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The Etiquette Grrls' Q & A Archive: January 2002

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

First of all, I just want to say that I absolutely adored your book! You mentioned you'll be writing another one; could I ask what you'll be covering in it?

My main question is this: what do I say to people who feel they have the right to challenge my choice of college? I am a senior in high school, and I have found a small, all-women, liberal arts college that I have absolutely fallen in love with. However, since I have good grades and good test scores, some people feel the Need to Inform Me that I really should be going to Stanford or Harvard instead of a small college They've Never Heard Of. Now the Ivy Leagues may be for some, but they are certainly not for me. I'm getting very tired of having to defend my choice of college to people I've barely met. Do you have a brief response I can give to these people?

Soon-to-be Collegiate

Dear Soon-to-be Collegiate,

Three Cheers for you for choosing a College you actually love instead of going somewhere Other People Think You Should Go. If anyone dares to Question Your Decision, and the EGs are Around, we'll smack them avec our Kate Spade Bags! Bam! However, Dear Reader, we want you to know you absolutely do not have to Defend Your Choice of School to ANYONE. It's Your Choice, and you needn't Justify It to Total Strangers! We'd probably just let the Idiots Blabber, and say something Noncommittal, Yet Dismissive, like "So I've hearrrrrrd... Now please Excuse Me. " If you really want to Put Them In Their Place, you could always try, "Actually, I considered applying to Big University, because everyone says it's a Decent School, but when I visited the campus I realized that if I were surrounded by such Obnoxious, Snotty Twerps 24-7, I would Go Insane. Plus, it would have only been My Safety School."

As for Book II, we are working on it constantly, Dear Reader! We will cover a Very Wide Range of Topics, much as we did in TYNTBT-- to list them all here would Spoil the Surprise, though! If you have suggestions for things you'd love to have us Sound Off About, please Let Us Know!

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I simply Adore your website and your Book. Thank you ever so much for all of the wonderful knowledge that has now filled my brain beyond capacity.

My question is: What is the proper way to wear one's wedding and engagement rings. I was once told that one would wear the wedding band over the engagement ring, sort of "sealing" the betrothal. However, every single woman I have seen wears the rings in the opposite manner, band than ring above it. Is there a proper way to wear the rings? Or can one wear them as one wishes?

I hope that there is an answer available for this head-scratcher.

Miss T.Z.

P.S. The EG's Artichoke Dip was the hit at my office's Halloween Pot Luck Luncheon. Thank You!

Dear Miss T.Z.,

First, thank you so much for your Nice Words about us! We are particularly happy that the Artichoke Dip was a Big Success for you.

Now, we're pleased to answer Your Question. A woman wears her wedding ring at the base of her finger, with her Engagement Ring above it (if she chooses to wear her Engagement Ring after Her Marriage, that is). As we've heard it explained, the Wedding Band should be Closer to One's Heart. (For this reason, a woman wears her Engagement Ring on her Right Hand during her Wedding Ceremony, so that the Wedding Band may be put on in its Proper Place. After the Ceremony, she transfers her Engagement Ring back to her Left Hand.)

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I read your book and found it Very Enlightening and also the Cat's Pajamas. As a result, I've tried many new things, like Urban Decay nail polish, Doc Martens, and Gin and Tonics.

Now I have a question for the Etiquette Grrls. What would you two recommend a Girl wear to a Company Party at The House of Blues Jazz Club in Los Angeles on a February evening? I just can't seem to figure it out.

Thank you for any assistance you can provide.


Dear Jazzed,

We're so pleased that Our Book has Opened Your Eyes to a Wealth of New Delights! We are simply thrilled that you've discovered the Great Joys of Docs, G&Ts, and Urban Decay. While the EGs aren't sure of the Time of Your Party (one would, of course, wear something Quite Different in the Late Evening than to some sort of Company Luncheon, even if Said Luncheon happened to be held in A Jazz Club for some bizarre reason), we'll assume it's In the Evening. You cannot Go Wrong with a Little Black Dress, Dear Reader-- the Plainer, the Better. If it's Chilly, throw a little Beaded Cardigan over it. To spice this up, we recommend finding a pair of Great Shoes to go with it. And there you go, Dear Reader! Do adjust this to the Sort of Crowd you expect... obviously, if your Company is A Stodgy Law Firm, you'll want to stick with a Traditional Cut (like a nice boatneck dress with Bracelet Sleeves), whereas if your company is a Trendy Design Firm, you could get away with a Great Sleeveless Vintage Dress with an Unusual Neckline. Really, though, Dear Reader, if you have Any Doubt, err on the side of The Conservative.

