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The Etiquette Grrls' Q & A Archive: March 2002

Dear EGs,

I simply Adore your Highly Informative site and Look Forward to the New Q&A every week.

Often, on the Route I use to Drive to School, a Funeral Procession will Impede My Progress. As a child, I remember my Grandmother Pulling The Car To The Side Of The Road while the Procession Passed.

My Question is - Is One Supposed to Pull Over, out of Respect for the Dead? Or does one merely Wait until said Procession has Passed and Complete ones Drive? Or does one just Keep Driving Normally, Ignoring the Procession as Many of My Fellow Commuters Do? Is there Road Etiquette for Such a Situation? Your Input is Highly Appreciated.


P.S. I Can't Wait for Book 2.0.!

Dear Respectful,

First, thank you for your Kind Words about Our Site.

Yes, it is Respectful to Pull Over for a Funeral Procession. However, it is as much a Practical Matter as a Matter of Etiquette. Funeral Processions are allowed to go through Red Lights, so that the group's progress toward the Church or Cemetery is Unimpeded. There may be Relatives from Out of Town driving in the Procession, and they absolutely MUST be able to Keep an Eye on the Car in Front of Them! So if you're coming the other way and have a Green Light, no matter what kind of Hurry You're In, you must simply Hold Your Horses and let them pass. You are also not allowed to "Cut In" to a Funeral Procession. If you're pulling out of Your Driveway or a Parking Space and a Cortege is Going By, you'd better Sit Tight. You're also not allowed to Floor It and attempt to Pass the Entire Procession. This is Quite Rude.

As for simply pulling over and stopping, we think this is fine, if it is done safely and the Local Traffic Laws permit (or require) it. You probably wouldn't want to Stop if you were on a Major Highway and a Funeral Procession came along, especially if there is no Emergency Lane. (Usually, though, we think they avoid Big Highways for This Very Reason.) Sometimes, stopping is impossible without making a Big Deal of it (for example, if you're in the left-hand lane waiting to make a left turn, and a Funeral Procession approaches, you probably couldn't maneuver your car over to the side of the road safely). If this is the case, simply stay where you are.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Today I was in a patisserie ordering some petit fours to go. While I was ordering, this older woman was practically on top of me, right in my personal space. There wasn't even anyone behind her. (Not to mention I'm six months pregnant and really need some breathing room as it is.) Anyway, as I went for my wallet in my purse to pay, the old bat says to me, "Watch it, your elbow hit me." Can you believe it? I swear she was breathing down my neck the whole time.

I badly wanted to tell her maybe if she stepped back a few inches my elbow wouldn't be hitting her. Instead I said, "Oh, yes, maybe if we weren't so squished together in here." (Trying to let her know in a nice way she was standing way too close to me.) Was there a better way I could have handled this? Arghh!! I wish I could have given her a piece of my mind. I hate when I have a delayed reaction.

Annoyed and Appalled

Dear Annoyed and Appalled,

The EGs absolutely HATE people who Intrude upon Our Personal Space! Step the hell back! However, Dear Reader, we probably would have handled the situation very much as you did. The EGs are big on Respecting Our Elders, and we have to say, we probably would have given the woman the Benefit of the Doubt. Perhaps she cannot see well, and can't judge distance, or something. It's not nice of her to Be Nasty to You, but what you said was perfect, Dear Reader-- we wouldn't have said or done anything more. Now, if it had been Some Young Hooligan intruding upon Our Personal Space, we would have employed the Icy Glare (always helpful) and, quite Emphatically, taken One Step Away.

With best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Grrls,

I have a thirteen-year-old son who has decided to dress nicely--in large part because he has discovered this is a harmless way to annoy his friends and teachers.

For example, on "free dress days" at his parochial school, while the other children dress in jeans, he wears a jacket and tie to school.

I want to applaud--at least he doesn't dye his hair or pierce his body. But recently he was sent to the school counselor for being disruptive--he was wearing a coat and tie! Honest--the counselor and teacher agree this was all he did.

Except that he has an ascot that he likes to wear around the house (courtesy of his mother, bless her), his clothes aren't really Over the Top--but this is the West Coast, where none of my coworkers ever wear ties (for my part, I will admit that I have occasionally worn a bow tie to work, also for the attention it gets).

I don't want to drive him to worse behavior. But my wife and I fear we are creating a monster, albeit a well-dressed one. Do we steer him toward more casual (but still appropriate) teenage clothes, or do we trust that eventually he will acquire some more refined fashion sense? Is this, perchance, a phase either of you went through?

Beau Brummel's Dad

Dear Mr. Brummel the Elder,

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! "Worse behavior"? Than Dressing Up for School? Oh, my goodness, Dear Reader, surely you jest! What would be worse, having a Clean Room? Turning in Homework on Time? Having Neat Penmanship?? Let us try to understand-- your son voluntarily Wears a Coat and Tie to school, and you want us to tell you how to STOP him? The EGs wouldn't change a THING about your son-- in fact, we wish there were more Young Gentlemen Like Him! He sounds like a wee version of Sebastian from Brideshead Revisited (one of the EGs' Very Favorite Books). But We Digress. In this sad day and age of Students Packing Heat at School, what in the world is his teacher doing sending him to the counselor because he's Well-Dressed? Oooooh, Heaven Forbid! He probably just looks More Professional than the teacher, who is jealous. And if he is only doing this as a Method of Annoying People (who, in our opinion, probably Deserve to Be Annoyed, if this strategy works), then we still think he is Pretty Damn Clever!

We wouldn't, of course, wish to see the Young Man wearing Formal Attire (e.g., a Dinner Jacket) to School, or to let him run around in a Doublet and Hose, or some such getup, but just wearing a jacket and tie to School is Commendable! Plenty of boys at Schools with Dress Codes do it Every Single Day, and they look Really Spiffy! If Dressing Nicely, in a Respectful Manner, is a Phase, then the EGs have been in it Since Birth, Dear Reader, and it's hardly Done Us Harm. If the child's attire really Bothers You, perhaps you might consider sending him to a Nice Boarding School Back East, where he'll probably thrive.

Most sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear EGs,

From what I understand, the EGs' parties are so fabulous that anyone would be crazy to send their regrets. However, do you have any solutions for invitees who are too lazy/indecisive to RSVP for a party?

Clueless About My Guest Count

Dear Clueless,

If you want to take Rather Draconian Measures, you could 1) Never Invite Them Again and 2) Not Let Them In if they do show up sans RSVPing. However, you probably are looking for a More Reasonable Solution. We'd probably mention the Lack of an RSVP in conversation, like: "Gee, Mortimer, pretty much everyone else has RSVPed for My Dinner Party... haven't heard from you, though, and just wanted to check that you'd received the invitation I sent." He should Immediately Apologize, and tell you whether or not he will come. If he gives a Vague Answer, we think you should be Firm With Him: "Not to put you on the spot, but I really do need to know, so I can plan my shopping and figure out who'll sit where. Could you check your schedule and call me tomorrow morning? If I don't hear from you, I'll just assume that you're Sending Your Regrets." And if Dippy Mortimer forgets to call the next day, well, Dear Reader, we'd hesitate before putting him on the Guest List Again. If he's a close friend who just happens to have a Particular Problem RSVPing, you could always Rap His Knuckles with a copy of TYNTBT. Put a bookmark in the section about RSVPing, and tell him to Shape Up!

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Can you give a rundown of certain things you should NOT do by the time you're 27? Whether it's a list of stores in which you shouldn't set foot, (Contempo, Wet Seal, etc.) or certain drinks you shouldn't order, we need to know! We're not old, but we should be old enough to know better than to accept an invitation to a keg party or wear our hair in pigtails. Please help prevent us from making a faux pas.


Dear Late-Twentysomething,

Hee hee! The EGs ADORE questions like this! We could not Agree More that there comes a time for people to Stop Behaving Like Teenagers or College Students. Let's start with 10 things everyone who is over, say, 25 should Quit Doing. (Not that any of them are Appropriate for Anyone UNDER 25, either, but they're Especially Irksome when displayed by Those Old Enough to Know Better.)

You should not:

1) Wear Glitter of any sort, whether on Your Body, in Your Nailpolish, or as a decorative element on Your Clothing.

2) Dot your i's with anything except a Simple Dot. No Hearts, Stars, Flowers, etc.

3) Write notes, phone numbers, etc. on Your Hands. By now, you should know that this is what Paper Is For.

4) Make a Drunken Spectacle of Yourself in Public. It's about time to Know Your Limit, isn't it?

5) Misuse it's/its, your/you're and their/they're/there. Unless, for some Inexplicable Reason, you're pretending to be a Middle-School Student.

6) write your e-mail all lowercase with no punctuation anywhere particularly if it's a business communication ... See, isn't that Annoying? Stop It!

7) Whine. Period.

8) Set foot in Abercrombie & Fitch, Contempo Casuals, Wet Seal, Hot Topic, Delia*s (the EGs are Restraining Ourselves from commenting upon the annoying * in that company's official name), or Most Department Stores' Junior Departments. Unless, of course, you're Shopping for a Halloween Costume.

9) Know or, worse, care who is on TRL with Carson Daly.

10) Play Drinking Games of Any Sort. There is Nothing More Pathetic than a group of Supposedly Responsible Adults trying to be cool by Playing Quarters.

That's just the Tip of the Iceberg, of course... but we do need to Move On to Other Questions.

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Thank you so much for all the Great Advice you've shared on this site and in your Wonderful Book! You commitment to making the world A Less Tacky Place is much appreciated. Here's a problem that only comes up once a year but bugs me every time: What is an appropriate response, on Ash Wednesday, to the question, "What's that on your forehead?" The response that comes to mind in "None of your Damn Business" but perhaps this is Unduly Harsh. I'm tired of answering the question but I don't want to be rude and I'm not comfortable discussing my Religious Practices with anyone unknown to me personally. May I just slap the asker? Just kidding. Mostly.


Dear Annoyed,

Tee hee, Dear Reader, if the EGs went around Slapping Everyone who asked us Dumb Questions, we'd probably be Pending Trial on Multiple Charges of Assault. We think it's best to answer their question honestly-- "Those are Ashes"-- and then be On Your Merry Way. If anyone asks, "Why are they on your forehead?" simply say, "It is Ash Wednesday today." Try to say this in that "And No Further Questions Are Welcome!" Tone you often hear from Nuns and Librarians-- if done correctly, this should stop the Most Inquisitive Idiot. Of course, if you are Driven to Desperation, you could always say something like, "It's Eyeshadow for My Third Eye," which would probably cause most people to leave you Well Enough Alone.

As ever,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

There are children with mullets. How could anyone be so cruel?


Dear Horrified,

Sadly, we know, Dear Reader-- we have seen this With Our Own Eyes. The Poor, Poor Dears! Our Hearts Break for Them!

Let Not the Mullets of the Fathers be Visited Upon the Sons,
The Etiquette Grrls



Dear Etiquette Grrls,

You know who I think the etiquette grrls are?

Girls that never got invited to the "keg" party and felt left out so they pretend that their parties are so much better when really no one is talking about it the week after.

Stop being so bitter. Just because you missed out on the typical high school/college fun days doesn't mean there is not still hope for you. You can make fun of those parties all you want but those are good times and YOU MISSED IT no matter how you look at it so get over it and stop being wanna be miss manners crabs!

The only reason i looked at this sight is in our lunchroom at work there is a bulletin and a make fun bulletin and your address is on the "make-fun" bulletin and people can post their comments. You should see the list of all the funny things people have to say about you guys. It is hilarious! Pretty much the main theme is Get a Life

Or maybe just getting another friend besides the two of you would help!

take it easy-
wanna be miss manners

Dear wanna be miss manners,

Such an Intriguing, Well-Written, LOGICAL Message really deserves a Response!

