This may seem like a silly question, but I never know what to do with my evening bag when I go out at night?
Since I have to take my car key, house key, driver’s license, and often a credit card — and most certainly a lipgloss and cellphone — I have to carry them all in a bag that cannot be left in my car, or at a high cocktail table or on a chair while I mingle or dance. I’m not a fan of the feedbag pouch at night. Nor am I ever a fan of the knapsack or across-the-chest shoulder bag, the fanny pack or the bum bag when I’m dressed up. So, I end up carrying a clutch or envelope in my hand — both of which can be tucked under my arm. However, I really don’t like standing around with a drink in one hand while clutching an envelope bag in my armpit, because I have to be shaking hands or air kissing with my right hand.
What would you suggest?
Dear Amelia,About the convenience of the evening bag, and the fear of losing one's identity and keys when out and about on the town at night. What did women do at night when they carried a cigarette case, cigarette lighter, lipstick, compact, and keys? As fashionable as the envelope and clutch may look when walking into a room with it clutched in one's hand by one's side, it looks perfectly awful held in the armpit. Yes, there is no doubt about it, they're awkward after the grand entrance. At a restaurant the clutch and envelope are relatively safe when seated with it resting on your lap or tucked behind your back between the back of the seat at the dinner table, or when it is discreetly (if it is quite small and elegant) placed on the table beside your fork. Seated in a banquette, you wouldn't have to place your bag on the floor, because it is nestled beside you. To illustrate the kind of evening bag that doubles, because of the chain, as a shoulder bag, here are our fav examples. These small evening bags are not to be worn on the back or across the chest, but dangled securely straight from the inside of the shoulder down to your waist.
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My daughter-in-law and I are fairly close. Should I go to her mother’s funeral even though I never met her?
Dear Melinda,About family funerals and whether to attend or not when you never met the deceased. You would attend the funeral of your daughter-in-law's mother in support of your son's wife and the extended family you share. Understandably, a daughter has a hard time when her mother dies, no matter how difficult the relationship may or may not have been. Sadly, the most arduous mother-daughter relationships may be the hardest deaths to deal with because of deeply rooted unresolved issues. Ask what you can do by also suggesting specific things that you could do to help your daughter-in-law through this difficult time. Such as offering to help with the preparations for the service or reception, or by keeping track of the condolence flowers and cards; providing a dinner one night for your son's family; helping to pack up and vacate the deceased's house or apartment and dispersing or/and disposing of her mother's worldly goods, are a few of the many ways your welcomed assistance will be useful while your daughter-in-law struggles to accept her loss. On the other hand, your daughter-in-law could shut you out and not want any help at this time, but don't take it personally. Momentarily, she may be withdrawing from family and friends in an effort to pull herself together. Give her all the time she needs to make the huge adjustment of losing a parent. We all go through the mourning process in our own way and in our own time. It may be that your daughter-in-law will need your friendship most weeks or months from now when the funeral is but a sad memory. Her mother's death a bitter loss. If your son and daughter-in-law have children, their children -- your grandchildren -- will find comfort in knowing that their father's mother is alive, well, and presently on the scene. Your presence would be greatly appreciated. Grandmothers are memory makers. Even if they are not part of the child's daily routine, they come to the rescue when her family needs her moral support.
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What is the polite way to refer to an undocumented worker? Someone who is living in this country illegally, because they don’t have working papers?
Dear B.D.,An 'undocumented worker' is a gentler way to describe an 'illegal immigrant.' Whatever you do, don't describe a persona as an 'illegal immigrant.' Or 'illegal' anything. The word 'immigrants' is as passe as 'wetbacks.' The kindest and therefore the most polite expression is to say, "undocumented workers."
We’re going to a two o’clock wedding ceremony in Newport, RI, Labor Day Weekend, with cocktails beginning at five and a dinner reception starting at six o’clock at the Eisenhower House. Should I change into a dressier dress for the reception?
