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The Etiquette Grrls' Q & A Archive: June 2003

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

It's Sunday evening and I have been home from my daily travails just long enough to relax and cook my dinner. As I set out the food and call in the family to eat, it happens. The Call. This call has been a frequent happening, and usually occurs at the most inopportune times. Sometimes, it even has the audacity to ring as I am in the process of lowering myself to the chair to dine. I sigh frustratedly, but finally decide to pick up the phone, as there is always a possibility that someone truly needs my attention. I pick it up and say, as politely as possible, "Hello?"

Many moments later I hear a beep, and then someone on the other line, with annoying background sounds accompanying, says, "Is Jane* there?"

"Yes, this is she." (They act like they know you.)

"How are you?"

"I'm just fine, but who is this?"

"Hi. I'm yada yada from so-in-so company, please give me your credit card number...."

And then they go into the memorized speech. Is there any possible way to end this conversation politely? I understand that these people are just doing their job as I do everyday, but... really! I've tried to be direct, and they insist I need their product in order to stay breathing. I hang up sometimes, but I feel awful. Please, help me!

Besieged by Telemarketers

Dear Besieged,

Well, if you're in the United States, we have a great solution for you: http://donotcall.gov. This site just launched on June 27— it lets you put your phone number on a list of numbers Telemarketers may not call. (If the site is down, keep trying. We can only imagine how Popular This Is!) Many states have their own Do-Not-Call Lists as well—some will be incorporated into the national one, but make sure you check. If your state's won't be, sign up for that, too. (Readers in Other Countries—we do hope you aren't as Pestered by Telemarketers as we are in the U.S., but if you are, we hope there's a similar program available for you! Our state's program took effect a few months ago, and it is a Godsend!)

Now, bear in mind that it takes a while for this to Take Effect, so here's how to handle the Annoying Callers in the Meantime. Caller ID and an Answering Machine are Extremely Helpful. If you see a name you don't recognize on the Caller ID, you let the Machine Take It. If it should happen to be someone you Want or Need to Speak With, you can just pick up after you hear them begin to leave a message. If, however, a Telemarketer does manage to Get You On the Line, you should simply say this, even if the caller is Still Talking:

"Excuse me. I'm not interested. Please remove me from your call list."

Then, Dear Reader, you must Hang Up. Is it the most polite thing in the world to hang up on someone? No, of course not, but it's not like you're hanging up on Your Grandmother. Strangers do not have the right to call you up and try to Take Advantage of You by offering you Credit Cards You Don't Need or Magazine Subscriptions You Don't Want, nor to take you away from Your Family just so they can get your opinion for A Survey. You delete spam in your e-mail account without answering it to tell the sender why, or feeling guilty because they're Just Doing Their Job, right? (We do hope the answer is yes!) Well, Telemarketer Calls are just Phone Spam, and you don't need to Encourage These Companies.

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

"If you're going to the Grocery Store, could you pick up more Big Damn Olives?"

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I really need a little clarification on the basic R.S.V.P. Do you R.S.V.P. for both choices... whether attending and not attending OR just not attending OR just attending. Is that clear?

Confused

Dear Confused,

Ummm, not so much. Let us try to rephrase the question here: Are you asking if one must R.S.V.P. 1) All the Time, no matter if one is Attending or Not Attending; 2) only if one is Not Attending; or 3) only if one is Attending? If that is the Question, the answer is 1) All the Time. R.S.V.P. stands for Répondez S'il Vous Plaît, which means "Please respond." It doesn't mean "Please respond only if you're not coming" or "Please respond only if you are coming"—whatever you're planning to do, you must Let the Hostess Know. If the invitation says, "Regrets only," however, then you should only Let the Hostess Know if you're not planning to attend. (We've got to say, the EGs aren't Terribly Fond of "Regrets only." You'll have much more confidence your Head Count if you hear from All the Guests instead of just assuming that everyone who didn't call is going to be there.)

Sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

"If you're going to the Grocery Store, could you pick up more Big Damn Olives?"

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I was reading an article in Newsweek magazine the other day about how people are more often asking wedding guests to buy things like parts of the ceremony and honeymoon. Now these things are appalling enough but then the author pointed to this website. Ugh!

http://www.greenwish.com/aboutus.cfm

Yours truly, in disgust,
Sara in Bethesda

Dear Sara,

"Greenwish.com"? Was "Greedwish.com" taken?

Yours, in equal disgust (where are the Smelling Salts?),
The Etiquette Grrls

"If you're going to the Grocery Store, could you pick up more Big Damn Olives?"

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I'm extremely shy, to the point where it takes a lot of nerve to just even phone someone, no matter how great of friends we are. Needless to say, I don't keep in touch as much as I should. However, I am trying to change my life, and keep in contact with others on a regular basis. But how do I explain the gap in correspondence? It feels wrong to not acknowledge the long length of time, in some cases, that I've been AWOL.

Perplexed in New Jersey

Dear Perplexed,

You can acknowledge the Gap in Correspondence, but there's no need to Explain It in Detail. Just say something like, "We haven't talked for a while, so I thought I'd look you up and see how you are." Chances are, the other person will say something like, "It's so great to hear from you!" and you won't have anything to worry about. You'll probably both want to talk about what happened over the period you haven't been in touch, but you don't need to answer a question like, "So, what have you been up to since last summer?" with An Apology. Instead, just tell your friend about what you've been doing. At the end of Your Conversation, try to make Definite Plans to get together soon, and, if anything, say something like, "I promise, I'm going to be much better about keeping in touch!" Your friend will probably reply, "So will I!" and everything will be fine.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

"If you're going to the Grocery Store, could you pick up more Big Damn Olives?"


Dear EGs,

My Dear Spouse and I have been invited to the wedding of an old friend, and the R.S.V.P. deadline is fast approaching. While Dear Spouse and I will, of course, R.S.V.P. by the deadline, we haven't yet done so—primarily because we're still trying to find a sitter for our Darling Daughter. Again, we've got about a week before we need to let Old Friend and his fiancée know whether we're coming, and we still have another few people to check with... but there's nonetheless a possibility that we won't be able to get a sitter. If we can't, our tentative plan is for me to stay home with Darling Daughter, and for Dear Spouse to attend the wedding without me. Naturally, we wouldn't dream of bringing a Wee Person to a wedding when she wasn't invited, but it seems silly for both of us to miss the wedding when we really would like to be there to help Old Friend and Fiancée celebrate. As Old Friend was Dear Spouse's friend first, it seems fair for him to be the one to go.

This brings us to my questions:

1) Am I correct in thinking it's perfectly fine for Dear Spouse to accept the invitation and for me to decline under the circumstances, so long as we make that clear when we R.S.V.P. (i.e., "Mr. Dear Spouse accepts with pleasure, but Ms. Mannerly Mother regrets that she cannot attend...")?

