2015: A Year in Review, Vol. 14, Issue 47

Like any other year, 2015 held its share of Issues of Perfect Propriety - or the lack of it - in the news. Yes, people are still behaving badly everywhere, sometime astonishly so. ENTERTAINING AT HOME

January saw one British family invoice another when their child failed to attend a birthday party. Etiquetteer wrote about this issue here, but the most Perfectly Proper way to deal with no-shows is to stop sending them invitations. Certainly one doesn't make a scene involving one's children, or the children of others. A wedding guest in Minnesota also got a bill from a Bridal Couple when they failed to attend the wedding. As frustrating and expensive as no-shows are, it's not Perfectly Proper to bill them.


New England was hammered with record-shattering blizzards in winter, which led one sexagenarian female to attack another with a snow blower. As the police chief involved said, “Emotions may run high during a historic weather event like the Blizzard we just endured, but that is no excuse for violence.” Etiquetteer couldn't agree more. Indeed, it inspired Etiquetteer to write on blizzard etiquette. And conditions deteriorated so much that later on Etiquetteer had to write even more.


This year also saw the rise of a terrible practice, that of making multiple dinner reservations at different restaurants for the same time. While this increases one individual's options, it's discourteous to other diners, and disastrous to restaurants, who count on filling every seat to pay their bills. Stop it at once! Another restaurant issue to hit the news was the number of people claiming "allergies" for preferential treatment. And speaking of people who are precious about their food, even the Thanksgiving table is a battleground now. Etiquetteer rather wishes people would just be grateful there's something to eat . . .


The behavior of tourists made the news this year. American tourists were caught carving their names into the Colosseum in Rome. The twenty-something California women managed one initial each before getting caught. Remember, take only photos, leave only footprints. But don't take photos of someone's bedrooms. Harvard University had to issue new rules for tourists to protect the privacy of their students. And you might want to think about taking photos at the 9/11 Memorial in New York. One writer called out tourist behavior there, especially around selfie sticks.


Anno Domini 2015 saw the rise of "athleisure wear" - shudder - which has led children to reject denim for public wear in favor of sweatpants.  There was also the Suitsy, the business suit onesie. This article explains, rather fascinatingly, why we're dressing so casually now.

Also, musicians are taking a stand about their standard uniforms of white-tie or black-tie formal attire. In another direction, see-through wedding dresses are being promoted by designers. Of course Etiquetteer thinks they're Perfectly Proper - if you're getting married at the Folies Bergere. Another fashion trend that needs to end is the sloppy manbun, now also available as a hairpiece. Sadly.

First Lady Michelle Obama made the news when she didn't cover her hair on a brief visit to Riyadh to meet King Salman of Saudi Arabia. Her allegedly bold and courageous stance in not wearing a headscarf was, in fact, Perfectly Proper diplomatic protocol, as was shown by photographs of previous First Ladies and Female World Leaders like Angela Merkel, also without headscarves while meeting Saudi dignitaries. The Duchess of Cambridge made a fashion choice that brought coverage for a different reason: wearing a bright red gown for a state dinner in honor of China. Since red is the national color of China, that was not just Perfectly Proper, but also Deftly Diplomatic.

Higher Education is supposed to teach students about making Appropriate Life Choices, such as wearing shoes that will not make you fall over. Etiquetteer felt alternately sorry and embarrassed for this young woman who floundered through her graduation because of her shoes. Conversely, ladies in flats were turned away from screenings at the Cannes Film Festival. Please, ladies and film festivals, safety first!


Under the guise of asking a question of Senator Rick Santorum, Virginia Eleasor let out an incoherent rant against President Obama, accusing him of nuking Charleston. This led Etiquetteer to ask questioners at public events whether they really want to ask questions or make their own speeches.


Regarding air travel, The Boston Globe reported on the rising phenomenon of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who, when flying, refuse to sit next to women not their wives on religious grounds. Later in the year The New York Times wrote about the increasingly fraught sport of seat-swapping on airplanes. One man no doubt wanted to switch seats after his seatmate repeatedly stabbed him with a pen because he was snoring. Violence against fellow passengers is never Perfectly Proper. Etiquetteer would have put that seatmate on a no-fly list.


Stories about bad behavior in theatres continued to make the news in 2015, including Madonna Herself, who was not invited backstage after a performance of Hamilton because the cast saw her texting throughout Act II. But even Madonna was upstaged by the young man who went onstage before a performance to recharge his cellphone on the set! And even that Astonishing Event was eclipsed by the woman who went backstage to ask the actors where the restroom was during a performance.

Benedict Cumberbatch, a True Gentleman, appealed to his fans in a Most Perfectly Proper Way not to use devices during performances.


This year Etiquetteer tried out a March Madness-style survey of Pet Peeves. The winner, from the Table Manners/Dining Out category: Ill-Mannered Children of Complacent Parents. And in fact, there were some related news stories. A little girl's meltdown at a White House function led Etiquetteer to wish more parents used babysitters, for instance. But the champion news story on this topic - and perhaps for the entire year - has to go to the incident at Marcy's Diner, when the owner yelled at a crying toddler who wouldn't shut up.


Anno Domini 2015 began with a story about a woman in Florida shaving her - ahem - "bikini area" while operating a motor vehicle. While Etiquetteer understand the desire to be completely groomed before arriving at one's destination, Etiquetteer longs for the day when it was understood that ladies and gentlemen were completely groomed before they left the house.

Both Vice President Joe Biden and actor John Travolta came in for criticism for getting too "up close and personal" for greetings with Ladies Not Their Wives.

A Florida fraternity got itself into a colossal amount of trouble at its spring formal when drunk fraternity boys spit on wounded veterans, stole their American flags, and urinated on them. It should be needless to say that these aren't the values any fraternity is supposed to inculcate into its members.

Thirty people got in a fight over whether or not someone cut in line to use a waffle maker. Sometimes it's best not to escalate the situation. Sometimes it's best to stay in a hotel with a proper restaurant with a proper cook to make the waffles.

Perfect Propriety and pets moved uneasily in a Brooklyn building where dog waste in stairwell and elevators was becoming an issue.

And finally, a South Carolina politician used his holiday greetings to express his unhappiness over a vote on displaying the Confederate flag by enclosing this message: “May you take this joyous time as an opportunity to ask forgiveness of all your sins, such as betrayal.” Rather like getting a lump of coal in the mail.

And with that, allow Etiquetteer to wish you a Happy and Perfectly Proper New Year in 2016!


2007 Year in Review, Vol. 6, Issue 41

Because the First Amendment of the US Constitution protects all forms of free speech and free expression (which is as it should be), Perfect Propriety took a real beating in 2007. From the "wide stance" of Senator Larry Craig to "Don’t tase me, bro!", from "Why don’t you shut up?" to the Brawl at Symphony Hall, people from all walks of life have behaved badly.

Don Imus tops the list of Perfectly Improper Users of Free Speech this year. Back on April 4 he casually referred to the women’s basketball team of Rutgers University as "nappy-headed hos." The ensuing brouhaha saw Imus evicted from the airwaves and learning just how wrong offhand slander is. To Etiquetteer’s surprise he returned to the airwaves in December, but appears to be appropriately chastened. With his history, however, Don Imus bears watching.

Overall the women of the Rutgers basketball team behaved with true decorum. Kia Vaughn’s ill-considered defamation lawsuit, however, brought down the tone a notch. Aside from the fact that Imus never mentioned her by name, the lawsuit was filed on August 14, months after the incident. Her reputation would have been better served by keeping silent. Which leads Etiquetteer to ask, which is more important: money, fame, or honor?

On May 9 Perfect Propriety got a black eye at that Brahmin bastion, Symphony Hall. Depending on who’s telling the story, either Matthew Ellinger asked Michael Hallam to be quiet, causing Hallam to punch him – or that Hallam was struck first by Ellinger. The "brawl at Symphony Hall" cast a blot on the start of the Pops season, but these two men did at least drop charges against each other a month later. Once upon a time Boston audiences could be guaranteed to keep the excitement only on the stage; let’s hope this isn’t a new trend!

The ranks of the Perfectly Proper were sadly thinned with the deaths of former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, New York’s Brooke Astor, and Boston’s own Cathryn Keith. Their departures leave us with a real gap. Matrons just aren’t made the way they used to be.

Instead we’re left with Kyla Ebbert, the Hooters waitress who created a national scandal – oh, forgive Etiquetteer, "dialogue" – about Perfectly Proper attire for air travel. Ms. Ebbert, you may remember, was asked to cover up an outfit of debatable skimpiness on a Southwest Airlines flight. Rather than go home and contemplate this quietly, she and her mother brought the story to no less than Matt Lauer onThe Today Show. Etiquetteer is hardly suggesting a burqa instead, but is a knee-length skirt and a blouse that doesn’t look like a wifebeater too much to ask?

