What to Wear to the Polls in 2018, Vol. 17, Issue 55

Election Day is tomorrow, and Etiquetteer had occasion to go back to advice offered in 2008 after a Pennsylvania court case involving whether or not T-shirts with political messages were appropriate free speech in a polling place. Ten years later, it turns out that the Supreme Court struck down a related Minnesota law (which, it’s worth noting, had never been challenged in the century it was on the books). But here’s the thing: the opinion of the Court issued by Chief Justice John Roberts “[called] the state's effort to make polling places less clamorous admirable.” [Emphasis Etiquetteer’s.]

Yes, we need less clamor and more focus at the polls! Keep all the messaging and electioneering outside the polling place within that legally mandated radius, and let the atmosphere around the voting booths be as conducive to calm, decisive reflection as possible.

It will not surprise you that Etiquetteer thinks more respect could be shown for the voting process, and for the right to vote in the first place, by dressing in one’s best. Etiquetteer’s advice from 2008 still stands: by all means express your beliefs and preferences in what you wear, but keep it to accessories like buttons and ribbons rather than clothing like T-shirts and caps. And if you choose, dress in all the national colors of red, white, and blue!

"Smile!" or Not, Vol. 17, Issue 51

Dear Etiquetteer:

I need to find a way for people to stop telling me to smile in pictures. This is especially useless if it’s a picture I've already posted. It's rude. I think it's mostly about why we do or do not smile and having some degree of autonomy over our feelings and moods.

Dear Smiley:

Once upon a time no one smiled. Improvements in both photography and dentistry in the last 125 years or so have made smiling in photographs the undisputed fashion. It’s quite a contrast from previous centuries, when it took so long to record a daguerreotype. A smile could not be held that long a time.

Sometimes smiling seems insincere, but Etiquetteer doesn’t consider that anyone wants “autonomy over your feelings and moods.” They just want a photo that conforms to the Smiling Norm, irritating as that can feel.

You sometimes cannot get out of being in a photo. For instance, if one of your children is getting married, it would look really really bad if you showed up at the wedding and then refused to be in the family photographs - or appeared scowling or “looking daggers.” In those situations it’s not just Perfectly Proper but Absolutely Necessary to “put on your happy face.”

In the future, when you’re encouraged to smile in a photo, consider cultivating a Mona Lisa smile, which can convey a certain amount of pleasant mystery without baring your teeth. As to the occasional “Oh, I wish you’d smiled in that picture!” Etiquetteer encourages you to ignore it, or pass it off with a light witticism such as “I have my reputation as a misanthrope to consider” or “If I’m not careful they’ll cast me as Pollyanna.”

 Queen Victoria as we are used to seeing her.

Queen Victoria as we are used to seeing her.

You might consider the example of three 19th-century ladies and how they handled photographers. Queen Victoria, famously “not amused,” never smiled in photographs because her children didn’t consider it dignified in her position. There are, however, a few photographs of her smiling - which proves to Etiquetteer that it made the Queen more special because of its rarity.

 Queen Victoria sporting a smile at a great-grandchild. Too bad she couldn’t keep her eyes open at the same time.

Queen Victoria sporting a smile at a great-grandchild. Too bad she couldn’t keep her eyes open at the same time.

The second, First Lady Julia Grant, would only allow herself to be photographed in profile because she had crossed eyes. Of course, profile portraits are not so fashionable now . . .

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Finally, there’s Isabella Stewart Gardner, a wealthy and eccentric art collector whose wealth and eccentricity couldn’t mask her homely looks.

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“Mrs. Jack” did what she could with veils, but was also known to cover her face with a fan or just a piece of paper if she didn’t feel like being photographed. Her friends understood and accommodated, even to the extent of photographing her from behind at dinner parties. There’s a marvelous photo on page 15 of Beauport: The Sleeper-McCann House of a costume dinner party. Mrs. Gardner, facing resolutely away, is only identified by the big Y on the back of her chair.

So you could, perhaps, carry a fan around in case you’re not willing to “turn that frown upside down.” That would certainly make a memorable photo!


Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara Royal Wedding Edition, Vol. 17, Issue 50

GREVILLE EMERALD KOKOSHNIK TIARA PARTICIPATES IN WEDDING OF SOME PEOPLE, RECEIVES ACCOLADES

 The Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara receiving the adulation of the crowd while using Her Royal Highness Princess Eugenie as a pedestal.

The Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara receiving the adulation of the crowd while using Her Royal Highness Princess Eugenie as a pedestal.