2) If the answer to 1) is yes, would it be appropriate to enclose a short, handwritten note with our R.S.V.P. explaining our response, e.g., "Dear Old Friend and Fiancee, We're so looking forward to your wedding, and Dear Spouse can't wait to attend! Unfortunately, we weren't able to find a sitter for Darling Daughter, so I won't be able to make it. I'll miss you, and will call when you're back from your honeymoon so we can find a date to have dinner and celebrate together then. Much love, Mannerly"? On one hand, I don't want to appear as though I'm fishing for an invitation for Darling Daughter. On the other, it is unusual for Dear Spouse or I to attend a wedding without the other, and I've known and been close to Old Friend for many years myself—so Some Explanation for my absence would seem in order.

What do you think?

Sincerely,
Mannerly Mother

Dear Mannerly Mother,

Regarding question 1, yes, of course it's Perfectly Fine. While a Married Couple should make every effort to attend, or not attend together, sometimes something will come up that will prevent one of you from going. (And we mean something legitimate, like an Overseas Business Trip or, in your case, Not Having Someone to Watch Your Daughter. No sending Your Husband solo to His Annoying Cousin's Wedding because you think she's whiny and you'd rather Stay Home and Paint Your Nails. Unless one of you has a Genuine Conflict and the other Truly Wishes to Be There, you should accept or regret invitations jointly.) You should reply to a formal invitation like this:

Mr. John Smith
accepts with pleasure
the kind invitation of
Mr. and Mrs. Basil Tybalt
for Saturday, the fifth of July
at six o'clock

but regrets that
Mrs. Smith
will be unable to attend

As for 2), we don't think you should enclose a note like that. Merely mentioning that you weren't able to find a Baby-Sitter reads, to us, like an attempt to get Your Daughter invited. (Please realize that if the couple has decided not to invite Children, they've likely received a few Blatant Requests from other guests who want to bring their kids, and yours would probably seem like Yet Another Blatant Request.) If you really feel you need to Explain Your Absence, send a wee note a few days after you mail your Formal R.S.V.P., saying that you just wanted to wish them the best, and that you had hoped to be there to celebrate with them, but unfortunately, you have a Family Obligation that conflicts with the Reception and you just can't get out of it. That's the Honest Truth, but phrased like this, it doesn't sound like you're Fishing for Another Invitation.

One other idea, though, before you R.S.V.P. at all: If the reception is being held at a Hotel, the Hotel might be able to arrange for a Qualified Baby-Sitter to watch Your Daughter in a room, leaving you free to attend the Wedding. This might be a Bit Pricey, but if you both really want to be there, it might very well be worth it. In fact, if you know any other Couples who are in a Similar Situation, you could probably Split the Cost.

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls

"If you're going to the Grocery Store, could you pick up more Big Damn Olives?"

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My fiancé and I just got a call from his brother. Apparently when my mother put together the invitations to our wedding, she forgot to put in the card that had all the reception information. I now have 150 reception cards, and 250 guests who are supposed to R.S.V.P. for a reception they know nothing about, not even the location. What do we do?

M.B.

Dear M.B.,

Oh dear. So the invitations have already gone out? If they hadn't gone out, we would have said to order New Envelopes and re-do the invitations with the reception cards in them, even if it meant Re-Addressing 150 Envelopes. If, however, they've already been mailed, we think you should order small cards in the same paper as the reception cards, as well as envelopes that fit them. On the cards, write something like, "Inadvertently, we did not enclose this with the original invitation for Anne and Frederick's wedding on [date]. We're so sorry!" and mail them out A.S.A.P. If there's anyone who is likely to be particularly confused by this, call them and explain what happened before the cards go out. We do, however, think you should send the cards rather than trying to contact everyone by telephone—chances are, if you did that, people will get the time and location of the reception all screwed up.

We just have to say, Dear Reader, that this sounds like a situation in which Most Brides would Cry Their Eyes Out. Don't let it stress you out that much! No wedding is perfect, and honestly, if this seems like a Horrible Catastrophe now, you will be able to Laugh About It soon. EGL managed to fall down a flight of stairs the morning of her Rehearsal Dinner (bad combination of New Sandals with Leather Soles and a Freshly-Waxed Wood Floor), and could have easily Flipped Out, but by the time she was relating this tale to the Bridesmaids at the Bridesmaids' Luncheon, she couldn't keep a Straight Face. (It helped that 1) there was a Giant Health-Food Emporium near the restaurant where the Bridesmaids' Luncheon was taking place, so EGL could buy about seventeen different types of Arnica Lotion, and 2) that watching members of the Bridal Party react to the sight of the Bride Sporting an Ice Pack and a Makeshift Sling the day before the wedding was Extremely Amusing, and 3) that the idea of EGL buying out the Arnica Stock at La Maison de Flaxseed Oil is Extremely Amusing, in and of itself.) Now, this is a Rather Long Digression, but see, Dear Reader? Stuff like this makes for Good Stories!

With all best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

P.S. Arnica is an herb that supposedly prevents or helps with Bruising. When it's the Day Before Your Wedding, you'll try Pretty Much Anything to avoid a black-and-blue mark. All EGL can say is that who knows if it was the Arnica or the Ice, but something worked.

"If you're going to the Grocery Store, could you pick up more Big Damn Olives?"

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Here is my question: When sending an invitation, is it ever acceptable for a person to exclude a spouse from the invitation (i.e., Mr. John Smith instead of Mr. and Mrs. John Smith)? I have been married for over twenty years, and my husband's daughter continues to send invitations in this manner. This has included her wedding, which I did not attend.

I find my stepdaughter's behavior to be rude and insulting, especially since she really does not know me. I believe my husband should stand up for me and speak to his daughter and tell her that her behavior is inappropriate. Am I wrong to believe that for a long-term couple, invitations should be sent to Mr. and Mrs. or they simply should not be sent?

Many thanks,
Insulted Stepmother

Dear Insulted Stepmother,

There are a few occasions for which an invitation might be sent to one member of a Married Couple, but not to both—for example, invitations to a Bridal or Baby Shower are traditionally sent only to women, so naturally, a married guest's husband would be excluded. However, for events like Weddings, one absolutely must invite the Husband and the Wife! (The same is true, by the way, for Engaged Couples.) We think it is particularly insulting for Your Stepdaughter to behave like this, as she obviously is aware that you are, in fact, married to her father, and have been for Twenty Years! Now, we all know that some children have a difficult time dealing with a parent's remarriage, and that Weddings, in particular, can be a tough time for All Concerned, but we think it's time for Your Husband to have a Heart-to-Heart with His Daughter and tell her that she really should extend to you this bit of Common Civility.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

"Could someone mix up a Fresh Pitcher of Martinis, please?"

Dear Grrls,

A question in regards to wedding favors. I am planning a wedding for October in Upstate New York, to catch the beautiful fall foliage and crisp mountain air. One idea that I had for favors would be to find some gourmet mulling spices that could either be used for mulling cider or wine, place some pre-made packets of these into silk "sachets" made of the same color silk that my bridesmaids will wear (midnight blue), and tie it with wide monogrammed silk ribbons with our names and the date. I get so tired of seeing the age-old bubbles and candles that people leave on the table or forget once they're brought home. I thought this would be a neat idea, as the weather up there gets pretty chilly in the evenings, and a mug of hot cider is welcome on such nights. I would like some other ideas to choose from, however, just in case this proves to be somehow impractical. Could you help me?

