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The Etiquette Grrls' Q & A Archive: August 2003

Dear Readers,

It's Very Rude to send Virus-Laden E-mail! EGs.com has received over 2,000 messages containing the SoBig Worm. If you're not sure you have Virus-Protection Software running on your machine, please be kind to everyone in Your Address Book and install some. If you do have Virus-Protection Software on your computer, please make sure you Update It Weekly, because unless you have Recent Virus Definitions, it's Pretty Much Useless. Finally, if you suspect you may have the SoBig Worm, please visit the Symantec website for information and a Handy Little Removal Tool that will Rid Your System of the Nasty Thing.

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls



Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Just love your books and site. My question concerns a practice I have encountered at two recent showers: that of being directed to address an envelope to myself. At the first shower, it was announced that the envelopes would be used to draw for a door prize. At the second shower, the mother of the honoree stood up and said, "We want you to address your own envelopes for thank-you notes—(the honoree) will be too busy with the new baby!" Am I Too Picky, or is this Un Peu Tacky? I dislike being directed to do this, but can think of no polite way to decline without Making A Fuss. Is it best to just Go Along, then have a laugh later at home whilst Tossing Back a G&T? What would the EGs do when confronted avec this situation?

Many thanks,
They Managed to Address My Invitation Sans Assistance

Dear They Managed,

Oooh, how much do the EGs Love It when one of our Dear Readers throws us a Softball Question? *Evil grin*

Of course you're not Too Picky, Dear Reader—this is Terribly Tacky, and Lazy, and Rude. We've heard of this happening at Wedding Showers, too, "Because the Bride-to-Be is Too Busy with the Wedding Plans to Address Envelopes." The EGs just Timed Ourselves addressing an Envelope. It took us 20 SECONDS to do the recipient's address, and 10 SECONDS to do the return address. Wow, 30 Seconds is REALLY taxing. One could even save the trouble of writing one's return address if one has it engraved on the Envelope Flaps. Now we're talking 20 Seconds, total. If 20 Seconds x the number of Guests at Your Shower truly is more time than you can Spare, well, then, you have Too Many Guests at Your Shower. You should have told the Hostess to keep it Very Very Small.

What would we do if Confronted With This? Well, Dear Reader, we're not really ones for Making a Big Scene in Public. Yes, this is Terribly Rude, but it would be Equally Rude of us to Stand Up, proclaim that we are the EGs and we have An Announcement to Make, and tell the Hostess that she is Being Tacky and Impolite. If anything, we'd probably Raise Our Eyebrows Significantly, comment that we had "Never been asked to do THIS before," to the person sitting next to us, and then write the Damn Envelope. And of course, we'd call up everyone we know when we Got Home and tell them about the Horrible, Tacky Shower we went to that day.

Sigh. We assume the next step is to have guests write Thank-You Notes to themselves. At least that would prove Slightly More Amusing... one could get a bit creative with the contents and kind of Mess With the Lazy Honoree. "Dear EGs, Thank you so much for the Porcelain Bank for the baby! It's so beautiful on its own—I can't believe you filled it with that $1,000 Bill! "

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Something happened because I wasn't being responsible or professional, but I need some advice on how to correct it. When I am talking to customers on the phone, I often write my thoughts. It's a bad habit, and I do it in my classes as well. I write things like, "Please shut up. You are giving me a migraine," and "Congratulations on your forthcoming nuptials to a convicted felon," often circled by "Blah blah blah blah"s. This week I accidentally left one of my doodle pages on my desk, and ironically the person I had been writing about came into the office later that day. She sat in my desk and there really is no way that she didn't see what I wrote about her. What should I do? I don't want my boss to get into trouble because of what I did, but if by some miracle she didn't see it I certainly don't want to bring it up. Thank you for your advice!

N

Dear N,

Well, Dear Reader, you're right—that is a Very Bad Habit. These are thoughts that may fly into one's head upon occasion, but one should never write them down unless one destroys them immediately, because it's only a Matter of Time until someone sees what you wrote about him or her. In a Professional Situation, this is much, much worse. We're not quite sure why Your Boss might get into trouble (instead of, say, you yourself), but we think that if you're positive the customer Saw Something, you should schedule a meeting with Your Boss and 'Fess Up. Apologize profusely, say that you have Learned Your Lesson and will never do this again (because you have and you won't, RIGHT?), and ask Your Boss what you should do. We're sure Your Boss can give you much better advice than we can in this specific situation, because how (or if) to respond depends on What Exactly You Said, Who This Customer Is, and What the Consequences Will Be if She Is Very Angry, none of which we know. We'd imagine that Your Boss will either tell you to Forget It and just never, ever do it again, or have you Apologize to the Customer. We don't know Your Boss, but if what you're really afraid of is Getting Fired, we think that's much less likely to happen if you 'Fess Up than if you don't.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Your latest book, More Things You Need To Be Told, rules! I dare say that our generation is the last one old enough to remember when the world was a little more civilized than it is today. Nice to know that having good manners doesn't mean one can't also be cool and hip. I must admit I was a bit dismayed to hear of the EGs' hostility towards 80's revival fashions, but given the more outrageous examples of those aforesaid atrocities which were mentioned in the book, one is inclined to agree. That being said, as someone whose retro look runs more to the subtle, preppy side, is it okay in this day and age to wear one's polo shirt with the collar turned up?

Regards,
Preppy Guy in Virginia

Dear Preppy Guy,

Whoa, let's get this straight! Classic Preppy Looks are, in general, not the same thing as 1980's Revival Fashions. This is why the people who were Preppy back in the 1980's are probably much less ashamed of Old Photos of Themselves than people who went the One Glove à la Madonna, Off-the-Shoulder Sweatshirt à la Flashdance, and Jelly Shoes à la The Mall Route! Preppies wore Lacoste, and Khakis, and Madras, and Lilly Prints, and Penny Loafers—all of which are Timeless! And Timeless Clothing, by its very nature, never needs a "Revival." The key, Dear Reader, is wearing the Timeless Clothing because it is Timeless and, therefore, just Part of Your Wardrobe that gets integrated with everything else, and not assembling a Full-Blown, Head-to-Toe, 1980's Preppy Look that you wear as One Ensemble. A Lime-Green Lacoste? Sure! But not worn on top of a Pink Lacoste and with Pants embroidered avec Wee Whales, a belt embroidered avec Wee Turtles, one of those Nantucket Rope Bracelets, Bluchers (with the laces tied in those Wacky Little Knots that we will still know how to tie when we're 90 and can't remember Our Own Names), and a monogrammed Tote Bag from L.L. Bean! That outfit, Dear Reader, would make most people think you're dressed up as a Preppy Handbook Drawing a couple of months early for the Halloween Party.

Can you wear the Collar Up? Maybe. It might look Un Peu Jaunty. But again, don't overdo it.

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Thank you for your wonderful website! I have just bought your first book last night and can't wait to read it. I am so relieved and happy to hear that the things I have always done as a matter of course, like writing Thank-You Notes on Nice Stationery and saying Please and Thank-You, are not snobbish and unnecessary, as more and more people seem to be under the impression.

I have a social dilemma—last month I moved in with a close long-time girlfriend and her husband in order to save some money for school. Before I moved, it was Very Clearly established that the rent I paid would cover my bedroom and bathroom to myself and all utilities. The day after I moved in, my girlfriend informed me that her husband would be continuing to use the shower in My Bathroom because he felt the shower head in their bathroom was mounted too low on the wall for him. Even my parents were Grossed Out! This is not the way things were billed when I agreed to this arrangement! Additionally, their house is very far away from my work to add to the problem. Since then I have had an offer from an older widowed lady to share her home. She is neat, clean and lives a fraction of the distance to my work. I have made arrangements to move in with her. Girls, I need your help! When I leave my friend's house, what do I use as the reason? Am I to be honest with her and tell her the real reason I am moving is because of the Bathroom Situation? What am I to do to exit the scene gracefully? I want to be polite but should she know the truth? Please help me, EGs! I need advice!

