How to React to an Unwanted Marriage Proposal in Public, Vol. 15, Issue 13

How to React to an Unwanted Marriage Proposal in Public from Etiquetteer on Vimeo.

St. Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, the designated day to celebrate True Love, and it’s not unusual for suitors to pop the question. These proposals aren’t always accepted, which is too bad . . . or not. But it’s one thing if the proposal is made in private - in your conservatory or music room, for instance - and another if it’s someplace like a restaurant, and still another if it’s on stage at a rock concert, in a stadium during a game, or in the food court of the mall. The internet is full of marriage proposal fail videos like this one*:

They break Etiquetteer’s heart. The lady is embarrassed and/or angry, and the suitor is humiliated publicly, often before a large audience . . . and for eternity, if it ends up on the Internet.

Etiquetteer would like to offer as a suggestion some language to extricate everyone from this situation. When the proposal is finished, the lady should take the hand of her suitor, look at him lovingly (no matter how angry she might feel) and say:

“My dear, it’s such an honor that you’ve chosen me to give the gift of the rest of your life. It’s so beautiful of you - I’m overwhelmed! But I need something else from you, too. When I say Yes to you, I want to say it only to you. I want that moment to be for us alone, and not share it with all these wonderful people watching now. Will you do that for me?”

Then grab him by the arm and get outta there with a swift, unhurried stride. You can tell him when you’re alone that it won’t work out - also that you don’t like the spotlight - but this way you’ve saved him from looking like a loser in public, and you look like a lady who can take anything in stride.

But Etiquetteer hopes that if you DO get a proposal on St. Valentine’s Day, that it’s the one you want.

And with THAT, allow Etiquetteer to wish you all a Perfectly Proper St. Valentine’s Day!

*A couple of advance viewers have pointed out the heteronormative nature of this column. Etiquetteer chose to slant it that way after a cursory search of the Internet failed to disclose any marriage proposal fails from non-heterosexual couples. Obviously the advice applies to couples of all gender combinations.

smalletiquetteer

Diplomatic Protocol and Nude Statuary, Vol. 15, Issue 8

And they say "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." The press has been full of stories about the state visits of the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, to Italy and France and the cultural differences that need to be cultivated. In Rome, nude statues at the Capitoline Museum were concealed from view by white boxes to prevent the possibility of offense. In France, President Rouhani declined an invitation to a luncheon at the Elysée Palace because wine would be served; alcohol is forbidden in Islam.

The Italian government is certainly taking a drubbing from its own citizens over concealing these Robust Manifestations of Italian Culture. Etiquetteer is more forgiving, knowing that on such diplomatic occasions as state visits, avoiding embarrassment is essential to successfully managing a relationship between Two Distinct Nations. The purpose of a state visit is for one nation to show hospitality to another. This is difficult to do when a custom or tradition of the host nation gives offense, for whatever reason, to the guest nation. While selecting a press conference location with no nude statues to begin with would have been Less Troublesome, Etiquetteer can't fault the Italians for acting with an Excess of Caution. Certainly they had only the best intentions.

But Etiquetteer wishes that President Rouhani had shown more understanding in the case of the French luncheon. While a request for a halal menu was entirely Perfectly Proper, Etiquetteer would have wished for the Iranians to have accommodated consumption of the French National Beverage by those whose belief systems allowed, even though theirs did not. As a precedent, one must consider the state dinner given by President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy on July 11, 1961, for the President of Pakistan, Ayub Khan, and his daughter. While wines were offered with dinner for those who wished them, the menu was prepared without alcohol of any kind.

The fine line between not offering offense to honored guests and maintaining one's own customs and traditions is trod not only between nations, but also between families celebrating a marriage, companies conducting mergers, and home owner associations homogenizing aesthetics. Have you had such experiences? Do you anticipate them now? Etiquetteer would like to hear your queries at queries <at> etiquetteer.com.

smalletiquetteer

Thoughts on Fund-Raising Events, Vol. 14, Issue 18

Earlier this winter the Boston Globe published a piece on "gala fatigue," the weariness faced by members of the business community at having to attend night after night of fund-raising dinners that blur into similarity. Etiquetteer, who has both planned and attended his share of fund-raisers, read it with interest, and considered what might be done to Put the Fun Back in Fund-Raising. Most fund-raising organizations planning events operate on the mistaken notion that people attend them because they want to support and learn more about their cause. Etiquetteer, perhaps cynically, would suggest that people attend them because they want to get a tax deduction for having a good time with their friends and, incidentally, support something worthy. All the speeches - the endless, endless speeches - get in the way of that good time. The growing number of "set-piece" remarks has seen the podium colonize every aspect of a dinner, from dessert (where they belong) through every course of the meal, starting with the salad. This effectively eliminates any opportunity to converse with fellow diners, and more often than not leads guests to leave the table to seek refuge among the silent auction items. Not only does this make table talk difficult for those who remain, it also creates difficulties for the waiters, whose already difficult task of nimbly weaving among tables with heavy trays becomes more complicated when having to dodge oblivious guests standing in the way and chairs that have been left out as obstacles.

