Open Thread

by epi on January 6, 2012

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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.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Just Laura January 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Friends,
I have a question about something that happened the other day. Husband and I were out to eat at a moderately-priced, non-chain restaurant. People of all ages were there, though mostly adults. Between our table and the table behind me, there was a wooden partition. The table behind me, I discovered, had a young child (maybe 2 or 3… I’m not so good with kids’ ages). Throughout the meal, she would get out of her chair, lean around the partition and say “boo.” Sometimes, she just stared from a distance of about 2 feet behind me (which felt really close). I admit that I am not the biggest fan of children, but of course have no problem with them at restaurants provided they aren’t going out of their way to disturb me. This was definitely disruptive. We ignored her for the most part, as I don’t like to discipline others’ children, but I couldn’t believe her parents didn’t stop the behavior.
What would have been a more appropriate response? Ignoring didn’t do anything except cause her volume to increase, until her food finally came (1/2 way through our meal).

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Alicia January 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Well my way of dealing with toddlers is generally to address then formally and ask them to do whatever I want them to do. In this case I would have turned around looked at the toddler and said in a firm but kind voice
“Miss, Please stop leaning over the partition and saying boo. We are not playing games right now, it is dinner time. Thank you” Then I would have turned away from her.
This does two things one it clearly tells the toddler what you want and why and it shames the parents into controling their kid. You are not repremanding the kid or yelling at them. Kids toddlers in particular will almost always listen and follow and if not parents almost always control their kids if you follow this.

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Winifred Rosenburg January 6, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Since there weren’t many other children you could have asked the server to move you to a different table. If that isn’t possible or desirable, you can try the “it’s not you, it’s me” tactic. Say something to the parents like, “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but I’m quite claustrophobic. I get very nervous when people get too close to me. Would you mind telling your daughter to stay on her side of the partition?”

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Jody January 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I think a combination of Winifred’s and Alicia’s advice is best. Moving to a new table is a good first step; make sure you tell the server and host/hostess that the reason for the move is the child, it has nothing to do with the quality of service. If you do speak directly to the child (excellent wording, Alicia) be prepared for the parents to say “she’s not doing any harm” and having to repeat your request to them.

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Elizabeth January 6, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Laura, ugh – what a way to spoil a dinner.
I think it would be possible to ask to be moved if you can see that there are other available tables and IF you haven’t already started eating. Moving your half-eaten plates of food and half-drunk glasses of wine would surely be an even bigger disruption. I think the best thing to do is to be direct, either with the child as Alicia suggested, or if you’re not comfortable with that, directly to the parents. Keep it friendly, and just say, “You have a beautiful kid, but she’s being a little disruptive to our dinner. Would you mind keeping her in her seat?”

Were the parents deep in conversation and ignoring the kid, or did they think her behavior was cute and were they encouraging it? If it’s the former, saying something could really work – you’re saying, hey, pay attention. But if they think it’s cute, they might take offense. But better their offense than your ruined meal.

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Jerry January 7, 2012 at 10:41 am

I like Alicia’s advice a lot, even though it could be construed as being “confrontational” :-)

In any case, I would not offer to move — I would tell the restaurant manager what’s going on and tell the manager that they need to ask the parents to control their children. Alternatively, if you’re feeling a bit more assertive, you could tell the parents that you don’t like children and would prefer that they keep their kid to themselves.

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Ann January 7, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Is it considered rude to ask a newly-engaged woman to see her ring? In a conversation with my cousin I said, “Oh, what does your ring look like?”. She, of course, showed me. My mother thought it was rude that I asked. Was I being rude for asking?

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Just Laura January 8, 2012 at 4:48 am

If you simply asked to see it, I fail to see how it was rude. Many newly engaged women love showing off their new ring.
If you asked how much it cost, the clarity of the stone, or the amount of gold in it, I could see how that would be inappropriate. Did your mother explain why she felt it was rude?

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Rusty Shackleford January 9, 2012 at 10:33 am

I agree its not rude per se, but I have found that rings are a sensitive subject for alot of women. Especially in this economy, with precious metal prices etc. many couple are economizing, getting more modest rings, or no rings at all. My general philosophy is that when there is the potential, however slight, or unintentional, of an awkward or uncomfortable moment, to not ask. If the ring is being worn by the bride to be in an obvious fashion, or if the bride asks you to look at her ring, I would ask to see, and, of course, ohh, ahh, and gush no matter what.

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Elizabeth January 9, 2012 at 12:19 pm

I wouldn’t ask unless the ring was sitting there on her finger. It’s not rude to ask to see something that’s already there to be seen. If it was put away somewhere, I would avoid it.

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Zakafury January 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm

I could see it being construed as prying into the suitor’s financial well-being. Asking someone you’re not so well acquainted with could be a bit of trouble.