Etiquetteer’s opinion of this young woman was later completely justified; she undercut her own moral indignation by posing for Playboy, something no lady would ever do. Etiquetteer hopes that she’ll learn she has more to offer than her body before it's too late.

The behavior of politicians may be scrutinized more than anyone else’s, so you’d think they’d use their Perfect Propriety all the time. On the other hand, the rigors of air travel and security are enough to aggravate almost anyone. On August 20, Rep. Bob Filner (D-California) got booked for assault and battery at Dulles Airport after trying to charge into an employee-only area. It seems he was upset about a delay in claiming his luggage. Last time Etiquetteer checked, the Declaration of Independence said " . . . all men are created equal." That includes you, Congressman!

Closer to Etiquetteer’s home base, Massachusetts State Senator Scott Brown (R-Wrentham) gave Generation Y a taste of its own medicine by quoting their own profanities. Senator Brown and his daughter Ayla, an American Idol finalist, had taken a lot of abuse from other high schoolers onFacebook. The senator received a lot of criticism for doing this, but Etiquetteer thinks it’s the kind of civics lesson more teens could use. Unfortunately for the senator, it resulted in even more unwanted attention, including the discovery that he had posed nude for Cosmo back in 1982.

And speaking of nudity, Brattleboro, Vermont, long a bastion of liberalism, made it into the news this summer after enacting a controversial public nudity ban. Any time some utopia of unclad young people gets started, it just takes one stupid, naked old man to bring it down. In this case 68-year-old Clayton Crowe showed up in downtown Brattleboro, all the way from Arizona, for a clothing-optional summer vacation. He was attracted by all the media attention over a dozen or more nude teenagers hanging out in a local parking lot. Mr. Crowe’s appearance at Brattleboro’s Gallery Walk wearing a fanny pack and a smile did not endear him to anyone. A member of the Brattleboro Selectboard, Dick DeGray, was quoted in many news articles saying "Just because you can doesn't mean you should." And really, Etiquetteer could not agree more. To paraphrase an old song, "You’re Never Fully Dressed Without Your Clothes."

It shouldn’t take a law for people to know that you should wear clothes in the downtown business district! Wear your birthday suit to the swimmin’ hole, the hiking trail, or public facilities where it’s the dress code. And while Etiquetteer Wags an Admonitory Digit at the Unclad Youth of Downtown Brattleboro, they have at least the excuse of youthful rebellion and ignorance. Mr. Crowe, however, is way old enough to know better at his age.

November 10 King Juan Carlos of Spain memorably asked Venezualan dictator Hugo Chavez "Why don’t you shut up?" Unfortunately Chavez was ranting and insulting other diplomats by calling them mean names like "fascist." Etiquetteer can only offer the advice of his mother: "When you lose your temper you lose your point." Unfortunately the real downside of this diplomatic incident is that its recording has become a popular ringtone.

And speaking of popular ringtones, "Don’t tase me, bro!" has become a universal catchphrase since Andrew Meyer was subdued by campus police at the University of Florida. Apparently Mr. Meyer "jumped the queue" during a student forum with failed presidential candidate Senator John Kerry in September and "the event organizers were unhappy with his line of questioning." Etiquetteer certainly hopes that Mr. Meyer has learned his lesson about waiting his turn in line! He could also have remained more composed at the microphone, which might have kept the event organizers and the police from taking the actions they did. Senator Kerry could and should have been allowed to interact with this young man, who could have an important future if he partners with Perfect Propriety.

"A lady always knows when to leave a party," goes the old saying. Not that we needed any more proof that Britney Spears was no lady, but her comatose appearance at the MTV Music Awards embarrassed the nation. Senator Larry Craig proved that he’s no lady either! In September, his sudden refusal to resign from the Senate after his disgrace made the nation writhe almost as much as his behavior in that airport restroom.

Just because one finds jury duty onerous or boring doesn’t give one the right to tune out during the trial. In July, Ruhela Khanom, a Muslim twentysomething in London, was charged with contempt of court after she was discovered listening to an iPod under her headscarf during a murder trial. The following month prosecutors declined to refer her case to the High Court citing "insufficient evidence," even though jurors heard the music and an iPod was found on her person when she was searched outside the court. It’s just as well Etiquetteer was not the judge; Etiquetteer would have given her the maximum sentence! What’s really horrible about Ms. Khanom’s selfish behavior, however, is that it throws more suspicion on devout, well-behaved Muslims who wear the hijab. This not only impedes Perfect Propriety, but world peace.