Another aspect is the "rubber chicken" problem, the assumptions that chicken is the most universally accepted entrée protein, and that hotel kitchens routinely produce bland, uninspired menus. Both are untrue. Etiquetteer will never forget attending a black-tie dinner for 1,000 people several years ago at which brisket was served as the main course. Brisket. Brisket! Savory in presentation and delightful in its novelty, Etiquetteer thinks more gala committees should look beyond chicken to the unexpected. And while hotel kitchens have a bland reputation for a reason, that's mostly history. Great strides are made at every event to get guests to realize they're facing something delicious.

Of course these days too many people are too fussy about their food. While Etiquetteer certainly appreciates modern medicine - even the late Diana Vreeland acknowledged the benefits of penicillin, as other writers have pointed out - it's allowed too many people to disguise mere preferences as "allergies." Etiquetteer wants to serve them all a heaping helping of Shut Up and Eat.

It's interesting to note how, in the moment, some sort of souvenir of the evening becomes meaningful. It's not always what it is, but how it's presented that makes it stand out. At one black-tie evening, Etiquetteer noticed a run on thematic charms that had been used to tie the napkins as part of the table setting. One lady commandeered those of her dinner companions to make a necklace. One another occasion, guests were each offered a small black velvet bag with a surprise inside on leaving the dining room. Etiquetteer will confess to not being a fan of the "swag bag" at formal events - especially when they turn out to be almost all promotional literature - but admits that that's a case of Personal Preference, not Perfect Propriety.

So, what does Etiquetteer recommend?

  • In addition to a dollar goal, make creating positive memories for your guests a priority.
  • Preserve time in the evening for guests to talk to each other.
  • Halve the spoken program. Halve it. Create other ways to communicate your story. Be ruthless.
  • Reconsider the menu and serve something other than chicken.
  • Inject the unexpected. Whether it's a surprise guest, an unusual trinket, a special performance, or a big announcement for your organization, let Astonishment take a role in your evening.

Have fun, and best wishes for a successful event!

champersinvite

Etiquetteer's Spring Madness of Pet Peeves is still on! Voting for Round III ends this weekend, and the champion pet peeves in each division have yet to be named. Join the fun and vote here!

Notes from a Memorial Service, Vol. 13, Issue 32

Etiquetteer recently attended a memorial service for a Public Figure, and had this to observe:

  • Perfectly Proper dress is most important at a funeral or memorial service when respect is shown both to the dead and to the living. While Etiquetteer naturally prefers black - always Perfectly Proper in the West - many tasteful and respectful ensembles in black, gray, and white were observed. Down jackets and flannel shirts, regardless of the weather - and Etiquetteer does understand that this has been a brutal winter - simply are not Perfectly Proper.
  • For such events, Etiquetteer wears a black necktie that incorporates stripes of purple and silver gray, having learned that the combination of black and purple symbolizes triumph over death. Etiquetteer tends to avoid wearing a black bow tie with a plain black suit, as too many people believe it's pretending to be a tuxedo - which it certainly is not!
  • To leave a funeral or memorial service before it has ended is the Height of Bad Form, no matter how much longer it continues than you expected. Etiquetteer was outraged to see between 10-20% of the assembly scurry out. At such times your convenience means NOTHING! This is not an entertainment for your benefit or curiosity. Remain seated and attentive until the service is definitely over - or at least remain seated, close your eyes, and think of England.
  • For Heaven's sake, turn off your devices before the service begins! Etiquetteer counted three cellphone interruptions (two possibly from the same phone). If you can't prevent yourself the embarrassment (should you be incapable of feeling embarrassment), at least prevent the rest of us the annoyance. Sadly, it's become necessary to indicate at least by signs of printed announcements, if not by a verbal announcement, that devices must be switched of.