I don’t think you did anything wrong asking a close friend to see the symbol of her recent joy.

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Ann January 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Thank you to everyone for your replies.

Just Laura, to answer your question, my mother thought it could be rude because if I thought the ring was ugly, I would have to pretend to like it. She didn’t think it would be good to seem “fake”. I personally agree with most of you that in most cases it is okay to ask a close friend/relative. Thanks again.

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BC January 8, 2012 at 10:31 pm

There has been tension with my sister-in-law recently. She constantly makes condescending and sarcastic comments to me, my husband and our friends (I think she’s trying to be funny) and also acts like a know-it-all. Despite this, I’ve tried my best to get along with her at all of our get-togethers. At a New Year’s party we both attended, I found out that she was badmouthing me to our friends after I left the party and made other comments to our friends that made them uncomfortable. I told my husband that while I would continue to be polite to her at family functions, I no longer wanted her to be included in social gatherings involving our friends. Am I being unreasonable? My husband and his sister are close.

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Just Laura January 9, 2012 at 10:18 am

BC, you’re in a difficult situation. Fortunately, since your husband and his sister are close, you have an easy out! Ask your husband to speak with his sister about her behavior. Don’t let him say that YOU are the one with the problem; rather, have him explain that he is uncomfortable with the way his wife is being treated. As you said, perhaps she’s just trying to be amusing and doesn’t realize she’s doing any damage.
I, for one, would like to be told that I’m upsetting others so that I may make amends, rather than having them avoid me.

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BC January 9, 2012 at 10:40 am

He talked to her, I talked to her, and she basically said that it’s her personality and “how she is”. I think some distance for a while will be good for her too…I feel like she needs to socialize with her own friends instead of being so wrapped up in the lives of her brother’s friends. It’s way more complicated than I can even type out (she still resents me and our other recently married friends for not putting her in our weddings, for example), but I’m just hoping that I handled it the best way I could.

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Pam January 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm

BC, this does not sound like a fun situation. I think it is wonderful that you have acted with so much class by continuing to be polite to his sister and tolerating her at functions. Someone told me a few years ago “you cannot control other people’s behavior, only your own.” It shows how true this is when you and your husband have tried to talk to her about he behavior, to no avail. If you are being treated poorly, then it is up to you to decide how many of these functions you actually want to attend. You cannot control what she is invited to (unless you & hubby are doing the inviting), only what it is you attend in her company. There is no reason that she should continue being invited to functions with your friends if she is behaving poorly.

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Chelsea January 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm

I teach Manners on Mondays. I love, love this website as it gives me all kinds of ideas and answers many questions for myself.
Here is my dilema… I teach these classes to the developmentally disabled. I am a Job Coach/Life Skills Teacher. I have discussed grooming and other behaviors. I feel compelled to discuss bodily functions. I have no idea how to do this. I was always taught not to speak about them as they are just natural and if brought up, you could hurt and embarrass someone…. HELP?!? Please.

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Alicia January 9, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Well you are in the role of educator. A teacher can and must sometimes discuss issues that are not polite conversations if only to teach what the difference between polite conversations and immpolite ones are.

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Jodi Blackwood January 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Hello Chelsea,
I understand your hesitancy but agree, the topic must be brought up. I would suggest you do so in a matter of fact, forth-right manner, just as you have taught other subjects. For example, when I speak about appearance, I segue into grooming, which means clean hair, clean hands and nails, the importance of bathing/showering and use of deodorant.

Without knowing anything about your students, I would recommend you touch on some of the basics: what is not appropriate conversation, how to excuse themselves to use the restroom (a simple “excuse me” with no further explanation needed), the importance of washing hands but not asking others if they have done so, etc. Then, of course, you should also discuss how to deal with accidents or “embarrassing moments”. Again, without knowing the types of disabilities, this could encompass a range, but at the very least, the problem of flatulence, or passing gas. (Personally, I cannot stand the word “fart”; in my home, we refer to it as “fluffed”, as in “who fluffed?” ) With your class I would suggest you stick with “proper” names and give simple explanations of how to deal with such matters. Then I would ask the students as to what type of questions they may have; there may be nothing, or they may surprise you.

Several years ago I spoke to a large group of college students about dining etiquette and job interviews over a meal. One student asked if it was all right to sneeze into his collar; I told him I would like to see him do that with a tie on! We talked about a better way to handle sneezes, at which point another young man asked me how to handle “blood, sweat and other bodily fluids”; I know that one caught me with a deer-in-the-headlights look! I later learned he had Asperger’s Syndrome. It just goes to show you never know what might come your way! Best of luck to you!

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Chelsea January 13, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Thank you so very much.
The “F” word is not said very often at my home either. This is a subject that very much needs to be addressed! I appreciate the ideas and advice.

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