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Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

Dear Didi,

As a department store, we’ve been advised to neutralize our restrooms for costumers and staff in 2016. However, it seems that people are afraid of gender-neutral bathrooms and we’re experiencing resistance.

My question is two-fold: how to designate how transgender people will access the restrooms? By the person’s biological gender that defines them in terms of chromosomes and sex at birth or let them go where they feel the most comfortable?

And secondly, would we be setting up situations that could create sexual violence? For instance, what if a predatory man follows a young girl into the restroom, which traditionally has been a safe haven for women?

–Name withheld, Providence, RI

Dear Name withheld,

There are no statistics that I know of that indicate that public restrooms are any more sexually dangerous than any other public spaces, such as locker rooms, parking garages, alleys between buildings, and staircases inside public buildings. It's true, however, that restrooms in subways, bus stations, and parks can be risky. images-2Renovating your restrooms into gender-neutral multi-stall bathrooms, with high dividers, and simply labeled "Restroom" could well be your best solution. Especially when there is the option of a single-stall bathroom designated as gender-neutral -- the sign on the door would say "Single Stall" -- which should be easily accessed. This more private "Single Stall" would include (besides a toilet) a changing station for babies, a chair/bench for a mother to sit while breast feeding or pumping her milk and handrails for those in a wheelchair. Public restrooms may be the only everyday social institution remaining (aside from single-sex private clubs and schools), which aren't public spaces where genders are forced to separate. It may well be the last war on gender itself. For well over a hundred years public restrooms have reflected our sexual politics. First making it normal for a woman to be out in public going to school and working (while still needing her privacy when she relieves herself), and now that we are progressing toward assimilation it is no longer a big deal to share a restroom. Federal, state and municipal codes are slowly changing. If you've been advised to go with the times, why not try truly public Restrooms that include a Single-Stall bathroom accessible to transgenders, folks in wheelchairs, and parents or caregivers. images-1

~Didi

How To Be A Better Friend — Relationships

Dear Didi,

My friend has a lot of troubles with her relationships. I want to help her, but I’m a teen myself with stuff going on in my life, too. How can I be a better friend to my best friend?

–AK, Cranston, RI

Dear AK,

You aren't your friend's therapist. You are not responsible for her bad luck, her bad days, and the troubles that have surrounded her. Problems with her relationships are not yours. You can, however, be her friend by continuing to listen to her. Really listening means not only hearing her words but watching her body language, and also capturing the tone of her voice. Does she sound as though she feels like crying? Ask her if she cries a lot. Is she experiencing a huge disappointment that she wants to talk about, such as her parents' divorce or the death of a classmate. It is altogether possible that she needs a confidante, someone to confide in about her fears and anxieties. If you feel that your friend is having dark thoughts and is depressed, and may be hurting herself, isn't eating, or is talking about killing herself, you need to immediately tell someone like your mother whom you can trust. A school councilor, teacher or coach would also be ideal, although you would have to bring your friend along so that the adult can access the situation for herself. You need to understand that depression is a sickness. Ask about how she is feeling just the way you would ask about her sore throat, if she has a bad cold. Let your friend know that you are willing to talk about sad things as well as happy ones, in order to give her permission to express how she is really feeling. Most importantly, ASAP talk to an adult whom you know will follow through in assisting your friend in finding the professional help she needs.  

~Didi

Guidelines for Waitstaff — Entertaining

Dear Didi,

We are renovating and reopening a restaurant in Newport under new owners. During the interviews and training session for the staff, what tips can you give us to assure repeat customers and good reviews? Formerly, it was a mid-scale tourist restaurant which we are taking upmarket. Since Newport is a resort community catering to the sailing crowd, ties and jackets will not be required. However, we would like staff, as well as guests, to wear collared shirts and shoes, preferably not flip-flops. There will be a smallish sign at the entrance: Shirts and Shoes Required. Can you suggest further guidelines?

