Open Thread

by epi on December 6, 2011

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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.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Holly December 6, 2011 at 1:08 am

As I come closer to my graduation, prom proves to be quite a distressing problem for me.
I have never much felt comfortable dancing in the party (and very club-like) atmosphere at our school dances; but I know that at prom such dancing is expected. As my friends and I are attending as a group, we will not be dancing with dates or as couples. I’m confused as to whether or not I do need to join in the dancing and, if not, how I am able to politely decline my friends’ urges for me to join in.

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Alicia December 6, 2011 at 8:52 am

Well you are not required to join in persay. However I strongly encourage you to do so. High school is the time to learn how get over feeling alkward dancing trhere will be tons of times when you will want to dance or be out of place if you can not be comfortable dancing at college dances or friends weddings. Learning that everyone feels like they look like a fool dancing and that if you just give up on looking great and have fun you will look great and have fun is one of the great things about dancing. So no you do not have to dance but yes you should dance and let go you will have fun and your friends will have more fun not dealing with feeling bad for the stick in the mud , and you will look fine dancing.
If really worrried practice by dancing to some of the typical music just really getting down in your room at home.

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Just Laura December 6, 2011 at 10:29 am

You didn’t mention the reason that you are hesitant to join in the dancing. One of my dear friends in high school did not dance that way due to religious beliefs. No one tried to drag her into a situation she felt she didn’t belong. But we still had a good time! Instead of “club dancing,” we were swing dancing, line dancing, and other lighthearted dancing that didn’t involve “grinding” or other movements that make some feel uncomfortable. As Alicia suggested, if you are worried, just practice a little ahead of time.

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Ashleigh December 6, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I think if you get up and join your friends, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much fun you end up having. You may not be the best dancer but you’ll certainly remember how much fun you had with your friends just letting loose and being a bit silly and carefree for the evening. :) Plus if there is a large crowd out there dancing, you’ll blend in with everyone else and nobody will even be able to notice.

Hope you have a great time!!!!!

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Nina December 6, 2011 at 1:39 pm

While I do completely agree with what everyone says about doing your best, having fun, and trying to be open to the great memories of prom, you did ask how politely to decline. You certainly don’t need to do anything you don’t want to–a simple–”I’d just like to sit and watch, thanks” is fine–but you should probably plan how you will spend the evening if you don’t want to dance and all your friends do. Are you comfortable chatting with new people at the drink table, or simply sitting alone watching the dancefloor?

I say this as a person who doesn’t much like to dance. I’ve found that if I sit out the dancing, one of my kind and polite friends will feel s/he must sit with me so I won’t be all alone and bored. Which usually makes me feel guilty, because I know this friend would rather be dancing, so I wind up joining in anyway. Which is actually for the best–I usually have fun–but if you are determined not to, best to have a plan to keep yourself occupied so no one else feels they have to.

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Rusty Shackleford December 6, 2011 at 11:50 am

Holly,

Congratulations on your success. Prom is really symbolic of you and your peers becoming adults and its a once in a lifetime experience. Alicia and Just Laura are absolutely right that you should strive to come out of your comfort zone for this affair. Prom nowadays will have slow songs, and club songs. Unless you are a professional, or take classes, everyone looks silly dancing to the club songs, so don’t worry. I think its wonderful you are attending with a group of friends, and it should be a wonderful memory for you (For some of the others on this site, that may be unfamiliar, attending with a group of friends, vice a specific date, is a fast growing custom for proms). So for the club songs, you will have safety in numbers. Also, as Just Laura alluded, you should never feel obligated to “grind” as you young kids say. That said, as you become an adult, and you attend more adult functions, and you attend balls and formals in college, and since this is an etiquette forum, I feel I should tell you the social standard among adults is to not refuse a request for a dance during the slow songs. There will be slow songs played, and you may be asked by a young gentlemen, or you may ask for a dance, and, the graceful, mature response is to accept, and then thank your partner at the end of the song. Remember, when you are asked for a dance, the young gentlemen asking is letting his guard down, and is likely just as shy and nervous as you.
If you are nervous about your dancing abilities, you may consider auditing a ballroom or hip hop dance course at your local community college. I assure you your peers will not be there, and you won’t have to tell anyone if you don’t want to. Best wishes to you in the future.