Yours truly,
Downright Disgusted in Kansas City

Dear Downright Disgusted,

Eeeeeeewwwww! That's Completely Unacceptable of someone to switch the terms of your agreement like that—we'd have said something to Nip It in the Bud. "Gee, Mabel, that's not what we agreed to before I moved in. I definitely thought I wouldn't have to share a bathroom. If the shower-head height is an issue, I'd be happy to help you replace the one in Your Bathroom—I'm sure you could find one that would be more suitable for you." (The EGs aren't exactly Bob Vila, but we had no trouble replacing the Ancient, Too-Harsh Shower Heads in pretty much every flat we've ever lived in with newer, better models, and thus we have to conclude that it can't be all that hard to Change a Shower Head! Plus, many of the replacement ones come up significantly higher than the standard wall-mounted variety.) We're really stuck on why Your Friend would want her husband using Your Bathroom... there's something just a Tad Creepy about that.

But anyway, Dear Reader, how badly do you really want to say something, how do you think Your Friend will react, and honestly, how much do you CARE how she reacts? It might be nice to say something like, "I know I put up with it, but I thought I should say that if you get Another Tenant, you might want to reconsider the Bathroom Arrangements, or at least make sure they're clear before she moves in. I was really disappointed that you changed the arrangement after I'd already moved in." On the other hand, though, you did apparently Put Up With It for a month... and it sounds as if the Other House is much better anyway, so perhaps it's worth Letting This One Slide if you think Saying Something could adversely affect your friendship (if, indeed, you want to maintain it).

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Thank you for your wonderful insights both in your books and on your website. Recently you discussed babysitting etiquette. It is my hope that you'll be able to assist us in our quandary.

Let me being by saying both my husband and I work full-time, we have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, and we share a home with my husband's parents and their Boston Terrier. Generally speaking, home life is very harmonious, and we all work together to keep it that way.

Last night at 11 PM a friend of ours called to ask whether her seven-year-old daughter (let's call her Ella) could stay at our home for four days over the Labor Day holiday while she goes out of town with her boyfriend.

This four-day weekend would include picking Ella up from school at 3:45 PM on Friday and dropping her off at school at 9 AM on Tuesday. She prefaced the request with, "Going out to dinner tonight with my mom, boyfriend, and Ella was awful. That's why I don't like taking Ella places. We've got this trip planned this weekend, and while I can take her, I really don't want to. If I pay you $100 a day would you take her for me?"

Neither my husband nor I have been entrusted with the full-time care of Ella previously except when she was a tiny infant. To compound our lack of one-on-one experience, Ella is autistic and requires the same level of care as an infant; she is not potty-trained and requires special meals, supplements, and physical therapy. Additionally, her verbal communication is not well enough developed to convey her needs and she has a tendency to "meltdown" whenever an adult doesn't immediately understand her. Ella has never met my in-laws, nor has she ever been around a dog.

Concerned for the safety and well-being of Ella and the preservation of our mental health, we told our friend no.

Now our friend is in a snit and says she's going to cancel their trip because taking Ella would just be too much trouble. My question is very simple: does a parent ever have the right to foist their child on a friend and their family especially when the child has special needs?

Grrls, your advice would be greatly appreciated. Have a fabulous Labor Day weekend. May the days that follow be free of white shoes, seersucker slacks, and khaki suits!

Thank you.
Madeline's Mommy in Michigan

Dear Madeline's Mommy,

Wow. Every once and a while, the EGs hear a story that can really Curl Our Hair, but yours, Dear Reader, Takes the Cake. There are just so many Awful Things going on here.

What the hell is Ella's Mother THINKING? Clearly, she's not Thinking of Her Daughter—we feel heartsick for the Poor Girl! Ella's Mother needs to get her Priorities In Line, and Stat, too, for Her Daughter's Sake. You aren't allowed to be selfish at your child's expense, and her attitude toward Ella is Appalling! Why would she not think about Ella when she was planning this trip in the first place? If the trip would prove too difficult, then, dammit, she should've changed her plans or at least taken the time to make Proper Arrangements for Ella's Care—i.e., with someone who has Experience Caring for Children With Special Needs. Finding Proper Care for one's child should NEVER be An Afterthought! And while it's certainly impolite to try to foist your child off for an entire weekend on someone else who is not Actively Seeking Work as a Baby-Sitter (nevermind calling them up at 11 PM to ask if they'll do it), and then get your Nose Out of Joint when that person says no, this goes far beyond that. You, Dear Reader, have Legitimate Concerns about Ella's safety and happiness. Ella's Mother, of all people, should understand that you've got Her Daughter's Best Interests at heart! But then again, she doesn't seem to think very much of Her Daughter, so the concept of Ella's Best Interests is probably completely foreign to her. Honestly, in this situation, the Rudeness toward you is the least important thing... we are Simply Appalled at Ella's Mother's lack of concern for Her Daughter.

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I am getting married in two weeks, and I have six bridesmaids. Five of them are my dear friends, but one is my fiancé's 16-year-old rebel sister. The problem is that she has gone and shaved her head right before the wedding. Now, I'm not picky about hair. I have waist-length, the other bridesmaids have ear-length to mid-back, and I was well-prepared to deal with her spiky, unnaturally red two-inch crop. This, however, will have everyone staring at the Bald Bridesmaid instead of the Happy Couple. Would it be okay for me to tell her to wear a Wig or not be in the Wedding?

Sincerely,
Befuddled over Baldness

Dear Befuddled,

Deep Breath, Dear Reader. Now Another. We highly, highly doubt that when you and Your Fiancé are Saying Your Vows, anyone is going to be paying Any Attention Whatsoever to what ANY of the Bridesmaids looks like. Seriously, one of their heads could be Magically Replaced avec a Large Cantaloupe, and nobody would notice. Might there be a Ripple of Surprise when she Walks into the Church? Sure. But Your Guests will Get Over It, and plus, they will think you are a Remarkably Well-Adjusted, Non-Hysterical Bride who understands that one 16-year-old girl's hairstyle (or the lack thereof) is not really very important in the Big Scheme of Things. If anyone should comment on Her Baldness (which they probably will not), we suggest laughing and saying something like, "Isn't that the most hilarious thing in the world? I hope she wasn't looking for a Big Reaction out of me. I guess she's going through a Sinéad O'Connor Phase. You know Teenagers." Plus, asking her to Wear a Wig or Step Down is just going to Stir Up Trouble, either with Her or with Your Fiance's Entire Family, and do you really want to deal with that now?

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I work as a checker in a grocery store. The people who come through my line are usually rude and tacky. Yesterday this lady yelled and screamed at me because the store didn't sell her favorite brand of cigarettes. People are yelling at me to hurry up and scan items faster because they don't want to spend a year in line. I'm new so of course I don't know everything. How can I solve this problem?

Jessica

Dear Jessica,

Well, you could put a copy of TYNTBT in your right hand and a copy of MTYNTBT in your left hand, and box the Rude Person's Ears with them, but that would probably Get You Fired P.D.Q. (and perhaps hauled off to a Wee Stint in the Slammer for Assault and Battery), so that's probably not such a great idea. (Tempting as it Might Be, though.) We think that first of all, you should Retain Your Dignity. Do not sink to the level of the Rude People— do not Yell Back at them or ask them if they would like Paper, Plastic, or to See You In Hell, etc. First, is the speed of Your Scanning really causing a problem? We completely understand that You're Still Learning, but would you be able to Practice a Bit before handling a line of Harried Customers when the store is Really Busy? Maybe you could ask Your Manager if you could man the checkout during some Less Busy times, so you can get More Comfortable with the scanner without worrying about holding up the line. Otherwise, we'd recommend saying something to customers as they arrive at your machine acknowledging that you are New on the Job. "Welcome to Stop and Shop. Just wanted to let you know, this is my first week on the job; I'm working as fast as I can." That, coupled with a Charming Smile, would probably make Most Irritable People hold their tongues. If someone should completely Fly Off the Handle and yell at you for something that is Not Your Fault, you should just say, "Ma'am, I understand you're upset, but I don't decide which Cigarettes we carry. I'll be happy to call the Manager over if you'd like to speak with him about ordering the brand you prefer."

