Verbal and Written Thanks, and Video Bonus, Vol. 15, Issue 11

This afternoon, while Etiquetteer was taking advantage of the French Toast Alert system to stock up on a few Snowstorm Necessities at the local food co-op, the woman bagging groceries couldn't forbear making a few remarks about the Previous Customer. "You should say thank you when someone's baggin' y'groceries!" she said. "I don't have t'be doin' this. I could just wawk away 'n' say 'Bye!'" As she mimed the action, Etiquetteer had to beg her hastily not to leave, especially since Etiquetteer was going to thank her! We ended up Bonding Over the Issue - or at least appearing to, since Etiquetteer can't really find it Perfectly Proper for an employee to complain about the customers in front of other customers. But the neglect of the Previous Customer did give Etiquetteer pause. We've all heard the phrase "know one's place" before, but never considered another meaning to its original threat of "and don't try to rise above it or sink beneath it." Etiquetteer invites you to consider a more truly patriotic rendering: "Know your place as a citizen of a country where all are created equal." Thanks to those who assist you, even if they are paid to do so, makes a difference. No one should be so grand that they can't express thanks - especially customers of a food co-op well known for its embrace of progressive causes.

Come to think of it, that's a new meaning for "Think globally, act locally," too.

invite

Etiquetteer has also recently been sorting through masses of old papers, and has been Exceedingly Happy rediscovering and rereading Lovely Notes of Thanks from Friends and Family Old and New. Let Etiquetteer tell you, it's a much more delightful experience - reopening envelopes, feeling the texture of paper, and reading handwriting - than scrolling through one's email inbox. That handwritten Lovely Note you send now will continue to delight years later, much more than an email, and certainly more than an instantly-deleted text message.

lorgnette

For today's video content, Etiquetteer shares again some Gentle Suggestions for Teleconferences and Webinars:

etiq15.11 from Etiquetteer on Vimeo.

 If you have queries for Etiquetteer, please be sure to send them to queries <at> etiquetteer <dot> com.

smalletiquetteer

2015: A Year in Review, Vol. 14, Issue 47

Like any other year, 2015 held its share of Issues of Perfect Propriety - or the lack of it - in the news. Yes, people are still behaving badly everywhere, sometime astonishly so. ENTERTAINING AT HOME

January saw one British family invoice another when their child failed to attend a birthday party. Etiquetteer wrote about this issue here, but the most Perfectly Proper way to deal with no-shows is to stop sending them invitations. Certainly one doesn't make a scene involving one's children, or the children of others. A wedding guest in Minnesota also got a bill from a Bridal Couple when they failed to attend the wedding. As frustrating and expensive as no-shows are, it's not Perfectly Proper to bill them.

THE WEATHER

New England was hammered with record-shattering blizzards in winter, which led one sexagenarian female to attack another with a snow blower. As the police chief involved said, “Emotions may run high during a historic weather event like the Blizzard we just endured, but that is no excuse for violence.” Etiquetteer couldn't agree more. Indeed, it inspired Etiquetteer to write on blizzard etiquette. And conditions deteriorated so much that later on Etiquetteer had to write even more.

RESTAURANTS AND FOOD

This year also saw the rise of a terrible practice, that of making multiple dinner reservations at different restaurants for the same time. While this increases one individual's options, it's discourteous to other diners, and disastrous to restaurants, who count on filling every seat to pay their bills. Stop it at once! Another restaurant issue to hit the news was the number of people claiming "allergies" for preferential treatment. And speaking of people who are precious about their food, even the Thanksgiving table is a battleground now. Etiquetteer rather wishes people would just be grateful there's something to eat . . .

TOURISTS

The behavior of tourists made the news this year. American tourists were caught carving their names into the Colosseum in Rome. The twenty-something California women managed one initial each before getting caught. Remember, take only photos, leave only footprints. But don't take photos of someone's bedrooms. Harvard University had to issue new rules for tourists to protect the privacy of their students. And you might want to think about taking photos at the 9/11 Memorial in New York. One writer called out tourist behavior there, especially around selfie sticks.

CLOTHING AND FASHION

Anno Domini 2015 saw the rise of "athleisure wear" - shudder - which has led children to reject denim for public wear in favor of sweatpants.  There was also the Suitsy, the business suit onesie. This article explains, rather fascinatingly, why we're dressing so casually now.

Also, musicians are taking a stand about their standard uniforms of white-tie or black-tie formal attire. In another direction, see-through wedding dresses are being promoted by designers. Of course Etiquetteer thinks they're Perfectly Proper - if you're getting married at the Folies Bergere. Another fashion trend that needs to end is the sloppy manbun, now also available as a hairpiece. Sadly.

First Lady Michelle Obama made the news when she didn't cover her hair on a brief visit to Riyadh to meet King Salman of Saudi Arabia. Her allegedly bold and courageous stance in not wearing a headscarf was, in fact, Perfectly Proper diplomatic protocol, as was shown by photographs of previous First Ladies and Female World Leaders like Angela Merkel, also without headscarves while meeting Saudi dignitaries. The Duchess of Cambridge made a fashion choice that brought coverage for a different reason: wearing a bright red gown for a state dinner in honor of China. Since red is the national color of China, that was not just Perfectly Proper, but also Deftly Diplomatic.

Higher Education is supposed to teach students about making Appropriate Life Choices, such as wearing shoes that will not make you fall over. Etiquetteer felt alternately sorry and embarrassed for this young woman who floundered through her graduation because of her shoes. Conversely, ladies in flats were turned away from screenings at the Cannes Film Festival. Please, ladies and film festivals, safety first!

EXHIBITIONISM

Under the guise of asking a question of Senator Rick Santorum, Virginia Eleasor let out an incoherent rant against President Obama, accusing him of nuking Charleston. This led Etiquetteer to ask questioners at public events whether they really want to ask questions or make their own speeches.

AIR TRAVEL

Regarding air travel, The Boston Globe reported on the rising phenomenon of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who, when flying, refuse to sit next to women not their wives on religious grounds. Later in the year The New York Times wrote about the increasingly fraught sport of seat-swapping on airplanes. One man no doubt wanted to switch seats after his seatmate repeatedly stabbed him with a pen because he was snoring. Violence against fellow passengers is never Perfectly Proper. Etiquetteer would have put that seatmate on a no-fly list.

THE THEATRE

Stories about bad behavior in theatres continued to make the news in 2015, including Madonna Herself, who was not invited backstage after a performance of Hamilton because the cast saw her texting throughout Act II. But even Madonna was upstaged by the young man who went onstage before a performance to recharge his cellphone on the set! And even that Astonishing Event was eclipsed by the woman who went backstage to ask the actors where the restroom was during a performance.

