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The Etiquette Grrls' Q & A Archive: August 2001

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

To start with, I'd like to say I adore the site. I find it incredibly amusing and very helpful.

Now, I wouldn't bother you unless there were no way around it, however, I haven't been able to rate the tackiness of this problem. See, my fiancé and I have are thinking of making a website for our wedding. However, I agree most wedding sites are terribly tacky and make a mockery of what should be a wonderful and meaningful experience. I feel a website is needed in this case, though, as my family and I live in the Midwest, and my fiancé and his family are living in Britain. We are planning on marrying in Britain, and I would like as many of my friends and family to attend as possible. Also, the bridal party is spread out considerably across both the U.S. and Britain. We see the website as the easiest way to make information available about reasonably priced accommodations, flights, and just information on us and the wedding in general. What do you think, and is it possible, that given in such a situation, and tastefully done, such a site could be acceptable?


Dear Tragic,

The EGs send you Our Most Sincere Thanks for your compliments about Our Site! We're very glad to be Of Service. A little while ago, the EGs expressed our Extreme Displeasure at the Mere Existence of Tacky Wedding Websites. Now, while the EGs are still, certainly, Not In Favor of Horrid, Tacky Wedding Websites (of which there are Legion), we understand your reasons, and we do believe that if your Intentions Are Right, one may make a wedding site without being Horribly Offensive to the Very Idea of Marriage. It will simply take Some Effort. We would offer the following advice:

At all costs, refrain from the Cutesy. People who come to your website will get an impression from it about the Tone of Your Wedding. Weddings are Solemn Occasions, and while the EGs would not tell you to have your site look like the website of, say, A Funeral Home, we don't think you should have little Cupids and animated .gifs of Wedding Bells plastered all over it.

Things which should be banned from all Websites, everywhere, but particularly Wedding Websites: midi files (Will your guests' experience on your site be enhanced by a tinny rendition of "The Wedding March"? We Highly Doubt It.); Microsoft Clip Art (this is intended for fourth-graders to use in their Book Reports, not for Adults for any reasonable purpose); those Very Annoying JavaScript Tricks that make pages Fade Into Other Pages (what is the Point of This, if not to Irritate People); and Silly Fonts (the EGs like Arial and Times; we think Verdana is Pushing It. Why, God, Why, is Garamond not a Standard Web Font???).

Don't even think about mentioning any Gift Registry, if you have one. This is Très Tacky, in the EGs' Opinion. Sadly, we feel that most wedding websites are really just a Big Excuse to Trumpet Where One is Registered, and this is totally unacceptable. Period.

Decide what information your guests Really Need and what you will be Forcing Upon Them. Yes, your guests might want to see a few nice photos of You and Your Beloved, particularly if they are family members from Far Away who have not had the Pleasure of Meeting Him. No, you do not need to scan every picture ever taken of the two of you and post them on one page with the most Insanely Long Download Time Known to Man. A list of area hotels, attractions (if guests will be Arriving Early or Staying Late and will have Time to Kill), maps, and schedules are Helpful. A rambling essay on the Economy of Your Beloved's Hometown during the War of the Roses is Not Necessary.

Don't Give Away every little detail about Your Wedding on the Site. It would be Rather Anticlimactic for your guests to arrive at Your Wedding already knowing what your gown will look like, what the ceremony music will be, the names and life stories of all your attendants, which flowers you will be carrying in Your Bouquet and What They Symbolize, etc., etc., ad infinitum.

In Short, Dear Reader, we think you could probably do a Nice Job--and if it Makes It Easier for your guests to be able to witness the celebration of Your Marriage, it is very Considerate of You. Just stick to the basics and Be Sensible.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Let me begin with adulation for your site. How wonderful it is! I actually enjoy Monday mornings since I discovered it (something I never dreamed could occur!).

But after more than a month of reading your sage advice, I have come across a somewhat sticky situation. Two days ago, my car was rear-ended by a teenage driver. It was dark and, as a young driver, she did not judge the braking distance correctly and tapped my car. It caused no damage to my car and only the teensiest scratch to hers, so after getting her name and phone number, I left.

My car is fine; I have had a chance to inspect it in daylight and see no problems. Now, should I call this young lady to tell her that there is no damage and that I am disposing of her name and number, or should I do so without notifying her? I do not want to cause her needless worry or sleepless nights, wondering if any second she might get a call from me.

I am unable to write her a quick note, as she of course lives with her parents and I did not get her father's name to look up the address in the telephone book.

Please advise! Thank you ever so much!

Dear Unscathed,

Yes, Dear Reader, do give her a Ring. It will only take A Moment, and, as you said, would probably Free Her from Worrying. The EGs are Quite Happy that you and your car were Not Damaged, Dear Reader! Our own Encounters with Inexperienced Young Drivers have not been Quite So Fortunate. (Some Gentle Advice to all our Dear Readers: Do not come to a Full Stop while traveling on a Major, Busy Highway to let someone else Merge in Front of You. The On-Ramp Traffic has a Yield Sign for a Reason! It is a Particularly Bad Idea to do this when there is Traffic Behind You that will get Caught in A Big Pile-Up, especially when that Traffic includes the Etiquette Volvo! Not that the EGs are Bitter, Still, or Anything.) And thank you, Dear Reader, for your Kind Words about Our Site! We are Tickled Pink that we can make a Truly Frightful Time like Monday Morning into a Pleasant One for you!

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Please allow me to thank you for your much needed site. I have recommended it to many friends and acquaintances and the feedback I have received thus far, has been most positive indeed.

Now for my little question...

I am visiting London very soon, and I will be staying with a young couple for one week. Could you please suggest a suitable gift for the lady of the household? I have already purchased a lovely wine for the gentleman.

I look forward to your response.

Yours faithfully,
London Sojourner

Dear London Sojourner,

We are so happy you enjoy our site and have Spread the Word About It! That is a High Compliment Indeed--we appreciate it very much!

Now, on to your question. We don't really think you need to bring a separate gift for each Member of the Household--a very nice wine would be enjoyed by both the Lady and Gentleman (unless, of course, the Lady does not Drink). If you would like to give her something different, though, you can't go wrong with a box of Really Decadent Chocolates or a Nice Assortment of Fragrant Soaps (the EGs think that Fresh soaps are simply The Bee's Knees; would that the Entire World smelled like their Lemon Sugarbath Soap!).

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

While I simply Cannot get enough of Cake's new album....Is it not a Wee Bit Tacky for a young lady to wear a short skirt with a Long Jacket? Just wondering.

Defiant in the South

Dear Defiant in the South,

Yes, it is indeed Very Tacky. However, neither should a Young Lady trade in an Adorable Wee MG for a Chrysler LeBaron (ESPECIALLY a White One--quelle horreur)! We all know, however, not to take Our Beloved Cake literally--do we really believe that sheep go to heaven, while goats go to hell?

The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

At the risk of becoming known to you as a fountain of trivia (as opposed to, say, a learned young lad)... the noise-canceling headphones work wonders. Recent trips around the world in American Airlines' Business Class convinced me to order a pair for my own personal subway/NYC sidewalk/office use. AA offers said headphones to travelers in said class (and, I wouldn't doubt, something much better in First Class, but I have yet to be treated to such a luxury on an intercontinental flight... stingy corporations and all) for the duration of the flight and, though battery powered (2 x AA), they are brilliant inventions. Bose offers them for sale for an exorbitant price at first glance, but, in retrospect, most products from the Bose Laboratories are well worth the initial outlay. The end result is that I can now enjoy the musical nuances of artists like godspeed you black emperor! and Nick Cave on the 7 train without the interruption of another's cell phone conversation.

As always, with respect,

Dear Jason,

Thank you very much for once again contributing Your Great Insight! We are Most Appreciative. Indeed, considering the Amount of Air Travel the EGs will undertake for our Upcoming Book Tour, the EGs think we will have to go out and buy some of these Headphones Right Now! (Unless, of course, Someone would like to Treat the EGs to Business Class… or even First Class… which would be Quite Nice of Someone. But the EGs will not be Holding Our Breath.)

As ever,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dearest Etiquette Grrls,

I am writing to you with a question that I fear is a combination of chivalry and both workplace and dating etiquette. Considering all of the factors involved, I must say that I could think of no other method than to turn to you ladies!

