Are some costumes more appropriate than others for elementary school children? We’re trying to find the right tone and message for Halloween.
Dear A&MF,For those who participate in the celebration, Halloween is all about trusting those you don't know well. Whether you are a tricker-or-treater knocking on doors or answering the bell tone warning the advance of a total stranger. It can be like taking a kid to a too-scary movie when what they take away from it is that it is wrong to be afraid. They wonder why daddy or mommy want them to have negative feelings. A little bit of scary goes a long way. Our culture has become so desensitized to violence and horror that we're forgetting the developmental needs of the child.
- Are they having trouble sleeping or need to sleep with the light on? If so, take the scariness down a couple of notches.
- If a husband and wife are donning Trump and Hillary masks, does that mean they are in opposition politically? Talk to the child about the meaning of their costume.
- Werewolf - Dr. deFife says nothing stretches a child struggling with body issues more than when he is dressed like a dirty beast.
- Justin Bieber/Lady Gaga - No two are worse role models crying for attention.
- Harry Potter/Superman - Both are narcissistic characters who think the world would be a better place if everyone was like them.
- Vampires - Does your child want to play a blood thirsty narcissists? Dead inside they don't like to be seen in harsh daylight.
- Ghosts - Are they the products of parents who would rather that they be out of the house?
- Wonder Woman - is marketed as the modern day Barbie with the same small waist , large breasts, and long legs and hair. Scary aspirations for a youngster with a bright mind.
- Iron Man - has definite father issues.
- Where's Waldo - the paranoid adolescent hiding from strangers who are trying to hunt him down.
- Mad Scientist - are nerds and smarties, who end up in debt because they're crazy.
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There is a happily married man amongst our friends who likes to talk about his penis at parties when his wife is out of earshot. We feel sorry for his wife, even though we assume that she must know that he resorts to talking about his private parts after a few drinks.
Our question is that we want to know if she understands how bad it is without embarrassing her.
Dear Name withheld,Forget it. This is none of your business. Most people who talk dirty understand that dirty talk has the potential to repel and unsettle those around them. It is attention-grabbing. Sadly, in our society it is more acceptable to talk dirty than it is to share our personal preferences openly. People have gotten used to talking dirty in cyberspace and it effects their behavior in public. Chatting dirty online in cyberaffairs is quite common and those who engage a lot of their time in it eventually find it quite liberating to be able to talk dirty offline. No doubt his wife knows what's going on online. As long as he keeps his pants zipped, he may not be hurting anyone but himself.
My question is about the don’ts of body language etiquette on a job interview. Friends are always telling me to watch my body language, but I don’t know what that means.
Dear JC,Body language etiquette for business:
- Don't check for the time.
- Don't slouch, instead hold your shoulders back.
- Don't use dramatic gestures with your arms, such as pointing.
- Don't turn your body away from the interviewer.
- Don't cross your arms.
- Don't spread your knees.
- Don't fake a smile; your facial expression should be in sync with the tone of the conversation.
- Don't nod your head in agreement with everything that is said.
- Don't avoid eye contact.
- Don't try to maintain constant eye contact.
- Don't roll your eyes.
- Don't frown or scowl.
- Don't clench your fists.
- Don't glance at your cellphone; turn it off before the interview.
- Don't fidget, tap, scratch, pick at your nose, ears or nails or fiddle with your hair, clothing or jewelry.
- Don't forget to check the odor of your mouth and body before leaving home.
- Don't invade his or her space; keep at least two feet away at all times.
- Don't touch or have any body contact between the greeting handshake and the exiting handshake.Don't overstay your welcome, take the cue that the interview is over.
- Don't forget to thank the interviewer for their time.
- Don't neglect to send a thank-you note adding any pertinent info.
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Newly divorced and dating, I’m not sure of the proper gender etiquette for holding open a door for a woman. Although I never ran around to open the car door for my wife, I always made an effort to open any door we were approaching together. Is it condescending, or not, to hold the door open because the person behind you is a woman? Am I expected to hold the door open for her?
