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The Etiquette Grrls' Q & A Archive: October 2001

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have a situation that I need your advice on. I came out to my car evening to discover that another driver had rudely blocked in myself and another driver. There was absolutely no way for either of us to get our cars out. I went back into my apartment building to see if I could find the culprit and ask them to move their car. When I couldn't find the person, I went back out to the parking lot and promptly called my landlord to complain about the situation. This is the second time in less than a week that a situation like this has occurred--and I believe it occurs in part because he does not enforce the parking policy of one parking pass per household, all others towed.

While discussing the situation with another neighbor, the guilty party arrived at the scene. She didn't apologize and then claimed that she had only been parked there for five minutes. In fact, she had been parked there for at least 20 minutes (for 15 of which I had been standing in parking lot).

I explained to her that she shouldn't have been parked there at all since she was not a tenant of the building. Regardless of whether she was parked for a moment or a week, she shouldn't park in the tenants' lot, and she shouldn't have blocked me in.

Well, a verbal argument ensued. She proceeded to stand nose-to-nose with me and then refused to move her car until I apologized to her. I called her a nasty name (a witch with a "B"). In short, the police had to come and ask the woman to move her car.

My question is, how does one handle a stranger who is so inconsiderate and rude? How does one address such grievous behavior?

Boxed In

Dear Boxed In,

Oh, you Poor Dear! It is beyond the EGs' Comprehension why people who do not know how to Park Their Damn Cars are Allowed to Drive! (Don't even get the EGs started on people who don't know how to DRIVE Their Damn Cars--they're even worse! And, inexplicably, Quite a Lot of them reside in the Boston Area.) It is not acceptable to park in any manner which Boxes In other people's cars, and to do so when one has no right to be Parked There At All is particularly Maddening! We think, in your place, Dear Reader, you did the right thing to call your landlord (who really should Step In when this sort of thing happens) and, in his absence, to explain to the Errant Parker why she could not park in that space. You didn't elaborate on the argument itself, so we can't really comment on what should have happened there... or how we might have tried to Avoid Letting It Get to the Name-Calling Stage... but we think it's probably safe to say that if we had been in Your Shoes, we would have Called the Cops the minute she Got Hostile with us. Nobody is allowed to stand nose-to-nose with the EGs and Yell At Us, Dear Reader, and you shouldn't let anyone do it to you, either! Even if she did Move Her Car, you could've Taken Down the License Plate and reported that she had Threatened You. We might also suggest you ask Your Landlord to be a bit more Vigilant on the Parking Policy... we're not Lawyers, but it seems to us you might be able to Withhold Rent if the parking space you pay for is Frequently Occupied (or rendered inaccessible) by Someone Else. You might check if that is an option for you. We wish you Good Luck, and we hope you never have to deal with This Horrid Woman again!!

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

As I'm sure you know, classroom conditions are sometimes more conducive to sleep than to learning. A dull lecture in a warm stuffy room the morning after a night of insufficient sleep can cause a student to find herself nodding off in class, usually in full view of the lecturer. So what is the most tactful thing to do in this situation? Should one slip out of the class in search of caffeine? Rest one's head on the desk? Leave the class in favour of a nap?

Sleepy Student

Dear Sleepy Student,

Ah, yes, the EGs are Familiar with This Problem. We've encountered it so frequently, Dear Reader, that we have several Tips for You:

1) Try really hard not to take any early-morning classes. The EGs were Quite Successful in this pursuit whilst we were In College!

2) Get some of those Caffeinated Mints, and keep them with you Everywhere. It is much less disruptive to have a Mint from a Wee Box you keep in Your Backpack than to run out in search of the nearest Double Espresso.

3) If you need Coffee, grab a cup on the way to class. Don't wait for the class to start if you think you Might Be Tired. It's really Not Good Form to leave any class, lecture or seminar, in search of Food or Drink, unless you have a Medical Condition and your life depends upon it.

4) Try to sit in a Cool Part of the Room, perhaps Near a Window that is Slightly Open. This usually helps one to Stay Awake.