Benedict Cumberbatch, a True Gentleman, appealed to his fans in a Most Perfectly Proper Way not to use devices during performances.

CHILDREN

This year Etiquetteer tried out a March Madness-style survey of Pet Peeves. The winner, from the Table Manners/Dining Out category: Ill-Mannered Children of Complacent Parents. And in fact, there were some related news stories. A little girl's meltdown at a White House function led Etiquetteer to wish more parents used babysitters, for instance. But the champion news story on this topic - and perhaps for the entire year - has to go to the incident at Marcy's Diner, when the owner yelled at a crying toddler who wouldn't shut up.

GENERALLY IMPROPER BEHAVIOR

Anno Domini 2015 began with a story about a woman in Florida shaving her - ahem - "bikini area" while operating a motor vehicle. While Etiquetteer understand the desire to be completely groomed before arriving at one's destination, Etiquetteer longs for the day when it was understood that ladies and gentlemen were completely groomed before they left the house.

Both Vice President Joe Biden and actor John Travolta came in for criticism for getting too "up close and personal" for greetings with Ladies Not Their Wives.

A Florida fraternity got itself into a colossal amount of trouble at its spring formal when drunk fraternity boys spit on wounded veterans, stole their American flags, and urinated on them. It should be needless to say that these aren't the values any fraternity is supposed to inculcate into its members.

Thirty people got in a fight over whether or not someone cut in line to use a waffle maker. Sometimes it's best not to escalate the situation. Sometimes it's best to stay in a hotel with a proper restaurant with a proper cook to make the waffles.

Perfect Propriety and pets moved uneasily in a Brooklyn building where dog waste in stairwell and elevators was becoming an issue.

And finally, a South Carolina politician used his holiday greetings to express his unhappiness over a vote on displaying the Confederate flag by enclosing this message: “May you take this joyous time as an opportunity to ask forgiveness of all your sins, such as betrayal.” Rather like getting a lump of coal in the mail.

And with that, allow Etiquetteer to wish you a Happy and Perfectly Proper New Year in 2016!

smalletiquetteer

How Young Etiquetteer Was Embarrassed, Vol. 14, Issue 36

You may have heard Etiquetteer tell this story before, but it came to mind vividly again, and Etiquetteer must tell (or retell) it now for the record. Etiquetteer has always had an interest in seeing things done with Perfect Propriety and with people Behaving Well. And as a college student, Young Etiquetteer had an equal and abiding interest in Free Food. So one day many years ago Young Etiquetteer received with pleasure an invitation from an elderly lady to a luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton. What could be more Perfectly Proper than a luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton? Young Etiquetteer accepted the invitation with alacrity and brushed off his best suit in preparation.

Now this elderly lady - let's refer to her as Madame - who Young Etiquetteer had never really met, was a friend of Young Etiquetteer's Stern Grandmother, but there was no reason to suspect she might be any different from the legions of elderly ladies Young Etiquetteer had been entertaining since birth: full of indulgent smiles, Christian rectitude, canasta, and a dash of genealogy. Young Etiquetteer's eyes were to be opened, as Madame's principal focus was Herself and Her Reactions, as we shall see.

In those days*, the Ritz-Carlton dining room was described by many as the most beautiful room in Boston, and to a young man who hoped to be Perfectly Proper it was considered a crucible of Perfectly Propriety. From its snowy napery to its brocade draperies to its famous cobalt glass chandeliers and goblets, the room represented what Americans used to aspire to (and should continue aspire to today) as the Good Life. But almost from the beginning, Madame set a very different tone.

She was first nonplussed (but quietly) about an odd feature of 1980s restaurant etiquette: maitre d's who kissed on the mouth. Next, loudly exclaiming over the beauty of the china, Madame picked up the service plate like the latest bestseller to read the trademark. Young Etiquetteer, who had not only been taught that the first thing you did at table was put your napkin in your lap but also that you never did anything so gauche as to examine the provenance of the china, was nearly demolished by this. But more was still to come.

This occasion proved to be Young Etiquetteer's first encounter with service à la russe, which requires one to serve oneself each course from large platters offered by the waiter. Negotiating salmon with asparagus and hollandaise sauce is difficult enough for the uninitiated, but made even more so with Ceaseless Commentary on the novelty of the service from Madame, who thought it was different and charming, and didn't fail to mention this at top volume anytime a waiter - any waiter - appeared within two feet of us. She was having a wonderful time, and wanted everyone to know it!

This luncheon was not an ordinary luncheon, but a fashion luncheon featuring beautiful models in exquisite clothes (day and evening) languidly strolling among the tables. The place Young Etiquetteer was filling was originally intended for a Female Relation of Madame's who was unable to attend. Young Etiquetteer was one of perhaps three men present, somewhat ambivalently relishing the Walter Mitty role, but enjoying the setting, the (free) luncheon, and indeed the couture promenade. Madame was enjoying it, too, and assailed each model with Expressions of Delight, and also some Embarrassing Questions. She asked one model for her phone number to share with her son! Etiquetteer did not know quite where to look.

But the most embarrassing moment came after dessert. With the conclusion of the luncheon, the models were circulating with little lipsticks as favors for the ladies. Madame dearly wanted one to share with her Female Relation, but she wanted one for herself more. And when a beautiful model presented her with a lipstick, Young Etiquetteer froze in fright to hear Madame respond with Six Horrifying Words:

"Aren't you gonna give him one?"

Young Etiquetteer withered under the icy stare of the model, who asked "Do you need one?" in such a way as to question Young Etiquetteer's masculinity, upbringing, and right to exist - none of which seemed to matter to Madame, so intently was she focused on a free lipstick. "Certainly not!" replied Young Etiquetteer, whose limit had been reached, and the model passed on. Words were passed, but the mood restored, and of course Young Etiquetteer omitted any reference in the Lovely Note mailed the next day.

The morals of this tale, if there are any, would be that a) consideration of the feelings of others is an important part of daily life, b) to be distracted by trinkets indicates a lack of breeding**, and c) that there is no such thing as a free luncheon.

*The mid-1980s.

**The lyric from Chess comes to mind: "Trinkets in airports sufficient to lead them astray."

smalletiquetteer

On the Importance of a Lovely Note, Vol. 14, Issue 35

This morning two things happened that made Etiquetteer think about the expression of thanks. First, a series of text messages arrived on Etiquetteer's flip phone - quite possibly the pocket watch of its generation - from a friend expressing thanks for a gift. These were written very much in the style of a Lovely Note, with salutation, body, and closing, but via texts. They were a lovely way to begin the morning.

Second, discussing this with a colleague, she confessed that she photographed the draft of a thank-you note to transmit to someone who had given a gift, knowing that the gift-giver would want to know the gift was received as quickly as possible - even though she hadn't finished her draft. She asked if it could be Perfectly Proper to communicate thanks only electronically.