Let me start from the beginning: After a wonderful freshman year at college, I returned to my hometown only to find myself immersed in an internship with a large corporation, leaving me little time to see my lovely old friends, nonetheless meet any of the eligible men with whom my girlfriends entertained themselves. You can imagine my delight when I discovered a few young male interns on campus, with whom I became friendly through coffee breaks and other such downtime. It only seemed natural when I began hanging out with a couple of them outside of work. There was one intern in particular, however, with whom I spent the most time. He would always hold the door for me and walk me to my car at the end of the day, but what almost irked me was that he always insisted on paying no matter what. Although I had initially entertained the notion that I might find a summer romance with him, once I got to know him, I realized we were better off as friends. As I did not intend to lead the boy on, I always objected when he paid for the both of us, and offered to treat him every other time, or at least pay for myself. This did not present itself as too much of an issue, however, because as summer progressed, we hung out less and less for various reasons, one being that I had begun to date a guy from my hometown.

To be honest, the events from June had not really crossed my mind until the other day. A colleague who works closely with the said intern was making small talk with me about how my last day is this Friday, when he made a comment about how I was going to be given a bill on my departure because I "owe" the other intern. Now, once before, a number of the officemates, including the intern, were standing around joking and they began to insinuate that I owed the boy some favors, and I don't think they were referring to favors like running groceries and doing laundry. At the time, I had just rolled my eyes and refused to acknowledge such lewd talk, but as a result of the most recent conversation, it was revealed that there was an actual tab that had been tallied about how much this boy had spent on me throughout the summer. A grand total of $36. Let me stress: Thirty-six dollars!!! Now, last I checked, a GENTLEman offers to pay for a lady out of chivalry, to be polite, because his mother told him to, or just because it's a plain, old-fashioned, American thing to do! I believe this practice was intended for the sake of etiquette, for society to benefit, NOT for the sake of a booty call, for Mr. Moneybags to benefit! Please, EGs, correct me if I am wrong. Is it implied in our society that the way into a woman's heart (or bedroom) is by buying her things and treating her to dinner? When, exactly, Should a lady let a man pay for her, and when Should She Not? What is the deciding factor--and what exactly do you "owe" a man if he spends money on you? Also, is interoffice dating a faux pas in the first place? Even for interns? And what should I have done when such comments were being made? Should I reimburse this guy his $36 when I depart on Friday, as it was clearly misspent? Is it ever proper to ask anyone to reimburse you for such things just because a relationship has not turned out how you would like it? Please, EGs, I would desperately appreciate it if you could clarify these questions for me: I do hope that I shouldn't be forced to decide the future and outcome of a potential relationship with a guy before we even get the check!

Thank you so much for you help and, especially, for this column!

Confused in Connecticut

Dear Confused in Connecticut,

WHAT A SHAMELESS CAD! Let us pause to Take Inventory of the Shameless Cads we have had the Misfortune to Encounter and see if the description of This Young Whippersnapper fits Anyone We Know. Hmmm--no, but we advise all our Dear Readers in the Connecticut area to Beware! Yet we digress. You have asked a number of Interesting Questions, Dear Reader, so let us take them In Order.

1. Is it implied in our society that the way into a woman's heart (or bedroom) is by buying her things and treating her to dinner?

If anyone chooses to interpret Chivalry in this manner, the EGs would like to Have a Word With Him. One is kind, and gentle, and nice because one ought to be; one does nice things for other people because one ought to do them. A Boy holds a door for a Girl, just as the Girl would hold a door for an Elderly Person. All you are entitled to, O Door Holder, is a verbal "Thank You." And the same thing is true on a Date. The person who Invites (usually the Boy) pays, and, at the end of the evening, is always thanked by the person who is being Taken Out (usually the Girl). It is very, very Bad Manners to Buy Wee Gifts or Pick Up the Tab for someone in the hopes of Getting Leverage over her.

2. When, exactly, Should a lady let a man pay for her, and when Should She Not?

If a Boy has asked a Girl out on a Date, then he should pay, because he has asked her. Occasionally the EGs go out with Male Friends who Would Not Dream of letting the EGs Pay for Their Own G&Ts, and we think that is Fine as Well, as these are Very Chivalric Boys who clearly are Not Doing This to try to Pull Anything Over on the EGs. We would not allow anyone we Did Not Know to Pick Up Our Tab, and we would not allow someone to pay for us if we were in a Big Group and Everyone Else in the Group was paying for their own Food and Drink. Then, we fear, it would be A Bit Rude of some Young Man to offer to treat one of the EGs and not All the Other Girls. We'd be Especially Suspicious of the Motives of someone who Made a Big Show of this.

