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The Etiquette Grrls' Q & A Archive: May 2003

Dear EGs,

I just wanted to write and tell you how fantabulous the redesign of your site is. I've been reading it for a year and even linked to it from my website as there are far too many uncouth people out there. I now can't start my week without see what wisdom you've imparted for the week.

Your book is smashing. Already purchased and wrapped from my wee cousin's birthday. Any idea on when the next book is due out?

Ciao,
Christina

Dear Christina,

Why, thank you! We're glad you like it so much—we were just dying for a New Look! We're still kind of Mad About This Font. It's sooooo much more stylish than Big Old Ariel 3. Cascading Style Sheets are Keen!

Thank you also for asking about More Things You Need to Be Told—we're so excited about it! It will be in stores June 15, we're told... but it's available for Pre-Order Now on Amazon.com. Here's a link if you want to do that. (Please ignore the Rather Silly Way "Pithy Wisdom" is being credited as a co-author. We're trying to get them to Fix That, but we're not Holding Our Breath...) Closer to the Publication Date, we'll be posting a lot more information about the book on this site; keep an eye out for it on the Our Books page.

Most sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Darling Etiquette Grrls,

My good friend (P) gave me a pair of tickets to a lecture she thought I would enjoy at a local museum after she discovered that she would not be able to attend. I looked forward to the program and invited another good girlfriend (R) to join me. When R and I got to the site on the appointed date, we noticed that there was a museum cocktail party/reception also going on (to which I had been invited to, but had forgotten about and had no obligation to attend). R seemed very interested in joining the cocktail party, and since we had reached the museum with time to spare before the lecture started, we got ourselves a drink and proceeded to have a good time talking to ourselves and others. Before I knew it, many more minutes had elapsed than I estimated, and the lecture had begun without us and the door to the auditorium was now barred. Thus, I completely missed the lecture. I feel just Horrible about this, as P was so kind to give me her tickets. I feel that in accepting P’s tickets, I had an obligation to P to actually use them, right? I intend to send P a thank-you note for her generosity, but am wondering if I need to disclose the fact that I did not actually see the lecture. Is it appropriate to say such things in a thank-you note? Should I fib and say something about how much I enjoyed the lecture? Can you suggest some good wording to help me out with this?

Also, in general, what is the best way to apologize to someone? In writing? Face to face? Can you suggest some good general guidelines and phrasing?

Thank you in advance,
Botticelli Girl

Dear Botticelli Girl,

Under no circumstances should you fib about How Much You Enjoyed the Lecture. That's just asking to Get Busted, in our opinion. Were there other people in the audience who would have noticed if you'd been there? What if there were just ten people inside the Locked Auditorium, and one of them was Your Friend's Sister, who had been wondering why you Didn't Show? What if R happens to say to P, "Oh, so you're the one who gave us those lecture tickets we never used!" Any of those situations, Dear Reader, would be quite tough to Talk Your Way Out Of. However, we would probably not attempt to Explain Ourselves in a Thank-You Note. It's the sort of situation where you'd be better to 'Fess Up in Person. If you apologize profusely, explain that you and your friend had misjudged the time, and say you Never in a Million Years would have intentionally missed the lecture, P will probably understand. You might even bring a tiny gift, or offer to take her out to lunch or something, but really, the most important thing is How You Apologize. And in this case, as with any situation where you think you May Have Terribly Offended Someone, the Adult Thing to Do is to apologize in person. Writing a letter might be perceived as Simple Avoidance, which you do not want. Now, we know that some people prefer to express themselves in writing, and it's completely fine to send a note apologizing once and saying you also intend to apologize in person, but if you do that, you must Follow Through With It the next time you see the person and not just pretend Nothing Happened. Indeed, there are some situations in which one can't apologize in person... for example, because you're halfway across the country from the person you've offended, or because they Slam the Door in Your Face every time you try to apologize... for those, a letter is appropriate. We have a sample Letter of Apology in Our New Book, which will be out in just a few weeks!

Yours sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My husband and I (both vegetarians) have been invited to attend the wedding and reception of a friend. The reception is to include a sit-down dinner. Would it or would it not be appropriate for us to indicate on our R.S.V.P. that we are vegetarians?

On one hand, I feel that perhaps we should just return our R.S.V.P. and make do with whatever food happens to be available when we get there.

On the other hand, I am reasonably sure that the bride will remember when she sees us that we are vegetarians (though she may not think of it ahead of time), and would probably be embarrassed that she hadn't thought to provide us an option. As a hostess, I would rather know ahead of time of special dietary needs or preferences.

What is the most genteel way to handle this dilemma?

Looking forward to your input,
VeggieGirl

Dear VeggieGirl,

We understand where you're coming from, but really, the fact that you're Vegetarians shouldn't come up anywhere in an R.S.V.P. It really wouldn't be appropriate to send back a note saying:

Mr. and Mrs. Victor Vegetarian
accept with pleasure
Mr. and Mrs. Chip Carnivore's kind invitation
for Saturday, the twenty-third of June
(by the way
we do not eat meat or seafood
and we are kind of iffy on dairy products as well)

We would simply R.S.V.P. and deal with whatever food is served. There's sure to be Salad, and probably some sort of Vegetable Side Dish. The Hostess may have even asked the caterer to have some Vegetarian Entrees available—who knows, your Waitress may ask if anyone at the table is Vegetarian and offer you a Special Meal. Dear Reader, it's sweet to worry that your not saying anything would make the Bride Feel Embarrassed, but honestly, if she's like Most Brides We Know, there are likely to be about a million other things on her mind on that day (what with, you know, The Wedding and all)... so we doubt the subject of the Your Diet is likely to come up!

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Grrls,

My husband and I have an ongoing battle about sharing food at the dinner table. When dinner is served to us in a restaurant, he looks over at my plate and surveys the contents to see what he might like. Then he says, "That looks good. Mind if I take some?" and without an answer from me, he spears food off my plate. Or, even worse, while I'm eating, he will simply reach over and take pieces of food from my plate before I've had a chance to peacefully finish my meal. I've asked him repeatedly not to do that, but his reply is that I'm being selfish and rude, and that I don't "share." I don't mind sharing my food after I've eaten my meal and have portions left. But I really resent having someone "stalking" my dinner plate. What's your opinion?