Etiquetteer would be a fool not to acknowledge that our means of communication have evolved, just as they have at other periods of civilization. The printing press and engraving changed the forms of how word got around, most notably to Etiquetteer with the invention of the engraved calling card in the early 19th century*, and later on engraved stationery. Benjamin Franklin used his own printing press (imported illegally into France during the American Revolution) to print invitations to an Independence Day party in 1779**. In its turn the typewriter made its mark, then audiocassettes, the computer, the Internet, and now, saints preserve us, the smartphone. In most cases these innovations reduced the amount of time between sending and receiving, from weeks, to days, to seconds.

But what we gain in time we lose in those old-fashioned qualities that we shouldn't think of as old-fashioned, Grace and Charm - and sometimes in the appearance of Sincerity, too. A text message or an email can appear so perfunctory, no matter how many fonts one might be allowed to use, no matter through what form of social media delivered. This is why Etiquetteer continues to advocate for the Lovely Note, because now it signifies even more how much one values the courtesy received, whether a gift, an invitation, or some other consideration. Whether the chastest white or cream foldover or the most garish greeting card, the Lovely Note demonstrates that one has taken some trouble to express gratitude. Because of its immediacy, the email or text has a place in Perfectly Proper correspondence, to inform gift-givers that their gifts have been received. But Etiquetteer still holds that it’s only the first of two places. The second should still be filled with that handwritten Lovely Note, especially for wedding gifts.

And yet  . . . and yet, it was so nice to get that barrage of texts this morning, since the sender expressed knowledgeable appreciation for the gift. No perfunctory "Got yr box, kthxbye" message this! Those of us who are recipients must be grateful for what acknowledgement we receive, and continue to lead by example.

Etiquetteer is certainly not the first person to express these sentiments, but the fact that it still needs to be expressed . . . well, it means you ought to run down to your local stationer and buy a box of notecards, that’s what it means.

invite

*At first calling cards were blank and one wrote one’s name on each one. Later, “calling cards became more elaborate, sporting engraved names, mottoes, gilt edges, and pictures.” Parlor Politics, by Catherine Allgor, page 121.

**The Great Improvisation, by Stacy Schiff, opposite page 300. It is interesting to note that Franklin included the instruction “An Answer if you please."

How to Respond to Hospitality, Vol. 14, Issue 25

Dear Etiquetteer: Can you tell me whether you think people who have been good guests at a dinner party or cocktail party (separate answers I think) - brought a hostess gift, behaved well, etc. - should also email or call the next day to say thanks? If they don't, were they unhappy with the party?

Dear Hosting:

When a Lovely Note of Thanks has not been received, it's always more charitable to assume Incompetence rather than Malice. Possibly your guests were taken ill, swept up in current events, anxious at the thought of finding something original to say about your party (which is completely unnecessary), or just too lazy to find your zip code. Regardless, their failure to express gratitude for your hospitality is no reflection on the hospitality you provided.

Etiquetteer may be the Lone Holdout in considering the Lovely Note more important than the hostess gift, but the expression of thanks afterward means ten times as much as the "payment for services rendered" sometimes implied by that bottle of wine. Few things reassure a host or hostess as much as the confirmation from guests of a "job well done," that one's efforts have not only been recognized, but appreciated. Too many people, Etiquetteer would suggest, feel daunted by the need to express themselves originally. But writing a Lovely Note certainly doesn't take as much effort as picking out a bottle of wine. (Etiquetteer can just hear the oenophiles shuddering as they read this.)

You are more accommodating than Etiquetteer is in terms of how you'd allow these Lovely Notes to be delivered, suggesting email and telephone as options without even considering a handwritten note - which even today Etiquetteer is loath to refer to as "old-fashioned." Communications unavoidably evolve with technology; this is not necessarily bad, but it's made many people careless. While it was once the only way to communicate at all, now - with the near-universal adoption of the Internet - handwritten correspondence now signifies a special effort to express sincerity and appreciation. This is why Etiquetteer continues to think it's the best way to convey thanks for hospitality received.

Etiquetteer hopes that you will not let the neglect of your guests cause you further anxiety, and that you'll set them a good example with your own Lovely Notes after they entertain you in turn.

Penpoint

Suggested New Year's Resolutions, Vol. 13, Issue 63

"Fast away the Old Year passes," as the carol goes, and let Etiquetteer be the first to speed its passing! It's a time-honored custom to make resolutions to improve oneself in the New Year, usually with diet and exercise. Etiquetteer would like to suggest some resolutions to improve the Perfect Propriety of the nation:

  1. Resolve not to forward articles from satire news websites as though they were real news*. Etiquetteer is getting mighty tired of pieces from the Daily Currant, Empire News, the Borowitz Report over at the New Yorker, and the grandfather of them all, the Onion, being sent about with Righteous Outrage or Fierce Glee as the Gospel Truth, when they're just an elaborate joke. This concerns Etiquetteer most because of the damage it does to public figures. Public figures are already judged harshly enough - and deservedly - on what they have actually said. Let's not obscure the Truth with this patina of Satire any longer.
  2. Resolve to disconnect at the table. When you sit down to share a meal with a group of people, especially in a private home, you have a sacred obligation to to be fully present and contribute to the general merriment. It is not possible for you to do this if you're always glancing into your lap, and it is hurtful to your companions because you give the impression that you would rather be someplace else. Turn your device gently but firmly OFF before you get to the table, and don't make Etiquetteer come after you.
  3. Resolve to give a dinner party. These days the phrase "dinner party" sounds much more intimidating than it really is, which is having a total of four to 12 people around your table for an evening meal. Start with a maximum of four, which is easier to prepare for, and design a menu in which one course may be prepared a day or so ahead. The hospitality of the home is too little celebrated these days, but it remains a cornerstone of Perfect Propriety. Please join Etiquetteer in bringing it back.
  4. Resolve not to be so insistent about your diet when you're away from home. Etiquetteer suspects one reason for the decline of the dinner party is the ever-increasing number of people who insist on their food preferences wherever they go, as if they were more important that the spirit of Hospitality. No one has the right to expect their friends and relatives to be professional-grade chefs who can keep straight the infinite, and infinitely changing, diets of so many people all at once. The best illustration is what has happened to coffee service in the last 20 years. Once one only had to serve coffee, cream, and sugar. Now one must offer coffee, decaffeinated coffee, tea, cream, skim milk, 2% milk, soy milk, powdered creamer, sugar, at least three kinds of artificial sweetener, honey, and agave nectar just to keep everyone happy. This is ridiculous!** When someone invites you into their home, it doesn't make them a slave to your preferences. Be kind to your hosts and just say "No, thank you" if offered something you can't eat.***
  5. Resolve to correspond more by hand. Yes, Etiquetteer remains a devotée of the Lovely Note of Thanks, not only because it is more Perfectly Proper than any electronic communication, but also because it makes the recipient feel special. Also, in our Society of Increasing Surveillance, fewer eyes can intercept a handwritten letter than an email or text message. (And how sad it is that Etiquetteer even has to mention that.) Do it!
  6. Resolve to R.s.v.p. on time, honor your original response, and arrive on time. If someone invites you to something, whether it's in their home or not, they need time to prepare to entertain you. A prompt and definite response from you is essential to this. "I'll have to see how I feel" is never Perfectly Proper! And if someone has invited you to the theatre and you suddenly decide on the day that you can't go, your host is left scrambling to use your ticket. Cancelling is only Perfectly Proper in circumstances of death or illness, but professional crisis is becoming more accepted as a valid excuse. If you pull a Bunbury too often, you'll find that invitations come to you less frequently.
  7. Resolve not to monopolize reservations. Etiquetteer deplores the growing practice of making multiple restaurant reservations for the same time to keep one's options open depending on one's whim. This is not only rude to other diners, but fatal to the restaurant's bottom line. Stop it at once!