1) Why is "keg" in quotation marks? Was there not, in fact, an Actual Keg at this party (since you wrote "'keg' party" we assume you mean there was Just One, Single Party) that the EGs have supposedly missed out on? Just wondering.

2) We beg to differ-- our parties ARE better than that One Unique Party at which there May or May Not Have Been a Keg. Not to brag, but if you'd ever been to one, you'd know. Believe us, Dear Reader.

3) There is quite a difference between "missing out on the typical high school/college fun days" and Choosing Not to Participate in Such Idiocy. The EGs had Oodles of Fun while we were At School. It just happened not to involve Massive Quantities of Beer, Trashing People's Houses While Their Parents Were Away, and Spending More Time Passed Out than we did In Class. It was much more fun to mix up a few G&Ts, sit by the Roaring Fire in our Lovely Common Room, and have a Real, Sophisticated Party.

4) Hmmm. "Wanna be miss manners crabs." We Don't Think So. The EGs love Miss Manners, but the EGs are, simply, the EGs. We have no need or desire to be Anyone Else.

5) It's "site," not "sight," Dear Reader. (Those Pesky Homonyms!)

6) "A bulletin and a make fun bulletin"? Sounds like a Very Refined, Consummately Professional Office. If we're on the "make fun bulletin [board?]" we'd hate to think what must be on the plain "bulletin [board?]."

7) "Getting another friend besides the two of you would help"-- oooh, that's a Real Slam. We're Quivering in Fear.

8) "take it easy"-- ah, yes. The traditional way to end any Hate-Mail Message. Um, you too, Dear Reader.

9) It makes a lot of sense to Call Yourself "wanna be miss manners" and chastise us for supposedly being just that. How Clever!

Oh, and Dear Reader, we'd just like to thank you for taking the time to submit all of the other equally well-written messages within one hour last week. Was it some sort of Bizarre Group Project? Or do you, yourself, just really enjoy sending Hate Mail? Quite a Productive Enterprise, we must say.

The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Thank you, EGs, for the lovely work you do on this website. You brighten my Monday mornings!

My husband's cousin had a baby a year ago. She's very proud of it, and likes to send attachments via e-mail to huge lists of people-- all her friends, coworkers, family, and, unfortunately, me. We're talking 2000K here. And I have a telephone modem, unlike some lucky folks with DSL or cable modems.

I have made two attempts to tactfully remedy this situation:

ME: Gee, "Anna," could you show me those pictures you sent out last week? I had to delete them from my server since they were taking so long to download, and I never got to look at them.

ANNA: Why, certainly! (Pulls out seventy million prints.)

At a later date, after receiving more huge files:

MY HUSBAND: Hey, Anna, while we're at your house, may I show you how to compress photographs that you're sending as picture files? It doesn't change how they're viewed on the screen, and it doesn't take nearly as long for those of us with telephone modems to download.

ANNA: Why, sure! Please show me.

That was a month ago. More 3000K files have hit my inbox since then.

My mother-in-law is quite adamant that I not do anything that would hurt Anna's feelings. However, I am sure the rest of her mailing list isn't happy about having to put aside forty-five minutes for a download, either. And I'm getting a little fed up, truth be told. What is left for me to do that won't cause a family upheaval?

Thank you for whatever advice you might have!

Tactful but Tired

Dear Tactful but Tired,

Right, of course you wouldn't want to hurt Anna's Feelings, but we think you could probably explain things to her without being Mean. What does your Mother-In-Law have to do with it, anyway? If hearing something This Trivial could make Anna Fly Off the Handle, then the EGs think she has Serious Issues and should probably spend some time Solving Them instead of Taking Digital Photos. But that is Beside the Point. Honestly, you'd be doing a Public Service by explaining it to her. We'd say something like this:

"Dear Anna, You know that we LOVE to see pictures of our nephew-- he is the most Darling Little Boy we have ever seen. We just wanted to tell you that it's really, truly difficult to receive the image files you e-mail to us. We have a slow modem, and since the files are about 3 megabytes apiece, that means it takes about forty-five minutes to download each one. Most of the time we even have to delete the message before it finishes downloading, because the file is simply too big, and we really hate having to do that! Would it be terrible to ask you to send us just one photo a week, if it's too much work to compress them the way we showed you? Or could you send a few prints to us via Snail Mail? Or, there are some great sites like Yahoo Photo Albums and where you can post the photos really easily and everyone can view them online without waiting for the big files to download. We do so want to see the photos... we just hate to think that you're going to all the trouble of sending them to us when we have to delete them. Hope to see you at Aunt Edna's next Saturday. Love, Charlotte and Bernard."

Or, if you're feeling Absolutely Non-confrontational, there is probably a way to get your server to reject any attachment over a certain size-- ask the Kind Tech Support Folks. You could also get a Free E-mail Account and tell her to use that address instead of your normal one-- then you only need check it when you really feel like waiting around for Things to Download.

Best of Luck,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

What flowers would be appropriate to send to my stepsister's funeral? She just died after a long illness (yes, my husband, children and self will be attending the memorial service).

No Name

Dear No Name,

First, please accept Our Condolences; we are very sorry for Your Loss.

It is a very nice gesture to send a Floral Arrangement to the Funeral Home after someone has died, but this is not difficult. Any Good Florist will be able to Steer You in the Right Direction. Certain flowers are certainly more popular in Memorial Arrangements than others (Lilies, for example, are frequently used), but we think it would be lovely to pick something that is Meaningful. Did Your Stepsister have a Favorite Flower? If not, did she have a Favorite Color? Usually, Your Florist can incorporate things like these into the Arrangement (provided that they're Available / In Season, of course). Also, we definitely do not think a Floral Arrangement sent In Memory of a Loved One needs to be Expensive or Overly Large. Small, Simple Arrangements can be Exquisitely Thoughtful and Beautiful.