Have a Smashing Time!

With best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

im doing a report on ettiquitte in the Eouropean country Romania. i was wondering do you know any weird ettiquitte things they have like drinking blood or how they greet each other or if holdin up a pinky is like flipping someone off here in america. i need help. your help would be appreciated


Dear becky,

Oh, Dear Reader, you've come to the Right Place! Herewith, Ten Quick Facts about Proper Etiquette in Romania! Maybe you could Copy Them Verbatim for a Really Good Grade!

1. It is Proper Etiquette in Romania to greet someone by Bowing Very Low and then Whacking Them in the head with a Small Poppyseed Pastry, which everyone keeps handy in their Back Pocket. DO NOT leave home without Said Pastry, unless you want to insult everyone you meet.

2. If service in a Restaurant is Really Good, you should present the Smallest Coin You Have to the Waiter with a Great Deal of Fuss. He will be More Pleased with that than if you left a Big Tip.

3. If anyone offers you Blood to drink, it is very bad manners to inquire as to Which Type It Is.

4. Never, ever, offer someone an Orange Gift-- this means you think they are at Death's Door. Fried Food in an Orange Box is Absolutely Verboten.

5. If you are in A Restaurant, and someone has an Interesting Dish, you may Sample It without asking, but only if you perform the Traditional Dance known, in translation, as the "Asking for a Bite of That" dance.

6. Never, on the Pain of Death, discuss Birds, which are only to be referred to Euphemistically as "The Winged Ones."

7. Holding up a pinky is not like Flipping Someone Off, but is usually taken to mean, "I would like you to Marry Me," so Be Careful!

8. Never, ever, ever Turn to Your Left. Polite People only Turn Right in Romania.

9. You should sing along in Your Loudest Voice to any music you hear. If you're not sure of the Words, Make Them Up. This is particularly true when you're In the Theatre.

10. It is Very Polite, and, indeed, a High Compliment, to inquire if everyone you meet knows Nadia Comaneci.

Good luck with the Report! We bet Your Teacher will think it's Quite Swell!

The Etiquette Grrls *

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I received one of those Christmas letters from my Aunt over the holidays. She filled us in on the year's events with her family, but then wrote one and a half pages about my cousin's accomplishments during his senior year of high school and first semester at Yale. She listed every award he won, every newspaper he appeared in, every college he was accepted to (all Ivy Leagues), with asterisks, mind you, indicating which ones he was accepted to early admission. Needless to say, the woman overstepped the boundaries of "pride" into megalomania. Outside of family, I do not know who else received this letter, but I fear her friends will no longer speak to her. Her son, no doubt, will continue receiving accolades throughout his life. Can you suggest a diplomatic way for me to enlighten my aunt so that she will not continue to send this kind of cram-my-son's-numerous-accomplishments-down-your-throat Christmas letter? Honestly, a summary of his awards would do just fine. We know that he is brilliant.

Thank you!

I am a big fan. Cake rocks.


Dear K.,

Clearly, Your Aunt did not heed the EGs' Advice on Christmas Letters. (Not that the EGs approve of Christmas Letters, really, if Truth Be Told, Dear Reader. We were just trying to Lessen Their Evil.) No, no, no, bragging like this is Not Necessary, and we bet the Poor Young Man being so lauded is Horribly, Terribly Embarrassed! He is probably even now Holed Up in His Room, listening to The Cure and Threatening to Drop Out of College and become a Professional Skateboarder. And wouldn't that Serve His Mother Right! But we digress.

Your best action here, Dear Reader, is to Take No Notice. If others choose to Ostracize This Woman, that is Their Choice. It might be a good idea, next year, to Toss Her Letter Out sans Reading It-- who needs to Get So Upset during the Holidays, Dear Reader? And after all, isn't the best way to Squash Megalomania to Ignore It Completely?

Cake does Rock, Indeed! Hurrah for Cake!

