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

Table Manners: Bread and Oil, Vol. 13, Issue 54

Dear Etiquetteer: I've recently been to two restaurants where they brought out bread and put a small dish of olive oil on the table. In less posh restaurants, they put out a bottle and you can pour some oil on your bread plate.  But what does one do with the small dish?  Does one dip into the dish (thereby risking that someone will "double dip," or does one pour some on one's bread dish, which invariably leads to some oil spilling down the side of the serving dish and onto the table cloth?

Or does one just ask for butter?

Dear Oiled:

Few things at the table provide as much pleasure as a warm, yielding, and delicious piece of focaccia bread almost saturated with olive oil . . . except, perhaps, a warm, yielding, and delicious dinner partner saturated with je ne sais quoi.*

Oddly enough, the rules for bread and olive oil are nearly identical to those for bread and butter. When the table is supplied with one dish of olive oil, one breaks off a bite-sized bit of bread at a time to swipe through the oil, just as one breaks off one bite-sized bit of roll to butter at a time. Double dipping is never Perfectly Proper, whether from butter dish or saucer of oil. But Etiquetteer does recognize the greater margin for error with oil, since there's the temptation to treat it like dip. Incidentally, double dipping is also not Perfectly Proper with dip.

The key here - and many forget this - is that one does not butter the entire piece of bread at once, nor does one soak one's entire slab of focaccia at once, as though it were a sponge.

Pouring oil from a small dish, usually a saucer or bread plate, into your own receptacle runs too much risk for stains, and also looks awkward. If you must, ask the waiter for your own. Asking for butter when you've been served oil is really only asking for trouble.

*No, that is not the latest scent from Chanel.

Table Manners: "You just put your lips together and . . . or don't you?" Vol. 13, Issue 52

Dear Etiquetteer: At a brunch, is it improper when out at a restaurant or such to blow on your food to cool it?

Dear Brunched:

Reading your query, Etiquetteer was reminded first that the reason Chinese teacups have no handles is because, if the cup is too hot to pick up, the tea is too hot to drink. So a certain amount of Restraint is involved is consuming hot food. It's what separates us from the animals.

It's generally accepted that blowing on hot food to cool it is less than Perfectly Proper. Cutting small bites of solid food allows it to cool faster. Not filling your soup spoon all the way, Etiquetteer considers, would act on the same principle.

What's worse than blowing on one's food, in a private home, restaurant, "or such," is calling attention to someone else's doing so. Few topics of discussion are as tedious at the table as table manners, not least because it promotes performance anxiety, which detracts from the real purposes of a shared meal, Camaraderie and Conversation. And yet there are those, doubtless plagued by little Imps of Satan, who are eager to point out each and every mistake that someone makes, either because they think it's funny, or deliberately to make trouble. Etiquetteer needs them to stop it at once.

Etiquetteer will conclude by sharing that the late Emily Post took vigorous exception to the word "brunch," describing it as "that singled-headed double-bodied deformity of language." Mrs. Post vastly preferred "breakfast," because it "has a break-of-day friendliness that brings to mind every degree of hospitality from country breakfasts to hunt-meets and weddings. 'Brunch' suggests 'standees' at a lunch counter but not the beauty of hospitable living."* To which Etiquetteer, who has attended many lovely and hospitable brunches, can only respond Autre temps, autre moeurs.

* From Etiquette, by Emily Post, page 497, copyright 1937. Used without permission.

How Not to Tip, Vol. 13, Issue 36

First of all, Etiquetteer is writing about restaurant tipping only, and not the myriad of other service industries in which tipping is conducted. Let's establish that Etiquetteer has never been a fan of tipping. It is, however, the prevailing system in the restaurant industry, and regardless of how widely it's disliked, it isn't going away anytime soon. This means adapting to the prevailing tipping system of 15-20% of the total bill, depending on who you talk to. (Etiquetteer says 15%; other writers, and almost all restaurant server blogs, say 20%.) This also means tipping on the full amount of the bill if you are using a discount, coupon, or gift card. It is considered a kindness, when paying by credit card, to tip in cash so that the staff don't have to claim it separately when their shifts are over.

