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The Etiquette Grrls' Q & A Archive: December 2003

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My younger sister is an extremely high-achieving high-school student who is currently in the midst of the University Application Process. My question refers to Thank-You Notes.

As part of one particular application she needed to supply letters of recommendation from people who work in the communications industry. She contacted an ex-girlfriend of mine who is a columnist for a major Sydney newspaper, who was only to happy to write a glowing recommendation.

I am very grateful that me ex took the time to write. Obviously my sister will be sending a Thank-You Note, but is it appropriate for me to do so as well? What time line would you suggest? And how do I phrase the note without it sounding like I'm attempting to win her heart?

Thanking you in advance,
D.

Dear D.,

There's no harm in your sending a Brief Note to your Ex-Girlfriend. But keep it very Short and Sweet: "Dear Harriet, My sister just told me that you'd taken the time to write a letter of recommendation for her—I just wanted to say thank you. She's really putting everything she's got into these applications, and I know your helping her out meant a lot to her. Hope all is going well for you. Thanks again, and best wishes, D." You can send the note anytime, we think; no need to wait to do it.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My roommate and I are invited to a friend's wedding at the end of the month. My roommate will be a bridesmaid in the wedding. We were discussing the wedding today and she asked if I thought it would offend the bride if she brought flip-flops to wear at the reception, since the heels she'll be wearing are quite high. I replied that regardless of the bride's feelings, it seems tacky to wear flip-flops at a wedding reception, especially if you're in the bridal party. She told me that she has heard of plenty of bridal parties changing into flip-flops and that some brides even give their bridesmaids cute flip-flops to wear at the reception. I know the Grrls' stance on flip-flops, but have you ever heard of this?

Flipping Out

Dear Flipping Out,

Sadly, we have heard of this. And it's not just Brides letting Bridesmaids wear Flip-Flops—it's Brides Themselves. LOOK at these things! We can just imagine Brides wearing these down the aisle: "Here comes the bride, flip flop flipflop…" However, we're not sure what's worse, the flip-flops or the "Savvy Bridal Sneaks." Ooh, my, yes, the first thing that springs to our minds is, "Aren't those glued-on faux seed pearls and little roses SAVVY?" And don't even get us started on the thong that says "I do." ("Shoot, what am I supposed to say? Hang on a minute, Reverend, I have it written down somewhere... be right back!") Really, if you get some well-made, comfortable shoes, and you break them in by wearing them around the house for a few evenings before the wedding, your feet will be Absolutely Fine, and you won't need to venture into Fashion Faux Pas Land.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I just got a mass e-mail from an ex-boyfriend who I haven't spoken to in nearly a year. The contents of the e-mail were to update all those in his e-mail address book as to a change in his e-mail address. I'm sure he had forgotten that I was included and needs to remove me from the list, but how do I tactfully request that he eliminate me from further e-mails of the sort? I have nothing against him and am sure there is no reason for us to think we will need to communicate in the future. We live in different cities and have very clearly moved on, however this one link still connects us (out of the blue mostly), and I would like to politely make sure he doesn't pop up in my inbox from time to time.

Thanks,
J.

Dear J.,

Why not just Block Him? Most e-mail programs have a feature that lets you send messages from Spammers, or just People You Don't Want to Hear From, directly into the Deleted Items folder. That would really be much simpler than contacting him just to say, "Please don't e-mail me anymore."

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My question deals with the Christmas season and gift-giving. I have just recently started to see a wonderful guy, and unfortunately I'm faced with quite a quandary, to give or not to give. What is the appropriate way to handle this situation? Do I give this great guy a gift for Christmas, or is this relationship "too new"? I think it would be a nice gesture to pick up something small, but meaningful. However, I don't want him to be in a compromising situation if he didn't get me anything.

Any advice and/or suggestions would be appreciated!

Thanks!
A.

