Bodily Functions, Vol. 15, Issue 15

Dear Etiquetteer:

On the fly I ended up having dinner with a couple friends. We were having a good time together and they came back home with me to Netflix and chill. Unfortunately, I began to notice I was feeling a little gassy and upset-stomachy. This led me to make two trips to my only bathroom pretty close together. This was kind of embarrassing to me, since I was the host, also because one of my guests asked if I was OK and I really didn't want to talk about it. How could I have handled feeling unwell as a host?

Dear Unwell:

Etiquetteer applauds your solicitude for your guests, as well as their concern for your well being - although repeated inquiries should have been discouraged. You only needed to excuse yourself with an "Excuse me for a moment." Since this was such a casual occasion, you could have added "Help yourself at the bar/in the kitchen" or "Mi casa es su casa." On return, the problem could be downplayed for guests using neutral words: "Thanks, I just had a bit of indigestion. I'm feeling fine now." (Incidentally, Etiquetteer has to wonder if "nervous indigestion" didn't used to be a euphemism for flatulence.)

But there's no disguising a serious medical issue, and if a host requires medical attention, don't let embarrassment prevent prompt attention. Etiquetteer does remember one embarrassing occasion when, as a host preparing for two guests for cocktails, Etiquetteer broke a martini glass and punctured the palm of his hand with the stem. On arrival, the guests basically took charge and Etiquetteer was whisked off to the emergency room. So much for an Elegant Evening of cold cocktails and hot gossip! But Etiquetteer has always remained grateful for the solicitude and genuine concern of those guests.

Dear Etiquetteer:

I met a friend at a local coffee shop to catch up. Before we could get settled, I excused myself to go to the restroom. They'd run out of paper towels, so I left the restroom with damp hands, which really didn't bother me. When I came out, my friend had run into a friend of his who he wanted to introduce me to. I ended up shaking hands with a damp hand after obviously leaving the restroom. I kept wondering what this guy thought I had on my hands! Should I have avoided shaking hands somehow? What could I have done?

Dear Shaken:

Well, by that time it's far too late to alert the barista that they're out of paper towels in the restroom . . .

In what sounds like a lightning-fast situation, probably the most immediate thing you could have done was to wipe your hands on your pants. (After this experience, Etiquetteer probably thinks you'll consider doing that before leaving the restroom should this occur again, or to start traveling with moist towelettes.)

Etiquetteer has written before about shaking hands and the growing number of people who just refuse to shake hands for sanitary reasons. Situations like this lead Etiquetteer to wondering if we'll ever adopt the Far Eastern custom of bowing, which is both respectful and sanitary.