–Name withheld, Newport, RI

Dear Name withheld,

Congratulations on your fine dining endeavor. As you know, your restaurant's reputation will be based on better than good food as well as on the consistency and approachability of your staff. The staff should be warm and welcoming and yet NOT overly familiar. They should be encouraged to smile at the customers, but they should NEVER offer their first name. In other words, they shouldn't ask to be called by their first name as in, "Hi, I'm Johnny, I'll be your waiter this evening." Guests shouldn't feel that they have to remember the names of your staff in order to get good service.
  • Good service should be a given. A good server doesn't wait to be asked, he/she asks, "Is there anything I can get you?" or "How is everything?" or "Is everything alright?" a few minutes into the first course and then the entree. You want staff to be accessible although not too informal.
  • When taking the order for the table go from person to person and speak with that person directly, because the customer shouldn't have to shout his order from across the table and disturb the other diners' conversation.
images-149
  • Leave advice about fine wines up to the restaurant expert, the sommelier.
AAEAAQAAAAAAAAkDAAAAJGZjNWFkNjc1LTZjZGUtNGJhMS1hODM1LWRlNTc2ODU4MjdlOQ
  • Never reach your hand or arm in front of a customer or learn across the table to serve or clear. Always serve the person directly.
  • Diners don't want their conversation interrupted by the clanging of plates or knives and forks as you clear the table.
Ignore rudeness. For instance, a typical ugly example: should a customer, who is overly pleased with himself, get fresh and ask a staff member if he or she "is on the menu," the staff member should ignore the rudeness. She or he should never sarcastically reply, "I'm only listed under the entrees." That could lead to trouble.      Dress Code Women Staff
  • Wedding/commitment rings are fine, any other jewelry is not acceptable.
  • No nail polish.
  • Hair must be pulled back and off the face.
  • Uniform could be a clean white-collared shirt and polished black slacks or skirt and shoes.
  • Personal hygiene: Smell fresh, however, use only unscented products.
Dress Code Male Staff
  • Hair should fall no longer than the bottom of the earlobes.
  • No more than two days worth of beard growth.
  • Mustaches and tattoos tolerated on a case-to-case basis.
  • Personal hygiene:  Smell fresh, however, use only unscented products.
  • Uniform could be clean white-collared shirt and black trousers with polished black shoes and black socks.
  • Never forget the socks.
images-140    

~Didi

The Bride Wore Trousers — Wedding Dress Code

Dear Didi,

My 35-year-old sister is planning on wearing a white peplum top with white trousers instead of a traditional bridal gown. My parents are beside themselves because they are paying for her over-the-top wedding in Newport this summer. As the matron of the bride, I am the monkey in the middle. Shouldn’t she be able to wear what she wants? Our parents are paying all the bills and  insisting that she wear a bridal gown. Ugh! How do I broker a compromise?

–KG, Palm Beach, FL

Dear KG,

Lucky you, you're going to have to sit your parents down and update them on the various trends in weddings today. Start by saying that their lovely daughter doesn't envision herself at 35-years-old donning a big girl's prom dress with a cathedral length veil. Tell them she's not going to be the typical bride walking down the aisle in a traditional frilly white ball gown wedding dress. Add that your sister has a more modern vision of herself. 10FIELD-5-master675 Meanwhile, talk to your sister about the various choices she has in choosing pants to wear instead of a bridal gown. If she's looking for a no-nonense aerodynamic outfit, palazzo pants (above) are a wonderful option. The same would be true of a pair of stunning and flattering satin, silk, or linen trousers, a jumpsuit or pantsuit. Bride-in-Pants-White-Wedding-Suit-Bridal-Musings-Wedding-Blog-4 Another option, is to wear something similar to what Amal Alamuddin wore when she married George Clooney; two outfits, trousers (see upper left photo) to the ceremony and a dress to the reception. The palazzo pants below are a comfortably contemporary alternative for any bride. 7125a 7-net-a-porter-curated-wedding-dresses-designer-wedding-gowns-0225-h724

~Didi

The Importance of The Handwritten Note — Relationships

Dear Didi,

This is about relationships. A good friend’s last remaining parent died and I’ve been trying to be as helpful as I can. Do I still need to write her a personal note? Or would that be just another note she’d have to acknowledge? Should I send her a condolence card or do I have to write a letter? She asked me if she needs to write to 150 people who ‘Liked’ the photo of her parent that she posted on Facebook to announce the parent’s death or can she just ‘Reply’ with a quick ‘Thank You’? If she thanked friends in person for their flowers at the funeral, does she still have to send a sympathy acknowledgement?

