Open Thread

by epi on November 7, 2012

Welcome to the 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.

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Leslie November 7, 2012 at 11:34 am

I have a question concerning invitations to family gatherings. Two of my aunts often host holidays for my father’s entire family. Because they don’t do it every year, we, of course, wait for an invitation before assuming that Thanksgiving is here or Christmas is there. However, outside of the occasional printed wedding invitation, all of my invitations to family events come via a phone call to my father or mother. I can not think of one time I was called myself. It’s always through a “oh, and tell Leslie to come too!”

Now, I am a single, professional woman, in my mid-30s, who has not lived with my parents since I was 18 years old. I’ve lived in the same place for 7 years, so it’s not a matter of not being able to find me. Somehow this invitation-by-third-party has always make me feel either like a 7-year-old or like I’m that weird relative locked away in someone else’s basement.

I suspect they do this with all the cousins, although I’ve never really asked. And I also realize I should just be happy to be included. I suppose I am just wondering if I’m justified feeling like this is odd? And if so, is there any polite way to raise the subject?

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Elizabeth November 7, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Leslie, the best way to do this is to develop a relationship with these aunts outside of your relationship with your parents. Call them up and ask them to lunch. Have them over for dinner, without other family. Even just one or two interactions can change the way they think of you: from “so-and-so’s daughter” to “Leslie, with whom I just had a lovely dinner.”

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Alicia November 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Are you sure they have your phone number? When was the last time you talked to them on the phone?via email? I know that in my family these things go out to the points of contact and most of my generation (I’m also single mid 30′s) gets invited via their folks but myself and a few of the cousins who keep in touch directly with our aunts and uncles get invited as ourselves. I asked my aunt once why I get a call or email regarding the family parties and my sister and her family do not. The answer was that because my sister never calls my aunt or emails her she is a bit unsure of her phone and more then that feel uncomfortable calling with an invite thus the second hand invites.
Also if you take a turn and hostess one of the holidays inviting your aunts and cousins that would solve the problem as well.

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Jody November 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Given the facts of your age and you haven’t lived with your parents since you were 18 I do think this is odd. When your parents get the invitation, and the aunt says “Oh, tell Leslie to come too” your parents can tell her “The best thing is for you to call Leslie directly. She hasn’t lived with us for years and we don’t know her availability all the time.” If that doesn’t work you can either put up with the situation (since it seems like the family is all on good terms) or make your own plans for the holiday. If you choose the latter, and the aunts comment, that’s a good time to say “I didn’t get an invitation so I assumed there wasn’t an event.”

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Leslie November 7, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Thank you, everyone, for the comments. They’ve given me some things to think about. Although I haven’t had it in a couple years, I hosted a summer event at my house for several years running to which a lot of my family (including these aunts), friends, and coworkers were invited either by phone or email. And on a couple occasions, I have had interactions and visits with them that did not involve my parents. I’m sure they know how to contact me. They probably just think of in terms of the quickest way of disseminating information. It’s probably not worth worrying with, but I might take Jody’s advice on having the initial call redirected to me for Christmas. If that doesn’t work, well…I’m just inclined to let it go in the spirit of the holidays.

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Ash November 7, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Greetings!
My question concerns out-of-the-house-guest etiquette. A man I’ve been seeing has invited me to his family’s annual Thanksgiving casino night (after Thanksgiving dinner they stay the night at the casino). I’ve not formally met his family, and I’m wondering what the etiquette is re hostess gifts, tabs, etc. in this situation, since I won’t be meeting them in the traditional dinner setting at their home (I’ll be with my own family for Thanksgiving dinner). Any thoughts on this are much appreciated.
Thank you,
Ash

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Alicia November 7, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Are you really anyones guest other then your guys? Is there a host or hostess? Or is it just a big family get together lacking a real host or hostess? Seems like a no host event in which case you are only the guest of your guy. In this situation go have fun be kind and pleasant to everyone and have fun. Talk to your guy he knows the event better.

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Ash November 7, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Alicia,
Thanks much for your reply. This is my first gathering with a significant other’s family that isn’t at someone’s home, so I wasn’t sure if there is any special protocol. You’ve put me at ease!
Best,
Ash

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Sharon November 7, 2012 at 8:27 pm

My current house keeper seems to have an attitude if she has to spend a little extra time at my house or if I ask her to do something different from the standard routine. Today, I asked her to primarily dust and clean floors as well as clean the bathrooms because of a home renovation project. She was not required to change the linens or do any laundry or some other standard chores. She was at my house an extra fifteen minutes.