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Jerry December 6, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Woa, woa, woa . . . “as you become an adult, and you attend more adult functions, and you attend balls and formals in college, and since this is an etiquette forum, I feel I should tell you the social standard among adults is to not refuse a request for a dance during the slow songs”? That’s not the rule where I come from. If someone asks for a date does the social etiquette say you should say “yes” even if you don’t like the person merely because they are “letting [their] guard down”? How far do you want to take this rule?

If you don’t want to dance, don’t feel pressured. If someone asks you to dance you can say “I’m not much of a dancer, but why don’t you have a pop with me.” Alternatively, if you don’t want to hang out with the young man you just say something “I’m not much of a dancer, but there are lots of young ladies here who would love the pleasure” or “I have a boyfriend.”

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Rusty Shackleford December 7, 2011 at 11:56 am

Here is a good link for those curious about social/ballroom dancing etiquette. Essentially, a request for a dance is vastly different from a request for a date, etc. There are generally only 3 “good” reasons to decline a social dance 1) you don’t know the dance 2) You have promised the dance to another person or 3) you are taking a break (and you do not dance with another person until after the song is finished). Granted, these are not ironclad laws, and if you are just not comfortable, then there is not much else to say. But these are the rules that have been created with an eye toward good etiquette and social interaction.

http://www.utdallas.edu/~aria/dance/etiquette.html#PartnerJoy

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Jerry December 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm

By their plain language, Professor Aria’s rules appear to apply within a subset of a population, the “Dance Community.” (See Beyond Dance Etiquette, which is the follow up article to the article you cited.) Indeed, the article explains how the dance community has its own etiquette (sort of like the workplace has its own etiquette, sort of like the school lunchroom has its own etiquette) that does not necessarily apply outside of that small community.

You don’t join the “Dance Community” by attending prom or a college formal as these events are not “dances” per se, but social events where people can see and be seen. While Professor Aria’s website may list good rules for those attending formal dance clubs, they are not applicable to places like prom.

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Hank Hill December 11, 2011 at 2:45 am

Nice, Rusty!

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Ashleigh December 6, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Hi all!! I have a bit of an odd, OCD-type question for you… I am extremely sensitive to certain noises (mainly involving HORRIBLE eating manners – loud chewing, snapping gum, etc). Recently I was at a show and the person behind me was chewing candy at wood chipper volume and I was driven almost to the point of an anxiety attack. Is there ANYTHING polite that can be said to the person to make them stop or is this one of those “you just have to get over it” situations?

Thanks everyone!!! :)

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Country Girl December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm

I wouldn’t suggest saying anything. Most people get very defensive when strangers try to correct their manners.

What you CAN do though, is turn around to see what the loud noise could possibly be! Try to subtly turn around and make eye contact with the person, that should be plenty enough for them to realize that their loud habits are being noticed. A reasonable person will become embarrassed, and stop. An unreasonable person will not care that they are disturbing others and continue to be disruptive. But this second type of person wouldn’t likely respond well to requests anyway, and might even become hostile if approached. In this case, I would just try to find an empty seat, and move.

If the person is being completely obnoxious (ie yelling at the movie or talking on the phone) you can always request an usher speak with them or remove them.

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Country Girl December 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm

PS. Another suggestion (as my fiance feels similarly about noises in theaters) we usually try to get to the movies early so we can sit in the back row. Noises will carry much more harshly from behind you than they will in front of you.

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Elizabeth December 6, 2011 at 5:08 pm

If this was in a theater – my advice for next time would be to go to a newer theater with stadium-style seating. The chairs come up a lot higher (not the case in older theaters) and there’s more of a height difference between each level of seating, so that the person is not chomping directly in your ear.

But in the moment – the easiest thing to do would be to move. You could ask the person to not be so loud, but I don’t know that people have a lot of control about how loud their eating is. If you eat really crunchy chips, for instance, the crunching is kind of loud no matter what. What you would be asking is, in essence, for the person to stop eating, and they probably won’t do it. The other option is to get some of that same candy for yourself, so their crunching will be drowned out by your own. : )

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Winifred Rosenburg December 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm

What kind of show was it? Was there open seating or assigned seats? Were snacks encouraged, like at movie theaters, or was this person breaking the rules? If there was open seating, you could have moved your seat. Otherwise, if there was an usher nearby, say something to the usher. If not, say something to the person like, “Excuse me. I have very sensitive hearing. Would you please try to chew softer?”

