Category Archives: etiquette

I see someone who sees rude people

Amy Alkon–better known as the Advice Goddess–was featured on The Today Show this morning, weighing in as an expert on rudeness (she’s the author of the book I See Rude People).  Check out the clip!

I always think it’s fascinating to see and hear writers speak, and find out if they sound at all in real life how they sound in your head.  In this segment, for example, it’s a little jarring to see Amy (usually known for her unapologetic straight shooting) say, “I think strangers should treat each other more like neighbors,” in a soothing voice.  It’s not that she’s contradicting herself–I think you can call it as you see it with the adulterers who ask you for advice, and still be kind to children and gracious to the waiter.  It’s just not the tone I expected her to take, given the zingy (sometimes too zingy) one liners and black leather jacket I’m used to seeing in her column.

She certainly came off as more elegant, however, than the two guests who were on the show live, and who (ironically) proceeded to interrupt one another, cutting each other off and practically elbowing each other to get in the last word on how manners have disappeared from our e-society.  Matt Lauer looked a little afraid.


Strongly worded letters

Expert writers and researchers showed up in two columns today, fretting that they hadn’t been properly recognized for their efforts on behalf of others.

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Miss Manners 2.0 (1/2)

Another day, another Facebook etiquette problem, eh?  So for all our sakes’,  let’s look at a (slightly) different shade of technoquette inquiry to Miss Manners:

Dear Miss Manners: When one signs onto any form of instant messaging and notices via one’s contact list that someone else is already online, to whom is the ultimate responsibility to take notice? The person signing on or the person already there?

I take daily comfort from noticing that my brother must be alive and reasonably well as he is online, but he has never, ever, initiated a chat with me by something as simple as “Hi, sis, how are you?”

I get stubborn and decide to wait, and after months, I will break down and initiate a chat with him. He almost always responds and we chat for a bit, exchange pics, news, etc. Then, months later, I break down and do it again.

Am I unreasonable to want him to evince an interest in me?

Also, what about friends who never reply when I initiate a chat? “Hi, how are you?” Nothing. And, then, there is the friend who almost always “hides” that she is online. If I send an off line message, she usually signs in and we chat.

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Just a snack for Saturday

Dear Miss Manners:

My husband and I are in disagreement about showing purchases in malls. He thinks it’s fine for me to take them out and show them to him, I do not. Miss Manners, what is your opinion?

Uh, what did you purchase?


Another example of couples looking to etiquette to solve their communication troubles.  If you don’t want to drag your stuff out of the bag while you’re at the mall, don’t ask Miss Manners if you’re universally “right.”  Just say “Oh, I’ll show you when we get home.”  If he returns with “But I want to see noooow!” and things devolve from there, you’ve got bigger problems.

See other examples of this: No such thing as Happily Ever After and Bedside Manners.

Epic library etiquette fail….

…on my part, according to A Librarian’s Guide to Etiquette.

Sorry, co-workers.  And cats.

Thank you, thank you very much….

I was cruising around The Stranger tonight to see if the new Savage Love column was posted yet (it’s supposed be published on Thursdays, but sometimes shows up on Wednesday and even, occasionally, Tuesday).

It’s not there yet, but while wandering, I happened upon “I, Anonymous.”  This is not an advice column at all, but instead a place where people can rant (you guessed it) anonymously about….whatever they want.  Of course, since people most often rant about their co-workers, family members, and their own and other people’s weddings, they frequently cross over into advice column territory–especially when the commenters get involved.

For an entertaining survey of How People Feel About Thank You Notes, see the July 20th edition.  The rant is below.  The comments I’ll leave for you to discover on your own.

I suck at writing thank-you notes. Yes, I am a shitty self-involved human being for being a non-thank-you-note-writing person. You all talk about me behind my back for it, you all complain to my husband about it. Funny, none of you helped me pay for my wedding, and every single one of you had an opinion about where it should be held and what time of day it should occur. I don’t want your gifts if I am going to be cast in a horrible light for not killing trees and wasting time on something that is going to be thrown away when you get it. And why do you not think my husband is the bad person for not writing the notes? Why is it always the woman’s fault?

I’m not even going to pretend that I don’t LOVE the number of commenters who blasted this person.  The only point I’ll grant her is that this is a task that should be shared between partners, and too often the responsibility (and blame) falls disproportionately to women.

Other than that, I could rant right back at her for paragraphs and paragraphs.  (Really?  You’re mad at everyone who gave you a wedding gift for not helping you pay for the wedding?) But I won’t (well, maybe just a little), because the commenters have done it for me–from the point that gifts create way more waste than notes (they do!  I had to fight with SK to save all that paper! And it was so worth it.  We’ll never have to buy tissue again for the rest of our natural lives) to the point that she’s….just rude.