Dear A.,

A small gift would be fine, we think. A book you think he'd enjoy would be great. A hand-knitted sweater emblazoned with "My Girlfriend Loves Me!!!"—not so much. We'd also recommend giving him the gift In Private, so if he doesn't have anything for you, you won't have to deal with a Potentially Awkward Situation in front of Everyone You Know. Just make sure you say something like, "This is just a Little Something… I just happened to see it in the bookshop near my apartment and thought you'd like it." If he says, "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't get anything for you," you've got to be able to say, "Don't worry about that in the slightest—just enjoy the book!" without looking Hurt or Disappointed. If you're not sure you can Pull This Off, you might want to send the gift to him rather than delivering it In Person.

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My mother-in-law is arriving at our house on Christmas Day with my sister-in-law, and we are glad to include them in our holiday plans. As a vegetarian household, we serve a festive pasta dish for our Christmas dinner. My mother-in-law does not feel that it is a Christmas dinner without meat. She has offered to take us to a restaurant for dinner, but since there are none nearby, I do wish to spend my evening entertaining my very young children while they are at a formal meal, and her first choice in restaurants would leave me with a baked potato, I really do not wish to take her up on her offer. Her compromise solution would be for her and her daughter to leave our home, find dinner for themselves, and return later in the evening. This feels inappropriate to me as well.

I feel that when you are a guest in someone's home, you should make yourself amenable to their customs. I also feel that if I am offering the best food I can cook, that is enough. My mother-in-law feels that I should serve meat if I have meat eaters as guests. My sister-in-law feels that I should respect her mother's wishes as the matriarch of the family and that I am on a power trip. I think it the real issue is that she really wants us to be at her house for Christmas dinner following her traditions, and we have refused to do so for the 10 years my husband and I have been married. We live several hundred miles away, and wanted to create family traditions for our children that did not involve being away from home this time of year. We do visit the weekend before Christmas.

My husband is mediating the disagreement (this is not the first time it has come up, I should add), and fully agrees with me. But additional support would be welcome, if you agree with me. Thank you for your consideration,

Sincerely,
A Vexed Vegetarian

Dear Vexed Vegetarian,

If you're the Hostess, you get to decide What to Serve. Period. It is NEVER proper for a Guest to offer Editorial Comment on a Hostess's Menu, and it is especially rude for her to do so In Advance of the Event Itself! You could decide to serve Pancakes for Christmas Dinner and, while most people would consider that Rather Eccentric, a truly polite Guest would act as if it were the most Common Thing in the World and say absolutely nothing Critical. And, by the same token, if a Vegetarian found herself at the home of a Carnivore, and were confronted avec a Roast Turkey, she'd busy herself with the Side Dishes and not make a Big Deal out of the fact that she doesn't eat the Main Course.

Furthermore, accepting your invitation to come to Your Home for Christmas means, in our book, actually eating Christmas Dinner with you. It would be The Height of Rudeness (THOR) for them to come to your home, leave to dine somewhere else, then return, when the main family celebration you have invited them to participate in is, in fact, Christmas Dinner.

Very sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Last week my mom called (long distance) to tell me that one of her friends had lost some weight, and that mom would like to send me some of her (now too big) clothes. Luckily, I have also lost weight recently, and was able to say, "Thanks, but they wouldn't fit me."

This is not the first time my mom has done this, and usually she doesn't ask before sending stuff. Is there some polite way to tell mom that (1) If I want used clothes I can go to the thrift store, and (2) at 40, I'm not really interested in random hand-me-downs from 65-70 year old friends?

Thanks for your consideration,
H.

Dear H.,

First, "So-and-so lost weight, so she can't wear this anymore, but it would fit YOU" is the most Horrible Way Imaginable of offering someone a hand-me-down! Dear Reader, you have Our Sympathy! As for what to tell Your Mother, well, what about saying that your New Year's Resolution is to Pare Down Your Wardrobe, and that you'd appreciate if she stopped sending hand-me-downs to you? You appreciate the thought, but you really don't have Endless Closet Space, and you're sure the clothes could be given, via a charity, to someone in Your Mother's Hometown who could use them far more than you. If she still sends you stuff, well, you have to decide how much it's worth to you to keep reminding her not to do it. We'd recommend being straight with her: "Mom, I really meant it when I asked you not to send me used clothing. I don't need anything else, and I've actually ended up having to donate a lot of it to charity. Please don't go to the trouble of mailing that stuff to me." But if this will Go Unheeded, no matter how often you say it, or cause Your Mother to Never Speak to You Again, well, then we'd probably just Cut Our Losses and take the boxes straight to Goodwill as they arrive at your door.