Yours sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear EGs,

I recently received an invitation to the wedding of my childhood best friend. However, I received the invitation only 10 days before the wedding and the locale was a 10-hour car drive away! Alas, I had already made plans for another trip during the weekend of the wedding and had to send my regrets. I would have certainly enjoyed seeing my friend get married and made the journey if I had been given more notice and could have made arrangements to attend. What is the proper lead time for a wedding invitation?

Sincerely,
Clare

Dear Clare,

Oh, you Poor Thing! That is absolutely Too Close to the Wedding. Six to eight weeks is the Norm; any amount of time less than that, especially when the invitations in question are sent to Out of Town Guests, looks like one is just Fishing For Gifts or Trying to Fill Up Empty Seats at the Reception because too many people have Already Sent Their Regrets.

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My husband has two friends from college he has remained close with. Since they all live in different states, getting together doesn't happen often. A tradition they have started is every year each one hosts a weekend at their home. This guarantees seeing one another at least three times per year. There is a designated weekend for each guy, and it is always the same weekend, so we always know when they are. The next get-together is one month away. One of the guys has canceled (this is a first), due to the terrible diagnosis of cancer in his mother. We are all so sad for him and are sad he won't be attending the weekend, but want him to be by his mother's side. Now, he has only told the host of the weekend, not my husband. I was wondering if I should send flowers or a sympathy card to him. My husband was also wondering if he should call him.

Thanks for any help that you can give.

K

Dear K,

We think it would be Completely Appropriate for Your Husband to call his friend, or to send a note saying he's heard the News and just wanted to say he's keeping the Friend and His Mother in his thoughts and prayers. After all, when one has a Serious Family Situation, one isn't likely to go around telling all of one's acquaintances about it individually... one would probably rather spend time with the Family Member who is Ill instead of calling dozens of people to Spread the News. This is where a Grapevine, Dear Reader, can be a Very Helpful Thing. The Host of the weekend wasn't spreading anything Malicious, or anything Unsubstantiated, by telling Your Husband; we think Your Husband should feel free to acknowledge the fact that He Knows About His Friend's Mother's Illness. As for flowers or a Sympathy Card... well, Dear Reader, the flowers might be okay, as long as they're not the Least Bit Funereal, but you should definitely avoid any expression of Sympathy. One sends a Note of Sympathy after someone has Passed Away, not before, so we would recommend avoiding any phrasing like, "You have our deepest sympathy," or "Mary and I felt we should send Our Condolences," while Your Husband's Friend's Mother is Ill.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I attended several Informal Dinner Parties (two were actually cookouts) over the course of the summer and experienced the same Problem at all of them. In all cases, the Invitations were Verbal only, and when I asked the Hostesses in each case if I could bring anything, they said no, that Everything Was Taken Care of, and that my Presence was all that was Required. However, again in all cases, when I Arrived at said Parties, all the other guests had brought something, from wine to salads to desserts. If the hostess says I needn't bring anything, should I ignore this no matter what and bring a bundt cake anyway? What gives? I usually take what people say literally, but it seems that so often in etiquette the polite thing to say and the actual information being exchanged are not the same.

I feel quite foolish and embarrassed by this.

Eagerly awaiting your Sage Advice,
Rough Around the Edges

Dear Rough Around the Edges,

The problem here is that people don't seem to understand that when attending a party, a Guest must bring a Gift for the Hostess—not something intended to be Part of the Meal. (Unless, of course, the Hostess specifically asks you to bring a dish, i.e., for a Pot-Luck.)

While sometimes people bring Wine (and a Nice Bottle of Wine, if you know Your Hostess enjoys Wine, is a fine Hostess Gift), this Wine need not be served at the Party. If the Hostess really wants to serve it, she may, but it's Our Practice always to thank the giver profusely and put the Wine away for Another Time. Why? Well, what happens if Several Guests ALL bring Wine? It would be Very Awkward indeed to choose between them... whoever's Wine isn't served first will probably worry that the bottle they selected wasn't Good Enough, etc. And what if the Wine Someone Brought doesn't go with the Meal You're Serving? So it's always Safer to put it away for later. (Say something like, "Oh, this is lovely! Thank you! I've already decanted a Burgundy to go with Dinner, but I can't wait to try this!")

Guests who do Go Ahead and Bring Food, especially when they've been told it isn't necessary, are actually Being Rude (even if they have the Best Intentions). If someone invites you to Her Home for Dinner, she's going to have already Planned the Entire Meal, from Hors d'Oeuvres to Dessert. If she's just spend several hours Slaving Away over the Meal, it's terribly, terribly presumptuous of you to show up with Some Random Dish, expecting the Hostess to Serve It! Even if Your Pecan Pie always draws Raves, you should Leave It Home, Dear Reader, unless it's a Pot-Luck. Maybe the Dessert the Hostess has planned won't be quite as good as Your Pie, but you'll just have to Suffer in Silence.

What this Boils Down To is really a question of what the "Can I bring anything?" / "No, thank you," conversation really means. Since a Gift for Your Hostess is obligatory, you really can't ask if you should bring that—you simply need to Bring It, Period. Therefore, we don't think you Need to Ask at all—just Bring a Small Gift. (We mentioned Wine above, but there are tons of More Creative Options—pretty Vintage Cocktail Napkins, a book you think Your Hostess would enjoy, etc.) When we are asked, "Can I bring anything?" we interpret this to mean, "Is there anything you need for the party, along the lines of Dessert?" Some Hostesses probably will just say, "No, thank you," but we think it's best to Be Clear (especially if you've invited one of those Pecan Pie-Pusher People) and respond with something like, "No, thank you for asking, but I've just finished planning the meal and I've got everything Under Control." To sum it up, Dear Reader: Don't Ask; just bring a Hostess Gift that is Not Intended to be Part of the Meal. If you do ask and are told no, then you should ESPECIALLY not Bring Any Food—just a Hostess Gift, as always.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have a Friend who prides herself on Being Honest—which means Speaking Her Mind no matter what the consequences. Oftentimes her remarks hurt Someone's Feelings. For example, the other day, a bunch of us were watching Television, and Another Mutual Friend commented that she would like to go on a Makeover Show. Honest Friend replied, "You should! Truthfully, you really NEED a makeover. You look Terrible!" When our Mutual Friend got upset, Honest Friend said, "I'm just telling the Truth! What, do you want me to LIE?"

Usually, I avoid asking this So-Called Honest Friend any questions that I DON'T want to hear the answers to. But lately, she's started volunteering her honest opinion. I was married a few weeks ago, and at the reception, Honest Friend pulled me aside and said, "The Caterer you've chosen is Really Terrible. The food is AWFUL. I just thought you would Want to Know." Naturally, I was dismayed! I spent the Rest of the Reception wondering if the other guests were eating it just to be polite, or because they were Ravenously Hungry or something.

To make things even worse, Honest Friend now has an Honest Boyfriend. I'm so SICK of hearing all the time about how my Cooking sucks, my clothes are Ratty, my house is Messy, etc. I figure I have Two Options: 1) Ditch the chick or 2) Find a way to tell her that her Honesty can be easily mistaken for Rudeness. Which do you suggest? And what's the Best Way to broach this topic?

Had It Up to Here with Honesty

Dear Had It Up to Here,

Gee, we're Absolutely Amazed that anyone made it out of Childhood without having "If you can't say anything Nice, don't say Anything At All" drilled into them by Their Parents! How dare she tell you the food at Your Wedding Reception was bad?! Or tell your friend that she Looks Terrible? Oh, Dear Reader, that's not Being Honest—that's Being Cruel and using "But I'm just Being Honest!" as a Bad Excuse for Mean Behavior.