–EH, Boston

Dear EH,

Handwriting is the most elegant form of communication in relationships. The whole exercise of expressive note writing whether in sympathy or gratitude -- even a few lines on a commercial condolence card and finding a stamp (who has those any longer?) -- is part of the mourning process. You can send your friend a handwritten note on your best stationery (even if its left over from your wedding) or a thoughtful greeting card. BillMiller59242542781T Trust me. It will make you happier to write her a note. In many instances, including that of the survivor, writing is cathartic for mourning. There is a de-escalation process where the survivor reciprocates, acknowledging in writing the death of their parent to friends and family; when she sends acknowledgement cards that include a short message she's accepting her grief. Expressing the loss of that relationship is therapeutic for the writer as well as the survivor Hopefully, these simple guidelines will make it easier to understand: With the case for handwriting your message, the evidence is evident. We now know from recent brain scan studies that early handwriting helps kids to learn how to read, and that keyboards don't have the same effect. Forming the letters with a pen/pencil enables children to break the code by producing more brain activity than merely viewing letters on a keyboard. There's more evidence that handwriting lecture notes, compared to typing on a laptop or iPhone, improves learning for college students.
  • The gratitude letter that your friend would be writing in return is positive psychology. It is written as a specific expression of thanks to a person who has been especially thoughtful, kind or important to her. Apparently, 99% of the time the gratitude letter works. And why wouldn't it?
As I said before, handwriting is the most elegant form of communication. It makes you happier, smarter and more endearing. In most instances, handwriting is another tool for thinking, expression, creativity, and communication. BillMiller59242543012 BillMiller59242272506 A good handwritten letter
  • is personal and is personalized (when you send a tweet, email, text, or FB message, you should still follow up with a handwritten note or card when you know the person well.)
  • represents the writer's undivided attention (unlike an email or phone call while multi-tasking at work.)
  • is a thoughtful gesture appreciated for its effort, time spent writing it and finding a stamp. People remember who wrote a heartfelt letter and who sent a text.
BillMiller59242069823T The gratitude letter
  • for a gift of any kind or any occasion acknowledgement is appreciated. It sustains the relationship. If I spend half a day making a meatloaf and cherry pie to bring you while you're recuperating from a knee replacement, I am grateful to receive a handwritten message of appreciation.
  • is appreciated when someone goes out of their way (again, spending time on you) to introduce you to someone who becomes your boss, mentor, investor, or business partner; or pulls strings for you.
images-134 A condolence letter
  • can be sent anytime, the sooner the better, however, there are no rules or time constraints.
  • should never include unhelpful phrases (see below).
  • is NOT about being profound.
  • is all about acknowledging a death and expressing genuine sympathy.
  • is not the place to compare losses (saying you've experienced the same loss could annoy the person).
          What NOT to say:
  • It's for the best.
  • I/we know how you feel. (You don't know how they feel, no matter how well you think you know the person.)
  • He lived a full life.
  • My mother had ______, too.
  • How are you? Obviously, they're hurting
  • It was the right time -- because she may have been let go.
          What to AVOID:
  • Don't promise to help, if you're not sure you will.
  • Don't go on too long, because brevity is key.
  • Don't go into the drastic circumstances of the deceased.
  • Don't say anything even vaguely religious, unless it is appropriate.Don't sign off with just Sincerely, which sounds cold.
          When you don't know the person well, how to sign off in closing:
  • With sympathy,
  • Please accept our condolences,
  • Our sincere sympathy,
  • With caring thoughts,
  • With deepest sympathy,
  • Warmest condolences,
  • With deepest sympathy for your loss,
BillMiller59242542755           When you know the recipient well:
  • With love,
  • With loving memories,
  • Thinking of you,
  • Our thoughts are of you, our hearts are with you,
          Add the deceased's name in the closing -- even if it is a pet:
  • Stella will never be forgotten,
  • Toby will live on in our hearts,
  • Louis will remain in our hearts,
  • We will never forget Elaine,
Zoom-V2-91-23837SN

Much appreciation to the Printery, Oyster Bay, New York,

for the use of all of the exquisite samples above.