3. What is the deciding factor-- and what exactly do you "owe" a man if he spends money on you?

The deciding factor on Whether Or Not you let the Boy Pay depends on the Boy, your Relationship With Him (or Lack Thereof), and Who Else Is There. (See Above.) If you are on A Real Date, this will be Easier. If you are not, you must use Your Good Judgement, Dear Reader. However, under NO CIRCUMSTANCES do you "owe" a man anything if he spends money on you. Say, "Thank you." That's all. The EGs are Putting Our Foot Down on this!

4. Also, is interoffice dating a faux pas in the first place?

Let It Not Be Said that the EGs disapprove of Interoffice Dating! As a Matter of Fact, EGL's fiancé is one of her Former Co-Workers. What matters more than the Fact That You Are Dating is How You Conduct Yourselves Whilst Dating. At work, you should behave exactly as you did before you started dating--no one who does not know you very well should have any clue that you are Romantically Involved.

5. Even for interns?

Sure, unless your Company has a Policy Against It. It's also probably Not Good Form to date someone who Reports to You or whom you Report To. (The EGs would now like to Point Out to Our Snickering Friends that we are not being Hypocritical Here!!! Promotions Had Been Made, and Departments Reshuffled! Pipe Down! But there we go again--the EGs really need to put our Digressing Tendencies in Better Check.)

6. And what should I have done when such comments were being made?

Displayed Shock and Horror, and told anyone suggesting such impolite things to See You In Hell.

7. Should I reimburse this guy his $36 when I depart on Friday, as it was clearly misspent?

Well, the EGs are Rather Torn on this one. On one hand, we'd like to suggest you Take the Higher Road and simply forget all about This Idiot… but on the other hand, were we in Your Position, we'd be Sorely Tempted to write a $36 check to "William 'Cheap Bastard' Smith" (substituting this Boy's name, of course) and tape it to His Monitor, with the memo line filled out: "See Me In Hell!"

8. Is it ever proper to ask anyone to reimburse you for such things just because a relationship has not turned out how you would like it?

Of course not--it is Incredibly Rude!!!

Yours Truly,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Is it nontrendy to wear bib overalls, tennis shoes, and a tee shirt to a church?

Very Curious

Dear Very Curious,

We certainly hope so, as wearing such a Clothing Ensemble in Church would be Extremely Inappropriate!

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

What does the cover of your book look like?

A Reader

Dear Reader,

Like this!

Isn't it swell?

The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I recently had a European friend staying over as a house guest. She smokes; I don't. I loathe the smell of cigarette smoke. I'm also allergic to it, but I think that's beside the point.

My friend has never tried to smoke in my house; she has been in America often enough to know that going outside a non-smoker's house with your smoking is the thing to do. I recently learned, however, that she feels that she is showing above-average politeness when she does so.

One day, she became very offended when I closed the window before she went outside (near that very window) to smoke. I was befuddled, and a long conversation about smoking etiquette followed.

She said that it was rude of me to close the window! I replied that going outside to light up but doing it right in front of the window which lets the smoke right into the house is meaningless. If one is going to go outside, shouldn't one do it for the right reasons and not as a hollow gesture?

So then it came out that she has always thought that the American expectation that a smoker not smoke in a non-smoker's house is rude and that (according to her) all Europeans would agree. She seems to think that one should suffer any amount of annoyance from a guest in an effort to be a good host, and that no matter how nice one tries to be about it, any word or act which conveys displeasure with a guest's behavior (such as my shutting the window) is rude in the extreme.

I think she's taking this way too far. What do you think?


Dear L---,

Well, the EGs are all in favor of Open Discussions of Etiquette. Naturally! But we can't help thinking that Your Guest is being a Little Bit Snippy. Yes, of course, as a Good Host, one tries to take a Guest's Behavior in stride, no matter what happens. However, the Guest is also supposed to Behave Perfectly, and that means Not Getting Huffy and telling her Hostess that she is Rude! Cultural Differences aside, if someone is Nice Enough to have you as a House Guest, you should not run around pointing out what you think are Their Character Flaws.

