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 Not to Celebrate National Underwear Day, Vol. 14, Issue 28

Good underwear, like good housekeeping, is what you don't notice . . . at least not out in the streets, where it could frighten the horses. Etiquetteer only just learned that August 5 is National Underwear Day, yet another of the Hallmark Holidays brought to us by Retail and the Internet. Through an unhappy coincidence, today Etiquetteer also witnessed two examples of How Not to Celebrate National Underwear Day (should you choose to do so):

EXHIBIT A: In the morning Etiquetteer observed a young woman wearing a red-and-white print shirtwaist dress walking through a train station. As it happened, the dress was less than opaque. An unnaturally wide dark line spoiled the print of her dress. On closer observation, Etiquetteer was horrified to discover that the wide dark line was, in fact, the waistband of a pair of thong underwear, and that this young woman's buttocks were clearly visible through her dress. The one point Etiquetteer could award her for Perfect Propriety was that at least it appeared her brassiere was the same color!

But first, a thong is always wrong, and even more important, underwear should not be visible through one's outer clothing. Otherwise one might be branded a slattern or worse. (Etiquetteer is frantic with frustration at not being able to find an illustrative clip from the Jean Harlow film Red-Headed Woman, in which she tries on a dress. JH: "Can you see through this?" Saleslady: "I'm afraid you can." JH: "Then I'll wear it!" She proceeds to break up a marriage.) Clearly it's time for the slip, once an essential undergarment for ladies, to make a comeback.

EXHIBIT B: Later in the day Etiquetteer saw a Young Man greet his Lady Fair on the public street. He wore a pair of white athletic shorts over a quite obvious pair of briefs with a bold black and white print shining through. They reminded Etiquetteer of hotel curtains, and for a while Etiquetteer wondered if Fraulein Maria had made them for him. White is always Perfectly Proper for summer, as the world knows. But if you're going to wear white, wear it on the inside and the outside.

Let's recap, then, some Rules for Wearing Underwear:

  • No one should know if you are, or are not, wearing underwear. It's no one's business. Don't make it their business.
  • Underwear should not be visible through outer clothing. If you're wearing white outside, wear plain white underneath.
  • Underwear should not be visible around outer clothing. Waistbands should be concealed by tucked-in shirts at the very least. Bra straps should not protrude from necklines.
  • If you're wearing more than one piece of underwear, such as a bra and panties, they should be the same color.
  • A thong is always wrong.

Really, the best way to celebrate National Underwear Day is probably just to buy, without fanfare, one or more pairs of underwear. Etiquetteer feels sure that's why Retail and the Internet gave us this holiday in the first place.

no-nogloves

Blizzard Chic, or Perfect Propriety in Adverse Conditions, Vol. 14, Issue 7

At the moment, New England is receiving an historic amount of snow that is compromising just about everything: safety, public transportation, education, business, general daily life, and, alas, Perfect Propriety. Beth Teitell of The Boston Globe has written an interesting article about how Bostonians are dressing to accommodate both professionalism and the weather. Etiquetteer must bow in admiration to Professor Rictor Noren of the Boston Conservatory, who defiantly commutes on foot dressed as a gentleman in this dreadful weather. His omission of a hat - any hat - is certainly too imprudent for Etiquetteer, and Etiquetteer trembles for the fate of his dress shoes in the absence of boots (Ms. Teitell doesn't indicate if Professor Noren wore rubbers over them; Etiquetteer certainly hopes he did). But one must admit the professor sallies forth with complete confidence, and that is how one projects Style. Etiquetteer steadfastly believes that one does not have to compromise one's professional appearance for the sake of warmth or, indeed, preservation of one's wardrobe from destruction. One need not confine oneself to choosing between looking like a slob and looking like Carly Fiorina. What Ms. Teitell calls "storm chic" Etiquetteer has often referred to as "Yankee chic," which at a minimum is a substitution of good sturdy boots for dress shoes, and can be expanded to include the substitution of more durable materials, if not forms, for business clothes. For instance, Etiquetteer wore this to the office between snowstorms last week:

Instead of a typical tropical-weight wool suit with leather shoes, Etiquetteer's "Yankee chic" uniform is corduroy trousers, a thick wool sweater, and an oversize (to accommodate the sweater) khaki jacket. Barely visible is the wool necktie (one of the rare occasions you'll see Etiquetteer without a bow tie). Author Paul Fussell deplored the middle-class nature of the V-neck sweater, which he claimed middle-class men wore to prove that they were wearing a tie. Etiquetteer can't remember if that was in Class or BAD, and will have to look it up later. (That said, Etiquetteer doesn't really agree with that hypothesis; there's nothing wrong with the Perfectly Proper V-neck sweater.)