She asked me if my photo gallery of family/friends should be cleaned (which is a part of the standard routine). I said yes please clean the photo gallery, however she said that she would not know how to put the pictures back in their same places ( they needed to be moved around because of the extra dust from my home remodeling). I said no problem and shortly after… she announces “I am done!” and most of the time after this announcement there is some little project not completed. Today after she announces “I am done”, I asked her if she could help me put the pictures back in their places. And she told that she had to be at an another job. I said no problem, gave her a check for the standard amount and didn’t give her any extra money (primarily because of her attitude and lack of flexibility).

She proceeded to call me a half an hour later to ask if I was upset and I said no. I asked her if she was upset that I didn’t pay her enough money today and she said “no.” However, then she complained about working hard and doing extra things but I pointed out to her that she was NOT required to do all of the standard cleaning chores because of these other projects ( again, she stayed an extra fifteen minutes). And yes, I told her that I was disappointed that she couldn’t help me quickly put up the pictures because I needed to get to work. She told me that I wasn’t grateful for her work or for her changing her schedule for me. I pointed out that now she cleans for someone else on Friday, which was my day, so I was accommodating her schedule having her come on a Wednesday. I told her that I was grateful for her hard work and I always say thank-you to those who help me after the job is completed. We just don’t seem to be on the same page!

All this said, I am feeling soured toward the relationship. I am a reasonable person but feel that people should be grateful as well as respectful to their employers (which neither of these attitudes were conveyed from her today). I was taken aback that she had the nerve to confront me (the confrontation was longer than putting up the pictures and she would have gotten extra money)! I want house keeper who can be flexible and change the routine and do extra things….and I am more than willing to pay extra based on what additional work was done… but I don’t someone who complains the moment that they need to put in a little extra work or feels like they are not being treated fairly…when I am more than fair! She only asked for $85 initially…I stepped up have been giving her $90. She needs to change my day, there is no problem as I work from a home office. I am reasonable and flexible.

So we agreed that she would work 2 1/2 hours and would be willing to change the routine and if her time goes over…I will pay her extra money. However, should I seek out a new house keeper…I am starting to experience her as a preen-a-Madonna! I trust her, she does good work but don’t like her attitude! How did I contribute to this negative situation? It seems that house keepers once they become familiar with me…they aren’t as accommodating and have an attitude of entitlement!

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Just Laura November 7, 2012 at 9:28 pm

I don’t know what advice you seek, so I’ll be brief:

1) Hire a new housekeeper. Be specific about requirements up front in the future.
2) I think you meant “prima donna.” It’s an Italian phrase.

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Jerry November 8, 2012 at 10:02 am

I concur and adopt (again) your answer as my own.

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Sharon November 8, 2012 at 11:50 am

Thank you for pointing out my spelling error! And appreciate your and everyone’s comments. I will talk to her again about my expectations and the amount of time she is expected to clean my house.

In the mean time, I will be interviewing other housekeepers as alternative plan.

Attitude is everything is a work place environment, I have always subscribed to “how can I please my boss!” and “what can I do better to secure my position at a company!”

The afront for me was her communication style, perhaps as a learning opportunity for her…be honest and share my feelings. Also, I need to be explicit about my expectations in terms of time and money and not vary.

However, if this situation happens again, attitude, she will be out the door. There a lot of house keepers who will show more appreciation.

Best-Sharon

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Siobhan November 8, 2012 at 12:14 am

Don’t sack your housekeeper. An honest employee who does good work is worth a little effort to keep, and since you have now made an agreement it would seem wise to hold on to her and see how this works out.

Having held precarious and unpredictable work positions myself, I can understand her over-reacting; perhaps she’s been exploited in the past and is now wary of employers taking advantage. Indeed, I don’t think it was unreasonable of her to feel put out by a change in her duties if this had not been agreed in advance. The best solution might simply be to inform your cleaner of any change in routine the week before, or call her before her shift at the point when you realise you need something different/extra. You should also take this opportunity to establish a clear policy governing how she will be remunerated if required to stay longer than usual. My instinct would be to discuss these things with her during her next shift (on paid time) to make sure that everything is clear between you, and to reiterate your appreciation of her work. That might help clear the air.

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Jody November 8, 2012 at 7:21 am

It sounds like there might have been misunderstanding on both sides here. If your housekeeper worked beyond her standard hours she should be paid for that extra time; if you’re asking her to do extra work as a replacement for other duties (not in addition to) she shouldn’t complain because in the long run she’s doing the same amount of work. I agree with Just Laura that it sounds like it’s time for a new housekeeper. To help avoid misunderstandings in the future, be explicit about hours and duties. You might say that there may be times when you’ll ask the housekeeper to do other projects but those would be instead of “normal” duties. If the housekeeper’s schedule is such that she won’t be able to occasionally stay late (even 15 minutes) because she needs to get to her next commitment, she needs to tell you that up front so you can make your own plans for what needs to be done.