Bad service is the most legitimate reason not to tip fully, or not to tip at all. Etiquetteer encourages you not to be petty over brief delays in service - well, really, Etiquetteer encourages you not to be petty. Now if a waiter forgets an entire order for a member of your party (and this has happened to Etiquetteer), if a waiter spills a strawberry margarita on your head, etc., then you have sufficient grounds. Etiquetteer acknowledges that bad service happens, and that there are waiters and waitresses (Etiquetteer dislikes the term "server," but recognizes that that is an individual choice) who consistently perform poorly. Before tipping less than the standard percentage, consider also the circumstances. If the restaurant is full to bursting (think New York Saturday nights before the theatre, or Sunday anywhere after church - see below), delays in service are understandable; allowances must be made.

Quite possibly the worst, and certainly the most offensive, excuse not to leave a tip is proselytizing. Recently Etiquetteer discovered Sundays Are the Worst, a heart-breaking and angering blog about how poorly a segment of those who profess Christianity treat those who serve them. Pastor Chad Roberts and his congregation have created what might be the most innovative way ever to minister to a community in need; read how it came about here. Etiquetteer could spit tacks at some of the behavior exhibited - so much so that readers will have to peruse for themselves rather than read examples here. The Word of God may feed the soul, but it doesn't sustain our bodies as well as those who leave tracts instead of tips might light to think.

It's also worth pointing out that in a nation in which All Are Created Equal, it ill becomes anyone of any religion to behave as though they are "better" than anyone serving them. This doesn't mean that we all have become Best Friends Forever with those serving us, but it does mean acknowledging our Common Humanity.

Modern Technology, Vol. 13, Issue 28

Dear Etiquetteer: If Etiquetteer would do away with one aspect of modern technology, what would it be?

Dear Teched:

It would be the way people give precedence to people interacting with them via modern technology over people interacting with them in person. (Etiquetteer supposes this is really an aspect of the usage of modern technology rather than an aspect of technology itself, but will leave that to the hair-splitters.)

How many times have any of us been out and about with others only to have them actively engaged on their devices communicating with Those Dear and Far Away as opposed to us, the Near and Dear?

How many friends have we tried to talk with while they fail at surreptitiously glancing in their laps to read and send text messages?

How many dinner companions have we watched not just photograph their dinner (a relatively harmless trend borne of digital photography), but then post the photo to social media, and then wait for and interact with those commenting on the photo?

How many dinner parties have been derailed by focusing on a "phonestack" while everyone waits for (and perhaps bets on) a guest to weaken and respond to one's device?

How many quiet moments on public transportation have been shattered by fellow passengers with Music Loud Enough to Distinguish Lyrics blasting from earbuds firmly lodged in their ears?

How many times has one's view been blocked at a concert or performance by someone holding up their smartphone to record the whole thing, regardless of those seated in back?

How many checkout lines have been delayed by a customer calling a friend or family member to confirm something hasn't been forgotten - or just by being on the phone?

To all this, Etiquetteer can only say, stop it at once! Be with the people you're with! Show them the consideration of your attention and engagement. Not just your friends, family, and companions, but also the working people you interact with during the day: bus drivers, waiters and waitresses, cashiers, receptionists, ushers, bakers, clerks, salespeople, missionaries, tourists, law enforcement, house cleaners - everyone!

In other words, HANG UP AND LIVE! And don't make Etiquetteer come after you . . .

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.

Three Snapshots of New York, Vol. 7, Issue 3

Etiquetteer recently spent some time in Manhattan and saw a few things worthy of comment.

This sign, which appeared outside a popular restaurant/nightspot, reads "This is a residential building. Please be respectful of our neighbors. Kindly keep your noise level down and the sidewalk clear for pedestrian traffic."

 

Etiquetteer didn’t return at closing time to see how effective it was, but can only admire the sentiment and the effort this sign represents. Etiquetteer is sure that readers could suggest other establishments where such notification would be welcome!

Etiquetteer very much enjoyed a late lunch at Max Brennan’

s, but how on earth are you supposed to drink hot chocolate with Perfect Propriety out of a cup like this?!

 

Etiquetteer first thought it was being served in a gravy boat, but it’s really called a HugMug. You’ll note that it has no handle of any kind. The best Etiquetteer could manage was to grasp the wide end of the HugMug and sip from the spout. Certainly the hot chocolate was the best Etiquetteer had ever had!

If you’re wealthy enough to swan about Manhattan in a full-length fur coat, then you’re able to afford Perfectly Proper shoes in which to do so. Etiquetteer was appalled to see this misguided lady trudging along in a glamorous fur wearing wool socks and tennis shoes! Sweet merciful heaven, one doesn’t have to wear high heels, but one could at least wear non-athletic shoes and stockings instead of socks.

Talkative Strangers and Wedding Gifts, Vol. 5, Issue 17

EXAMPLES FROM THE DAILY LIFE OF ETIQUETTEER: Many people in the world have a need to talk. But Etiquetteer has no need to listen. Two recent experiences reminded Etiquetteer that, frequently, silence is golden.On Easter Sunday Etiquetteer found himself traveling by subway to an afternoon party. While innocently standing on the platform reading American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, an urgent young woman asked Etiquettteer the time. The time Etiquetteer gave her, however, was insufficient to send her away. "Oh my goodness, I’m late for church! And not that I go every Sunday, but the music is so good at the beginning of the service . . . " You can probably see where this is leading, but not the references to her boyfriend and her inability to pay her mortgage, which came about ten minutes later. Etiquetteer tried doggedly to continue reading, but concentration on the printed page was near impossible with this persistent flow of personal information. At the suggestion of a question, Etiquetteer saw an opening: "Oh I’m sorry, I’ve been reading my book and I wasn’t paying attention." Alas, this didn’t stop her, but the train did. (No, Etiquetteer didn't throw her under it.)Not long after that, Etiquetteer was enjoying the daily newspaper and a Cobb salad at the bar of a popular restaurant. Anyone who lunches at a restaurant bar knows that a certain amount of camaraderie between other diners is unavoidable, even welcome. But Etiquetteer finds it too much to ask to have to give up both paper and salad to focus fully on a total stranger. You see, an elderly man sitting next to Etiquetteer found his conversational opening with Etiquetteer’s lunch. "Say, that’s some salad!" he said. "Yes, it’s very good." Etiquetteer replied. "Now what all do they put in there?" he persisted. "Tomatoes, cheese – I’ll bet that’s bleu cheese – and turkey . . . " "No, it’s chicken." "OH, chicken! Oh, that’s good." Good heavens, Etiquetteer thought, must we discuss all the ingredients of this salad while I’m trying to eat it? This continued for no little time, until "Boy, the sandwiches we used to get at the [insert name of Defunct Cafeteria here]. Gosh . . . " and he just kept going on and on. Etiquetteer, exasperated, finally had to turn fully back to the newspaper and simply not respond. It was the only way to finish lunch without indigestion and still get back to the office on time.Heaven knows both of these people were harmless, but also clueless. A person with his nose in a book or newspaper should not look as though they are ready to strike up a conversation, and yet how often do we hear stories of just that happening? This may lead Etiquetteer to get an iPod . . .

Dear Etiquetteer:My husband and I found ourselves with opposing thoughts. (This rarely happens, so it's headline news around here.) One of us says that a wedding invitation can be answered with the regrets card plus a lovely congratulatory (or cute, depending on the couple) greeting card. The other one of us says no, that's what you do when an announcement is sent; an invitation obligates you to send a gift whether you're attending the wedding or not. If it makes any difference, one of us works at the same place (we couldn't even say "works with") the groom and we have never met the bride. What's correct?Dear Gifting:Now let Etiquetteer make this perfectly clear: a wedding invitation is not an invoice. If you and your husband feel you are close enough to his colleague, then by all means get the Happy Couple a gift. But only if you feel moved to do so. Otherwise send the reply card and a heartfelt message of congratulations.

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@etiquetteer.com.

 