Dear K. C.,About dress code for a Newport informal summer wedding Labor Day Weekend. You have two hours on your own between the conclusion of the ceremony and the start of the reception, which would give you plenty of time to return to your hotel room and change into a gorgeous knee-length cocktail dress. On the other hand, if there is no dress code on the invitation that suggests Black Time, Formal Attire, or Cocktail Attire, you could wear a hat with a simple cocktail dress to the church ceremony. And then leave your hat in the hotel room (or car if you go sightseeing instead) adding dangling earrings, dressier shoes and an evening bag to your outfit before setting off to the reception. When the invitation does not specify a dress code, you can assume the attire is Suits & Dresses. When in doubt, to get a feel for an informal wedding, such as one at the Eisenhower House, google EisenhowerHouse.com and click on 'Weddings.' Here above left is a photo of guests assembled on the steps of the Eisenhower House in the afternoon; below is where the evening reception will take place under a tent with fantastic views of Narragansett Bay. Your question is about whether to change into a dressier dress for the reception. If I were you, I would. To illustrate the kind of dress and accessories, for women over forty-five, I use the Halsbrook.com website. Again, as you can see by the above left photo of assembled guests, some of the men have taken off their jackets and quite a few are wearing dress khaki trousers. The only women wearing long dresses appear to be the bride and her maid-of-honor, so only the immediate wedding party are formally attired, whereas the guests are dressed in a more relaxed fashion. You would be safe wearing a cocktail dress similar to the black and white polka dot dress above at Halsbrook.com.
When I’m at a dinner — no matter how formal or informal — and find myself stuck between a man on my right and a man on my left, whom are talking past me in a bloody streak leaving me totally out, what should I do? I’ve tried asking questions, but they usually blow me off and go on talking between themselves while I’m caught as the monkey in the middle.
I never know how to correct the situation gracefully and become part of the conversation. They don’t seem to be aware of the fact that they should be bringing me into the discussion — not leaving me out. I understand that everyone has a right to an agenda, but do agendas really belong in social situations?
–Alice in Wonderland, New York, New York
Dear Alice in Wonderland,About conversation étiquette. The good host places guests with similar interests, or something in common, together at the same table. For instance, if you are single, one or the other of your seatmates, if not both, should be single; or one or the other also attended college in Oregon; while one or the other works in risk management -- or also spends summer weekends on Fire Island. You were meant to fit in -- and actively add to the conversation -- which is why you were seated next to the person on your right and the person on your left. You merely have to listen patiently for the cue to the common thread in order to jump in with confidence. There are exceptions to the personalized seating when the luncheon or dinner is, say, a corporate event or charity benefit where guests are seated alphabetically. Meaning the first letter of the last name of most of the people at your table will be the same as yours. Mr. Corbett, Ms. Cowley, and Mr. Corbin are seated one after the other, probably male-female-male-female whenever possible. As a guest, your job is to be self-sustaining, standing your ground in any conversation even if you only ask questions or show interest in learning about what they're discussing. Meet the challenge. Listen carefully for a clue to piecing together the puzzle. It could be as obvious as an accent. "You must be from Boston." Interesting vocabulary. "That's one of my favorite words, and yet I never hear it used." And then there is the subject you know about, or wish to learn more about. Finally, albeit less tactfully, there is the host's agenda-ridden objective of seating two of you together, which makes it more than likely that one of you may end up the odd person out. Especially when a sales pitch is involved. The time to diffuse is when there is a lull in the conversation. Chime in -- ask a question -- preferably one that bridges the gap from what they've been yapping about to a topic of interest to you. Once you try bridging and see how gracefully it can work, you'll bridge with ease. Basically, conversational bridging is aiming for a topic and smoothly segueing into that topic -- away from the discussion at hand. An example might be: the conversation segued from business to business luncheons to food. Most of us enjoy talking about food, sharing food news and locations of hot new restaurants. On my way to an event inevitably I'll think up one or two questions I want to ask other guests, usually for my own amusement, but it is also a way of bringing up subjects I wish to learn about. As you guessed, it takes a certain amount of skill, concentration, and patience to get out of your own world and into that of your seatmates to your left and right. Being on top of the latest news at home and abroad is not only useful but de rigueur to know. There are websites such as TheSkimm.com that send daily email updates at no charge. TheSkimm happens to be written by seasoned media news writers for women by women, so when getting cold feet before your next dinner party, skim the current daily news from TheSkimm. Then there is the obvious, finding out ahead of time who your host is seating you with and googling them. When that's not an option, before leaving the party in frustration and going home early, check out your seatmates' names on your cellphone in the restroom -- after memorizing their place cards or name tags -- and go back to the table with fresh ideas. I asked a great conversationalist what she would do in a situation such as yours and she said she would rudely interrupt her seatmates to say, "You two are having such a wonderful time, why don't I switch places with one of you?"