As an aside, the EGs think Both Sides of the Big Smokers'/Non-Smokers' Rights Debate tend to behave Extremely Childishly. If you Smoke, you should be able to do it Politely; and you should Quit Whining about how it is your Inalienable Right To Smoke Everywhere, including Other People's Homes, Houses of Worship, Planes, Hospitals, etc. If you Do Not Smoke, you should be able to deal with the Fact That Other People Smoke; and you should Quit Whining about it when you see Other People Smoking in Places Where It is Perfectly Legal and Acceptable to Smoke. The EGs are just Sick of This! If you are Old Enough to Smoke, or to be Socializing Amongst People Who Smoke, you need to Act Your Age!

But the EGs digress. We think Your Guest is Over-Reacting. As long as you didn't treat her to a Lecture (or, worse, a PowerPoint Presentation) about The Evils of Smoking, or slam the window shut while saying, "Keep your Stinking, Cancer-Causing, Vile Smoke Far Away from Me, you Insensitive European!" (which is, of course, in Very Poor Taste), then we do not think your Closing a Window was Intrinsically Rude. (And, Dare We Say, we wouldn't invite this person back Anytime Soon.)

Most sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I must admit, I was absolutely Enchanted by your site, so much so that immediately I began Capitalizing random Words in my sentences, regardless of Parts of Speech (though well do I know that True German Scholars will only capitalize Nouns.)

So did I find myself, drafting a preliminary Proposal of Marriage to one or both of you--unseemly as it may be to do so while never having met, yet so smitten was I by your Wit and Eloquence that I found no other Recourse--when I happened across your archives for March 12, 2000.

Quelle surprise! Quel horreur! (Excuse, if you will please, my French.) The Etiquette Grrls, self-professed lovers of Linux and its associated Geekery, use -- Microsoft Word? Then, compounding the insult, the View Source command, entered with a trembling and querulous hand, reveals the page generator: Adobe PageMill!?

I felt faint! I was shocked! So disheartened had I never been since opening the Liquor Cabinet to discover it Empty of Scotch! Please, O Duchesses of Decorum, O Sirines of Civility, say it ain't so! Assure me that those were your young and willful days, now long past! For betrayed and dismayed though I felt, still I find that hope springs eternal; still I look to find a reason to believe.

(And there you see the lengths to which you've driven me! Now I find myself quoting Rod Stewart! What's next, Mai Tais? Backwards baseball caps? Kegstands?)

Professor Plumb

Dear Professor Plumb,

Tsk, tsk. It's not Very Nice to go Peeking at Other People's Source Code! Dear Reader, there is a Very Big Difference between having a Good, Honest Appreciation for something and Actually Doing It! While the EGs understand How Gin is Made, why would we bother to Make Our Own in the Bathtub when there is perfectly good Gin available for purchase at our Local Package Store? And the EGs know how to Drive, but why would we want to Drive in, say, New York City, where there are Plentiful Taxis? Could the EGs code this site By Hand, in Notepad? Bien sûr! Do we have time to do that, when there are Book Tours and a Wedding to be Planned, not to mention The Daily Grind of Office Jobs and Graduate Study? Sadly, no, Dear Professor. Surely you will forgive the EGs our use of a WYSIWYG HTML editor like PageMill. We like Dreamweaver, too (and are, in fact, composing This Page in it Right Now), and we like HomeSite. And, dammit, we're going to use them! Dear Reader, if we had World Enough and Time, we could use Raw Code. Heck, if we had a lot of Spare Cash on hand, we could Hire A Tech Team and manage the Whole Damn Site in something unnecessarily complicated and expensive, like Vignette. But that, regrettably, is Not The Case.

In short, Dear Reader, do not worry about the EGs' Technical Abilities. How many Girls Like the EGs even know what Linux is? How many Girls Like the EGs can edit an M4 file, or understand what it means when someone speaks of "Bouncing the Boxes"? How many Girls Like the EGs can write Regular Expressions? (Well, we're actually Just Kidding about that last one. We can't do that. And we don't Particularly Want To.) The fact that we use Occasional Short Cuts does not Diminish Our Love for Geeky Computer Things. Now stop quoting Rod Stewart and go have a Nice, Refreshing Beverage.