Etiquetteer Muses on the Oscars, Vol. 13, Issue 29

The Academy Awards take place tonight, one of the great televised rituals of the American year (the others being the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Super Bowl, of course). The grandfather of all televised award shows, Americans love it - and love to hate it - for its red carpet parade of fashions, its cheesy dancer numbers, snappy (and sometimes abusive) patter from a host comedian, and its creaking length. What was once an industry dinner dance with cameras changed over the decades into a full-blown production. The show's length is now due less to rambling acceptance speeches than it used to be (Etiquetteer vaguely remembers that Greer Garson's clocked in at something like 22 minutes!), but there was a time when it was sadly fashionable to use the Oscar podium for political statements. Oscar-winning actress Joan Crawford was interviewed at Town Hall on April 8, 1973, and criticized the change in the demeanor of the Oscars thus (beginning at 3:40):

"Let's talk about the Academy Awards. I think everyone tried to have the cutes, and each one who came after the couple before tried to be funnier. The dignity and the beauty of the Academy Awards, I must say, has been lost without the Gregory Pecks and the Charlton Hestons. The Gregory Pecks come on, the Frank Sinatras come on . . . they come on with dignity and they set the stage, really, for what everyone else should do. Some don't. And this year I was appalled at the behavior of everyone, including Mr. Brando."

What did Marlon Brando do that was so appalling? It wasn't that he didn't attend when he was nominated for his performance in The Godfather (nor could Joan Crawford have Wagged an Admonitory Digit at him for that, as she was famously home in bed the year she won Best Actress for Mildred Pierce). Brando found a young Apache woman names Sacheen Littlefeather to speak on his behalf in case he won. Etiquetteer doesn't say "accept," because Mr. Brando didn't intend to accept the Oscar, but to decline it in an ostentatious way to call attention to the way Native Americans were treated by the film industry:

Needless to say, this provoked outrage in Hollywood and beyond, as did Vanessa Redgrave's acceptance speech a few years later, when she won Best Supporting Actress for Julia. Note her reference to "Zionist hoodlums" at 2:54:

Now, back to Joan Crawford at Town Hall. Later in that wonderful interview, she really summed up well Perfect Propriety for Oscar winners (beginning at 6:41):

"I think people who go on the Academy Awards and . . . oh brother! Just accept and be grateful for the honor, and don't try and get on national television and make your pleas, and never discuss politics or religion."

For those viewing tonight, Etiquetteer wishes you a Perfectly Proper Oscarthon!

A Pre-Valentine's Warning from Etiquetteer, Vol. 13, Issue 19

With St. Valentine's Day on its way tomorrow, Etiquetteer feels it necessary - strictly in the name of Perfect Propriety - to advise you against Popping the Question Publicly. Fictionally we have the example of Vicki Lester and Norman Maine, seen here in the George Cukor film of A Star Is Born:

Now you'll notice that the situation was saved beautifully by Our Heroine who, seeing the embarrassment of her beloved, called out "Oh no, that's much too public a proposal to say no to! I accept!" And those who know the story know exactly what that got her . . .

Cruel Reality shows a different outcome:

But if you are really intent on doing this, Etiquetteer has some questions to ask first:

  • How comfortable is your beloved in the spotlight? Are you choosing to propose in public because she likes having attention called to herself, or because you want to call attention to yourself?
  • Are the manner and location of your proposal what you think she might expect of a marriage proposal? (Reviewing that compilation, and recognizing that Etiquetteer might be succumbing to stereotypes, Etiquetteer finds it hard to believe that most women want to entertain proposals of marriage at sporting events or the mall.)
  • Are you 110% sure that your beloved will say yes? And even then, Etiquetteer thinks you should reconsider.
  • Do you have a Graceful Exit planned in the (to you unlikely) event that your proposal is declined? Even if you're 110% sure your beloved will accept, plan one.

Etiquetteer asks these questions not only for your benefit and that of your beloved, but also for the Embarrassed Spectators who, if they don't want to laugh in your face, will want to turn their backs. Please, Etiquetteer begs you, consider your plans very carefully.

Now of course Etiquetteer expects to hear from several people who did witness Successful Public Proposals of Marriage, and that's just wonderful. Etiquetteer is delighted that you had that experience. Etiquetteer rather hopes that Those Who Popped the Question evaluated their situations intelligently.

You may be sure that Etiquetteer will have Shields Up on St. Valentine's Day, and if one of Cupid's little arrows gets in the way, Etiquetteer will use it as a swizzle stick for a martini.