So what to do? We think you should give her a Dose of Her Own Medicine. The next time she says something Honest (i.e., Mean), tell her, "Georgina, I know you're on some sort of Honesty Kick, but you know what? I find your 'Honest' Comments to be Mean, Petty, Rude, and Uncalled-For. One can manage to be Honest without Hurting Anyone Else's Feelings, and until you learn how to do that, I would appreciate not hearing any more of your 'Honest' Opinions." If she replies, "What, do you want me to LIE?" then tell her, "No, but you don't have to Go Out of Your Way to say something Hurtful. For example, it wouldn't have killed you to be simply enthusiastic about Gillian's idea of Going on a Makeover Show, instead of telling her that she needs to do that, because she looks terrible. Keeping your opinion to yourself is not lying; in fact, if your opinion would Hurt Someone's Feelings, then it's only Polite to Keep Mum!" If others in Your Circle of Friends are as Fed Up with her as you are, Dear Reader, you should each have a Similar Conversation with her. Now, speaking to her like this might have the outcome of Ending Your Friendship, but really, Dear Reader, do you want this person around if she's going to do nothing but Insult You and Make You Feel Terrible? Unless she starts Thinking Before She Speaks, we think you and your friends would be Happier Without Her.

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have a rather odd question for you: Can thank-you letters go too far? Recently I found a lost dog, and returned him to the address on his collar. His owner was exceedingly grateful and thanked me profusely. I told her not to mention it, it was my pleasure to see her and her lovable pet reunited. Here's where things get strange. She sent me a thank-you note by post a few days later (how she got my address I don't know) and enclosed with it a monetary gift as a thank-you. I in turn wrote her a letter thanking her for her generosity and stressing that really, her thanks was enough and she didn't need to go to the trouble of sending me a gift. A few days later I received a thank-you note for my thank-you note. I think this has gone a little too far—I don't know her personally at all, and I fear that I may be thanking her for her letters until I am old and grey. Should I cease with the letters, or am I wrong and should I just keep writing back?

Yours,
H

Dear H,

Yes, cease with the letters. We suspect she's really just Exceedingly Grateful that you Found Her Dog—she's probably not actually trying to Freak You Out or anything.

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dearest Grrls,

I am getting married in just over a week, and we have obviously spent a great deal of time during the past month organizing R.S.V.P.s and creating the perfect seating plan. Then, just last night, my fiancé was approached by a friend of his who is invited, and was asked whether or not said friend could bring his girlfriend, who is not invited. This girlfriend is not someone either my fiancé or I know, and the relationship is quite new. Also, we are not wealthy and have tried to keep the guest list manageable.

I must add that my fiancé discussed the girlfriend issue with this friend before. He explained that nobody in that particular group of friends was bringing a significant other (by the way, no one is in a serious relationships or living together).

And so now, with about 10 days to go, placecards already made, and seating plan worked out, this friend has informed my fiancé that his girlfriend will be accompanying him to the town in which we are being married (it is out of town for most of our friends) and that he does not want her to have to sit in the hotel while he goes to the party. You see, they are carrying on farther up north for a cottage weekend after our wedding.

I don't want some poor girl sitting alone in her hotel room while her boyfriend whoops it up either, but, EGs, I'm in a bit of a sticky situation. Do I say okay and make everyone who didn't ambush us with their girlfriends feel bad? Or do I leave her to a night of HBO at the Days Inn? Your wise words would be appreciated!

Many thanks,
Confused Bride-to-Be

Dear Confused Bride-to-Be,

Don't make an Exception and Change Your Guest List. We think this Guest is being completely Manipulative and Rude, and you shouldn't give in. It would be unfair to all of Your Other Friends who are not Bringing Dates! What would you do if this Guest tells five other people he knows that he and his girlfriend will be there, because even though she wasn't invited you said it was okay because she's coming to town with him, and those five people decided heck, we're going to bring Our Significant Others too and also Make a Weekend Out of This Wedding? Then you'd REALLY be stuck, Dear Reader. Have Your Fiancé explain to him that you're very sorry, but the Guest List has been Finalized and you Can't Make an Exception... even if it weren't Last-Minute, it would be Unfair to Other Guests, as no one else who is Single was invited to Bring a Date. And then, Dear Reader, don't Feel Guilty about it! If this girl had Any Sense, she'd have said to Her Boyfriend, "Oh, it's no big deal that you're invited alone—that happens all the time at Weddings, and it would be Very Rude of us to Pester the Bride and Groom for a special invitation for me. Just go and have a good time—I'll just hang out at the hotel and relax, and then we can get an Early Start the next morning to the Cottage."

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Thanks for providing such a wonderful site!

My boyfriend and have spent a few months searching for a house. As part of the search, we employed the services of a real estate agent. She is a very nice lady and spent many nights and weekends helping find available houses and condominiums. The problem is, she never found us a place. Most of the properties that were good matches for us, we actually brought to her attention. The one place she did find, we lost in the negotiating process.

We did finally find a place that was being sold by the owner without a selling agent, and seller did not want us to have an agent. We discussed this opportunity with our agent, and she said that if we find a place that we like and it did not include her, well, that's how it goes. We hired an attorney and close on the house next month.

My question is, should we compensate our agent in some way? Although she did not find us a house or help us negotiate an offer, she did spend quite a bit of time driving us around and making appointments. We ultimately found a place on our own, but should we send her a gift after we close? If so, what kind of gift would be appropriate. Her commission would be thousands of dollars, which we certainly cannot afford, but I do feel like we should show our gratitude for her work. WWEGD?

Sincerely,
A New Mortgagee

Dear New Mortgagee,

First—WWEGD?? Tee hee hee!! Perhaps we should get that printed on Wee Pink-and-Green Bracelets so that everyone would remember to wonder what the EGs would do when a Potential Faux Pas Looms. "Should I wear Flip-Flops to my Big Job Interview at Conservative Investment Banking Firm, Inc.? WWEGD? Oh, duh, of course the EGs would wear Stylish Leather Pumps or Slingbacks! They'd tell me Flip-Flops are only for The Pool, The Beach, and Yucky Gym Showers! Begone, Vile Casual Footwear!" "Should I get Ivory Writing Paper engraved with my initials in Navy Blue, or Hot Pink Writing Paper engraved with my initials in Fluorescent Yellow? WWEGD? Ack, the EGs would fling this Gaudy Paper away because it is Migraine-Inducingly Bright, and would remind me that One's Writing Paper should be versatile enough to use for both a casual note to a friend and a Condolence Note, and boy, would it be Terribly, Terribly Awful of me to write a Condolence Note on paper that looks like Tropical Punch." But we digress...

We think, Dear Reader, that you have found a Wonderful Real Estate Agent! A Thank-You Note would be Most Proper—and honestly, the best expression of gratitude you could probably give her would be to say that you are going to Refer Her to all of your friends when they're thinking of Moving (and then, of course, to do that). If you wanted to send along a Small Gift in addition to the thank-you note, that would be fine, but do keep it inexpensive, and don't even think about what Her Commission might have been. A small plant would be good, or a wee floral arrangement, or even some Goodies from The Best Local Bakery. But really, there's no need to Go Overboard.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear EGs,

I recently attended the destination wedding of my fiancé's brother. My fiancé was in the wedding and often unable to introduce me to people during the course of the wedding weekend. Instead, my future in-laws were often introducing me to members of both families that I did not know. On several separate occasions my future father-in-law and mother-in-law introduced me to people like this, "So-and-so, this is my son's FRIEND, [my name]."

Here is my question: Should I be offended by their use of the word "friend" instead of "fiancée"? I felt a little upset and hurt after I was introduced in this way. I have been dating their son for almost six years and for the past year and a half we have been living together. We got engaged about four months ago. Both parents seem to like me, and I really like them. My fiancé thinks I shouldn't take it personally and that they probably meant nothing by it. But I think after six years, I at least deserve the respect to be introduced as their son's "girlfriend" rather than just "friend." Do you think I am wrong in being offended by these introductions? I didn't correct either of my fiancé's parents when they did this; do you think I should have? If so, what is a polite way to correct any incorrect introductions in the future?

Any light you can shed on this issue would be wonderful!!