5) If you are so tired that None of the Above Methods will work, you should probably Not Go to Class at All. Now, the EGs are not Condoning Skipping--we just think that it's better to Not Go to Class at All, and Suffer the Consequences, than to go and either a) fall asleep or b) disturb everyone else by leaving halfway through. The EGs can say, as one of us has taught undergraduate classes whilst in Graduate School, that it is Really, Really Irritating when a student Falls Asleep in Class. (So much so that this EG's solution to a habitually nodding-off student was to stand up very quietly and write on the board, "On the count of three, everybody yell 'WAKE UP, JONATHAN'"--trust us, it worked Very Well. But the kid who Fell Asleep was failing the class anyway and generally was Irksome and Impolite to EG, so she felt Justified in Teaching Him a Lesson. We're sure, Dear Reader, that you enjoy Wonderful Relationships with Your Teachers and that they would Never Do This Sort of Thing to Embarrass You. But do watch out.) Therefore, Dear Reader, we recommend you Try Your Best to Avoid This Problem!

With best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Well, I'm afraid that words just would not adequately express how much I love your site! I am thinking of making it my home page.

The question is about sympathy cards. Specifically, a friend of mine recently had a death in the family. He works in the same office as I do, and as office residents are wont to do, one person bought a card and passed it around for the rest of us to sign with our thoughts, à la a birthday card.

I passed on the group sentiment, mostly because the only word I could think to describe it was "tacky."

What do you lovely ladies think?

Thanks as always!


Dear Julia,

It is difficult, indeed, when one sees Well-Meaning People doing something that could be Construed as Tacky. In this case, the colleague of yours who bought the card and passed it around probably was Trying to Be Nice-- and indeed, we all know that there are people who just Wouldn't Get Around to sending their own Sympathy Note, so this was a way to give everyone a chance to send their condolences, albeit not in the Most Traditional Manner. One of the EGs once received this kind of Sympathy Card, when she worked in a Very Informal Office, and she appreciated it very much-- most people wrote little notes that were very sweet indeed. It wasn't as if anyone could have attended Her Grandfather's Funeral, and it was simply nice to know that People Cared. (We would Draw the Line, though, at any kind of Electronic Sympathy Card-- we've seen them Online, and Words Cannot Express our Abject Horror. Pen must be Taken to Paper when one wishes to Express Condolences.) So, Dear Reader, in conclusion, while our personal habit is to send a Wee Note of Condolence on Our Own Initiative (and on Our Own Writing Paper), and while we agree the "Everybody sign this card!" thing is best suited to Happy Occasions like Birthdays, we would be grateful to receive Even the Smallest Expression of Sympathy if we were The Bereaved One. And therefore, we wouldn't have refused to sign the card. We'd have simply gone ahead and sent a Separate, Additional Note of Condolence on our own.

We are so glad, Dear Reader, that you've found our site and that you like it, and we'd be truly thrilled to be Your Home Page!

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Thank you for your website. Please help me with a Christmastime quandary.

I live in an apartment complex which houses a few buildings. There is a caretaker who lives "onsite" in an apartment in one of the buildings. He heads a team that consists of other service people who do not live in the complex. (I guess that makes them more like part-time employees.)

What kind of Christmas gift is appropriate for the caretaker and his team? If I sent a large hamper to the caretaker and addressed it, "To so-and-so and your entire team, Merry Christmas, etc.," how can I be sure everyone gets to enjoy the goodies? What should I send instead?

Thanking you in anticipation of your response,

Christmas Cheerer

Dear Christmas Cheerer,

We think your idea of sending a Hamper of Gifts is Splendid! Although you can't ever, really, be sure that the gifts will be Shared (sans Infiltrating the Caretaking Team and Spying Upon Them, that is), as long as you mark it clearly for the Entire Team, the Caretaker should be Morally Obligated to Share. (If not, he is Selfish and Horrid. But if that turns out to be the unfortunate case, it will not be Your Fault.) Perhaps you could bring it by In Person and say, clearly, "This is for you AND YOUR TEAM." Or, even better, bring it by In Person when more than just the Caretaker is Around.

The EGs must also say we Quite Admire how you've Thought About This in Advance! Heavens, the EGs love Christmas, but we will probably Find Ourselves doing our Gift-Shopping in Mid-December!