Yes, Etiquetteer did get up very early to watch some of the hoopla around the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara taking over Her Royal Highness Princess Eugenie’s wedding to Jack Brooksbank. The Royal Family attracts etiquette-watchers - the British are so famously correct the bloodhounds are out to seize any flaw - and Etiquetteer can’t claim to be an exception.

THE WIND AND THE GOWN

Winnie-the-Pooh would have called this “a blustery day,” and unfortunately the ladies bore the brunt of this by having to pay special attention to their headgear. So many windblown tresses were seen entering and exiting the chapel that Etiquetteer rather wishes some long-haired ladies had gone in for a simple bun or a French twist or something. This would have kept them looking more organized and might also have spared them anxiety about That Windblown Look. (Ladies, is this true? Your comments appreciated.) One lady’s cartwheel of feathers was so agitated that it looked like television static.

The Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara, undoubtedly having incinerated any obscuring veil with its Green Power Rays, controlled the bride’s hair admirably except for Unfortunate Tendrils which the princess kept brushing back. Her new cousin Princess Henry, Duchess of Sussex, did the same thing at her wedding. Etiquetteer does not care whether it’s fashionable to have tendrils or not, or whether it’s part of one’s Personal Style. Constantly having to handle one’s hair is a distraction.* And this is particularly true for royalty, under the merciless glare of continual coverage. Stop it at once!

The bridal gown, like Princess Henry’s, was striking in its simplicity: no frills, ruffles, trimmings, or superfluities - nothing to detract from that awe-inspiring tiara. But somehow there were always people fussing about the dress, including the father of the bride, which underscored the need for at least two Perfectly Proper Bridesmaids - such as the bride’s sister, Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice, conspicuously seated with her parents. All those little flower girls and pages - for a moment Etiquetteer mistook them for the Von Trapp family - were clearly just there for window dressing when what was needed was a couple Responsible Adults. Gracious sakes, it practically took a village to keep that dress out of danger.

THE JEWELS

We all know it’s bad form to upstage the bride, but my goodness, the Greville Tiara clearly hypnotized her in its quest for World Domination. It’s nice to be able to borrow something from your grandmother for your Something Borrowed, but when it’s the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara - wow! No one actually cares about you then. You become merely a Tiara Delivery System for the Admiration of a Magnificent Jewel.

It also underscored the absence of Significant Jewels among the other royal ladies. While the Queen wore the Cullinan V Heart Brooch, a Bagatelle of Power (“Granny’s chips” might have upstaged even the tiara), the diamond bee brooch worn by Princess Beatrice was so small as to be Comparatively Insignificant. The Duchess of Sussex looked downright denuded without One Important Piece, while the Duchess of Cambridge sported some Quite Respectable Earrings. Etiquetteer was also charmed by the jeweled wing brooch worn by Princess Michael of Kent.

The groom’s wedding gift to the bride was a pair of diamond and emerald pendant earrings, clearly intended to complement the tiara. This made it easier for the bride to fulfill the old rule that the bride always wears the groom’s gift to the wedding, “even if it is a mixture of colored stones.”

WHAT THE LADIES WORE

Green Power Rays fell on the mother and the aunt of the bride, the Duchess of York and the Princess Royal, each looking stunning in emerald green. The Princess Royal accessorized with a camel-colored shawl, which made Etiquetteer reflect that in Another Time that might have been a fur scarf or stole. Pippa Middleton’s olive maternity ensemble was topped with a superb matching hat. This time it isn’t Beatrice and Eugenie who need to be given a talking-to about their headgear, it’s Zara Tindall. An otherwise lovely royal blue dress was topped off with a silver helmet garnished with silver flowers. It looked like an old Christmas Tree Shoppe display with a fresh coat of spray paint. Princess Henry, to Etiquetteer’s delight, Considered Navy Blue, but the Countess of Wessex wore glittering black lace that Etiquetteer could only consider appropriate for the cocktail hour.

Among the congregation Poppy Delevigne sported such tall baby-blue feathers in her fascinator that it was suspected she had refugeed from the Folies-Bergère. It’s rude to wear such tall headgear in a church; it obstructs the view of those behind. While Etiquetteer is delighted to see the outrageous tilt of a hat coming back (so reminiscent of the great Lilly Daché), one lady wore something that looked like a moulting coconut hanging off the back of her head. Another lady in pink appeared to be dressed as Audrey Hepburn as the Easter Bunny. Someone else paired a fascinator with what looked very much like an anorak. A royal wedding is hardly the time to pair the formal with the casual!