Again, we send Our Deepest Sympathies to you and your family.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear EGs,

What a Lovely Website! I Congratulate you both on your Success. :)

However, I have a bit of a Situation for which I must ask your advice. I have this Friend here at school who is a very die-hard Religious Person. Now, I have No Problem with Religious People, although I am not one particularly. I do attend Church occasionally (to make My Parents happy) but have decided that Organized Religion does not Do It for me. But I digress...The problem is that this Friend continues to push her Religious Beliefs on me!

I have tried to tell her Politely to Move On when she starts it in a Conversation -- of course that has Not Worked. As well, now I am getting Those E-mails... you know, the "If You Love Jesus Pass This On" e-mails, or ones simply Quoting Scripture! Again, I don't fault her for Her Beliefs, but I do for her pushiness.

Is there a Polite Way to ask her to Refrain from sending these E-mails? I do not want to Lose her as a Friend, but I am about to Lose my Sanity in Putting Up with this!

Many thanks in Advance :)

Getting Ticked Off

Dear Getting Ticked Off,

Arrrgh. The EGs hear you on that one. We really, really DESPISE People Who Proselytize. Memo to Everyone Who Is Guilty of This: IF WE ARE INTERESTED IN YOUR CHURCH, WE WILL ASK YOU ABOUT IT. If we don't ask you, Lay the Heck Off! And if we say, "Thanks, but I'm quite happy attending services at my own church," it is a Polite Way of Telling You that Further Invitations Will Not Be Necessary. Just because you've found a Church that you think is Smashing doesn't mean Your Friends want it Forced Upon Them, too.

We think the best thing for you to do is to Be Direct with her. Send her an e-mail in response to one of hers and say that while you consider her a good friend and it's clear she's very confident in Her Beliefs, which of course you respect, you hope she can respect that you do not wish to receive e-mails like this. Or have a Frank Conversation with her in which you make it clear that you don't welcome her interest in Your Salvation (or what have you), and that if you ever become interested in Her Church, you will Ask Her About It. "If You Love Jesus Pass This On"? The EGs are No Theologians, but we'd be Highly Suspicious of the Intelligence of Anybody who tried to convey something about Their Religious Beliefs (quite a Serious Matter, in Our Opinion) via Annoying Forwarded E-Mail. Once again, ARRRGH!

Thank you so much for your kind words about Our Website. We're glad you found us!

Yours sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

How appropriate is a large wedding for a third marriage?

Just Wondering

Dear Just Wondering,

Good God, Dear Reader! NOT AT ALL!

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I just received a note from a friend stating how nice it was to have me at her wedding, which was about 10 months ago. She also thanked me for the forthcoming gift and assured me her and her husband would enjoy it. Yes, I have dragged my feet, but I also was under the impression it was acceptable to give a wedding gift within a year following the wedding. I saw my friend shortly after the wedding and made it clear I knew she hadn't yet received my gift, but I wouldn't forget her. Now, I feel like a scolded child and her expectance reduces any joy I have in giving the gift. I like to send something personal and I do take my time, but I've never gone over a year and I've never not sent a gift. Is it better to send a card right away and follow when I find the right gift to send? Or do I just resort to an impersonal registry gift? Furthermore, I know I need to have manners in this regard, so do I just dream about pointing out to my friend how rude it was to remind me to send her gift or is there a tactful way to let her know she hurt my feelings?

Un Peu en Retard

Dear Un Peu en Retard,

Okay, Dear Reader, first we need to Make It Clear that the EGs think the "You have one year to give a Wedding Gift" rule is A Bunch of Hogwash. What, we wonder, is so Incredibly Difficult about selecting a Gift, even if One Takes One's Time to find something Perfect (as one obviously should with Any Gift)? Usually, one knows about a Dear Friend's Upcoming Wedding well in advance, and we humbly suggest that if you for some reason feel you need four months to Shop, you Just Get Started Early. Note that we are Not Saying to just Pick Something Impersonal and Random from a Registry, or anything of the sort-- we just think that Procrastination is Never a Good Thing.

However, isn't your friend is being Quite the Snippy Little Newlywed! We think it is Extremely Rude and Greedy of her to send you a Gift Reminder. (Would she, perchance, be the Sort of Bride who made you Pre-Address the Envelope for Your Thank-You Note at Her Shower? Just Wondering.) She assured you that "she and her husband would enjoy it"? What a Catty Thing to Say! We think that the Best Thing that could come of this would be for both you and your friend to Change Your Ways and become, respectively, a Prompt Gift-Giver and an Unselfish Person. (To accomplish this, we recommend you both read and discuss a copy of This Very Helpful Book.)

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have read some of the letters sent in to you, and one particular letter caught my attention. I believe it was the letter asking if anyone ever said the Pledge anymore. I am very surprised that you think that some younger people don't even know the Pledge of Allegiance. I have been saying the Pledge in school ever since I started elementary school. I am now in tenth grade and will continue to say it until I graduate and possibly after, also.

Thank You Very Much,
An Informed Younger Person

Dear An Informed Younger Person,

Well, hurrah for you, Dear Young Reader! You've made the EGs very proud indeed! We aren't saying that ALL Young People are Rude, Ignorant, and Misguided-- we know there are plenty of Fine, Upstanding, Bright Young Things out there. We're just saying that, sadly, there are many Rude, Ignorant, and Misguided Youngsters, and we're just trying to Do Our Part to Correct That.

With best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

This falls under the category of "What to Say in Response to...?". I work part-time as a tutor, and sometimes other tutors work with me. This week, one of the male tutors e-mailed me to tell me I would be on my own for an afternoon. This is fine, but in the course of two sentences he called me "beautiful" and "hot." Now, I am not stunning, so I took this as a joke. I replied, saying thanks for the info, and that my dazzling beauty should simply inspire others to learn from me, therefore I would be able to manage without his help. He replied, repeating that I was, in fact, incredibly hot, and that my boyfriend should agree with him. What the hell do I say? I kind of regret my earlier joke, because now I can't really seem offended. However, I don't want him to think he can just say things like that to a lady!! Also intriguing is that I really don't think he would say this to my face. This seems like a question for the Etiquette Grrls....

