The Hostly Host, Vol. 12, Issue 6

Remarks given by Etiquetteer at a meeting of Toastmasters at MIT, February 27, 2013: The late Melville Bell Grosvenor, editor of National Geographic and very much a gentleman of the old school, knew that a host's principal responsibility was to make his guests feel comfortable. One story shared in a National Geographic tribute illustrated just how far a gentleman could go to do so. A young journalist accepted an invitation to attend an evening event at the Grosvenor's winter home in a Southern state. All the gentlemen present were wearing white bucks, leaving the young journalist embarrassed to be the only gentleman in black shoes. Mr. Grosvenor quietly went upstairs to his room, and returned a few moments later wearing black shoes himself. This simple, quiet gesture helped put that young man at his ease.

Indeed, what are the basic points of serving as a host? A host's first duty is to make his guests feel welcome. To begin at the beginning, a host must first arrive at the event in advance of his guests; this is especially true for business functions conducted outside the office, and in communities like Boston where traffic creates unforeseen difficulties. A host then creates feelings of welcome and reassurance in his guests by greeting them by name and with a warm handshake. James K. Polk, the 11th President of the United States, used two devices to assist him. Before bed every night, he would make out a list of everyone he had seen during the day, a memory exercise that served him well; he was never known to greet anyone by mistake. The second device he created out of self-preservation. Polk was a slight gentleman without a robust constitution who had to be constantly shaking hands. He wrote ". . . shake and not be shaken, grip and not be gripped," meaning that it was helpful to be the first into a handshake. He would be sure to offer his hand first and grab the other man near the tips of his fingers, thereby reducing the risk of being squeezed painfully by the other.

A host also promotes comfort by introducing guests to each other, and Etiquetteer recommends doing this immediately with anyone in the vicinity. This is especially important for newcomers, whether in professional or social settings, and should also include a very brief fact, such as "This is Bob Gray. We went to college together" or "I'd like you to know Lisa Morris, general counsel at our local hospital." This gives people a toehold on which to start a conversation without the host present.

Guests at a party, whether social or professional, also like to be reassured that there will be refreshments, since it isn't very polite to ask. Dorothy Draper, in her very amusing book Entertaining Is Fun, emphasizes more than once that guests should be offered drinks immediately on arrival. " . . . the drinks are ready on their table for the host to serve them as the party gathers. These are ready to be served at once so there is no awkward standing around, waiting for the party to begin." When entertaining at a restaurant or hotel, having a waiter or barman on duty to offer drinks or take orders helps move the party along.

A host smooths disagreements between guests should they happen to come up. Many people of good intentions may share honest disagreements, but a party is not always the place to bring them up. A host changes the subject deftly. When the recalcitrant resist, it may be necessary to say "This isn't the time to talk about it." In the movie Advise and Consent, a skillful Washington hostess defuses a humorless, insistent Senator. Protesting, the Senator says "This is no laughing matter!" to which the hostess replies "Then perhaps this isn't the place to discuss it."

And at the end of a function, a host communicates genuine regret that guests must depart. The great Sarah Bernhardt always suggested that one greet guests with "Enfin!" and, when they announced their departure, to look wistfully and ask "Dejá?" A smile and a kind word do much to "speed the parting guest."

Your own queries about entertaining are always welcome at queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com.

Holiday Fallout, Vol. 12, Issue 1

Dear Etiquetteer:

An ex of mine and I tried unsuccessfully to be friends. Historically his efforts at outreach during "friendship" mode were on the manipulative side and our mutual friends advised we leave each other alone. We are not a part of each other's lives, nor do we correspond; he lives with his current BF.

He just sent me an Xmas gift. One friend suggested I throw the gift out. I am inclined to keep it and ignore it as any further action is an over-reaction. Ignoring it (and, specifically, not sending a thank you note) horrified my mother. While propriety generally would suggest I thank him, is it acceptable in this case to ignore?

Dear Gifted:

Oh my goodness.

Action on your part is required. Keeping this unwelcome gift from your ex without acknowledging its receipt may prompt him to contact you to ask if you received it, and it doesn't sound as if you want your ex calling, texting, or knocking on your door. This leaves two options: a) keeping the gift and sending a Civil Note of Thanks, or b) returning the gift with a Civil Note of Thanks.

Since you have no interest in resuming any sort of contact at all with your ex, Etiquetteer recommends the latter. Keeping the gift - or even donating it to a Charity of Your Choice - implies a resumption of social intercourse, even at the most superficial level. And actually, there's a history of recipients returning gifts because they didn't think they could accept the terms. Anna Leonowens, real life heroine of "The King and I," wrote in her memoir "An English Governess at the Siamese Court" about receiving a beautiful diamond ring from her employer, King Mongkut, along with a Meaningful Look. Knowing that a search for a comely European lady or two for the king's harem was in progress, Mrs. Leonowens shortly returned the ring after some deliberation, feeling that she could not receive it in the spirit in which it was intended. [NOTE: A hasty search of this engaging but sometimes ponderous memoir does not actually yield the necessary passage to verify this story; Etiquetteer fears it must be read in its entirety to find it.]

Your Civil Note of Thanks may be quite brief, along the lines of

Dear Ex,

Thank you for the gift of _________, but I regret that I am unable to accept it. I am enclosing it herewith so that someone else can enjoy it.

Yours truly, (Yours sincerely is more intimate, so stick with truly)


This should be chilly enough to prevent future Unwelcome Outbursts of Rapprochement.

Dear Etiquetteer:

I have a holiday party question. What do you do about former spouses and family members who are otherwise estranged, when you are still friendly to all of the people involved? Do you choose? Invite and warn them? Invite and let them sort it out?

Dear Partying:

Etiquetteer always makes it a practice to remain friendly with both sides of a separated couple, and therefore invites both to large gatherings. Family gatherings can be tricky; by its being a family event, anyone in the family should be able to attend. Etiquetteer's mother's explanation of the Daughters of the American Revolution pretty much settles it: "If you can prove you belong, they have to let you in." Often a divorced parent will join a holiday meal with ex-inlaws because his or her children will be there.

Admission, however, does not mean submission to Bad Behavior. Unsurprisingly, it's extremely rude to start a fight at a party, whether one is throwing words, dishes, or fists. Most people will accept the presence of a blood enemy at a Family Holiday Function without Making a Scene. Those who don't feel they can control themselves have a duty to decline the invitations, so that they can spare others embarrassment. Hosts help by providing information, along the lines of "We're inviting everyone in the family, and of course [Insert Name of Blood Enemy Here] will be here, too."