THE SERVICE AND OTHER ASPECTS

The great tenor Andrea Boccelli was invited to sing during the wedding. The selections chosen, Gounod’s “Ave Maria” and Franck’s “Panis angelicus,” reminded Etiquetteer of how wonderful that Pavarotti album was 35 years ago. There are two schools of thought about wedding music: familiar and obscure. While some obscure wedding music calls too much attention to itself, Etiquetteer fears that these arias are taking the place that “O Promise Me” and “Evergreen” held for previous generations.

Mr. Boccelli may have needed to loosen his tie in order to perform, but a gentleman’s knot properly rests snugly against his collar. Mr. Boccelli’s top button was more than visible, which is Not Perfectly Proper.

The Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara also witnessed some lovely human moments. We are so used to seeing the bride hand off her bouquet that it was rather refreshing to see the groom hand off his eyeglasses to the best man. And there was a bit of trouble getting the wedding ring onto the bride’s finger, just as happens with un-royal brides. Etiquetteer was most touched with the reading from The Great Gatsby - untraditional for a wedding, to be sure, but absolutely right for this one. For Etiquetteer it somehow illustrated the importance of the preacher’s words “Marriage is something far more profound than any sort of contract.”

Perhaps it was because the BBC was not broadcasting the service, but Etiquetteer observed that there was no applause until the Happy Couple appeared outside the church. That is Most Proper, but also not the American custom. And did you notice that there was no kiss inside the church either?

Etiquetteer could only conclude that the Battle for World Domination will continue in its next round between the Greville Tiara and the Prince George Instagram account. Etiquetteer noted that His Royal Highness was kept to the back of the gaggle, but he was working his royal wave in the car after the service.

It is now time for a Tequila Toast to wish the Happy Couple well on their journey through life together!

*This condition applies to all genders, by the way. It just so happens that in our civilization it’s more usual for ladies to have long hair. More and more gentlemen are also sporting Tousled Tresses, or even worse the Dreaded Pretentious Manbun. They, too, need to take care that every hair is in place.

The Last Dinner at Brasserie JO, Vol. 17, Issue 48

“We can never go back to Manderley. But sometimes, in my dreams, I do go back.”

— the second Mrs. DeWinter in Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier

 Etiquetteer, arriving in late afternoon, enjoyed an Aperol spritz while it was still Perfectly Proper to do so. It is  not  a beverage for after 5:00 PM.

Etiquetteer, arriving in late afternoon, enjoyed an Aperol spritz while it was still Perfectly Proper to do so. It is not a beverage for after 5:00 PM.

The hearts of diners-out in Boston have been sorely tried since the closing of Brasserie JO after 20 years (!) was announced some weeks ago. Etiquetteer, drowning an eye unus’d to flow, enjoyed one final dinner there last night on its last night*. (Brunchgoers have another final chance on Sunday, as the last service will be Sunday at midday.)

The final night of a beloved restaurant certainly brings on reflection. Over 20 years Etiquetteer enjoyed many fine occasions at B-JO. From the simplicity of steak frites at brunch to an elaborate morning-after wedding breakfast, from a special birthday gathering for a friend in one of the salons privés to a French 75 cocktail after the symphony . . . so many memories of Happy Times With Our Friends, and of new discoveries. It was here that Etiquetteer discovered the delights of oysters Rockefeller and crispy pork shanks. (Not together, of course!) And it was here that Etiquetteer entertained the friends of parents when they passed through town.

 B-JO’s unique pickled carrots.

B-JO’s unique pickled carrots.

This dinner was entirely a whim of Etiquetteer’s. Alone in town late in the afternoon, Etiquetteer stopped at the bar for one final drink, then dashed across the street to the closest bookstore for an engaging tome (Victoria, the Queen, as it turns out), and returned to snag a table shortly after the dining room opened for its final dinner service. There’s a school of thought that it’s not Perfectly Proper to read at the table even when dining alone, and there’s another school of thought that you don’t have any business telling someone not to read at the table if you aren’t at the table with them. You can guess where Etiquetteer comes down on that issue.

And it was an exquisite little dinner, as always: port manhattan, their signature onion tart Uncle Hansi, and pork chops. It would have been impossible at this final dinner to have neglected to order one of their famous, very popular profiteroles.

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Now the problem with profiteroles is precisely what makes them so wonderful: all that gooey warm chocolate sauce mingling with all that slowly melting vanilla ice cream. Keeping dark drops from a white shirtfront involves almost as much attention as keeping a moustache out of the soup. Alas, Etiquetteer failed in this important test on this sad occasion. (Don’t make a fuss about any efforts to remove the spot, and remember: a bit of ice water will be more effective than tears.)