So, please be strong and dress warmly with Perfect Propriety. You'll project hope for the swift coming of Spring . . . or, if not Spring, at least the swifter elimination of the snow.

Blizzard Etiquette, Vol. 14, Issue 4

With the latest blizzard having ravaged the Northeast, Etiquetteer thinks it's time for a few tips on Perfect Propriety during Heavily Inclement Weather:

  • Don't dramatize the situation with all these mashup words* like "stormaggedon" and "snowpocalypse," etc. It's a blizzard. Blizzards happen. Heaven forbid Etiquetteer restrict anyone's Freedom of Speech, but really. Blizzards also don't have names assigned to them by television networks. Just run along to the National Weather Service and see what they have to say. Incidentally, they'd do well to dramatize the weather less by not typing their bulletins in ALL CAPS.
  • Don't rush. Allow yourself a lot of extra time to and from your destination, whether you're traveling on foot, on skis, or by auto. Be patient; there will be delays, no matter how you're traveling.
  • Drive carefully. You never know when someone will have to walk in the street because the sidewalks haven't been shoveled. Etiquetteer will only allow you to honk at them if they're texting at the same time.
  • It will happen that a shoveled sidewalk is not wide enough for two people to pass, regardless of any local ordinance. Etiquetteer awards precedence to the party closest to exiting the Narrows, or to the person who is not texting at the same time. Those who are unaware of what's going on around them deserve what they get.
  • If someone stands aside for you to pass, thank them kindly. Otherwise you increase the bitterness and resentment already caused by the weather. That old saw about Good Behavior being its own reward is highly overrated.
  • It is not uncommon - though it is illegal, and therefore not Perfectly Proper - for drivers who park on the street to "mark" or "save" a parking space they've cleared of snow - admittedly a vigorous undertaking - with some sort of street refuse like a trash barrel or an old chair. While deploring the practice, Etiquetteer refrains from getting involved by removing those markers. Remember, safety first! No one wants to lose teeth to some Vindictive Motorist.
  • Wear something simple and straightforward for winter work and sports. Etiquetteer was for some reason reminded of Gloria Upson's description of her newlywed apartment in Auntie Mame: " . . . I don't mean just some little hole-in-the-wall, but a really nice place with some style to it . . . " Consider Etiquetteer's interpretation above: vintage snowsuit, white scarf, and gray stocking cap with white leather work gloves. No fuss, no frills, nor rips and tears either. This is certainly one of those occasions when a bow tie is not Perfectly Proper. No one wants to be thought a parvenu while wielding a snow shovel . . .

Etiquetteer will conclude that, at times of Heavy Weather like this, Safety and Perfect Propriety go hand in hand.

*Actually, the best mashup word to come out of this blizzard is "snowmanhattan." Etiquetteer takes his on the rocks.

What a Lady Wears: Tiaras in the Workplace, Vol. 13, Issue 60

Last week Etiquetteer and That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much had a bit of a disagreement about ladies wearing tiaras in the workplace. That Mr. Dimmick, of course, thinks it’s outrageous and Improper to wear a tiara in the workplace and that it’s the result of the Disney Princess culture. Lorelei Lee was always looking for new places to wear diamonds, but the office wasn't one of them. Etiquetteer is ambivalent, since hair ornaments have a more varied history, but of course would rather see these ladies turn their attention to Perfectly Proper kid gloves and Mainbocher two-piece suits. Or even Hillary Clinton's "velvet arc of control" from the 1992 presidential campaign, which has the advantage of not glittering before 5:00 PM. Since neither Etiquetteer nor That Mr. Dimmick is a Powerful Woman in the Workplace, Etiquetteer turned to a genuine Powerful Woman in the Workplace, Christina Wallace, Founding Director of BridgeUp: STEM, who had this to say:

"I can see your point that an actual tiara in the workplace is entirely inappropriate and juvenile, but the photographs in the New York Times piece (ignoring Lady Gaga and the Kardashian, as I tend to do in general*) show not a crown but simply a jeweled headband, which I find polished and lovely. I actually agree with some of the women quoted that the jeweled headband (or diadem as one woman referred to it) increases the sophistication of a ponytail or bun. So while there is likely a fine line between appropriate and over-the-top (I would refrain from wearing anything that could double as a wedding-day headpiece), I think jeweled headpieces are welcome in the boardroom. Just don't call them a tiara (indeed, I might venture that labeling a headband a "tiara" is bordering on sexism)."