–JW, Newport, RI
Dear JW,Look at it this way. It is not only about gender etiquette. When passing through an entrance or exit that is not automated and you can see or hear someone coming up behind you, wouldn't you slow down a bit to hold the door open a nanosecond longer so that the person following could catch the door for him or herself? Or are you so self-absorbed that you don't give a fig about the person behind you, regardless of their gender?
I guess this is really a question about gender etiquette. Leaving an office building after a business meeting recently, it was raining cats and dogs. My co-worker didn’t have an umbrella, so I unfurled mine in the gusting wind and held it high enough to shelter us both. At one point, on our trek through the sheeting rain, she handled the umbrella while I fumbled around in the pockets of my windbreaker for my car key. We reached her car first. I waited while she opened the door and left the shield of my umbrella before handing it back to me saying, “Thank you, George.” I proceeded to my car the next row over.
My question is this. On all fronts my female counterpart and I are equally compensated by our company, and we always pay for our own meals when we’re on the road. Nonetheless, it felt strange having her hold the umbrella. Should I have been more of a gentleman and taken the umbrella back from her once I had my car key in hand? Or was it more correct for us to take turns managing the umbrella? It was mighty windy.
–GN, Seattle, W
Dear GN,Gender etiquette supports that the person with the longest or strongest arm holds the umbrella. If the woman is the taller of the two, then having her hold the umbrella would keep you both dryer. Since it was your umbrella, gently taking it back after finding your car key would have been appropriate.
Flash back many decades. I was sexual assaulted by a childhood friend whom I considered a special friend. I quickly put the scary incident behind me by practically blanking it out. As it turned out, this sweet, smart, funny boy, whom I thought I knew, had momentarily become someone I did not know at all. After a casual date he came back to my apartment and forced himself on me. Fueled by alcohol he became a stranger.
A year ago, for some unresolved reason, I mentioned the incident to a mutual good friend. The “boy” had gone out of my life completely, but we are both still friends with this woman.
Had I confided in her because I was trying to understand something about myself? For many decades, the “boy” has been a recovering alcoholic and lives by the four principles of Buddha.
Recently, he phoned me out of the blue to tell me that she had told him about the attack and that he was calling to apologize and make amends.
Flash forward to today. This mutual woman friend is getting married and I know that he will be at the wedding. It will be an intimate gathering on a tiny island off the coast of Georgia. There will be no way of ducking him because we will be housed in the same building, sharing meals and attending the ceremony, which he is officiating.
Do I have an obligation to thank him for his apology? At the time of the phone call, I did not thank him for his apology and he did not ask for one.
My guess is that we will greet one another at our mutual friend’s wedding as old childhood friends, as though nothing unpleasant had ever happened. That’s fine with me, but do I need to thank him for apologizing?
–CM, Atlanta, GA
Dear CM,You say you never asked him directly for an apology. Although, perhaps you did inadvertently by telling your mutual friend about the attack. In apologizing to you on the phone, he set the stage -- albeit decades too late -- for you to trust him and let the healing begin. It showed he was concerned about your well-being. But, I suspect only because he was prompted by your mutual friend. Nevertheless, no matter how heartfelt the apology, an apology does not always elicit forgiveness. It sounds as though he was intelligent enough to know not to ask you to give it. That must mean he is not looking for you to thank him for apologizing. Sexual assault is an unforgivable offense. There is another simple answer: don't go to the wedding.
My recently divorced father and I have been invited to visit with his old college friends in New York City. We were going to stay in a hotel but they are insisting that we stay with them in their large apartment. What would be a good hostess present from a father and daughter to our hosts who have everything?
–NS, Barrington, RI
Dear NS,Send a white orchid plant from the greenhouses at Venamy Orchids, at firstname.lastname@example.org, in Brewster, NY. They make two delivery trips a week into Manhattan and, despite a small charge deliver, the quality and cost of the plant far surpasses expectation. An orchid plant might be better than flowers if you don't know if they are going away after your stay. The orchid will still be in blooming when they return.
- Orchid plants need little care; two ice cubes can be placed on top of the moss every two weeks.
- Also, with flowers if you don't know their colors, they may be finicky about colors.
- As a houseguest you would arrive with something in your hand to present upon your arrival. A beautifully wrapped book or handcrafted chocolates are always welcome.
- Orchids or flowers should be delivered.
- The arrangement shouldn't be over-whelming in height or girth or be designed as a long centerpiece.
- Ask for a coffee table or end table size.
- In other words, if you don't know wines and spirits, or exactly what your host likes, don't guess.
- For instance good friends bring my husband a bottle of handcrafted bourbon made in small batches because he really appreciates them.
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My 83-year-old father and I are going to visit some friends of his in NYC for the weekend. They are also in their 80’s. They are kind and unpretentious but formal about manners and etiquette. For example, when I saw them earlier this year, I noticed that every time the wife enters the room or gets up from the dining room table, her husband stands up until she sits down. I feel compelled to stand up too. It’s old fashioned and polite, but I find it awkward. Do my father and I have to stand up every time too?
–ES, Chicago, IL
Dear ES,Whenever you're in someone else's house, follow their customs, meaning their manners and etiquette. For instance, if everyone held hands around the table and said grace, wouldn't you take the hand of the person to your left and the person to your right and say grace, too? Of course you would. This weekend, whenever your hostess walks into the room or stands up from the dinner table, follow suit. Watch her husband. He is well trained. Who knows, she may have learned to expect that kind of gesture of respect from her husband and his mother, or he learned it at one time by watching her father. Perhaps both. If she is essentially putting the courses on the table and clearing, then you would make a halfhearted gesture to stand that looks like a slight bow. Certainly your father could manage a semblance of a bow. At the end of his life when my father was in a wheelchair he would automatically try to stand when I entered the room or rejoined the dining table. Resting his hands on the sides of the chair he pushed himself up to a half stand. At first I tried to persuade dad that he didn't have to stand. My pleas fell on temporary deaf ears. I gave up when I came to understand that standing was an automatic natural response for some men when a woman entered their space. Even for me, his daughter, who still appreciates it when a man stands for me when I enter the room or stand up from the table. You probably don't want to look around the room to find that you are the last man sitting while the rest are standing. When in doubt, stand.
My husband is dying. We have hospice in the house and I would like to know about memorial service etiquette. What should I be doing? They predict he’ll be dead in 72 hours.
–LS, Montauk, NY
Dear LS,About memorial service etiquette. As you no doubt know, the purpose of a memorial service is to remember your husband in a manner in which you and his close family and friends knew him. It can also be a way to say goodbye to his physical presence. The memorial service may be an essential form of support for those who loved your husband and knew him well, and those who knew him not as well, but really liked him. Aside from nurturing and comforting family members and your husband's closest friends, you would orchestrate various practical elements: the burial, the obituary, the memorial service, the program or takeaway.
- That handout consists of the order of the service as well as photos, favorite poem, etc. of your husband, and, last but not least, the sympathy acknowledgment.
- A recently deceased friend, a former diplomat who lived by protocol, had his entire church service worked out beforehand spending "hundreds of hours," going over every detail of his funeral with the minister. She made that clear in her sermon.
- A series of tasks would presumably overwhelm anyone grieving and the more delegating you can do the better.
- The director, or staff, will give you the information you need to decide about how and where your husband's remains will be handled, and buried or stored.
- You will be asked to choose a vessel, either a coffin for the embalmed body or an urn in which to safe keep the cremated ashes. You will be prompted at every question to make it easier for you to come to a decision.
- You will even be asked about the particulars of your husband's life, because the funeral home releases a death announcement (template obituary) to local newspapers.
- Starting this now will possibly enable you to query your husband for his input.