As ever,
The Etiquette Grrls

P.S. Just in case Anyone Else was Wondering, the EGs do not accept Proposals of Marriage from Strangers, even Good-Natured Ones. Especially the EG who is Engaged!


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Besides a cattle prod or stun gun, what response do you recommend for obviously hostile and rude people who cut in front of you in lines?

One such person knocked me off my feet, despite crutches, and a obviously bandaged ankle.

Yours Faithfully,
Mrs. C.

Dear Mrs. C.,

Isn't it such a Pity that one cannot use a Taser Gun, Electric Cattle Prod, etc., on all the Rude People? We're sure a wee bit of Electroshock Therapy could really Set a Lot of People Straight. Of course, Enacting Violence is Inappropriate, but a girl can Dream, no? However, we are Shocked and Appalled that Some Idiot would knock down a Woman on Crutches to get ahead in a Line! You Poor Dear! We certainly hope you were not Injured, Dear Reader! For heaven's sake, one should allow Someone on Crutches to go ahead of one In Line--one should never Cut In Front of them, or, worse, Trample Them!

If faced with this situation, the EGs would not hesitate to point out, most helpfully, yet in a Very Firm Tone, "Sir, the end of the line is over there." At this point, the Offender usually mutters an Apology and Slinks Off in Shame (as he should). If you are the only person waiting, and someone else arrives and attempts to Cut In Front of you, you should say to them (preferably Loud Enough for the Bank Teller, or Sales Clerk, or whomever you're waiting for to hear), "Excuse me, but I have been waiting here Longer Than You." However, should you have Suspicions that the Person Cutting In Line might be Packing Heat, you would be wise to Hold Your Tongue.

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Is it bad luck to give a monogrammed baby gift (i.e., robe) before the baby is born? I heard it is, but I wanted to double-check.

Planning Ahead

Dear Planning Ahead,

The EGs are Many Things, Dear Reader, but we cannot say With Certainty that Doing Something will Bring About Bad (or Good) Luck. (Apart from Putting a Loaf of Bread Upside Down, which will cause Untold Horrors, according to One EG's Mother.) But, Dear Reader, whether or not it will Bring Bad Luck, the important issue is whether it is a Good Idea. We think Baby Gifts (and, indeed, Baby Showers) are Just Safer after the Baby Is Born. Not to be Fatalistic, but what if something Unspeakably Awful should happen? It would be Simply Heart-Wrenching for the Poor Mom! It is much, much better, we think, to wait till after the Little One Arrives--showers held after the Baby's Birth are more fun anyway, as then, everyone can meet the New Arrival. But on a much more minor scale, we don't think it's a good idea to order a Monogrammed Item for someone who does not have An Official, Legal Name. Even if the Baby's Parents SWEAR they have Settled on Names, people do Change Their Minds… and Monogrammed Items are usually Not Returnable!

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I must ask--how should one handle a sticky work situation when people in the surrounding cubes (yes, cubes) have consistent and irritating behaviors such as gum cracking, dry throat hacking, sniffling, etc.? Pounding my mouse on my desk has yielded little results (as have the offers of a drink of water or a tissue). This really must stop--a well-bred girl should never be seen in fits of rage.


Dear E---,

How we Despise Cubes! It is simply Common Decency to provide Every Worker with An Office Avec a Door! The EGs just know that Morale at every company would be much improved if people were given Their Privacy.