For tonight, of course Etiquetteer exhorts you to celebrate responsibly by not drinking to riotous excess and not drinking and driving - and by remembering a Lovely Note to your hosts.

Etiquetteer wishes you a Perfectly Proper New Year!

*Etiquetteer will provide an exemption from this on April Fool's Day.

**And please get off Etiquetteer's lawn, too!

***Of course those with fatal allergies need to be vigilant at all times, and wise hosts remember these and take them into account.

Lovely Notes of Thanks, Vol. 13, Issue 62

Gift-Giving Holidays - Christmas being the most widely celebrated, followed closely by Hannukah and Kwanzaa - conclude with the most Perfect Propriety when gifts are acknowledged with Lovely Notes of Thanks immediately afterward. The late B.R. Johnstone made a point, the afternoon of every Christmas Day, of sequestering himself at his desk with a box of his stationery and thanking everyone who had taken the trouble to give him a gift. He remains the Perfect Example of Perfect Propriety for all of us who wish to be thought Ladies and Gentleman. (And if you don't wish to be thought a Lady or a Gentleman, Etiquetteer has grave doubts about your Character.) Who, some of you have asked, is this mysterious B.R. Johnstone? Why, it is none other than Etiquetteer's beloved godfather, seen here imparting the Spirit of Perfect Propriety to Infant Etiquetteer. Would that all children were so fortunate in their selection of godparents!

Now, let's get on with our Lovely Notes, shall we?

The Common Core of Etiquette, Vol. 13, Issue 40

Last week Etiquetteer was pleased to speak to a group of MIT student ambassadors, and among the many questions afterward came one from a student who had read a manners manual from the late 1890s. "What of that etiquette is still relevant today?" Etiquetteer's reply could be distilled to "Consideration of others." The etiquette of calling cards, for instance, is all but irrelevant now, but it's still necessary to know how to respond to a kindness (with a Lovely Note), an invitation (with a Timely and Definite Response), and to tragedy (with a Sincere Offer of Assistance). Coincidentally, not long after this pleasant interchange, Etiquetteer stumbled upon Emily Post's chapter on "The Fundamentals of Good Behavior" from her 1922 edition of Etiquette. The core values of this document - Financial Honor, Consistency in Behavior, and above all Discretion - should remain guides for all of us. Rereading it, Etiquetteer was by turns relieved, alarmed, and saddened by how far we've come as a civilization since 1922.

For instance, "A gentleman never takes advantage of a woman in a business dealing . . . " does not take into account the exponential rise of women in business, nor their considerable abilities, like many male counterparts, to seize the advantage when offered. In other words, while Chivalry may have retired from the board room, the merger of Gender Equity and Mutual Respect is supposed to have taken its place.

In these days of social media and the sometimes aggressive assembly of "connections," it is worth revisiting Mrs. Post's injunction "The born gentleman avoids the mention of names exactly as he avoids the mention of what things cost; both are an abomination to his soul." That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much should probably stop tagging so many people in social media status updates . . .

Mrs. Post writes "A man is a cad who tells anyone, no matter who, what his wife told him in confidence, or describes what she looks like in her bedroom. To impart details of her beauty is scarcely better than to publish her blemishes; to do either is unspeakable." Nowadays, alas! This sentence could be rewritten "A man is a cad who takes advantage of a lady by creating revenge porn with her nude images and ruining her reputation."

Another area where Mrs. Post gets it right and we frequently don't is in the way we treat service personnel. "When you see a woman in silks and sables and diamonds speak to a little errand girl or a footman or a scullery maid as though they were the dirt under her feet, you may be sure of one thing; she hasn’t come a very long way from the ground herself." And as Etiquetteer pointed out earlier in a column on restaurant tipping, Americans are known to treat service personnel poorly. Etiquetteer is still angered and heartbroken by the stories from waiters and waitresses in Sundays Are the Worst, and needs this Bad Behavior to stop.

Thinking about what makes Perfectly Proper Conversation, Mrs. Post admonished "Notwithstanding the advertisements in the most dignified magazines, a discussion of underwear and toilet articles and their merit or their use, is unpleasant in polite conversation." Think of nowadays, when Reference to Bodily Function is bandied about so casually! Etiquetteer does not need to know why you're going to the restroom. The only Perfectly Proper reason would be to wash your hands. (And you'd better, too, whatever else you're doing in there that you shouldn't be talking about.)

On the other hand, it's important to remember that etiquette books get written, and etiquette advisors like Etiquetteer have vocations, because people have always, and will always, behave thoughtlessly and without a care for how their actions affect others. The common core of Mrs. Post's guidelines is awareness of the impact our behavior has on other people. That remains even truer today, when fewer people have been taught consideration for others from the beginning.

Hostess Gifts, Vol. 13, Issue 2

Dear Etiquetteer: What is the proper etiquette for what to bring to a dinner party?  Does one always simply ask what to bring or perhaps just a nice bottle of wine? Does one ask what one can bring if it is not mentioned in the invitation?

Dear Invited:

Call Etiquetteer old-fashioned, but Etiquetteer prefers to maintain that a Lovely Note of Thanks after a dinner party is much more essential, and Perfectly Proper, than a hostess gift. That said, flowers are the safest choice for a gift, with wine running a close second. Etiquetteer ranks them in this order because the number of people who are allergic to flowers is less than the number of people who don't drink wine.