Thanks,
Not Just a Friend

Dear Not Just a Friend,

Of course you should be introduced as "My Son's Fiancée," not "My Son's Friend"! That's very odd. We'd have probably taken his parents aside and said something like, "I noticed you introduced me as Michael's Friend; would you mind introducing me as His Fiancée? I've caught a couple of people glancing curiously at My Ring after we were introduced and I've had to explain that Michael and I are actually more than just friends, we're engaged, and it is a bit awkward." Maybe you could say something During the Introduction, but that might seem Even More Awkward—you definitely do not want to create the impression that His Parents either Don't Know You're Engaged, or Don't Approve of It, in front of a Total Stranger! We think you should have a Quick Word with Your Fiancé's Parents before the next event that might require introductions.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Grrls,

Through no fault of our own, my family members and I have found ourselves in a rather embarrassing situation and are desperately in need of some good advice! Here's the story: a few days ago, we received a lovely invitation to a garden party to celebrate the birthdays of Bill, Bob, and Lucy (all names have been changed). The party is being hosted by Bob and Wendy, to whom we should R.S.V.P. Sounds smashing so far, right? Wrong.

The trouble stems from the fact that no last names are mentioned on the invitation, not even in the return address! First of all, we do not know any couple named Bob and Wendy (if, indeed, they are a couple at all, and not brother or sister or some other such relation). Secondly, although we do have a good friend named Bill, we don't seem to remember his birthday being around this time of year, and we also don't remember him ever mentioning a Bob or Wendy.

In a moment of internet savvy, I entered the 'phone number given to R.S.V.P. into an online phone book search and was able to locate the hosts' last name (verified by the return address). However, nobody in my family could recognize the last name, so we are still back to square one.

Needless to say, we are in quite a pickle. Of course we would love to attend the party of someone we are friends with, but it is a bit difficult to call and R.S.V.P. to someone we don't know! I suggested calling Bill and seeing if he knows anything about it, but WHAT IF the party is intended to be a surprise and the hosts simply forgot to mention it on the invitation? (Granted, this is rather unlikely, but given these hosts' track record of including important information on invitations, I wouldn't be a bit surprised!)

The date to R.S.V.P. by is drawing near and we are still debating what to do. Any ideas?

Sincerely,
"Do I Know You?"

Dear "Do I Know You?",

Oooh! It's a Mystery! We think you should hire an Old-Fashioned Private Investigator to figure out the identities of All of These People! But sadly, we bet Private Investigators, like so many Other Things, are Nowhere Near as Cool now as they are in Old Movies. Sigh.

Well, the easiest option would be just to Send Your Regrets. That's not much fun, though, because you'll never know who the party is for! We think your best bet is to talk to Bill and, in a roundabout sort of way, ask him if His Birthday is Coming Up. If he says it is, then at least you'll have a clue that the party might be for him. If he says, "Oh, no, my birthday was in March," then you'll know that at least you're not missing the Birthday Party of a Dear Friend, and you could simply R.S.V.P. that you will not be able to attend (you don't have to mention that you have No Idea Who Anyone Is). Or we suppose you could call Bob and Wendy and say you are very sorry, but you received their Lovely Invitation and are Terribly Befuddled—you know quite a few Bills, Bobs, and Lucys, and would they mind telling you exactly who the Guests of Honor are? (Only do this if you are prepared to Attend if you do recognize one of the names. It would be very weird to call to find out this information and then just say, "Oh, okay. I guess I do know Bill. Actually, I can't come, but I wanted to know who it was for.")

Sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I know this wouldn't be a typical question that you would be asked, but I'm not sure where else to turn. I have a friend who's just had a miscarriage, and I'm not sure if I should send her and her husband flowers and a sympathy card. Can you please help? I'm at a loss and don't want to make them feel any worse than I'm sure they already do. Thanks for any help that you can give.

D.

Dear D.,

Absolutely send a Condolence Note. Flowers would be fine as well, but they're not as important as sending a personal, thoughtful, heartfelt Condolence Note. A Miscarriage is as much of a loss as any other Death, and we think it would be more hurtful not to acknowledge it. Do be careful what you say, however. Sometimes people get a little bit of Writer's Block when composing Condolence Notes, and they end up saying things that can actually make the Bereaved Person feel worse. Because this is a more unusual situation, make sure to leave yourself extra time to Draft Something and read it over a few times. Specifically, we've heard of people mentioning things like, "Something must have been terribly wrong with the baby for this to have happened," or "At least you already have two kids," which are Completely Insensitive. Now, Dear Reader, we think you're Not Likely to err like this, because the fact that you care enough to wonder how to respond in This Situation shows you are both Thoughtful and Sensitive, but we just want to encourage you and anyone else writing a Similar Note to Spend as Much Time with it as you need to Get the Words Right. That's so important.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My Friend from High School and I have been lucky enough to keep in touch throughout our College Years. Recently, this Friend moved to a City that is about 100 miles away from where I live now. She's visited me Several Times, and I have noticed a Disturbing Trend.

My Friend only visits me when she has Something Else to do in my town—for instance, the last time she visited, she knocked on my Door at Midnight, slept all day the Next Day, and went to Another Friend's birthday party the Next Night. When she left on Sunday, she said that she was sorry we "didn't get to Spend More Time together." Not surprisingly, I was Very Put Out.

Grrls, my Friend wants to come visit This Weekend, supposedly to "Hang Out" with me. After I said she could, I Found Out that the Friend has Parties planned for both nights... Parties I am Not Invited to.

I think that She is using My Home as a Bed-and-Breakfast. How can I tell her tactfully that I don't run a Boarding House? She's always been a Good Friend other than this.

Please Help

Dear Please Help,

Quelle Rude Friend! Oh, Dear Reader, you have to tell her, stat, that you're not going to stand for Such Behavior. First of all, it's Rude to Invite Yourself to Stay With Anyone. Second, even if you'd said something like, "Oh, let me know when you can Come Up for the Weekend," or "I'd always love a Houseguest!" she ought to be actually Hanging Out With You, not arriving at All Hours, Sleeping All Day, and in general being Very Inconsiderate of You! Now, the EGs think there might be a couple of occasions when it might be permissible to spend a minimal amount of time with One's Host, but those are Few and Far Between. For example, if Your Friend were considering Attending Grad School in the city where you live, she might come to stay with you for a few days but need to spend much of her time On Campus, checking it out, and maybe even attending a few Grad Student Parties on her own, so she could get a sense of the other students. That's fine, but anyone who is planning such a visit should 1) make it absolutely clear to Her Hostess that she will have a Full Slate of On-Campus Activities to attend and 2) STILL make an effort to spend time with Her Hostess. Perhaps one might need to go along avec the other Prospective Grad Students to a Dinner Party at a Professor's House on Saturday Night, and that party might last until the Wee Hours, but even so, one can still Awaken at a Reasonable Time and treat One's Hostess to a Leisurely Brunch. Sleeping all day is not nice at all if Your Hostess hasn't been to the party too!

So, Dear Reader, next time this girl asks if she can "hang out," tell her that honestly, while you'd love to spend time with her, you've been very disappointed that the last few times she's visited, she said she was going to Spend Time with you but instead has just crashed at your place. You'd love to have her visit for the weekend, but you'd like that to be a Real Weekend Visit, where the point is to Hang Out With Each Other—go shopping, watch old movies, Toss Back a Few—not another "visit" where she only sleeps in Your Apartment. If she gets All Bent Out of Shape by this, that is Her Problem, Dear Reader. Granted, you could take the more Passive Tactic of saying that she can't come the next few times she tries to Invite Herself, but we think you really should Level With Her. (We can just imagine what could come of a Little White Lie like "Sorry, but I'm going to be Out of Town Next Weekend"—"Cool! Then I can just use your apartment, right?") It is Very, Very Rude to Impose on Friends like this!

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

How would you handle a dear friend who places an excessive amount of pressure on birthday/holiday gifts? This person is perfectly impossible to buy for as she has everything and has literally no hobbies or interests. I gave her a pretty candle for her birthday this year and when she opened the gift bag I thought she was going to cry from disappointment. I'm beginning to resent exchanging gifts with this person. Thanks for your help!

Sincerely,
The Un-Thoughtful Friend

Dear Un-Thoughtful Friend,

"Literally NO hobbies or interests"? As in NONE? At ALL? C'mon, she's got to be interested in Something. Even if she does nothing but sit at home alone all day eating Bon Bons and watching TV, you could get her some Really High-Quality Bon Bons! Did she ever have Hobbies? If, for example, she used to do Watercolors, you could get her a Starter Set of Paints and Brushes and a Little Pad of Watercolor Paper, and tell her that you remembered how she used to be mad for painting and thought she might want to take it up again—you remember her work was Quite Good! Otherwise, something you made is always nice. Maybe she doesn't have hobbies, but if you enjoy, say, Embroidery, you could make her a set of Monogrammed Guest Towels. The personal effort you made should matter to her, even if she doesn't Collect Embroidered Things. Some other ideas: a book about the History of Her Hometown, Her Alma Mater, or Her Neighborhood; the DVD to a movie you went to together that she particularly enjoyed; or personalized Writing Paper (everyone always needs this, and the fact that you went to the trouble of ordering it avec her name or initials is Very Thoughtful). We're sure you can come up with Something! Also, just as an aside... it's Rather Rude to Act Disappointed when opening a gift. Even if it's something you Loathe, such as an angora Hello Kitty ski cap, you should act pleasantly surprised and thank the Giver warmly. No fair putting on one of those Too-Bright, Phony Smiles and saying something like, "Well isn't this... youthful," either.

Yours sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My fiancé and I have been engaged for over six months. In that time we have both come across a very pesky problem. It seems that all of our bitterly divorced co-workers, friends, and clients feel that it is necessary to give us completely unsolicited advice! They believe they are the authority on what "not" to do in a marriage. One co-worker went as far as to tell me that "All men cheat no matter how faithful you think they may be—so, what is the point of getting married?" I found this to be completely out of line!

My fiancé and I are both responsible adults, not love-struck teenagers. Most of the people offering advice have no idea of what our family backgrounds are like or the solid spiritual foundation that we have based our relationship on. I do understand that people are usually trying to be helpful when they give this kind of advice, but I believe that advice should only be dispensed when it is sought out… not just randomly spewed out from bitter divorcées!

My question is, how do we tell these people in a friendly but firm way that we are not looking for their "pearls of wisdom"? We're not getting married for another year. I'm afraid that if we don't nip this situation in the bud one of us will wind up telling these "helpful" people exactly where to place their "pearls."

Sincerely,
Baffled Bride

Dear Baffled Bride,

"Gosh, that's a bit... Bitter." [Long, uncomfortable pause.] "Thanks for the, um, advice, but Jasper and I will be Just Fine. Excuse me, I've got to get back to my desk now."

Or, get a Sympathetic Co-Worker to help you out. Start a conversation, including a few of the Bitterly Divorced Folks, about How the Wedding Planning is Going. Make sure Your Accomplice asks you, "So what's the most annoying thing you've encountered so far?" Then expound upon how Very Tiresome you find it when people take it upon themselves to tell you all of their Pessimistic Views of Marriage in the guise of Giving Advice. "One of Jasper's Colleagues actually said something like, 'If you're going to get divorced, try to do it before you have kids.' Excuse me?! Um, I do not appreciate anyone insinuating that Jasper and I are Going to Get Divorced, just because a lot of people do, nowadays—they don't know anything about Our Relationship, Our Backgrounds, Our Beliefs, etc., and that's kind of Insulting. Can you believe the Nerve of Some People?" Then have Your Accomplice swiftly change the subject to something like whether you've booked a Reception Site Yet.

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Last Fall I married a wonderful man whose Last Name quite obviously bespeaks his Ethnicity, which is Quite Opposite of mine. Although it has taken Nine Months for me to encounter my first (perceived) Rude Comment regarding my Looks vs. my Last Name, I am certain that this is something I will encounter again in the future, and I would like to be prepared with a Snappy Comeback when in that situation again.

Last Week, while setting my next appointment at my Doctor's Office, the Receptionist took it upon herself to point out the obvious to me, stating very Matter-Of-Factly that "You don't look like a (insert ethnicity-bespeaking Last Name here)." Quite Taken Aback, I elected NOT to reply with the first thing that happened to pop into my head, which was "And you don't look like a (insert Euphemism for Female-Chien-In-Heat here), either." Instead, I replied, "Well, my Husband does." As soon as I had uttered these words, I regretted them, as not only did I feel as though I were laying blame on him for something over which he has No Control, but also that it was none of her Damned Business what my husband looks like, let alone the fact that I am Married at all.

How should I handle this type of comment in the future? I Quite Rather admire Sarcastic and Witty comebacks to put people in their Etiquette Place, yet I realize my initial thought would have been Most Inappropriate for a Lady to say. Have you any suggestions?

Faithfully,
Mrs. Fair-Haired "Latina"

Dear Mrs. Fair-Haired "Latina,"

Dear God. You'd think Civilization, as a Whole, would realize there are much better things to talk about than Whether People's Surnames Indicate Their Ethnicity! Sigh. That is such a Stupid Comment, we'd probably say something like, "That's a very odd thing to say," and let the Dumb Person who said it Sit There and Stammer an Apology.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My question regards wedding invitations. My fiancé and I have been together for three years and have lived together for two of those years. We have many couples that we spend time with on a fairly regular basis, and although they were his friends first, I have become close with many of them. Recently, a few of these couples have decided to get married, and when we have received the invitations in the mail, they are always addressed to my fiancé and guest. I feel offended every time we receive an invitation addressed in this manner and feel that it is extremely rude to refer to me simply as "Guest." My fiancé tells me that it is no big deal and that I am making too much of the issue, but it really bothers me. I defer to your wisdom in this situation. Should I say anything, just let it go, or am I truly making a mountain out of a mole hill?

Thank you,
Guest

Dear Guest,

The first thing that springs to Our Minds is that it isn't intended to be a Slight Against You—rather, it's Laziness on behalf of the Future Bride and Groom. Obviously they do know who you are, but for some reason, it just didn't Cross Their Wedding-Addled Minds to name you on the Invitation. Heck, even if they'd Never Laid Eyes on You Before, but knew that Their Old Friend Algernon had gotten engaged, they should have contacted Algernon to find out His Fiancée's Name in order to put it on the Invitation! So yes, using "and Guest," for you is Completely Rude, but we think it would be best to R.S.V.P. as usual and Try Not to Let It Bother You. Your response should, of course, name you ("Mr. Algernon Rutherford and Miss Camilla du Maurier / accept with pleasure..."), and the gift you send should be from both of you, not just from Your Fiancé. And then, Dear Reader, when you Plan Your Own Wedding, you can be happy knowing you will Never Do This to Anyone Else's Fiancé(e).

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My husband's mother is in the habit of calling our house around the hour of 8:00 A.M. Most recently, when she failed to get an answer at that time (thank God for caller ID), she proceeded to get in her car and drive to our house because she wanted to pick up some pictures that my husband had developed for her. I should mention that I am pregnant, sleep erratically, and do not appreciate visits by anyone without reasonable warning. When I asked my husband to politely ask her to call later in the morning and to not stop by unexpectedly, she became indignant and insulted (for added drama she noted seeing the "hate in that woman's eyes"); thus I now receive the cold shoulder. I have always loved his parents otherwise and thought this would be a good time of breaking her of the habit before the baby is born. Was I wrong in making such an issue?

Sincerely,
Evil Eyes

Dear Evil Eyes,

Of COURSE not! That is Completely Unreasonable. She sounds like a Selfish Drama Queen. (Hmm. That's a Bit Redundant, we suppose; Drama Queens are always Selfish, aren't they? Sorry.) Your husband really needs to Step Up Here and communicate the following points to His Mother:

1) She's Being Unreasonable.