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Alicia November 8, 2012 at 9:11 am

I do not think it is time for a new housekeeper. I think you changed what you expected of her without clearly explaining this. You were late for a job but so was she. At the next time you speak to her on your dine tell her what you expect in terms of flexibility and in terms of work. You said she did not have to do a task the pictures and then you said she had to do that task. It seems like you are the one who is not being clear in what you wish done. You need to be clear in advance what you want. Changing last minute when she has the reasonable expectation of a time schedule is not nice. Nor is not paying for a portion of the work done.
If you get rid of this housekeeper and do not become more clear in communications with the next the same issues will arise.

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Amanda November 8, 2012 at 7:46 am

I am the manager at my office. My boss came to me and said his wife thinks it is very unprofessional and is improper etiquette for our admin ass’t to address senior co-workers as Mrs. Mary, Mr. Jim, etc. She is an amazing asset to the company and, living in the south, uses this form of address out of respect. I don’t want to hurt this young woman’s feelings and have searched but have not found that this form address is improper or in poor business taste. Please help.

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Elizabeth November 8, 2012 at 9:10 am

Ms. or Mr. Firstname is not a typical form of address in any situation, with the exception of perhaps kindergarten. Since you are the manager, it seems it would be incumbent upon you to educate this admin as to the office culture. Some offices are formal, and require one to use Mr. Lastname or Judge Lastname. Many offices are informal, and everyone simply uses first names. Simply explain to this woman what the culture is, and encourage her to follow it. Explain that she unduly calls attention to herself when she deviates from the norm, even if it IS the norm where she comes from. You will be doing her a favor.

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Jerry November 8, 2012 at 10:01 am

I have heard “Ms. [first name]” and “Mr. [first name]” at various places when I lived in the south. It always sounded strange to me but, when in Rome . . . (Well, that’s not quite accurate. I’ve always used the same form of address that my boss used with me, which was just “[first name].”)

In any case, I agree, Elizabeth, that someone should take the assistant aside, let the assistant know that everyone understands that she is trying to be respectful, but that some people find it strange and that she should call people by [the preferred address]. Also let her know that she’s an amazing assistant! Those are hard to come by.

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Alicia November 8, 2012 at 9:14 am

What form of address is the boss suggesting the admin assistant use? What form of address do other coworkers use amoung one another?

How formal or informal is the office? Is everyone else calling each other Bob, Sally Jim or is everyone else calling each other Mr Smith, Mrs Jones and Mr Omalley?

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Chat etiquette November 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I am wondering if there is an applicable dresscode when video chatting with family.
The reason this issue comes up is due to a recent video chat with my brother in law (husbands brother) & his wife at breakfast time.
BIL (Brother in law) had called my husband on the phone and while they were talking his wife asked if they can video chat and say hi to our 2 year old daughter. we video chat almost every week at different times of the day and almost every time it has been in casual home attire like jeans, t-shirt etc.
Except this time BIL’s wife appeared in what looked like sleepwear.
Bra-less in a low cut, off white tank with very thin straps and flower detail around the neck.
Were it summer I might not have thought anything of it, but since it’s already in the low single digits temperature wise, the top was not something to be worn outside.
Also because of the time of day, we were just sitting down to breakfast, it was clear that she was in sleepwear.
I’m unsure of what the norm would be for video chatting with family.
Both my husband and I felt she could have atleast put a robe on or something.

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Alicia November 8, 2012 at 1:04 pm

General rule is you only video chat in attire that you would chat in person in. So for buisness that means buisness attire for family that means attire you would let your family see you in. So in your family is it appropriate to come down to group breakfast table and chat in Pjs with no robe? This is same formality.

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Country Girl November 8, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Appropriate wear is same in video chat as in real life. There is nothing inherently wrong with wearing sleepwear around/in front family, however things like lingerie or “going braless” is not appropriate for obvious reasons. You might give her the benefit of the doubt that she simply neglected to take a quick moment to glance at what she was portraying to you. If it happens again, you may choose to chat with her in private saying something like “Jane, I’m sure you don’t realize this and I don’t mean to embarrass you, but sometimes when we video chat the lighting/camera is just so that it shows right through certain materials.”