As you point out, sometimes hosts will specify what they would like to guests to bring; honor that as closely as possible. If hosts don't include a preference in their invitation, by all means ask if you're so inclined. But be warned: you might get more of an assignment than you bargained for. Etiquetteer vividly remembers asking one hostess "What may I bring?" to be given the reply "Oh, the dessert!" This was more work than Etiquetteer wanted to do, but having asked in the first place, Etiquetteer gritted his teeth and baked a cake. Etiquetteer still thinks of this as a bait-and-switch invitation; having been invited to a dinner party, it actually turned out to be a potluck.

Hosts should also be prepared for this question, and Etiquetteer encourages general instructions rather than specifics, e.g. "Oh, just a bottle of red you like that will go with roast" rather than "a couple bottles of Chateau de la Tour de Bleah 2008." This gives the guests the opportunity to stay within whatever budget they have.

But Etiquetteer really thinks the best response to that query is "Please bring a smile and a couple good stories!" A dinner guests "sings for his supper" best with a contribution not of a bottle, but of one's camaraderie and good humor.

Reflections on Wedding Invitations, Gifts, and Attitudes, Vol. 12, Issue 13

Etiquetteer has been relieved of the burden of wedding invitations this summer. Consider that sentence for a moment. Isn't it a pity that so many people consider an invitation to a wedding a burden, rather than a Happy Occasion to celebrate a Joyous Marriage with friends and relations? Etiquetteer is of the completely subjective and entirely unresearched opinion that there are two causes: the expense of attending a wedding for a guest (especially travel, which is not only expensive but inconvenient) and the selfish behavior of brides that led to the coining of the term "bridezilla" several years ago. These two causes combine in the selection of a gift for the Happy Couple. Etiquetteer was deeply sorry to read last week about a bride who was sufficiently unbalanced to call out her friends on social media for what she perceived as their inadequate generosity. First of all it's vulgar in the extreme to mention how much money was spent to entertain your guests. You invite friends (or the friends of your parents) to a wedding for the pleasure of their company, not because you expect them to cover the costs of their own entertainment*. Second, your wedding is not as important to your friends as it is to you; no doubt there are other, more important claims on their resources than your Gaping Maw of Bridal Need. And third, criticizing someone so bluntly on social media about their behavior is just as bad as, if not worse than, doing so to their faces. Brides who follow this example deserve to lose a lot of friends.

With the advent of social media, some confusion has also spread over how to interpret how one receives knowledge of a wedding -- or, to be completely candid, when to suspect that the only reason you're hearing is that the Happy Couple expects a gift. Over at Etiquetteer's Facebook page (speaking of social media), Etiquetteer recalled learning of the wedding of a Friend of Etiquetteer's Youth from Dear Mother; the invitation had been addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. [Parents of Etiquetteer] and Etiquetteer," which is far from Perfectly Proper. Why, you ask? Because at the time the invitation was sent, Etiquetteer was not only well over the Age of Consent, but also not living under the parental roof. Anyone over the age of 21 deserves his or her own engraved invitation sent to his or her own address; attempting to economize by doubling up invitations to parents and grown children makes you look shabby. Saying you can't find that person's address no longer serves as an excuse, thanks to the Internet.

This led to the question of how to respond to wedding invitations from Long Unheard-of Schoolfellows who haven't been heard from in so long that their motives are suspect. Back before the Internet (and before brides expected everyone to Travel the Earth on Command), wedding announcements were sent instead of invitations, something along the lines of

Mr. and Mrs. Fairleigh Freshness

announce the marriage of their daughter

Miss Dewy Freshness

to Mr. Manley Firmness

on [Insert Date Here].

Frequently a little address card would be included so that recipients would know where the Happy Couple would be living. You must remember that this was before the days of "Live Together First:"

Mr. and Mrs. Manley Firmness

After [Insert Date After Honeymoon Here]

5456 Cottage Lane, Apartment Six

Verdant Greens, New Jersey

Receipt of a wedding announcement was taken as information that the Happy Couple felt you should know, but not with the expectation of a gift. As much as Etiquetteer enjoys social media and other electronic communications, Etiquetteer would rather like to see engraved wedding announcements come back.

Should you receive a wedding invitation from someone you haven't heard of in many years, put pen to paper at once and send a Lovely Note of Congratulations along with your Infinite Regret that you cannot attend in person. And that concludes your obligation.

*If the costs are really bothering you, have a simpler wedding and invite fewer people.

Returning Wedding Gifts, Vol. 11, Issue 13

Dear Etiquetteer: I recently sent a very nice gift for my niece's bridal shower. Unfortunately, the wedding was called off shortly thereafter.

A few weeks later, the mother of the groom sent me a gift card to "compensate" me for my gift and my inconvenience. I am the only one in my extended family who received such "compensation." I suspect she sent it because we occasionally run into each other in the same social circles. Although I don't care about the money, the gift card is actually for much less than the cost of the gift.

I was offended that the groom's mother sent me the gift card because I do not feel it was her place to step in. My niece should have been the one to communicate with her own family. I would have preferred not to hear at all from the groom's mother. My current concern is what to do with the gift card. Should I keep it or return it to the groom's mother? I really don't want her gift card, so if I return it, what should I say?

Dear Unregifted:

A few years ago Etiquetteer was invited to a wedding. About three weeks before the wedding day Etiquetteer received a card in the mail that matched the wedding stationery with the announcement that

The wedding between

Miss Dewy Freshness

and

Mr. Manley Firmness

will not take place.

Underneath and to the left one found the sentence "All gifts will be returned."  Because let's face it, the first thought one has when learning of such a thing is "Am I going to get back that gift on which I spent so much money?"

It appears that your niece and her family have observed neither of these necessary social niceties, something you may want to take up with whichever Parent of the Bride is your Sibling. In the event that your niece does marry, Etiquetteer would absolve you from giving another shower gift -- but acknowledges that other etiquette writers may differ.

The involvement of the groom's mother certainly muddies the water. It's really not her business, but Etiquetteer has some sympathy with her, having been put in an awkward position (the cancellation of her son's wedding) through no fault of her own. And for all Etiquetteer knows, this lady has already raised the issue of returning gifts with the former bride-to-be and her family. Since you haven't yet received your gift back, the results may not have been satisfactory to her, prompting her to send gift cards to all her relatives and friends who sent gifts as well as to you. Etiquetteer does wish, however, that the lady hadn't used the term "compensation," which suggests that you needed to be paid for your troubles.

By all means return the gift card, but cut the lady some slack. Send the card back with a Lovely Note thanking her for thinking of you, but suggesting that you don't feel quite right keeping and using this gift card since your bridal shower gift to your niece was freely given. It's also Perfectly Proper to express sympathy with this lady over the cancellation of the wedding, and best wishes for the future happiness of her son.