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

First, please allow me to express my gratitude for brightening many, many months of Mondays since I found your site.

I find myself in need of your advice. I am a Smoker. I am aware that this puts me in the minority and I do try to be a "considerate smoker"; i.e., I stand downwind from non-smokers whenever possible, I do not exhale into the faces of others, and I ensure that the cigarette butt is completely out and not left smoldering in an ashtray when I abandon it. My question for you is this: how does one respond, if at all, to strangers who take it upon themselves to approach me and say, "That's not good for you," or, "You really shouldn't smoke," or who say nothing but pointedly and dramatically cover their nose and mouth while walking past me on an uncrowded sidewalk with a brisk breeze blowing?

To those who say nothing, I simply pretend not to notice. To those who verbally chastise me, I smile and either cock my head or say, "Yes, I know," when what I want to say is, "Mind your own business," or, on other occasions, "Listen lady, you've got no idea what's going on in my life right now, so...." I would never dream of walking up to someone eating deep-fried foods and telling them they're going to give themselves a heart attack, or any such thing.

Please, please, grrls, what is one to do?

Smoke Coming Out of My Ears

Dear Smoke Coming Out of My Ears,

Well, aren't All These Other People Being Rude! The last time the EGs Checked, as long as you weren't in a No-Smoking Zone or Under the Legal Age to Buy Cigarettes, it was within Your Rights to Smoke! If you personally abhor cigarette smoke, by all means try to avoid standing Downwind of A Smoker, but really, it is Entirely Uncouth to make Editorial Comments on Someone Else's Habits! It would be The Height of Rudeness (THOR) to tell someone who happens to be Un Peu Overweight that the ice cream they're enjoying is Not Good for Them, wouldn't it? Maybe it isn't good for them, but it is not Your Place to Point This Out!

But the EGs digress. You asked us not to comment on This Behavior, but rather upon how you should Respond to It. We think you should not resort to being Rude in Return. We might be tempted, in your place, to Feign Shocked Surprise, and say, "OH MY GOD, this is BAD for me? YOU'RE KIDDING! I had NO IDEA! Could you share more of Your Wisdom with me?" but we'd actually say something Perfectly Polite, yet Firm, like, "Yes, thank you, I am Well Aware of That."

Dear Reader, let us say that we Applaud You for being a Considerate Smoker. ALL Smokers should follow the behaviors you have outlined in your letter! We think that unfortunately, the People Who Don't Like Smokers, In General, have not known many Considerate Smokers, and they probably would Calm Down if all Smokers were as Thoughtful as You, Dear Reader. And finally, we're tickled that our site has made your Monday Mornings a wee bit More Tolerable!

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Simply can't wait to get your book!

Here's my question: can you offer some suggestions on how to maintain a "porcelain complexion"?



Dear M,

Why, thank you! We hope you enjoy it!

Let's see, a Porcelain Complexion... to achieve or maintain this, you have to get your skin to look like Fine Porcelain: c'est à dire, clear, smooth, and luminous. (And let the EGs state what should be The Obvious here: skin of any shade can accomplish this.) Our first tip is to Get a Lot of Sleep. Well-rested people just have Better Skin. Secondly, when you find a Skin-Care Regimen that Works for You, don't change it, even if Something Strange and New with a Cool Name and an Intriguing Package is on the shelves at Sephora! The EGs are Big Fans of Not Fixing things that Aren't Broken. (Though we are incapable of expressing that sentiment avec the customary "Ain't"--the EGs just despise "Ain't"! But We Digress.) Try to drink a lot of Water, especially after a night of Hoisting the Demon Drink. Make friends with a Good Dermatologist in the event you Have Problem Skin. (Sometimes Dermatologists can be So Helpful they seem Almost Saintly.) And finally, find a Good Sunscreen (Peter Thomas Roth makes nice lightweight ones) and use it, every single day, summer and winter, no matter the Weather. Lots of Skin Problems (blemishes, splotches, etc.) start with The Sun, and thus it's best to Avoid It. The EGs are naturally Rather Nocturnal, so we get Precious Little Sun Exposure, but rest assured that when we do Venture Out of the Etiquette Flat during The Day, we are wearing SPF 15. Sometimes the EGs wish Parasols were still De Rigueur--we'd use those too, if they didn't look a Wee Bit Silly. No matter the Natural Hue of Your Complexion, we bet your skin will Look Smoother and Clearer if you Shun the Sun.