Etiquetteer wishes you all a Happy, Healthy, and Perfectly Proper New Year!

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The Year 2005 In Review, Vol. 4 Issue 1

  Anno Domini MMV brought more than a few etiquette issues to headlines large and small, to Etiquetteer’s combined amusement and chagrin. Etiquetteer will now share just a few with you. The scandal of choice for most champions of Perfect Propriety would have to be the Flip Flop Flap, which ignited when the Northwestern University’s championship women’s lacrosse team showed up at the White House in July for a photo op with President Bush wearing (gasp!) flip flops and (probably) no pantyhose! One lacrosse player, Kate Darmody, was quoted in USA Today saying "I tried to think of something that would go well with my outfit and at the same time not be that uncomfortable. But at the same time not disrespect the White House." Alas, Miss Darmody failed at that task, just as much as that AIDS activist who showed up in a T-shirt for a meeting with President Clinton all those years ago. What gets Etiquetteer even more is that one young lacrosse player admitted to wearing flip flops decorated with rhinestones . . . how Redneck Riviera can one get? No matter how liberal your politics, it’s Most Proper to dress conservatively for a visit to the White House.Once upon a time Etiquetteer could have advised you to wear "church clothes," but seeing what some people are wearing to church these days, "business attire" may be safer. On the other hand, seeing what some people are wearing to work these days, Etiquetteer is forced to spell out "crisply tailored two-piece suit with blouse, hose, appropriate heels, white kid gloves, and Navy Red or Cherries in the Snow lipstick." It shouldn’t be necessary to be that specific . . . In other 2005 etiquette news, Etiquetteer and many irritated theatregoers applauded the BBC report that actor Richard Griffiths lashed out at a cellphone user during a November performance of the play "Heroes" in London’s West End. "Could the person whose mobile phone it is please leave? The 750 people here would be fully justified in suing you for ruining their afternoon," he reportedly said from the stage during the last act. Had Etiquetteer been there he would have led a standing ovation.Weddings bring out the worst in people, not least celebrities. In this case, we have newlyweds Robert Downey, Jr. and his bride Susan Levin against "Buckaroo Banzai" co-star Ellen Barkin and her husband, Revlon executive Ron Perelman. Time reported that Barkin and Perelman rescinded their invitation to Downey and Levin to hold their late-summer wedding at the Barkin/Perelman estate because the bride and groom wanted to include press photographers. After the relocated wedding took place, Le Downey suggested that the Perelmans had given them "somewhat less" than their best wishes. Etiquetteer thinks they all behaved badly, but especially the Downeys, who should have shown more respect for their erstwhile hosts, even if it was their wedding. They should all go sit in opposite corners until they repent and make up. Privately, Etiquetteer was told of a Mother of the Groom who attended her son’s wedding in a "champagne-colored" evening gown that was really just as white as the bride’s dress. It’s mighty bad form to upstage the bride, especially if you’re the mother of the groom! Remember, that lovely girl you may think is Not Good Enough For Your Precious Son will be in daily contact with your grandchildren. Treat her well now before she cuts you out of their lives altogether . . . On the higher education front, Columbia University saw the start of a clandestine "Night of Nakedness" party, reported by the New York Sun, which led Etiquetteer to hope that the coat check was administered carefully. Everyone knows of Etiquetteer’s revulsion for Reference to Bodily Function, so Etiquetteer knows you’ll understand the horror when kind friends pointed out to Etiquetteer the latest antics of train wreck former singer Bobby Brown. Apparently on one episode of his reality TV show "Being Bobby Brown," he described – oh, how can Etiquetteer put this – having to assist his wife, singer Whitney Houston, with a Bodily Function Best Not Described or Even Referenced on National Televison. AUGH! Very very bad! Last but my no means least, Etiquetteer really does have to give kudos to Michael Brown and the political cronies of FEMA for demonstrating once and for all just how bad being "fashionably late" really is. And they didn’t bring enough party favors, either! Let this be a lesson to you all to be prompter in 2006 . . . And with that Etiquetteer wishes all of you a New Year of Health, Happiness, Prosperity, and of course Perfect Propriety.