Open thread

by EPI Staff on April 14, 2010

Welcome to Etiquette Daily

This open thread is your space to use as you like.  We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Louie Leffingwell April 14, 2010 at 6:43 am

I have recently aquired my late grandmother’s handmade lace tablecloth. It is very old but very beautiful. I would like to use it for a dinner party but I am worried about spills and stains. Is it tacky to place a clear plastic cover over the cloth for formal parties with china, crystal and silver?

Reply

Daniel Post Senning April 15, 2010 at 3:49 am

What a classic dilemma. While protecting your grandmothers lace tablecloth might be appealing I would advise against it if you are considering a china service. You might remind any children (or anyone else who needs it) ahead of time that when the special tablecloth is out they are responsible for keeping the family heirloom safe by using their best table manners.

Reply

Graceandhonor April 15, 2010 at 5:53 am

I have seen heirloom heavy lace tablecloths displayed by folding them at the foot of a bed, or sandwiched between two pieces of acrylic and hung on the wall, making a magnificent piece of art. This is the interior designer speaking, not the etiquette aficionado. ;)

Reply

Joyce Davidson April 14, 2010 at 3:50 pm

My husband and I live in New Mexico; until recently we lived in New York City. We have received an invitation to a wedding reception in Maryland for a couple whose names we do not recognize, nor do we recognize the names of the bride’s parents, the only parents who are listed on the invitation. The last names of the bride and groom are Smith and Jones respectively, so that doesn’t make it any easier. The invitation includes the RSVP card, as well as a card with gift registry information.

We have called other family members and friends to ask if the names ring a bell with them, but they don’t. My husband believes that if you don’t recognize any of the names on an invitation you should just ignore it. I don’t know what to do. Please help!

Reply

Jody April 15, 2010 at 4:44 am

I believe you should at least respond saying “unable to attend.” Since you don’t recognize any of the names for this function, I wouldn’t feel obligated to send a gift.

Reply

Robert L martin April 14, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Partly inspired by the noise over The President bowing to the chinese during his visit, is there a good reference on when and how bowing is done? (bonus points if the reference separates the different oriental subcultures as needed)

Reply

Graceandhonor April 15, 2010 at 6:20 am

I believe there is entirely too little bowing going on. The gesture demonstrates several things (not in any particular order here): 1. Self Confidence…It certainly takes a self confident person to do something which is often perceived as submmissive, but actually shows a finely tuned sense of graciousness. 2. Human connections…So many messages are conveyed in bowing…it is my pleasure to be in your presence…I acknowledge your accomplishments…I mean you no harm…I hope this is the start of a wonderful relationship… 3. A delightful personality…So sorry I am late…Between you and me…So very glad to have met you!

Our collective national discomfort with bowing stems from the fact that the vast majority of us do not understand that there is power in this action in the modern world, as much for the person doing it as the person being bowed to. It makes a positive impression on the person to whom it is aimed…”Wow. This person is interesting, dynamic. I want to know him, work with him…I find this woman charming…I want this young lady to marry my son…Well, maybe I can trust him with my 16 year old daughter…”

Now, if President Obama had tugged at his forelock while bowing, we ought to have a problem with that, but we are not living in the 17th or 18th centuries and the sophisticated, knowledgeable observer should know the difference. Bowing is no longer necessarily subservience.

As for bowing in Oriental subcultures, you obviously know the protocol and meanings behind it vary among them. I suggest you research the one(s) you are particularly interested in on the internet, or contact that country’s office of protocol. And, large American corporations usually have someone on staff who instructs their ex-pat or traveling company representatives on these do’s and don’ts.

Reply

Rusty Shackleford April 21, 2010 at 6:20 am

There is actually an excellent book, it may be out of print, but you could find a used copy on Amazon, its called Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands. Bowing is definately a misinterpreted gesture in the West. Most gestures of greeting in civilization get their origins from the importance of appearing non-threatening. The handshake was intended to signify the lack of a sword. A salute is derived from the tradition of knights in armor raising their visors to be recognized. And a bow is merely to show non-threatening intentions. Of particular importance, in situations of Western/Asian relations, it is important to note that there are genetic differences between the two pertaining to height (I don’t mean to sterotype, but this is generally the prevailing medical opinion). Often a person from the West will have a significant height advantage over their Asian counterpart. Bowing is very important to create an impression that you are not trying to overpower or dominate your counterpart with your size advantage.

Reply

Graceandhonor April 21, 2010 at 7:42 am

Exactly, Rusty! I am thrilled to see your input on this topic!

Reply

Janine Hinkley April 20, 2010 at 2:28 pm

At work a peer brought in cookies for her birthday, enough for everyone. I picked one up, then looked at the package and realized how may calories were in one. So I decided to wrap it up and take it home to my grandaughter. I was scorned for being cheep, and was told that in the future when treats are brought in I could only have one if I ate it there. So, is it appropriate to take it home if you can’t eat it there or if you already touched it?

Reply

Janine Hinkley April 20, 2010 at 3:07 pm

oworker brought cookies to work for her
birthday, enough for everyone. I picked one up, then read the package
and realized that there were too many calories in the cookie for my
diet. So I wrapped up the cookie to take home to my grandaughter. I was
scolded publicly for being “cheap” and that I should buy my own cookies
for my grandaughter. Was I wrong? She also made the comment…”Next time I bring a treat in I am going to put a note on it, you have to eat it here or you can’t have any”.

Reply

Graceandhonor April 21, 2010 at 8:05 am

Janine,

It is unfortunate your co-worker is so ungracious and mean-spirited. You behaved appropriately once you realized your mistake in picking up the cookie and then being unable to eat it there, and no harm was done to anyone in that you only took your one cookie. It should not matter to this person that you then thought to take the one alloted for you home to your grandchild.

Had I been spoken to in such a manner, I would have simply looked this person in the eye, laid the cookie in her hand and walked away.

Honestly. I hear stories like this and can only imagine the sadness with which our Maker shakes His head.

G&H

Reply

carrie. April 21, 2010 at 12:02 pm

I agree with G&H — if you took one cookie, it was yours to do what you please with it. In reality, you took one to be gracious and to celebrate the event. You could have taken it and tossed it out discreetly later if it wasn’t to your liking had you tried it (or looked at the calorie content after the initial bite), or brought the same solo cookie home for your grand daughter to enjoy. Food gifts do not normally come with strings attached, i.e., you have to consume them within a designated area.

Best,

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: