miss conduct chat transcript

November 7, 2007

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November 7, 2007

Robin_Abrahams: Howdy, everyone! It's Robin Abrahams, aka Miss Conduct, the etiquette columnist with her feet on the ground and her elbows on the table. Ready to huddle up on this chilly day and solve all the world's problems? I know I am. Let me go put the kettle on and then we'll get started--

Ms_Fit__Guest_: I have a friend who complains every time I forward her an email or link; she claims that's how people get viruses and identifies stolen. So I have stopped but she send me links all the time. Just shut up about it, right?

Ms_Fit__Guest_: And in the same line; you're not obligated to respond to those kinds of emails are you? Seems like that's all I get from her lately.

Robin_Abrahams: I don't think you are. Generally I'll respond if it is something I think is really funny--and if it was sent to ME, or to what is clearly a select group, instead of to the person's entire address book. Or if I've been meaning to get in contact with the person anyway. E-mailed joikes and all that are fine but they need to be sent only to people who might appreciate them, not promiscuously. And I think your friend's hypocrisy on the issue is kind of funny! You could point it out in a lighthearted way, I think.

buffy__Guest_: Is there a good book you can recommend for rules/etiquette for on-line dating? The old dating rules have been completely turned around when I use this method. For instance, men always give me their phone number right away and ask me to call, no longer asking me for my number. I understand this is so a woman can feel safe and control the contact, but I was really thrown the first few times. What do you think about this?

Robin_Abrahams: It makes sense to me, for the reasons you cite. I don't know of any books, offhand, but I'm sure there are some. Check and read the reviews. There aren't really "rules" for offline dating these days, so there probably aren't many for the online version! Logic, listening to your intuition, and clear communication are always the most important things. Anyone want to chime in with more specific advice than that?

Wondering__Guest_: Dear Miss Conduct, my roommate, K, was not invited to a baby shower in honor of a mutual friend, L. I'm guessing that L views their friendship differently than K does, or perhaps it was an honest mistake. K wants to email L about the missing invitation, which I strongly disagree with. Should I encourage her not to do so? Should I offer to intervene and check with L? (which will of course result in an invitation for K whether it was originally intended or not) Or should I just stay out of it?

Robin_Abrahams: Oh, dear. Especially since this is a roommate, you might want to talk to L about the situation, to minimize the awkwardness as much as possible. I'm sure she won't mind including K--it's one more gift, right? And it might be a mistake. I've left people off invite lists before, despite diligent double-checking, and only found out because of mutual friends.

ree__Guest_: how do I tell my children that I want them to stay close with thier siblings and be able to justify the fact I rather not be with my siblings?

Robin_Abrahams: Good luck with the whole "do as I say, not as I do" thing! Your children's relationships with their siblings are, fundamentally, their business once they are adults. If they're kids still, why not just do what you can to foster good relationships among them, but not overtly preach the value of sibling closeness? Overt preaching often backfires anyway.

suzyQ__Guest_: Regarding tipping - I have read that you tip a housecleaner one week's pay. My housecleaner comes every other week so I give her half of what I pay for a cleaning. Is that enough? Also, for the past two summers she has asked us to donate money toward her summer vacation. The first time I balked and didn't leave her anything and the second time I realized that it was more important to keep her happy.

Robin_Abrahams: The general rule is one week or one visit, so if she's good, I'd give the equivalent of one session's pay. Though you can split that half-and-half, if she'd prefer to have some of it in the summer for her vacation. (I think it was presumptuous of her to ask, but that's another matter. Your attitude is a good one. If she's making your life a lot better--I know my housecleaner does!--then keeping her happy is priority number one.)

kenzo__Guest_: Gift registries used to be for weddings only. Now I hear about them for second marriages,baby showers, new home purchases.,etc.. wher does one draw the line?

Robin_Abrahams: Hey, just because someone has a gift registry doesn't mean you have to buy them anything at all. (Except for a shower, since that's the entire purpose of a shower.) I think registries are a great idea for baby showers!

mandm__Guest_: What's your view on 2nd weddings? My cousin got married for the 2nd time and had a wedding shower and a big wedding. Do we have to give gifts again? This all happened within a couple of years. It seems like she expects it.