With this endorsement of the practice, Etiquetteer will now set down some ground rules:

  • Your Daytime Diadem should not detract from you. Come evaluation time, you'll be judged on how well you met your goals, not how much Faceted Radiance you shed in the board room. As Auntie Mame famously said to Agnes Gooch about an evening dress, "You're supposed to dominate it!" And while we really shouldn't be looking to the movies for etiquette advice, Etiquetteer can't help remembering David Brian advising Joan Crawford in The Damned Don't Cry, "A beautiful woman never wears anything that detracts attention from her face."
  • Your Daytime Diadem should not increase your height appreciably.
  • Your Daytime Diadem should not look like you could wear it to the senior prom.
  • Your every hair should be in place and not blowing about all tangled and casual. This kind of jewelry is only going to attract more attention to your head, so there will be more opportunity for co-workers to notice Tonsorial Neglect or Error.

Now, let's all get back to work!

Issue 60 of Volume 13 of Etiquetteer marks a milestone, the largest number of columns published yet in a single volume. Thank you, readers!

*Etiquetteer adds: As all Perfectly Proper People should.

Tradition vs. Fashion as the Seasons Change, Vol. 13, Issue 47

Labor Day 2014 has decidedly come and gone, and the Perfectly Proper now complete their workday toilettes without the summer staples of seersucker, linen, and especially for those who are sticklers of tradition as Etiquetteer is, white shoes. Each year Etiquetteer feels a tinge of sadness treeing and bagging his white bucks. This is not helped by fashion gurus like Tim Gunn saying all the old rules need to be broken! Perhaps the thrill of white shoes is made more special by the artificial construct of an "official" season in which to wear them. And why not? We only eat Christmas cookies at Christmas. Special things are reserved for special times. Etiquetteer is happy to go along.

Fashion has ever been ephemeral, fleeting, nonsensical, and often frustrating. Abigail Adams herself, fresh from colonial Boston in London, observed "There is a rage of fashion which prevails here with despotick sway. The couleur & kind of silk must be attended to; & the day for putting it on & of[f], no fancy to be exercised, but it is the fashion & that is argument sufficient."* But let's face it, the everyday dress of Americans in the 21st century has much less to do with Fashion, or even with Style (alas!) than it does with Careless Convenience. And that, dear readers, is a sad state of affairs.

And with that, Etiquetteer is quickly going to knot a neat bow tie and head to the office.

*Quoted in Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams, by Lynne Withey, p. 161.

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.

Sheer Impropriety, Vol. 12, Issue 11

Etiquetteer really hadn't given Gwyneth Paltrow a thought since Shakespeare in Love, but she has now been forced on Etiquetteer's attention due to an Unfortunate Fashion Choice. For the premiere of Iron Man III, La Paltrow chose an Antonio Berardi gown distinguished - if that is the word - by neck to floor panels of sheer black on each side. The gown was designed in such a way that she could not wear underwear under it, and it need hardly be said that a Lady does not call attention to her lingerie, or lack of it. As if that weren't Lacking in Taste enough, La Paltrow's stylist leapt into the fray with the usual fluffy public relations denials along the lines of "It's daring in a no-daring way," "It's spirit without being vulgar," "You don't see a whole lot of false fakeness going on there like some other people," etc. To which Etiquetteer can only suggest that they must be showing us the real fakeness. The late Oscar Levant once said "Scratch the fake tinsel of Hollywood and you'll find the real tinsel underneath." Etiquetteer can only agree.

But the real coup de grace for Etiquetteer was later in the article, recounting La Paltrow talking about this dress with Ellen DeGeneres on the latter's talk show - and the unexpected grooming required to wear a sheer dress with no underwear. As Miss Sweet Brown taught us, "Ain't nobody got time f'that!" Is this what we've come to, America, frank discussion of pubic grooming on national television? You may be sure that Etiquetteer had to go lie down after reading that.

Please, ladies - please! Etiquetteer certainly doesn't want to prevent you from making the best advantage of your physiques if you wish to do so, but good tailoring and fitting will go much further than the overuse of sheer fabric. Perhaps it is time for satin to make a comeback; Etiquetteer remembers the late Anais Nin writing about the skill of French tailors making black satin flow like liquid over a woman's body. Or something like that.