Hope this helps,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I absolutely love your site! I have a list of dear friends who will be receiving Things You Need to Be Told as Christmas presents (including the friend below) this year, and I know that they'll love it. But now it's time that I need some advice...

My dilemma is this: A friend of mine recently moved to my state, but is still more than an hour from my city. Since I apparently live in a more interesting place, she comes into town every few weeks and we visit together, which has been very nice. My quandary is that since I have not yet been invited to her house, I haven't given her a housewarming present. She's been living here for over two months now, and she has ignored every hint I've dropped about spending time in her neck of the woods.

Should I give her a housewarming present anyway, without an invitation? Should I have just given her one in the first place and not waited? Or should I wait for that ever-elusive invitation? Additionally, what is an appropriate housewarming present?

Please help me with this. My friend is far from an etiquette expert herself, but I would like to hold myself up to worthwhile standards.

Meredith in Seattle

Dear Meredith,

It is a Wee Bit Odd, we think, that your friend has not invited you to Visit Her. There may be, of course, some sort of Extenuating Circumstance, but if she is a close friend of yours, she really should explain why she hasn't offered to host you in return for Your Hospitality. (For example, "My mother lives with me, and she is Quite Ill. It's not a good time for me to Receive Visitors at home," or, "I would love to have you come to lunch sometime, but my apartment is literally smaller than my College Dorm Room, and I haven't room to put a Sleeping Bag on the floor, let alone a bed.") We might have given her a Wee Little Something the first time you got together-- just some Nice Soaps or a Good Book about Local History or something-- but that would've been more of a "Nice to see you again after such a long time" gift than a Housewarming Gift, which is taken when you actually visit someone in Their Home. At this point, we would wait for her to Invite You Over. Perhaps you will have Important Business near her town sometime soon, and you will be able to Drop By with a Nice Little Gift. The EGs hope she does reciprocate your hospitality, Dear Reader-- it's a drag to Always Be the Hostess.

We're so happy you're going to spread the word about TYNTBT, Dear Reader! The EGs have already Seen Copies in Our Local Bookstores, Dear Reader, so we'd suggest Stocking Up Now! (In addition, don't forget that if you live near, or don't mind driving to, Western Massachusetts or Pittsburgh, you can come to one of Our Signings and we'll autograph your copies!)

Thank you, Dear Reader, and good luck.

Sincerely yours,

The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I found your site So Delightful! Thank you for being such a Wonderful Source of Etiquette.

As I came upon Your Site, I noticed you mentioned Khakis were Inappropriate For Swing Dancing. I am a Young Lady of 14 years who has Not Worn Khakis since 5th Grade, but I wondered, why are Khakis not acceptable for Swing Dancing?

Most sincerely,


Dear Wondering,

Greetings, Dear Young Reader! We are so pleased you have Found Our Site, and we're very happy you enjoy it. Tee hee, you've even picked up our Random Capitalization! We are so Flattered!

The EGs are Making Reference to a Certain Commercial for Gap Khakis which aired a few years ago--perhaps in 1999. It was shown All the Time, and, while the EGs thought the Music was Fabulous, we weren't So Keen on all the Khakis. The Appropriate Attire for Swing Dancing is Dressier and simply More Interesting than Plain Old Khaki Pants! Girls should wear cute little 1940's-ish dresses with Nice Petticoats (both of which can be found at Vintage Clothing Shops-- which, we might add, are Infinitely More Fun to Shop At than The Gap), and Boys might Break Out the Zoot Suits.

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have been experiencing an absolutely horrifying practice at the law firm where I am employed. For some reason, a large number of the men in the office think that there is nothing wrong with clipping their fingernails over a trashcan in their office with the door wide open. Not only is this visually disgusting, but the sound the clipping makes is worse. I would like to submit a polite but stern note to our firm "suggestion box" and was wondering if you could offer some good if not humorous advice for this problem. Thank you so much!

