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The Etiquette Grrls' Q & A Archive: November 2002

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I beg you to reconsider your stand on baby showers. Every baby deserves to be cherished and treasured and welcomed into the world. The first baby has a baby book with a shower section full of pictures and guests' names. All subsequent babies have blank pages. How does that make them feel. It's not about the gifts. It's about that particular baby coming into the world and joining a family.

Polly

Dear Polly,

We're sticking with Tradition here-- it is simply not appropriate to have a shower for any baby other than a mother's First Child. Furthermore, we have a Few Quibbles avec Your Logic:

1) The fact that people come to a shower does NOT necessarily mean the baby will be "cherished and treasured" by all of those people. We've heard of Greedy Showers that have something like 200 people in attendance. There is No Way in Hell such events are About Welcoming the Baby.

2) Moreover, as a relative or friend of a Wee One's Mom, you are by no means prohibited from expressing your happiness about the Wee One's Arrival if there is no shower for it! On the contrary, the EGs think a personal visit from a Dear Friend after the baby is born, or a nice hand-written note, means A Great Deal More than the fact that someone Showed Up at a Shower.

3) If you think a page in a scrapbook is enough to make a kid feel cherished, well, Dear Reader, that's Hogwash. Same thing for a shower-- it's one event vs. many more important experiences in the kid's life. And we certainly hope that by the time any child is old enough to appreciate his baby scrapbook, he will have learned that he is, truly, a loved and cherished member of the family by the way other family members have acted toward him throughout His Young Life. If he doesn't get that, Dear Reader, no shower, and certainly no scrapbook page, is going to make a Bit of Difference.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

martini

Dear EGs,

I have just discovered your website on recommendation from my favorite roommate/friend, and have a burning question for you that desperately needs answering.

My favorite roommate/friend and I are two out of four female graduate students sharing an apartment in Boston. This is the second year that said roommate and I have lived together, and this new school year brought with it two new roommates: to preserve any small amount of dignity they may have we'll call them Spacey and Malaise. (If this is any indication of what's to come, please stick with me.) Anyhow, said roommate and myself are very clean (read: anal) and prompt about paying our bills (rent and utilities). The two roommates we lived with last year were pretty much the same, so things worked out okay. But with the arrival of Spacey and Malaise, all fiscal hell has broken loose. I just found out today that Malaise has bounced her third rent check in a row (fave roommate got the voicemail message and immediately dialed my direct extension at work with the news). Also, Spacey, though a 24-year-old graduate student, goes home to mommy and daddy's house every weekend--and last week, for the second time, she "forgot" to write out her rent check before she left, so we were stuck making excuses for her to our landlord. Now, our landlord is generally acknowledged to be a total waste of skin, but did not raise our rent this year because we were great tenants who always paid rent on time. Now I fear that things may change, and that Spacey and Malaise are ruining things for me and fave roommate for the future! Is there an eloquent (and legal) way to ask these two rent-resisters to vacate the apartment? We are really at our wits end. Fave roommate and I work full-time, attend graduate school full-time, produce a graduate literary journal (on virtually no budget), pay all of our bills on time, and still manage to fulfill our cleaning duties every week, while Spacey and Malaise do not work at all, or do... well, anything. Please help!

Fiscally Frustrated in Boston

Dear Fiscally Frustrated,

Oh, dear. Spacey and Malaise sound like Perfectly Horrid, Spoiled Brats! We regret that we may not be able to help you-- this sounds like more of a Legal Question than an Etiquette Question, and while the EGs at one far, far, FAR distant time considered taking the LSAT, we are well over that urge, Thank God. We suggest you take a look at Your Lease, and talk to the Off-Campus Housing Office at your school-- they can probably let you know if you can give Spacey and Malaise their Walking Papers. Once you know if you can legally Boot Them Out, then we'd be happy to help you break the news to them avec Style.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

martini

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I'm having trouble grasping the idea of the Icy Glare. Could you explain how to do it properly? Or maybe give me an example of how it's done?