Thank you so much, Ladies! Keep up the good work, we're all cheering for you.

Autumn in New York

Dear Autumn in New York,

Well, we think the Mulling Spices idea is fantastic, and sounds very pretty, too! (And by the way, we think it's keen that Your Bridesmaids will be wearing Midnight Blue, which looks lovely on Just About Everybody—if more people made Sensible Color Choices, we'd have far fewer "What do I do if the Bride wants us to wear $600 dresses made of Purple, Orange, and Lime Green Tie-Dyed Organza?" questions.) The EGs think Edible Favors are always a Nice Idea, as long as you keep them Small (no one wants to be lugging home a Pound of Fudge, no matter how delicious it is). How about Wee Maple Sugar Candies (the EGs are Un Peu Obsessed with Maple Sugar Candy, being From New England)? That's very Autumnal. Or is there a Local Candy Shop that makes Scrumptious Truffles or something?

With best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

"Could someone mix up a Fresh Pitcher of Martinis, please?"

Dear Grrls,

A relative and his spouse have been sending letters to family members asking for donations to support their daughter (who is about 4 years old) on the beauty pageant circuit. They specify that travel costs this amount, clothes so much, etc. What is the proper way to respond to such a request (unfortunately, I know that *my* preferred response is out of the question)? Also, is this something that is regularly done? It's the first I've heard of such a thing!

Stacey

Dear Stacey,

Gee, we think Our Preferred Responses ("I'd be happy to send a little money to help your daughter accomplish something worthwhile, like learning to Play the Piano, if you couldn't cover the lesson fees, but in general, I'm opposed to teaching Small Children that Beauty equals Success" or "I'd rather just put a little something aside for All the Therapy She'll Surely Need as a Teenager") probably wouldn't be so hot, either.

We would ignore the letters. If confronted, you should simply say that while you wish their daughter the best, you aren't able to contribute.

That Poor, Poor Little Girl!!! Sigh.

Sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

"Could someone mix up a Fresh Pitcher of Martinis, please?"

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have my second wedding anniversary coming up in August. I know that year one was paper. What is year two? And do you have a list of each year?

Thanks,
Julie C.

Dear Julie,

Year two is Calico (the type of Fabric, not the type of Cat); in some places any type of Cotton is acceptable. We thought lots of people would be interested in the List of Traditional Anniversary Gifts, so we included the Full List in More Things You Need to Be Told, our new book. Do check it out!

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls

"Could someone mix up a Fresh Pitcher of Martinis, please?"

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

We will be hosting a reception for our son's Bar Mitzvah—an event which has been known about for more than a year by many family members and friends.

We have not yet mailed the invitations. A few folks who know they will be invited have sadly advised us that they will be unable to attend because the date conflicts with prior commitments.

Question: do we send them an invitation anyway? We don't wish to be perceived as fishing for money. On the other hand, we don't wish to offend by exclusion.

Bar Mitzvah Rookies

Dear Bar Mitzvah Rookies,

We'd send the invitations, but we'd enclose a Short Note like, "We know you've got plans already, but we wanted to send you an invitation anyway in case anything changes. We would truly love to see you if it turns out you can make it." That way, you're acknowledging that you know they probably won't be able to attend, but you're not just deciding Not to Invite Them. We don't think anyone will take this as "Fishing for Presents"—you really would want them to attend, right, if their plans changed and they could make it? Then this will come through in Your Note, and they'll probably feel honored to receive the invitation.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

"Could someone mix up a Fresh Pitcher of Martinis, please?"

Dear Readers,

The EGs just had to Share This with you—it's an update on Our A-#1 Insane Control Freak Bride of All Time, from the Poor Bridesmaid who had to Deal With Her. If you missed the Original Letter, check it out here.

Love,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dearest Grrls,

Since my last letter, much has transpired. First of all, right after I submitted my letter to you, I came to find out that my Friend of Twelve Years had died tragically in an accident on a Small Highway close to where we had grown up. Naturally, I was beside myself for Days on End. The Memorial for my Dear Friend was the day of The Shower from Hell/The Final Dress Fitting. I decided that since I knew Bridezilla for Four Months and my Dear Friend for Twelve Years, the choice was Fairly Obvious.

She responded avec, "I don't mean to sound insensitive about your Dead Friend, but you really need to be there on Saturday." Needless to say, I WAS NOT.

I attempted to make arrangements for my Final Dress Fitting the next Saturday (thinking maybe she had eaten a Small Child and just had an Upset Stomach), but was notified by a Major Car Manufacturer that a recall had been made on our car. At which point, Bridezilla fired me (with a really weak excuse that is Too Funny to even repeat—but think along the lines of Involvement of a Higher Power).

I couldn't be happier! Now I have more time to read your New Book and spread the Etiquette Gospel.

Warmest Regards,
Formerly Mortified & Furious in California

Dear Formerly Mortified,

First of all, we want to extend to you our Deepest Sympathy for the loss of Your Friend. We are very sorry for your loss. Needless to say, you did Absolutely the Right Thing in attending Your Friend's Memorial Service, and we cannot believe that even Bridezilla would not recognize that!

We're so glad you're Rid of Her. What an Awful, Awful Person!

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

"Could someone mix up a Fresh Pitcher of Martinis, please?"

Dear EGs,

I have a small matter I need your advice on. I adore receiving e-mail from my dear friends. However, I run on a very slow connection (28.8 kbps), a number of my friends insist on sending me ENORMOUS e-mails that take me a good hour to download, only to find out that it's a horrible chain letter telling me to SMILE!!!!!!! My question is this—how do I politely tell all my friends that a) correspondence larger than 2 kb had better be for a darned good reason because it takes me so long to receive, and b) chain letters are just plain tacky, and no one really likes them? Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

Yours hopefully,
No Junk Mail

Dear No Junk Mail,

Can you set your E-mail Program to reject any messages that are larger than 2 kb? If not, we'd recommend sending out something like this to Those Correspondents Who Continually Forward the Junk Mail:

Dear Annabelle,

I'm terribly sorry to have to do this, but my inbox has been flooded with so many forwarded messages lately that I've got to beg all my friends to remove me from their joke and forwarded-message lists. I've received some very funny messages from you over the years, but my poor 28.8 modem just can't handle the strain. I promise to let you know when I have a broadband connection, but until then, would you mind not forwarding anything to me, or sending me attachments over 2 kb? Thanks so much--I really appreciate it.

Yours,
Georgina

And let us now take the opportunity to ask all our Dear Readers to Stop Forwarding E-Mail Messages, particularly if you're sending them to someone at their Work Address or if the messages you are sending are Incredibly Large Files! Also, please put a stop to those messages that have already been forwarded several times already and have about 50 >> characters for every Real Word in the Message! If you really think your friends will find something Interesting or Funny or Valuable, please do a Google Search for it. Chances are, you'll find the message posted online somewhere, and you can then paste the URL of that page into a message, saving Your Friend all sorts of Download Time and Hassle. Also—before you send any sort of "BEWARE—Your Shampoo Can Kill You" or "Bill Gates Will Send You $10" message, search for it on Snopes.com. If they've proven it's an Urban Legend or a Hoax, it is Not Worth Forwarding to Anyone, Ever.