Aghast Barrister

P.S. I'd like to stop this problem before they start hitting the toenails!

Dear Aghast Barrister,

HOLY MARY, MOTHER OF GOD! The EGs thought Lawyers were supposed to be Dignified, Refined People! Quelle Horreur!

Here's what we'd put in The Suggestion Box:

I find it interesting that the Men in This Office seem Compelled to Attend to their Nails in the Office. I am left with only three possible interpretations of this Bizarre Practice:

1) Their nails grow at an Alarmingly Fast Rate, e.g., something like One Inch Per Hour, and, unless Clipped, prevent them from Doing Work.

2) They are Underworked, if they are spending Work Hours engaged in Personal Tasks such as Grooming.

3) They have been Raised By Wolves.

1) is, I suspect, Quite Unlikely. 2) could be Swiftly Rectified by Management. 3) may be the case, but I feel I must remind everyone that Grooming should be done In Private. The office is not where you clip, paint, file, or even bite Your Nails. It's just Not Professional.

And there you have it, Dear Reader!

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

This is not an etiquette question, but one regarding a question in your archives. What on Earth is a "half-shirt"?


Dear EHF,

It is the Epitome of Horrendous and Inappropriate Fashion. Basically, this is a shirt which is Too Short to be Tucked In; it is otherwise known as a "crop-top." Needless to say, it is Not Appropriate Attire. Especially when worn By A Man. And Most Especially when worn By A Man in An Office Environment. Yuck!

The Etiquette Grrls

My Most Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I hope you both are well. It has been a trying time, but true Autumn is here now - the most civilized season. My quandary is a strange one. My boyfriend's parent's cat fills me with horreur. This cat is declawed so he uses his teeth! He has attached me and bitten my legs drawing blood! My boyfriend's mother's response to this? "Did you step on him?" Step on him! I wouldn't willingly be on the same planet with him. The family, with the exception of my boyfriend, Loves the cat. He shreds every roll of paper in the house regularly - paper towels, toilet paper, etc. Keep in mind he has no claws. He hides and pounces and bites and scares the living daylights out of me. I have never been afraid of cats. Now I lock myself in the bathroom to escape my friends new little kitten. In short, I am traumatized. Why, why, why must people find their pets so charming? My boyfriend now pretends that he is afraid of the cat and insists that it be secured before we visit his parents (who live only half a block away from us), and we no longer go to their country house if the cat will be there. The problem is that my boyfriend is taking some heat from his pretended aversion. His 12-year-old brother keeps asking why he doesn't like the cat, and his parents are visibly displeased. Should I confess that it is I who hates this accablant feline? How, in general, do you react when someone has a pet that irritates or frightens you? Should you just not go to their home? If so, should you explain why when they are disappointed at your constant refusals? Do let me know. All my love,

Scaredy Cat

Dear Scaredy Cat,

You poor dear!!! (And, we are Inclined to Say, The Poor Cat! If someone had Surgically Removed the EGs' Nails, not to mention the last knuckle on Our Fingers and Toes, we'd be Pretty Darn Mean-Spirited Ourselves. But the EGs Digress.) We think it is Very Sweet of Your Boyfriend to pretend it is he who Fears the Cat! How Chivalric! The EGs are Much Impressed!

Sadly, Dear Reader, some people are As Annoying about Their Pets as others are about Their Children-they cannot understand that others do not think their Wee Ones' Flaws are Just Adorable. We can't really advise that you Take It Upon Yourself to tell your boyfriend's parents this, however. They probably Won't Take It too well. Your boyfriend might be able to have a Serious Discussion of The Cat Issue with them, though-"Mom and Dad, Little Beelzebub the Cat has a Biting Problem. I'm serious. Have you thought of Consulting the Vet about this? I know you love him, but I think if he were really happy, he wouldn't be So Destructive. Maybe something is Wrong, and you should get him checked out. And at the Very Least, it's really not a good way for a cat to behave. Shredding the Toilet Paper occasionally is Amusing. Shredding My Girlfriend's Leg is not. Surely the Vet could tell you how to stop this behavior. All of us-including Beelzebub--would be much happier for it." If the cat belonged to a Dear Friend of yours, though-someone with whom it would be appropriate for you to have a Frank Conversation-we would say that you could do the talking. And this is the sort of thing to say.