HS

Dear HS,

Yes, we think it is Rude to Take Food from Someone Else's Plate, no matter what your relationship to that person is... but it's Especially Rude if she's asked you repeatedly not to do it and you not only do not stop, but whine that she is the one being Selfish! Why on earth would he keep doing this if he knows you Resent It So Much? That's the larger question here. We think you should tell him emphatically that This Really Bothers You. In fact, it Bothers You So Much you wrote to the EGs about it. You two need to Have This Out.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Grrls,

I have a bit of a problem, and was hoping you could help me. I'm a big girl, and completely comfortable with myself. My family accepts me, and so does my adoring boyfriend. However, I understand his family is not so accepting. He warned me that when I meet his grandmother this Summer, she will probably make comments about my weight. I find this positively appalling, as I wouldn't dream of making a comment like that to a perfect stranger. I thought, perhaps, she had a touch of senility that made her so blunt, but no. She was just born extremely rude. How do I respond to her comments? I can't be the least bit sarcastic or insulting in my response. There is a rather fragile state of politics in my boyfriend's family, and I don't want to be the one to upset it.

Sincerely,
Bummed Out Big Girl

Dear Bummed Out,

You Poor Dear! Ugh, the EGs just cannot stand when people Take It Upon Themselves to criticize Other People's Weight. The EGs would normally give you some Snappy Retorts, but this sounds like a situation in which it would be best to Take the High Road. Even if there weren't a Fragile State of Politics in the Family, it probably wouldn't be the nicest thing to pick a fight with One's Boyfriend's Grandmother, especially in front of Other People. How do you Take the High Road? One way is to not let on for one second that you have perceived anything she says as an Insult. Act as if you've been complimented, or as if you've Missed Her Point Entirely:

Rude Grandma: You're kind of chubby. (Dear God, the EGs find it hard to write things like this! We cannot believe anyone would not understand innately that this is Really Damn Rude! But we digress.)
You: Awww, you're so sweet. [To Boyfriend] You never told me your grandmother was such a Charming Lady!

Rude Grandma: Tsk, tsk. It's such a shame—you have such a pretty face.
You: Oh, thank you. Yes, it is such a shame that my hair is so stick-straight! I'd love to have beautiful curls like Harriet over there!

If she just Won't Stop, or if you want to address this directly with her, we'd recommend saying, in a very polite tone, something like, "I really don't have the slightest issue with my weight, Mrs. Horrible. I'm rather surprised you'd want to bring it up. Excuse me, I'm going to go freshen my drink." (Although, naturally, you would not really call her "Mrs. Horrible," tempting as it Might Be.)

Best of luck to you, Dear Reader! Perhaps you will be able to avoid spending much time with Rude Grandma, and thus will be spared any sort of Rude Comments at all.

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

When and where did the notion, or belief, that brides/grooms have a ONE YEAR window to send thank-you notes for wedding gifts?

Grinding Teeth Down to the Gumline in Indiana

Dear Grinding Teeth,

Well, Dear Reader, we really haven't the foggiest (not being the Reference Desk Grrls, tee hee), but we suppose it has something to do with the equally nonsensical concept that Wedding Guests have one year after the wedding to send a gift. The EGs do not condone such laziness on Either Side of the Invitation! Just buy a gift or write a thank-you note! It's not that arduous!

Best regards,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dearest EGs,

I firmly believed after reading your entire Q&A archive (including the Wedding Section) that I had read about every possible Act of Ghastly Conduct that might occur in relation to a wedding and/or wedding shower. Apparently, I have discounted my own Dear Friend's potential for Selfish and Horrible behavior, as evidenced by her outlandish request over the weekend.

First, a bit of background. Dear Friend, who is to be married this summer, has demanded the attendance of her eight (!) bridesmaids at every one of no less than six wedding showers, and furthermore insisted on specifying the gift theme and refreshments served at the recent shower graciously given for her by two of the Bridesmaids' Mothers. As an Avid Reader, I can anticipate your remarks regarding these Atrocities, but I must warn you to mix up a pitcher of G&Ts before reading further.

At the conclusion of the aforementioned shower, Dear Friend requested the six attending bridesmaids to join her at a "Thank You Party." Silly me for assuming that she was planning some sort of event later in the evening, intending to thank those who Went Out of Their Way to make the time leading up to her wedding Joyous. The alleged "party" was in fact a ruse to get the bridesmaids to write the bride's thank-you notes for her. Upon hearing this, I inquired of the Maid of Honor as to what might possibly prevent Dear Friend from penning her own notes of gratitude. The response was that Dear Friend works full-time and her husband-to-be is finishing his undergraduate degree and thus neither has enough time to write the One-Hundred-Plus thank-you notes for gifts received at the five showers that have already taken place. I replied that I am a full-time graduate student and am also employed twenty-five hours per week, and had little sympathy for this plight, only to receive an Icy Glare from the MOH. Fortunately, I was expected that same evening in another city for a birthday party and thus was able to graciously extract myself from the fate of having to write someone else's thank you notes, which by the way, I am Quite Certain will not be written on Crane's stationery.

Have you ever heard of such a thing? Is it just me, or would you agree that 1) this is Too Tacky For Words (TTFW) and 2) anyone who is "too busy" to write thank-you notes, regardless of employment or education status, has No Business inviting so many people to showers and parties?!

Appalled in Austin, Texas

Dear Appalled in Austin,

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Of course we agree that this is TTFW and that if the Bride can't handle writing That Many Thank-You Notes, she shouldn't even consider inviting That Many Guests to anything! And to expect Your Bridesmaids to write them for you is Completely Horrific. You've signed on to be Bridesmaids, not Social Secretaries (and even if a Bride was lucky enough to have a Social Secretary, the Social Secretary wouldn't dream of penning the Bride's Thank-You Notes for her)! We can't believe the Maid of Honor would be at all supportive of this—has the Bride brainwashed her? The EGs cannot believe what Some Brides think they can Get Away With.

*Sigh.* And it's Not Even June Yet.

Yours, despondently,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Grrls:

This is a question that haunts all newlyweds, and since one of you also fits into this category, I thought it would be appropriate to get your take on this situation.

My husband and I have been married less than a year. I have a chronic medical condition which impacts several important aspects of my life, the most obvious of which right now is pregnancy. Because of the voluminous amounts of medication I take, I can't just wake up and decide to "get pregnant." To do so would put a fetus at tremendous risk for severe birth defects. The whole process of conception will involve several months of preparation with both my physician and a high-risk OB/GYN. Needless to say, this is no one's business and only my mother (besides my husband) is aware of the situation. I would love to conceive right now, but I have decided, with much input from my medical team, that it not in my best health interests right now to do so.

I am already getting ever-louder rumblings from various members of my family, my husband's family and even friends that we're getting on to the one-year anniversary without an announcement to make about a pregnancy. My husband has very elderly relatives who have said flat out that they would like to have a great-niece, great-nephew, great-grandchild, great-whatever. Still other, younger family members paint on these plastic smiles and say, "So... anything new?" as if they are just waiting for us to burst forth with terrific news about a child. What they don’t understand is that it is very, very difficult on me NOT to be pregnant, but that's the way things are right now.

