So you appear well-raised

Category: Etiquette Page 1 of 2

Rudeness: Return to Sender?

A good friend and I were talking about a situation that occurred some time ago, but it still stood out in our minds as some egregious f*ck$hit. Let me share some of the details.

Picture this: You receive an invitation to someone’s wedding. You RSVP right away (because that’s what you’re supposed to do) and let them know that you and your spouse are coming. Great. It’s on your calendar and you begin searching for outfits to wear and begin considering gifts from their registry and arranging travel. And then, several weeks later, you are notified by the couple that everyone must pay $X for the reception meal.

You panic! This isn’t cheap and you already committed to going. So now, in addition to a gift, you have to pay for your meal. “Shouldn’t they have said that from the start?” Absolutely. “Who the hell makes someone else pay for their wedding?” These people *eye roll*. “What do I do? Do I just tell them to kiss my ass? Do I gracefully grit my teeth and go along with this?”

My first inclination was to tell them I’m not coming and maybe send something from the registry. I mean, clearly, what the couple did was wrong. There’s no debating that. They cast a wide net and asked people to join their celebration. They got responses and then sprung additional costs on those that already committed to coming. Tacky, tacky, TACKY. So now, what’s the move? What do you do? Look, I get it. Returning rudeness with petty always feels good. You might want to be like, “I know you’ve lost your damn mind!” But you clearly give a damn about these people.

I’m never going to tell you to turn the other cheek. But let’s talk about what you need to think about before you unleash the full fury of your pettiness. When is it ok to meet rudeness with rudeness of your own?

1. Do you ever want to talk to this person again?
If you don’t care about the relationship, let it rip. If this is your friend, you need to watch what you say. No one is saying you can’t let them know that they were wrong and rude, but you just need to be tactful.

2. Is it that big of a deal?
Is this a momentary bout of rudeness or is this a lifestyle for this person? We all have our moments of rudeness, unintentionally. Learn how to give grace when it’s due. But if it’s not, then it’s time to have a gentle conversation with your friend.

3. Will you feel better addressing it? Whether you get into a neck-rolling spat, or read them for filth in the most eloquent way, consider whether you will feel better and complete when you’re done.

4. Will it make a difference? If you’re going to get hype and address it, make sure it’ll actually move the needle. Otherwise, you’ve wasted your breath and time.

As long as the earth spins, you will be met with rudeness. It’s a given. Now you’ll know whether to let it fly, address it calmly, or volley back that rudeness with the intensity of a thousand African suns.

Winery Etiquette: How to Swirl & Sip With the Best of Them

The United States has really carved out its niche in the wine industry, with wineries popping up in North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Oregon, Washington, in addition to California’s long-established vineyards. For many people, wine is new and hasn’t been accessible beyond grabbing a bottle from the grocery store and hoping and praying it was good.

Going to wineries isn’t just for the rich and famous or the elite. Everyday people are flocking to local wineries. But if you are one that hasn’t been, check out these tips to ensure your first trip is lots of fun!

1. Do your homework. Check out the winery’s website for things like rules and hours. Do they allow children or dogs? Find out before you get there so you can make the most of your visit. Some wineries are very family-friendly, with grass for kids to run around and play in. Others are quiet spaces where they’d prefer you leave your kids and dogs at home.
2. Keep numbers reasonable. Thinking of grabbing a big group of friends to go to a winery? Perhaps you shouldn’t. If you have more than the amount of people that can fit at one picnic table, find another activity or split your group up. Also, some wineries actually require you to make a reservation if you have over six or eight people doing a tasting. It’s very hard for your wine educator to do a tasting for a very large group of people.
3. Listen and put down your phone. You may want to take a quick picture when you first approach the counter, but after that, really pay attention to the person pouring the wine. The educator is doing their job to educate you about wine. They can share a lot of wonderful, useful information with you. Ask them questions; have fun with them!
4. Tasting the vino. You’ll have about 1 -2 ounces to sip. Sip it slowly and don’t throw it all back at one time. If you like it, let the wine hit all parts of your mouth. If you happen to not enjoy the wine after first sip, swallow what’s in your mouth and pour the rest into the urn. DO NOT SPIT.
5. Tipping. If you learned a lot of great information and had a personable wine educator, tip them a few dollars. You’ll want to carry a few singles in cash for this purpose. You’re not obligated to tip, but it’s a nice touch.
6. Kinder Care. If a winery does allow you to bring your children, make sure to keep an eye on them. Now’s not the time to practice free-range parenting. And definitely never bring them up to the bar. And really never set your toddler up on the bar or counter. There is no wine – red or white – that will go with your child’s diapered butt. Be sure to bring coloring books or other child-friendly activities and snacks for them to enjoy.
7. Foodstuffs. Many wineries have items for sale like baguettes, crackers, cheese, and salami. Lots of places allow you to bring your own food. Be sure to find out if the winery allows outside food. If they do, this is a great time to pack a picnic basket full of goodies for your group to enjoy. I recommend chocolate, cheese, and bread.
8. Know your limits. After you’ve done the tasting and picked up a bottle or two to enjoy at the winery, be mindful of how much you’re consuming. Please don’t get drunk; don’t be THAT guy or gal. If you do feel a little light-headed, get yourself a baguette, drink some water and just chill out for a bit. There’s no shame in taking a breather.