About a place card dilemma.
What do you do as a host when you see that one of your guests has changed her place card to position herself next to your best friend’s husband?
–L.R., Santa Monica, CA
Dear L.R.,A host doesn't allow a place card dilemma. Let's not overthink this. Don't let a guest get away with behaving badly. Switch the cards that were switched back to their original place. Conspire to have someone else divert the culprit's attention and then make the switcheroo. But do it as soon as you can. You really don't want your guests messing with your carefully planned seating -- especially when you don't know the intention of the guest doing the switching. Confronting the guest will only add bad vibes and memories to the event. It is better to switch-back the cards as soon as possible with as little fuss as possible. When the cocktail hour before dinner lasts more than a half hour, guests start getting restless, fidgety, hungry, or all three. Don't give your mischievous guest a chance to to create more mischief. When she finds the switched-back place card, she should get the message.
As a houesguest is it appropriate to ‘tip’ the housekeeper following a weekend stay with a close friend or family member? We are by no means high-maintenance, tried to make our stay as low-impact as possible while in residence, and emptied the wastebaskets and stripped the beds before leaving. But we did, of course, incur extra laundry and the rooms would have to be cleaned following our departure.
As I would in a hotel, I felt I should leave something for the employee who would clean up after us but my husband was not sure that would be looked upon favorably by our hostess. Your opinion on the matter would be welcome.
–Hoping To Be Asked Back, New England
Dear Hoping To Be Asked Back,About the etiquette for houseguest tipping. Mention to your host that you would like to leave a tip for their employee: house cleaner, cleaning lady, or housekeeper. Ask how much of a tip she would suggest --keeping in mind that some hosts don't want their staff to expect a tip, when not all guests are thoughtful enough to leave one. The amount of the tip would depend upon the length of your stay, the number of people (a couple vs. family) and how much time the staff member spent assisting you by, say, ironing your husband's trousers or your dress, or walking your dog. It goes without saying that when someone went out of their way to help you connect to the Internet or babysat your child for the evening, you would compensate them. For a couple such as yourself, a twenty dollar bill -- preferably in an envelope with the person's name on it and the words "Thank you" -- would be a fair tip for a weekend visit. However, you would check with your host saying, "We wanted to leave Mary a token of our appreciation, if that's alright with you?" Especially when you're a houseguest abroad or in the islands, be sure to ask what the custom for tipping is in the household. In some cases, the host may even suggest that you leave a tip and let you know how much is expected.
Guest-host etiquette when there is a guest dilemma.
Upon arriving home from a wonderful party with fabulous catered food and dancing under a spectacular tent, I discovered that my iPhone, driver’s license and credit card were missing from my evening bag, which I had left at my table when I got up to dance. As the designated driver, I take my license, along with a credit card, tucked into my iPhone case when we go out at night.
My first reaction was to tell our hostess my bad news. But I didn’t. It was such a splendid party that I didn’t want to taint her memories with my plight.
After a week, I emailed my thank-you expressing my delight at our having been invited and praising her hosting skills. Including mentioning details about everything from the canapés and decorations to the incredible live band. In closing, I asked her to, please, let me know if my iPhone with my license and credit card, which I had cancelled, had turned up? Before explaining that I had wrestled with whether to mention the theft to her.
A gracious hostess, she phoned immediately saying she would start a diligent search of the grounds in the hope that the scoundrel had discarded either the iPhone, license, or credit card in the bushes around her house. She seemed tremendously apologetic and grateful that I had told her. In retrospect, I’m sorry I created a bad memory. Should I have told her or not?