Not So Icy

Dear Not So Icy,

Why, certainly! The Icy Glare is really not difficult at all, Dear Reader. If one is sufficiently Mad about something, it tends to come naturally. The EGs have long recommended asking a Nun, a Teacher, or a Librarian for an Example-- these people have the Icy Glare down! But really, Dear Reader, it's easy. EGL's kittens have even picked it up! Here's Oscar expressing the fact that he would Prefer Not to Be Photographed Right Now:

Oscar is plotting Your Demise.

Now, if a sweet six-month old kitten can do the Icy Glare, Dear Reader, you can too!

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

martini

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Just when you thought the bridal registry couldn't get any worse....

Jordana

Dear Jordana,

JUMPING JESUS. The EGs have always thought American Express is Rather Evil, but Dear God, WHY?? WHY???? Oh, Dear Reader, the EGs need a Big Damn Brioche and a Good Stiff Drink!

Sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

martini

Esteemed Grrls,

How can one handle a party pooper?

I don't mean someone that habitually turns down invitations. I mean someone that wrecks festive atmospheres and convivial moments by loud remarks of cynicism and sarcasm, to wit:

Ms. Partygoer: Droxine, your husband doesn't seem too upset by your recent fender-bender!

Droxine (with her husband right there): Nah. You know, he is a really nice guy.

Ms Party Pooper: Oh God! Listen to her! She must want some jewelry or something! I just want to puke!

Etc., etc., you get the idea.

It seems that clever rejoinders and witty repartee are shared among people having an equally good time. But when a partygoer cannot abide happy feelings, it seems nothing can be said.

Your worldly views would be greatly appreciated.

Stymied

Dear Stymied,

Oooh, this one is Easy: Stop Inviting Her to Your Parties. Problem Solved!

Fondly,
The Etiquette Grrls

martini

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I am in dispute with my mother-in-law over this. Every time there is a family or friend event where gifts are expected, she wants us to tell her how much money that person gave us for our wedding, so she "knows" how much to give them. I think this is not only tacky, but ignorant of her to expect us to tell her this information. She thinks she's entitled to know how much people gave us since she paid for the honeymoon. Help me please.

Newlywed

Dear Newlywed,

WHAT? Obviously she's Un Peu Deranged. We think Your Husband should have a chat avec His Mother and tell her that you think this is Inappropriate, Tacky, and More than A Little Demeaning. Otherwise, anytime she asks you, a good response would be, "I don't remember."

As ever,
The Etiquette Grrls

martini

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

What do you think of That Company that makes Jewelry out of People's Ashes?

Just Wondering

Dear J.W.,

EEEEEEEWWWW! "Beulah, you haven't inherited Grandmother's String of Pearls, but you have inherited Grandmother AS a String of Pearls!" That is Creepy, Vile, and Nightmarish, and whoever had the Brilliant Idea to do this in the first place ought to be sentenced to Hard Labor.

Most sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

martini

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Thanks so much for your efforts towards making the world a little less rude. I am writing you because of an issue I am having with my neighbors. I am a university student living in a house that is split into three apartments. My upstairs neighbors have a habit of bringing shopping carts home. They have quite a nice collection in the back yard, which so far has been only a slight nuisance because it is out of sight. However this morning I woke up to find a shopping cart on the front lawn! Although I cannot prove that it was my neighbors to the north who left the cart there, it is, none the less, the last straw. I was thinking of writing them a note to the effect of:

Dearest upstairs neighbors,

I regret to inform you that I have had your shopping carts returned to their rightful owners. I realize that you must have been dearly attached to them and I feel only the deepest sympathy for your loss. I only hope that I have not caused you too much pain.

Sincerely,
Your downstairs neighbor

Now I realize that this would be rude, but is it not deserved? Should I just perform the service sans sarcasm? Your opinion would be appreciated.