Restaurants and Coffee Shops, Vol. 4, Issue 34

Dear Etiquetteer: On a recent trip with some friends, we stopped for lunch near a large university. The street was lined with any number of the usual sandwich and pizza joints, and a couple of nice-looking restaurants. We chose one almost at random that looked a little nicer than pizza joints and wasn't too crowded. There was no menu posted at the door, but we thought nothing of it given the neighborhood. After we were seated and the bread and water had arrived, we opened our menus and were aghast to find lunch entrees in the $30-$40 range, far more than we had intended to spend. Properly speaking, what are our options in such a situation? Dear Starving and Startled: Your letter reminds Etiquetteer vividly of a trip many years ago to that most interesting and self-oriented of cities, Manhattan. The news that Sally Ann Howes was performing in the Oak Room of the famous Algonquin Hotel lured Etiquetteer there with two friends. The entrance was so dark that we could not find a sign with the cover charge or menu; like you, no inkling of any financial outlay was revealed until we opened the bar menu and learned that the cover charge was $35 (or some equally outrageous figure) and that the drinks were priced on an equally lavish scale. The restaurant was so dark we think the waiter did not realize we were gone until the show started. At least Etiquetteer continues to hope so.To leave a restaurant as soon as you’ve been seated will only call attention to your party. And properly speaking, it’s never a good idea to call attention to oneself in public. You may infer from this that Etiquetteer finds it Perfectly Proper to lunch on ice water, salad, and Chagrin seasoned with Good Humor.That said, Etiquetteer knows it is simply not possible, financially, for some people to take even that course. When departure is the only option, leave the restaurant quietly. If stopped by the waiter or maitre d’, simply say "I’m sorry we can’t stay for lunch, but we have been suddenly called away" and no more, no matter how tempted you are to keep talking. Trust Etiquetteer, they know why you can’t stay.This should also be a lesson always to look for the menu posted outside most restaurants in little glass cases so that you know what you're getting into before you get into it.

Dear Etiquetteer: Something happened today that really annoyed me and I have to ask your advice. At a coffee shop in the town where I vacation, I was patiently waiting for my coffee for a longer than usual time. Turns out my coffee had been taken by the mayor of the town where I live! Is this reason enough to vote for the other candidate? Dear Caffeinated Constituent: Heavens, people change their votes over much more trivial reasons, so Etiquetteer doesn’t see why not. On the other hand, was it abuse of power, absentmindedness, or ignorance of whose coffee he had that led him to take your coffee? Unless the mayor in question has a record of corruption, Etiquetteer would encourage you to give him the benefit of the doubt.

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@etiquetteer.com.

 

Random Issues, Vol. 4, Issue 19

Dear Etiquetteer: When going out as a group for lunch, how much do you pay when you know you only ordered a small salad but everyone else had drinks and appetizers, too? And how do you politely, firmly refuse to pay more? Sometimes avoiding the lunch is not an option. Dear Lunched: What Etiquetteer does like to avoid, especially in a group larger than six people, is the bickering of the who-ordered-what variety, which can keep people at table longer than the lunch itself and get accountants whipping out their cell-phone calculators. Dividing the bill equally does solve that problem, but if you always eat sparingly at lunch, that plan won’t work for you in the long haul. When you find yourself in a group and the last person with the check announces that everyone needs to put in more money to cover the bill, and you’ve calculated that you’ve already put in your share and a little bit more perhaps, you need only say "I’ve already covered my portion of the bill; I just had a small salad." It would be ill-bred of anyone at the table to contradict. But if the difference is only one or two dollars, Etiquetteer encourages you to overlook it. Otherwise, it will help you to be the first person to get your hands on the bill, quickly total what you owe (always including tax and tip), insert your contribution into that little leather portfolio thing, and hand it to the next person saying "I’ve included what I owe for my lunch."

Dear Etiquetteer: Is it possible to thank someone TOO much? Dear Grateful: When someone either a) comes to expect your gratitude or b) believes you’re insincere, you’ve thanked someone too much.

Dear Etiquetteer: What precautions can one take to make sure e-mail--whether its tone or content--will not be misconstrued? Dear Misunderstood: Proofread! When composing an e-mail, Etiquetteer frequently finds it helpful to read the first draft as a recipient. Put yourself in their desktop, as it were. Etiquetteer tends to include more explicitly words like "Please" and "thank you," and to write in complete sentences rather than shorthand. Reviewing your e-mail is also helpful as you don’t want anyone to misconstrue you as a dolt or an idiot. This is the time to proofread from a spelling and grammar point of view as well as tone and content. The difference between "We will not be meeting at 2 PM" and "We will now be meeting at 2 PM" says it all.Including a specific subject line will help your recipients enormously. For instance Etiquetteer receives a lot of e-mail with the subject line "Etiquetteer," or "Question for you." It would be more helpful to write "Question About Invitations" "Tipping Dilemma" or "Gift-Giving Advice Needed" instead. Etiquetteer is sure that we all have rafts of e-mail messages headed "Hi," "Hello," or the very helpful "<no subject>". What more need be said?

Find yourself at a manners crossroads and don't know where to go? Ask Etiquetteer at query@etiquetteer.com!

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@etiquetteer.com.