2) It's Completely Uncalled For to talk about you as having Hate in Your Eyes. It's not true, and he doesn't appreciate the Drama, not to mention the fact that His Mother would say something like that about His Wife. [Note: We are assuming, Dear Reader, that you weren't standing in the doorway Putting a Hex on Her or something. If that was the case, then, um, you were Rather Out of Line. Somehow, though, we Highly Doubt this was what happened.]

3) He ALSO thinks that 8:00 A.M. is Way Too Early to Call, let alone Stop By, unless it's An Emergency. And he has thought so for A While.

4) He, and you, are truly sorry she seems so upset by this, but he thinks she's Overreacting. Big Time. Lots of things have had to change since you've become Pregnant, and even more will change when the Baby Arrives, and this is merely one example. The two of you have been Dealing With Such Changes, and everyone else you've explained things to has taken things in stride, so he doesn't see why she's having Such a Hard Time with it.

Then he should invite her over for dinner, or something, so you can try to Clear the Air. If she continues to give you The Cold Shoulder, then that's unfortunate, but you definitely shouldn't apologize (or, worse, give in and tell her she's welcome to call at All Hours). We're sorry you have to Deal With This Nonsense!

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have a situation I am not sure how to handle. I have five children, ranging in age from three up to 12. I was not thin before I had children, nor am I thin now, but pretty much the same as before.

My problem is that strangers everywhere assume (because of my weight) I must be pregnant. Like many overweight women in this country, I am a bit sensitive concerning my weight, and certainly disturbed by others' comments on it. In the past week I have had to endure sweet little old ladies ask one of my children, "So, are you hoping for a little brother, or a little sister?" I hate standing in line at the grocery store and having the check-out girl say, "Oh, God love ya! When I was that pregnant I didn't even want to leave the house!" I want to die every time some stranger near me in public says, "So, do you know what you're having?" and we're NOT looking at menus! And it's not just that they think I'm pregnant, but that I'm due-any-moment pregnant: "Oh, Honey, you look just miserable! Here, sit down! It won't be long till you have that baby in your arms and all this will have been worth it." I WASN'T miserable, till they said that!!

Not to mention many of the other etiquette mistakes pregnant women endure, such as strangers wanting to touch your belly, or grabbing at your belly and announcing, "You're all in front—it's a girl!" These were bad enough to endure when I WAS pregnant with my children—and completely unbearable when I am not pregnant.
Recently when a lady patted my stomach and said, "How are you getting along, Dear?" I replied, "I'm fine... and you are patting my flab; I'm not pregnant."

I make good food choices, and I try to exercise often, but with homeschooling five children it's just not a priority. I gave away all my maternity clothes after the last baby was born, but people still assume I'm pregnant. I am getting weary of saying, "Actually, I'm not pregnant," only to have people further stick their feet in their mouths by saying, "Well, no, of course you aren't... you just looked that way... I mean, you're big, but not... uh...." My friends say, "They mean well...." I don't care how "well" they mean... it's insensitive to make remarks about a person's personal appearance. Especially a STRANGER's!!

How do I rescue my self-confidence in such a situation?

Sincerely,
NOT Pregnant

Dear NOT Pregnant,

Before we answer your question, let us address all of our Dear Readers directly. Do you hear this? This is precisely why one Never, Ever Assumes that a Woman Is Expecting. We don't care how sure you think you are—unless she's wearing a "Baby On Board" shirt (which any Stylish Woman Would Never Be), you are Not Allowed even to insinuate that she MIGHT be Pregnant until She Brings It Up First! And of course, even if you are positively sure she is Pregnant, you are Not Allowed to Rub Her Tummy unless she specifically invites you to. Yes, she's Pregnant, and you might find that Adorable, but guess what? It's Still Her Body, and it is Very, Very Impolite to Start Patting Anybody's Abdomen.

Now, Dear NOT Pregnant, back to the question you raised. We would recommend saying something like, "I'm not pregnant. Please don't make assumptions like that; it's Very Embarrassing for both parties." If people say anything nonsensical trying to Recover From That, then so be it... there's probably no way to Stop Them from Babbling. We'd keep looking them right in the eye; just Watch Them Squirm. Or simply walk away after you've Said Your Piece to them.

Dear Reader, hang in there. We are terribly, terribly sorry you have to endure this Rude Behavior. We hope that our other Dear Readers will spread this information and stop these very Hurtful Comments from being made to you in the first place! You Poor Dear! We are, even now, raising a Virtual G&T to you for enduring all of these Annoying People without having Slugged Someone Already.

Most sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I invited two couples for a very special dinner party. One couple has been friends with us for 15 years and the other couple an acquaintance for four years. They had never met each other before. The dinner started at six with appetizers and cocktails, followed by dinner and dessert. Everybody was having a good time until the one couple invited the other couple to come over to their home for a drink and to show off their new house. I was very insulted... it was my dinner party and we usually chat and have after dinner drinks. Both couples left right after dessert and I was left with the clean up. I worked on this dinner from 8:00 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon... I worked very hard to make it great, and I resent the couple that suggested to go to their house. I feel that they should not have piggy-backed on my dinner party. And I also feel the other couple should have said, "Why don't we go see your house some other time?" Am I wrong to feel so put out?

Sincerely,
Sigs

Dear Sigs,

That is Very Odd Behavior. Not only is it Rude to suggest that a Party Should Move Elsewhere, it's particularly Rude not to invite the Hosts of the Original Party! Any invitation issued at your house should have included you. For example, if Couple A wanted to invite Couple B to a dinner party at their home Next Week (which, of course, would have been perfectly acceptable), they shouldn't have done it in front of you and your husband unless they were inviting you as well. If they wished to invite Couple B alone, they could have called them the next day. But Couple A should never have issued this invitation in the First Place; once it was issued, Couple B should have Declined It.

Sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Grrls,

As a willowy young woman of 6'2", I am often approached by strangers who inquire about my height, make rude comments such as, "Man, you're tall!" or ask silly questions like, "Do you play basketball?" And some just stare unashamedly, which makes me dreadfully uncomfortable. I love being tall, but I've become weary of the insensitivity of these ill-mannered strangers. Please advise me on some biting responses for these boorish individuals.

Thank you in advance,
Weary

Dear Weary,

Well, Dear Reader, there are plenty of things you could say:

Idiot: Man, you're tall!
You [with enthusiasm]: Hey! The sky is blue! And the Pope's Catholic!

Idiot: Man, you're tall!
You: And you're wearing a beige sweater! C'mon, now it's your turn to State Something Obvious.

Idiot: Do you play basketball?
You: No. Do you enjoy needlepoint?
Idiot: Huh?
You: Oh, sorry, I thought we were playing "Guess Each Other's Hobbies."

Idiot stares up at you.
You: Excuse me, is a piano about to fall on my head or something? What are you looking at?

People just need to STOP with the Stupid Questions and Comments. Really. It's enough to Drive One Mad!

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dearest Etiquette Grrls,

My best friend is brilliant, funny and all around fantastic, but she has the self-esteem of a confused 14-year-old regular to a phone-in suicide help line. Like so many women today do, she's started to blame her weight, and diets and exercises vigorously.

With maturity and reassurance I'm sure the mess will be sorted out. In the meantime, however, how should I deal with the disparaging comments she is constantly making about herself? I realize this sounds horrible, but I've really attempted to deal with this the first million times, and the million-and-oneth "I'm so fat!" or "But I'm just ugly!" is going to drive me insane. I've taken to snapping back at her or shutting up, creating awful, awkward silences before she too-brightly changes the subject. All of this is immeasurably painful, as she refuses to be convinced and I'm utterly sick of trying. Honestly, what can I do here?

Thanks,
Bestest Friend

Dear Bestest Friend,

We think you should deal with this Very Plainly. Yes, it's annoying when people do that—most of the time they're just Fishing For Compliments. However, we're afraid that if she does this All the Time, and has embarked on a Diet and Exercise Regime, she might be heading into the Eating Disorder Zone... so as her Best Friend, you probably should say something Rather Direct to her. Next time she says something like, "Arrrgh, I look so fat," look her in the eye and say, "Trixie, dear, you say things like that All the Time, and you really, truly need to Stop It. I've told you a million times that you look great. Frankly, it worries me that you seem to have such a low opinion of yourself... have you considered talking to anyone about this? Anyone who looks at you sees a healthy, beautiful girl, and if you can't see that yourself, something has to be Seriously Wrong Here." Now, obviously don't accuse her of Having an Eating Disorder or anything (that would be Terribly Presumptuous); just make sure you get the point across that maybe she hasn't realized it, but she is continually asking for Reassurance about Her Appearance and that it's Not Normal to Do So. Another tip: Make sure you do this In Private (this is Delicate Territory).