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

 

"A Martini with Bombay Sapphire, please!"

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have a question in regards to thank-you notes. I know that it is proper to send them and fully intend to do so, but am not certain how to phrase some of them. Several relatives and friends of the family have given me money for my recent graduation (not upon request, of course), and I'm wondering a good way to write a thank-you note which does not make me sound greedy. I feel that something such as, "Dear Aunt Josephine, Thank you for the card and money you sent for my graduation. I appreciate the thought and know it will come in handy in the future," sounds rude somehow, but with any other gift I would mention what it is that they gave me and how I appreciate the item in question. Am I being silly or is there a better way of putting it? Thank you for your help.

Sincerely,
Grateful, Not Greedy

Dear Grateful, Not Greedy,

You should mention the gift, but only vaguely. Do not say:

Dear Uncle Wilton and Aunt Christabel,

Thank you so much for your check for $100 drawn on account number 1234567890 at Chase Manhattan Bank! I have spent it as follows:

$45.00 in parking tickets (I always forget which day the Street-Cleaners come! Blast!)
$11.50 for a nice plant for my windowsill
$4.95 for insecticide for my new apartment
$6.50 for a couple of magazines to take to the beach

I plan to put the remaining $32.05 toward my hair appointment next week. Thanks so much! You rock!

Peace out,
Meredith

Rather, you should go with something more like this:

Dear Uncle Wilton and Aunt Christabel,

Thank you so much for coming to my graduation and for your very generous gift! I plan to use it toward furnishing my new apartment. I really hope you can stop by the next time you're in the city—I'd love to show it to you! I hope you have a great summer, and thank you again for being so thoughtful.

Love,
Meredith

See? Not hard at all, Dear Reader!

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

"A Martini with Bombay Sapphire, please!"

Grrls,

First of All, I LOVE the site. I was very pleased to find there are other people in this country that still wish to follow social etiquette rules. Until I stumbled across your site a few months ago I really thought I was the only one. I also LOVE the book. (I just wish I could afford to buy a case of them to pass out as necessary!)

My question may seem easy on the surface, but I've never seen it covered by an etiquette expert. Simply put, how do I turn down a date nicely?

I have a lot of male friends and acquaintances. Many of them suddenly decide to ask me out for a date. Most of the time these are perfectly nice gentlemen but for one reason or another I don't really wish to change the type of relationship we have. My (girl) friends all say that I get asked out by these guys because I'm too nice and I'm non-threatening. I suppose that is a compliment, but honestly, 90% of the time I go out on a date it's because I didn't know how to say "no thanks" without being rude or making the guy feel stupid for asking. Remember, these are either friends or acquaintances, so I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Lots of times I make up some excuse, but sometimes they catch me off guard and I don't have an excuse ready. I can't say I'm unavailable because these guys know me and they are very aware that I don't have a boyfriend! So I end up going out on dates that I dread and risk making these guys think that I like them because I agreed to go out.

Any advice or suggested "turn downs" would be VERY MUCH appreciated!

Signed,
Let's Just Be Friends

Dear Let's Just Be Friends,

We entirely agree that you should not make up a Phantom Boyfriend! It's fine to tell that sort of Little White Lie to, say, an Annoying Stranger in a Bar Who Won't Leave You Alone, but with people you see frequently, it's a No-No. You'll get caught, which will just Look Pathetic. And no Self-Respecting Girl wants to Look Pathetic, ever!

If they are friends or acquaintances, we say the kindest thing to do is Not Accept the Date out of Pity. Eventually, you'll have to break it to the Poor Chap that you just don't think this is working out, and if you know in advance that it won't work out, you really should Spare Him the Agony. (And, surely, you have better things to do than go on Dates You're Not Thrilled About, no?) "Let's Just Be Friends" has taken on cliche status, but you need to say something to this effect. "Oh, Fitzwilliam, thank you for the offer, but I don't think we're right for each other," or "You're so sweet to ask me to the movies, but I'm happy being your friend—I just have to say no thank you."

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

"A Martini with Bombay Sapphire, please!"

Hello,

My boyfriend and I went to a trendy Bistro for dinner one evening—went, knowing full well that an Evil Ex-Roommate of mine worked there as a waitress. However I was convinced it was her day off and, as I had never been to this Bistro before and no one knew me, was certain The Coast Was Clear. Imagine my horror when we arrive and find that not only is she Working That Night, but we are Seated In Her Section. No amount of pleading with the hostess worked, as the place was packed solid.

Since the Evil Ex-Roommate is the type to Do Anything For Money, I assumed she would be civil to us with the expectation of a tip (and I did plan to tip well in spite of all this). However, to my disgust and appalled amazement, she proceeded to Sabotage Our Dinner! No bread arrived, our salads (which were not Free With Meal) did not arrive, drinks were mixed up (how exactly do two iced teas turn into Miller Lites?), and when our food arrived very late it not only had obviously been under a Heating Lamp for far too long, but it was slammed down in front of us with enough force to Shake The Table. When I asked for the check she ripped it off the pad, slapped it down on the table, and favored me with an Icy Glare before stalking off.

Now, here is my quandary: I had planned to tip the Evil Ex-Roommate/Waitress well, as I normally do that with any server. However feeling catty and Decidedly Put Out over the experience, instead of leaving a tip I left money for the bill, flipped over the check and wrote on the back, "Here's a Tip: Be nice to your customers and they might leave you a gratuity instead of a nasty note." Etiquette Grrls, did I do wrong? Is leaving a tip a necessity or is it, as I always considered it, payment for good service? I have been a waitress, and I have been stiffed on a tip before, and felt this person badly needed stiffing! Was I wrong to leave her no money for the awful service, or was I right in leaving nothing under the circumstances?

Thanks,
Lost My Appetite

Dear Lost My Appetite,

Well, Dear Reader, this probably isn't what you want to hear, but we wouldn't have done as you did. It sounds as if a Personal Grudge is at work here on both your and the Evil Ex-Roommate/Waitress's sides, and the best thing to do would have been to Not Get Catty back at her. She probably won't take your "tip" to heart-- she probably wasn't expecting anything from you anyway, and it probably won't make her a Better Waitress. No, Dear Reader, if we really, really thought she was Evil and we didn't trust her to Wait On Us, we'd have simply gone Somewhere Else. If we did decide to stay, we'd probably have said something to her after the first Rude Thing She Did, such as, "Phoebe, I know we've had our differences, but my boyfriend and I are just here as customers. Could we please be civil to one another tonight?" If the Rudeness Persisted, we'd have Had a Word avec the Manager. That, Dear Reader, is much more likely to Fix Her Attitude Problem than a Note Scribbled on the Check.

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

"A Martini with Bombay Sapphire, please!"