A day trip to a winery can be lots of fun once you “get” the rules and culture. Whether you’re looking to do a girls’ trip or a day of family fun, a winery can provide you with relatively inexpensive entertainment. Also, you’ll be supporting a small business. A quick internet search should tell you where the wineries are. Dress comfortably and get ready for a day of relaxation and vino!

Party Up: Part 3 – Eats

Alright, so now that you’ve set the tone and it feels right, you need to feed your guests. There are a few ways you can do this.

1. Potluck. Full disclosure – as a host, I hate potlucks. You have no idea what you’re getting. I’d rather do it all myself. BUT, you can do a potluck if you’d like. If people ask what to bring, give them something simple, while you do the more complicated dishes. Also remember that not everyone will get there at the same time or even on time at all.

2. Catering. This is the more expensive option. If you know you won’t have the time or the inclination to cook, it’s perfectly ok to have it catered. Maybe your favorite restaurant has a few items that would travel well that would work for your party.

3. Cooking. I love to cook. Parties are a high-pressure situation that always add a few grey hairs to my head, but I’m always thrilled with my spread. You can be, too! Pick recipes that aren’t fussy. Ones that you can make ahead and just set out for your party. You don’t have to go crazy with your dishes. Decide just how much cooking you have the time to do well, and do only that.

4. Pre-made lite bites. The freezer section is full of wonderful little yummies that you don’t have to do anything for. You put them on a tray, bake them, and put them on a nice platter. Voila, that’s it! You can get things like mini quiches, brie en croute, crabcakes, etc. Trader Joe’s is really good for things like this.

So now, what do you serve? I recommend: 2 meats (one heavier, one lighter), a salad with 2 dressings, cheese and crackers, something sweet. That’s pretty easy. Here’s a sample menu of what I’d do for a party:

Meats – Shrimp Cocktail, Chicken Skewers with some sort of dip

Romaine with dates, sunflower seeds, goat cheese, and grape tomatoes. My dressings would be a homemade lemon vinaigrette and an Asian sesame dressing.

For cheese, I would go with Gouda, cheddar, and a mild cheese like Havarti. You can pre-slice and arrange them nicely. Crackers are pretty easy, as they have packs literally called “entertaining crackers”. Lay them out nicely with the cheese and you’re set.

If it was a birthday, then cake would be served. If not, mini cupcakes or brownies are always delicious. And you could put out fresh fruit if you wanted.

You can make this as high end or as plain Jane as you want, just don’t starve your guests!

Next, we’ll talk about drinks!

Money Matters

Money seems to be the last thing people want to talk about in polite society. You don’t want to offend anyone. It’s considered gauche to ask someone how much their possessions cost.

Can I get real here for a minute? It’s a HUGE pet peeve of mine when people talk about money. Now I don’t mean talking salaries and such with girlfriends or networking groups, because studies have shown that that’s helpful when salary negotiations come up. Also, that seems to be the appropriate setting. No. I’m talking about something TOTALLY different.

Look, whatever you spend on something is what you spend. I’m not in your pockets unless you’re asking for something out of mine. That being said, don’t worry about what I spend on things. I’m a bargain shopper. On my grave will likely be the words, “I have a coupon for that!” Because I rarely pay full price for anything. But even if I overpaid by a bajillion dollars for every single thing I own, it’s not anyone’s business.