We have a family wedding coming up, and I am hoping that (rightly so) the bride and groom will be the exclusive focus of attention. I do not want anyone asking me anything about this delicate situation. Can you think of any polite-yet-firm responses if I am asked about it (even in a roundabout way)? I do not want to come off as rude, but I do need people to Back Off.

Verry Trruly Yourrs,
No Bun in This Oven

Dearr (hee hee!) No Bun,

You know, the world would be a Much Nicer Place if people would just Keep Their Damn Mouths Shut about anything to do with when or if Other People Should Have Children. We can't put it much more simply than that.

You can't really do anything about the "So, anything new???" people. No matter what's behind it, it is an innocuous question, in and of itself, and it wouldn't be appropriate to give Aunt Lila an Icy Glare just because you assumed she meant "Are you pregnant?" At least, Dear Reader, those people aren't coming out and saying something explicit. To them, you can just say, "No, absolutely nothing. And you?" or "Work is great! I just got promoted."

As for the other people, well, we think there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying, politely and calmly, "I'm sorry, but that's personal," and changing the subject. Your husband should do this as well. (It won't work if he's going around saying something like, "Pretty soon we hope you'll be a grandmother, Mom!" while you're putting off all discussion of the matter. It doesn't sound as if he is, but especially if the Nosy Relatives are his, they might Back Off a Little Faster if he's the one who tells them it's not an appropriate conversational topic.

We wish you the best of luck, Dear Reader, and all manner of health and happiness.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I was asked to give piano lessons (for free) to the daughter of my husband's co-worker. What started out as half an hour twice a week has turned into the mother bringing BOTH of her children to my home for at least an hour and a half, twice a week. The children run rampant, smear chocolate on the walls, climb in my baby's crib, etc. I dread it. My clean home gets trashed and I can't get them to leave when the time is up. Worse, even if I could teach in that environment, the little girl is hyper and disrespectful and refuses to sit and play, anyway. How do I get out?

Going Nuts and Hiding

Dear Going Nuts,

By saying this: "It's been swell giving Piano Lessons to your little darlings, but I'm afraid my Teaching Days are At An End. My Baby needs more of my time, and I know that as a mom yourself, you'll understand that. I've listed the names of three first-rate Local Piano Instructors here... please let me know which of them (or which other instructor) you select, and I'll be happy to discuss where the children's lessons with me left off."

Hope that helps,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I recently gave a very good friend's son a gift for his first communion. I am not of the same faith, so I asked friends and colleagues what to give, all replied, a check. So, I check I gave, and a very generous amount I might add. Well, it has been almost one month and I have not received a verbal thank you, written thank you or acknowledgement of the gift. The check has not been cashed. Now, my dear friend is ALWAYS the person who promptly thanks, either with a lovely written note or verbal acknowledgement. Now, EGs, what do I do?? I feel it is rude to ask what her son did with the money (that was my husband's idea) or question her about the check, claiming I need to balance out the account for the month (my mother's advice). But in doing nothing (my own advice), I feel hurt. Help, I need advice on this situation. Thank you.

Where's My "Thank You"???

Dear Where's My "Thank You"???,

The fact that the check hasn't been cashed makes us think something may have honestly Gone Awry here. If it had been cashed, we'd say that you need to Chalk This Up to Simple Rudeness and/or Laziness, but since it is Uncashed, it might have been Lost in the Mail or something. We'd ask the boy's mom if she knows if he ever received the Check, saying that since it's gone uncashed for so long, you were thinking it might be smart to Stop Payment on it and Write a New One. The excuse of needing to balance the account is a good one, we think.

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

Please don't steal the Snazzy Swizzle Stick.

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I am getting married in a few weeks, and am scrambling with all the last minute details while juggling full-time school and a part-time job. One of my bridesmaids said that she was feeling excluded from the wedding events for three reasons: 1) because I have her sitting at the end of the row of bridesmaids at the head table; 2) because she was not invited to do a speech, a second time, after she said she would be way too terrified to do a speech. 3) Because she didn't get invited to all the showers, even though I didn't throw my own showers, of course, and none of the bridesmaids were invited to those showers. I apologized and explained the reasons behind these decisions, but it was clear that she didn't feel better.

I have been so careful to plan ahead so the bridesmaids have a good night's sleep, snacks and meals throughout the day, and friends to sit with. I also paid for their dress, bought their shoes, and made beautiful, individualized jewelry for them as a gift. I am so swamped with wedding plans, I've lost perspective: should I be doing more to protect my bridesmaids' feelings? Or was it inappropriate of her to drop this on me two weeks before my wedding?

Tied Up in Knots before Tying the Knot

Dear Tied Up in Knots,

Wow, the EGs have been inundated lately avec stories about Mean, Selfish Brides, but you, Dear Reader, are the Anti-Mean, Selfish Bride! We think you have a Problem Bridesmaid who needs to Grow Up. We can't believe Any Adult would complain about being seated at the end of a row. And the Bridesmaids definitely do not need to be making toasts at the Reception—the EGs have always been in favor of limiting Wedding Toasts to One Short-and-Sweet Toast by the Best Man. We've been to far too many wedding receptions where the toasts go on and on and on—where each member of the Bridal Party, including the Three-Year-Old Flower Girl, babbles for 20 minutes about the Happy Couple—this needs to be Stopped! Finally, it is traditional to invite the Bridesmaids to all showers thrown for the Bride, but, as you say, it's not as if you were throwing your own shower (which would be Bad Form Indeed), and it's not as if she was the only Bridesmaid excluded. Dear Reader, you've been more than considerate. Don't let her sulking get you down!

With best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Please don't steal the Snazzy Swizzle Stick.

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Are cropped/capri pants "proper"? Aside from the obligatory Lilly capris, what do you think of khaki and white pants worn short, either cropped or capri length (approx. 26"-27" inseam)? I'm a traditional preppy dresser, and I'm not entirely sure if this look would be right for me. I respect your opinion, so if you think capri khakis and white pants are appropriate for town and/or country, I'll keep the option open. Thanks in advance.