Dear Grrls,

My question is in regard to the nature of thank-yous. I recently helped prepare a dinner for the sales staff of the company that I work for, in an effort to promote some of the recipes in a new cookbook that we're publishing. I worked hard and enjoyed myself immensely. A couple of weeks later, the v.p. of sales sent me a gift certificate as a way of thanking me for my contribution to the evening. The gift certificate was, technically, a thank-you to me from the sales department—and a truly lovely gesture, I felt. Here's my quandary: Is it proper etiquette to thank someone for a thank-you? I feel as though I should return a thank-you note of my own for it... Tell me, is this ridiculous? Or are my instincts correct?

Thank You... No, No, Thank You!

Dear Thank You... No, No, Thank You,

Well... Honestly, we'd write a Thank-You Note for it. It doesn't have to be elaborate, just a Quick Little Note. "Thank you so much for the gift certificate to [Store]. I've been looking for a new Cocktail Shaker for a while, and I found the perfect one there. Thanks again for such a lovely surprise." Nor should you send any sort of gift to the V.P. of Sales to show your appreciation for the gift she sent you. That, Dear Reader, is where a Truly Bizarre Cycle Begins. But if someone sent the EGs, say, a lovely arrangement of flowers in appreciation for helping her move, we'd dash off a Quick Thank-You Note right away. Why not?

Yours sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

"A Martini with Bombay Sapphire, please!"

Dear EGs,

Help! I have a question. We recently moved into a new home and today one of my sweet neighbors dropped by with a note to welcome us to the neighborhood and a homemade bundt cake. (Of course today was the day that I had thrown my hair in a ponytail and skipped putting my make up on!) Do I return the hospitality by baking something for her family or should I just drop a note in her mailbox thanking her for the welcome?

TTFN,
ACat

Dear ACat,

A nice thank-you note alone would be fine, but we think it would be Neighborly of you to include in it something like, "Would you like to stop by for a cup of coffee or some lemonade sometime tomorrow afternoon? We'll be unpacking all day, but we would love to take a break and get to know our new neighbors. Give me a call (555-1212) or just stop by." You'd be showing your appreciation for Her Kindness, and you'll also get the chance to chat a bit.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

P.S. Are you really A Cat? Could you, perchance, teach the Etiquette Kitties how to Bake? That would be Super-Keen!

"A Martini with Bombay Sapphire, please!"

Dear Grrls:

After conducting an extensive search of your Archives, I am unable to find an answer to the following etiquette questions, which I am prepared to admit may be Unutterably Silly.

Is it rude for people who are not afflicted with severe arthritis or other overwhelming physical challenge to ride an office elevator up one floor?

I and my hardy co-workers at Company Y are annoyed at this practice, which is quite common among the people who work at Company X in our building. Many of the people working at Company X are morbidly obese, and look as if they could benefit from climbing a few flights of stairs.

I realize it is not always possible to distinguish between the person who really needs an elevator to ride up one floor, and one who does not. But is it acceptable to ask a healthy-looking person who indulges in this silliness if he or she had considered using the stairs?

Just to clarify: The reason this bothers me is that it slows up the progress of the elevator. When it happens more than once in a single trip, it often makes me Late For Work.

Your verdict?

Wondering in Michigan

Dear Wondering in Michigan,

Our verdict is that Your Plan is Not Acceptable. BANG! goes the Etiquette Gavel.

It's never, ever polite to make assumptions about Other People's Health. Plenty of people have a Good Reason for taking the elevator, whether it's a health condition like Asthma which is not apparent just from Looking At Someone, or the fact that they were Up All Night With a Crying Baby and Really Would Rather Be Home in Bed, or simply because they like taking a minute to relax and compose themselves before entering their office. It's nice that you and your co-workers are "hardy," but not everyone is. And we've said it before, we'll say it again: unless you're someone's Personal Physician, that person's weight should be No Concern of Yours. It would be Most Unforgivable to say something like, "Hey, Chubby, if you take the stairs you'd burn a few calories." In fact, you'd probably get Decked.

The elevator is there for everyone to use, and if their using it makes you a bit late, well, Dear Reader, you have to live with it or leave a Bit Earlier. It's just like Traffic: Do all those drivers really need to be on the road at the same time as you? Maybe, maybe not, but it's not Your Place to Interrogate Them about it. The streets are open to everyone, and if you tend to hit Traffic, you've just got to Deal With It.

Yours sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

"A Martini with Bombay Sapphire, please!"

Dear Grrls,

First, I must say how much I love your web site! Because both of you have attended wonderful universities, I was hoping that you could provide a bit of guidance about what one should wear when taking a Campus Tour/Information Session. I was thinking about wearing a nice, tailored skirt (in a nice, light material and nothing too short) and a crisp button down blouse or perhaps a twin set. Would this be a bit too dressy? I know that I should wear something that I can do quite a bit of walking in, but I don't think that this is any reason to wear sloppy clothes, especially since this will be my first contact with the university and I would like to make a good impression. What would the EG's wear?

Sincerely,
College Query

We think that outfit sounds smashing! The twin set is an especially good idea—for some reason, the EGs remember all College Admission Offices as being either Freezing Cold or Boiling Hot. Perhaps this is some sort of Bizarre Interview Technique? ("We only want to accept students who can express themselves well when it's 40 below or over 90!") Flat shoes that are well broken-in are also a must. In the fall or winter, we'd wear a Nice Wool Skirt and a Sweater, with a coat suitable for the Weather.

Best of luck with Your College Applications!

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

"A Martini with Bombay Sapphire, please!"

Dear EGs,

After a child's (under 10) birthday party, is it necessary to write thank-you notes or cards, if every gift-giver was thanked personally for their gift before they left the party?

Sincerely,
Mother of E and B

Dear Mother of E and B,

We think the Birthday Child should absolutely write a thank-you note for each gift he or she received, whether or not thanks were given In Person. It's a habit kids need to get into, and this is a great opportunity to teach them how a Proper Thank-You Note is Composed.

Yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Could the EGs have a Big Damn Martini, please?

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I am having a wee problem with Etiquette in the Office. At my Place of Employment, people frequently bring in Baked Goods and other Treats to share with their co-workers. The common practice is to leave a plate of Treats near the coffee machine. I enjoy baking, and I love to share my Treats with my friends at work. However, several people tend to be a little greedy when it comes to distribution of the Treats. There are a few people who are always the first ones in line when the Treats are put out, and they always take more than one portion. Their excuse is that they are going Save it for Later or Take it Home to the Children. I do not believe that it is fair to take more than one portion before everyone has had a chance to have one. Furthermore, under no circumstances do I think it is polite to Save it for Later or Take it Home to the Children. I think that Treats brought to the office are to be enjoyed by the people who work at the office, while they are at the office. This is a very big office, and there is rarely ever enough for everyone. Therefore, I think you need to eat it now, or forego your portion so that someone else can have it. (By the way, we are all Highly Paid Professionals. Everyone here can well afford to purchase Treats for their children.)

The behavior of these Baboons is causing most of us to stop bringing in Treats, which is unfortunate because the majority of the people here politely enjoyed the Treats. The actions of a few are ruining the situation for everyone. Do you have any words of Etiquette Wisdom to impart on this situation? I would like to print your response and post it near our coffee machine.