- At the end of the obituary you will just need to add information as to the date, time, and place of the memorial service (if it is open to the public), as well as where to send a check "in lieu of flowers in honor the deceased."
- You want to be sure that the officiate knows many of the specifics about your husband in order for him/her to sound credible; they will help you plan the order of service and program.
- When there is a reception following the service, the officiate would invite the mourners to attend, "The family would like you to join them (following the service or after the private burial) at ...."
- For a memorial service you would have more time to have a program printed that reflects your aesthetic.
- It would include the order and names of the various speakers and readers, and could display a photo of your husband, say, on the front, and a photo of the two of you, or of your family, on the back, making it a takeaway remembrance.
- Depending on your style, a laminated photo of your husband can be enclosed with the sympathy acknowledgment.
- That second card can also include his date of birth, date of death, and even a quote from the scriptures, his favorite poem or song.
Their intentions are good — however overprotective. What happens to the resilience of the child when mom and dad are hoverers? My sister and her husband post daily Instagrams of their adorable offspring. It’s the language, though, that’s giving them away as being possible overbearers.
For instance the posts are labeled, “Our first day in nursery school.” ‘Our’ meaning the child and the parents! And “Our first soccer shoes.” Who is the soccer player? I pity the coach. It reminds me of the overly aggressive behavior parents of our son’s teammates display. How do we politely call attention to this excessive interest before my sibling suffocates her kids? What do we have to look forward to? “We’re applying to colleges? Notre Dame is our first choice?”
How do we not appear critical, but make a point nicely? I should add that the “we” and “our” are used in conversation as well.
–E.P., Detroit, MI
Dear E.P.,At least you are not asking your sibling and her husband whether of not they are neglecting their children. The problem is that helicopter parenting comes off as caring too much. Relationships have to have a happy, healthy middle ground. It is best, however, to tread lightly when expressing your views. Using humor to illustrate that you get a kick out of seeing a photo of "our first soccer shoes" would be a start. Call them on their usage of pronouns when it comes to family members. Add that you may have done the same thing. Sometimes when a parent feels he or she is deficient in their parenting skills they imagine ill-will or evil-doing toward their child, and champion themself as the child's hero.
In the nineties, when I attended a boarding school for four years, it was well-known that there were certain students who flirted with teachers and other staff members. Whether in the hope of getting better grades or out of sheer playful teenage lust, it was evident to most of us who was flirting with whom. Some students appeared much needier for adult attention than others and wore their illicit affair as a badge of courage — the teacher’s pet. There are obvious consequences for the promiscuous behavior on both sides. Nobody wants to snitch on anybody, but in all fairness, there are two sides to every story being exposed and every secret illicit act.
In teaching these adolescent ladies and gentlemen manners, what can schools do today to end sexual abuse?
Dear Anonymous,Aside from hiring an undercover detective to bring predators to justice, it would be far more productive in the long run for schools to offer stronger professional support to their faculty. There is the taboo of the teacher-student relationship. There are important boundaries which must never be crossed. However, when the boundaries become hazy, teachers are more apt to find themselves dazzled -- and more than likely, confused. They need to find a way to talk about the feelings being experienced by both the teacher and the student, and how to make sense of them. The taboo, of course, makes the adult and the teenager feel humiliated, because in shame they are forced to hide their emotions. In a perfect world, there would be a way for the teacher to acknowledge his or her feelings by talking them through. That process should strengthen their resolve rather than make them feel that their emotions are a show of weakness, sickness, perverseness. It goes without saying that the child should have support, too, but it is the adult who is legally and ethically responsible for handling his or her power in a healthy manner. The adult, then, would be better able to steer the relationship. When they understand that when they have greater control over the relation with the student, fewer boundaries are crossed.
My husband and I attended a lovely engagement party that was over-the-top from the thick paper invitation and valet parking, to the excellent canapés that served as our supper. The cocktail party, with well over a hundred well-heeled guests, was at the house of the groom’s uncle, whose name was listed on the invitation, along with his wife’s, as the only hosts.