Slightly Amused yet More Offended

Dear Slightly Amused yet More Offended,

Oh, boy, do the EGs have experience with Crazy E-Mail Mash Notes. One of us, in Graduate School, received an Absolutely Insane, Rambling Proclamation of Affection from a Fellow Student which caused Much Uproarious Laughter when shared avec Other Students in her Linguistics Class. We don't know the Guy Involved, naturally, but we think it should be Pretty Clear that One Doesn't Say Things Like That to a Lady. We can think of several possible responses you might give:

1) None at all. You ignore it. You deal with him in the most Detached, Icy Manner possible.

2) "Why yes, my boyfriend probably would agree. I'm cc-ing him on this response so he can let you know. Actually, maybe the two of you could chat about this in person next week when he stops by to pick me up from work on his way home from his Black-Belt Karate Class."

3) "Joe, I thought this was a joke at first, but now I just think it's Inappropriate. Lay Off."

4) Print Out the Exchange, sans the names from the E-mail Headers, and Hang It Up underneath your company's Posted Sexual Harassment Policy. Make sure Mr. Casanova Sees It, preferably while you, and a large bunch of your coworkers, are standing next to it, Laughing Uproariously.

We hope this helps. Of course, Dear Reader, should he turn Really Creepy, tell Your Boss.

The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

This letter pertains to an altercation that happened between a friend of mine and me right after September 11. My friend was getting married on September 14, and I was slated to travel to Baltimore from my home in Brooklyn, N.Y., by car on Thursday night.

Due to the following circumstances, I did not attend the wedding. First, because of street closings, I was not able to get to my rental car as of Thursday night (and Friday was iffy). Taking a train to Baltimore was too expensive, and a bus was out of the question; neither option permitted travel with a pet, and I was not leaving my cat alone in my apartment (especially with the smell and the smoke wafting over my apartment). Plus, everyone and their brother was trying to leave NYC that week, so the bus and train stations were a tad crowded. On top of all this, my parents were strongly advising me to stay put since travel in and out of NYC was limited at best, and they could tell how absolutely scared out of my wits I was (I figured out later that I was passing under the buildings on a subway when the first plane hit). The bride's parents were already informed that I would not be attending.

The problem came with my friend when I told her I would not be coming. She didn't think she could forgive me-- this would be 10 times worse than when we were separated on the bus in third grade. She mentioned that others were renting cars and driving (finding another rental in NYC that week was next to impossible, not to mention expensive). I tried to explain what I was going through, that I was afraid to leave my house and how disturbing the whole experience had been to have survived a terrorist attack, but it was to no avail.

I have not heard from my friend since. My mother reported that everyone who attended the wedding asked how I was and understood my desire to not travel. The bride was the only one without sympathy.

I can see now that it is for the best that this ungrateful person is out of my life, but I still wanted your take on the situation. Interestingly, any New Yorker to whom I've related this story has been appalled; all others are just astounded at the level of selfishness displayed at such a trying time. I don't think bride-to-be jitters could excuse her callousness. I could see if she was upset at losing the money for the dinner, but since I gave her hundreds of dollars of free design work as a wedding gift, she made out okay. I was also at her first wedding (at which she was six months pregnant).

I love your Web site and support your efforts at making this a more polite and refined world! THANKS!

A Reader in Brooklyn

Dear Reader in Brooklyn,

Holy Mary, Mother of God-- this girl is being Completely Horrible!! Yes, skipping someone's wedding might be 10 times worse than getting separated on the bus in third grade, but you were only skipping it as a Direct Consequence of the Most Horrible Act Ever Committed on American Soil! That's a Little More Serious than ANYTHING that could have happened while you were on the School Field Trip to Old Sturbridge Village in 1985! What the hell is WRONG with her?? No, Dear Reader, nothing excuses Callousness Like This. Absolutely NOTHING. Even if others were driving down, your city went through an Unimaginably Terrifying Event, and not everyone deals with that in the same way! The EGs have some Dear Friends who wanted to Get Out of Town Immediately, and felt better doing so, and we have other Dear Friends who were Shell-Shocked, rendered physically and emotionally incapable of leaving their homes for Quite a While after September 11. And we understood that These Responses (and a whole Spectrum of Others) were Totally Acceptable. Oh, Dear Reader, the EGs' Hearts Break that anyone could be So Mean to someone who had just lived through Such An Atrocity! For Shame!

We hope you are doing well, Dear Reader, and we assure you that any person with the Merest Shred of Decency would have Understood.

Most sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have been dating a gentleman since November. He is a nice man but certain characteristics about his personality do not cause sparks to fly between us, I would like to have him as a friend though. I only have been dating a short while, it has been 18 years since I was last out in the dating world, and my how things have changed.


Dear M---,

Yes, we're certain you're right that Dating has changed considerably over the Past 18 Years. The EGs, however, were in Elementary School at That Time, and were more concerned with Matters Such As Whether We Should Wear the Blue Monogrammed Cardigan or the Green Monogrammed Cardigan with our School Uniform and If "Supersede" Would Be on the Spelling Test.

Did you have a Question? Just Wondering if we missed it somewhere.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I work at a wonderful, small conservative PR firm in Alexandria, Virginia-- a job I very much enjoy. To begin my story let me inform you that there is only one ladies' bathroom on our floor, which we share with the office next door. It seems that the women in the office next door have taken to brushing their teeth after every meal, snack, drink, and/or inevitable afternoon sugar rush. Every single time I go in the bathroom amazingly enough there is another female employee that I have never laid eyes on before foaming at the mouth with toothpaste and making disgusting spitting noises. I understand there is a need for good dental hygiene, but if brushing your teeth a million times a day is such a necessity, buy some dental gum, please. I find this constant foaming in a public restroom to be THOR, I would like to launch a protest against teeth brushing in public, but I am not sure how to do it. Any suggestions?