~Didi

How Not To Write An Annoying Email —

Dear Didi,

There is nothing more annoying than a bothersome email. With my requisite Starbucks coffee container in hand, I arrive at my desk at nine o’clock five mornings a week greeted by twenty emails that I’ll have to get behind me ASAP. Knowing full well that I’ll probably have to deal with a hundred more in my inbox during the course of my day. Some of which are unintentionally rude, and I find it a tiresome chore keeping up the politeness. Sometimes I want to write back “Don’t type at me like that.” In retrospect, I’m assuming my emails at times might be equally as irritating. How do I not write an annoying email?

–H.M., Providence, RI

Dear H.M.,

Well, excuse us Mr. High and Mighty, who receives over a hundred emails a day. Aren't you important. Do you ever think to unsubscribe to the daily, weekly, monthly repeats? Treat every work-related email as potential public information. You can control them -- or let them control you -- by handling your emails in batches over the course of the day. While you're at it, control the length of your sentences. Annoying
  • Asking for a response in the subject line: Urgent - reply by 5:00 p.m. today
  • A greeting that doesn't get to the point right away. I really don't need to know that you just got back from Aspen.
  • Please, don't sound like a fourth grader with an assignment to write an email.
  • Don't crowd the email with paragraphs. If you really want me to respond immediately, try cutting down to between 50 and 150 words. Studies show that response rates actually decline 50% after 125 words.
  • If you want my attention, use both strong positive and negative words.
  • When an email uses too many bullet points or a variety of color texts to hold my attention, I know the person is trying way too hard.
  • On that note, I know that you're being annoyingly strategic when you use Yesware (because I see that your email arrived by way of a software tracking device in my inbox between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.). I get it that you're hoping for a high response rate.
Most Annoying Phrases
  • I'm sorry
  • I mean (when at the start of a sentence)
  • I have a stupid question
  • I have your back
  • This is my opinion
  • This might be off topic
  • Allow me to be the devil's advocate
  • Please don't hesitate to contact me
  • No offense, but
  • No worries
  • No problem (instead of you're welcome)
  • price point
  • secret sauce
  • break the internet
  • walk it back
  • giving me life
  • to be honest with you
  • you know what I'm saying
  • it is what it is
  • at the end of the day
  • throwing (someone) under the bus
  • game on
  • check all the boxes
  • how ya doin'
  • step up your/my game
  • bring it
  • safe space
  • microaggression
  • you're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts
Crib notes for being not annoying
  • Don't be wishy washy.
  • Shorter sentences are more to the point.
  • Keep the email to no longer than 5 sentences.
Most Annoying Words
  • out-winded
  • synergy
  • pivotal
  • whatever
  • huge
  • unsure
  • but
  • just
  • like
  • amazing
  • basically
  • problematic
  • stakeholder
  • presser
  • physicality
  • twerking
  • awesomesauce
  • fap
  • literally
  • so (when used as the first word in a sentence)
  • conversation (when you mean discussion or debate)
  • absolutely (when you mean "yes")
  • honestly (when it tends to mean the opposite)
Abrasive Tone Watch your tone. During face-to-face conversation we pick up on your psychological as well as physical demeanor. We listen to the tone of your voice. Happy voice or angry voice? We know from your composure, posture, facial expression, and gestures how you're reacting to the subject at hand. I'll remember the emotional tone of your email long after I've forgotten the topic.
  • Before clicking Send, ask yourself: How will the receiver of this message interpret the intention and mood of your words? Will I be making this person feel sad, mad, guilty, self-critical or stressed?
  • Sarcasm is considered derisive or condescending.
Annoying Cuteness
  • In a professional email, especially when you don't know the person well, don't use text speak (LOL, ASAP, BTW, FOMO, etc.). Or ALL CAPS, because it feels as though you're screaming at me, when in fact you may simply be too lazy to switch from upper to lower case.
  • Never overuse punctuation!!!!!
  • Never use emoticons because to most of us they are super annoying.
Lastly, consider whether a phone call might be the more efficient route to getting a read on the recipient, before jumping to a false conclusion in an email.
  • And finally, in the workplace assume that every message you send is read by two people -- other than you.
images-124      

