THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON

THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON

With the holidays upon us, it’s a time of both reflection and forward thinking. Our Etiquette Guy, Jay Remer, is always on hand to steer social conundrums in the correct direction with cheers for a festive season that we can all enjoy together.  

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Since it’s the holidays, can you please refresh my memory of gratuities for household staff and extended support team members like doorkeepers, residential building valets, etc.?

                                                                                                                              Giving Generously

Dear GG,

During the holidays, it is customary to give cash gifts to people who have served us in some capacity during the year. In part, deciding how much to give depends on your relationship with the person and your feelings and ability to be generous. A rule of thumb for household staff is one week’s salary–more if you wish. For others, $100 popping out of an envelope brings a smile to most faces. Many people in the service industry depend on gratuities to make ends meet. If you enjoy a festive holiday meal at a restaurant, I recommend a minimum 20% gratuity. Some patrons use this opportunity over the holidays to be considerably more generous. This generosity is very much appreciated and, in many cases, means the difference between them having a joyous holiday or not. I encourage people to be as generous as possible during these challenging times. The gratitude you will invoke makes the holidays a more delightful time of year.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Do you think I must attend my office holiday party this year? The pandemic is still in our midst, and I already interact with most of these people daily through Zoom or in-person meetings.

                                                                                                                                        Party Pooper

Dear Pooped Out,

You do not need to attend your office holiday party–or any other party. The choice is yours, and if you think otherwise, you have given too much power to others, and you’re not protecting your boundaries. Sometimes we feel like being social, and sometimes we don’t. It’s a personal choice, not one that others should judge or comment upon. This doesn’t stop you from sending cards or exchanging gifts with co-workers on your holiday list. Spread joy and engage with others, but always on your terms.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Is there a polite way to check if someone has received a gift I sent by mail after not hearing from them within ten days?

                                                                                                                                         Postal Santa

Dear Santa’s Helper,

Politeness is often a state of mind. If you inquire as a factual matter, you can tell the person that you have mailed a parcel and want to be sure it has arrived safely. No one should ever seek to solicit a thank you, but this form of questioning creates a shared responsibility with the postal service. They are not perfect, so the question is legitimate. I try to always get a tracking number in case the parcel was misdirected.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Do I always have to contribute to an event or gift at work when I know I won’t be in town that day to partake?

                                                                                                                                           Gift Giving

Dear Gifter,

I am not a fan of pressuring people into participating in voluntary activities. You need not feel any responsibility to contribute if you don’t want to. No guilt trips allowed. People who push others are skating on thin ice–we must respect other people’s choices and boundaries. So, no, you don’t have to, but people will most likely appreciate it if you do. You can be present in spirit if not in person, but the choice is always yours.

MOMENTS THAT MATTER

MOMENTS THAT MATTER

As the world seems to become more complex, we, along with our very own Etiquette Guy, Jay Remer, recommend that we all simplify, simplify, simplify. Here are a few of his sage insights to support your own social conundrums.

Dear Etiquette Guy,

It’s something we all know yet often forget. Can you please remind me of the rules for white and linen worn after Labor Day? Since it’s so warm, could we extend that wear?

Laboring Over It

Dear Lost in Labor,

Traditionally, white and linen were hung up after Labor Day, marking the end of the summer season. Typically, people would close their summer cottages and swap out their summer wardrobe for fall and winter. From a practical perspective, we replaced the whites and linens with our favorite light cottons and autumn hues stashed safely in the cedar closet or mothballs for the summer.

 

However, like many old traditions, new lifestyles demand even more practicality and flexibility as warmer weather extends further into the autumn months. Many of us like wearing summery and floral clothes throughout the year–and that’s just fine. I recommend allowing common sense and your stylish persona to guide your sartorial choices. Creativity reveals our personalities and what better way than fashion to make our inner selves shine?

 

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

When making a toast to a guest of honor at a meal or an event, should it occur at the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Terrifically Toasting

Dear Toast with The Most,

Making toasts at celebratory events is a traditional and essential component of most formal occasions. Such events almost always are in honor of someone. The host should always give the first evening toast, which typically welcomes guests and includes making a toast to the guest of honor. This occurs once all the guests are seated. When dignitaries are guests, plan any toasts according to proper protocol. There is some flexibility, but this is not an opportunity to go out on a limb with creativity. Save that for less programmed events where you want a less formal tone.

 

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Now that gala season is beginning again, is it acceptable to do “Dutch” tables and invite eight other people to an event to share our event table?

Tableaux Taboo

Dear Tabled for Now,

Dutch tables are far more common than you might expect. Charity galas depend on fundraising as a significant budget line item, as we know. Other than corporate sponsors and the uber-wealthy, most people cannot afford the largesse once shared generations ago.

 

Sharing tables makes much sense. First, it allows others to attend an event supporting a favorite charity they may otherwise not afford. Also, since we’ve grown accustomed to enjoying small groups, the Dutch option is easy for carrying on this new tradition. Humility comes into play when weighing the pros and cons of Dutch tables. The goal of attending any gala is for everyone to be comfortable, have a great time on all levels, and support a worthy cause.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

We recently moved into a new area and met our next-door neighbors, who we thought were friendly and engaging. The next day they invited me to their social media account, and I was shocked at their political and social POV on hot-button topics. How should I proceed?

Curious & Apprehensive

Dear Newly Neighbored,

When I meet challenges like this, and they are beyond awkward, I make a real effort not to put any oxygen into the relationship. Being cordial is one thing, but thinking you’ll change their perspective, or they’ll change yours, is a non-starter. I would limit my contact and not engage with them on social media until I get to know them better. Social media can cause havoc in any relationship. We can live side by side with one another and share differing views. Sometimes civil debate can be a healthy way to form relationships, but with the divisiveness that rides roughshod today, such discussions are rare. Please proceed with caution and reserve judgment as you get to know them.

THE EXTRA MILE IS RARELY CROWDED

THE EXTRA MILE IS RARELY CROWDED

In these changing times, we are all minding our P’s and Q’s, thanks to our Etiquette Guy, Jay Remer, who is on the scene to help us through some socially delicate situations that may occur.

Dear Etiquette Guy,

I realize we all must be flexible post COVID, yet are there any new rules to canceling plans last minute not due to a family or personal emergency?

Places To Be

Dear Busy Bee,

We should only cancel plans last minute when necessary. Nothing has changed about that. However, we are not post-COVID yet–don’t be fooled. Many people still treat this virus as a serious health risk. Therefore, if you test positive or have symptoms, let your host know as soon as possible. Some people believe we’ve reached the point where we’ll need to adjust to mingling without masks in large groups, while others are still cautious due to personal health issues. The host will let you know how they feel about your attendance. If your position is you’ll stay home because you’ve been exposed, then that’s a decision they should honor. Allow common sense and your intuition to guide your decisions.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Thanks to the increase in social events, what is the protocol for accepting two invitations on the same evening that are guest-manageable from a timing standpoint? For example, cocktails at one function and dinner (or a gala attendance) at another?

Being There, Doing That

Dear Social Butterfly,

Accepting multiple invitations for the same evening is nothing unusual, busy bee. Typically, invitations rarely arrive on the same day, but either way, send your acceptance to your host as soon as you make your decision. Gala hosts often collaborate with friends to host a pre-gala drinks party, which often adds to the momentum of the evening, creating the magic everyone loves. During the height of any social season, multiple invitations will conflict. Be sure if you accept any invitation, you attend the party. Deciding between events can be a challenge, and sometimes less is more. But when the spirit moves and time allows, fill your boots.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

A great pal from college has begun a new liquor company and has generously offered to supply his product at my wedding, gratis. The trouble is that my fiancé doesn’t like it at all. What do you recommend? 

Groom To Be

Dear Getting Groomed,

Honesty is always the best policy. Your fiancé’s preference trumps your pal’s generous offer when it comes to any wedding plans. Part of starting a new business is generating leads and what better way to do this than at a party? Perhaps you could offer to showcase his new product line on a more informal occasion. You have the upper hand here, so he feels congratulatory and kind, because overriding your fiancé’s wishes could spell disaster. My recommendation is to avoid the avoidable.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Since outdoor entertaining is everywhere now, not all guests offer dishes that the majority would like. How do I gently persuade the guest to bring something else instead that might be more of a fan favorite?

Getting My Grill On

Dear Potluck Host,

Coordination is key to the success of any gathering where food from multiple sources is the flavor of the day. As the host, you can guide everyone’s choices. You will undoubtedly lean on one guest or another for their favorite dessert or potato salad. As the host, you may want to be responsible for one or more of the main courses and invite your guests to fill in around those selections. If someone suggests an anchovy pie, and you know that won’t be a hit, feel free to suggest something else. However, I caution you from being too quick to reject any offerings. You never know who might relish trying a new dish. Not everything needs to please everyone­–it rarely does. The choice is yours as host, and again, I defer to one’s common sense and intuition–they can be your best friends when making these calls.

THINGS ARE LOOKING UP

THINGS ARE LOOKING UP

Our Etiquette Guy Jay Remer is with you every step of the way to help determine the most appropriate course of good manners. After all, etiquette in social situations were created to help everyone feel as comfortable as possible.

Dear Etiquette Guy,

As our travels become more robust again, is it insensitive to post my own social media photos?

Hitting The Road

Dear Robust Traveler,

Up, up, and away has finally returned. Posting photos on social media is a great way to share the joy of your adventures with others. We live vicariously through others’ joy and love to see our friends thriving! However, as you suggest, it can be overdone. Always look at your intention before posting anything­–a photo or words. If you’re not using the platform for self-aggrandizement or some other unseemly reason, share away. If you enjoy seeing how much fun your friends are having, most likely, they will, too.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

A college friend, who lives in another city, is getting married this fall. There will be many bridal showers, yet I can’t attend them all due to logistics. Should I send gifts for the ones when I am unable to participate?