Brushed Over

Dear Brushed Over,

Ugh, ugh, UGH! Brushing one's teeth after each meal may be Good Dental Hygiene, which, of course, the EGs applaud, but For God's Sake, do it In Private or Not At All! The Office Bathroom is not the Dorm Bathroom! If your office had a Single Bathroom with a Lockable Door that everyone simply shared, it might be all right, for one could brush one's teeth out of the sight of others, but in a Big Restroom? No way! Why would anyone want to look This Silly? And it simply goes without saying that if one does engage in Private Tooth-Brushing in Any Bathroom, every last speck of Toothpaste Debris must be Rinsed From the Sink. The EGs do not want to see Nasty Spat-Out Foam in the Basin, EVER! And let's not even talk about Flossing while others are present! The very thought makes the EGs feel Queasy. Our only thought, short of demanding that Your Office Move or Build Its Own Private Bathroom, would be to print out a Copy of This Column and tape it to the Bathroom Door.

The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I would love to find some current etiquette rules for carpooling. I am currently involved in a carpool with three other families for the purpose of transporting our kids to and from school. Some of the families involved have not taught their children respect for others' time. Families are to be ready at 7 AM for morning pick up. We have at times waited 10-15 minutes for children to come out. In the afternoon the younger kids get out 30 minutes before the older, so they already wait 30 minutes. Some of the older children will not appear for 10-20 minutes. And this doesn't even begin to describe some behavior on the commute. Please help!

Thank you!
Harried Driver

Dear Harried Driver,

All Carpools need to Make Rules. Times should be Explicit, and Tardiness should Not Be Tolerated. You need to have a meeting with the parents involved and bring the Current Annoying Situation to Everyone's Attention. Keep track of Exactly How Late each child has been over, say, a week's time, and say that Something Must Be Done. Perhaps you could all agree that the car will arrive to pick up children at 7 AM and leave at 7:05, with or without all the Expected Passengers. No Exceptions. The same thing should happen on the way home: the car will be there at 3:30 and will leave at 3:35. If anyone's child needs Extra Time for something, no matter how Serious or Trivial, then those parents must make Their Own Arrangements. Tell everyone that you're sorry if this sounds Un Peu Fascist, but the children need to learn to Be Prompt. They always have the option of Waking Up Earlier to finish Drying Their Hair or what have you. And while you're on the subject of Car Pool Rules, you should make it clear that Rudeness, Snippiness, Noisiness, Spilling Food, etc., are Not Welcome in Anyone's Car. If, after a few weeks, Dear Reader, things do not Improve Significantly, we think it would be high time to Find Other Families with which to Carpool.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I interned at a small non-profit several months (and 3,000 miles) ago. One of my supervisors wrote me a great recommendation for law school, and I got into my top choice. Now I want to let her know with a small token of appreciation. But, the office mail is accessible and seen by everyone. Would it be rude to send a package just to my recommender when I was very friendly with everyone (i.e., seven people) in the office?

Thanks for a response!

P.S. Do you girls do this for free? And on your own time? If so, you should have a column on time-management!

Dear Jeanette,

Could you obtain a home address for Your Recommender, and send the package there? Or, perhaps, simply ship the package with a Return Address but no mention of Your Name, if you're really concerned about others feeling slighted. However, it's not rude of you to just send a Wee Token to One Person as a special thank-you to her alone. If the other six people can't keep their Noses Out of It, that's Their Problem.

Congratulations on your admission to Law School, and we wish you the Best of Luck There!

The Etiquette Grrls

P.S. You're correct-- we don't get paid for Maintaining This Site. We squeeze in the Q&A and other stuff we do for in between Everything Else that's going on (currently Grad School for one of us, a Full-Time Job for the other, wedding plans, and Writing Book 2.0). So we beg Our Dear Readers' forgiveness for the Odd Broken Link or Typo. As for a Time-Management Column, well... we'll put that on our list for when we have a Free Moment (probably sometime in 2010).

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

May I ask why you never talk about the prep school where the EGs met and from which Lesley graduated?

Nosy Parker

Dear Nosy Parker,

First, Your Facts are Un Peu In Error. We did discuss the MacDuffie School in an article in the Springfield [Mass.] Union-News (it is not available on the web, but we bet if you contacted the paper, they'd send you a Copy). However, we are sure this matter is of Absolutely No Concern to 99.99999999999999999999999999% of Our Dear Readers, and the last time we checked, the purpose of This Column was to Answer Etiquette Questions, not to provide the EGs' Detailed Educational History. So that's all we have to say on That Subject. What will People Want Next? Our SAT, Achievement, and AP Scores? Whether we passed the President's Physical Fitness Exam?? What our Locker Combinations were??? The Classroom Number of our Fourth-Grade Homeroom???? What Instruments We Played in the Kindergarten Band????? There are More Important Matters to Attend To, Dear Reader.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I can't agree with you more about the lamentable trend of American men (mostly age 30 and below) who insist on wearing baseball caps all the time, everywhere, inside or out, and often backwards. This is a pet peeve of mine, along with the fact that women seem not to mind and date these men anyway.

But, as if this state of affairs isn't enough, I've noticed another one. It seems the "thing to do" amongst young American women to not only chew gum, but to chew gum loudly with their mouth open. I've even noticed them keeping gum in their mouth whilst drinking alcoholic beverages (which rather defeats the breath-freshening purpose of chewing gum in the first place, no?).

What is to be done?

Keep up the good work.


Dear Lazlo,

We haven't the Foggiest Idea why people cannot Chew Gum avec Their Mouths Closed! We are all for the idea of having Fresh Breath, naturally, but the Chomping, Snapping, and Blowing of Bubbles needs to stop, STAT! The only Polite Way to Chew Gum is to do it So Subtly that no one can tell that you are Chewing Gum. And we think the idea of Drinking avec Gum in One's Mouth is Just Vile. Not only does it, as you point out, defeat the breath-freshening purpose of Chewing Gum, the flavor of your Watermelon Hubba Bubba or Juicy Fruit is bound to sully the taste of One's Drink, which is a Waste of Good Alcohol! (We bet these people are drinking Something Nasty to begin with, e.g., Sour Cherry Schnapps, and not spoiling Something Really Good, like a Nice G&T, but still, it's Vile.)