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My question is regarding college etiquette. A friend of mine recently had surgery, and I (along with another girl) bought her a present that we stored in our dorm's kitchen. When I went to deliver the gift, I found that the gift was half gone, and the remaining half in a ruined state. Needless to say, I was rather upset.

What would the EGs do in this situation? Is there anything to be done, or should I just accept that this is THOR and move on? I know how helpful you can be, so any suggestions would be appreciated!

Sincerely,
College Freshman

Dear College Freshman,

Oh no, Dear Reader, you've just hit upon an Annoying Fact of College Life: Dorm Kitchens are Dens of Thievery. First, we'd try to avoid leaving ANYTHING in the Kitchen that you wouldn't mind Losing. Even if your stuff is clearly labeled with Your Name, there is always going to be the chance that someone will decide to use it or eat it. So if it's Your Lucky Coffee Mug, or some Extra-Special Treats from Home, you'd be better off keeping it in Your Room. Now please understand, we think that in an Ideal World, you should of course be able to leave anything in the kitchen. However, we've been to College, and one of the things we learned is that it's just a reality that If You Leave It in the Kitchen, It Is Most Likely Going to Be Eaten or Used by Someone Other Than You, If It Is Not Pilfered Entirely.

One thing to remember, though: It's not always Drunk Frat Boys Raiding the Fridge. Sometimes, quite sadly, it's Someone Who Has an Eating Disorder. Yes, it's still unfair that Your Gift was Ruined, but we don't think taping up a note like, "Hey, whoever ate half of the Basket of Goodies I left in here last Friday (even though it was clearly labeled with my name), THANKS A LOT. You wrecked a present I was going to give to an ill friend. I hope you Rot In Hell, you Jerk!" would be the best thing to do at this point. Speak to Your R.A., or to a Dorm Parent. They should probably be made aware that this happened, because there could be a pattern of things like this going on that would indicate someone in the Dorm might need to Get Some Help.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

With Thanksgiving having kicked off the Holiday Season, I find myself once again facing a certain dilemma: the holiday / Christmas / New Year's party. Due to an assortment of personal reasons, I do not drink alcohol, though I have no problems with others doing so. My close friends understand and don't press the issue (actually, most of them find it rather convenient, because they know I'll either play designated driver or otherwise make sure that they get home safely). Unfortunately, others do not. How does one politely make clear one's intention to refuse a drink without making a scene when "No, thank you" has been met with, "It's just one _______, geez... have some!"?

I wouldn't ask, except that I am running out of ideas. I have no wish to drag my personal history out in the open, and I have tried asking for water or a soda instead. The latter resulted in my leaving the room to regain control of my temper because the *ahem* person returned with a beer and tried to insist I drink it (instead of quietly passing it off to a friend, as I attempted to do). Any suggestions would be gratefully welcomed!

Many thanks!
L.

Dear L.,

We think it is Unforgivably Rude to bring a Beer to someone who has said, "No, thank you," to an offer of an Alcoholic Beverage! What the HELL is this idiot thinking! People who aren't drinking have Good Reasons for doing so, and it's not funny to act as if they're Just Kidding. This makes us so angry!

In general, if someone says, "Could I get you a drink?" you should be able to say, "Thanks—club soda and cranberry juice would be great" without having to say, explicitly, that you're not drinking alcohol. If someone says, "Sure you don't want anything stronger?" then just say, "Yes, I'm sure—thanks!" You can add, "I don't drink," or "I'm not drinking tonight," if you want, but you really don't have to, since it's not Anybody's Business.