Marcus Smart vs. Jeff Orr, Vol. 13, Issue 17

Unfortunately more and more people believe that etiquette only matters someplace that's defined as "formal," for instance a funeral, a library ("Sssssshhhhh!"), and especially at weddings. (Etiquetteer believes that weddings probably generate more questions about how to behave than anything else.) But Good Behavior is needed in every part of the day, from the bedroom to the boardroom, from the elevator to the escalator, from the cafeteria line to the telephone line, from the concert hall to the colosseum. Wherever you are, whether you think of it as "formal" or not, Good Behavior matters. So Etiquetteer was dismayed to read about Marcus Smart, the Oklahoma State University basketball player, who shoved a fan, now identified as Jeff Orr, after a bungled play. The OSU Cowboys are on a five-game losing streak, so undoubtedly the pressure was on Mr. Smart, the star player for his team, to deliver something good. Mr. Orr, a well-known fan of the Red Raiders of Texas Tech, is also well known for taunting players of the Raiders' opponents.

It appears that Mr. Orr said something to Mr. Smart - apparently not an expression of concern for his well-being - that enraged Mr. Smart enough to make physical contact. Fox News reported "CBS personality Doug Gottlieb said via Twitter that a Texas Tech friend of his had a text conversation with Orr, who texted that 'Yeah, i kinda let my mouth say something I shouldn't have. I feel bad.'" Mr. Orr did not repeat what he said to Mr. Smart, which of course leads everyone to think that it was a racial slur.

Etiquetteer can only wonder if Mr. Orr feels badly enough to issue a public apology to Mr. Smart. Whether a Filthy Name was used or not, Mr. Orr has discredited the behavior of all Texas Tech fans, which Etiquetteer feels sure he does not want to do. Plenty of Perfectly Proper people are enthusiastic football fans without demonizing the opposing team. Ask yourselves, sports fans, what means more to you: the victory of your team, or the defeat of the opposing team?

While sympathizing with Mr. Smart, Etiquetteer can in no way condone physical violence. Figures in the Public Eye, simply because they are in the Public Eye, must restrain themselves from responding to outrageous provocation. Because when you respond, your opponents win because they have made you lose control. It's a true art, containing one's natural reactions - even Etiquetteer has yet to master it - but as Rose Sayre famously said in The African Queen, "Nature, Mr. Allnut is what we are put on this earth to rise above."

Etiquetteer hopes that both these men will offer public apologies for their behavior, but that we'll also be spared the ostentation of a "beer summit" such as President Obama hosted for Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley after that Unfortunate Incident.

Renee Fleming and the National Anthem, Vol. 13, Issue 14

Etiquetteer was so very pleased to hear earlier this month that soprano Renee Fleming would be singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl this year. Etiquetteer has become increasingly dismayed at the histrionics displayed by Popular Singers every year in their "interpretations" of the venerable "Star-Spangled Banner." The National Anthem, like the White House, doesn't need to be anything but itself. Just as the former doesn't need to be gussied up with novelty lighting for state dinners, neither does the National Anthem need to be burdened with emotional embellishments. Because the most important guideline for any singer singing the National Anthem at a public event is to keep it simple enough for everyone singing along to do so without getting lost.

Madame Fleming acquitted herself, and the nation, admirably with her interpretation. Her one departure from the traditional arrangement, that extra-high note at the end, was delivered with such purity and with such harmony with everyone else doing their best to hit that one high note at the end, that Etiquetteer could only shed one patriotic tear and then start preparing an income tax return. While recognizing that this is a subjective opinion, Etiquetteer truly believes that public singers should be shown this arrangement before singing the National Anthem publicly, along with that of the late Kate Smith. Call Etiquetteer old-fashioned and sentimental if you will - they are medals Etiquetteer wears with pride - but Miss Smith's arrangement remains the definitive.

Perfect Propriety at a Time of Tragedy, Vol. 12, Issue 10

The City of Boston, Massachusetts, has just undergone one of the worst weeks in its almost-400-year history, the bombing of the Boston Marathon and subsequent manhunt for its two suspects. Five people, including one of the suspects, were killed, and dozens more injured, some grievously. The bravery of many men and women has led Etiquetteer to reflect on how best to react in such situations:

