Dear Etiquetteer: I'm not even the one being slighted and I don't know how to act.
My paternal grandmother is nearing a milestone birthday, and my parents have organized a party for her at their home. This party is in less than two weeks, and original invitees included friends and her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Over the past week, my father's brother has been telling-- not asking-- my father to invite my grandmother's siblings' children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He lives out of town and has offered no help whatsoever in the planning or execution of the party. My father has not invited any more people, explaining on the one hand that he's not even sure that he saw some of them at the last funeral, and on the other that he doesn't want to have to rent more tables and chairs and buy more food. Today, my father received an RSVP in the positive via text message from one of these suggested invitees.
I am grown and live with my own family, and so in that sense I am every bit as much an invitee as my uncle. In that respect, I have no grounds for indignation. That said, these are my parents and I am very protective. Is there anything at all I can do to make this miserable situation less so for them?
Family Occasions are incomplete without Family, but it appears that your uncle's definition of Family includes more branches of the Family Tree than your father's. While Etiquetteer does have to fault your father on one tiny thing -- family is still family whether or not they came to the last funeral -- it's his party and he therefore has the Unquestioned Right to invite (or not) whoever he pleases. Uncle Trouble is officially Out of Line by inviting other family members without the permission of your father (and presumably without even his knowledge).
This matter concerns your father and his brother, and it's up to your father to decide how he wants to address these issues. (For all Etiquetteer knows, they've been treating each other like this since childhood.) Unless you want to look like a real Madame Buttinsky, you'll stay in the background. But since your uncle is telling, not asking, your father who to invite, Etiquetteer thinks your father should tell, not ask, his brother how he is going to contribute to the success of the party through ordering extra furniture, food, etc. And for you to protect your parents, this may mean that you need to fulfill this function by actively getting involved in the preparations before, keeping these disagreements from your grandmother, and seeing that everything goes smoothly at the party, no matter how many "extra" family show up. Because above all, no one should be turned away once they show up! Whether their invitation came from your father or not, it will only reflect badly on him if they're told "Oh sorry, Uncle Trouble wasn't supposed to invite you."
And if things go well, perhaps Uncle Trouble will get his comeuppance when someone announces that he'll be hosting the next family reunion . . .
I have the problem that professional sex workers are using my backyard to entertain their clients. Is there a Perfectly Proper sign for my gate to gently dissuade them from doing so?
Your query reminds Etiquetteer of the story of the Boston theatre with the perpetually leaky roof. It was replaced and replaced, and kept leaking and leaking, until the building management threatened to sue the roofers. Someone got the idea to put up a videocamera to see what might be happening. To general surprise, it was discovered that Ladies of the Evening were bringing their Gentlemen Clients up to the roof via the fire escape, undoubtedly to Admire the View. Their spike heels were puncturing the rubber roof.
Etiquetteer is at least relieved that your neighborhood's Ladies of the Evening have not yet mounted your roof. Etiquetteer can suggest Perfectly Proper signage that might be found at the local hardware store: "No Loitering/Police Take Notice" and "Premises Under Surveillance" (with a small graphic of a camera). While Etiquetteer is unacquainted with your views on gun control, you would not be best served by posting "Proud Member of the National Rifle Association." Heaven forbid some Fatal Accident take place, your entire household would be put under suspicion.
It might be more effective to invest in a motion-detecting light that will turn on whenever anyone enters your backyard. While such solutions have their drawbacks, the last thing any of These People want is to attract attention. In the meantime, Etiquetteer hopes that you have notified your local police force about these occurrences.
Please do send Etiquetteer all your queries about Perfect Propriety to queries <at> etiquetteer dot com.
While signs have, unfortunately, always been necessary to guide careless dog owners, Etiquetteer does not think it necessary, or helpful, to spell out the situation so, ahem, graphically.
Indeed, one reader, Dan Hochman, suggested a new sign: "Dogs, Curb Your Owners."
Etiquetteer felt these two admonitions against cell phone use in public were Perfectly Proper enough to share. Please, curb your conversation!
Remember, if you'd like to have a private conversation, have it in private.
Etiquetteer looks forward to responding to your queries about Thanksgiving and the December holidays at queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com.
To ring in the New Year, Etiquetteer returns to the Old, Anno Domini MMIX, and some signs of varying Perfect Propriety. First we have a couple signs from a flea market in Newfane, Vermont:
This should be everyone's guiding maxim every day, but for behavior, not spelling.
Etiquetteer doesn't know how many places you have been to where a "Post No Weapons" sign has been in evidence. For Etiquetteer the last time might have been 1981, at a Detroit cinema for a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Then this gem turned up at a cemetery in Vermont:
Etiquetteer could not agree more. Nothing brings down the tone of one's grief more than faded, cracked, and flaking plastic flowers.
Anno Domini MMIX also saw the rise of swine flu, also known as the Bad Piggies, H1N1, or Heinie Flu. This led to all sorts of extravagant signage, such as this:
Seen at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, Interlochen, Michigan.
Issues of public hygiene then lead Etiquetteer to these two notices from a Boston church bathroom:
These notices were certainly a surprise to Etiquetteer! But it turns out that the church in question ministers a great deal to the homeless and indigent, for whom such instruction is sometimes necessary.
Then we come to the issue of tipping:
Seen at a restaurant in Lake Charles, Louisiana, one in which you have to order your food at a counter and then have it brought to you. A healthy debate ensued over whether or not the waiters and waitresses had to work as hard as those who take orders tableside as well.
Finally, two signs from businesses in Greater Boston who seek more Perfect Propriety from their customers:
Rosie's Bakery, Inman Square
Leavitt & Peirce, Harvard Square
Etiquetteer could certainly not agree more with this brisk sentiment!
And with that, Etiquetteer bids you a hearty Happy New Year! Your future etiquette queries are eagerly welcomed at queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com.