Here is our dilemma. We had never met the hosts before but we are very good friends with the groom’s parents. We believe we would have never been invited to the party, if we hadn’t known the groom’s parents. Do we send a thank-you note to the bride and groom, whom we know only slightly, to the groom’s parents whom we know well, or to the hosts whom we didn’t know and don’t expect to ever see again?
–Nicole, Matapoisett, MA
Dear Nicole,Traditionally -- and people rarely give a fig about tradition any more -- the engagement party was to introduce guests, who will be invited to the wedding, to the bride or groom, their families and friends.
- In the past you would only invite guests to the engagement party who were actually being invited to the wedding.
- These days it is more than likely that the engagement party includes many who will NOT be invited to the wedding.
- With destination wedding cost prohibitive to many, and travel in general complicated and expensive, the engagement party may be for many the only time to meet and celebrate the wedding couple.
- Don't expect an invitation to the wedding, so you won't be sending an actual wedding present in reciprocation for attending the ceremony and reception.
As a reluctant soon to be house guest, what are the expectations on both sides?
We’ve been invited for Labor Day weekend to what my boss calls his summer house. As house guests, what is expected of us? The cost of flying there and back is prohibitive enough without having to buy a house present, which my wife seems to think we have to bring. What are the expectations – on both sides?
–G.W., Brooklyn, NY
Dear G.W.,To say the least, you sound reluctant about your upcoming adventure as a house guest. The rich live differently from the rest of us. No doubt, your host has paid for many airplane trips to his summer house and is aware of the cost. Find out ahead of time what is expected of you in terms of what you should bring.
- Will you be going sailing, playing golf, tennis, cycling? Having boat shoes for the sailboat and all white attire for the tennis court may be mandatory requirements.
- My favorite is, "Bring old clothes for the clambake."
- We've even had a host ask us if there was anything we're allergic to or if we had any dietary needs.
- If you're planning to bring a child or pet in tow, be sure to communicate any requirements, such as a babysitter, crib, or dog walker -- should you be on a boat for the day.
- Guests who have stayed a week are known to have installed simple lighting in our garden, and another put shelves in the garage. It was a gift of their time and the expense was minimal. In other words, make yourself useful when you can.
- If there is a staff member assigned to the task, ask if you should leave a small tip, especially if someone has gone out of their way to iron your trousers or bring you Advil or a hairdryer.
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What to do about entertaining the same houseguests again and again every summer?
Every August a couple we’ve known since college – and that’s a long time – arrive to spend the Labor Day weekend and occupy our guest room for two weeks. They are grateful guests; they are so appreciative that they spend the entire two weeks thanking us, as well as being very overly-considerate. In trying to “earn their keep” they bring fresh cut flowers and vegetables from our local farmers’ market.
It’s enough already, but we don’t know how to break the tradition and say, “You can’t come next summer.” They constantly say things such as, “We’ll have to do that again next year,” or “Next summer we’ll make dinner reservations at ______ (a popular restaurant) well ahead of time.”
We want to say, “Please, don’t come next summer,” but we don’t want to hurt their feelings or make them think they’ve done anything wrong. To put it bluntly, they’re no fun and we don’t want them inviting themselves a year in advance.
How can we be honest and nice at the same time? Any ideas about how to head them off at the pass?
–C.L., Martha's Vineyard, MA
Dear C.L.,To quote Benjamin Franklin, "Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days." Entertaining houseguests should be fun. As soon as your erstwhile guests mention staying with you again say, "Jean and Eddy, as much as we enjoy your company, we think we're just inviting family next year for Labor Day."
- Or, "We're hoping to invite friends who haven't visited us before to come next Labor Day."
- By saying you want to do something different shouldn't hurt an adult's feelings.
- That way you would be telling them "maybe" or "we'll take it under consideration." We all know that is a gentle way of saying "No."
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