Sincerely,
The Office Etiquette Police

Dear Office Etiquette Police,

We agree with you completely. It is Quite Greedy to take more than one portion of anything the first time it is offered! Let's say it's Thanksgiving Dinner, and a particularly yummy-looking dish of Butternut Squash is making its way around the table. You are the second person it comes to. Under no circumstances are you allowed to Fill Up Your Plate with Squash! Furthermore, if there is any chance there might not be Enough of Something to Go Around, you should always err on the Small Side with the portion you take. If there is any Squash Left in the Dish, it will surely make its way around again, and you may take a bit more at that time. Now, the Office Goodies are slightly different, as, unlike Dinner Party Guests, your colleagues will have no idea if everyone in the office who would like to sample something actually has had a chance to do so. However, we can say this right now: if someone puts Treats out at 8:00, when only four people are in the office, and you take one right away, it is not fair to Swing By Again at 8:05 and take more. Wait until at least mid-morning, when everyone has arrived.

As for Taking Things Home for Children? We're sure the kids would love a Chocolate-Chip Cookie, but Chocolate-Chip Cookies brought to an office are intended for people who Work In the Office. If there's something Left Over, and it's going to Go Stale, and the person who brought it in encourages you to take it home to Your Wee Ones, then by all means do so. But otherwise, Penelope from Accounting, who has been slogging through Excel Spreadsheets for several hours, deserves that Chocolate-Chip Cookie a helluva lot more than Your Kids do.

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Could the EGs have a Big Damn Martini, please?

Dear Ladies,

I recently received an email from a dear, sweet, friend of mine, which included several photos of her two children. The children are adorable.

In reading through the message, I found a price list and a note stating that she would be taking orders for the pictures and to please send her the picture number(s) that I wanted to buy and the $$. (That is really what it said: $$.)

Is this a new thing? Did I miss something? When I was growing up, I had my picture taken. My Mother decided which pose she liked and ordered X number of copies for friends and family. The photos were then inserted in a cheery handwritten note and mailed. She never asked anyone to pay for any of them.

Now, the dilemma part. If I don't buy some pictures, I'm fairly certain that my friend will become insulted. However, I really don't want to buy (no pun intended) into this whole thing.

Is my dear friend misguided, or am I just a square? What, oh what, would the EGs do?

Perplexed in Pennsylvania

Dear Perplexed,

Huh? We are also Quite Perplexed, but Quite Unsurprised. People seem to be coming up with New Ways to Be Cheap every single day. Sigh. Anyway, we wouldn't feel compelled to buy anything. It would only Encourage This. If anything, bring a camera the next time you see her and her children and take plenty of snapshots then. (If you wanted to show her how things should be done, you can always send her a Cheery, Handwritten Note with copies of the photos inside. Think of how fun it would be to word it: "It's so much fun to share pictures in the mail! Here are some copies of the photos I took of little Edwina and Terrance from our wee get-together last week. Enjoy!")

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Could the EGs have a Big Damn Martini, please?

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My question touches on my most Abhorred Subject: Money.

Like you, I consider any questions or comments about another's Personal Finances to be THOR. However, when the money in question is borrowed from me (the moderately successful owner of my own Event Planning Business), and extravagantly misused, I had to Bite My Tongue to not delve into this friend's Financial Affairs!

The details:

A formerly very close friend of mine, now simply an acquaintance, and her husband (a Horrid Man) found themselves in an enormous amount of debt. I didn't think it was My Place to ask where the debt came from, but let's just say it did not come from, say student loans to go to Harvard. It came mostly from Compulsive Shopping and Poor Responsibility, but yet again, I digress.

One day, my friend asked me if she could borrow a Pretty Substantial amount of money so she and Hubby could move into their New Apartment. Now, by this time, they were still in large amounts of debt (I am talking tens of thousands...). Yet they decided they simply could not possibly stand living in the (Quite Lovely, I think) Boston suburb of Quincy, and just Had To move to Beacon Hill (as you know, EG's, Beacon Hill is very pricey!). Again, considering it None of My Business how they spent their money, I agreed to The Loan.

Not 6 weeks after the Grand Move, my so-called friend calls me to Brag (sorry, there is no better word) about the rare, purebred cat she and Hubby bought, for $2,000! (she, of course, mentioned The Price Tag). I of course immediately thought that their primary responsibility should be paying their debt back (yes, including myself!), but didn't mention it. (I was Quite Proud of my Restraint!)

My husband, a Wonderful Man, thought it prudent to mention this to them at our next get together. He didn't bring up the Dreaded Subject, but of course, when The Couple took out pictures of their New Kitty, my husband pointed out that perhaps spending thousands on a particular breed of cat was not the Most Prudent thing a person in so much debt could do.

Mix yourselves a pitcher of GT's, dear Grrls, because here comes Their Reply: "Oh, we no longer have Any Debt. We filed for Bankruptcy, so we don't have to pay anything back, and now we can afford to indulge ourselves again!"

Vapors notwithstanding, how should we have replied? I think at this point, we have Not a Whisper of Hope to ever see our money again, but to deal with such Blatant Irresponsibility is simply Baffling!

Thank you in advance for your Thoughtful Reply.

Sincerely,
Friend of Financial Fool

Dear Friend of Financial Fool,

How about, "Indulging yourselves AGAIN? Hmm. If a friend had loaned me money, I'd pay her back before I indulged myself in anything." Sorry that's not snappy, but really, what can you say to Someone Like That? Then, of course, we'd cross these people Out of Our Address Book, and talk with someone who Understands Bankruptcy Law to see if there were a Whisper of Hope of getting our money back.

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Could the EGs have a Big Damn Martini, please?

Grrls...

Own your own on-line golf course with unlimited income potential!

Its fun, exciting, and pays cash on a daily basis. You can have an online country club to play golf, enter tournaments, win cash, host fundraisers and make huge $ $ $!

It's Not Just a Game...It's a Proven Money Maker !!!

To YOUR Wealth,
Mega Support Team

Dear Mega Support Team,

While the EGs think a day at the Country Club in summer is a Smashing Lot of Fun, we regret to inform you that we do not wish to visit, let alone own, a Virtual Country Club. It would be rather tough to wear a Cute Lilly Golf Outfit and Toss Back a G&T there, which is, of course, the Whole Point of a Country Club. But thank you for the Very Amusing Spam.

Toodles,
The Etiquette Grrls

Could the EGs have a Big Damn Martini, please?

Dear Etiquette Girls,

Recently, at the supermarket, I approached the Fifteen Items or Fewer line to purchase My Goods. Ahead of me in line was a couple with a full cart. Alarmed, I politely asked "Is this the Fifteen Items or Fewer line?", hoping to gently encourage them to leave. "Yes, and there's two of us," the woman told me.

Dear girls, I was not aware the Fifteen Items or Fewer Line meant that groceries were Divisible by Person! Do your Wee Children count, adding Fifteen Items for each??

I gritted my teeth but still maintain that the Fifteen Items are per Purchase, not by Number of Citizens intending to Eat the Groceries. What do you think, and should I have Said Something? I gave the cashier The Fisheye in hopes she would Say Something, but she did not take the hint.

Yours,
Unequal Distribution of Goods

Dear Unequal Distribution,

You know, at Some Point, the EGs just have to laugh at these Creative Displays of Rudeness our Dear Readers keep encountering! We never, ever, in a Million Years would have thought to interpret the Express Lane Item Limit as "per person"! Good Heavens! Now, occasionally one might go to the Grocery Store avec An Ami(e), and get in line one behind the other, but that should be Two Separate Purchases, not One Big Purchase Divided by Two People. You might have said something to the cashier like, "Does this really mean Fifteen Items Per Person? I really never thought it did." The EGs are happy to report, though, that the last time we went to The Supermarket and were checking out in the Eight Items or Fewer Express Lane, we had a Very Heartening Experience. Someone came up behind us with a Cart Full of 2-Liter Bottles of Coke, which were on sale for something like three for $2.00, and when the Perspicacious Cashier noticed this, she stopped him before he unloaded a Single Bottle and said, "Sir, I'm sorry, this lane is for eight items or fewer—and that's by individual item, not by sales price group." Hurrah! The world needs more Perspicacious Cashiers!

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Could the EGs have a Big Damn Martini, please?

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

First of all I want to thank you for your lovely, helpful, and informative web site. I have learned so much from you in the last few months that I never thought to be writing with a question of my own.

Here's the challenge, and it is really such a small thing....when planning a bridal shower, is it proper to decorate using colors planned for the wedding? The bride's favorite colors were what we had planned for this shower, but they are also being used in her reception. I find the entire concept ridiculous, but apparently an aunt has objected to the MOH and greatly upset her. Is this actually some obscure etiquette rule that I was unaware of? Or, did this rather opinionated woman just want to throw a wrench in to the works at the last minute? I know that the bride will not mind having the same colors used unless everyone agrees that it is breaking some ancient code so I say it doesn't matter, but it is troubling the MOH a great deal. Please let me know your opinion on this matter so that we can exchange the decorations if needed. Hopefully you will tell me that this is a bunch of rot....

Yours,
Colorblind Bridesmaid

Dear Colorblind Bridesmaid,

Yes, Dear Reader, that is a Bunch of Rot. We think it's fine to use the same colors. It's not as if anyone is going to mistake the Bridal Shower for the Wedding Reception, after all! (One big hint: The Bride won't be wearing a Long, White Gown. Well, at least we hope she won't be.) We've actually heard variations on the Opposite Situation, too—apparently there are Some Annoying Brides who have their colors picked out, right down to the Pantone Number, and get all bent out of shape if the shower tablecloths are Lavender, not Lilac, when Everyone Is Supposed to Know the Wedding Colors are Lilac and Silver, not Lavender and Silver! This, too, is ridiculous.

Yours sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

Could the EGs have a Big Damn Martini, please?

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Please answer a question for me.Last weekend I attended a bridal shower for a girlfriend. This week I hear that the wedding has been canceled. Is the bride expected to return all the bridal shower gifts or not?

C.

Dear C.,

Yes. It's an Unfortunate Situation for her to be in, but she must return the Shower Gifts (as well as any Wedding Gifts which she had already received). She was given these items because she was going to be Married, and now that the Marriage is not going to Take Place, the Gifts must be returned.

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Girls,

I recently attended the Bat Mitzvah of my step-daughter's daughter and received an e-mail from my step-daughter saying that our gift from her father and myself of $400 was an embarrassment and that her friends gave more. Is there a proper amount to give for this occasion?

Thank you,
Perplexed

Dear Perplexed,

What a Vile, Horrid, Greedy Thing for Your Step-Daughter to say! The EGs are in Apoplectic Shock! For the record, there is no "proper amount" to give for any occasion. The EGs believe that you should always choose a present According to Your Means, no matter what you think Other People might be giving the recipient or how much you think the party cost. (You absolutely never have to "cover your plate." That's Nonsense.) However, we just cannot get over the fact that Your Step-Daughter would Talk to You Like That! We hope to God she's not passing this attitude onto Her Daughter, who should be taught to express Proper Gratitude for any gift she receives, whether it's a Handmade Trinket that costs next to nothing or a Kelly Bag. We think you'd be entirely justified to reply to this e-mail with a message containing nothing but a link to Dictionary.com's definitions for "Greedy." (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=greedy)

Yours, with best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Chocolate is good. Martinis are good. But Chocolate Martinis are Heresy.

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Thanks so much for your column—it's been helpful and entertaining for me these many months. My quandary is this:

Some friends of mine are having a Bit of a Tiff. Mr. A did a favor for Mr. B, for which Mr. B never expressed his thanks—in fact, rather than thanks, Mr. B expressed Sarcasm and Ingratitude. Mr. A called him on it, sternly reminding Mr. B that it is traditional for one to say Thank You when one is helped.

Mr. B was terribly offended at being so lectured and has decided that Mr. A is no longer worth the Time of Day.

All of the above would be none of my business at all, but this exchange took place (sigh) online, on a message board that several of my friends read regularly. (A's favor to B was done in the Actual World, not the virtual one.)

After this Lengthy Preamble, my question is this: does either A or B come out ahead in the etiquette scores? It's rude not to thank a person who helps you, but it's also rude to tell someone they've been rude, is it not? Is it ever appropriate for one adult to tell another that they've been rude?

Thanks again for providing so much much-needed (and much-appreciated) etiquette advice to an increasingly Rude World.

Yours,
Wondering Who is Right

Dear Wondering,

They've both been Quite Rude, so why fret about Whose Offense Was Worse? If we really were going to weigh matters, we'd need a lot more detail—what exactly did they say to each other? But really, Dear Reader, at this point it's more important to realize they've both been Quite Rude than to figure out that one of them was just Slightly More Rude than the Other. Mr. B, obviously, should have expressed Thanks, not Ingratitude, toward Mr. A. And while we do think that some people really do need to be told they've Been Rude, we think it's completely inappropriate to do so in a Public Forum. Since A must know his friends read this Message Board, posting something there is the same thing as telling B how rude he is in front of a bunch of your friends at a Cocktail Party. If someone has done something you think is Simply Inexcusable, and you feel you must Say Something About It, you are absolutely required to do so In Private. It's embarrassing for everybody to make The Whole Gang act as witnesses.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Chocolate is good. Martinis are good. But Chocolate Martinis are Heresy.

Hello,

My junior formal (junior prom in the USA) is coming up later this year and I'm feeling torn about what I should wear. Junior formal is one of the few times left that you can be all traditionally "girly," my aunt says—dress, makeup, jewellery, etc.—but a lot of my friends at school are telling me not to wear a dress but instead wear a pantsuit. They make me feel like some sort of criminal for wanting to wear a dress and wanting to look like the girl I was born to be. What should I do—I'm confused and really hoping you can help me with advice on this.