A couple other examples of sheer fashion in history also didn't end well. At the 1969 Academy Awards, Barbra Streisand was persuaded by designer Arnold Scaasi to wear a sheer black pantsuit to the ceremony. The triple layer of tulle did too little to conceal La Streisand's undergarments. Indeed, her pantyline was made even more prominent when she tripped going up the steps to the stage. The late Mr. Blackwell accused her of mooning the audience. You be the judge by viewing the film clip here. The conventional wisdom, "You can never go wrong with a classic," is still Sound Advice.

A much more scandalous occasion took place much further back in time when Elizabeth Chudleigh, a lady-in-waiting in the court of George II, showed up dressed as Iphigenia at a court masquerade with at least her breasts bared, and nothing else left to the imagination. A couple different interpretations of what she wore may be found here. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was said to have remarked that her tunic was so disengaged "the sacrificial priest would have no trouble finding her entrails." (Etiquetteer is gnashing his teeth in rage at not being able to cite the source.) Her Sauciness attracted the attention of the king, who asked if he could touch her exposed breast. She replied, "Your Majesty, I can put it in a far softer place," and brought his hand to his own head. Etiquetteer marvels that this is actually history and not from an episode of "Tales of Ribaldry" with Jon Lovitz.

Etiquetteer can only conclude that those beautiful sheer fabrics are best left in the bedroom.

Kindly send your own style-related questions to Etiquetteer at queries_at_etiquetteer.com.

Seven Actions for Perfect Propriety in Public Life in the New Year, Vol. 12, Issue 2

Here we are, embarked on a New Year, and Etiquetteer is working hard to maintain a Feeling of Hope for increasing Perfect Propriety. Etiquetteer has identified seven areas -- some simple, some quixotic -- where action should be taken. At once. 1. Homeowner associations (HOAs) need to write exceptions into their governing documents allowing homeowners to display the American flag on or from their properties without being fined or censured. Every year an HOA makes the news when it sues or fines a homeowner who displays an American flag on his or her property against the HOA rules about decorations and displays. These stories are even more poignant when the flag is tattered or in otherwise less-than-perfect condition, usually because of its association with a family member who died in service to this nation. If you live in an HOA, take the initiative now to modify your bylaws to permit display of the American flag on one's property.

2. Anyone who has charge of an escalator, whether it's in a shopping mall, transportation hub, government or office building, or any other public place, needs to be sure that every rider knows that standing is on the right, and passing is on the left. This can be achieved with signage or a painted line down the center.

3. Retailers need to stop colonizing private life and pandering to our baser instincts by scheduling outrageous sales events on holidays - and we need to stop letting them do it by buying into this manufactured "excitement." Etiquetteer was outraged that some retailers actually scheduled some sales to begin on Thanksgiving Day Itself, and appalled viewing some of the video footage of the Black Friday mélee. Etiquetteer has extreme difficulty reconciling this with the True Spirit of Christmas. If it was up to Etiquetteer -- which, of course, it ought to be -- Black Friday sales would not be allowed to begin until 10:00 AM on Friday. Even if the retailers don't, Etiquetteer wants you to make the commitment to refrain from shopping on holidays.

4. Unfortunately, Western civilization has reached such a low level of sloth, selfishness, or contempt that more and more people don't care about being properly dressed in public. Indeed, many don't even know what proper dress is. With great reluctance, Etiquetteer must endorse the use of instructional signage, such as "No Visible Undergarments" and "No Sleepwear" so that standards can be reinforced.

5. Theatres and concert halls need to enforce more vigorously the rule not to use recording devices of any kind (cameras, recorders, smartphones, etc.) during concerts. Anyone who has ever had their view of a performance blocked by rows of upraised arms with iPhones will appreciate this. Etiquetteer believes that violators should be evicted, which means that ushers will need to be more vigilant and prowl the aisles during performances more often. (It is interesting to muse on how differently Woodstock might have affected Western culture if everyone there had had a smartphone or videocamera. Etiquetteer is mighty relieved they didn't.)