What is to be done? Well, Dear Reader, we'd probably say that you should Choose Other Companions, or perhaps to Frequent a Bar avec a More Sophisticated Crowd. As for the Problem Itself, all we can say is that the EGs, and our Dear, Polite Readers, will just have to Lead By Example. If more people see that it is stylish Not to Look Like a Cow Chewing Its Cud, they will probably Cease and Desist.

Similarly, we're all working on the Baseball Cap Problem.

The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I must say that I have followed and enjoyed your column for at least a year. Kudos to you for trying to make our world a little bit more polite. I have a question regarding the proper training of pets and am wondering at what point a pet's behavior becomes impolite on the part of the owner.

I recently broke off a relationship with an otherwise Very Pleasant Male Suitor who had two pugs. Let me put the following comments in context: I love dogs. I am known amongst my friends as The Girl Who Loves Dogs, and, in fact, have always had a dog. His dogs, aside from not being my preferred "type" (being slightly short of snout and small of stature), were (and I wish I could think of a more tactful way to describe them) hideous creatures.

Neither of the dogs were completely housebroken -- in the four months I knew them, they each had at least an "accident" every single week. Not a single part of the Suitor's dwelling was completely clean and sanitary. Furthermore, they were allowed on all of furniture, and would spend the evening running and jumping from couch to couch, onto and off of laps, getting fir on and scratching people, knocking over drinks, and generally wreaking havoc. Furthermore, the Dear Suitor lived in a condominium complex and the dogs barked incessantly, each time a person entered or exited the building.

These dogs ripped up his belongings at will, including, but not limited to, a part of his carpet, one of his couch cushions, numerous socks and other miscellaneous items. Furthermore, this Dear Suitor informed me that his biggest regret was never having been able to teach them to come when called. This was a very unfortunate training lapse, as one of the dogs was fairly dominant and tried to bite whenever the conditions did not suit his fancy (for example, if one left the condo without throwing him a treat, he would lunge out the doorway and attempt to bite ones' hands as one tried to scoop the him up and put him back in his home). There were other behavioral problems (including one that was disturbingly disgusting), but I think you probably have a fairly good understanding of what being around these dogs was like.

I tried to discuss the dogs' behavior with Dear Suitor, assuming, naively, that he simply did not know what behavior one could rightfully expect from a properly trained dog. He informed me that he enjoyed having the dogs on his lap and on the furniture, and therefore did not want to train them to stay on the floor. He furthermore denied that they had a housebreaking or any other behavioral problem, asserting that all dogs have accidents.

We had an argument about his dogs after the last time his dog tried to bite me, and, sadly, decided that we needed to part ways. I can't help but wonder if perhaps my standards are a wee bit high? Dear EGs, please help me. Don't sugar coat the truth -- if I am in the wrong, please tell me so. Perhaps this is why I am 30 and still single?

Dog Lover

Dear Dog Lover,

Holy Hell! If this is how the Dear Suitor treats his Poor Dogs, the EGs Hope to God he never Has Children! Honestly, we think you are probably Better Off sans lui, Dear Reader -- can you imagine Raising a Child avec This Guy? It'd be Biting Everyone, running around Like Mad, throwing tantrums if it were not Constantly Supplied with Candy, and wearing Diapers well into Adolescence!

Responsible Pet Owners train their Pets. The EGs also love animals, and understand that Puppies Will Be Puppies, for example, and Chew Things... and that Small Animals have Housebreaking Problems... and that Elderly Animals have Their Own Issues as well. All of this is to be Expected! However, dogs should come when called -- that's a matter of Safety! And similarly, they shouldn't Bite! Moreover, not to housebreak pets is Just Lazy. Dog Owners are not doing their pets any good by Neglecting to Teach Them these things. The Poor Pugs! They deserve a Better Owner!

So, no, Dear Reader, your standards are not Too High -- not in the slightest! The Dear Suitor's were Too Low.

The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls:

Oh my gosh, I really need your help. Okay, here goes.. written in my calendar for the day of Saturday, February 23, is a note that says, "Robin's B-Day Dinner." This note was shorthand for, "My dear friend Robin is turning 50, a momentous, unique (as in 'will only happen once in her life'), and of course, very special occasion which she has chosen to spend with her husband and only six of her close friends, including my husband and me, at a very elegant downtown Los Angeles restaurant. Robin will be wearing a floor length Bruno DuLuc gown that she has purchased especially for this occasion. The designer, Bruno, will also be in attendance with his new boyfriend. I should consider wearing one of my Bruno dresses as well, because they are lovely and it will make Bruno happy to see two of his friends in the clothing he created. Cocktails at 8:00pm, followed by an intimate dinner."

Guess where I wasn't on Saturday night?

I have a list of excuses but the bottom line is that both my husband and I simply spaced out and forgot about the dinner party.

After being reminded of our date (too late) by a message on our machine from the birthday girl wondering where we were, I called and left a message on her home machine that night, expressing my mortification. I haven't heard back from her. I want to bring her a gift and card, again expressing my regrets. Is this appropriate? What else can I do? Should I just drop the gift by without knocking on the door? Help, I am in great pain over my grande faux pas.

Forgetful Friend

Dear Forgetful Friend,

Oh My. Yes, Dear Reader, you have committed a Major Faux Pas, Indeed. You must Take Steps Immediately to remedy the situation! We'd suggest sending a Letter of Apology to her before doing anything else. Be serious and formal, and try to convey How Very, Very Sorry you are to have been So Absent-Minded. We wouldn't send the gift along with the letter, however, as you wouldn't wish to imply that the gift will Help Placate Her. Rather, you might say that you hope she will accept Your Apology, and that while you know you cannot make up for Missing Her Party, you would very much like to take her out for lunch and apologize to her in person (you may suggest a time and place). Hopefully, she will Forgive You and Call You Up, accepting your invitation. (You'd then bring the gift to lunch, and, of course, apologize.) However, if this does not work, we would recommend stopping by with the gift, with a card. Under No Circumstances should you just drop off the gift and run, though-- ring the doorbell as you normally would. If she is Out, or Pretending to Be Out, then you may leave the gift, but you must not try to Duck Out of Seeing Your Friend.