  • Aid the wounded or get out of the way. Etiquetteer admires the unbounded courage of the first responders who rushed into the smoke not knowing what they would find, or even able to see where they were going. Those unable to follow their example, for whatever reason, do best to clear the way for first responders. The standard fire-escape announcement in theatres comes to mind: "Exit the building from the nearest available exit and move away from the building quickly."
  • Comfort the afflicted. Everyone reacts to tragedy differently. Some internalize their reactions and manifest them later; others exhibit emotions right away. Etiquetteer was deeply moved by the generosity of Brent Cunningham, who gave his medal to another runner, Laura Wellington. Ms. Wellington, a runner who was deeply distressed at not being able to find her family after the bombing, was discovered weeping by Mr. Cunningham and his wife. He gave her his medal - what magnificent sportsmanship! - and has now received hers, since she was able to receive her own only a few hours later. Boston saw many such encounters throughout the week. They are an example to all of us.
  • Be patient with the network, however frustrating. Telecommunications went haywire after the bombing, leaving many people unable to connect reliably with loved ones. This underscores the need to select a meeting place in advance, as many runners did with their families, perhaps even an alternate location in case the first is inaccessible. It's also a good reminder to stay calm enough to speak slowly and distinctly with good diction, so that you'll definitely be understood over static and background noise on the line.
  • Reach out to those you love. Everyone knows Etiquetteer's fondness for Lovely Notes, and those may come later. But telephone and electronic communications - brief, concise, and specific - mean a great deal. Etiquetteer, though never in danger, greatly appreciated expressions of concern via text message, email, and voicemail.
  • Use the arts to heal. Etiquetteer took heart reading that several museums and other arts organizations in Boston waived their admission fees in the days after the tragedy. In the words of MFA director Malcolm Rogers, “It’s doing something positive. You’ve just seen a horrible example of what a perverted human mind can do. What the works of art in our care show is what the human mind and the human hands can do at their greatest and their most inspired.” In the days after the bombing, people came together to sing - not only the National Anthem, from which many draw comfort at such times, at the Boston Red Sox game - but also in the streets to sing hymns, and to raise money for the victims. And let us not forget those who came prepared to sing hymns over picketers from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church (who, to the relief of all, did not appear). All these expressions of Beauty are necessary for healing.
  • Restrain your greed. Etiquetteer was incensed to read that not long after the tragedy, 2013 Boston Marathon medals appeared for sale on eBay. Etiquetteer is not going to speculate on whether or not those medals were obtained ethically in the first place. But even if they were, this is too soon.
  • Think before you speak. Etiquetteer was deeply disappointed when the FBI had to chastise the media about its inaccurate reporting that a suspect was in custody and en route to the Moakley Courthouse. This led not only to a convergence of the curious on the courthouse, but also its evacuation. Nor was the situation helped by individuals spreading rumors or incorrectly reported facts via the many forms of social media. "Least said, soonest mended" and "Loose lips sink ships" are still good maxims. Get your facts straight and, if you can't, pipe down until someone else does.
  • Or don't speak at all. Unfortunately several people tried to take political advantage of the tragedy to further their own particular views, which is cynical at best and downright offensive at worst. The instance that seems to have provoked the most backlash was undoubtedly Arkansas state representative Nate Bell's comments via Twitter to work in the national debate on gun control. To which Etiquetteer can only quote the character Cornelia Robson in Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile, who says "Cousin Marie says politicians aren't gentlemen."
Now that the surviving suspect is in custody and daily life in the city returns to its expected rhythms, Etiquetteer encourages everyone to use Patience and Kindness with those you meet, both in person and online.

St. Patrick's Day, Vol 11, Issue 7

Today is St. Patrick's Day, when everyone can claim to be Irish. Perfect Propriety takes a bigger hit on St. Patrick's Day than any other day in the American calendar, what with so many people using its parades and whatnot as a cover for Excess Alcohol Consumption. Etiquetteer has a few observations to make:

  • Mixed greens are suitable for a salad, but not your St. Patrick's Day "Wearin' of the Green." Please don't wear clashing shades of green. Kelly, olive, chartreuse, and day-glo look vile together. Remember, only blue-greens with blue-greens, and yellow-greens with yellow-greens.
  • In the last 30 years St. Patrick's Day has become a forum for homophobia in some communities. So let us not forget that it was the late Oscar Wilde who made the green carnation boutonniere a symbol for men of "the Wilde sort." "That sort" can now wear their carnations with a difference.
  • As the child of a Southern community with no Irish heritage, Etiquetteer grew up with only two St. Patrick's Day traditions: 1) wear green, and 2) pinch people who are not wearing green. And yet the tradition of pinching is unknown in certain Irish-American communities. If you're determined to go around pinching the greenless on St. Patrick's Day, remember that it's all in fun! Don't inflict pain, and don't let that be your purpose.
  • It's been suggested that the Irish should be exempt from pinching. Etiquetteer suggests that Irish who forget to wear green on St. Patrick's Day should be pinched twice.
  • If you're not wearing green, do not claim that you have on green undergarments. This is only an invitation for Rude Questions to prove your honesty, and quite possibly an Indecent Assault. (Of course, if that's what you really want, Etiquetteer has to wonder why you're even reading an etiquette column in the first place.)
  • Etiquetteer was taught early on, once moving North, that the only thing one must not do on St. Patrick's Day is wear orange. In some communities such attire is an invitation to violence. Etiquetteer hopes all the Syracuse University alumni will be safe today.
Finally, Public Drunkenness is overrated, and it is certainly not Perfectly Proper. Please drink with Perfect Propriety this St. Patrick's Day by obeying all local laws and law enforcement.
Etiquetteer will be delighted to take your questions about all Problems of Manners at queries <at> etiquetteer dot com.