It’s a big job, and of course it’s possible that someone may get missed, mixed up, or forgotten (I’m terrified now that someone’s going to read this post and call me out on not sending them a wedding thank you!) But to not even care, or try?  It’s just mean, in the OED definition 5a sense: “lacking moral dignity, ignoble; small-minded”

The last thing I’ll add is that not everyone throws away the notes.  Or even if they do, they keep the memory of the gesture.  Thank you notes are probably most important for the people you’re not so close to–folks who don’t make it to the wedding at all, or to whom you barely talked because they’re your great aunt and you were distracted. It takes a very small amount of effort and about 50 cents to let these people know that you know who they are and you’re grateful they put themselves out for your sake.  It’s not just a social obligation.  It’s a genuine kindness.

On the flip side: I guess I tend to feel sort of how this woman does about things like birthday cards and balloons.  They’re like $5 apiece, half the time you don’t even write a personal message, the recipient is getting 50 of them at once, half probably duplicates.  I’d rather greet the person, um, in person, and spend the money on a beer or ice cream to toast them.  In fact, I’ve been blessed with a number of friends who are masters of creative, thoughtful, joyour birthday celebration, and they’ve been curse with….me.  So it’s fair to say that I am negligent in some areas of social correspondence.

But on thank you notes, I will not bend.

Miss Manners takes on invitations, alligators

Two quick questions from Miss Manners’ Sunday column

The forehead slapper:

Dear Miss Manners: I minored in French in college and still remember some of it. I live in California and interact only with strict Anglophones. Sometimes when they e-mail me invitations, they say “please RSVP.”

Is it polite to e-mail them back and say, “FYI, please RSVP means please respond please. RSVP is French.”

Most of them have no idea what RSVP stands for, exactly what it means, nor that is in French.

Well….actually.  “RSVP please” means “respond please please,” right?  And “RSVP” isn’t really French in and of itself, unless you pronounce it “Aihrressvoupeh.”  It stands for a French phrase.  I mean, if we’re going to be pedantic about it. Congrats on the French minor, though.

And, P.S. (that stands for post script, it’s English), I’d bet a million dollars you didn’t learn what RSVP stands for from a college-level French class.  You learned it from your (strictly Anglophone?) mother when you were in third grade, saw it on your birthday invitation, and asked what it meant.

Dude, you’re being invited somewhere.  Respond appropriately, s’il vous plait, or it might not happen again.

As an aside…”I live in California and interact only with strict Anglophones”?  Seriously?  How do you manage that?  My background is suburbia -> Central Illinois -> Southeast Michigan and I’ve never interacted only with strict Anglophones.  In fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to find any place to live where this is the case.  She doesn’t know a single other person who has studied a second language? Not to mention all the folks who are truly multi-lingual.  Sounds like she’s due to broaden her social circle, or maybe just open her eyes.

And now for something completely different:

the knee slapper:

Dear Miss Manners: A restaurant where we dine folds the napkins in such a way that they can be used as an alligator hand puppet. Most tables are set for four, and there are only three of us including my daughter, so after properly placing our napkins in our laps after we sit down, there is still an extra napkin begging to be used as a puppet.

Since there is no rule (that I know of) specifically forbidding the use of spare napkins as alligator puppets, and since we have correctly followed all napkin rules by placing our designated napkins in our laps, I believe that using spare napkins for entertainment purposes is fine. Although my wife cannot cite a specific offense, she still thinks we shouldn’t do it just because it is unusual and out of the ordinary.

Can you please share your opinion on this matter?

Le sigh.  I feel for this guy’s wife a bit, because he’s clearly being difficult.  Of course there’s no rule “specifically forbidding the use of spare napkins as alligator puppets.”  There are, however, rules about where one’s hands should be when eating and not eating.  There are also general rules about not playing at the dinner table.  I suspect it’s a general sense of decorum and embarrassment in a public place, not an aversion to all things “out of the ordinary,” that’s led his wife to object.

Nevertheless…this reminds me so vividly of the kind of restaurant stunts my dad used to play (salt shaker going through the table, the art of using the spoon as a catapult, shooting a mint across the room into a woman’s hair, and the infamous fold-your-napkin-into-a-rotisserie-chicken trick) that I have to give them a pass.

Miss Manners does likewise:

Gentle Reader: It is that the restaurant has created what Miss Manners believes is legally known as an attractive nuisance, and, not having cleared the unused place setting, could not expect you to resist the puppet’s begging to be used. However, if the puppet starts eating from people’s plates, she will have considered that you went too far.

I can’t help but wonder, though, if he and his wife had a bet riding on this–if they’d agreed to both abide by whatever Miss Manners decreed.  She’s now doomed this harried mother to a lifetime of napkin alligator puppets.

Hm.  Life is short.  Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.