Wedding Goer

Dear Wedding Goer,

Isn’t it wonderful that large weddings can once again take to the stage? For once-in-a-lifetime celebrations, to borrow a phrase from Downton Abbey: nothing succeeds like excess. Nonetheless, with multiple showers, scheduling can be understandably difficult. If you are invited to more than one shower for the same bride, try to attend at least one. If you’ve received an invitation, your presence is truly wanted. When you accept an invitation to a shower, you should bring a gift or send one ahead whether you attend or not. There is, however, no obligation to accept every invitation you receive. If you send your regrets, you are not required to send a gift, but the option is still on the table. Follow your heart.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Do I have to open a host or birthday gift that I might receive, right then and there, or may I wait until later?

Lucky Recipient

Dear Lucky,

Allow the circumstances to guide you in making your decision. There is no rule obligating you to anything in this case. Giving and receiving gifts should come from the heart. Therefore, I recommend listening to your heart more than your head. Choice is liberating, yet try to read how the other person is feeling. If they insist that you open the gift, try to make the time and space to do so. Because this can create an awkward moment, be cognizant when you are in this position–try to resist the insist.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

I recently went on a business trip to the West Coast and was shocked at the level of both professional and personal flakiness. How do I respond when a colleague or friend simply cancels a meeting or meal at the last minute?

                                                                                                                                         On The Ball

Dear Ball in Your Court,

Exacerbated by the excruciating and ongoing demands that COVID-19 extracted from us on all levels, many entrepreneurs and business executives no longer perform as they once did–personally or professionally. Moreover, given the recent departure of millions of people from the US workforce, of their own volition, the way we do business moving forward must change dramatically.

 

The old methods of power and control will transform into new inclusive and diverse ones where mutual respect and trust, a fair value-exchange agreement, common sense, and following The Golden Rule will prevail. While this transformation takes place, we may need to stretch our flexibility muscles. I recommend you hold people accountable while being as flexible as you can. Your time is every bit as valuable as theirs. A gentle reminder never hurts. We all must become better at picking our battles. Compassion goes a long way in keeping those muscles from seizing up.

HOW TO REALLY SEE OTHERS

HOW TO REALLY SEE OTHERS

Jay Remer, our Etiquette Guy, is on the scene for spring to warm up some questions we all might be having these days as our times are rapidly evolving. After all, the best manners we can practice often include asking insightful questions of others. 

Dear Etiquette Guy

As summer travel approaches, we’ll be traveling again like we have in the past. Can you please refresh my memory on gratuity? How much shall I tip an attendant on private aircraft or boat?

      Flying High

Dear Wheels Up.

Gratuities are a way to express our appreciation for something someone has done to enrich our lives somehow. How private households and their accoutrements receive such compensation varies. In some situations, tips are part of the deal and are understood ahead. In others, gratuities may be optional, but for savvy guests, they are de rigeuer. So, yes, appropriately tipping private flight attendants is still a good thing. A rule of thumb is $100 per crew member.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Now that things are hopefully getting back to normal, post-pandemic, it seems like my social muscles have atrophied a bit at parties. Can you share some of your favorite conversation starters that I might borrow?

  Muscle Beach Bound

Dear Beachy Keen,

Isn’t it exciting to finally be able to socialize with our old friends and meet new ones as we emerge from our restrictive isolation? Many of us are happy that gatherings are smaller because we can form stronger bonds and enjoy more meaningful conversations.

 

Typically, when we are bursting at the seams from the excitement of rejoining our social circles, we fall into the faux pas of talking about ourselves – our health issues, the inconveniences of isolation, and the suffering we experienced or observed. We frequently forget to ask how the other person is and how the pandemic has affected them. Beginning a conversation on a positive note helps break the ice. Some of us are more comfortable starting with small talk – topics with no particular significance. Others, like me, tend to prefer more fulsome conversations.

 

Many people spend their newly found home time reading books and watching Netflix. Additionally, we had opportunities for self-reflection. Bringing up a great book that you’ve discovered or a new show you recommend binge-watching is light and fun. Although it may be awkward for some of us to discuss, any revelations we garnered through meditation, yoga, or other forms of ‘me’ time are also great ways to begin a great conversation.

 

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Recently I’ve seen much in the news about They pronouns. I certainly don’t want to offend anyone, so can you please advise on when I should use They instead of He and She?

Socially Astute

Dear Aspirationally Astute,

They, as a singular pronoun, is now an approved usage in the mainstream vernacular. Yet, many of us have a challenge understanding how someone can decide not to identify as either a male or female but rather as a non-binary person. Those individuals prefer us to refer to them as they rather than he or she. If you find this challenging, have some self-compassion–you’re not alone, and you do not need to beat yourself up about it. Everyone is getting used to many new difficult-to-understand societal changes.

 

If you are unsure how someone identifies themselves sexually, which is understandable, using they as a singular pronoun is also correct–your safety net. You will likely not offend people if your intention is not to offend. Furthermore, others will most likely take no offense because they live through this transition. Undoubtedly, this new usage becomes a more natural feeling with practice…in ourselves and others.