Dear Reader, if some fool does bring you a drink after you've already declined one, or expressed a preference for something non-alcoholic, don't be afraid to say something like, "Sorry, but I'm not going to take that; I thought I mentioned that I just wanted club soda and cranberry juice / am not drinking tonight / do not drink." You don't need to give any more detail, or accept the drink at all.

The Nerve of Some People! The EGs think you are to be commended, Dear Reader, for not pouring Said Beer over the idiot's head. That would, of course, be Quite Rude, but boy, would it be Tempting.

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Grrls,

I hope you are enjoying a lovely holiday season! My question is a simple one, but I could not find the answer in the archives.

Is it appropriate or expected to send thank-you cards for holiday gifts? I typically send to everyone who gives a gift to me or my son, whether I open the gift in the giver's presence or not. I sometimes think I am overdoing it, because I have yet to receive a thank-you for any holiday gift-giving I do. Am I going overboard, EGs, or doing the right thing?

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Over-Thankful(?)

Dear Over-Thankful,

Of course you're not Overdoing It! The EGs have always firmly believed that if you receive a gift, you should send a thank-you note. And that's true no matter what the occasion, or whether or not you open the gift in the giver's presence. It's lovely if you're able to thank the giver in person, but the thank-you note should go out promptly anyway. We think it's Just Awful that you've never received a Proper Thank-You Note for any Holiday Presents! That would tempt us to start giving out copies of MTYNTBT, with a bookmark at page 165 (section title: Just a Reminder: You Get a Gift, You Write a Damn Thank-You Note).

As an aside, Dear Reader, we're assuming your son is Quite Small, or he'd be writing his own Thank-You Notes (with a Mother who's as proper as you, we're sure he will grow up knowing how to write Beautiful Thank-You Notes), but we felt the need to point out that if Children Can Write, they should be Taking Pen to Paper Themselves… it's not Their Mother's Job to do it for them. We wouldn't want our Dear Readers thinking they should be writing Thank-You Notes for their children!

Happy Holidays to you, too!

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have a minor dilemma. Not a serious one, really, I’m just a little bit concerned I may have a very tacky accessory, and I’d like to know what the lovely and brilliant Etiquette Grrls think. It’s getting close to finals period, and being a senior in college I have many, many papers to write and exams to study for, and since I live a bit of distance from campus, I’ll often pack my rolling backpack with my laptop and several books/notebooks. This way, I can study between classes, without hurting my back from the lifting and the carrying of so many big books, and I don’t have to waste 20 minutes walking back to my apartment to switch books, when I could just sit in the hallway and work. I opt for the rolling backpack because I generally dislike big bulky multi colored backpacks with a thousand pockets and random bungee cord straps–I’m walking around Washington, D.C., not hiking in the Rocky Mountains, and I don’t really need a bungee strap to hold anything, so it seems my small plain black rolling backpack shouldn’t be a problem.

But now I’ve heard that rolling backpacks are passé and perhaps even a wee bit tacky. I’ve only had one person ever make a comment within ear shot, actually a woman pushing an SUV-style stroller with a baby that looked smaller than my disease pathology text said rather loudly to her companion that students were so melodramatic about the weight of their bags. I resisted the urge to point out that my bag weighed more than her child, and no one gave her grief about pushing a baby around, with a cup holder for her latte, no less – I thought it would be rude and I wouldn’t want to be rude to a complete stranger in the middle of the street. I wouldn’t want to be rude to anyone, but I digress. I’m always very careful to avoid people’s feet with the little wheels, and I always pick it up when I’m going up or down stairs to avoid the loud clunking, and I try to be very aware of the space around me that it takes up, so that I don’t impinge upon anyone else’s personal walking space . But I’m curious if these bags are now considered tacky. They’re very nice for the times like now, when I have lots of work to do in a relatively short time period of time, and I want to use that free time I have between classes, and I don’t really want to develop low back pain in the process (university life has brought on enough ailments in the past three and a half years, I don’t need anymore!). Should I investigate alternate means to carry my projects?

Thanks much,
Student in DC

Dear Student,

Students are getting melodramatic about the weight of their books?? Oh, yeah, it would be MUCH better for everyone to carry their books in Giant Backpacks and develop Back Problems! In our opinion, it is far better to have a Small, Plain Rolling Backpack than to walk around a city looking as if you've Strayed From the Hiking Trail, or to Throw Out Your Back. As long as you're careful not to run over Anyone Else's Feet, and you try to minimize the space it takes up on buses, trains, etc., by tucking it under your seat or placing it on the luggage rack, you're not being rude to anyone by using a Rolling Backpack! And we don't think a rolling bag for books is Necessarily Tacky. We're sure you could find a Tacky Rolling Bag in pretty short order (sadly, it's rather easy to find Tacky Things), but a Small, Plain, Black One like the one you described sounds fine. It'll probably never be a Fashion Statement, but that's okay—it's functional! Keep using it, and don't give it a Second Thought.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I am a college undergraduate taking a large lecture class where we have de-facto assigned seats (if the teacher does not spot us when she looks to our normal spot we are marked absent). I sit behind another student who has what I feel to be a dreadful habit. At one or more points during the lecture, he begins to systematically crack what seems to be every joint in each of his hands. He then swivels completely around in his chair, sometimes meeting my glare with a look of glazed equine vacancy, and restarts the process on his neck and entire spine. I am a reasonable person, and have no qualms with a perfectly natural knuckle pop once in a while; God knows I have my share, but isn’t this over the line?

Sincerely,
Popping off the Handle

Dear Popping,

Ack! Your letter has made the EGs Queasy! We really hate noisy joint-cracking in public! Now, we're not talking about the odd Accidental Joint Pop that happens to everyone on occasion—we're talking about the people who fancy themselves Amateur Chiropractors and can't sit still for an hour without making disgusting cracking noises. That sound is right up there with Nails on a Blackboard! If, for some reason, you really have a physical NEED to crack something because it's painful if you don't and your doctor said it's okay for you to crack it, you should not subject Other People to the sound. Excuse yourself, and do your cracking in private.

Anyway, Dear Reader, we feel terrible for you! Unfortunately, you've only got two choices: Confront the Crack Addict ("I'm sorry, but would you mind not doing that during class? It's kind of loud and distracting"), or change your seat and make sure the Professor knows about it. You said they're de-facto assigned seats—we think that means you probably should be okay just stopping by the prof's office and saying, "Just wanted to let you know, I'm going to move up to the front row next week. I wanted to change seats to be a little more comfortable." That's in no way a lie… she'll probably be fine with it, as long as she knows where you are.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I was talking to a friend at work and he was telling me that an old work friend had called the shop where we work asking for another ex-worker's phone number. I immediately broke in with, "You didn't give his number out, did you?"

He responded with, "Well, I didn't have the number with me but I went home for the number and tried to call him to give the number, but I have not reached him yet." I then said good, don't give it to him. He thought I was being really crazy for being so protective of another friend's privacy.

This guy really has no idea why not to give out phone numbers, but if he gave out my number I would have been pretty mad.

My rule of thumb when I'm put in a position like my friend is to get the first party's number and call party number two, and have party two call the first party. What is your advice?

Sincerely,
Trying to Be Polite

Dear Trying,

That's exactly what we'd do. We'd say something like, "Oh, I don't have that right here, but if you'll leave me your number I will pass it along to him the next time I see him." Many people are Quite Protective of their Home or Cell Numbers, and it's always better not to give them out unless you have Express Permission to do so... e.g., "If Hannah ever calls, will you please let her know I'm dying to get in touch with her? You can give her my number."

Best regards,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear grrls:

I have a situation that I'm not sure how to handle (or articulate very well - so please bear with me).

My Boyfriend has rented a limo to transport myself and my two roommates to a football game. Roommate 1 just said "cool" and asked when we'd be leaving, etc. However, Roommate 2 is indicating that, in light of this transportation arrangement, she may invite Other People to "come with us" to the game, and one can reasonable presume, into the limo. Please note that neither I nor my generous Boyfriend have been asked if inviting Other People would be okay. I think it quite rude and presumptuous for Roommate 2 to invite Other People when it was My Boyfriend who made the arrangements. Am I overreacting? Is there a non-confrontational way to inform Roommate 2 that they basically have no business inviting Other People to share the limo ride?