6. The battle between drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians must stop. To quote Stu Ackerman, "There is only 'we.' 'Them' is a hallucination born of fear." Everyone has the same goal: to get wherever they're going as quickly as possible. Etiquetteer would like them to get there as safely as possible, too. And this means being aware of one's own situation and of other travelers around one. For pedestrians, it means looking left, right, and left again before walking across the street -- and only at intersections. For drivers, it means knowing where one is going before getting in the car and relying on an often-faulty GPS. For cyclists, it means awareness that both pedestrians and drivers, through no fault of their own, will have to cross the bike lane. For all it means putting away one's electronic devices so that one can travel with full concentration and without distraction! Etiquetteer's heart has leapt into his mouth more than once seeing a pedestrian blithely walk into an intersection while staring intently at a smartphone screen, or a driver making a sharp left turn with one hand on the wheel and cellphone held to the ear. In summary, no one group of travelers is evil, as many would like to think. Rather, there are impatient and inattentive travelers in each group. Etiquetteer urges you to represent the best aspects of your particular Mode of Travel.

7. If parents are not going to enforce Perfect Propriety in their children when dining out, restaurants are going to start having to do it for them by either asking them to leave, being sure they know not to come back until the children can behave, or banning children altogether. While hastily acknowledging the very many good and attentive parents who understand and train their children well, Etiquetteer must note that the legions of oblivious and ineffective parents make dining out difficult for everyone.* The stories from waiters and waitresses (one need only search the Web) can curl one's hair.

And that, as they say, is that. Etiquetteer welcomes your Perfectly Proper queries resulting from these recommendations at queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com.

*It's worth noting, too, that every time Etiquetteer sees a news story about Chuck E. Cheese, it's because grownups started a brawl there.

George Washington 2.0, Vol. 11, Issue 5

In honor of Presidents Day, and the Father of our Country's birthday on February 22, Etiquetteer is going to update parts of George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation. Etiquetteer bets you didn't even know George Washington wrote an etiquette book! He copied 110 maxims when he was only 14. Several of these have to do with precedence and are, shall we say, overly exaggerated for the 21st century. But others remain classic at the core, and need to be restated. For instance:

GW 1.0: "7th, Put not off your clothes in the presence of others, nor go out of your chamber half-dressed.

GW 2.0: The idea is, you show respect for others by looking put together in public. Don't leave the house until you're completely dressed; for ladies this means completely made up, too. No one should have to see these things in action: mascara wands, buttons, belts, and especially underwear. Say no to the fashion of sagging! Say no to gaposis! And, as Etiquetteer mentioned earlier this year, don't wear your pajamas in public!

GW 1.0: "18th, Read no letters, books, or papers in company; but when there is necessity for the doing of it, you must ask leave."

GW 2.0: George's essential truth is still sound, that the person with you in person is more important than the person with you through another medium. Do not text or take or make phone calls in the presence of others, especially at the table, unless you ask permission first. This is especially difficult at table, or in a car, when your prisoners - um, Etiquetteer means companions - might be unable to continue talking themselves while waiting on you.

GW 1.0: "22nd, Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, though he were your enemy" and "23rd, When you see a crime punished, you may be inwardly pleased, but always show pity to the suffering offender."

GW 2.0: Refrain from flaming on online comment boards, especially anonymously. It's no surprise that people give in to their baser instincts when their identities are concealed. Such behavior does, however, brand one a coward.This is only one reason you'll never see a comment board here at etiquetteer.com (not that readers of Etiquetteer behave that way, of course.)

GW 1.0: "48th, Wherein you reprove another be unblameable yourself, for example is more prevalent than precept."

GW 2.0: Simply put, "Practice what you preach." It is very bad form, for instance, to advocate for the sanctity of marriage when one has been divorced, and certainly when one has been divorced more than once.

GW 1.0: "50th, Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any" and "79th, Be not apt to relate news if you know not the truth thereof."

GW 2.0: Don't trust what you read on the Internet and do your own research. Sad to say, partisans on every side of the political spectrum, in their eagerness to paint as dark a picture as possible of their opponents, do not adhere as zealously to Truth as they ought. Inflammatory email that gets circulated and recirculated, charts and graphs that appear on social media such as Facebook, more often than not contain errors of fact, bald or nuanced. All this has led Etiquetteer to take refuge in the pages of The Economist.

GW 1.0: "110th, Labour to keep alive in your breast the little celestial fire called conscience."

GW 2.0: No change needed for GW 2.0. This little phrase still summarizes the entire book perfectly.

Weighty Questions, Vol. 7, Issue 18

Dear Etiquetteer:I have lost a ****load (literally) of weight. I have 5 large black garbage bags full of too-big clothes, and I have a friend I know can wear them and really needs them. Would it be crass of me to offer them to her - "Here are my fat clothes, I thought you could wear them", or should I discreetly donate them to a charity? They are all top brands and clean.   Dear Svelter: No reference to avoirdupois need come into your offer to your friend. Say something like "I'm getting rid of a lot of things and wanted to offer you first pick before I take them too [Insert Charity of Your Choice Here]." In subsequent conversations don't even make a reference to her current, and your former, size. It can be the . . . forgive me the pun . . . "the elephant in the room."