Declining Charitable Appeals, Vol. 11, Issue 18

Dear Etiquetteer: Have you ever addressed what to do when multiple friends request via email, Facebook, and other social media, donations to their cause of the moment? I receive multiple email requests and reminders throughout my friends' fund-raising process. Although I would love to support each friend and every cause, how do I address the issue? I feel bad ignoring their request and guilty if I cannot support every cause every year for financial reasons. It seems if I donate once then it is expected I will donate every year. Any suggestions or articles you have would be appreciated as the requests are for good causes and many are from good friends that I would like to keep!

Dear Solicited:

Allow Etiquetteer to put you at ease, because your feelings are not unique. For all the hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens who advocate and raise funds for Charities of Their Choice, there are hundreds of thousands more fellow citizens who would rather not make a donation and feel awkward about saying No.  Solicitations come in many forms, from raffle tickets and bake sales to special event tickets and race sponsorships to invitations to join various giving societies. More often than not, the requests won't stop until an answer of some sort is received; many fund-raisers use the equation Silence = Hope. Declining graciously an opportunity to contribute to a friend's cause ends your anxiety and also allows your friend to direct his or her energy toward others who may wish to support that particular cause.

So, what is the most Perfectly Proper thing to say? The most neutral is "Thank you, but I have other charitable priorities right now," which could mean that you're directing your largesse to Charities of Your Choice, saving money for your own purposes, or just scraping by paying your daily expenses.  There is no need at all to specify, and should your friend ask, identify the Charity of Your Choice if you wish, or simply reply "I prefer not to say since I contribute anonymously." By all means, soften the blow by praising the Charity of Their Choice (if you agree with its mission) and thanking your friend for his or her work on its behalf.

It's not uncommon for those who have given in a previous year to be asked again. If you're unable to repeat the donation, it's Perfectly Proper to respond that you were so pleased to contribute in the past, but that your priorities have changed in the current year.

Volunteer fund-raisers are wise to put their friendships first and not continue to press for generosity after being declined. It would be a sad thing if, blinded by Zeal, they dropped you as a friend for your lack of financial support -- but it would be their loss.

It's ironic that Etiquetteer should receive a query about how to decline fund-raising requests, since Etiquetteer is hosting a fund-raising event for the Gibson House Museum on Monday, December 3! Should you be unable to participate in this sophisticated and jolly celebration of the Repeal of Prohibition, you at least know how to give your decline to Etiquetteer with Perfect Propriety.

Correcting a Colleague, Vol. 11, Issue 16

Dear Etiquetteer: I am sending you a photo of one of my colleagues who has put his feet up on a table where people are going to eat! What can I say to this man to get him to behave. It's so rude!

Dear Footed:

Your plea reminds Etiquetteer of the plight of a well-known German singer who toured the American Southwest at some point in the late 19th Century. Finding a cowpoke's boot-shod feet between the footlights one night, she interrupted her lazy glissandi to ask his name and whether or not he was in show business. Learning that he was not, in fact, in show business, she rose to her full height, declaimed "THEN WHY DON'T YOU GET YOUR [untranslatable] FEET OFF THE STAGE?" and kicked him completely to the floor. Thus did Lili von Shtupp* make her mark in the annals of saloon entertainment.**

Cognoscenti of this column will know that Etiquetteer is rather well acquainted with this man and has had to remonstrate with him on a few occasions about his behavior. What's even more astonishing than his rumpled, self-important fatigue seen here is that the book at right is Cleveland Amory's The Proper Bostonians. As Celeste Talbert famously asked, "How in the name of God is it possible?"

You would certainly be within the bounds of Perfect Propriety to tell your colleague that his feet need to move, especially with the impending arrival of food, as often as need be until the feet are removed. And Etiquetteer knows for a fact that he wiped down that portion of the table. Let's just hope it doesn't happen again.

*The second P would indicate that Fraulein von Shtupp was from the Bavarian branch of the family.

** Cognoscenti will also recognize that this little anecdote comes from the Mel Brooks film Blazing Saddles.

Interacting With the Homeless, Vol. 11, Issue 12

Dear Etiquetteer: How does one politely rouse and roust a passed-out drunk/drug addict whose prone form is making your steps impassable? (I am afraid that I was sufficiently exercised by this that I did not act with perfect propriety.)

Dear Impeded:

Etiquetteer can assure you that this is without doubt the most original query ever received. (Those who would like to test Etiquetteer's mettle are invited to do so by submitting queries to <queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com>.)

City dwellers are more likely to experience such encounters with those who are more compassionately referred to as "the homeless" and with less political correctness (but perhaps more accuracy) as "vagrants." Your interest in asking how to interact politely in such a situation shows the conflict between wanting to recognize the dignity of our common humanity, anger at trespassing on your property, fear of becoming too greatly involved in the troubles of another, and fear of violence against your person.

Etiquetteer remembers many years ago thundering down the interior stairs of his apartment building to find a homeless person sleeping inside the first floor hallway. You may be sure that Etiquetteer was scared to death discovering this situation, especially at a high rate of speed. That person awoke, or something . . . and all Etiquetteer can really remember is repeating over and over "You can't stay here, you can't stay here!" before fleeing the building. Needless to say, this was not Etiquetteer's Proudest Moment. At least Etiquetteer was able to depart. You, on the other hand, are quite literally held captive by the situation.

People can be placed in one of three groups in interactions with the homeless: the Compassionate*, whose first thought is to help; the Neutral, who bear no ill will but don't want to be inconvenienced; and Those Who Do Not Want to Be Bothered, which pretty much Says It All. Regardless of how you place yourself in these groups, your safety is most important. If you don't feel safe at any time, Etiquetteer encourages you to call local law enforcement. But be prepared for them not to make your call an immediate priority.

Your first move in this interaction should be courteous but authoritative. Based on your description, you will have to jostle this person with the door gently, but with increasing firmness, frequency, and calls of "Excuse me please," and/or "I'm sorry, you can't stay here," until they are conscious. They will then either leave, or try to engage you in conversation. How you choose to react to that will depend entirely on into which of the three groups you belong. But if it's the latter two, Etiquetteer encourages you not to give way to temper and merely repeat and repeat "I'm sorry, I can't help you. Please leave." If you are in a hurry, Etiquetteer must tell you to resign yourself to being late.

If you wish, provide information about resources available to the homeless in your community. (It helps to have this handy; Etiquetteer does not like to think of this being a frequent occurrence in your neighborhood, but if so, you might consider compiling such information into a card or brochure.)

Etiquetteer will conclude by noting that there are many wicked and anonymous people on the Internet who have suggested getting rid of the homeless by means of poison, bullets, booby traps, etc. Such suggestions do NOT contribute to the discussion. Almost all homeless people do not want to be homeless. The National Alliance to End Homelessness provides much information about the homeless population in the United States, and sobering information it is. If nothing else, this experience is certainly an opportunity to reflect on your own good fortune.

* Christians are taught to see the face of Jesus in every person, and treat them accordingly. Possibly those who transgress against this view should be subjected to repeated viewings of Pay It Forward.

Today is Labor Day, and Etiquetteer expects you to join him in sending off your white linen to the dry cleaners in anticipation of Memorial Day next year. We now return to all fabrics but linen and seersucker, veering more to heavier wools (and velvet for the ladies) as the temperature plunges. Etiquetteer welcomes your queries about What to Wear with Perfect Propriety at <queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com>.

Husband Alone at Wedding, Vol. 11, Issue 11

Dear Etiquetteer: I am invited to a family member's wedding in another state this fall, and expect to be able to attend. I shall be attending toute seule, as two of the children are in college, one will be in the thick of things in high school, and my bride believes her place is at home, making sure he's staying on task. Although the bride and groom to be are in their late thirties, this is their first marriage, and I'm just thrilled for them.

My questions are manifold: first is the obvious what to wear. Is a dark suit acceptable? If so, white shirt or light-coloured?

Second, the rehearsal dinner is at someone's home, so is that a suit occasion, or 'smart casual,' which I tend to think of as a dress shirt, open at the neck, and dark slacks?

Is there a footwear custom of which I should be aware in New York? In Minnesota, it is customary to remove one's shoes upon entering someone's home--with snow and slush covering the ground half the year, it makes sense to doff footwear so as to avoid tracking that mess into your hostess's carpeting. But I was not taught this social grace growing up in Michigan, so I don't know whether it's regional, or just a reflection of my mother's agricultural background.

The invitations say nothing about dress, and I'm confident that if I ask my brother or his wife, they will assure me that what's important is my presence, not what I'm wearing, which is characteristically kind of them, but ultimately unhelpful.

Gift? What is considered proper these days? Since they aren't teenagers, just getting started in life, they probably don't need a silver fondue pot or a half dozen toasters, and they've had the grace to omit any mention of a registry in their invitations. Would a nice card, with a check inside it be appropriate, and if so, is there a standard amount?

The couple have arranged for a block of hotel rooms at a reasonable rate. Is it expected that I will stay there, our is it perfectly acceptable to make my own arrangements elsewhere?

Finally, my son is attending college about four hours away from the wedding location, and I would like to spend a few hours with him the day after the wedding; is it permissible to leave the reception 'early,' say, around 10pm, to get started on that drive, or is the expectation that the guests will remain until the newlyweds retire?

Dear Husband:

That's a forthright series of questions, and Etiquetteer has answers:

WHAT TO WEAR: The invitation should have the dress code on it, but since you say that it doesn't, you must ask your brother and his wife. If they, as you predict, say "We really just want you to be there, it doesn't matter what you wear!" you must ask in reply, "What are YOU wearing?" Base your choices on what they're planning to wear. (But really, Etiquetteer cannot understand why hosts for big family events like weddings neglect adding basic information guests need like what to wear.)

REMOVAL OF FOOTWEAR: It is never Perfectly Proper to expect people to remove their shoes in one's home without warning them in advance. Again, you must ask your hosts what they expect since they've neglected to include this on the invitation, but Etiquetteer rather expect they'll tell you to leave your shoes on.

GIFT: A check is always Perfectly Proper as a wedding gift. Etiquetteer is delighted to hear that registry information was omitted from the invitation! That said, you may now ask if there is a registry and purchase something from it as your gift, if you wish. Etiquetteer is not going to suggest a gift amount. That depends entirely on the means and inclination of you and your wife.

ACCOMMODATIONS: The guest block has been arranged for the convenience of wedding guests. If it's more convenient for you to stay elsewhere, then it is Perfectly Proper for you to do so.

DEPARTURE: Married couples aren't royalty (though some brides clearly think of themselves as princesses) so you don't have to wait for them to make their departure before yours. It's customary, however, for guests to remain until the couple have been showered with rice (or birdseed (for the politically correct), bubbles (for the whimsical) or rose petals (for the romantic with unlimited resources)), so you should tip off the family that you'll need to be on the road before festivities end.

Next weekend is Labor Day, the official -- and often sad -- end of Summer. Etiquetteer expect you to join him in carefully folding away your white linen and treeing your white shoes until Memorial Day comes again next year. In the meantime, please do send your autumnal questions about manners to <queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com.>

Layoffs and Colleagues, Vol. 11, Issue 10

Dear Etiquetteer: I was recently catching up with an acquaintance and asked “How’s work?” and got the reply “Well, I was laid off.” I’m not sure what to say beyond “I’m so sorry to hear this.” How does one respond supportively, but not obtrusively? It’s a little easier with a closer friend as you can be a bit more intimate.  If it’s someone you don’t know so well, it can be tricky.

Dear Properly Concerned:

How Very Delicate of you to consider how best to respond without Unnecessary Prying. More often than not those in Unwilling Professional Transition are pestered with coded queries such as:

Question: "What happened?" (Meaning: "Were you fired?")

Question: "Were you downsized?" (Meaning: "Were you fired?")

Question: "Did they let a lot of other people go, too?"  (Meaning: "Were you fired?")

Question: "What are you doing?" (Meaning: "Were you fired?")

Question: "Are you OK?" (Meaning: "Were you fired?")

Question: "I suppose you'll take some time to yourself now." (Meaning: "Did you get a good severance package when they fired you?")

People react differently to being unemployed. Some go into complete tailspins. Others express anger, take a philosophical attitude, proactively begin networking by making the job search their Topic Number One, or decline to talk about it altogether. Gauge your response by that of your acquaintance. For the reluctant, drop the topic. For the angry and the depressed, listen and make Noncommittal Sounds of Sympathy. For the philosophical, speculate with them on ideal or fantasy careers.

The sentence "I'm so sorry this happened to you" is often the best response. Etiquetteer advises care with "If there's anything I can do to help, please let me know." Only say this if you truly intend to help out when asked! Few things are as embarrassing for those in Unwilling Professional Transition than asking for help from those who have said  "If there's anything I can do to help, please let me know" -- whether it's for a professional introduction, review of a resume or correspondence, or even grocery money -- and then not getting it.

Dear Etiquetteer:

I need your help. My male colleague in the next cubicle wears the most annoying cologne. I think this is a fairly new habit because I have never noticed it until today. I have been sitting next to him for the last five months but we have never really talked so I can't just tell him "whatever you're wearing must stop". But I guess I have to. Is there a kind way to do this?

Dear Asphyxiated:

Someone once decreed that one's perfume should not be noticed in a room where one is not, in fact, present. Which is the problem with cubicles -- they're all in the same room!

Questions of Hygiene in the Workplace must be approached sensitively. And questions of cologne are especially sensitive, since scent is used to enhance one's Personal Appeal. (Please note: Etiquetteer did not say Sex Appeal since the setting for this query is the workplace. Those looking to enhance their Sex Appeal in the workplace . . . well, all Etiquetteer can say is, they'd better watch out, or they could find themselves laid off [see above].) It must be a jolt to find out that something one thought of as a positive has turned out to be such a negative that it's created a problem for a colleague.

Your concerns must be approached with sensitivity, too. Many people have olfactory health issues that are exacerbated by heavy or pungent scent, leading them to lobby for Fragrance Free Zones in their workplaces. Whether or not your own reaction to this is medical or just annoyed, Etiquetteer imagines it impacts your productivity. No one can type well while holding a handkerchief to one's nose.

Etiquetteer believes most people who apply their scent heavily don't realize the impact it has. You can bring up the topic casually ("Did you just get some new cologne?") and then segue into the heart of the matter ("Actually, it's quite overpowering.") If the idea of raising this issue creates too much anxiety, talk to your supervisor about it. That's what supervisors are for, after all! Your supervisor can address this issue anonymously on your behalf with your Highly Scented Colleague, or can arrange for a Fragrance Free Zone for you by moving your cubicle.

Easter Traditions, Vol. 3, Issue 14

This column was originally published April 10, 2004, and updated April 13, 2019.

Dear Etiquetteer:

Here's an Easter horror show that needs your help. My parents traditionally host an Easter dinner at their home and all their brood arrive for the egg hunt and madcap capers on the lawn such as tug of war, egg throws, relays with eggs upon a spoon, etc. For such a fun day of activities my siblings bring along their spouses, significant others, and sometimes a close friend.

Last year I brought my friend "Priscilla". "Priscilla" didn't wish to inconvenience her hosts and therefore asked me to not mention to my mother, the one slaving away in the kitchen, that she is a vegetarian. Well, lamb is the traditional meal at Easter, and my mother each year prepares a tasty one complete with a light gravy and mint sauce. Yum!

Anyway, as the least known guest at the dinner table my mother proudly set the plate of lamb beside "Priscilla" so that she could admire and receive the first slices. While the family said grace my friend gazed sadly at the steaming lamb and began to cry, at first quietly and then in great sobs, overcome with grief that fine Christians were celebrating the resurrection of their Savior with the sacrifice of an innocent, sweet, woolly lamb. The offending dish was moved away and after a trip to the bathroom and some comforting in the hall she was able to pull herself together. For the rest of us, the dinner, especially the meat course, was ruined.

Was my friend over sensitive and inconsiderate to make such a scene? Should I have informed my mother of my friend's dietary needs despite my friend's protest? Will my mother ever let me invite a friend to dinner again?

Dear Lady Black Sheep:

Sounds like your friend failed in her mission not to inconvenience the hosts.

Really, a simple “No, thank you, I don’t eat meat” was all that was needed.

Great Deity of Your Choice above, if your friend cannot control herself more, she will really have to remain at home. Etiquetteer cannot excuse her lack of control after having received a signal mark of honor from your mother. It’s a little like being served the sheep’s eye in certain Middle Eastern cultures. To refuse it is the height of rudeness, no matter how revolting one finds it. This is not to say that "Priscilla" is obliged to eat the lamb offered to her; in the United States most people respect the wishes of vegetarians.

The real lesson here, Lady Black Sheep, is always work with a hostess who is entertaining strangers. One never knows when one may be avoiding a fatal allergy instead of a dietary preference. And in this case an appalling scene could have been avoided.

Etiquetteer thinks it would be a Lovely Gesture on the part of "Priscilla" to send flowers and an Abject Note of Apology to your mother for destroying your family’s holiday, and that you might send your mother flowers, too. Since one of the great themes of Christianity is forgiveness, Etiquetteer hopes and expects that your mother will again allow you to bring guests to your family Easter.


Dear Etiquetteer:

As a child growing up in the south Easter was a wonderful celebration of Sunday School, white pique coats, baskets of goodies and flowers all over. And Easter dinner always featured a wonderful baked ham, homemade rolls, and hand-cranked ice cream. Of course, growing up changed a lot of that but not the Easter dinner to be shared.

Now, here's my latter-day problem. My good Jewish friends have invited me to share a Seder. It was a great experience hearing the traditional messages and enjoying a wonderful array of fine food. I would love to extend an invitation to them to share our feast but these friends are devout Jews who keep Kosher and I do not know how to feed them. My Christian table will include not only ham but also flour, dairy, and a host of other things. At Christmas, I chicken out (pardon the pun) and host a meal at a restaurant but I would so like to share our traditions.

Dear Share and Share Alike:

Knowing you as he does, Etiquetteer understands your heartfelt desire to reciprocate the invitation of your friends to share something equally meaningful. But alas, Etiquetteer can think of no greater insult than to ask Orthodox Jews to sit down to a table with a glistening pink ham on it. That’s the most familiar of all the Jewish dietary laws: no pork. It would not create the impression you desire.

Not being Jewish, Etiquetteer found it necessary to consult an Orthodox friend, who strongly advised against any invitation at all – though she, too, recognizes the spirits of reciprocity and hospitality that motivate you. If they keep strict dietary laws, they won't be able to eat at all. In addition, she explained that the Easter holiday has different connotations for Jews, as it was on Easter when Christians historically enacted pogroms against them. As her Brooklyn-born husband says, "Ah, Easter, the holiday when I'd get beat up."

Etiquetteer might suggest as a compromise an Easter Monday gathering, where you might recycle your lovely decorations and serve a kosher version of your traditional menu.


Dear Etiquetteer:

Would you like to know how a "mixed" household handles celebrating Passover and Easter? We don't celebrate Easter in our house. Since my husband isn't Jewish, his mother's house is where the Easter Bunny comes.

Now we don't expect Grandma to cover this. We just want to establish the difference in holidays that often overlap. We often buy a few sweets, we reuse plastic eggs and our young son has a metal Easter basket. We fill the eggs at night and deliver them to Grandma. Grandma helps us hide them a few days in advance and we're ready for the big day.

This all works out well with a young child. We usually get him a small present, like an inexpensive kite or something he can play with in the bathtub. We buy the gifts and supplies, and Grandma loves hosting the event. This has worked well for the last three years. We also clean up any gift-wrap or wayward grass that always seems to come out of the basket.

Next year, have a column about Passover traditions and how to stay yeast and leavened free for a week!

Dear Separate But Equal:

Thank you for providing one example of how a blended family manages two different traditions. Every family – even those in which both sides celebrate the same religious holidays – has to find ways to spend time with each set of relatives. Etiquetteer is particularly glad you found a way to involve your sweet widowed mother-in-law; this Easter solution must help forge a special bond between her and your son.

Signs of the Times, Vol. 11, Issue 6

Occasionally Etiquetteer finds worthy of comment Instructional Signs of varying degrees of Perfect Propriety that have been posted to direct one's behavior.

First, from a convenience store in Boston, Massachusetts, a profane suggestion to discontinue using one's cellphone before approaching the cashier.

While Etiquetteer certainly sympathizes with the staff - it is difficult to serve people who are actively ignoring you by conducting a phone conversation during a transaction - this sign exemplifies "service with a snarl."

Next, from a public accommodation in Boston, Massachusetts, a moment of gentle humor to remind pet owners that their pets, while surely the most well-behaved pets one can imagine, are still against the law in this particular accommdation.

Then, in a school cafeteria in Michigan, Etiquetteer found this:

To which Etiquetteer can only respond "Thank you, I'll just have coffee." How extremely sad that it's even necessary to post such a sign.

Etiquetteer wishes he could remember the exact locale where this sign was placed:

Etiquetteer can only imagine that a team of destructive acrobats colonized a restroom once for someone to create this sign. The reference to the broken handle proves that the budgets of small towns are being stretched. Still, an injection of levity with the substitution of "Thou Shalt NOT" for "DO NOT" might have helped.

Lastly, from the Basilica of Sacre Coeur in Paris:

This translates "Silence, Correct Dress, No Photography, Thank You." Etiquetteer is pleased to report that, when visiting this remarkable place in 2011, visitors did indeed observe all these rules.

Please direct your etiquette queries to Etiquetteer at queries <at>

Tardiness, Vol. 11, Issue 4

Dear Etiquetteer: I am late. Woefully late. Inexcusably late.

I am about a week late on returning an e-mail and about three weeks late on returning a phone call. Most frustrating, I am about a month and a half late on returning a corrected item to a customer. As you may have assumed, I am self-employed.

I have reasons for these delays largely surrounding a family medical emergency. However, being late is still impolite and unprofessional. At this point, I am afraid even to interact with these people out of embarrassment.

Better late than never is the refrain, isn't it? How exactly does one approach, apologize for, and move on from the lack of any semblance of propriety?

Dear Tardy:

Fear makes everything worse. A dear friend of Etiquetteer's once asked the question "Well, what's the worst thing that could happen?" He would walk himself through an exercise of the worst thing that could happen if he did or did not take a particular action or respond to a particular problem. He would deliberately bring this chain of circumstances to an end at the point where he was living in a box underneath the stairs of a busy subway station. This usually brought home the absurdity of his reluctance to take action.

What is true is that any further delay will compromise your professional reputation. Make the decision to respond to the customers in question today, adding only, "A family emergency has taken me away from my work. I apologize for not letting you know about this sooner." It is not necessary to provide additional information about the emergency in question. If asked for specifics, you need only say something like "Everything's been taken care of" or "The situation has stabilized. Thank you for your concern." Then give them a deadline when you will respond to their requests, and be sure to honor it.

Most people do tend to be sympathetic in such circumstances. Now go forth in confidence!

Air Travel, Vol. 11, Issue 3

Dear Etiquetteer: I happen to be an "above average" sized individual who was fortunate enough to get to spend a month overseas.  The flight over was wonderful as I had first/business class accommodations and the design of that particular aircraft was such that there were only single seats at the sides (bulkhead) and double seats in the middle.  I had a window seat so my size was not really an issue except for my own comfort.  Coming back, however, I still had first/business class accommodations, but the design of this aircraft didn't include single seats anywhere.  I ended up with a seat next to a gentleman who was obviously used to flying "solo" and enjoyed his creature comforts.  As I was one of the last to board I ended up having to get settled into place after he was already seated and settled.  I managed to get my bag stored overhead and crammed myself into the window seat and buckled in.  A short time later the flight attendant came back and apologized to my seat partner, of which neither of us had spoken to the other, stating that there were no other seats available in first class for him to move to.

This leads me to my dilemma.  It was quite obvious to me that my seatmate was in all likelihood not pleased at the fact that this "above average" sized person was seated beside him.  Being self conscious about such a thing, I tended to keep myself pressed as tightly to the bulkhead as possible, which made for a very cramped and uncomfortable 8-1/2 hour flight home.  In a situation such as this should I offer up an apology to the seat partner, try to be a congenial seat partner and engage in some form of polite conversation even if only briefly or do as I did and try to make my "above average size" as minute as possible and miserable?

Dear Seated:

First of all, Etiquetteer isn't entirely sure your size is the issue. Everything you've indicated about this man's demeanor indicates that he'd rather have no passenger at all in the next seat, of whatever size. Indeed, he sounds like a First Class Pain in the Neck! He only paid for one seat, after all. But Etiquetteer cannot fault him for appealing privately to the attendant for a change of seat; such requests are often made in Coach, too, and for a variety of reasons. He may even have felt that you would be more comfortable with an empty seat next to you, too.

Etiquetteer recognizes your awareness of your size, and sympathizes. But Etiquetteer can see no reason for you to apologize. You were occupying a seat for which you had a ticket, just like every other passenger on board. As for conversation, Etiquetteer is one of those air travelers who prefers to be Left Alone. The only thing worse than agonizing over what to say is being forced to listen to a total stranger you cannot avoid. Aside from the Unavoidables -- such as "Would you excuse me please?" or "Here, let me get out of your way" or "May I reach down your suitcase?" or "Quick, the barf bag, I'm gonna be sick!" -- Etiquetteer wishes everyone would let Silence Be Golden during the flight.

Etiquetteer received the following response to last week's column about Tim Thomas Declining an Invitation to the White House:

"This was an interesting comment, but I'm afraid I disagree with you.  We have been taught  --  in life, in politics, and especially in sports  --  always to respect your opponent.  Mr. Thomas's act seems to me to show a lack of respect, and I find that unacceptable.  In addition, athletes, whether they like it or not, are role models to kids, and I think this action shows the young sports fans that that is an acceptable way to act.  I also think it's especially unfortunate at a time in our country's history when our elected members of Congress are unable to cooperate in any way and one of our greatest institutions has become dysfunctional.

"You say that this is a democracy and that everyone is free, but freedom also has responsibilities, and I believe one of those responsibilities is respecting the opinions of others.  We have always touted as a basis of our form of government the comment that "I might disapprove of what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it."  Mr. Thomas has taken it upon himself to turn that on its head.  (By the way, someone pointed out on the radio today that Mr. Thomas attended a state college on a scholarship and didn't, at that time, object to excessive government spending.)

"I'm sure Mr. Thomas was in the right, but he was still wrong.  (Although I would defend to the death both his and your right to hold your respective opinions.)"

Declining an Invitation to the White House, Vol. 11, Issue 2

Suddenly many people are upset because Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins, the team that just won the Stanley Cup, declined an invitation to the White House to be received by the President of the United States. To hear some of the carry-on you'd think Mr. Thomas had flouted a Divine Command of the Deity of Your Choice! So you may be surprised to learn that Etiquetteer fully supports Mr. Thomas's decision not to attend this event (although he could have done so without making a statement to the press about it). The United States of America remains a democracy. Its founding cornerstone has been Liberty. Citizens have the right to accept or decline invitations from anyone as they choose, including invitations from the Chief Executive. Such invitations are not Royal Commands! Etiquetteer is fond of historical precedent in such cases, and indeed, Etiquetteer's beloved Ellen Maury Slayden supplies it. In 1902 she wrote "That snobbish twaddle about invitations to the White House and elsewhere being 'virtually commands' is having quite a vogue lately, chiefly, of course, among those just 'arriving' socially. I wish I could reproduce the savage humor with which Senator Vest treated the subject when we discussed it before him. He said he had been declining invitations to the White House for fifteen years because he didn't want to go and had not been threatened with impeachment yet."*

Of course Senator Vest was able to decline an invitation without making a sweeping statement to the press criticizing the Nation's government as a whole. While Mr. Thomas may exercise his Freedom of Speech to say whatever he pleases, and while the press may exercise its own essential Freedom to report what Mr. Thomas says, Etiquetteer can't find it Perfectly Proper for them to have gone to all this fuss.

To conclude, Etiquetteer thinks complaints about Mr. Thomas "insulting the President" by turning down this invitation are unjustified. If one is going to complain about Mr. Thomas, one is more justified complaining about the manner in which he did so, not the mere fact that he did.

* From Washington Wife: Journal of Ellen Maury Slayden from 1897-1919, page 41, copyright 1963. Used without permission.

Etiquetteer very much hopes to see you on Wednesday, February 1, for Good Manners at the Gibson House with Etiquetteer! Please contact the House today to reserve your tickets!

Two Current Events, Vol. 11, Issue 1

Two items in the news recently came to Etiquetteer's attention, each disturbing in its own way, and each worthy of comment. First, let's turn attention to Patron X, the gentleman whose smartphone stopped the New York Philharmonic mid-Mahler and enraged both the audience and the conductor. First, Etiquetteer has only praise for conductor Alan Gilbert. Not only did he sensibly stop the performance, later in the week he graciously accepted the personal apology of Patron X. Other artists of a more, shall we say, "artistic" temperament might have swooped down like a flock of harpies and banned the offender forever from concerts. It is to Mr. Gilbert's credit that he has accepted this man's sincere apology, and even to express sympathy for his predicament.

The situation could not have been more humiliating. Patron X was sitting in the front row of the concert hall with a new iPhone (received the day before from his company) that he only partly knew how to work. When the iPhone alarm clock went off, Patron X was near powerless to stop the noise. Etiquetteer believes that the contrition of Patron X is genuine and forgives him for this horrifying lapse of Perfect Propriety. But the entire experience boldly underscores the unquestioned necessity of powering off all personal electronic devices during a live performance of any kind. Not just to "silent" mode or "vibrate," but OFF. There is nothing so urgent that you need to know about it in the middle of a performance, and if it IS that urgent, maybe you shouldn't even be there. Power off completely and experience the performance completely! Dividing your attention will diminish your pleasure, and could eliminate the pleasure of others distracted by you.

When speaking in public, Etiquetteer begins with a "ritual power-down," so that everyone in the audience can switch off their cell phones and other paraphernalia together, making a group commitment to Perfect Propriety and Mutual Respect.

Then there's the Caddo Parish official trying to ban the wearing of pajamas in public:

Etiquetteer cannot claim to have seen people (of any age) cavorting about in their nightclothes, so perhaps this Lapse of Decency is only a local problem. What bothers Etiquetteer more is the careless attitude of offenders. Shreveport resident Khiry Tisdern is quoted saying "I'm an American, and I can wear my clothes anywhere I want. I'm a grown man. I pay my own bills, so I can wear my clothes the way I want." Mr. Tisdern may be a grown man, but he's not a grown-up. Grown-ups don't wear their pajamas in public.*

Even worse is the slovenly attitude of mother-of-three Tracy Carter, who says "... they're covering everything. I've got a three-year-old, a five-year-old and a 12-year-old to deal with." Her implication that Motherhood is so difficult that her family should be excused from putting on street clothes is an insult to parents everywhere who work hard to raise their children to behave and be strong, contributing members of Society. Etiquetteer's contempt for Ms. Carter cannot be stated too clearly.

This proves, too, that Perfect Propriety cannot be legislated. But because one has the Freedom to do something does not mean that one should do something.

*Some wag will certainly ask "Well, what about a pajama brunch?" And Etiquetteer will Heave a Weary Sigh and explain what is Perfectly Obvious: "If one is attending a pajama brunch in a private home, that falls under the definition of a costume party. If one is attending a pajama brunch in a restaurant, one attends in street clothes to avoid appearing like one is Trying Too Hard. If one is waiting tables at a restaurant's pajama brunch and one has to wear pajamas, they become one's uniform for the shift."

Etiquetteer hopes to greet you in person on February 1, 2012, at the Gibson House Museum for "Good Manners at the Gibson House with Etiquetteer."

Birthday Parties for Grownups, Vol. 10, Issue 3

Dear Etiquetteer: My next birthday will be one with a zero at the end, and I know my sweetie will want to have a big party. That's what Sweetie always wants for his birthday.  For me, I'd rather have something low key -- like a yoga retreat far away from everything that distracts me.  Any suggestions on how to kindly say, please don't give me something that you think I want, without hurting his feelings?

Dear Birthday Girl:

The Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you," just falls the ground in situations like this, doesn't it? Here's your beloved, secure in the knowledge that he knows exactly what a perfect birthday party is and his ability to produce it, but it's exactly the sort of celebration you don't like for you.

Sometimes the truest expression of affection is letting others express their own affection for you in their way, rather than in yours. This falls into the "Virtue is its own reward" department, which Etiquetteer has never considered very fair in the first place. But still ...

The key word here is sometimes, especially since it sounds like you've grinned and borne enough large birthday parties already.  But this yoga retreat plan sounds awfully like you'd be doing it on your own. Are you really contemplating a birthday celebration all by yourself at a retreat? If so, how do you think your beloved would like being excluded?

Etiquetteer suggests that you both widen the scope of your ideal Birthday Ending in Zero Celebration to include your beloved. Say, "Darling, I love you so much that I want you all to myself for my Birthday Ending in Zero. Take me away from all this squalor where we can love the world away!" (Cue Kenny Rogers on the soundtrack in three ... two ... ) And when Sweetie says "But Angel, this is an Important Birthday and we must have all our friends and family around to celebrate YOU!" you have merely to say NO in the firmest possible tone, and be absolutely sure he sleeps on the couch until he understands completely.

And when your beloved's Birthday Ending in Zero comes along, Etiquetteer knows you will organize exactly the sort of party he enjoys in gratitude.

The Case of the Coughing Coiffeuse, Vol. 10, Issue 2

Dear Etiquetteer: As someone who does not patronize a particular hairstylist, my beloved went one Saturday to get a haircut at one of those chain places where they just take your name, no reservations required. It was fairly busy, of course, and while waiting he noticed two of the stylists coughing a lot, but still working on customers.

Sure enough, the woman that drew his name was one of them, and she coughed all over him during the haircut. Consequently, he's been sick since, and I am recovering from it now.

Is there anything one can do in that situation, or is it merely one's punishment for deciding to get a haircut last minute?

Dear Coughing:

Etiquetteer sympathizes deeply with your beloved's reluctance to speak up in this situation. It is very easy to feel embarrassed about calling attention to a stranger's health or hygiene. Etiquetteer can just see him now, shifting uneasily in his chair as Milady Barber calls from across the room "Number 43, [Insert Name of Beloved Here], *hack hack cough* right over here dear!" To call back "Thanks, I'll wait for the next person! I don't want Typhoid Mary cutting my hair" does nothing to relieve the situation.

But protecting one's own health, and the health of one's family (in this case, yours), is more important. There is a way to manage it with Perfect Propriety --  Perfect Propriety and a big gulp of Courage, that is, because communicating Rejection is necessarily uncomfortable. With an Air of Infinite Regret, your beloved could have asked "Would you mind terribly if I waited for the next available stylist? I see that you have a bad cough and I am very very sensitive about my health right now." The Air of Infinite Regret is essential to managing this successfully. One must be sure not to give the impression of blaming Milady Barber for having a cold; after all, it may not be her fault she's sick.

Your beloved could have managed this more proactively by sharing his concern with the receptionist and trying to book a specific, healthy stylist as soon as he noticed the other two coughing. Depending on the level of Customer Service Orientation, the receptionist should be able to accommodate him without difficulty or attitude.

For the future, allow Etiquetteer to encourage your beloved to find a long-standing arrangement with a barber who is healthy.

Etiquette Faux Pas Hallowe'en Costumes, Vol. 9, Issue 10

In a fit of pre-Hallowe'en whimsy, Etiquetteer began thinking today of a few faux pas that might make interesting costumes: Emily Post Spills the Sauce

The original Doyenne of American Etiquette, Emily Post Herself, spilled her lingonberry dessert all over herself back in 1938. Unfortunately she wasn't alone at the time, but attending the New York Gourmet Society's annual banquet . . . as guest speaker. The press had a field day, as you can imagine, but Etiquetteer is delighted to report that Mrs. Post refused to cast blame on the waiter since it was her own fault. You can appear as Mrs. Post in a matronly evening gown with a huge splotch of sauce on the front. Carelessly brandish the sauce boat about for added effect, if you aren't drinking a cocktail out of it.

What Is Needed: An evening gown in the style of the late 1930s, silver gravy boat, lingonberry sauce (or some equivalent), red evening shoes (Mrs. Post's favorite shoes were red).

White House Maitre'd with Slip

Etiquetteer is horrified not to locate the reference, but recalls well the story of a lady at a White House function one evening whose slip disengaged from her person and gently cascaded to the floor. It just lay there on the floor under the gaze of the multitude until the maitre'd (undoubtedly either Charles Ficklin or Alonzo Fields) strode to center of the floor, picked up the slip, folded it over his arm as though it were a napkin, and walked out of the room.

What Is Needed: white tie and tails, including black patent leather evening shoes for men, white satin ladies slip (full length) with lace trim.

Top-Popping on the Dance Floor

Once upon a time during the Lyndon Johnson administration, Cristina Ford was frugging so enthusiastically on the dance floor that she popped her top!
What Is Needed: Strapless evening gown, cleavage (real or manufactured).

Leaking Bag of Lemons

One night at St. Germain during the reign of Louis XIII, a charming Mlle. de La Fayette found something so funny that she couldn't stop laughing until she had . . . ahem . . . lost control of herself. This resulted in a huge and very visible puddle around her chair. The Queen made so much fun of her that one of Mlle. de La Fayette's friends said right out loud that Mlle. de La Fayette's bag of lemons must have been squeezed.

What Is Needed: 17th century court dress (basically cinch a bed pillow over each hip with a belt and rig up some old drapes for a skirt), big hair (real or manufactured), string bag of half a dozen lemons to hang from the waist, puddle (or just wet the back of the skirt before arrival).

Elbows on the Table

One of the more flouted etiquette conventions. Find a couple tiny dollhouse tables to stick onto your elbows, and you're all set!

What Is Needed: Clothes of your choice, two dollhouse tables, sleeve garters to secure tables into place.

References: Emily Post by Laura Claridge, Upstairs at the White House by J.B. West, History Laid Bare: Love, Sex, and Perversity from the Ancient Etruscans to Warren G. Harding by Richard Zacks.

Wondering what other faux pas might come up this Hallowe'en? Please drop Etiquetteer a line at queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com.

Acknowledging Circumstances Gratefully, Vol. 9, Issue 9

Dear Etiquetteer: I'm applying to graduate school right now and a former manager wrote me a recommendation. I asked her in late May but she hadn't done so as of a few weeks ago when I submitted my application early. I nudged her gently over e-mail (as she said I should do in May), didn't get a response, nudged her a week later, and she wrote it up for me that night. This was about a week ago.

Today I found out her sister has just died of cancer, and she was almost certainly distracted by that. I knew her sister had been sick for awhile, but didn't know she was at this stage.

I don't regret how I handled the "nudging," because I did it respectfully and had given her a lot of time, and since she kept her problems private, I can't hold myself responsible for inadvertent awkwardness. My problem is I'd hoped to get her a bottle of wine or something similar to say thank you, but that seems inappropriate now; similarly, anything I could to memorialize her sister (like a donation to [redacted]) seems like it should not be linked in any way as a "thank you." What would you suggest I do?

Dear Applicant:

A Lovely Note of Condolence is really the best way to acknowledge your colleague's loss as well as your thanks for her fulfillment of your request. Include something like "Your attention to my business school recommendation at a time when you must have been very concerned for your sister's health is doubly appreciated."

Wine would not be appropriate, but by all means send her a bouquet at some point. And if you're so inclined, a year from now you might make a memorial gift (should the family have specified a particular charity in the obituary). Etiquetteer suggests this length of time for two reasons. First, you want to avoid the appearance of a quid pro quo. Second, your relationship with your colleague will likely continue for many years, and she will be touched that you have chosen to remember her sister's death long after many others have forgotten.

As Etiquetteer writes this, Labor Day approaches, bringing with it the Official End of Summer. Ladies and gentlemen of Perfect Propriety will get as much wear as possible out of their white linen and white shoes this weekend before reverently folding them away -- with a tear -- until Memorial Day.

Etiquetteer is delighted to take your manners dilemmas at queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com.

What Not to Wear: Weddings and Courtrooms, Vol. 9, Issue 8

Dear Etiquetteer:
I'm soon to attend an afternoon spring wedding for some friends. At the moment, I'm a little short on cash so while I might want to buy a fabulous new dress for the occasion, that's rather ill advised. I'm hoping to make use of what's already in my closet.
I've got this appropriately formal dress -- not too fancy, just right in style for their event. Unfortunately the dress is cream.
I seem to recall that it's not proper at a wedding for any woman other than the bride to wear white. These days folks are wearing black - even the bridesmaids a sea of noir - a style I'd been taught isn't Perfectly Proper so perhaps I'm not with the times?  Am I okay with my lovely cream dress to the wedding?
Dear Creamy:
Ladies, as you undoubtedly know, can be very back-biting about clothes. Etiquetteer worries that, if you wear your otherwise appropriate cream-colored dress to this wedding that you might be mistaken for the Malicious Mother of the Groom. The stereotypical advice for the mother of the groom has always been to "wear beige, show up, and shut up." Etiquetteer has heard more than once that the definition of "beige," "cream," or "champagne" has been stretched to include near-white shades -- or at least near enough to attract unfavorable attention not least from the Bride Herself.
The only way Etiquetteer can see out of this -- and ladies may have a different opinion -- would be to accessorize your cream dress with colors. Could you add hat, belt, handbag, shoes, gloves, and/or perhaps a shawl in some bright spring colors? This would keep you from appearing all in cream; since the bride is likely appearing all in white, the use of color in your outfit could deflect unjust criticism.
Like you, Etiquetteer has deplored the swelling tide of black at weddings, and has tried to promote midnight blue as a Perfectly Proper alternative that doesn't connote mourning. Brides, unfortunately, can rarely see beyond their own Selfish and Prosaic Visions, so this is still an uphill battle.
Etiquetteer applauds the jailing of Jennifer LaPenta, a 19-year-old woman who may never be a lady, for wearing a profane T-shirt in a courtroom. [Special to Etiquetteer's mother: please do not read the article; you'll be offended by the language.] Waiting for a friend's trial to be called, Ms. LaPenta was spotted by the judge in the gallery wearing a T-shirt that said "I Own the [Slang Term for Female Genitals] So I Make the Rules." Aside from its own vulgarity, wearing such a T-shirt in a courtroom assaults the very idea of Justice. Justice makes the rules, and that requires more sense than conferred by possessing a particular body part.
Ms. LaPenta's age, however, reminded Etiquetteer of two similar Experiments with Profane Expression as Rebellion when even younger. Young Etiquetteer once wore a button with a Profane Suggestion on it (no need for you to know what it was), and was publicly scolded by a bank teller to "TAKE THAT BUTTON OFF! TAKE IT OFF!" You may be sure that Young Etiquetteer flushed with shame for the rest of the day.
On another occasion, Young Etiquetteer wore a T-shirt to his summer job. On it was a quote from Louisiana  Governor Earl Long: "If you ain't got culture, you ain't got ****." Young Etiquetteer, of course, thought it was absolutely hilarious, and typical of the Long politicians. The boss, however, was unamused, and Young Etiquetteer had to wear that T-shirt inside out for the rest of the day.
Etiquetteer recognizes, as do many, that these expressions of Youthful Rebellion are made to test boundaries. Teenagers always seem shocked when their elders call them out, but Etiquetteer would suggest that shock and discipline are exactly the types of reactions they provoke. This also calls attention to the dreariness of using profanity to provoke a response. It's tired, people, just tired.