Student Ghetto Resident

Dear Student Ghetto Resident,

Hee, hee! "I realize that you must have been dearly attached to them and I feel only the deepest sympathy for your loss"? Oh, Dear Reader, your sarcasm strikes quite a Familiar Chord avec the EGs! However, we feel we must counsel you not to write the note, exquisitely phrased as it may be. We presume you have A Yearlong Lease, and, Dear Reader, do you really want to Start a Feud with the Upstairs Neighbors? It could Get Ugly, and there are still several months between now and the End of the Academic Year! The Upstairs Neighbors clearly have No Respect for Shared Property (e.g., the Front Yard), so we fear, Dear Reader, that Your Note might just provoke them to further Displays of Tackiness and Rudeness. They might put A Couch in the Yard! They might put a neon Budweiser sign on the Porch! And they might just do Something Worse, like scratch up Your Car with Their Keys. So, we suggest that you get Other People Involved, and Keep a Low Profile about it. Call Your Landlord, and insist that he Read the Riot Act to the Folks Upstairs. While we understand, and are absolutely sympathetic to your urge to Be Sarcastic, we think the More Pragmatic Course of Action is to make Your Landlord be the Bad Guy.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

martini

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

This year I decided to take our boring family Thanksgiving into my own hands. I have been planning a VBT of my very own. I have been so excited, planning the appetizers from your list as well as a few of my own favorites. I LOVE to entertain and cook. Of course at the top of my list were a few wine selections and a large bottle of Bombay S. as well as other favorites with mixers. Unfortunately I have just been informed that my dear brother, who will be attending, has just announced an addiction problem and is in a program which allows no booze. Well, as shocking as this was and as concerned as I am, I am wondering if you have any suggestions for a very unboozy thanksgiving. It was really going to be a small affair anyway and I don't think anyone will mind. I can certainly have a very boozy Christmas instead. Hints? Help?

One Sad Hostess

Dear One Sad Hostess,

Why, we think you could have a Fun, Festive Party with Swell Guests, Lots of Yummy Appetizers, and No Booze At All! It wouldn't quite be A VBT, but it can still be a Smashing Lot of Fun. You're not doomed to an Evening of Drinking Coca-Cola from the Can! Bring out your Best Barware anyway-- Cranberry Juice and Seltzer Water with a Wee Twist of Lime can look just as elegant as a Cosmopolitan. Why not look through some Vintage Cookbooks for some recipes for Non-Alcoholic Drinks? Our 1924 (read: Prohibition Era) Edition of Emily Post's Etiquette suggests orange juice mixed with ginger ale, or white grape juice mixed with ginger ale, garnished with fresh crushed mint leaves and served over ice. (These might be a bit summery, but you get the idea, Dear Reader.)

We hope you have a Wonderful Holiday!

Regards,
The Etiquette Grrls

martini

Dear Etiquette Girls,

Well, the spirit of the holidays is completely gone and the turkey hasn't even been carved! I just received a Christmas wish list from my sister-in-law's newborn. Yes, she is registered online for her first Christmas. This is not to be confused with the baby shower registry or the christening registry!

My husband has 14 nieces and nephews and, while we'd love to shower them all with gifts throughout the year, we just can't.

Is there any polite way to ask that we no longer receive e-mail gift lists or should I continue to bite my tongue and mix the gallons of G&T's to get through the holidays?

By the way, we don't have children yet and this year we're adopting a family and hoping to make their holiday special. Is it in poor taste to send a note to our families letting them know that in lieu of gifts that this is what we're doing? We don't see his family during the holidays so not sure if this is even worth it....

Am I a Scrooge?

Dear Am I a Scrooge?

Of COURSE you're not A Scrooge! Don't be Ridic! Rather, we think your sister-in-law is Completely Out of Her Mind! HER NEWBORN IS REGISTERED FOR CHRISTMAS? And was registered for Her Christening?? Holy Mary, Mother of God! When will This Madness Stop?!? The EGs would like to Remind Our Dear Readers that if you receive any notice of a Registry from ANYONE, for ANY occasion, you are always free to Ignore It. ALWAYS. The EGs cannot stress this enough.