Sincerely,
Caroline

Dear Caroline,

The EGs think you can look Perfectly Smart in Capri Pants if you are going for a Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn-at-the-seashore look with your entire outfit. That is to say, little Capri Pants worn with Flat Shoes and a nice little shell can look lovely, and we must say, far preferable to a T-shirt and Shorts and Sneakers. However, we see far too many people Abusing Capri Pants. Apparently, Cropped Pants have evolved into something Quite Different from Nice Little Pedal-Pushers! All of the following styles must be avoided at all costs:

· Cargo Capri Pants. Huh? The EGs don't get Cargo Pants anyway, but we especially don't understand the Baggy, Cropped Version. Why not use the fabric from the Unnecessary Pockets to make full-length, normal pants?

· Camouflage Capri Pants. The EGs don't understand why Civilians would wear Camouflage Print anyway, anywhere, but it looks particularly ridiculous on Capri Pants. Are you expecting to go Undercover at the Mall?

· Cropped Pants worn as part of a Suit. This gives the impression of either 1) "I'm trying to strike an Inappropriately Casual Note at this Job Interview!" or 2) "The Dry Cleaner Shrunk My Pants!"

· Pants that are not quite long enough to be Regular Pants, but not quite short enough to be Obviously Cropped. Again, this looks like a Laundry Mishap.

· Do-it-yourself Capri Pants. Unless you hem them after you chop off the bottom few inches of fabric, your pants will look all Ratty.

· Capri Pants worn with tall socks / scrunched-down socks and Sneakers; Capri Pants worn with Boots; Capri Pants worn with Stiletto Heels; Capri Pants worn with those horrible shoes that look like the mutant offspring of Construction Boots and Stiletto Heels. Yes, the EGs have seen all of these looks, and they are Not Pretty. (An aside: How amusing are those Construction-Boot Spike Heel things? What's next, Hockey Skates on Heels? Moon Boots?)

Finally, Dear Reader, we do need to say that even our Beloved Lilly Prints must be worn in Moderation. They're way too Summer-House-ish for the City, in any form, including Capri Pants. In New York, in general, we'd probably choose something a Little Less Casual than Capri Pants. At the Shore or in the Country, though, we think they'd be perfectly fine as part of a well put-together outfit.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Please don't steal the Snazzy Swizzle Stick.

Dear EGs,

First off, let me say how much I adore your site! I write to you today with a dilemma regarding a wedding in which I am involved, taking place later this summer. My good friend, the bride, has chosen her sister (a brand-new mother) to be her maid of honour; however, because of her new parenting obligations; she is pretty much a figurehead. It has fallen to me to take on the social responsibilities, which I am happy to do, but I have a little problem.

I was quite looking forward to hosting a bridesmaids' luncheon the day before the wedding, but my very popular friend has put together a wedding party which includes 18 bridesmaids. Yes, you heard me, Eighteen!! And, before you ask, let me assure you, she is, in fact, Not a Crowned Head of Europe. Needless to say, my condo, as lovely as it is, will certainly not do as a venue to host this Epic. On the other hand, my budget does not allow me to host it at a restaurant either. What to do???

Sincerely,
Bewildered Bridesmaid

Dear Bewildered Bridesmaid,

EIGHTEEN BRIDESMAIDS? Heavens to Murgatroid! That's just silly. But we digress. It's very kind of you to assist the Maid of Honor! However, we don't think you need to deal with finding Seating for Eighteen in Your Condo or a Huge Restaurant Bill in order to have a Bridesmaids' Luncheon. What about having an Old-Fashioned Picnic for everyone? You could prepare some little sandwiches, side dishes, lemonade and punch, fruit salad, and some Divine Little Petits-Fours, and have everyone meet at a Local Park. Or, what about having A Tea instead of a Luncheon at Your Condo? Then you wouldn't need to deal with cooking a Full Meal for so many people; you could pick up some desserts at a Good Local Bakery, make Tea Sandwiches in advance, and serve Tea... much easier than a Full Luncheon! Is there Another Bridesmaid who might be able to help out with some of the preparations? We're sure anyone else in the Wedding Party would be happy to help out—they're probably all thinking that eighteen bridesmaids is a Little Unwieldy, and when hearing you're trying to plan a get-together for all of them, would immediately offer to help.

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

Please don't steal the Snazzy Swizzle Stick.

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Are thank-you letters passé? Over the last ten years, I've attended many weddings and have yet to receive a thank-you note from any of the couples. But for my own wedding, I've promptly sent out thank-you notes to everyone. Am I too old-fashioned to follow such outdated etiquette?

Sincerely,
Ella

Dear Ella,

Thank-You Notes are definitely not Passé! They are just as Mandatory today as they were Back In The Day. People who choose not to write them and try to excuse themselves by saying they're Outdated are Lazy, Rude, and Wrong.

Yours sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

Please don't steal the Snazzy Swizzle Stick.

Dear EGs,

My mother and I are hosting an afternoon Graduation Open House for my daughter, who is graduating from high school. Since it's an open house, with people coming and going all afternoon, how should my daughter handle opening her gifts? One side of our family is the type of guests who want to watch you open the gift, while the other side is not very concerned with these things.

Please give me some advice so my daughter can shine on her special day!

Thank you,
Carla

Dear Carla,

Don't open the gifts during the party. The EGs think this is always the best way to go at a big party like this—you don't want Your Guests to be Comparing Everybody's Gifts, to feel bad if they brought something someone else has Already Given Your Daughter, etc. It would be much better for your daughter to thank the Guest profusely for the Wrapped Present, and then put it aside until After the Party. If anybody whines, "But you need to open it noooooow!" just say, "We decided that Hannah would open her gifts After the Party. All that wrapping paper, you know... But I'm sure she'll love whatever you brought her!" And of course, she should write a Lovely Thank-You Note to everyone promptly after the party.

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Please don't steal the Snazzy Swizzle Stick.

Darling Etiquette Girls,

Is it ever WRONG to have Good Manners? I was married recently and received many Nice Gifts, and of course I'm anxious to use them! Last weekend I entertained a small group of friends, and towards the end of the night, served them tea out of my new silver tea service. We're all very young, mostly students—more of the mismatched mugs than bone-china types, you understand. But I thought it would be nice—why have such nice things if you are never
going to use them.

Well, one of my husband's more Oafish Friends had the nerve to ridicule me for this in front of everyone and call me "pretentious." One of the other things that seemed to offend him was the fact that I gave everyone a "real cloth napkin," at supper. He even went so far to say that it was rude to break out the silver serving pieces and my nice new flatware when the rest of the people assembled at the party couldn't afford them.

I coolly pointed out that the silver and flatware had been wedding gifts, that I couldn't afford it either, and that furthermore, it was far more rude of him to cause such a scene during dinner. I ignored him throughout the rest of dinner, shooting him the patented Icy Glare a few times to keep him silent. But now I'm feeling foolish... was I being pretentious? Should I have served the tea in broken mason jars and chipped mugs? Everyone else seemed to have a good time, and it wasn't like I was FLAUNTING my possessions...