Robin_Abrahams: And on a similar topic ... you didn't *have* to give gifts for the first wedding! You never have to give gifts. And for people who are adults and living independently for a while--single or married--wedding gifts ought to be smaller and more about thoughtfulness than bling. So give her something beautiful, or make a contribution to a charity she approves of, or some such. You don't have to spend a bundle. Regarding size/fanciness of second weddings, they used to be quiet, hushed affairs, but there's no reason for that. People can have big fancy second weddings if they want--heck, it would be sort of a shame to let all that good wedding-planning experience go to waste!

hallen__Guest_: When I tell my boss I have to take a day off to go to a doctor appointment, he generally responds with somewhat probing questions as to why I'm going to the doctor. I would prefer not to answer those questions because I don't really want to get into medical issues with him...any ideas on how to respond to his questioning?

Robin_Abrahams: That's weird. Is the vibe like he's accusing you of malingering, or is genuinely concerned, or is just clueless, or someday hopes to ditch the corporate world and go to med school? In any case but B, I'd say just tell him firmly and pleasantly that you don't like to discuss medical things. If it's B, same thing, but be sure to reassure him that you're okay.

diane__Guest_: what is the best way to deal with in laws that you just can't stand? i have gone out of my way to overlook many rude & hurtful things, but I can't do it anymore. How do I maintain a level of decorum while expressing I will not tolerate this behavior any longer?

Robin_Abrahams: I'm so sorry! You absolutely HAVE to talk to your husband about this. He's got to back you up and understand what you will and will not put up with. Start by talking to him--if you feel that you can't, or that he doesn't get it, or that you can't talk about it without getting too angry, see a counselor a couple of times who can help facilitate the discussion between you. Once you're really on the same page it will be much easier to deal with the in-laws.

drunkmonkey__Guest_: what should i do if my co-worker picks their nose all day and refuses to use hand sanitizer?

Robin_Abrahams: Refuse to shake hands.

kels__Guest_: hi Robin, on the theme of holiday tipping -- what about my child's daycare provider? She goes to a family-style daycare center, where she's one of about 10 kids -- 4 days/week for the full day. Is a gift for the daycare center (like craft supplies) appropriate? A gift for the provider personally (though I don't know her taste at all)? Cash/gift cert?

Robin_Abrahams: I like the idea of craft supplies for the daycare center! Such things are usually paid for by the provider, right? So that's a good idea. And maybe a small gift for the provider--something anyone can use, like a couple of pretty mugs and some fancy tea. Has anyone else given especially good gifts to daycare providers? Any hints to share?

kamr12__Guest_: Good afternoon - When a woman is getting into a cab with a man, should he let her in first, forcing her to slide across the seat, or get in before her to avoid "the slide"? (Assuming they are adhering to the curbside entry/exit rule, for safety's sake.)

Robin_Abrahams: The man does the slide, unless there's some reason that trumps gender for the woman to get in first (if she's the one who knows where they're going and should be behind the cabbie to give directions, or if the man is struggling with luggage or something). And yes, curbside entry/exit is best.

hallen__Guest_: To answer your question...I'd say my boss is genuinely clueless.

Robin_Abrahams: Ah, clueless-boss syndrome. Just tell him you don't want to talk about that kind of thing, especially in the office. If he's touchy as well as clueless (the worst kind) act like it's *your* idiosyncrasy, not his.

disko2k__Guest_: I live in a side x side duplex. my neighbors kitchen window overlooks my deck and back yard, it's gotten to the point where my husband and I no longer set foot outside anymore because we are constantly disturbed by the neighbors kid. She slides the kitchenwindow open, and just barges into the conversation, or sits and stares at us. Her mother also takes the opportunity to guilt us into spending time with the kid, then when we agree, she dissappears, effectively tricking us into watching the kid. I don't know what to do anymore, we feel like prisoners in our own home!

Robin_Abrahams: Oy. How annoying! Well, you won't be sitting outside much longer this year; maybe by springtime the kid will have a new interest. In the meantime, be gentle but firm if she tries to barge in; tell her it's your time together and you want to be alone. There's not much you can do about her watchign you from her own home. And now that you know the mother's gambit, refuse to play along anymore. No need to get caught in that trap more than twice!

IndigoCheryl__Guest_: LOVE your column! First thing I read on Sundays. I am in my late 20's and have lots of friends getting married. In terms of gift-giving what is approrpriate? Do you give a gift for shower and the wedding? What if I don't attend the shower? Or the wedding? Please help clarify! Thank you.

Robin_Abrahams: Thanks! Nice chat handle. Very pretty. Yes, you do shower and wedding gifts. You don't usually send a shower gift if you don't attend the shower; you do usually send a wedding gift. You can also go in with friends on an SG (the WG is more personal somehow, and people don't do that as often, though there's no reason not to). You can buy something not on the registry, but make sure you know the person's taste--don't give some godawful ceramic ducks or something to non-ceramic-duck people just because a place setting of silverware seemed too impersonal. And don't bust your budget to buy gifts.

mur__Guest_: Regarding the deck problem...could you enclose your deck or just the one side? I have done that and it works great....also tall plants would come in handy...

Robin_Abrahams: Always love an engineering solution to an etiquette problem! (I'll be posting a GREAT one on my blog after the chat today, so be sure to check it out.) This is a good idea if you like the notion of an enclosed or plant-bedecked deck to begin with, and can afford it. But you shouldn't have to do a major home renovation because the neighbor isn't teaching her kid manners. Children get bored easily--make that trait work for you!

dina__Guest_: when a husband and wife go to a restaurant with a man friend how do you seat yourself?do husband and wife sit to gether opposite the man?

Robin_Abrahams: I'm not a big fan of gender-based etiquette, personally. People should sit where they want! Usually that's couples facing other people. And left-handers should sit where they won't elbow or be elbowed.

politebee__Guest_: Dear Robin- I adore your column and always learn something new or consider a different way of viewing things so thanks! My question is around the holidays. My husband's family is into giving LOTS of gifts and spending LOTS of money. My husband and I, and his siblings are all well into our 30's, and I think its excessive. In general, if we need something during the year we buy it PLUS to be honest alot of what I receive is not something I need or want and I feel rude asking to exchange things. I have tried to politely suggest toning it down but to no avail so far. Am I being Scrooge like? Any thoughts?

Robin_Abrahams: Thanks for the kind words! You might need to be blunter. Are the sibs also on your side? If so, suggest you present a united front to the parents and suggest drawing names, or giving to charity, or some other SPECIFIC change. A lot of times when we ask people to change their behavior, we don't tell them what we'd like them to change it *to*. If the parents just will not listen or change their ways, give up. They're older and it gives them pleasure and doesn't cause you any pain, so let it go.

kels__Guest_: May I ask another question? What can I say to relatives (especially the grandmas) who don't see my 16 month old daughter very often, yet want to swoop in on her for big hugs and kisses as soon as they arrive for a visit? They seem hurt/annoyed that she doesn't immediately run to them, and they make comments that suggest I'm raising a socially awkward, shy kid. I'm not -- she's actually very outgoing, but she has a good sense of people, and doesn't warm up easily to those who are insincere, etc. (which, alas, includes the grandmas). Obviously, I can't say THAT to them, so I end up saying something like "she just needs time to warm up to you" --- which leads to these other snarky comments. What can I say to break the cycle?

Robin_Abrahams: "Please don't comment on my child's social skills, I find that rude. Another cup of tea? And try these molasses cookies, they're great."

MelroseRocks: hi saucy miss c! two questions: when are you going to write a book, and how can i politely keep apologizing to my legion of fans who keep wanting playdates, moms nights out, coffeedates, and i just am really a recluse?! i like people, but it seems i like alone time more, mostly!

Robin_Abrahams: I may be writing a book pretty soon! Keep an eye on the blog for more. Regarding your more-social friends, try to wean them off gradually--or else take the opposite approach and let them know that you just need a lot of alone time. (Which approach is right depends on their temperament. I have a friend who just can't deal with socializing much, and I know that, and I'm fine with it. But that's me.) And try other ways of staying in touch--e-mail's great. You're talking about people you like and want to stay in your life, right? So make sure they know that.

marie__Guest_: Hi Robin! I have a question about neighbors. I'll be moving next month to a new neighborhood. I'm currently in a small apt bldg where I have informally met all my neighbors. My new neighborhood is all single family homes. What is the politest way to introduce myself to all my new neighbors? I don't want to be overbearin but I don't want to be unfriendly either!

Robin_Abrahams: You could throw a little open house once you're unpacked; put invites in people's mailboxes. That would be VERY friendly but leave the ball in the neighbors' courts, as it were. Or just introduce yourself to people as you run into them on the street, etc. Dropping in is usually not a good idea.

Robin_Abrahams: And that's it for today, everyone! Great chat! Keep your radio tuned to AM 830 this weekend--I'll be on Friday at 9:35 am, and Saturday at 8:40 am. No chat on the 21st, as I'll be out of town and shopping for groceries, and expect many of you will, too. So I'll see you all back here on December--oy, December already!--5th, for another lively conversation. Stay warm!

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