We do hope she forgives you, Dear Reader. We think she will. And, Dear Reader, it goes without saying -- in the future, whenever you Make Plans with her, get there Early!

Good luck,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Greetings from THE University of North Carolina where I am busily lobbying to have TYNTBT put on the required reading list for all majors!

I have an irritating situation on which I would like your opinion. Recently while Tossing Back a Few at my Local Watering Hole at the end of the evening I went to close out my tab and the new bartender who was feeling sassy said something to the affect of "Girl, look at you not even leaving a tip!" He neglected to realize that I had been putting tips in the tip jar all evening. I explained this to him (although I feel that I owe him no explanation after such a rude display) and he laughed and I though that ugly episode was behind is. Unfortunately, I was most incorrect. This weekend while at the same bar, the bartender had the nerve to say, "Watch out for that girl, she doesn't tip!" Even if this comment was in jest, I was most offended and irritated. What do you suggest I do to remedy this problem?


Dear Tipper,

You need to find Another Bar, Dear Reader, and never Grace this Wretched Place avec Your Presence again. The Nerve of that bartender! For Shame! The EGs think he should be Sacked. Actually, Dear Reader, that's another option: if you love This Bar and do not wish to Drink Elsewhere, you have every right to Have a Word avec the Manager. This sort of behavior should Not Be Tolerated!

Best of luck getting TYNTBT on the Required Reading List! Tee hee, if you're successful, let us know -- we'll be happy to prepare some Essay Questions, Quizzes, etc.

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I am in Need of Some Advice on how to address correspondence to an Older, Widowed, Very Proper lady. Luckily, my note is written on Crane's, so I know the inside at least will be Well Received. The outside, however, presents Something of a Quandary...

You see, I know that the Most Proper way to address a widow is "Mrs. John Smith," and that to address her as "Mrs. Penelope Smith" might Imply that she was, in fact, Divorced from Mr. John Smith. The difficulty in This Case is that I Do Not Know the first name of her Late Husband, which presents quite a difficulty in terms of addressing the letter properly. On The Other Hand, it seems much more Improper to inquire as to her Late Husband's First Name. What is the Best Course of Action?

Thank you,
Writer's Block

Dear Writer's Block,

Yes, you're correct, a Widow is Addressed as Mrs. John Smith, not Mrs. Penelope Smith. And of course, one wouldn't want to call her up and demand, "Hey, Penelope, what was Your Dead Husband's Name?" Heavens, no. However, while it would be Rather Bizarre to inquire of her, there's no reason you shouldn't ask a Mutual Friend, or a member of Her Family. Also, do check the Telephone Book-- perhaps the 'phone is still in Her Late Husband's Name. (The EGs know a few Widows who do this, for Safety Reasons.) We're sure that a Bit of Research will solve the problem!

As ever,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Either I have been horrible or one of my dear friends has been horrible. I need your wisdom to help me sort it all out.

My friend recently celebrated her birthday. I baked her a selection of cookies as a gift. It was not an expensive gift, but I thought it was still nice. I have heard from several other friends that she was offended by my gift.

I am not a cheap person. Last year, my husband was laid off from his job and my son was born. I am not one to complain about my finances, but our friends did know about the job loss. I also believe it is common knowledge that babies are wonderful, but expensive.

Was my gift inappropriate? What should I say when someone mentions my friend's unhappiness? I thought I was making the best of a less than perfect situation.

Baker With the Best Intentions

Dear Baker With the Best Intentions,

*Scribble scribble.*

There. The EGs have just added your "friend" to Our Running List of Terribly Rude People Who Deserve to be Pummeled with Vintage Umbrella Handles. There is no question about it -- it is she who is Being Rude and Horrible! Not you, Dear Reader, not in the slightest!

Dear Reader, the EGs have always thought that Handmade Gifts are Wonderful. It doesn't matter how much money one has or doesn't have-- a Handmade Gift requires Personal Effort, and therefore is Always to Be Valued. So this girl would really have preferred some Random Present you grabbed at the last minute -- even knowing that it would Be a Hardship to you to buy it -- to a batch of Freshly Baked Cookies you prepared Especially for Her? Gee, she doesn't sound like someone the EGs would want in Our Inner Circle.

As for What to Say to Others, well, nobody really has Any Business bringing up What You Gave Someone Else. If they do happen to mention how much Phoebe disliked the cookies, say something like, "Hmm, so I'm told." You should then Change the Subject. If someone keeps Bugging You, going On and On about How Unhappy Phoebe is, though, we'd Put Them in Their Place. "I am disappointed as well, and surprised. Most people consider Hand-Made Gifts to be More Thoughtful than Store-Bought Baubles."

We wish you the best, Dear Reader, and hope that Your Husband finds a Terrific New Job soon!

The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Just a little thing I wanted to share with you... [Note from the EGs: This page has been taken down, so we removed the link. Hmm, maybe someone saw The Error of Their Ways! However, this is close:]

May God help us, please.

Best regards,
A Baffled Marinelly

Dear Marinelly,

THE HORROR, THE HORROR! The EGs have Knocked Over the Cocktail Table and Scared the Living Daylights out of the Etiquette Kitty in our haste to get to the Gin Bottle!

Now let us share something with you, Dear Reader. It is of an Equally Distressing Nature:

Let's take a moment here to Break This One Down:

1) White Bikinis = Pretty Darn Tacky

2) Swarovski Crystals on Pretty Much Anything That's Not an Evening Dress (and that's Pushing It) = Also Rather High on the Tacky Scale

3) Clothing with Writing Across the Derriere = Shouldn't Even Exist

4) Clothing with Writing That Indicates One's Marital Status = Ditto

5) A Single Article of Clothing Combining All of the Above = Sign of the Impending Apocalypse!

Yours, Shaking With Dread,
The Etiquette Grrls


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