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.

Public Events, Vol. 1, Issue 1

  Dear Etiquetteer:Recently we were invited guests at the Roman Catholic baptism of a six-year-old girl. We're atheists, and at a certain moment, when we were asked to raise our hands in blessing over the little girl, we felt a certain -- shall we say, lack of good sportspersonship? -- and neither of us were able to comply. The moment was awkward for us, and for the parents of the child, who saw that we were alone in not raising our hands.To the question: should we who don't believe even go to baptisms? And if we do, should we then comply with all the ritual requests? Where would one draw the line?Dear Thoughtful:Let’s consider the intimacy of the occasion first. A proper baptism is not a gala occasion, but rather a small gathering of only family and close friends of the newborn’s parents. It includes a ceremony in the family’s place of worship (which may or may not be part of a regularly scheduled worship service) followed by an all-white cake with a glass of champagne. Being invited to a baptism signifies how dearly your friends consider you. It’s an honor.Having accepted the invitation to a church ceremony, Etiquetteer considers it your responsibility to learn in advance exactly how guests are to participate. Just ask your hosts, explaining that you neither want to compromise your beliefs nor offend them. Then you can make an informed decision about whether or not to attend. Once you’ve accepted the invitation, it is your duty as a guest to participate, taking cues from other participants. Etiquetteer would draw the line at reciting a creed or singing a hymn contrary to your beliefs. In the meantime, your friends invited you to witness something very special in their family’s life, and think that you dissed their new baby. Something tells Etiquetteer that that isn’t what you want them to think. If you haven’t already, follow up with a lovely baby gift -- Etiquetteer loves “Pat the Bunny” for baby gifts -- and continue to take an interest in the child. You’ll repair the friendship.

 

Dear Etiquetteer:

 

When you get invited to a political event where the "suggested donation" reads $250 and $500, is it OK to show up with a check for $100? No check at all? And what, if anything, do you say at the campaign, to said freeloader?

 

Dear Political Operative:

 

Etiquetteer invites you to consider the nature of a suggestion. It’s a hint, a proposal; it isn’t binding. “Suggested donation,” whether used by a candidate at a fund-raiser or a museum at the front door, means “We’d really like this particular amount of money from you.” But as with any suggestion, people are free to take it or leave it.Candidates raise more than money at political events. They raiseawareness among voters. And if, for whatever legal reason it is, you have to list “suggested donation” instead of “ticket price” or “admission,” you will get some guests who don’t take the suggestion. Welcome them with open arms and your biggest smile. All you have to say is “I’m counting on your support in the voting booth.”

Dear Etiquetteer:

 

While generally not acknowledged, it is generally accepted that when a soon-to-be married couple develops the guest list for their wedding, there are two lists: the so-called A list and B list. If a guest is B-listed, the invitation may arrive somewhat later than those of A list guests. However, if a B-listed guest does not receive a printed,mailed invitation, but instead is invited via telephone, or worse yet, via a third party, is the guest required to attend the wedding?

 

Dear Erstwhile Wedding Guest:

 

Etiquetteer is delighted to inform you that you have not even made the B list for this wedding. Why go to the wedding of people who treat their guests so disrespectfully before the reception cash bar even opens? Wedding invitations are never properly issued by third parties or over the phone without an invitation sent to confirm. We are all created equal, and we all deserve a lavishly engraved invitation suitable for framing. Brides and their mothers who permit such casual inviting deserve to be showered with 37 identical toaster ovens in harvestgold or avocado green.

Dear Etiquetteer:

When someone is giving a presentation, how do you tell them that their fly is unzipped?

 

Dear Attentive Audience Member:What are you doing under the podium that you’d even notice? Get out from under there!

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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