I hope everyone is out there spending within their means. Sure, I would love a YSL bag. But the $3k+ price tag won’t cut it for me. I see plenty of my friends and associates with them. It’s not my business how they got them. They could have been gifts. They could have robbed a liquor store. They could have saved for it. Regardless, I like the bag and I’ll tell them that and say no more. Because how they obtained said bag has nothing to do with me.

What really blows my mind is how people will make flippant comments where you have to defend your spending. Story time. I was planning my son’s first birthday party. I knew it was going to be a big one. I knew I’d be going as “all out” as my funds would allow. Someone asked me about what I was doing, so I shared my plans. Their response was something to the effect of, “That’s so much! I would have just had some hamburgers and hotdogs at the house and invited a few people over to watch him smash a cake.” Ummmm, ok. There’s nothing wrong with that plan, but it wasn’t what I was doing and I shouldn’t have been put in a position where I had to defend what I was spending money on.

Money is one of those contentious topics one should be careful when speaking about. What I deem important, someone else may not. It’s just not my business what is a “must” line item in your budget where that same thing may be discretionary spending in mine. More and more, as people are prioritizing self-care, that may show up in very different ways. Spa, shopping, books, social events. Whatever it is, it’s theirs. Unless someone makes your budget part of theirs, do me a favor and “don’t care.”

The Not-So-Secret Life of Pets

Let me just start by saying that I believe animals are cuddly and cute and great companions. They can enrich your life and make you happy. But we have to talk about just how chummy you want me to get with your four-legged friend.

Your animals are YOURS. YOU decided to have them. Personally, I’m not a pet person. I had pets when I was a kid. They were fun and I enjoyed them, but as an adult, I’d rather not. Too much responsibility and all that jazz.

So if you’re one of those super-adults who can care for themselves and a pet, hats off to you. But what I’m here to talk about is me and your animals coexisting.

Recently, there was a huge news story about people taking their dogs onto the campus of Howard University in DC and letting them use the bathroom in the grass and just being general nuisances to the students there. The students, staff, and faculty expressed displeasure and requested the dog-walking on their campus to cease. The dog walkers got upset. They couldn’t fathom why someone would have a problem with the presence of their beloved canines. Here’s why I think they were wrong . . .

As I said, your pets are YOURS. You have them because YOU love them. Forcing others to love them or even exist with them is obnoxious. Look, if I come to your house, fair game. That’s you and Fido’s domain. I’m a guest. If there’s pet hair flying everywhere, while I can wish you would clean that up and pray that you never volunteer to make anything for a potluck, it’s not my business.

What IS my business is if I’m in a public space and you, convinced that your 150 lb Saint Bernard is a cuddly lap dog, let him run loose and he comes barreling toward me, while you’re busy yelling, “It’s ok. He won’t hurt you. He’s just a puppy.” That ain’t no damn puppy! YOU find him harmless and endearing. I don’t know him or you.

And it’s not just dogs. Cats too. My neighbors have what is called an “outdoor cat.” I say it that way because I’ve never in my life heard of that shit. I was always taught that strays lived outside and if something was yours, you kept it inside and protected it. So imagine my surprise when I saw this cat, hanging around my suburban neighborhood, weaving in and out of various gardens, using the whole world as his bathroom. And THEN I saw my neighbors take him in and let him out. He was theirs. Again, that was their cat, not mine. But there he was, sunning himself among my zinnias.

Please don’t mistake me for an animal hater. I fully believe that anyone who is cruel or neglectful toward animals should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But you have to understand that this is not a black and white issue – you don’t either love or hate pets. Gray areas. Nuance. There are cultures that actually think of animals as unclean. There are people that are allergic to pet dander. And then, there are people that are genuinely afraid of cats or dogs. In all these scenarios, forcing someone to deal with your furry friend is truly wrong. You enjoy them in your space and spaces for pets and let the rest of us live.

Weight a Minute . . . .

Feet standing on a scale

Old people are great. They regale you with stories of yesteryear and they just have so much knowledge. My grandma is always filled with these amazing tales of DC in the 50’s and 60’s. I learn a lot from her.

Old people are also brutally honest. My grandma, with all her sage wisdom and cautionary tales, has a fault: She loves to remind people of how much weight they gained. She’s done this as long as I’ve known her. And apparently, as long as my mom has known her. I suppose it’s her “thing.”