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Jerry December 6, 2011 at 11:13 pm

You can point out to the person that they are loud. Alternatively, if you are afraid of confrontation, you can ask the theater management to get involved. But this would probably tick off the candy eater (snitches get stitches) if you tell on him without first without asking him to quiet down.

I do not recommend Country Girl’s advice — subtle communication through eye contact doesn’t work in many areas of the country and certainly would not work with me. I’d wonder why you were looking at me and think that you had some sort of social problem. A polite, “I’m sorry, you probably don’t realize it, but you’re chewing is really loud and I’m having trouble hearing the movie.”

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Country Girl December 7, 2011 at 1:59 pm

I can certainly respect regional differences in socially acceptable behaviors. In the region in which I live, any attempt to ask someone to quiet down in a theater is seen as a pretty aggressive move, and typically reserved for someone who is blatantly being disruptive or inconsiderate. Since most people will be quietly paying attention to the movie/play/show (and this person isn’t going to be near close enough for you to whisper to them without many others in their row hearing) vocally bringing up the issue makes it public and would be much more disruptive than the chewing itself. In Ashleigh’s situation, I also doubted the chewer was aware that his/her chomping was actually disturbing a fellow viewer, so bringing it up for others to hear would really embarrass them.

If you live in a region where social interactions differ, and a glance could actually be seen as more aggressive, then I like your suggestion of saying “I’m sorry, you probably don’t realize it, but you’re chewing is really loud and I’m having trouble hearing the movie.”

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Zakafury December 7, 2011 at 10:21 am

Ashleigh, I’m sorry such a thing bothers you so much, but constant chewing would cost hundreds of dollars to maintain for two hours at cinema candy prices. If you cannot tough it out, then changing seats is the right answer. You can try the turn and look thing – it might work.

I can’t imagine I’d ever pay to see a movie if I were as bothered by the social norms of a movie theater as half the comment writers here. People are going to whisper things to those they came with. People are going to eat popcorn and open candy wrappers. It’s the movies, not the opera.

Brazen disregard for the comfort of others is something I’ve only witnessed a couple times, and in both cases the ushers or a less patient (and perhaps rudely confrontational) audience member put a stop to the teenage antics.

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Nina December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Ashleigh, you might try a very general, “Could you please be a little quieter? I’d really appreciate it,” and then turn immediately back to the screen. They need to know that it’s just a polite request and you are not trying to give them a hard time. But if it were me, I’d probably just try to move seats.

FYI, the offending chewer might not be able to do anything about it. I had some awful problems with my jaw years back, which wound up being solved with surgery. I looked normal enough, but had trouble eating–I don’t think I was all that loud, but perhaps louder than normal. The day a colleague informed me–not very kindly–I needed to chew more quietly, I almost cried. So while I certainly understand the need to make such a request, please be gentle!!

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Pam December 6, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I went to see “J.Edgar” in at a theater with stadium style seating. I sat in the back row b/c if I don’t it never fails that someone kicks my seat for the entire movie. The couple diagonally in front of us chatted through a lot of the movie…they weren’t super loud, but the wife kept saying OBVIOUS things to her husband. For example, in the movie J. Edgar’s secretary gets a call and says to him “it’s Dallas on the phone.” The wife then says to her husband “it’s the Kennedy assassination!” No kidding!! Well, in the past I would have said something, but then I feel even more tense for the rest of the movie. So, I just tried to focus really hard on the movie. Unfortunately it’s the downside of not just watching a DVD at home.

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Lal December 6, 2011 at 8:10 pm

It is very distracting to have someone making loud noises, if it’s candy wrappers or chewing. I agree with some of the others, it’s good to get to the theater early and select a good seat. I often will get the two side seats at the theater. Most people want to sit in the middle, so often I’ll have no one behind me. Another option is to go to matinees or later showings, these can often be less crowded (and have less teenagers). If the person was eating at a play or opera, then I would say something to them or the usher!

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Ashleigh December 7, 2011 at 11:08 am

Thank you all for your comments! :) It’s not so much the crunching (some foods really are just extremely crunchy – kettle cooked chips, pretzels, etc) but the slurping, squishing, glorping, smashing, entire mouth open dentist style in-between chew. When did it become acceptable to ram your mouth so full of food (ala chipmunks) that you must actual grunt in order to breathe. Or the good old bite-open mouth-smack-bite-open mouth-smack. The evil, ice-glare seems to work sometimes so for those who don’t realize that they sound like they were raised by wolves, I will just relocate. :)

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