Sincerely,
Irritated

Dear Irritated,

Nope, you're not overreacting. It's not polite to bring Extra People to a party you've been invited to, and this is the Same Sort of Thing. Now, you obviously can't stop Other People from Attending the Game—if Your Roommates have friends who would also like to go, they could certainly buy their own tickets and see you there. But the Limo Ride is definitely not something that should be open to All and Sundry without the Host's Permission! If you want a rather Passive Way of making your point, you could start saying things like, "The four of us will have such a Great Time taking the Limo to the Game!" But we'd recommend being More Direct, which you can do without being Rude. "Oh, Nancy, I just wanted to mention—Henry wanted the limo to be a treat just for the four of us. If James and Elizabeth are going to be at the game too, that's great, but we'll meet them there."

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

We received an invitation to arrive at 10:30 P.M. on New Year's Eve for drinks and desserts. The dress code said "divine." What does "divine" mean in clothing?

Puzzled

Dear Puzzled,

Sorry, but We Haven't the Foggiest. Perhaps you should dress as Your Favorite Deity?

Please, everyone, enough with the Made-Up Dress Code Designations! They just confuse everybody!

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I'm not sure, but I may have a rude neighbor. He held a Thanksgiving party this weekend, complete with turkey and a variety of other food, so that friends who had spent the holiday with their families could see one another. I just received this e-mail (names removed to protect all parties):

Our invitees this year fell into three groups.

I: People who came. Thank you! It was good to see you all.

II: People who sent their regrets. Sorry you couldn't make it; we'll hope to see you soon.

III: People who said they'd come, then didn't show.

If you fall into group III, I have a request: please don't do this. Consider that we bought and prepared food *for you* on the assumption that you were coming. Should we hold any more events like this, PLEASE let us know if you have to cancel. In fact, if at all possible, please let us know a day in advance, so that we can adjust our shopping.

Thanks,
**

I did not leave off the salutation; there simply wasn't one (an issue in itself). The e-mail was sent to a long list of people, presumably to all the invitees of the party. Having played the hostess often myself, I understand the frustration with guests who don't R.S.V.P., who say they will come and don't, who say they won't come and do, who bring extra guests, etc. However, does such behavior give the host the right to scold his guests (or non-guests)? I could perhaps see speaking with repeat offenders privately, or no longer inviting them to your parties, but to send a mass e-mail, and not even make use of the blind carbon copy function, to boot? To his credit, he did not say who fell into which group, but that doesn't help much. Even though I know I'm not in the wrong here, I feel like a guilty child. I can think of so many better ways he could have handled this situation, but I would love to know what you, my most trusted source of etiquette, think. Please tell me if this e-mail was acceptable.

Thanks,
Scolded

Dear Scolded,

You do have a Rude Neighbor. Sending a mass e-mail like this is most unacceptable! It's always Rude to give someone a Dressing-Down in front of Other People, which is what this amounts to. We completely understand why the host is angry, but if he wanted to confront the people who Did Not R.S.V.P., he should have done it Privately.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I recently attended a family Thanksgiving gathering that lasted six days. Four generations and eight states were represented. There were 23 people at the Thanksgiving table. My mother-in-law, who is in her eighties, wanted to present all the adult women in the family with earrings she made herself. The gifts were lovely but her presentation of them was flawed by factors beyond her control. Some of the recipients may have never known that Grandma gave them anything at all.

There were children at the gathering who have never been taught to respect their elders. Grandma offered her gift to one of the daughters-in-law. Both women and the husband of the recipient were sitting on a very nice leather sofa. It was a pretty picture. Unfortunately, a three-year-old boy and an almost-five-year-old girl decided that that sofa was the place they had to bounce for as long as they wanted. The parents of these children had a strange way of exerting "control." They said to their children, "If you say 'please,' Mommy and Daddy will sit on the floor and you can jump on the couch as long as you want." The kids said a grudging "please" and the parents fell down like a house of cards laughing all the way.

In other circumstances that might be quaint or amusing but it was neither when the children who "must" bounce caused Grandma to sit on the floor while she was trying to present a handmade gift to the mother of the bouncers. The presentation should have been a lovely moment but it wasn't. It's hard to present a gift when little heels are hitting you in the head and the recipient is so absorbed in the magnificence of her children's bouncing that she can't see the beauty of a gift from a woman of one generation to a woman of another.

Most of Grandma's other presentations were brushed off in the same way. I felt bad for her. She did the best she could to make presents, and her presents were very lovely. After dinner I found the earrings scattered all over the living room. I gathered them up and put a sign on them, "Here are the earrings." Nobody seemed to notice. They were gifts given from the heart, but few could be bothered to even look at them. What can you do in a case like that?

Quite Peeved

Dear Quite Peeved,

"If you say 'please,' Mommy and Daddy will sit on the floor and you can jump on the couch as long as you want"??!? Hmmph. We've got to write that one down for our running list of "Things It Is a Pretty Safe Bet You Will Never Hear the EGs Say."

Anyway, we feel terrible for Your Mother-in-Law. We think you did the right thing in gathering up the earrings lest they be Crushed Underfoot. We might have attempted to do something like Make an Announcement to the group that Grandma had made special earrings for the women in the family and was about to begin going around to present them, so it would be great if she could have everyone's attention for a few minutes, but if things were Truly Chaotic, even this might not have worked. Or, perhaps, someone might have noticed the children were getting in the way and offered to take them somewhere else for a Game of Some Sort. (However, if the recipients are ungrateful people, they would probably be inattentive even if the scene was comprised only of Adults.) However, we still might have attempted to say something to each woman as they left, such as, "Wasn't that KIND of Grandma to make everyone earrings? It seems that got lost in the shuffle somehow, with all the kids running around… I think we should all do something so she knows we appreciated her effort. You have your pair, right?" At this point, though, we'd concentrate on making Grandma aware that you, at least, appreciated her gift, by writing her an extra-lovely thank-you note.

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My boyfriend and I are seriously discussing marriage. I moved to my current city of residence about five years ago and I plan on staying here. My hometown and thus the rest of my family live about 3-4 hours away. My boyfriend was born and raised in this area. Our problem is that we don't know where to hold a reception. Is it proper to have the reception in the city where the bride is from? Is it in bad taste for us to have a reception here and another in my hometown at a later date? Being from a smaller town, I know that the price for a reception hall will be significantly less than in the bigger city I live in. Plus I would also have the help of several aunts who would be grateful to help with food preparation and manning the food table at a reception. Any suggestions you have for handling this situation would be greatly appreciated!!

Stuck in the Middle

Dear Stuck in the Middle,

It's Your Wedding, and you're allowed to have it Wherever You Want, whether that's in Your Hometown, Your Fiancé's Hometown, or on a Remote Island in the Caribbean! The only thing you're NOT allowed to do regarding the location where the wedding takes place is to make Guests feel they are Expected to Attend if getting there would be difficult for them. For example, it would be Way Out of Line to throw a Hissy Fit because your friend can't take time off from work in order to make the trip to the Remote Caribbean Island, as it would involve three plane changes and a six-hour layover in Miami. Actually, it's traditional to hold the Wedding in the Bride's Hometown, so we doubt many people would be surprised if you chose to have it there. Of course, if there are particular people you'd really, really like to attend, and having it there would present a problem for them, you will need to keep this in mind, and since we don't know your situation, you'll need to weigh all the factors yourself. Perhaps your fiancé has a favorite Great-Aunt who doesn't drive and would find it difficult to make it to the city where you're having Your Wedding, even though it may only be a few hours away. If that's the case, perhaps you can try to arrange transportation and/or lodging for her. Or, if he has a lot of relatives who will be making the Same Trip, you could even look into renting some sort of Bus (you know, a Nice One that people would feel comfortable riding in whilst All Dressed Up, not a Gross School Bus)—we don't know how expensive that might be, but it would be an option if it's important for you to make it easy for His Relatives to get there. As for having two receptions, well, we're not really keen on those, since it usually looks as if the Bride and Groom are Fishing for Presents. If his parents wanted to have a small-scale get-together in his hometown after Your Wedding, where you would just get a chance to spend time with members of his family who couldn't make it, that would be fine, but it should be more like, "We're having a wee cocktail party in January because Lily and Henry will be in town," rather than, "This is Lily and Henry's Reception 2.0, complete with dancing, formal attire, and a Giant Wedding Cake."