Sigh

Dear Sigh,

Of course you should have used your Nice China and Silver!!! It's Your House, and when you're the Hostess, you can use whatever Flatware and China you damn well please! The nerve of this idiot to call you pretentious while he is a Guest In Your Home! We don't think he should feel that way to begin with, but the fact that he would say anything at your dinner party, in front of All Your Guests, is Inexcusably Rude. We hope you've placed him on your "People I Will Never, Ever Invite to My Home Again" List!

Yours sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

Please don't steal the Snazzy Swizzle Stick.

Dear Etiquette Girls,

I just had a baby girl last month; her name is Cornelia Edith Joan [Our last name]. She is named after my two great-grandmothers and my darling mother, who just recently passed away. I realize that "Cornelia" is not as trendy or often-used as, say, Tiffany, Justyn, or Kaitelynn, to name a few, but my husband and I think our daughter's names are beautiful and meaningful and they haven't been done to death... that's why we picked them.

The problem is that people are always asking me my baby's name, and when I tell them, they invariably make some sort of statement like, "Cornelia? Why on Earth did you chose THAT name?" or "I really hate that name," or even "YUCK!" accompanied by gestures of putting one's finger down one's throat in an attempt to feign vomiting. I would like to fix these people with an icy-cold death's head stare, but truthfully I just blush and try to stammer out some sort of rebuttal.

My husband's mother even refuses to call our daughter by her given name. She refers to her as "Babs," which I assume is some sort of nickname for "Baby." I think she's miffed that we named the child after women on my side of the family, but Mother-in-Law told us explicitly that she didn't want the baby named after her... it would make her feel too old. I'd like to throttle her (all those pregnancy hormones are still rushing around in my system), but I don't think that would be very conducive to family affairs.

So I need two tactics, I guess. How do I deal with these random people I meet on the streets? And how do I deal with my mother-in-law?

No Name

Dear No Name,

Arrrrugh!!! Who in the world do these people think they are to criticize what you named Your New Baby?!? If we were in Your Shoes, we'd smack them with a Diaper Bag! Let's see... the Icy Glare is, of course, Recommended, but you could also reply using something like:

Rude Person: Eeeeww! Why did you choose that name?
You: [significant pause] It's in honor of my great-grandmothers and my dear mother, who just recently passed away. I can't imagine why anyone would have an issue with that.

Rude Person: I hate that name!
You: Well, you'll just have to name your own child something else, then, and hope no one gives you unsolicited editorial comments on it.

Rude Person: YUCK!
You: Hahaha! You must be kidding. Wouldn't it be horrible if someone was rude enough to react like that to a New Baby's Name! Good one! I'll have to remember that you said that!

As for Your Mother-in-Law, Dear Reader, we think you need to have a Talk With Her. (And get Your Husband in on this, too. You need a Unified Front here.) "Sally, we want to ask if you would start calling the baby Cornelia. We don't want her to grow up with a nickname." If she persists, you have to remind her. "Please call her Cornelia, not Babs." If she comes out with some nonsense like, "But I want to give my granddaughter a Special Nickname!" or "But I just don't like her name!" or "Why couldn't you have used a name from our side of the family?" then you need to explain, calmly, that you understand where she's coming from (even if you actually don't), but that it's Your Daughter and you've already chosen the name you want her to have. If she brings up the "Why not something from Our Side of the Family?" argument, you should remind her that you did offer to name the baby after her but she refused, so you can't see why she's upset about it now.

Finally, the EGs just want to say that we think your baby's name is Perfectly Lovely. We love Traditional Names, particularly those with a Family Connection!

Regards,
The Etiquette Grrls

Please don't steal the Snazzy Swizzle Stick.

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I am a vegetarian, but most of my friends and coworkers eat meat. I try my best to be polite when we eat together. However, it always seems to come up. If I’m at a steakhouse with several other people and have only a garden salad and a drink, someone always feels the need to ask, “Why don’t you eat meat?” I don’t mind discussing my views on animal rights avec good friends or close acquaintances who want to know how I feel about the subject. However, I find it very awkward to discuss a controversial issue like this one with someone that I barely know, especially when said person has a huge slab of meat on his own plate! What do you think would be a polite response when someone asks questions like this?

Thanks in Advance,
Insert Witty Pseudonym Here

Dear Insert Witty Pseudonym Here (hee hee!),

Dinner conversation everywhere would be So Much Improved if everyone would just stop discussing Their Own and Other People's Food Issues! We think you've hit the Nail on the Head, Dear Reader—discussing things like this with people you barely know is Terribly Awkward for all parties. The EGs don't think very highly of Nosy People, or, on the Other Hand, people who view the Dinner Table as Their Personal Soapbox. Booorrrr-ing! Kudos to you, Dear Reader, for Staying Out of It. A great response would be, "Oh, Bob, that is SUCH an uninteresting subject, I never discuss it. Moving on... has anyone been to that great new bar down the block from the office? They really know how to make a Martini!"

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

A very large, very cold, very traditional Martini.

Dear EGs,

A dear old friend of mine and her husband are close friends with a couple, "A" and "B," who have been together since high school, when she was a cheerleader and he was captain of the football team. Now they are in their mid-thirties, and "A" is considerably larger than she was in high school, and I fear that "B" has a wee crush on me. I don't think he is likely to act on this, but I am concerned as to how to handle this in social situations. For example, the five of us went out to dinner the other night, and B insisted on paying (I tried to pay my share, but didn't want to turn it into a big scene of repeated "No no, I Insist!"). Etiquette demands that I reciprocate, but how do I do this without seeming to encourage him? Also, he gave me a bottle of lovely single-malt for my birthday. (Quoth I: "You shouldn't have." Quoth "A": "That's what I said.") Should I try to find a delicate way to return it?

Just being around this couple makes me uncomfortable now, because of the subtext. What do I do?

Signed,

Tortured in Toronto

Dear Tortured,

You Poor Dear! Is there anything more vile than Flirtatious Married People? Eeewww.