–C.G., Southhampton, NY
Dear C.G.,About host-guest etiquette dilemmas. You reacted carefully by not complaining to your host right away about the theft at her party. From what you say, it sounds as though you thought your response through, diligently canceling your credit card and taking time to see if your card, license, and phone turned up -- all of which are replaceable. Your initial intention was to not burst the bubble of the hostess with the mostest, and yet eventually you did. You took the middle ground by waiting to tell her. Your hostess was no more responsible for what you lost from your evening bag than if while on the dance floor, a precious diamond earring had dropped from your lobe and gone missing. Nevertheless, an expensive missing earring would be far more difficult to replace. On the other hand, you had an etiquette obligation to inform your hostess about the theft, so that she could alert the caterer in the hope of initiating tougher staff screening. Even at the risk of not being invited back.
As the MOB, when I asked the MOG to get together and discuss our dresses she informed me that she had already bought one. She is a precious size 4/6. She had bought a short, navy lace dress. I don’t know about sleeves. The bride’s colors are navy and blush. The bridesmaids are wearing long navy dresses. After my initial shock I began my hunt. I am a size 14/16 and hate to wear short dresses. I have found a long champagne colored lace dress from Dillards with cap sleeves. It has a tying ribbon offset at the waist which oddly enough camouflages the waistline. I realize that we should match but do we have to wear the same length or am I just being……? The ceremony is taking place in early October in South Arkansas at our church at 5:00pm followed by a reception a 6:30pm reception at the Arts Center. It is not a seated dinner, but food stations and then a D.J.
–Anna, South Arkansas
Dear Anna,About mother of the bride dress code. I don't want to upset you since you've already purchased your dress, but I think you should wear a knee-length (or just over the knee) dress with a bit of sleeve in a darker color. Because it does not sound like a particularly formal wedding and I don't want you to look as though you are wearing a prom dress. Above is a Dillard's mother-of-the-bride long dress in a vaguely champagne color. I would suggest long sleeves so that your dress does not come off as a prom dress. As the MOB you set the dress code. Not the MOG, but it is alright, because a lot of people don't know that these days. At any rate, because you are the MOB, you have the right to wear what you want to wear, with the approval of your daughter -- the bride. The only reason I would not wear a champagne colored dress is because it may be too white bridal looking in the photos and the only woman at the wedding wearing white or off-white is the bride. Forget the MOG, let her do her own thing. You might want to consider wearing a different dress, if you can return the one you purchased. It is really a decision for you and the bride. On the other hand, if you would like your outfit to cover your legs and you're willing to go with a more relaxed fun look, I would suggest any of the special occasion jackets from Maria Pucci with graceful pants or a skirt. The look you might want to consider can be found at maria_pucci.com, as in the below photo of a mother of the bride wearing a delicate brocade jacket.
There is nothing pretty about my very good friend Casey. Neither her name, face, skin, body, nor hair are attractive. Her house is the ugliest house in our neighborhood. Even her car is ugly. She does not have great taste in what she wears, how she decorates her house, or even her choice of a career or mate. However, she does have a beautiful baby. Wherever she goes, people rave about her baby. That’s the problem. People – including Casey – can’t believe she has such a beautiful baby. Strangers stop and stare in amazement saying, “Wow, what a beautiful child,” as though wondering how such a conventionally un-pretty woman could possibly have such a beautiful baby. What should we be saying to Casey instead?
–L.G., Baltimore, MD
Dear L.G.,What to say about baby? Most everybody loves a baby and even when the baby isn't so pretty or handsome we tend to gush about its looks by predicting that she looks intelligent and he looks like a football player or 'bruiser.' Soon there will be other ways to praise the parents and encourage the child when you see him or her riding their scooter, tossing a basketball through the hoop or speaking in sentences. Look for other words to express your approval and admiration. Apparently, the hormone oxytocin, produced by the hypothalamus gland (the size of an almond size it connects the brain stem that links the nervous system to the endocrine), increases good feelings in adults when they interact, or even see, a baby. Instead of dwelling on the baby's attractiveness, say something such as, "She looks so intelligent (or alert)," take the emphasis off of how handsome the child is, because looks aren't everything. The most successful people aren't necessarily the best looking. Whether or not you are the parent, take another approach by playing with the child, which will help to develop the skills needed for a healthy social life. Try being playful. Even if it is "peek-a-boo, I see you," when staring into the stroller of an alert baby.