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

For this past summer, I have found myself in the unfortunate financial situation of being a College Freshman, whom everyone expects should be able to find a wildly successful internship at a smashing publishing company, as said Freshman is intelligent and has credentials, yet the Horrendous Situation of the Economy has forced me into Babysitting as a Summertime Endeavor. It has also given me serious pause in the consideration of Having a Family of My Own, as I cannot bear to see one more four-year-old Terror. The main problem I am having, however, is not with the children, but with the mother.

At the start of July, I was approached by the daughter of one of my mother's acquaintances (I am not Terribly Attached to this family; it's not as if they were my neighbors or an old teacher of mine) to watch her son on Monday mornings and All Day Fridays. As I am a Student of Very Little Income, I agreed to these horrific hours, at a fee of $10/hr. This is what I have been paid for babysitting since I was 12, and I have never run into a problem with payment in the past seven years, so I thought everything was fine. However, after my first week, when I logged twelve hours, I received an envelope containing only $100. I didn't know what to do, so I just took it and kept my mouth shut. After all, it was only a difference of $20. However, due to scheduling changes (which were sprung upon me at the last minute and which I did not appreciate) over the next two weeks I only babysat for this family for 14 hours (also, on the two Mondays the mother came home progressively later and later, stretching an 11:30 pick-up time to 12:30 without prior notification, which I did also Not Appreciate), and was paid, late, with, again, a mere $100.

Now, I am a Good Babysitter. We go to the Pool, the Library and the Park, we don't just Watch Television All Day Long, although that is becoming a Very Real Possibility. And her Child is not the little Angel he was touted up to be (although this is beside the point). Is there any polite way to inquire about the payment discrepancies? Or inform her that I don't appreciate the way her child is habitually picked up late? I agreed to leave these days Free, so I can't claim a Prior Engagement to Which I Really Must Dash, but if I'm not going to be compensated for, or at least informed of, these alterations, I don't feel particularly beholden. Also, these people are not Good Family Friends, and I am going Off to School at the end of August, so I feel little responsibility, but I just don't know what to do.

Sincerely,
Befuddled Babysitter

Dear Befuddled Babysitter,

First, Dear Reader, this is a Business Relationship. You have a right to Be Paid for the Hours That You Work, and you shouldn't hesitate to point out that you Haven't Been Paid What You Are Owed. We think you should mention that you have only been paid $200 so far for 26 hours of work, and that you just wanted to remind Your Employer so she could include the additional $60 in your paycheck for Next Week. She should be Horribly Embarrassed and include it. If she says something like, "But I thought we agreed to $100 per week!" then you should say that no, that was not Your Understanding, and that your rates are $10/hour. (By the way, Dear Reader, we think you ought to consider Giving Yourself a Raise. If you were earning $10/hour seven years ago, you should be making more than that now! You've got seven years' worth of Experience now, and you should be Compensated Accordingly! But We Digress.) In the future, we think it would be Smart to give Weekly Invoices to anyone employing you on a Regular Basis. Note the exact hours you worked, and figure out the money you should be paid, then present this to Your Client. That should eliminate any Potential Misunderstandings. Also, you might want to consider Charging Overtime when you end up watching Someone's Little Angels longer than you'd expected.

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Grrls,

I absolutely love your books and your website and was hoping you could give me a bit of advice. I am about to move to a new city to begin graduate school and have a concern. You see, I have some allergies to some rather ubiquitous foods (real allergies, of the throat swelling shut variety, not intolerances or mere pickiness) and therefore try to avoid eating in restaurants. But upon moving, I will inevitably meet lots of new people who will possibly wish me to go out with them. How do I handle this situation? I don't necessarily want the first thing someone learns about me to be that I have health problems, but at the same time, I don't want to be perpetually turning down invitations, else life will be terribly dull. And if I go out to a restaurant, how shall I interrogate the waiter without bringing too much attention to myself? And finally (sorry, I know this is beaucoup de questions) how might I handle an invitation to dine at someone's home? I can't very well say, "sure, but you can't cook anything with these ingredients ... (long list ensues)." I very much value your advice in this matter!

Yours,
Moving Jitters

Dear Moving Jitters,

We understand completely that you don't want to be known as "That Girl with the Wheat Allergy," but we agree, you probably are going to have to disclose this information to New Acquaintances. You might be able to postpone this by becoming a Terrific Hostess Yourself, and having people dine Chez Toi—then you can control the ingredients in what you serve, and there needn't be Any Discussion about it. Alternatively, if you have plans to go to a Particular Restaurant some evening, you can always Call Earlier, explain Your Allergies, and ask as many Detailed Questions about ingredients as you need to. But if the plans are Spur-of-the-Moment, you should go ahead and ask the Waiter (as subtly as you can), and, if you think anyone may have noticed, you can say, "Oh, I'm sorry about that... I have a few Annoying, But Serious Food Allergies that I have to be really careful about. So I always need to Interrogate the Poor Waiter. Anyway, back to [what you were talking about], which is much more interesting..." Honestly, Dear Reader, it probably wouldn't be bad to have acquaintances witness something like this so they'll know you have Allergies.

We also think you should make Your Allergies Known to anyone who invites you to Dinner at Her Home. Might it inconvenience the Hostess? Well, it might be a Bit More Work, but honestly, if we invite someone to A Party, we genuinely want them to Come and Have a Good Time, and if that means a little Special Planning, well, that just becomes part of the deal. Say something like, "Suzy, thank you so much for inviting me to Your Dinner Party! I'd love to come, but just wanted to chat with you before accepting-- I'm not sure if you know this, but I have some really serious Food Allergies. It's not something I talk about much, but unfortunately, it does make it Rather Awkward for me at Dinner Parties!" At this point, Suzy will probably say something like, "Oh, thank you for telling me! I was thinking of making Vegetable Lasagna and a Big Salad... I'll be sure to double-check the ingredients on everything. Can you tell me exactly what you can't eat?" And then, Dear Reader, you should be Fine. You can give her the Long List; or, feel free to say something like, "You know, if the salad doesn't have Nuts in it, or any kind of Peanut Oil, I'll be fine with that, and you needn't go to any special trouble." If, however, Suzy has specifically invited you over for something You Know You Can't Eat (i.e., "Suzy's Annual Peanut Butter Cookie Party"), you could either decline the invitation or accept but explain that sadly, you'll have to Pass Up the Famous Peanut Butter Cookies due to Your Allergies, but you would love to be there nonetheless.

Finally, as we recall, Grad School was All About Pot-Lucks. (And, well, being Generally Overworked, discussing Important Things like Angst-Ridden British Music of the Mid-1980's, and continually debating Whose Undergrad Students Were the Most Atrocious... but there were also Plenty of Pot-Lucks.) If that's the case, that's perfect! Just bring something (or even a few dishes) that you can Fill Up On, and you can enjoy the evening with Everyone Else.

Best of luck in Your Studies, Dear Reader!

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Would it be inappropriate to give a friend one of your etiquette books like MTYNTBT as a gift? I really enjoyed your book, and I just thought one of my friends might enjoy one too.

V.M.

Dear V.M.,

Of course not! Aww, we're so flattered that you'd like to share One of Our Books with a Friend! We'd recommend writing something in it like, "For Lauren, the most polite person I know—thought you'd enjoy this!" and we'd make sure not to leave a Bookmark at a Particular Page, or Highlight Anything, etc., but we think it would be Absolutely Fine. We've heard from lots of readers who've given TYNTBT and MTYNTBT as gifts, and it's always worked out well for them!

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

 

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