Invitations and Wedding Matters, Vol. 7, Issue 10

Dear Etiquetteer:

I’ve been invited to a brunch from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM. What’s an appropriate time to arrive? Dear Invited:When to arrive at any type of party seems to baffle many people, so Etiquetteer thanks you for the opportunity to present a few examples:

  • When you’re invited to a brunch that goes from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM, arrive at 11:00 AM. 
  • When you’re invited to a dinner party for 8:00 PM, arrive at 8:00 PM. 
  • When you’re invited to an evening party and the invitation says 9:00 PM, arrive at 9:00 PM.
  • If you and a friend decide to meet for drinks at 6:00 PM, meet at 6:00 PM.

Are you picking up a trend here? Etiquetteer certainly hopes so, because it should be perfectly obvious that you arrive at a party when the party starts. “Fashionable lateness” is a fraud perpetuated by the Lazy and the Perpetually Tardy. Etiquetteer has long said that “For Maximum Fun Potential, arrive punctually.”This also keeps your hosts from fretting that no one will ever get there.Every rule has its exceptions, of course:

  • When you are invited to a church wedding, you may arrive up to half an hour early for the music. Do NOT expect to be seated after the procession has started! 
  • Any time “ish” is added to an invitation, add 15 minutes. If a friend says “Let’s get together about six-ish,” you can show up any time between 6:00 and 6:15. 6:30 is pushing it, and 6:45 is downright rude. 
  • “Open house” invitations mean you can arrive any time during the party and remain Perfectly Proper. Indeed, Etiquetteer just attended a lovely open house that went from 2:00 – 9:00 PM one Saturday. People came and went throughout and the hosts received them happily whenever they appeared. (Etiquetteer cannot assume that you brunch invitation was an “open house” since you don’t use those words.) 

Oddly enough, the occasion when promptness is most important is not for a party at someone’s home, but when one is dining with a large party in a restaurant that will only seat complete parties. Dear Etiquetteer:I’m getting married soon, and want to know if it’s OK to include a link to our gift registry on our wedding website. So many people ask it seems like it will be easier. Dear Bride to Be:It depends on how greedy you want to appear. If you don’t mind at all that people will think you are a grasping, selfish young lady who is only inviting people to her wedding because of the gifts she expects to receive, then by all means, post a link.Please forgive Etiquetteer’s Moment of Temper. You are very correct that a large number of guests at any wedding will ask about what a couple might want as a gift. But not everyone does, far from it. Create a registry page, by all means, but don’t provide a link to it from your wedding home page. When your guests ask you or your mother (these questions still frequently come to the bride’s mother), e-mail them the link to the registry. In this way, Perfect Propriety is preserved.And if your mother doesn’t have e-mail (still a possibility) she can go back to the old-fashioned way and tell the querents “Oh, they’re registered at [Insert Name of Retailer Here]. Just ask for the list.” Dear Etiquetteer:What should I wear to a wedding in April?Dear Guest Appearance:Regardless of the time of year, take your cues from the invitation. For an evening wedding, if it says “black tie” or one of its many tiresome variations such as “festive black tie” or “creative black tie,” then a tuxedo for the gentleman and a long gown for the lady is most Perfectly Proper.Assuming that you are invited to a wedding that begins before 5:00 PM, gentlemen would wear dark business suits and ladies could wear day dresses or suits. Etiquetteer immediately thinks of those nubbly wool Chanel suits of the early 1960s. Add a hat, and Etiquetteer will love you forever. If April in your region is cold, this is also the time to get out your fur piece. Etiquetteer remembers Edith Wharton’s amusing description of “all the old ladies of both families” at Newland Archer’s wedding to May Welland. The wedding was in earliest April, and the ladies in question had all dug out their grandmother’s fur pelisses, scarves, tippets, and muffs for the occasion . . . so much so that Newland Archer noticed the smell of camphor over the wedding flowers.

Mourning Clothes, Vol. 7, Issue 8

Dear Etiquetteer:

I am puzzled at funeral fashions these days. Whatever happened to tasteful subdued dignified attire for funerals? I behold now the advent of funeral “flair” with a combination of puzzlement and dread.