What is so very sad about this closure is that Brasserie JO filled a need: a need for an elegant but somewhat relaxed dining room with a superb standard of service and presentation convenient to cultural venues for pre- and post-performance dining and libations. Perhaps not enough people recognized this need? Perhaps not enough people recognize a need for elegance in daily life?

And - and very few people seem to acknowledge this - with lighting that flattered everyone. Once upon a time pink silk candleshades protected us; remember Mrs. Erlynne in Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan saying “Oh, I never confessed to more than 30. Twenty-nine if there were pink shades, 30 if there were not.” Brasserie JO’s illuminated bar and clock made everyone look 30.

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So often things end because their time has passed, or because transformation is necessary for a changing time. In the former case one has only to think of the traditional London debutante season, now as dead as the dodo. The latter makes Etiquetteer think of the move of the Metropolitan Opera in the 1950s to Lincoln Center from its original home - and before that, the fall of the old Academy of Music under the hot breath of the New Money who built the “old” Metropolitan Opera House.

A more apt comparison would be the closure in the 1990s of the Ritz-Carlton dining room (stil the most beautiful room in Boston) for luncheon. Etiquetteer will never forget how the newspaper described how the management made the final decision. They asked both patrons who lunched there every day whether they would prefer to lunch in the dining room with a reduced level of service, or to receive the same level of service in the café. Both preferred the latter. And that was the end of luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton.

But Etiquetteer still thinks there is a need for dining rooms with white tablecloths, soft lighting, superb French food, and artfully mixed drinks. While the closing of a beloved restaurant “doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world,” Etiquetteer very much hopes that another such restaurant will open soon and - before we know it - become just as much an institution as Brasserie JO was.

 When the waiter asked if he could bring another drink, Etiquetteer had to reply “Not just yet. The memory of this one is too beautiful to drown.”

When the waiter asked if he could bring another drink, Etiquetteer had to reply “Not just yet. The memory of this one is too beautiful to drown.”

* It’s worth noting that That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much had already had three farewell dinners at Brasserie JO with different friends, proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that he’s more gourmand than gourmet. Etiquetteer barely stood a chance. #glutton

Professional Networking Online, Vol. 17, Issue 47

Dear Etiquetteer:

When it comes to Human Resources and networking in the digital age, decorum has certainly appeared to go by the wayside. Here are two questions for you:

(1) When it comes to applying for jobs, my resumes, CVs, and cover letters that I've carefully crafted and sent seem to go into some sort of black hole — with neither a reply, nor even a boiler-plate rejection notice that seemed commonplace in the past.

Plus, on more than one occasion, I’ve encountered “ghosting” - where interviewers don’t bother to reply. At one company, after a successful phone interview I was told that they’d like to bring me in for an in-person interview the following week. Never heard back from them. After repeated follow-ups, the interviewer said that they put the position on hold and I’d be welcome to check back at the end of the summer. A few months later I followed up. No reply.

At a different company, I successfully navigated a difficult application progress with a phone call from the CEO that they’d like to make me an offer, and he said that he’d follow up in a few days with details. No reply despite repeated follow-ups.

Asking my peers, one person suggested that it’s safer for companies not to reply to avoid liability issues. Another said that taking the time to reply costs money, and that’s why people don’t bother anymore. What’s going on here? What do HR people think?

(2) In an effort to get a job application in front of a particular recruiter at a company, I recently beat the bushes and contacted about ten of my friends and colleagues on LinkedIn who had direct connections at this company. Years ago, people seemed to be willing to quickly pass along my information without issue. However, in this case, nearly all of my contacts were uncomfortable doing so as the connections there were so tenuous; a few people didn’t even bother to reply to my email request. Maybe I’m being naive, and it’s difficult not to take it personally, but I thought LinkedIn exists to network (connecting a friend of a friend…) and reaching out to their networks to forward a resume/cover letter shouldn’t be a big deal. What’s going on here?

Dear Networking:

The standard cop-out line when romantic relationships break up is “It’s not you, it’s me.” In this case, Etiquetteer would have to say it’s not you, it’s the culture. This piece from Flexjobs enumerates quite a few reasons why this happens, and it happens universally. And it’s been happening for a long time, in the mythical past when you thought responses were “commonplace.” But Etiquetteer would add another people don’t respond: people just don’t like saying no. It’s uncomfortable to have to turn someone down*. Having that breakup conversation is tough, but that doesn’t mean it should be put off indefinitely. While some HR professionals have legitimate reasons for delaying a response, Etiquetteer would urge them all to leave no applicant untended.

The key word in your second question is “tenuous.” It’s not unusual for people to feel uncomfortable recommending someone for a position in their company solely because they’re the friend of a friend who they haven’t met in person. If that person gets hired, and then doesn’t work out, it can reflect badly on those who recommended them. (Professional discretion prohibits Etiquetteer from sharing some examples after 30 years in the work force.) And it may be that their own connections to that company are more tenuous than they care to admit. They may not be as sure of their standing there, and would certainly not want to admit that to you.

As tough as it can be not to take it personally when you don’t even get an echo back from professional inquiries - and it can be - do your best not to take it personally. Set a good example yourself by responding in a timely way when you get inquiries. It’s not just Perfectly Proper, it will help establish your reputation as a good colleague.

* It should be uncomfortable to turn someone down, somewhat. Those who take pleasure in it should not be in human resources, in Etiquetteer’s opinion.

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Signs of the Times, Vol. 17, Issue 44

One of an occasional series of photo essays of instructional signs in public, usually designed to encourage humorously Perfect Propriety. Etiquetteer admires the creativity!

 In a Washington, DC, coffee shop.

In a Washington, DC, coffee shop.

 In a Washington, DC, used bookstore.

In a Washington, DC, used bookstore.

 Outside a well-known Provincetown used bookstore.

Outside a well-known Provincetown used bookstore.

 Seen in Ogunquit, Maine.

Seen in Ogunquit, Maine.

 In a well-known gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

In a well-known gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

 In a shop in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

In a shop in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Back-to-School Questions for Grownups, Vol. 17, Issue 43

Etiquetteer found a couple questions in the mail bag than can loosely be filed together under "Back to School." Please contact Etiquetteer with your own back-to-school queries!

Dear Etiquetteer:

I recently got married, and have decided to hyphenate my last name (until my kids are 18 anyway.... easier to deal with if my last name matches the kiddos for school purposes). So, I am going to be (after I get my card) Ashton MacDonald Islesworth-Min. (It's a mouthful, isn't it?) My question is.... what are my initials? AMI? AMIM? AMI-M? How does one initial documents with a hyphenated last name?

Dear Monogrammed:

Congratulations on your recent marriage! Etiquettteer wishes you and your family long life and happiness.

These days monograms are very much a personal choice, so you can do almost anything you prefer. It's so rare for Etiquetteer to say anything like that that we should pause for a moment to take that in. Your initials may be whatever you choose.

With four initials, a block monogram - a simple row of all four initials from first to last names - seems to be the standard. But even before you, many ladies drop a name to keep their total initials down to three. For instance, you likely have a middle name, and dropped it when you married your first husband to keep your monogram to three: AMI. Of course with that MacDonald, could it also be AMacII?

You might now wish to drop your maiden name to keep your monogram to three: AIM. But if you keep all four, just keep it simple: AMIM.

When you initial your documents, no need to include the hyphen. When monogramming your lingerie, keep it small!

Dear Etiquetteer:

My son is looking to buy some new shoes. Most of his work dress is casual as with everyone else these days, but he does own two suits, one grey and one navy blue.  He's wondering if black shoes go with a navy blue suit? (I hope so, since that's what I always wore/wear.) Does brown go with either? And cordovan? We look forward to hearing what you think.

Dear Well Shod:

Etiquetteer's first reaction to your query was to remember Michael in The Boys in the Band complaining about "those ten pound cordovan loafers and those constipated Ivy League clothes," and then having to pause as he realizes that one of his guests, Hank, is wearing ten pound cordovan loafers with a classic Ivy League ensemble. You can never go wrong with a classic, but it's how you wear it that makes you stand out.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, Etiquetteer turned to Business Insider for a fairly comprehensive guide to pair suits and shoes. You'll see that they allow brown shoes with navy blue and medium or light gray, but they don't allow it with charcoal gray. Cordovan, it seems, goes with anything but black.

Etiquetteer would be rather more traditional (unsurprisingly) and prohibit brown shoes with navy blue. Indeed, once upon a time Etiquetteer vaguely remembers reading someone's memoir's story about Alfred Hitchcock advising Gregory Peck "No brown in town." Of course that might reflect the Sort of People Who Don't Weekend in Town . . .

In your son's case, investing in two pairs of good black shoes would be the conservative path, but he may want to shake up the mix with a pair of cordovan. It's interesting to note that only lace-up shoes were once thought proper in an office environment. Loafers and slip-ons were thought of as casual shoes, and of course sneakers, tennis shoes, and other athletic shoes were considered only for the activities for which they were designed and not everyday wear. But those footwear distinctions were eroded decades ago, first by airport security measures and then by St. Elsewhere.