If this doesn't help, we're sort of At A Loss, Dear Reader. (One might wear Chain Mail, but that is Rather Cumbersome, not to mention a Poor Fashion Choice.) We're not Animal-Behavior Experts, but we would say to encourage the cat to Avoid You. First, make yourself Taste Bad. Get a bottle of Bitter Apple spray. You might try spraying a wee bit on your feet (on Old Shoes, of course, not your Cool New Boots); perhaps it will Scare Off the Toothy Beast. Or you might take the Opposite Route and bring it a Catnip Toy to Beat Up on, so its Kitty Angst is not Directed at You.

As ever,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I recently had an hour massage with a certified massage therapist who works out of a spare bedroom in her home. I feel very relaxed now except for one issue. I wrote a check to her personally, and she does not work with anyone else. Do I need to tip her in addition to the base price she quoted? (In doubt, I went ahead and tipped her.) Thanks for your help.

To Tip or Not to Tip

Dear To Tip or Not to Tip,

We wouldn't have tipped her. Here's why:

First, there is a big difference between Massage Therapy and Simply Relaxing Massage. If you're having a Wee Massage as part of your Day at the Spa, you'd probably want to Tip, as it's just another relaxing spa service, like getting A Facial. However, Certified Massage Therapists usually provide Medical Treatments, like Deep Tissue Massage, and are much more concerned with The State of Your Muscles than How Relaxed You Are. They're Trained Professionals, and in the EGs' opinion, you wouldn't tip a Physical Therapist, so you shouldn't tip a Certified Massage Therapist either. (Nor, in case you were wondering, should you tip A Regular Therapist, either. Your Shrink, Psychologist, etc., does not get A Little Something Extra.)

Second, even if you had received a more spa-like massage (say, combined w/ a facial or something), you would not tip This Particular Massage Therapist. If she works On Her Own, she falls into the same category as a Hair Salon Owner, whom one Does Not Tip.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

The doorbell rings while I'm on the telephone. What should I do?

In a Fix

Dear In a Fix,

Clearly, you should Panic, Turn Out the Lights, and Cower. Being This Popular can Drive One Mad!

Seriously, we can't imagine why this would be a big deal. If you're expecting something Very Important, like a package you need to sign for, it would probably be a good idea to indicate this at the beginning of the conversation. "Oh, hello, Charlotte! Just wanted to let you know-I'm expecting the UPS Guy to come sometime this morning, so if the doorbell rings, I'll have to run… you know how Those Delivery Services are, sometimes, if you don't Make Haste to the Door." Otherwise, if you are surprised by the bell, just mention this to your caller. "Hmmm, it's the doorbell. Wonder who that could be; I'm not Expecting Anyone. Still, I'd better check. Would you mind holding on a moment, or could I call you right back?" Of course, if you were having a Very Important Conversation that could not be Interrupted At All, for Any Reason, you'd just have to let the doorbell go, and Forever Wonder who might have Been On Your Doorstep.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

How do you do!

We supply multifarious sport shoes, leisure shoes, tour shoes, flying shoes, jogging shoes, sandal, wooden shoes, massage clogs, slippers, beach slipper, footwares, child shoes, climb shoes, etc. We affirmed that you will like some patterns because all of these picked new patterns is from about 8000 patterns of China. We also supply bamboo mats, bamboo flooring, wood flooring, multifarious wooden massage implements.Welcome contact us if you are interest in any our items.

Thank you! and best regards.

Someone Who Thinks It's a Good Idea to Send Spam to the EGs


Hmmm. If the EGs ever have a need for multifarious sport shoes, we'll be the First to Tell You. (We must admit, "multifarious" is a word we Seldom See. Particularly twice in One E-Mail Message.) And what on earth are "Flying Shoes"?

The Etiquette Grrls


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