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What’s the update on houseguest etiquette? The dos and don’t of being a good houseguest — and host — these days?
–J.P., Greenwich, CT
Dear J.P.,What's the update on houseguest etiquette? The best houseguest doesn't make his bed before asking his host How should I leave the bed? Nobody wants to sleep in your once delightfully dewey sexually scented sheets. Take them off, take them all off, then loosely fold them and either leave them at the foot of your unmade bed or deposit them into the laundry basket. Especially if you have children in tow, empty your wastebaskets of any soiled diapers, sticky popsicle wrappings, and you used dental floss, etc. The exception here is when the houseguest(s) are either family or invalided in some capacity. The host gift/present isn't your most important responsibility. Making the cleanup after your departure not torturous for your host is key for continuing the relationship. Showing up at the door with anything more than a smug expression and hug isn't necessary, if you're determined to pitch in and make yourself useful - or at the very least amusing. Arriving with a book, game, flowers, chocolates, cheese, or a bottle of wine is expected, but you can get away with being a houseguest extraordinaire by pitching in with anything from cooking, weeding, resetting a laptop, walking the dog, taking out the garbage, or simply emptying the dishwasher or setting the table. The best thing you can say is not, "Thank you for inviting me," but "Let me know what I can do to help," and then make suggestions ... Invite your host(s) out to at least one of the following: breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks at their local pub. Or offer to have pizza delivered. Most important, before you arrive, communicate with your host about your arrival and departure timeframe so your host can make plans. At that time ask, "Is there anything I can bring that you don't have locally, such as .........?" Part of that conversation should include a question about whether or not you can bring your beloved dog or cat. And if not, find a recommendation for a respected kennel nearby. Are you bringing a child who will need a babysitter or childcare while you're visiting? Then the information to set that up should be put in motion before you arrive. When a guest has dietary concerns meaning you cannot eat certain foods such as nuts, gluten, dairy, meat, or shellfish, these restrictions should be only casually mentioned. Don't make a big deal of your stipulations, because you want to fit in by being a self-sustaining guest - not a needy one. If, unbeknownst to you, your host is planning a lobster bake, he needs to be forewarned to provide you with an delicious alternative. Another question to your host when you're finding out what's in store for you on your visit is dress code. Are there any dress code restrictions: jacket & tie, jackets & dresses, no jeans, no ties, etc. Will you need all white attire to play tennis? Can you rent golf clubs, a bike, surfboard, or kayak? You would no more bring an unannounced date with you than leave your room untidy. No wet towels or bathmat left in a heap on the floor creating mildew, because you've loosely folded them and left them with your sheets and pillow cases. Remember that your host is not the owner of a B&B. Even if you're family, your family wants to be respected - so spend quality time with them. Ask your hosts to join you on one of your walks, or invite them to share a meal with your friends, whom you may also be seeing. A good guest should make sure to give his hosts some time off while he's visiting. Invent a trip or an errand, anything that will give your hosts a chance to catch their breath. A seasoned host knows to stock a guest's bathroom with a couple of new toothbrushes, fresh toothpaste and soap, shampoo, a hairdryer, shower cap, and comb. Sunscreen, deodorant, body lotions and potions, over-the-counter pain reliever, tissues and bottled water are always an added consideration. An extra towel and pillow are most certainly appreciated. When you get home, send a grateful recap in your medium whether it is a text, email, or thank-you note: "You made my summer, thank you very much for a wonderful weekend of memories." Mention the flowers thoughtfully placed on your night table, along with books you've been trying to find time to read.