Dear Mourning:

Like you, Etiquetteer is sometimes puzzled by what passes at funerals and memorial services these days. Unfortunately most people are too stupid to understand the original color code of mourning clothes, from deep mourning (all black with no ornamentation) to half mourning (black, white, gray, purple, brown, and sometimes green). These days a lady wearing black is more likely to be mistaken for a bridesmaid than a widow! Appearing all in black now is more likely to initiate the Question of Humorous Intent “Who died?” Humor is seen fleeing the room when the deceased is identified. Etiquetteer’s point is that mourning clothes are supposed to prevent stupid questions, not prompt them.Etiquetteer blames this Sad State of Affairs on Sally Kellerman, whose character in the 1980 sex comedy Serial wore white, with ostentatious spirituality, to a memorial service. (Actually, Etiquetteer really blames Coco Chanel, who famously designed the Little Black Dress after her lover Boy Capel was killed in a plane crash).These days Etiquetteer feels fortunate if everyone attending a funeral shows up neatly dressed without athletic shoes/clothes and without denim. One should be somberly dressed: no skin visible from neck to knees, no ostentatious bling (that’s redundant but Etiquetteer really wanted to make the point), nothing that looks fussy. And it seems necessary now to point out that one's shoes should be CLEAN!What one does see more of these days is mourning buttons or T shirts with the picture of the deceased on them. You may be surprised to find out that Etiquettteer rather likes this custom. It hearkens to the mourning ribbons and badges that used to be handed out when presidents were assassinated. Some beautiful examples from Abraham Lincoln’s funeral observances may be found at the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History at http://www.gilderlehrman.org/collection/docs_archive/docs_archive_lincoln.html Last week Etiquetteer saw in the press a bolder example of the memorial T-shirt. At the sentencing of convicted murderer Daniel Tavares, the families of his victims, Beverly and Brian Mauck, all wore T-shirts with pictures of the deceased underneath the legend “Among the Angels.”

Obviously this was not a funeral, but Etiquetteer was moved by this visible call for justice. To some, however, such attire might not be appropriate in a court of law. What do you think, readers? Please share your opinion at query (at) etiquetteer.com.In case you needed more proof that “low riders” are not Perfectly Proper, seacoastonline.com reported February 21 that a young woman was tossed off a bus because the driver could see her, ahem, rear cleavage – enough of it that he was offended. The young woman in question gave her address as a homeless shelter, and appears to have been in and out of trouble with the law over the last few months. Now if Etiquetteer was going to be flippant (which is easy to do) he would declare that it’s a good thing the look of the early 1960s is coming back and why isn’t Grace Kelly her role model anyway. But it seems clear that this young woman is what is called “acting out,” seeking negative attention. Apparently she is being helped by a mental health center in her area. So without flippancy, Etiquetteer can only turn to the title of that Victorian tearjerker “She Is More to Be Pitied Than Censured,” and hope that she will choose Perfect Propriety for her lot in the future. Have you had enough of that revolting troll checking you out in the locker room? Feel like a prude but just don’t want someone’s, uh, business in your face while you’re dressing? Sick and tired of workout benches glistening with the sweat of another? Etiquetteer is preparing a simple guideline for a future issue on Perfect Propriety at the Gym and is eager to hear from you at query (at) etiquetteer.com.

Kyla Ebbert’s Airline Wardrobe Brouhaha, Vol. 6, Issue 30

Once again bad behavior on the airlines is in the news, but Etiquetteer never expected it to have to do with a passenger’s wardrobe. As is frequently the case, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

The story in brief: in response to a complaint, a Southwest Airlines customer service representative tried to pull 23-year-old student and Hooters waitress Kyla Ebbert from a flight because her outfit was too skimpy. Ms. Ebbert felt humiliated and her mother felt angry. Because they haven’t received an apology from the airline, they have taken their story to the TODAY show.

Etiquetteer will turn his attention to Ms. Ebbert’s ensemble in a moment, but first must express sympathy with "Keith," the airline employee who had to address Ms. Ebbert. Southwest told TODAY that "Southwest Airlines was responding to a concern about Ms. Ebbert’s revealing attire on the flight that day." Etiquetteer takes this to mean that some busybody passenger decided to make trouble. With the Climate of Terrorism that already surrounds air travel, is this really the best use of an airline’s time? Whoever that passenger is ought to be heartily ashamed.

The Southwest response to TODAY continued "When a concern is brought to our Employees' attention, we address that situation directly with the Customer(s) involved in a discreet and professional manner." With passengers packed so tightly into an airplane, where is the opportunity for discretion? Even asking a passenger to return to the jetway calls attention, thereby eliminating discretion. Long story short, "Keith" made the best of a terrible situation for him. Etiquetteer can only commend him and deplore the situation he was put into by whoever was complaining AND the airline.