Ashley J.
Australia

Dear Ashley,

A Pantsuit?!? Darling, one wears a Pantsuit to, say, One's Office—not to any Formal Event! Your friends are Un Peu Misinformed. We say you should wear a Pretty Dress, get your Hair Done, spend a lot of time on Your Makeup, and enjoy every minute of it. Is the Pantsuit Business an attempt to make some sort of Statement, i.e., "Look how Subversive I am—I'm wearing a Pantsuit!"? If so, that's Really, Really Silly, and you should Pay No Heed to Them. They've obviously got screwed-up priorities in addition to a Lack of Fashion Sense, and you don't need to listen to them, Dear Reader!

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls

Chocolate is good. Martinis are good. But Chocolate Martinis are Heresy.

P.S. You can be Traditionally Girly pretty much all the time, you know. The EGs are, and if anyone tried to make us feel like Criminals about it, we'd give them a Good, Swift Kick in the Shins with our Dainty Little Slingbacks.

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I recently graduated from college and am in search of employment. Due to the fact that I am hoping to find a teaching job, I am not only looking for employment for the fall, but a temporary summer job as well. I have several well meaning relatives who constantly send clippings from classified ads for both summer jobs as well as a job for the fall. Often these are also for jobs I am not in any way qualified for. While I do appreciate their efforts to help me on my job search, the difficulty is that they don't stop at sending the clippings my way; they insist on asking about each position they suggested, as well as sometimes calling to further recommend a position I seemed uninterested in but they believe to be a good fit. Is there a polite way to tell such relatives that while I do appreciate their efforts to help me, it would be more helpful if they merely sent the information my way and let me decide what I will pursue instead of badgering me about each and every job they suggested? Thank you in advance.

Sincerely,
Too Much Help

Dear Too Much Help,

Oh, Dear. Well-meaning relatives can indeed be Quite a Bother! However, Dear Reader, it's probably not worth it to Say Anything Snappy like "Holy Hell, Aunt Mabel, can you please get it through Your Thick Head that I want to teach High-School English, not Preschool, and that I didn't get a Damn Teaching Certificate in order to become an Investment Banker!" A couple of recommendations: 1) Caller ID. If Aunt Mabel comes up, you can let the machine take it. Obviously, you're far too busy (with your Job Search and all) to be Sitting By the Phone. If you can simply avoid the clipping-senders until you find a job, that's probably the best solution. 2) If you can't avoid them, and are asked directly about a position, say something like, "I did receive that, but I'm restricting my job search to positions teaching English on the Secondary Level. I'm following up on several leads in that area." When faced with subsequent inquiries, just patiently repeat this: "Yes, I received that clipping, but as I've said, I am only looking for a position teaching high-school English." Good luck, Dear Reader! We hope you find a great Teaching Job soon.

With best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Chocolate is good. Martinis are good. But Chocolate Martinis are Heresy.

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Can wedding thank-you notes be printed or must they be hand-written?

Thanks for your advice.
Just Wondering

Dear Just Wondering,

You're not serious, right?? Oh dear, we fear you may indeed be serious. They absolutely must be hand-written! All thank-you notes must ALWAYS be hand-written! And the only excuse we'll take is, "But I am genuinely physically incapable of writing anything." "But there's a lot of them," or "It would be so much faster to print them," or "My handwriting's not so good," or "But I'm busy," or "I don't have the right kind of writing paper," are Not Acceptable!

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Chocolate is good. Martinis are good. But Chocolate Martinis are Heresy.

Dear Women of Wisdom:

My 13-year-old daughter frequently comes home from school and relates to me remarks that were made by fellow students which are rude. I realize being exposed to rudeness seems to be part and parcel of growing up, although I have attempted to teach my children otherwise.

Is there a canned answer one can give when an unsolicited rude remark is made concerning someone’s appearance? My daughter has told me that classmates (girls, of course) have told her she has “thick ankles”. Frankly, she does, and she comes by them honestly, as the women in my family do tend toward the trunkish when it comes to ankles. But she is very slight, petite, and simply cannot help genetics. Should she come back with a snappy “Must be nice to be perfect” comment, or does she have to let these oafish observances simply slide, while she beats herself up for something she can’t help?

Mrs. Thick Ankles

Dear Mrs. Thick Ankles,

Oh Merciful Heavens, the EGs wish we could pack up the Etiquette Volvo right now, come to Your Daughter's School, and give these Horrible Rude Girls a Good, Stern Talking-To! The Poor Dear Girl! We think "Must be nice to be perfect," would be a splendid comeback (delivered with a Very Sweet Smile, especially); we might also recommend a bit of Sarcasm, like, "Oh, isn't it KIND of you to say something like that?" Even if she chooses to remain silent, under no circumstances should she Beat Herself Up About It! Not saying anything in the face of a Rude Comment requires a great deal of Strength, and that's something to be proud of, too.

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Chocolate is good. Martinis are good. But Chocolate Martinis are Heresy.

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I adore your website and I have not had a chance to read your book because I am a financially-challenged high school student. My birthday, however, is in a week and I am crossing my fingers that I will unwrap it soon.

I have a young infant cousin that I baby-sit for while her mother, my aunt, is attending college classes on the weekends. My aunt is a young and inexperienced mother and while I am only a senior in high school, I have been exposed enough in certain childcare classes, my mother's lessons, and my own experience with children to have a well-rounded knowledge about taking care of babies. Here is where it becomes tricky: My baby cousin is underfed. My aunt has instructed me about the meals I should feed him and at his age it is just not enough. He is old enough now to be eating "adult" food and he is still only receiving minimal baby food and bottles. I have told my mother and my grandmother about this and they both agree he is not being properly fed. Neither of them want to confront her about this and I most definitely do not want to offend her or spark a family feud, but I feel awful about the baby not receiving the right quantity and quality of nutrition. My subtle hints to my aunt have not been working; how can I mention this to her? Am I being quite presumptuous? Should I leave it alone and mind my own business? Help is greatly needed.

Thank you for your time,
Very Worried

Dear Very Worried,

If you are certain something is wrong, you have to say something. This is the sort of situation where you absolutely must Come Forward, even if it will make someone Angry At You. Now, maybe she has a Good Reason for feeding him what she does (the EGs wouldn't know exactly what this would be, but it's possible—a doctor may have ordered a special diet for him, or something). But if that's the case, you're still Not Wrong to Bring It Up—actually, in this situation, you'd hope she was doing this for a Good Medical Reason rather than just because she's clueless!

Frankly, we're surprised Your Mother and Grandmother haven't already confronted your aunt... while we're sure you know what you're talking about, we think a hint from someone who has already raised a baby (and who is also a bit Older Than Your Aunt) might carry a Bit More Weight. At any rate, they should Back You Up—heck, they should be there when you talk with Your Aunt! One way you could do this is by saying something like, "I was looking through the book we used in the Childcare Class I took last year, and I thought you might be interested in reading some of it. I've been a little concerned that Julian isn't getting enough to eat—he seems hungry again right after I feed him—so I looked it up and maybe he could use a little more. You can keep this copy—it's a really great book."

Good luck, Dear Reader. You're doing the Right Thing.

Yours sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

 

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