~Didi

How To Get People Off Your Back — Difficult Conversations

Dear Didi,

I have trouble with difficult conversations fending off colleagues who waste my time. How do you get people off your back? It’s all about gimme-gimme, pay attention to me. When they persistently email, asking, “Let’s jump on a call” or “Can we set up a meeting?” I don’t know what to say without coming off as blatantly rude. Colleagues don’t seem to understand that I want to keep to a minimum time-wasting in-person check-in meetings, either on the phone or in person.

–JL, NY, NY

Dear JL,

What a waste of time being too liked is! We spend so much energy trying to be liked that we have no time left for what matters. Getting everyone to love you can be a big nuisance! Start by asking, "Can you be specific as to what information you're looking to share and send me an email on that?" Are you tired of being the 'best' person? I'd like to counter with:

The 12 Ways Not To Make People Like You

*If someone gives you the old line about the importance of building a face-to-face relationship, suggest that ahead of time they email you what they want to talk to you about. Add that you can chat at the next monthly office happy hour -- where you can also socialize with other colleagues.

break-ice-with-coworkers *Tell the person that when it comes to raises, promotions, or success, you're not rewarded for how many emails you sent and answered, and call backs you made. *Suggest that the person prioritizes their time and focuses on top goals that produce long-term success. *Tell him that you've personally found that by saving an hour or two a week by not taking calls and handling meetings, you can focus on those top goals. *Ask if you really need to be CC'd on all his emails, and made to feel obligated to go to every meeting? *Make it clear that you don't want colleagues stopping by your desk, or office, for a needless chatty update about a project you're working on together, because in fact his chit-chats deaden your productivity. images-120 *What is someone really asking for when they suggest coffee, lunch or a drink after work? Is this business or are they looking for personal advice? Have the person clarify the premise of their request to meet with you. Email them saying, "I have to confirm my schedule on Friday, and I'll get back to you as soon as I know more. Let me be clear, what would you like to talk about?" Their reply will help you make the best decision as to whether or not you want to take the time to meet person-to-person. If you misread their intentions, you may feel misled. shutterstock_210593740 *Don't think you can get rid of a person with a phone call. Defaulting with a phone conversation can be just as time-wasting as a meeting. Remember the person who places the call, ends the call. *Push back by asking if you can tackle any and all logistics via email or text. *Pushing back further to make it clear that there will be no ping-pong of emails, try using an app such as Boomeranggmail strategically to delay the arrival of your email response. Even if he's persistent, your definition of productivity may differ from his. *Don't use his first name any more than you have to in conversation or in emails. *Don't small talk by asking polite questions about his personal life because your intention is not to make him think you want to learn more about it. images-121  

~Didi

Dinner Party Seating Same-Sex Couples — Entertaining Etiquette

Dear Didi,

We are hosting an Easter dinner party and trying to figure out the entertaining etiquette for seating a same-sex couple. What is the etiquette for seating twelve guests man-woman-man-woman at a table when one couple is a male same-sex relationship? Will they be insulted if we guess which is butch and which is the femme and seat them accordingly? They are not married, and they haven’t come out to us about who is the husband and who is the wife. What do you suggest?

–AG, Boston

Dear AG,

Best not to guess because it could come off as insulting if you assign gender and are wrong trying to play entertaining etiquette. Perhaps, gender roles are still being worked out. Perhaps, as in many couples, the femme could be the boss while the husband does the vacuuming. Don't pigeon hole a same-sex couple into gender roles that may not hold true. For all you know, they consider themselves husbands -- and not wife and husband. Look at it this way. If the two guests in question weren't a couple, would you treat them any differently? Like any decent host, seat guests according to compatibility. With each guest think of another guest with whom they may have a common interest, whether it be business, golf, sailing, fashion, dogs, travel, or having children the same age. When doing seating it should be more about the personality of the person than sexual politics. Another suggestion to up your Easter dinner party is to seat guests, if possible, on one side with someone they know and on the other side with someone they do not know. Doing so should make the two strangers curious about one another. Why did you, the host who presumably knows them both, seat them side-by-side? Perhaps they'll be eager to learn why you've seated them together.   15400_dinnerparty-1

~Didi

Wedding Gown with Denim Jacket + Boots — Wedding Dress Code

Dear Didi,

About wedding dress code, when the invitation states “Casual” for a 5:00 p.m. outdoor wedding and reception in a small country town. Since the groom is planning on wearing jeans or khakis and a button down with blazer, can the bride still wear a more formal waltz/tea length wedding dress for the ceremony?

My friend, the bride, is getting grief that she is going to be dressy when her guests will be casual. But, she still wants to look like a bride for the wedding, and says she will change into boots and add a denim jacket over her dress for the reception, if it’s cool.

–Anonymous, Dallas, TX

Dear Anonymous,

The best wedding dress code ever is "Casual," because the hosts are encouraging  guests to do their own thing and wear what they want to wear. The bride steals the show dress accordingly in whatever she wants to wear because it is her special day. A day to live out her bridal fantasy, whether it be acres of tulle and Manalos or a denim jacket and cowboy boots. boho-chic-wedding-inspiration-photo-shoot-kimberly-chau-photography-1

Bride and groom at a boho-chic "Casual" wedding.

images-109

Above and below, the bridesmaids set the

dress code for the other women guests when the

invitation states "Casual" for a rustic barn wedding.

JessicaKevin-145

The bride and her bridesmaids when "Casual" is the way to go.

Country-Wedding-with-Gray-Dresses-2013

e22885_29fcf11e21f24a448785383e8a3db233.jpg_srz_821_512_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz

Bridal parties at country weddings with a "Casual" dress code, and guests are wearing a style that suits them. Sometimes the bride suggests a color and length, but not always. The bride can be the only woman at her wedding in a long gown; it doesn't mean that the women guests should or shouldn't wear a long dress when adhering to the wedding dress code "Casual."

colorado-wedding-photographer-littleton-wedding-photographer-chatfield-botanic-gardens-wedding-pink-and-turquoise-wedding-colorado-barn-wedding-rustic-wedding-127(pp_w1052_h703)-1

The dress code here is "Casual" and the bridesmaids are wearing dresses that flatter their figure and coloring, along with their cowboy boots. The groom and his groomsmen are dressed casually in khaki trousers with open-neck shirts (no ties).

Blue.Dress_.Barn_.Wedding020a

A super "Casual' wedding with the bride in a white gown.

dc445fa304773b65b90989e7718ea803

When the dress code is "Casual," guests are supposed to express themselves.

653a689481d225a5d0a6e8ce77fabfff

Here are recent brides in white dresses, wearing denim jackets and boots.

Sydne-Style-wedding-ideas-with-cowboy-boots-southern-bride-157x213-1

Unknown-19

~Didi

Handling the Myth of The Easter Bunny — Family Etiquette

Dear Didi,

My two small children believe in the Easter Bunny. Their older cousins don’t. Last Easter an older cousin teased them about believing in the Easter Bunny. How do I handle this with my sister-in-law and her tween son?

–MB, Austin, TX

Dear MB,

Ask your sister-in-law if her son would consider dressing up as the Easter Bunny and entertaining his younger cousins on Easter? Let's hope the bully is more interested in perpetuating the myth than destroying the fantasy.     images-108

~Didi

Who Pays for Easter Lunch? — Family Etiquette

Dear Didi,

About family etiquette. For the past three Easters, I’ve picked up the check for our family dining out on Easter Sunday. For years while she was raising her children, my sister cooked Easter lunch at her house with roasted leg of lamb, ham and all the trimmings. When my sister returned to the work force, I started taking everyone for Easter lunch at a restaurant. My company is downsizing, I’ve taken a pay cut and I cannot afford to treat 20 people. My sister is making a lot more money than I am. As the big brother, how can I gracefully get out of playing host at Easter?