Here's what you should do: Get Your Husband to discuss this situation with His Family. It sounds like it's High Time for everybody to pick a different person's name out of a hat and buy that person one present. If, for some Inexplicable Reason, they want to keep having Every Single Person buy gifts for Every Other Person, you're going to have two choices. First, you could tell them all to See You In Hell, but that probably wouldn't be nice, especially at Christmas. Second, you could give small presents to everyone-- each family could receive a batch of Christmas Cookies, for example. (We really like this idea-- it should remind people that Gift-Giving is not about Spending a Lot of Money.)

Finally, while we think your idea of giving gifts to a Family in Need is Lovely, we've always thought it's best to keep one's charitable giving Private. We know you aren't trying to be Holier-Than-Thou or Smug, Dear Reader, but sometimes, things like that can come across that way. The fact that you're buying gifts for a Poor Family is totally unrelated to the issue of How You'll Exchange Gifts (or not) with Your Husband's Family, so it's best not to speak of it to them.

With best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

martini

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have a small problem, and I am hoping you can help me.

For the past few weeks, I've been dating a young lady and things are not working out. She has expressed that she is more interested than am I. Normally, this would not be a problem, I would simply express my feelings (or lack thereof) and leave it at that. There is, however, a question of timing.

She has invited me to a formal event, work-related, next weekend. My question is, do I break things off now and possibly leave her without a date, or go with her to the event and then break things off? I can see pros and cons to each course of action, and I would be very interested to hear your thoughts.

Regards,
JCH

Dear JCH,

Break it off NOW.

It will be Much, Much Worse if you Accompany Her to the Event, then Break Up With Her. This is why: at the event, you're going to meet lots of the Girl's Work Associates. The next time they see her, they're probably going to say something like, "It was great to meet JCH! He seems so sweet, and so nice!" She, then, will need to reply, "Yeah, well, we just Broke Up," or, worse, to mutter something Vague and change the subject. Trust the EGs, no one wants to be in that position. We're sure you will handle the Breakup in a Respectful Manner, and as part of that, you might say something like, "Of course, I realize I've already accepted your invitation to your company's party. I'd still be happy to escort you as a friend, if you would like that." She probably won't take you up on it, but if she does, she'll then have the option of saying, pointedly, "This is my FRIEND, JCH" when she introduces you to Her Colleagues.

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

martini

Dear Women of Wisdom:

The other day, a co-worker whom I am friendly with told me she wanted to speak to me in private. She then told me that when I wear my shoulder length hair back in a ponytail it makes me look "old" (I am 40). I didn't know how to respond - I was shocked. I made light of it, and don't intend to do anything differently, but now, every time I wear my hair this way, I will not feel great about it, especially since I don't believe it to be true. How should I have handled this?

Hardly Over the Hill

Dear Hardly Over the Hill,

WHAT?!? That's Horrible! We're glad you're not going to do anything differently-- no one should take the Opinion of a Rude Idiot seriously! The NERVE of her!

It might be nice to take her aside and say, "You know, Tiffani, when you tell people they look 'old,' it makes you look Terribly Rude. [Pause] Oh, wait, you are Terribly Rude." But we'd settle for treating her with Civil Coldness (you know, the "I am speaking Civilly to You because I am the Bigger Person, and because We Are At Work, but I am not going to spend one single moment with you voluntarily" approach).

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

martini

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

What should the outgoing message on my answering machine say? I'd rather not have my name, but just stating the number sounds so formal.

Stacy

Dear Stacy,

Why, there's nothing wrong with Formality! We recommend, "Hello, this is 555-1212. No one is able to take your call at them moment, but please leave a message." (Note that this does not reveal Your Name and is ambiguous as to Whether You Live Alone, making it Ideal for the Female Apartment Dweller Sans Roommates.)

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

 

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