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have a question of utmost importance concerning what present to purchase (and how much to spend). I am the maid of honor in this wedding and as such have been at the haunches of the Bride, who has been saying things like, "If I am spending $4,000 on my dress, you can spend $400," and telling friends of mine—not people who are invited to the wedding, mind you—"All I care about is getting all of my china on the registry." Now I love my friend to death, BUT she is definitely obsessed with the COST of things (the wedding will most likely be $100K) which is funny because she is the CHEAPEST, RICHEST person I know. I am already helping throw her a shower (but it's catered and expensive) with a group of the wedding party members, I am hosting the bachelorette weekend in NYC, I have bought the $200 dress (that I loved except for the fact the dressmakers insisted I buy one size too big so I have to spend $100 in alterations to bring it down an entire size, the one I wanted to buy in the first place… don't get me started), and I am even leaving my lovely boyfriend in our $150/night room by himself the night before the wedding to spend the night with her, so she isn't alone.

So I am leaving no stone unturned to be a compliant and attentive maid of honor. However, my question is this—she constantly tells me how she has registered at only one place that is very expensive (and local only) and how she registered for stuff she doesn't even want, in an effort to be able to return all of it and get all of her china because it is $300 a place setting. (Which she could just buy outright if she skimped on part of the $100K wedding—which she also constantly reminds me). I normally spend about $50 for a gift, maybe more if I am in the wedding party. Now when we were in a friend's wedding last year, she mentioned that when I get married, she would spend more money as I am her best friend. SO to me that translates that she will expect that I purchase something costly from the registry… perhaps even a $300 place setting. (They even e-mailed all those invited to the wedding a link to the store that they are registered at—and invitations have not even gone out yet!)

So what price range should I be looking at for a gift? Or should I just get her something that is more personal (which I usually do)—that is engraved or thoughtful rather than a cup and saucer that may never see the light of day?!

Vexed in Virginia

Dear Vexed,

First, we need to address our Dear Readers. Okay, Dear Readers, how many of you want Vexed to give us this Insane Bride's e-mail address so we can all give her A Piece of Our Minds? This sort of behavior needs to be stopped!

All right, Poor, Dear Vexed, back to Your Question. We think you need to ignore her Silly Registry and her not-so-subtle hint about how she'd get YOU an Expensive Present if you were getting married, and give her something that you think is appropriate. There is never, ever a required Price Range for Gifts, no matter what the occasion is or who the giver and recipient are. (Everyone who is shopping for Holiday Gifts right now needs to remember this! Never feel you've got to match what someone spends on you!) We think something Engraved and Thoughtful would be Just the Ticket. Heck, something Homemade would be splendid, too. She needs a Big Reminder that her wedding should not be All About Her Damn China, and we think you could probably accomplish that very nicely with a personalized gift (which, tee hee, also would just happen to be Non-Returnable) and some words like, "I know you're expecting a lot of people to give you Expensive Gifts, but since we're such close friends, I wanted to get you something more Personal—I knew you'd appreciate that so much more." Lay it on thick, Dear Reader, and smile very sweetly.

Down with Greedy Brides,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

When did it become acceptable for "gentlemen," or boys as I prefer to call them, to wear ball caps or cowboy hats inside—churches, restaurants, etc.? Thank you.

Curious

Dear Curious,

While the East Coast did get hit with a Nasty Snowstorm this weekend, as far as we know, Hell Has Not Frozen Over, and thus it is still not acceptable for Boys to Wear Hats Indoors.

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

 

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