I don’t know about you, but when my jeans are tight or something that used to fit great just doesn’t, I know I gained weight. And since I can’t easily take that weight off as easily as I took off the snug jeans before I see my grandmother, I’d appreciate her not telling me about my growing ass. Anyone who doesn’t wear a wardrobe of primarily stretchy Lycra could tell you about non-scale body changes. As I said, you know when something fits differently.

Life happens. Cupcakes and champagne happen. Kids happen. Depression happens. Dodging your personal trainer’s calls happens. I’m not saying health isn’t important. It is. But I sincerely doubt anyone who could make such a callous comment was very worried about your health. They’re worried about your appearance. And I can’t go around chiding people for wearing white after Labor Day, you can’t go around talking about someone’s newly-touching thighs.

I’m here to say – once and for all – commenting on anyone’s body is rude. Whether they lost or gained weight, they don’t need to hear it from you. If you simply MUST say something, you know what you can say? “You look great!” That’s it. Don’t expand upon it. Don’t draw it out. Just say that and move on.

Fixating upon someone’s appearance as it relates to weight can make them feel self-conscious. Even if you are telling them they lost weight, this makes people think you were thinking something about their previous appearance.

Also, stop calling people “skinny”. So I don’t personally know how hurtful this is, but my very small friends have told me that they really don’t like the jokes about their perceived lack of appetite or small frame. While it may be more acceptable in society to be smaller vs. larger, ridiculing someone for being small is a jerk move.

Now I know old people will say, “You’re being too sensitive.” In fact, my grandmother did say this. Look, someone’s lack of emotional intelligence isn’t your issue. And don’t make it your issue. But just know that if someone makes a comment to you over the holidays about your spreading hips, please feel free to let them know that they are being rude, making you uncomfortable, and you don’t have to take it.

Too Close For Comfort

Let me start by saying that I’m a touchy-feely person. I love nothing more than a genuine hug or to be close to someone. The one caveat is: that’s with people I KNOW. When it comes to strangers, distance is the name of the game.

There are cultural norms that guide how close we stand when we talk to someone. We’ve all encountered a close talker. It’s awkward and off-putting. Personally, I lose focus on the conversation at hand because I’m so worried about this person hanging out on my tonsils. I’m aware that, in some cultures, this is perfectly acceptable. Know your audience. If I were in a country with a culture of close-talking, I’d just deal with it. I’m not ignorant. But, on a daily basis, I’m in America. Dealing with Americans.

Getting even more personal, let’s talk about touch. When a stranger touches me or my child, uninvited, I get angry. There is typically nothing about my body language that communicates to a stranger to touch me. NOTHING. And definitely not anything my child is doing, other than being stinkin’ adorable. That being said, at least once a week, one of us is getting touched. Being that I have zero desire to touch a stranger, I can’t understand why one would choose to touch me. In fact, I go out of my way to avoid touching someone because I think it’s rude. But not everyone lives by the “keep your hands to yourself” credo. And that’s where we run into an issue.

In the United States, we tend to stand about 4 feet from one another when we talk to those we don’t know. Stand any closer, and someone is likely uncomfortable. Also, and it should go without saying, but I’ll say it – personal space is a thing. We typically have a bubble of anywhere from 3 to 6 feet in non-crowded situations. When you pop that bubble of personal space, everyone feels weird, whether that be standing too close or actually physically touching someone.

There have been recent studies about how often people wash their hands after using the bathroom. I’ve gotta tell ya, things aren’t looking so great. Because of that, I’m even more put off by people touching me. The numbers don’t lie. And even more than that, my eyes don’t. I have seen women just sprinkle their fingertips with a little water – NO SOAP – and head out of the restroom. Or they just don’t wash them at all. Gross. And these people are likely the same ones who sign up to make everything for a potluck and always want to shake someone’s hand. Ugh!

Given the straight facts and what I’ve seen with my own two eyes, give me my personal space and I will DEFINITELY grant you yours.

Party Up: Part I – Party Prep

There’s a lot I can say about parties, from the prep to the conversations, to the food and drink. So I’ll be doing a series of posts about parties and will tackle a different aspect of throwing a party in each post. I’ll focus on the house party and entertaining at home, but most advice would be great for any type of party you’re throwing.