We don't blame you One Bit for wanting to avoid this couple. Honestly, that's what we'd do—it sounds as if there are Serious Issues in Their Marriage that they need to deal with, and if you happen, through no fault of your own, to be the Catalyst for These Issues Emerging, well, then, why would you want to be around them? It doesn't sound like much fun for you. We'd advise telling the other couple you are friends with how uncomfortable you are, saying that for the time being, you're going to have to Lie Low as far as A and B are concerned. Or, one way to make it Perfectly Clear that you are not Interested in B would be to have a dinner party to which you invite A and B, and for which you have An Attentive Date. "B, this is My Darling Boyfriend, Weatherby," should be pretty darn effective (plus, if you have A and B over to your house for dinner, you don't need to take them out to eat somewhere and have another scene over The Check). In the future, we would not recommend accepting any gifts from him, nor allowing him to Pick Up Any Tab again, even if it does mean being Rather Insistent about it. The EGs aren't keen at all over Struggles Over Restaurant Checks, but if he's making you uncomfortable, stand your ground.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

A very large, very cold, very traditional Martini.

Dear Grrls,

I want to begin by expressing my gratitude for your efforts to improve the manners of this great country's slovenly masses. As the front page of your website implies, somewhere, at this very moment, someone is committing an egregious etiquette faux pas, and is in need of a good, old fashioned "talkin' to." Also, kudos on your most recent literary accolade. Although I have not yet read your book, it is definitely on my "must read" list.

That being said, on to the quandary at hand...

Three years ago I was diagnosed with a circulatory disorder that causes my feet to swell. Although it is a minor condition, I am required to wear high compression stockings at all times to improve my circulation and manage the swelling. Generally, these garments are of the knee-high variety, come in a variety of colors and are easily worn with jeans, khakis, dress slacks, etc. However, these stockings tend to be very unattractive when worn with shorts during the summer months (not to mention the fact that they are unbearably uncomfortable in 100 degree weather). Through my own research and some direction from my doctor, I was able to find a company that could custom design compression ankle socks. The fabric is a flesh tone (although I use the term "flesh tone" very loosely—it doesn't look like any flesh I have ever seen) and very durable. However, as these socks are also very expensive and hard to replace, I must wear cotton socks over them to lengthen their life.

Herein lies the question. As I do not have a choice when it comes to wearing these garments, what kinds of shoes can I wear with white ankle socks? Tennis shoes are an obvious choice, but I have several social functions this summer (two of which are pool parties) where shorts would be more than appropriate but where tennis shoes would be unacceptable (not to mention the fact that tennis shoes look goofy when worn with a nice pair of linen shorts and a polo). Please help!

Sincerely,
Anxious to Avoid a Footwear Faux Pas

Dear Anxious,

Honestly, while the EGs are hardly Big Fans of Tennis Shoes (except when one is actually Playing Tennis), we think that something akin to them might be your Best Option at the Pool Party. Big, clunky sneakers would indeed look odd with nice linen shorts, but what about a pair of Sperry Top-Siders? They're sort of Sneaker-esque, in that they're quite comfortable (particularly the canvas ones), but they look Much Neater than Sneakers Intended for Serious Athletic Pursuits. While Sperry does make a number of Suspiciously Teva-ish Sandals, as well as regular sneakers, their web site has a bunch of different styles, several of which would be fine at a casual pool party.

Sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

A very large, very cold, very traditional Martini.

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My daughter is graduating from high school. I am having a party for her catered (so it is more expensive), and I am not inviting my co-workers. They only know her through me. Now they are offended. Where do you cut off a guest list?

Upset Mom

Dear Upset Mom,

When you're hosting a party, you can cut off the Guest List anywhere you like, as long as you're fair about it. That means that if you say the party is only for Family and Your Daughters' Friends From School, well, then that's Perfectly Fair, and your colleagues have no reason to be offended. However, if you say that to some people, but make an exception to invite a few select colleagues, it's not nice to everyone else. It's the same thing as the whole Kids at Weddings deal: if you don't want them there, that's fine. However, you shouldn't make "just a couple of exceptions" for, say, your Two Little Next-Door Neighbors because you think they're especially cute, while you're still requiring the parents of all other Small Children to Get a Sitter. Just draw a line and Stick to It.

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

A very large, very cold, very traditional Martini.

Dear Grrls,

A few of my friends had a picnic that happened to be on my 21st birthday. It was a surprise party for me. I knew they were going to do something for my birthday, but I didn't know what they were going to do. I wanted to invite my own friends, but I thought that would be rude. Would that have been rude? It was mostly people I didn't know, and I would have chosen to celebrate my 21st birthday with other people. They knew that I could not stay all day, because I was going out to celebrate with my family and other friends that night. The girl who was in charge forgot to make it clear where to meet at the state park, so it took hours for everyone to get there. Some people (mainly the people I knew) had to go early, so they finally started cooking the food before everyone got there. Was that right? Then the people who had to leave left before the cake came. They would not let me leave because the cake was coming by someone who wasn't there yet. The cake finally came and they sang happy birthday and all that stuff. The issue happened when I had to leave. Everyone was done eating and everything was put away.

I said I was taking the cake, because I was going to give pieces to people who left earlier. I told the girl, and she said ok. The problem is she is forgetful and when the cake was gone, she panicked because someone didn't get a piece, and she called me to make a big deal how she bought the cake so it was hers and I had not had the right to take it. Because it was my birthday, did I have the right to take the cake to give to my friends who had to leave? And even if I wasn't going to give it to others, was that my cake?

Birthday Confusion

Dear Birthday Confusion,

Well, that just Takes the Cake. *snicker*

Sorry, the EGs just Couldn't Resist.

But moving on... We have Several Observations to make about this situation. First, why would friends of yours invite a lot of people you don't know to a surprise birthday party for you? That seems Rather Odd. However, yes, we think it would have been a Bit Presumptuous of you to insist they invite certain people. Even if it's a party for you, the Hostess makes up the Guest List. If the Hostess had said to you, "Say, we're thinking of throwing a Wee Birthday Party for you—is there anyone you'd like us to invite?" then that would be another thing entirely—you could have suggested a couple of names. But she did not—oh well.

Dear Reader, this party just sounds Hopelessly Disorganized. A Hostess doesn't normally have to make everyone else wait because a few guests are late, but when it's the Hostess' fault the guests are late... ack! We think it was fine to start cooking before everyone arrived (cookouts tend to be more adaptable to varying start-times than, say, Fancy Dinner Parties avec Many Courses that have to be Perfectly Timed), but we do hope the Hostess was out there looking for the Poor Lost Folk and, of course, Apologizing Profusely to everyone for having planned such a Confusing Event.

However, Dear Reader, we don't think it was the nicest thing for you to say, "I am taking the cake," if that is how you said it. It seems a bit brusque. And no, we don't think it was Your Cake to Dispose of As You See Fit. We think any food at a party belongs to the Hostess, unless she specifically says something like, "Do take the rest of the Brownies You Brought home; I can't possibly finish them!" Incidentally, the same thing goes for Alcohol. If you take a Bottle of Wine (or of Good Gin) to someone's party, you do not get to take whatever has not been consumed Back Home With You unless the Hostess insists.