About a September wedding dress code 2015 at the Ritz in Chicago. The wedding is at a Catholic Church, but starts at four. I know the rule that after five weddings are usually black tie, but not sure about this one. Can you help?? What should I wear? My husband??
–Christianna Harvey, Chicago, IL
Dear Christianna Harvey,About the September wedding guest dress code 2015 for you and your husband. When the invitation does not specify Black Tie or Formal Attire, you can assume the dress code is Suits & Dresses. As you say, a four o'clock wedding is not formal. The later in the day the ceremony, the more formal the dress code. To illustrate the kind of dress that would fit in at the Ritz in Chicago, go to Halsbrook.com and click on Occasions and then Wedding Guest. Not only will you find great dresses, but suggestions as to how to accessorize. You would wear a wonderful well-made, knee-length cocktail dress with beautiful shoes and carry a small, chic evening bag. Your husband should wear his best dark suit with a white shirt and best tie with black socks and shoes.
About excessive frigid air conditioning.
At a client’s home the other day outside of Boston, I thought I would freeze to death. She greeted us saying she had turned the central air conditioning way up so we would be comfortable, but we were all dressed for the steamy, muggy July weather. She greeted us wearing a heavy, snuggly sweater.
It didn’t seem polite to ask to borrow a sweater to wear over my short, sleeveless dress, or to have her turn down the air-conditioning, because she seemed terribly proud of her frigid house. The cold was a distraction and halfway through the two-hour meeting, I wanted to leave, but suffered in silence for the sake of her business. What should I have done? Neither of my two male colleagues were wearing jackets, or I would have asked to borrow one.
–Anonymous, Boston, MA
Dear Anonymous,Its cultural. It gave your client a certain amount of power and prestige being able to make you shiver. Despite the huge greenhouse-gas emissions issue, many sophisticated office lease holders require chilling capacity air-conditioners. The more upscale the store, the cooler the chill. Counterintuitively, researchers have found that more mistakes are made and employees are less productive when indoor temperature is 68 degrees to 72 degrees, as opposed to the more comfortable 74 to 76. There is actually an app called Comfy w here owners of air-conditioners can type in that they're too hot or cold or just fine to learn what you like when and tells the air-conditioning system when to boast or hold back the cold. Excessive air-conditioning is such a common problem, there are even fashion blogs that show you how to dress for the extremes of entering a cold office building from the suffocating subway. Layering of course is the way to go and there is no better fashion accessory than the summer jacket, which you can keep in your freezing cubicle for when the temperature drops to 68 degrees in August. Look at these cute work outfits from themuse.com.
About having an inappropriate conversation with minors.
Yesterday while playing tennis with friends, I heard one of the junior coaches asking about “dirty words ” while giving a private lesson in the next court. The coach is in his late twenties and the private lesson was to an eleven-year-old girl. At the water cooler, in front of the preteen, I told him his conversation was inappropriate.
Then, I overheard him asking her personal questions (including her age) about her family and their residences. He asked very specific questions about her older sister. I was appalled because it was highly inappropriate for a coach to be grilling and victimizing a child , when the parents think he’s only talking tennis. After the one hour lesson was over, again in front of her, I told him he should not be asking her personal questions.
The three women I was playing with thought I should report the coach to his superiors. Inevitably, he would be fired and I would have been responsible for tainting his career. I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he got the message, but then I think I should turn him in. What should I do? By the way, I don’t know the parents.
–Cordelia, East Hampton, NY
Dear Cordelia,Go with your gut feeling. Turn the pervert in. Your anger is justified. This coach shouldn't be around children. Preteens, especially, are beginning to understand that their childhood is coming to an end as they're struggling with new emotions. It is a time for discovery and looking for new perspectives of identities. The child was being victimized by an adult, and you pointed that out. The preteen's parents should be told so that they can reassure her that it is their responsibility to protect her; older men shouldn't be talking about dirty words and asking her personal questions. And should something like this happen again, she should tell her parents immediately. Since you don't know the child's parents, you don't have any choice but to ask the weirdo's superior to handle the situation and speak directly to the eleven-year-old's parents. Thank him, but gently ask him to report back to you after he's done so.
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