First up – party prep! That’s broad. I get that. Let me break it down:

  1. Decide on a date. Saturdays seem to work better. You have all day to get things ready for your guests coming that evening. Plus, most people are free on Saturdays and you’ll have higher attendance. Pick a date about 5 weeks away and you’ll have enough time to get the word out to your friends.
  2. Who’s who? Determine how many people you want to come to your affair. Is it a cocktail party? Is it a dinner party? A house party? Will you do the cooking or will it be potluck? Once you figure out what kind of party to have, you can make a list of invitees. You know your friends better than I do, but I typically invite more people than I actually want to have because sometimes even 5 weeks out isn’t enough time to snag a spot on someone’s schedule.
  3. The grub. I’ll say more on this later, but for now, I want you to think about some of your favorite foods. What are your favorite things to cook? What can you make lots of easily? Or, if you’re not the type to cook, what can you order ahead of time that can heat well for a party?
  4. Spaced out. Where will everyone sit? People tend to migrate toward where the food is, so make sure there’s ample seating around the good stuff.
  5. Drink, drank, drunk. What are your guests to drink? In subsequent posts, I’ll provide some ideas for big batch cocktails and some wine pairings that do well at parties. Definitely don’t depend on your guests to provide all the drinks, because you never know what you’ll end up with.

Once you have these details nailed down, you’re well on your way to having a party! Next up: Setting the tone.

Feeling De”feet”ed: The Shoe-Free Home

Remember that episode of “Sex and the City” where Carrie went to that party and had to leave her fabulous shoes at the door? And they were stolen and she was forced to wear some ratty old borrowed shoes home.

Man, that pissed me off! Now, I’ve had nothing anywhere near a Manolo, but for years, I would be PISSED if anyone asked me to remove my shoes in their home. They were wrecking my ensemble! Also, because I’m short, if I had on heels, there went my faux statuesque, fabulous party self. Bummer.

But I’m older and/or wiser and more content with being short. Or something like that. Now, I totally get why people want you to remove your shoes. Cleaning carpets can get pricey and time-consuming. You wake up early, walk and scrub every square foot of your home, and leave the house for a whole day while the floors dry. It’s exhausting to think about.

If you are invited to someone’s home and they have a pile of shoes by the front door, chances are, they want you to remove yours. Some people will say it and others, you’ll just have to be observant. This is why you should always have on decent socks.

Because I have a kid now who is down on the floor at times, I think much more about what’s on my floor; what my shoes track in. I have a shoe rack by the door in order to try to keep my carpet a little cleaner. It’s working.

If you have a shoe-free home, you better make damn sure your floors are clean. I once knew someone that insisted I remove my shoes to enter her home. Fine. Except, her carpets were visibly nasty, with fresh food stains on them. And since I don’t have the power to levitate, I chose to not go in. I waited for her outside.

Those who make the request for you to remove your shoes need to have socks or slippers on hand for guests that are caught off guard. It’s only fair. I’m not always walking around with a fresh pedicure, so this is much-appreciated.

Put simple, I can see the argument for and against having a shoe-free home. Regardless, if you are invited to someone’s home, do as they do. And if you require that people remove their shoes, try to accommodate them as best you can.

Run Me My Coins: Stop Asking for Favors

Plain and simple – don’t ask people to work for free.

Lawyer friends of mine are always getting asked for free legal advice. They spend all day getting paid to “lawyer” and some random friend presents them with a legal conundrum over happy hour, expecting them to do for free what everyone else pays them to do. It’s 2019. That’s gotta stop. We have to do better by our friends.

If you work every day, being asked to do that thing you do outside of work hours for no money seems senseless. Sure, there are causes to which we donate our time and talents. But random friends and people looking to profit off your labor aren’t it.

Most insulting is when people tell you there won’t be payment and you’ll be working for “exposure”. I’ve been told this. Someone asked me to speak at something after seeing me speak elsewhere. She said she thought I was poised and well-received by the audience and spoke well. And then she went in for the kill: the favor. She asked me to speak at a thing she was doing where people would be paying admission. She then said, “I can’t pay you; this will just be for exposure.” *slow blink* But I’m already exposed. YOU know me, which is why you’re here asking me to work for free. I politely declined, fighting the urge to let her know how rude I thought her request was.

Intellectual labor is labor. If I am paid to do something, don’t ask me to do it for free. You wouldn’t ask a carpenter to build you a house for free, would you? Instead, mention that you need something done. If I offer to do it free of charge, fine. But coming right out and asking makes things awkward.

Have you done this? Have you asked your accountant friend for tax advice? Your writer friend to edit something for you? Your personal trainer friend to be your accountability partner? I could go on. You get the point. Don’t do it. Pay people what they’re worth.

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