So, yes, you were the Guest of Honor, and it was nice of you to think of your friends, but... honestly, we would have left the cake there. The people who left probably wouldn't exactly have been Kept Up At Night by thoughts of How Much They Wanted Some of That Cake. If you felt you absolutely had to take a piece to them, for whatever reason, it would have been much better to ask the Hostess, "Since Egbert and Harriet had to leave early, would you mind if I took a tiny sliver of cake for each of them?" Then, of course, you would have left the rest of the cake for the other guests, and more importantly, for the Hostess to decide what to do with. Even if she did throw a Rather Disorganized Party, she's still the Hostess, and it would be very bad manners to stage a Wee Coup and Depose Her. However (and this is our final "however"), we don't think the Hostess should have Called You Up to Argue About It. One cake is simply Not Worth so much Trouble!!

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

A very large, very cold, very traditional Martini.

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have been invited to a single fork dinner. What is it?

Cheryl

Dear Cheryl,

God Only Knows. We do hope it's One Fork Per Person, and not For the Entire Table...

Regards,
The Etiquette Grrls

A very large, very cold, very traditional Martini.

Dear Grrls,

I am a graduate student in an anthropology program in New York City and I have a question about etiquette.

I am in the process of taking a second qualifying exam which requires me to work with four professors who have varying interests, personalities, attitudes, etc., to agree on some consensus about my research focus and project. My problem is that I do not know how to do this. Each of them is in individual contact with me and they each expect me to take my research in various directions. How do I handle them in a way which will allow me to progress in the program without losing my manners.

Thanks,
Angry Anthropologist

Dear Angry Anthropologist,

Aren't Academic Advisors infuriating? We think your situation is fairly common in any Academic Department where a grad student has to work with more than one Supervising Professor. EGL's two Thesis Readers often gave her Conflicting Advice (granted, EGL was Writing Poetry, though, and so things were probably a bit more Laissez-Faire for her than for someone engaging in Quantifiable Research). Basically, Dear Reader, you have to realize that you Can't Please All of Them. You could try, but then Your Research might not seem to have a Clear Direction at all. We think that if the Professors know there are four of them advising you, they should expect that you cannot Please Everyone. Might some of them get Their Noses Out of Joint? Well, yes, if you've got any Big Academic Egos on your panel. Those folks may sulk, and you'll have to deal with that. (Big Academic Egos tend to Respond Well to Flattery. "I know you want me to focus more on Rural Japan, Professor Hiffleworth, but I'm sure you can't blame me for wanting to Branch Out a Bit into newer territory. Your book on Family Hierarchy in Rural Japanese Villages is the Last Word on the subject—I can't possibly quote from it on Every Page of My Dissertation!") As long as you continue to keep everyone apprised of Your Progress, and can explain why you're following a particular path, and, of course, listen respectfully to any advice they give you (no matter how useless it is), you really won't be committing any Big Etiquette Faux Pas, Dear Reader. Definitely don't start ignoring one Prof just because you really don't want to take her advice. That could Backfire. And also, if one of the Profs is more helpful to you than the others, don't Bad-Mouth the rest of them to the Helpful Prof. That could also Come Back to Haunt You. We're sure you'll be Just Fine, Dear Reader!

With best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Note that this Martini is not Blue. It's clear, as it should be.

Dear EGs,

Late last fall, my aunt called my mother to inform her that my cousin would be getting married on the first Saturday in October. Naturally, my entire family plans to attend.

Then, in January, my dear dear friend announced her engagement, and asked me to be a bridesmaid. Of course I said yes. Then she informed me that they were looking at a date in September or October. For two weeks, I was terrified that they would settle on the same date as my cousin. As it turned out, they picked the week before, so I will be able to be at both weddings.

My question is this: if my friend had chosen the same date as my cousin, which wedding should I have attended? I have never been close to my cousin—he is ten years older than me and has never shown much interest in spending time with my parents, my sisters, and me. My only concern would have been that my aunt, to whom I am close, would have been terribly hurt. Do family weddings always take priority over friends', even if one is very close to the friend and not to the relation? I knew about my cousin's wedding first, but I was asked to be an attendant in my friend's, and had no idea that the dates might conflict when I agreed. The weddings are in cities five hours apart, so there would have been no chance of going to one ceremony and the other reception. My friend is much, much dearer to me than my cousin, and my personal inclination would definitely have been to attend her wedding, and apologize profusely to my aunt.

I have been puzzling over this for months, and have not been able to settle it to my satisfaction. Thank goodness, I will be able to attend both; but if that had not been possible, what should I have done? Please advise!

Befuddled by Wedding Conflicts

Dear Befuddled,

Let's see. While we think there are some situations that are too complicated to fit into a Neat Formula, we have some thoughts over How to Choose Which Wedding to Attend when there are two on the Same Day.

1) The Wedding of any of Your Siblings trumps everything. If you skip it to go to a friend's, no matter how close you are to that friend, you will probably Never Be Forgiven By Your Family.

2) A Wedding in which you are A Member of the Bridal Party takes precedence over a Wedding at which you will merely be A Guest. Once you've accepted an offer to be A Bridesmaid, you shouldn't just cancel, just because you receive word that Your Cousin will be getting married on the Same Day. Would Your Cousin (and in your case, His Mother) like you to be at His Wedding? Yes, of course, but we think they will understand your choice—they probably would not be Too Happy if Your Cousin's Best Man decided to Ditch Him to attend His Cousin's Wedding.

3) If you've already R.S.V.P.ed to one wedding, and then you receive an invitation to another one on the same day which you would Rather Go To, you can't change your mind. Unless, of course, there is some very, very compelling reason to do so, such as the fact that the second wedding is that of Your Brother, who's just been Deployed Overseas and decided to Change His Planned Wedding Date to An Immediate One. Other more mundane reasons (like the second wedding is easier to get to, the reception's at a Cooler Place, you can Bring a Date to the second wedding, etc.) are Not Acceptable.

4) As for choosing between the weddings of Two Friends, or a Friend and a Non-Close Family Member, or two Family Members of equal closeness... well, the EGs have to Throw Up Our Hands at that and say it has to be Your Decision. If you're looking at being A Guest at both, or A Bridesmaid at both, then you've just got to weigh all the factors yourself, as only you know the Parties Involved.

In any event, in sending your regrets to the wedding you will not be attending, make certain to convey how much you actually regret not being able to be there. You don't want anyone to think you are just Blowing Them Off.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Note that this Martini is not Blue. It's clear, as it should be.

Dear EGs,

As a longtime follower and fan, I turn to your infinite etiquette wisdom regarding something that is really starting to disturb me. I was obviously thrilled in February when my boyfriend of four years proposed to me. I was understandably also thrilled with the lovely engagement ring he chose for me. Here is my dilemma: Many who have asked to see my ring seem to have the same response... "It's SO BIG! Is it fake?" Honestly! What kind of question is that? I realize my diamond is a little on the large side compared to those of some people I know, however I don't believe it to be anywhere near being tacky or gargantuan. It just happens to be a decent size but it is certainly real. I am rather offended by how many people make a comment of this sort. Do they think this is an acceptable thing to say? What are they implying anyway? I realize some are joking but one relative recently said quite seriously, "It has to be cubic zirconia, I'm certain they don't make diamonds that large." So my question is, how do I respond to this? Am I wrong to think this is an inappropriate thing to ask the otherwise thrilled bride-to-be? Short of whipping out the papers to prove it (something I would never do), what can I possibly say to get the points across that A) Yes, it is real and B) They are being extremely rude?

Thank you so much for your time!

Sincerely,
Engaged and Enraged

Dear Engaged and Enraged,

The nerve of Some People! Arrrgh! Just an FYI for everyone out there: when someone shows you Her Engagement Ring, the appropriate response is, "How beautiful!" It is Completely Out of Line to make comments like, "Wow, that's giant— is it fake?" "Gosh, that's so small— I mean, it's pretty, but I didn't think you could get an engagement ring with that tiny a diamond!" "How much did that cost?" or "What's the stone rated? I think I see a Visible Imperfection."

Dear Reader, we suggest the following: wrinkle your brow slightly, give a Quizzical Look at the Idiot Asking You if it's real, and say, "That's a very odd question to ask a newly-engaged girl. Why of course it is." Or, we suppose, you could just use it to write, "Yes, you fool, it's Real, and you are Quite Rude to Ask Me" on the nearest pane of glass.

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls

Note that this Martini is not Blue. It's clear, as it should be.

Dear Grrls,

What are the EGs' top ten Wedding Etiquette Faux Pas?

H.

Dear H.,

10. Guests who Do Not R.S.V.P., or who R.S.V.P. noncommittally ("I'll be there if I can get a good deal on a flight!").The hostess really does need A Headcount.

9. The practice, at some Bridal Showers, of asking each guest to Address an Envelope to Herself to ease the Bride-to-Be's Thank-You Note Burden. The guest was Kind Enough to give you a Gift—you can take 30 seconds and Address An Envelope to her!

8. "Black Tie Optional." Make up your mind, please!

7. Anything written upon, or included with, a Wedding Invitation that indicates, in any manner, What You Should Buy the Couple as a Gift. No registry cards, no "There will be a Money Tree," no "We can't use china—please give us cash for our honeymoon"! Telling your guests what to buy for you is Terribly Rude.

6. Guests who wear Black or White Dresses. It's not a Funeral, and You Are Not the Bride. (Sorry, the EGs aren't buying that whole, "But I always see lots of girls wearing black at weddings!" argument. If all those girls Jumped Off a Bridge, would you do it too?)

5. "Group Dance" nonsense at the Reception. Please, tell the DJ or the Band ix-nay on "The Macarena," "The Electric Slide," "YMCA," "The Chicken Dance," "The Hokey-Pokey," "The Alley-Cat," etc. (Note: the EGs are not talking about group dancing that is a traditional part of some Ethnic Groups' Wedding Receptions. The Hora is entirely cool with us. "The Chicken Dance," however, is nobody's Cultural Tradition.)

4a. Guests who get Bent Out of Shape if their Children are not invited or if they cannot Bring a Date. If it bugs you that much to be without them for a few hours, then you don't need to go.

4b. Guests who call up The Bride and/or Her Mother and try to finagle an Invitation out of them for said Children or Date.

4c. Guests who go ahead and Bring Them Anyway, explicitly against the Bride's Wishes. See Us In Hell!!!

3. Unrehearsed, Vulgar, or Rambling Toasts at the Reception. If you're the Best Man and anticipate Tossing Back Quite a Few, please have the kindness to wait until after you Propose the Toast to the Happy Couple.

2. Guests who skip the Ceremony, but Show Up at the Reception. You've been invited to witness a Couple Say Their Marriage Vows, which is an Important, Solemn Ceremony, and then to celebrate the fact that this Important, Solemn Ceremony Took Place. You haven't simply been invited for Dinner and Dancing at Some Country Club. If you want to attend, you absolutely must attend the Ceremony!

1. Brides who assume the fact that They're Getting Married means they get to do Whatever the Hell They Want, act as if the World Is Coming to an End just because one bridesmaid has a Slightly Darker Shade of Nailpolish than the others or dared—horrors!—to cut her hair sans permission, and in general, order everyone around like a Wee Dictator. You're a Bride, not Queen of the World.

Hope that helps,
The Etiquette Grrls

Note that this Martini is not Blue. It's clear, as it should be.

Dear Grrls,

My mother and I have been long disputing this scenario. Hopefully you can bring some insight to the situation.

A week ago we had a dinner party at our house with roughly 17 guests. As I, the 17-year-old daughter, stood talking to a group of four ladies, one of my neighbors whom I am not particularly close with noticed my report card on the fridge. She proceeded to take it from its spot and then question me about one of my grades in front of all the ladies. I consider this whole action to be rude, while my mother argues that if it was in the open than it is fair game for people to comment on it. I disagree, saying that even calendars are in the open and you mustn't look through those. Who is right?

Confused in Kalamazoo

Dear Confused,

In Our Opinion, you're right. In general, that is. Snooping is, of course, always rude. One is definitely not supposed to scrutinize a Calendar that happens to be on someone's desk, page through a book clearly labeled "My Diary," if it happens to be on a Friend's Coffee Table, etc. However, some people do tend to use the front of their refrigerators as Galleries of sorts—pretty much inviting people to examine them closely. If there's a bunch of stuff on the fridge screaming "Look at me!" (you know, photos, postcards, Magnetic Poetry, Isn't-It-Funny-to-Put-a-Motorcycle-Helmet-on-the-David, etc.), your report card may have looked like it was purposefully on display like those items. If you consider it Private (which we think you should), you would be better off keeping it somewhere else. However, the second issue here is whether it was appropriate for this woman to say anything to you about your grades. We think that is Frankly None of Her Business—grades are never Anybody Else's Business. Saying something to you about it in front of Other People is Particularly Rude, and she should Be Ashamed of Herself.

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

 

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