Of course, we all sympathize with Those Who Are Ill, but honestly, if one has A Cold of A Noisy Variety, not to mention A Contagious Variety, one should make Every Effort to Stay Home. There are situations, of course, in which one cannot do so (when one is a Low Person on the Totem Pole, for example, though the EGs believe Managers should ALWAYS let the Sick People Stay Home), and when that is the case, one should try to keep the Noises to a Minimum. If a coworker is working to finish a Very, Very Essential Project despite her Terrible Cough, then, Dear Reader, we suggest you Cut Her Some Slack. However, Dear Reader, Annoying Habits which Irritate Others, such as gum-snapping, incessant throat-clearing, knuckle-cracking (which Drives the EGs Absolutely Mad!!!!), Singing Along to the music on Your Headphones, etc., must stop right now!!! We have four suggestions for you. First, send an e-mail to Your Colleagues and suggest they visit Everyone should then visit This Very Page and Immediately Change Their Behavior. Second, invest in a Good Pair of Headphones, and wear them. If you cannot work while listening to the New Cake Album, then you might investigate those Noise-Canceling Headphones--the EGs don't know if they work, but they might be Worth a Try. Third, Dear Reader, perhaps the Seating Arrangements might be altered, so that you are Farther Away from Those Who Make Noise; you might work out a Floor Plan that would group people By Project, or some such logic, that puts you near More Desirable Neighbors. And finally, Dear Reader, if none of this works, you always have the option of looking for another job--with an office that has A Real Door. Or perhaps you could Get Promoted, take charge of Your Department, and Issue a Memo banning All Annoying Behavior.

With best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I enjoy your site a tremendous deal for its wit, intelligence, and above all extremely helpful information. I have become nearly obsessive in consulting your site every week, and I am very excited about your new book. Congratulations on your triumphs of style and publishing.

I have a great and very considerate roommate--she is tidy but not obsessively so, she doesn't play music too loudly, and she almost never hogs the phone. Unfortunately, my roommate has recently hooked up with a young man who can only be described as a boor with boundary issues. He is a not un-charming sort of fellow who would be fun to meet and speak with at a party, but as a frequent guest in our apartment he is harder and harder to deal with. He eats my food and has borrowed a book without asking. But his habit that I find most annoying, nay, even transgressive is as follows: if I am, for instance, brushing my teeth in the bathroom with the door open, he will freely poke his head in and engage in conversation. Sometimes he even joins me in the bathroom and has once even shared the sink as I am brushing my teeth, in order to brush HIS teeth. And then--imagine my shock and horror, dear Grrls, when this young man wiped his toothpasty mouth on one of MY face towels. I know he doesn't mean ill, and perhaps even thinks he is just being friendly, and I am prepared to take measures (such as keeping the bathroom door closed when I am inside) to deal with most of his annoying habits for the sake of my roommate (she is inexplicably crazy about this fellow), but I heartily wish he would cease his inconsiderate behaviors. I have brought up the subject with my roommate, but she (perhaps a bit too quickly and vehemently) sprang to his defense, and we actually got into an argument, which is a rare occasion for us. I suppose I should speak directly to the fellow, but then again I don't want to make either or both of them any more uncomfortable. Perhaps I should continue with my current approach--to sacrifice my own comfort for the sake of household peace, in the hopes that she will come to her senses someday and break it off with him and I no longer have to deal with his hairs in my washcloths. (ugh, ugh, ugh.) What do you think?

Thank you so much for reading this letter and for your invaluable website.


Dear Sally,

First, thank you so very much for your nice words! We're pleased you find our Site Helpful.

Now, let us reflect upon Your Question. One word Springs to Mind: UGH!!! The EGs are at this moment mixing up Drinks By the Pitcher to Calm Our Nerves after hearing Your Horror Story! Oh, Dear Reader, we Feel Your Pain!

Regarding your particular situation, though, we think you have Handled It Appropriately. Your Roommate, Love-Smitten Though She Is, should really Know Better than to allow any Guest of hers, Boyfriend or not, to Invade Your Privacy in this manner. We think keeping the Door Closed whilst you are brushing your teeth is a Good Move, Dear Reader (honestly, the EGs think the Door probably should always be Closed when you are engaging in This Activity, whether or not the Rude Boy is Around). And Using Your Towels is simply disgusting. In the EGs' Opinion, Your Roommate needs to understand that Her Guest is Her Responsibility. She should show him where Her Towels are Kept, and insist he use them! And if she expects him to be Hanging Around long enough to Get Hungry, she should offer him food she has bought. If she cannot understand that Her Guest, in your Shared Apartment, needs to behave in a manner that allows you to feel At Home (because, Dear Reader, it IS Your Home), then she must have been Raised By Wolves! Lay Down the Law, Dear Reader; it's very kind of you to think of Her Comfort, but she should know that she needs to think of Yours.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls


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