Now (said Etiquetteer rubbing his hands with glee) we can address what Ms. Ebbert actually wore on the flight. Her white denim miniskirt, "wifebeater" tanktop, and what Etiquetteer would describe as a green "matador-style" sweater have already been seen on national television and the Internet. Unfortunately for her sense of entitlement and righteous indignation, TODAY had to blur out her crotch when she wore that outfit on the show and sat down. Let’s just say that weakened her argument that there was nothing wrong with her outfit! Etiquetteer is hardly going to suggest that women go around in burqas or Mother Hubbards, but if you can see all the way to Crawford’s Notch when you’re seated, you are not dressed like a lady. Perhaps it has something to do with working at Hooters? Etiquetteer will let you decide that one.

But the single most tasteless decision made in this whole sorry story was the decision Ms. Ebbert and her mother made to bring this story to the national news. Having bad taste and, unfortunately, getting called out for it is one thing. Splashing your humiliation (and your air-brushed panties) all over the media is the most embarrassing thing the Ebberts could have done, if only they had the sense to realize it. What was Mrs. Ebbert doing there in the first place? Her daughter is over 21; hasn’t she been raised to fight her own battles?

Lots of people on the Internet are calling Ms. Ebbert filthy names not worth repeating here. Etiquetteer will only say that she has been sadly misguided about what is Perfectly Proper for a lady to wear and not be thought a Lady of the Evening only. In the meantime, Etiquetteer can only repeat what he’s said before: "No one wants to see your underwear outside the bedroom . . . and maybe not even there."

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.

White After Labor Day, Vol. 5, Issue 32

Dear Etiquetteer:

A group of us are planning to vacation together at a Southern beach resort this fall, a trip we’re all looking forward to. Last week one of my friends was casually talking about packing and said "Well, I’m definitely not packing anything white since it’ll be well after Labor Day." This led to a whole discussion about what was really right or not. One person said no white after Labor Day was right, and someone else said that that rule only applied to bags and shoes. Someone else even said that those rules didn’t apply if you’re on vacation or especially at the beach. What’s the real story on this, Etiquetteer?

Dear Whited Out:

How Etiquetteer wishes that all etiquette could be as straightforward as the Golden Rule! Issues like, this, however, prove that everyday manners can become very tangled, even more than Which Fork to Use.

Etiquetteer loves summer white, and really does not understand all these hipsters now changing out their summer black for their fall black. Etiquetteer believes this whole thing got started with Lily Hammersley, who later became the Duchess of Marlborough. During her first marriage she’d hang out at the Casino in Newport dressed completely in white and a total outcast. Her all-white wardrobe was branded as affected. Indeed, there were even cutting remarks about her in the paper! Later, after she’d moved away from Newport, everyone started wearing total white for the summer.* The first regiment in battle always takes the most bullets . . .

Just when and how to wear white becomes a little blurry – grayer, if you will – after Labor Day and before Memorial Day. The first thing to establish, since you all are heading off to the beach, is that white shoes and handbags are Perfectly Proper at resorts, even in autumn. Keep in mind that all the locals will recognize you as tourists, and therefore new in town and "ripe for the picking," as those Dickensian pickpockets used to say.

Daily life brings with it more restrictions, and one of the most inviolable is No White After Labor Day. White shoes, white handbags, white slacks, white jeans, white jackets, and especially white dinner jackets for men – are all Absolutely Improper in autumn, winter, and spring. No less a person than Katie Couric is still learning this important lesson, now that she’s taking justified criticism for wearing a white jacket for her first evening newscast. White gloves, on the other hand, are always Perfectly Proper for ladies, and Etiquetteer hopes you’ll run right off to get a pair to go with your Navy Red or Cherries in the Snow lipstick.

Dear Etiquetteer: After your advice earlier this summer, I just wanted to let you know that I got a lot of compliments on the seersucker suit I wore to the wedding (and a few Matlock comments), and there was at least one other person who wore seersucker to the wedding.

Dear Well-Suited: Thank you for letting Etiquetteer know! Let skeptics everywhere note (and you know who you are) that at an informal evening wedding in summer, a seersucker suit is just as Perfectly Proper as a dark suit.

*More on this charming lady and other American duchesses in Marian Fowler’s lovely book "In a Gilded Cage."