–PW, Stony Brook, NY

Dear PW,

With Easter marching closer, it is a bit late to cancel. This is about the family etiquette of hosting Easter lunch in a restaurant. The best you can do is to talk to family members about pitching in on the restaurant bill. Can you ask your sister to split the bill with you? Alternatively, would you consider organizing a potluck Easter lunch in your home with everyone bringing their favorite dish and a bottle of wine or a dessert? It will take some coordination, and you can purchase prepared food, and use recycled paper plates, glasses and utensils. Easter is all about keeping family together, and not haute cuisine. Over the next ten months, talk to family members about how best to keep up the tradition of bringing the family together for the various holidays. Unknown-17

~Didi

Matron of Honor — Wedding Dress Code

Dear Didi,

What do I wear to a 2 p.m. nontraditional wedding? As the matron of honor, I need to know the matron of honor wedding dress code? There are no bridesmaids. I’m the only other woman in the bridal party and the bride is wearing light green????

–Anonymous, Dallas, TX

Dear Anonymous,

It may be every matron of honor's dream come true to be able to choose her own dress. How considerate of the bride to encourage you to wear a style and color that flatters you personally -- a dress that you will actually wear again. Assuming, from what you say, that the bride is wearing a pastel green dress, find a dress in the same tone, probably a blue, yellow or nude. Traditionally, of course you could go with the "green and pink" combo, but since this is a nontraditional wedding you should not.  Because the bride hasn't dictated a matron of honor dress code you are free to be somewhat adventurous. That said. Look on the invitation for a dress code. If the dress code is 'Black Tie' or 'Formal Attire,' wear a long dress, so that the length of your dress will be similar to that of her bridal gown When there is no dress code, go by the dress code 'Suits and Dresses,' which means you would wear a fabulous knee-length cocktail dress, jump suit, or pantsuit. However, you don't want your dress to be too short, because when you're on a stage giving a toast you don't want the audience to see right up your dress. No fooling. Ask the bride to tell you more about her dress. You don't want to wear a long dress if she is wearing a short dress.  Since it is an early afternoon ceremony, you wouldn't wear a long dress even if her dress is floor length (unless the dress code is formal attire) . Your dress should have a sleeve, if her dress is not sleeveless. Likewise, if it is not strapless, yours shouldn't be either. 3110231937_1_3_Nr2AhUcb Color this season is perfectly balanced with the vivid colors expressing excitement and spirit and the calming colors suggesting stability. If by chance, the bride's dress is one of the green tones here below, then any of the colors rain-bowing out from it should work well with the bride's light green wedding dress. images-101  

~Didi

The Death of Table Manners

Dear Didi,

Unlike my husband and myself, my children were born and raised here, and I want to prepare them for fitting in to social situations as well as at work and on interviews. I worry they don’t have proper table manners. Are there basics my children, who are still in school, should know? If so, I want to know what they are.

 

–SS, Providence, RI

Dear SS,

Your children will mimic the other students in the lunchroom in order to fit in. Lunchroom table manners have become the standard for most students and bad habits are hard to break. Some of these students will display better manners in a family setting at the dinner table, yet not always. There are ground rules -- or should we call them table rules? They apply anywhere, whether it is in a fast food restaurant, a boardroom during an interview lunch, at a wedding or the family dinner table.

The 6 Basic Table Rules

*The biggest deterrent to good table manners is the cellphone. The reason many more families are unplugging their EarPods and leaving cellphones in a designated location away from the table before sitting down to a family meal is to encourage conversation. Despite the fact that a telephone survey last summer by the New York Times found that when asked: Are Phones Off Limits at the Table? 61% answered 'No.' 34% answered 'It Depends.' Realistically, are you in that 5% that answered 'Yes'? *Know how to use utensils. With the temptations of fast-foods and finger foods such as hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fingers, pizza, burritos, pop tarts, wraps and sandwiches, etc., a lot of kids don't know how to use a knife, fork, spoon or chopsticks. Watching TV while eating isn't an excuse for not using utensils. Actors and talking heads don't have the best table manners either when they're waving their fork as if it were a flag. Like most skills, maneuvering utensils takes dexterity. Like all early milestones, some children master the skill early, others take longer. Adults are the best role models. Do they use utensils with care -- or do they wave utensils like flags or scrape or pound them like drums on the plate or bowl in a way that is sure to disrupt the conversation? No need to eat with two hands at once, the food will still be there:

images-94-1 Learn to bring your food to your mouth, and not lower your mouth to the plate. If you eat spaghetti like this,

images-95-1 images-91-1 your daughter may eat like that.