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dearest Etiquette Grrls,

I've happily found your web-site and am spreading the gospel to young ladies everywhere. What I wish to know is in regards to this new "trend" of thank-you note writing (I use the term thank-you loosely). I have been to showers recently where the host asks me to fill out my own envelope for a thank-you note! My jaw drops seemingly every time... I find this outrageous! Could I get a little feedback from you? Perhaps you could cover this in a section on your web site.

Wendy B.

Dear Wendy B.,

Oh, we can do better than covering it in a Random Section of Our Site. We'll tackle it Right Here, Right Now! That Horrid Practice is Simply Unacceptable! Much like Wearing Sweatpants in Public, it is Tacky, and Lazy, and Not to Be Tolerated! What's next, making each guest shell out 34 cents for Postage, too? If the Bride-to-Be cannot be bothered to Take Pen to Paper for the WHOLE note to each guest, including Its Envelope, she has no business having someone throw her a shower for That Many Guests.

We're glad you've found our site and are Spreading the News about it!

Most sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I was married in September, then my husband and I traveled for some weeks abroad. When we returned, I began writing thank-you notes for our bounty of gifts. Because I like to sip some tea and compose a personal and thoughtful note to each person, it takes a bit of time to complete each note. Then the holidays were upon us. Well, I am embarrassed to say that I have not yet thanked everyone. How hideously rude is this? How long does one have to send out these notes before one is banished from polite company forever? Please help.


Dear Lilly,

In Our Expert Opinion, you'd better start Brewing Tea, Dear. Those notes need to go out, STAT! Of course you need to compose a personal note for each, but the notes can be short-- it's more important at this point that you sit down and just finish them all than to write a Very Chatty, Entertaining, Six-Page Letter for each one. In fact, Turn Off Your Computer Right Now and Get Cracking! We mean it, Dear Reader! (When you're done, of course, please do come back and read the rest of our Q&A.)

We hope you have lots of tea,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have a bit of a quandary. I am a junior in High School, you see, and I am wondering if there is any way for me to remain civilized in this rude world. Also, I really enjoy the idea of your cocktail parties, but seeing as I'm a minor, I don't really think that would fly (so to speak). Do you have any ideas on how I could entertain my friends in a similar manner? Thank you.

Underage But Elegant

Dear Underage But Elegant,

First of all, Dear Reader, your motto should be: "This, too, Shall Pass." The EGs had some Enjoyable Times in High School, but oh, Dear Reader, we also have Rather Strong Memories of Horrible, Rude, Nasty People who made us Desperate for College! We are serious, Dear Reader; if the EGs are fortunate enough to Have Children Someday, there are plenty of Perfectly Nice Names that have been Utterly Ruined for us because we now associate them with Horrible Classmates! (The EGs tend to Hold Grudges, as you Might Have Noticed.) But We Digress. Dear Reader, try to Pay No Heed to the Uncivilized Folks. They are not worth Your Notice. And while, of course, the EGs do not condone Cocktail Parties for Minors if they feature Actual Cocktails, we think you could certainly have a Lovely, Swanky Party sans Alcohol. If you fancy using Martini Glasses, go ahead-- the EGs Won't Tell if you're sipping Club Soda and Cranberry Juice Spritzers from them! We're sure your friends would love getting Dressed Up, playing some Records on the Hi-Fi, and Munching on Yummy Hors d'Oeuvres. The EGs think that would be a Smashing Lot of Fun! We wish you good luck, Dear Reader!

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Is it rude for a family member to say that a birthday gift to her husband was not expensive or thoughtful enough?

Just Wondering

Dear Just Wondering,

It's rude for ANYONE to say that, no matter Who They Are! There is no such thing as a gift that is "not expensive enough"-- no matter who is giving it or receiving it! This sort of thinking drives the EGs Just Batty, Dear Reader! While we understand how gifts might not be thoughtful (e.g., you have your secretary order presents for you, and she sends an Assortment of Imported Sausages to Your Vegan Friend-- that's plenty thoughtless), we think one's Outrage at A Thoughtless Gift is best Kept to Oneself.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Thank you for maintaining such a lovely site. I am hoping that you can help me with a minor social situation.

