a Teen-Ager would sport it? It might be worth checking with a Close Friend for an Honest Opinion on this. If your hair's in a Bouncy Ponytail and you're wearing a college sweatshirt and very low-rise jeans on Dress-Down Day, then Your Colleagues may be trying to give you a hint that it would Behoove You to dress a bit more Professionally. If Your Close Friend confirms that you do look rather like a student, well, then, Dear Reader, it's time to Go Shopping. The EGs completely sympathize with your feeling that just because you Look Young, you shouldn't be treated as anything less than the Professional You Are at work—but part of being Professional is Dressing the Part. We always say it's better to err on the side of The Conservative when it comes to Workplace Dress—that's true for anyone, from the Lowest Intern on the Totem Pole to the CEO!

Now, Dear Reader, we suspect the above advice doesn't really apply to you—on Dress-Down Day, you're probably wearing something Perfectly Mature but Not Dowdy, like Dark, Straight-Legged Jeans that aren't too tight worn avec a Pretty Twinset and Nicely Polished Shoes. If this is the case, then yes, we think Your Colleagues are being Rather Rude in obsessively commenting about How Young You Look. After all, you wouldn't walk up to them and say something like, "Oh! It's just you, Mrs. Close-to-Retirement! Tee hee, when I saw you in that stretchy polyester pantsuit, I thought it was Grandparents' Day!" We would definitely not recommend snapping back at someone, but there are a few ways you can respond to a comment about Your Youthful Appearance. There's light sarcasm: "Really? Wow, I thought I was going to have to wear my navel-baring N-Sync T-Shirt and Body Glitter to pass as a Senior. Swell!" Or, "Gosh, I didn't realize the Senior Girls started shopping at Ann Taylor instead of Abercrombie and Fitch. It's About Time." You also could choose a colleague or two and level with them in private, saying, "Thanks, I know you're trying to be nice, but it's kind of hard for me to take that as a compliment since I make a concerted effort not to look like a Student. I know I look young, but I really think I look Professional." They'll probably apologize, and if they're Nice People they'll spread the word to others that it's not cool to comment on How Young You Look.

Best regards,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

What is the protocol if you have applied for several jobs and you are waiting to see who gets back to you, but one job calls back first and you are really hoping one of the better prospects calls back later? Is there a polite way to defer for a while, and if the other job doesn't pan out, accept the inferior position? In all my job-hunting training, this question has never been covered.

Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.

Sincerely,
Desperate for a Good Job

Dear Desperate for a Good Job,

Can you do this? Yes. Should you do it? We'll get to that in a minute. Upon getting the First Offer, you could thank that company and say that while you are very happy to receive their offer, you are considering a few other opportunities and you will need a bit of time to weigh your options. Is there a risk they'll say, "Tough Cookies, we have three other candidates who'd jump for a chance at this job, and we need someone right away, so you have until noon tomorrow to let us know if you Want It or Not"? Well, sure. That's their prerogative. But if they really, really want to hire you, stalling might give you a bit of Negotiating Leverage, and maybe you can use that to boost the Inferior Job to the level of the one you really want. You also have the option of politely inquiring of the Employer You Really Want to Work For if you're still in the running. "Hello, Mr. Jones, this is Helen Cartwright. I interviewed for the position of Second Assistant Associate Producer last week. I was wondering if you had any idea when you'd make a decision on my application? I have another offer on the table now, and it would help me a great deal if you could let me know where I stand." Of course, this might also Backfire. But we think most Reasonable Employers would not take you completely out of the running if you simply told them you had another offer. It might even make you look like a Hot Prospect! One caveat: if you know Company A needs to fill a position immediately, while Company B, your first choice, tells you they are not planning to make a decision for another month, you should not try to stall Company A for that long. Then it would be quite obvious to Company A that you don't currently have other offers, you're just waiting for one, and Company A will immediately perceive they're not your first choice. If you can't get an answer from Company B within, say, a couple of days of your inquiry, than you'll just have to make a decision to accept or refuse Company A's offer and move on.

In general, how you approach this situation should depend on how much you want, or don't want, each individual job. If you know you'll be Unhappy at Job A, it's not nice to string anyone along. Just say you've given it serious thought and feel it's not the Right Fit. Trust the EGs, nobody wants to hire someone who is "settling" on Their Company. If you know you'll hate Company A so much that you'd quit three weeks into the job if Company B made you an offer, well, then, you shouldn't join Company A to begin with.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I recently went on a trip to Provence. Despite being an impoverished student, I brought back gifts for my loving family and dear friends. For mes amies from school, I chose colourful scarves and small sachets of lavender. Most of my friends were quite pleased to have received something, but one complained, to my face, that her present was "cheap and uninteresting." When I explained that I had been on a budget, she became huffy. Am I obligated to put up with her brattish behaviour, or should I give her the cold shoulder until she apologises?

Offended

Dear Offended,

WHAT?!? You were nice enough to give her a gift, yet she told you she thought it was "cheap and uninteresting"? Oh, Dear Reader, have you thought about whacking her in the head avec a copy of TYNTBT? We think you definitely should not put up with Such Rudeness. Spend time with Your Other, Nice Friends, and completely ignore this Ungrateful, Horrid Little Snob. Someone with that kind of attitude is not worthy of being part of Your Social Circle.

Yours sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I am 17 and am a junior in High School. My prom is coming up in May, and my Mom is making my dress; however, she said she won't start making it until I get a date. I go to an all-girls school and we have to invite boys, so I was just wondering how far in advance is okay to invite someone to something like a prom? Thanks!

Ashley

Dear Ashley,

It's April Now, so we think it would be perfectly fine to ask a Boy to be Your Date. If you were just asking him to go to the movies, we'd say definitely wait until May, but since Proms involve Formal Clothing, Buying of Tickets, etc., it's polite to ask now. We also think it's Smashing that Your Mom is making Your Dress! We're sure it will be so much prettier (not to mention better-made and better-fitting) than anything you could ever find in a Department Store. Good for you!

It sounds like you are approaching Your Prom with Your Head On Straight, Dear Reader. A lot of people in Our School acted as if The Prom were the Be-All and End-All of Their Existence, and boy, were they wrong. It actually was a bad combination of Dull and Ridiculous, though in retrospect, it was Rather Amusing, and if everyone had just relaxed un peu then everyone would have had a Much Better Time. Then again, The Prom would have been Immeasurably Improved if the EGs' valiant attempt to get the Prom Committee to change the theme from "Wonderful Tonight" (Bleccccchhh!! Does no one realize this song is from the perspective of someone who's Too Drunk to Drive, and therefore completely inappropriate for a Prom?) to "It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)" had succeeded. Why, God, Why, does no one seem to realize the beauty of Ironic Prom Themes? But we digress. Excuse our pontificating, but we felt that was important to tell our Dear High-School-Aged Readers to refuse to let any aspect of The Prom be Angst-Producing!

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls

 

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