*Consideration starts with elbows off the table. Imagine at the dinner table if everyones' arms wrestled for space on the table for their two elbows. That's how accidents happen and when tempers fly. No elbows on the table and keep hands in your lap when they aren't navigagting a utensil. The napkin is to protect clothing from becoming soiled from sticky hands, so use it. Place the napkin over your lap before the food arrives. Once a utensil has been used, leave it on the plate so as not to dirty the table.  When excusing yourself from the table leave your loosely folded napkin to the left of your place setting (if you aren't clearing the table).

unnamed manners-1What's wrong with this picture?

*Watch your mouth. Never use words such as sh*t, f*ck, and b*tch, because it is offensive to those around you. Nobody wants to watch you or listen to you chewing, so keep your mouth closed while eating. Nobody can hear what you're saying when you talk with your mouth full of food. Plus, it can spray and spot your clothing -- or that of the person next to you. Try to abstain from licking your fingers and picking at your teeth. When you want to get rid of a piece of gristle, discreetly place it on the side of your plate with your fork. *Keep your hands to yourself, preferably in your lap when you're not eating and don't snitch fries from Johnny's plate or you'll cause a rumble. No matter how irresistible, never feed the dog table scraps from your plate. It's gross. *Cooperate with team spirit when you're asked to hand the salt or pass the ketchup. You do it for him, he'll do it for you. This is the place, in family space, to ingrain the magic of 'please' and 'thank you.' Before heading to retrieve your cellphone, you should clear your plate, glass, and utensils and place them in the kitchen sink or dishwasher. images-99

~Didi

Table Manners — Seating and Standing

Dear Didi,

I’m wondering what constitutes good table manners?

We are three healthy married couples who for several years have met for dinner every other month at a different restaurant in Brooklyn. One of the men in the group doesn’t automatically stand when one of the women arrives at the table late, nor does he stand when one of the ladies returns from the restroom. The other man and I stand up and one of us pulls out her chair for her to sit down. He doesn’t budge even for his wife — until he notices he’s the only man down.

I think by now we unwittingly stand to annoy him. I can’t say I’m proud of myself, although I would like him to stand up for my wife and pull out her chair when I’m across the table from her. I enjoy showing the wives respect. At any rate, I’ve noticed that the other man and I have been slacking off about jumping up in fear of humiliating him further. Is this a slithery slope?

–AC, Brooklyn

Dear AC,

Table manners may not be his strong point. Chances are the negligent husband will eventually succumb to attempting a clumsy stance so as not to be outed by the other men at the table as he becomes more comfortable with his well-mannered friends. Good manners rub off on others. His feeble attempt at using good etiquette will be duly noted and the other men probably won't always stand up when the returning woman arrives back at the table. Why? So as not to embarrass the ignoramus a second time -- or the woman. To be honest, you don't see most men standing anymore (especially in restaurants without table cloths) because nobody wants to intentionally humiliate any man who doesn't stand during a social occasion. If it was a same-sex couple what would you do? Would you assume a different gender to each and act accordingly standing up for one and not the other? Probably not. Less than one in five men will pull out a chair for a woman to sit down at a restaurant table. You think that's bad, three-quarters won't lift a hand to carry a woman's bag or suitcases. Forget about having the car door held open. Is it because men don't want to be accused of being condescending? Is a woman condescending when she makes him breakfast the next morning? Good manners would be to tend to your toileting before being seated. One never leaves the table while dining unless you really cannot hold it a minute longer. It is just downright rude to the other diners at the table.   images-98  

~Didi

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