I have severe tendonitis and nerve damage in my right wrist. My ugly, beige wrist brace is... well... UGLY. I am an active mother/ student/ computer geek who works part time and keeps a very tidy house. Sometimes, however, I actually find the time to dress up and go somewhere. It usually doesn't matter where. I will often leave the house sans the brace.

I was raised to shake peoples' hands firmly. This is something which I can no longer do. When I am wearing the brace, people can see that there is a problem. When I am not wearing the brace, my hand just sits there like a cold fish and gets crushed. Ouch. I am wondering how best to handle the situation without whining about my injury?

Best Wishes and Happy 2002!

Dear RD,

You Poor Dear! We hope that your injury will start to feel better soon! First of all, if you're more comfortable Wearing Your Brace, do wear it. No matter the setting, it is perfectly acceptable, and everyone should Understand. (If anyone appears to Have a Problem with your wearing a brace while you're Dressed Up, they can See Us In Hell!) If you are not wearing the brace, we would suggest you say to anyone attempting to shake your hand, "Please excuse me for not shaking hands. I'd love to, but I'm recovering from a wrist injury." There is no need to get any more specific than that.

Happy New Year to you, too!
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Could you please tell me how many godparents it is appropriate to have?

(We are Presbyterians.)


Dear Confused,

We're terribly sorry, but the EGs can't help you there. Perhaps you should search online for the Presbyterian Doctrine Grrls, or, failing that, speak with Your Minister.

Most sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Scenario: This is not a serious problem, but a friend and I got into a humorous conversation. Let me tell you what lead to the discussion. Our office had a Christmas party with another office adjacent to ours. My friend brought Ding Dongs as his "prepared" item in the potluck. When the party was over he took the Ding Dongs with him back to his office. The next day I went to over to his office to play darts as we do on occasion. I asked, "Where are the Ding Dongs?" He pointed to the fridge and said I could only have one, I said, "B.S., I am having two!" -- we're good friends. I followed by saying, "Technically they belong to us anyway because the party was at our office." He proceeded to tell me that it is inappropriate to leave left-over food at people's houses/offices. I totally disagreed for a variety of reasons. Mainly because I think it's classless not to let the host make that call. What if someone brought over a bottle of wine and as they were leaving put the cork back in and said, "It was a great party, and by the way I'm taking what's left of the wine." My question is: Is it proper to take left-overs from the host of a party or social occasion?

David M.

Dear David M.,

One moment. Your friend brought DING DONGS to a potluck?? DING DONGS? And was getting POSSESSIVE of them?? That has got to be the funniest thing the EGs have Ever Heard! Hee hee hee!

To answer your question, Dear Reader, no, it is Not Appropriate to Take Back the food or drink one has brought to someone else's home after the Party has ended. Sometimes, hostesses who do not have Beaucoup de Fridge Space encourage guests to take things home, but unless Your Hostess specifically requests this (e.g., "Please, DO take the rest of the Turnovers with you -- I'm flying to London tomorrow and won't be able to Enjoy Them."), you may not Take Your Ding Dongs and Go Home. (Though, it must be said, the EGs rather frown upon bringing Ding Dongs to a Potluck. Unless it is for Ironic Effect. But even that's Pushing It.) If there is no Hostess, per se, such as in an Office Party, the food should be left somewhere where all Employees may partake of it, such as on a Conference Table or, for Perishable Foods, in the Office Fridge. And let us Not Even Get Started on people who take home food they have not even brought! Just because you ate Thanksgiving Dinner at Great Aunt Ethel's House does NOT entitle you to take home Some Sort of "Doggy Bag." All of this applies to Beverages, as well-- one does not attempt to Make Off avec The Gin.

With good wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

* The EGs are happy to Answer Legitimate Etiquette Quandaries, but we are NOT in the business of Doing Reports for Students who are supposed to be learning how to Conduct Research By Themselves. We apologize to Our Dear Romanian Readers for taking some Liberties avec Their Nation's Etiquette Rules in order to teach This Young Whippersnapper a Lesson. "Drinking blood"?!? Oh, Dear Readers, the Mind Boggles!

The EGs are now going to go Mix Up Some G&Ts, Complain about Young Folks Today, Toast Our Friends in Romania, and Hope to God that Young Becky never goes there, unless she wants to get Beaten Up. (Want to return to the Question after Becky's? Click here.)


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