Random Issues, Vol. 9, Issue 2

Dear Etiquetteer:
Last night, I took a dear friend as my guest to an expensive art gallery dinner, held in honor of a newly opened show. It was meant to be a special treat for us, as my friend is just emerging into social life again, after a devastating divorce.
Unfortunately, we were seated at a table of loud, bawdy drunks, who had come as a group, and found each other hilarious. After attempting polite introductions and brief small talk with our fellow diners, we two girlfriends tried to converse quietly together. But conversation was rendered impossible by the group's rude comments, and shenanigans such as dinner rolls being thrown across the table.
The room was otherwise full, and no alternative seats were available. The gallery owner ignored the situation. I was mortified to subject my friend to such obnoxious buffoonery. She is not native to the US, and the group even mocked the pronunciation of her name. We left as soon as the dessert had been served.
What on earth can one do to rescue such an evening, short of leaving as soon as possible? I apologized to my friend for the disastrous experience. As her her host, what else should I have done?
Dear Subjected:
Etiquetteer can only respond to you with the deepest compassion. The only thing worse than dining with "a table of loud, bawdy drunks, who had come as a group, and found each other hilarious" is dining with "a table of loud, bawdy drunks, who had come as a group, and found each other hilarious" who are your closest friends of whom you expected better.
The best way to guarantee your enjoyment at the sort of dinner you describe, which sounds suspiciously like a fund-raiser, is to round up enough friends and acquaintances to fill a table. As you have sadly learned, when Money is the only criterion for entrée, ladies and gentlemen are not safe from Bad Manners. (The roll-throwing tempted Etiquetteer to hope that perhaps these drunken bawds had once read P.G. Wodehouse, but this does not really seem likely. There are restaurants that cater to the roll-throwing crowd, like Lambert's Café, a more likely influence.)
It seems that you did everything possible at the time to salvage the evening, except speaking directly with the gallery owner. You indicate that s/he was ignoring the situation; you had the power to call it to his/her attention in no uncertain terms, by beckoning, or at worst, leaving your table and going to him/her. Another temporary solution might have been to take your dessert into the lobby.
Now that this ghastly dinner is behind you, Etiquetteer encourages you to create a new social opportunity for your newly-divorced friend: a dinner party in your own home given in her honor, with your own friends whose Perfect Propriety you know well enough in advance. You may also correspond with the gallery owner and sever any possible future connection with that organization.

Dear Etiquetteer:
I am a new, part-time teacher at my school.  I teach music in a building that is away from the main building and I very rarely socialize with other teachers; I'm just not around them much and don't eat lunch with them or chat in the teacher's lounge.  I received an invitation to a bridal shower for one of my coworkers.  He is getting married soon and I only know him by his last name.  I met his wife at the Christmas staff party, but can't remember her name.

What should I do about this shower?  I don't want to go, because I don't know the groom at all, and I know the bride even less.  Do I have to send a gift if I wimp out on attending?

Dear Teaching:
Undoubtedly this invitation was sent to all school faculty as a courtesy, and the groom didn't want you (or others) to feel left out. At least, that's how Etiquetteer could explain this situation charitably. (Whoever heard of a groom inviting professional colleagues to his fiancée's bridal shower?!) You need not attend, or send a gift, but please do send a Lovely Note of Congratulations to the Happy Couple on your most Perfectly Proper stationery.

Random Issues and Comments, Vol. 6, Issue 22

This column appeared in the June 15 issue of The Times of Southwest Louisiana.

The death last month of Etiquetteer’s dear friend, Keith Gates, saddened all true lovers of Music and of Perfect Propriety in the Imperial Calcasieu area. At such times it is right and good to think about the influence our friends have on us, and Etiquetteer has been drawn to consider many people from Earlier Life who guided Etiquetteer in the ways of Perfect Propriety, including Keith.

These days the definition of "informal" seems to be "no visible tattoos or underwear," but it was Keith Gates Himself who taught a Teenage Etiquetteer its true definition, which for gentlemen is "coat and tie." Long ago in 1983, when Teenage Etiquetteer was briefly one of Keith’s students, Keith and the Perfectly Poised Christa kindly accepted an invitation to an "informal" dinner. Etiquetteer, not yet wise in the ways of the world, answered the door in shirtsleeves and couldn’t quite conceal his astonishment to see dinner guests dressed as though for church. Keith’s quiet example, underlined only by an arched eyebrow and his usual smile, could not have been more effective in getting across Who Was Correct and Who Was Not.

Keith’s examples of how to respond to a question with silence and how to make impromptu guests feel welcome and not in the way will long shine for Etiquetteer and, hopefully, all those who care about compassion. He was not only a Great Artist, but a true Christian Gentleman.

It’s often been said that "It takes a village to raise a child." Aside from Etiquetteer’s parents – who know all about Perfect Propriety – many villagers invested their time in Etiquetteer’s manners. From the neighbor across the street who explained that you don’t just walk into people’s houses without knocking to the many bad examples in the schoolyard, Etiquetteer learned a lot. From the late Rev. James Ailor, Etiquetteer learned that you never ever scream in pain during the benediction, no matter how hard the person next to you is maliciously squeezing the blister on your finger. Etiquetteer’s redoubtable grand-aunt, Kate Thompson, would sternly admonish "Ladies!" if ever Young Etiquetteer’s enthusiasm caused him to dash for the front of the line.

And since it’s just past Father’s Day, it’s appropriate to recall one of the many lessons Etiquetteer’s own father taught him: don’t buy gaudy jewelry for a girl you’re not really dating yet, and really, don’t buy gaudy jewelry at all. (Etiquetteer still remembers those earrings . . . and tastes do change, thank goodness.)

On a completely different note, Etiquetteer has to lash out at Andrew Speaker, the Atlanta lawyer who flew to Europe knowing he had tuberculosis and was exposing this disease to others around him. Ayn Rand may have written about "The Virtue of Selfishness," but Etiquetteer can find no virtue here! Hasn’t he ever seen "La Boheme?" Modern medicine aside, people still die of tuberculosis. Etiquetteer is appalled that he and his wife would travel across the world with that knowledge. This gives not only lawyers, but destination weddings, a bad name.

Dear Etiquetteer:

I was raised to write thank-you notes. I do enjoy getting thank-you notes in return when I give time and effort to picking out a gift or for donating time to a special cause. Recently, I took special effort in picking out the perfect baby gift for a co-worker and was promptly surprised by a thank-you email with an attached thank-you Powerpoint presentation. I will say that I believe this was a first for me. Has the computer age taken over so much that people should not put pen to paper in appreciation?

Dear Thanked:

Certainly not! While appreciating your co-worker’s eagerness to thank you right away for your generosity, it certainly doesn’t excuse her from actually writing a Lovely Note on Actual Stationery to you.

 

Etiquetteer cordially invites you to join the notify list if you would like to know as soon as new columns are posted. Join by sending e-mail to notify <at> etiquetteer.com.

Reader Response and Lovely Notes, Vol. 6, Issue 1

Readers alternately applauded and chastised Etiquetteer for rewriting "Away in a Manger" recently. One was even inspired to reply in verse!

Now now, dear Etiquetteer, I do so believe

You've never tried to find a sitter on Christmas Eve

My cherub was quiet all the way here in the car

But the lights and the music have brought out her voice thus far

 

Please do forgive parents, they really do mean well

And are in emotional agony trying their babe's cries to quell

Instruct, please, the ushers for next year to gently take

Parents with crying babes to nursery as their job, and make

 

The parents, who are mortified that NOW their babe is loud, oh, not good

Tried so hard to make this service, so meaningful from their own childhood

Some have never stepped foot in this church, or haven't in years

And the stress of the season has the parents close to tears

 

All they wanted, to a person, I bet, was one peaceful hour

Full of the sounds and songs of Christmas Eve, the glory and its power

It is not our place, as adults, to turn struggling ones away

But to offer comfort, and the nursery, and a hope for a better day

 

Seriously Etiquetteer, lots of new parents, particularly, seem to turn up at a church on Christmas Eve, hoping for some of what they remember of the magic of Christmas. They don't know, most of them where the church nursery is - never mind that it is staffed with patient and experienced volunteers, even on Christmas Eve.

Etiquetteer responds: Your spirited defense of New Parents is most appreciated, and you are quite right to point out that ushers have a duty to "keep the peace" by directing Those With Unruly Children to the church nursery. But Etiquetteer stands fast against those who behave in church as they would at a stadium, allowing their children to caterwaul or even walk around without any restraint.

From a former altar boy: I loved the new version of the Christmas hymn! I yowled out loud when I read it.

Etiquetteer responds: Etiquetteer can only hope you weren’t in church at the time.

From a devoted son: My parents insisted on Christmas Eve services this year, and though I am far less pious in my old age than they are in theirs, I agreed.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that at [Insert Name of Church Here] holds a children's service at 4:00 PM, with children both welcomed and participating in the activities (with the requisite meltdowns and bawling), followed by several grown-up services. That struck me as a perfectly proper solution to your own Christmas Eve lament.

I'm also wondering, what is the right age for children to send Perfectly Proper notes of thanks on their own stationary for gifts received? I have several young nieces and nephews from whom I have never received a thank-you note. To me, "thank-you duties" aren't complete without the note, even though, when the family is together, verbal thanks may have been exchanged at the time the gift was bestowed. Do these on-the-spot thanks substitute for written sentiments?

Etiquetteer responds: What a wonderful idea! Etiquetteer heartily encourages other churches to adopt a children’s service and grown-up services.

As to Lovely Notes of Thanks, Etiquetteer started giving his nephews and niece boxes of appropriate stationery when they turned six. When time permitted, Etiquetteer would actually sit down with them the day after Christmas to be sure those Lovely Notes got written. Ah, happy times . . .

On the other hand, Etiquetteer was completely charmed by his niece this year, who smilingly hand-delivered a Perfectly Proper Lovely Note not half an hour after the gifts had been opened.

You are quite correct that verbal thanks do not substitute for a Lovely Note. And as Etiquetteer writes this, That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much blushes with shame, since he hasn’t even started his Lovely Notes yet!

Etiquetteer cordially invites you to join the notify list if you would like to know as soon as new columns are posted. Join by sending e-mail to notify <at> etiquetteer.com.

 

Lovely Notes and Wedding Entrées, Vol. 5, Issue 28

Dear Etiquetteer:

Not too long ago, I attended a lovely and informative, and not a little grand, buffet luncheon in the gardens of a stately house. The event was actually a fund-raiser for an Old New England Institution of which I am a very junior member, actually billed as celebrating the accession to Director of said institution of a good, talented, and engaging man who is a friend of mine. I attended both to support him and to get to see said stately house, which is architecturally significant, in the midst of restoration and not open to the public. My gut instinct, despite being a 'paying customer,' is to write an Etiquetteer-approved Lovely Note to mine hosts (the event WAS wonderful, and I fear the clock has already ticked a bit long). Perhaps it could be couched in terms of "Thank you so much for opening your home in support of O.N.E.I. and providing a brilliant, informative, and delightful afternoon for me, as for all - bravo!"

My only discomfort with that is that I don't know these people, nor they me. Plus, I am in a profession where I don't want to seem like I'm self-promoting. And my reticent English side is suggesting that maybe it would be considered too forward or gauche even to mention it in this crowd. The only other minor complication is that I met the hostess but very briefly and I don't believe she shares the patronymic of the host, who was the only person listed on the invitation; this, however, I can ferret out from my friend the Director, I suppose.

What are your thoughts, o great guru of that which is or is not gauche?

Dear Well-Feted:

It’s a rare day when Etiquetteer advises against writing a Lovely Note. Today is that rare day. After attending a fund-raiser, you are the one who should be getting the Lovely Note! In this case it would be from that Old New England Institution and it will tell you how lovely you are to have shown up to support the new Director; then, in much smaller type at the bottom, will cut to the chase and tell you about your tax deduction.

Etiquetteer rather agrees with your "English side" in this situation. This event really introduced you to the Stately House as a Stately House and not as a Home. In other words, being greeted by the hosts in their Stately House at a fund-raiser is not a social introduction. To write them privately, no matter how pure your motives, would be considered "pushy" by the recipients. The best way to communicate your thanks is through your mutual friend, the new Director of O.N.E.I. The next time you speak or e-mail, tell him "And please do tell Belshazzar Grandee and his wife how much I appreciated their opening their home for your party. It was all the more special because of their hospitality."

One last thing: it’s no minor thing to be uncertain about your hostess’s last name! Etiquetteer has been bruised often enough by assuming that "Mrs. Belshazzar Grandee" would be Perfectly Proper only to find out that "Ms. Shrieking Militant Feminist Termagent" was her real name. Life was much simpler when women didn’t have any choices, but that does not excuse Oppression. While more complicated, Life in General is much better now.

Dear Etiquetteer:

My fiancé and I are planning a small wedding of just immediate family and close friends. This nevertheless has created a list of 60. To keep costs down we'd originally planned a buffet dinner with an option between a vegetarian pasta and chicken option for the main course. After the tasting at the caterer, however, we were so impressed by the quality of both dishes and by the elegant presentation that we've decided that everyone would likely enjoy both dishes and to make it a sit-down dinner. The oh-so-tasty pasta will be the first course with the chicken as entree. Since the increase in costs has knocked a dent in our budget, we will not offer a second entree option.

Some are saying we simply must offer a second entree choice, declaring that not everyone will like the elegant chicken dish we've selected. We're doing our best to accommodate guests with specific needs. A vegan relative and a friend with significant food allergies will each receive special meals. The caterer has told us they are unable to provide a whole different, formally-plated entrée without another significant hit to our budget.

We'd like to balance generous hospitality at a memorable event with a reasonable budget. Can you advise?

Dear Too Hot in the Kitchen:

First, allow Etiquetteer to congratulate you and your fiancé on your impending marriage and wish you a long life of Perfect Propriety together.

Etiquetteer is delighted that you’re only serving one entrée. Etiquetteer’s favorite entrée at special occasions like weddings has always been "Shut Up and Eat." Whether everyone "likes" it or not makes no difference. They aren’t attending your wedding because of what you’re serving at the reception. Besides, it’s an additional hassle to track down all the last responders to find out not only if they’re coming to the wedding but also what they want to eat. So offer only your elegant chicken with Etiquetteer’s blessing.

 

Reader Response, Vol. 2, Issue 2

On Holiday Gift-Giving: I am writing to request a clarification on the "money-as-gift" issue. Are gift certificates acceptable gifts, and, if so, under what circumstances? A certificate is not quite money and, in the case of a mall-wide certificate, ensures that the recipient gets whatever s/he wants. I admit it is not the most creative gift, but avoids the unwelcome gift scenario (especially in the case of out-of-state teenaged nieces and nephews) and is at least one step removed from cash. Etiquetteer responds: Etiquetteer will condone, reluctantly, the giving of gift certificates. Heavens, they are so popular whether Etiquetteer does or not! But so often it looks like one didn’t care to make the effort to find a real gift.  Odd answer on tipping the personal trainer. He's not an employee but a self-employed professional. Outside a narrow range of traditional professional service occupations (like hairdressers, etc.), professionals are distinguished by NOT being tipped; it actually contradicts the nature of being a professional and in certain circumstances can be sort of insulting (for example, in not-so-olden days, when it was the height of rudeness to tip the owner of a hairdressing shop). I am surprised you fell for the American habit of metastasizing the sphere of tipped occupations. I used to tip my body worker regularly, until I discovered it was very unusual, and only normal if extra time was devoted or an unusually difficult therapy was required (in other words, the session went beyond the normal work associated with the normal compensation -- in which case, it's not really a tip but adjusted compensation). Etiquetteer responds: As Etiquetteer said the first time around, “Etiquetteer prefers to think of it as a holiday bonus rather than a tip.” And for personal trainers it is hardly required. Your comments to the man who got the birdhouse are so-o-o right on! Until her death, I used to get gifts from a cousin who chose everything with jewels on it. Have you ever seen a calculator with jewel buttons? An umbrella with a jeweled handle and ruffled to boot? Then there was the problem of industrial strength perfume! But they were gifts of love so your advice had I had it would have been perfect then as today. 

On Lovely Notes of Thanks: Lovely Note Roulette is going to be a lifesaver. My parents taught me to write thank-you notes. In fact, I often didn't even get to enjoy -looking- at the gift before paper and pen were thrust under my little hands. But after decades of notes, I feel mine have become, as you so aptly put it, dorkily inadequate. Now I am confident that my notes, as heartfelt as ever, will be all the lovelier for your help.  Are you saying, then, that it would be appropriate for me to send your response to all those deadbeats out there as a not so subtle hint that I am awaiting a suitable arrangement of responses generated by Lovely Note Roulette? Etiquetteer responds: No, but you could forward that column saying that you’ve been getting this terribly amusing etiquette column and perhaps they’d enjoy receiving it every week as much as you do . . . ;-)

On Etiquetteer: Thanks so much for you thoughtful reminders about the real meaning of the holidays. I, for one, appreciate that you take the time to reflect and shareyour thoughts on matters of such importance, which often are ignored in therush of the holidays.

Etiquetteer is the first e-mail I read on Monday morning!

 

 

Certainly you don't lay awake at night conjuring up these atrocities ofetiquette misdemeanors? The language is great; the messages are well-taken, and the references are scholarly.

Etiquetteer responds: Thank you for your kind words! As others have asked as well, Etiquetteer will admit that every question published in the column has come from a reader. Except one, the question about singing the National Anthem in church, which is one of Etiquetteer’s hot-button issues (and Etiquetteer knows that the church in question has blithely continued to ignore it, leaving Etiquetteer to praise Freedom of Speech as well as Freedom of Religion.)

On the Things on Dining Room Tables: Actually, the faint presence of slightly (emphasis on faint and slightly) pinkish marks on fine linen is a hallmark of long and loving use, like the patina on sterling flatware and the stains on chargers; the petty bourgeois thing is to try to keep these things ever-new . . .

Etiquetteer responds: Then Etiquetteer will have to admit to enough petty bourgeoiserie not to want to air his dirty laundry before guests . . .

***

Where, for heavens sake, does one find a replacement service for ancient glassware?

Etiquetteer responds: Not to get into the whole product endorsement thing,but www.replacements.com has gotten Etiquetteer out of a couple scrapes in the past.

***

I have just been gifted with a wonderful hostess gift that I have never thought about giving: a dozen very nice, cream-colored tapers. They were not gift wrapped, though tied with a lovely satin ribbon so I could see what was inside and not be obligated to open, ooh, and ahh. Since I adore lighting tall candles, this is a most welcome present as they are, of course, of the highest quality.

Etiquetteer responds: How delightful that you, like Etiquetteer, know only the very best people! Your guest obviously discerned your personal preference and acted accordingly.

On Politically Correct Speech: Ye gads, Etiquetteer, how dast you refer to a sightless person as "that poor miserable blind wretch" who was brave enough to attend the theatre? You surely must flinch as you re-read that reply. Or you should. I'm not objecting to the word “blind.” It's the poor, miserable wretch, terms that I save for l8th-Century references.

Etiquetteer responds: Etiquetteer is sufficiently chastened to hang his head for a moment, even though “poor miserable blind wretch" was an accurate description of the theatergoer. Perhaps it would have been more sensitive to describe him as “wretched” instead of call him a wretch.

That said, Etiquetteer adores the 18th Century, except for the plumbing, sexism, religious intolerance, health care, economic injustice, and corsets. Language was certainly more colorful then, and one does get mighty frustrated with the sanctimonious ostentation of bloodless "correct" terms like "visually-impaired" or "mobility-impaired.”

ETIQUETTEER, Encouraging Perfect Propriety in an Imperfect WorldTo subscribe: rbdimmick@earthlink.netTo unsubscribe: rbdimmick@earthlink.netTo submit questions: rbdimmick@earthlink.netCopyright 2002, 2003 by Robert B. Dimmick

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