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Elizabeth November 8, 2012 at 1:28 pm

I think she could say that if it were actually the case that the fabric was see-through, but it doesn’t sound like it was from the post.

I would say that one should appear in videochat in the same kind of clothes that one would feel comfortable wearing around someone. If SIL would not normally come down to breakfast with you in a tank top, then she probably shouldn’t wear it in videochat. However, I’m confused – you said that you wouldn’t think anything of it if it were summer. Why does it matter that she likely slept in the tank-top? It was breakfast time, and they clearly hadn’t gotten ready yet. Doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.

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Chat ettiquette November 8, 2012 at 4:38 pm

The issue is not her wearing a tank top. It’s more like wearing what seemed to be lingerie. Though it wasn’t see through it was not the type of clothing she wears around the family.
Most household members dress conservatively due to the family’s culture and religious background, but each individual has the right to wear what is comfortable to them.
I have sided with the BIL’s wife when other family members have criticized her on clothing. Mainly because the clothing was appropriate to the situation (shorts on a summer day, strapless cocktail dress for a wedding etc)
So as far as what is considered appropriate wear around this family is different than your average household.
Since I come from a more conservative background, I want to know what is the general norm for others. I accept her choice to dress as she wishes but,
Is it ok to wear in front of family what appears to be lingerie? Something only appropriate to sleep in and not wear out.

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Zakafury November 8, 2012 at 6:32 pm

I’m confused about how you classify something as lingerie. It sounds like this was a mainstream cut of tank top, and the only reason you are sure it was bedroom wear is because of the time of year.

I agree that she should dress how she would in person, and I think this fits that criteria. If you had been a guest at her house, she might have been wearing that top to a very casual breakfast.

I take it from your own reply that this is bothering you personally. There’s no reason to let her technically acceptable choice make you uncomfortable. I think that you should demur next time she wants to vido chat over breakfast. Say something like “Oh. We haven’t even gotten dressed yet, I’d rather not be on camera.” If she pushes the issue, delay the video by 10 minutes to ‘get ready,’ and I expect she’ll realize she might be underdressed and do the same.

Elizabeth November 9, 2012 at 10:18 am

I agree with Zakafury. It isn’t so much that your SIL is doing something wrong, but that you are uncomfortable viewing her in certain attire (within reason, which it sounds like this was). Please don’t say anything to this woman. Rather, you should realize that since this is a problem you have, you should be the one deal with it instead of shaming or criticizing her. I like Zakafury’s suggestion that if you would prefer not to view her in a certain thing, then just say you can’t video chat, that you feel like you should get dressed, etc.

I understand that her attire has been a source of family drama in the past, but you can refrain from contributing to it. If you can’t dress more casually in front of family, then who can you do it in front of?? If would perhaps be different if she were a guest in your home or something, but she was in her own home, at breakfast, in her pajamas. Unless you think she was being intentionally provocative or titillating, I personally just can’t see a problem. Again, if you don’t like what you see, then politely excuse yourself.

Jenny November 8, 2012 at 7:15 pm

How do you respond to someone who continually tries to get their younger child invited to a party the older sibling is invited to?

My middle son, R, is friends with a neighbour boy, L, who has a younger brother, T. For three years now, whenever we invite L over for a party, the mother always clarifies whether or not T is invited.

After the first time, I was very clear in my subsequent written party invitations that only L was invited, by simple addressing the invitation to only him. Basic etiquette indicates that only the specific person invited is invited. A few times, I have specifically invited both boys over if it’s just a playday. I thought this would show the mother that if we were inviting siblings, I would specifically say so.

I feel I am put in an uncomfortable position by always having to say No, I’m sorry, I can’t invite everyone’s siblings too.

I don’t really know how to make this behaviour stop other than just continuing to say No.

Thoughts?

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Elizabeth November 9, 2012 at 10:10 am

If it were once a week, I’d say that you should say something. However, if it only occurs once per year, shake off any feelings of discomfort and simply answer the woman’s question. Is T invited too? No, this party is only for R’s immediate friends. It doesn’t sound like she’s putting any particular pressure on you, just checking to see. If it really bothers you, I suppose you could always say: “Just for future reference, I always address the envelope to the invitees.”

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Just Laura November 9, 2012 at 10:11 am

It sounds like you’ve been doing everything correctly. You’re including Younger Sibling when you can, and being specific when only Older Sibling is the one invited. I have nothing additional other than to support your saying “no” in the future, each time this woman asks.

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Ron November 9, 2012 at 11:39 am

Hi;
My son is getting maried next month. We were given a set number to the size of “our” guest list. Some of our guests are comming single which leaves openings on our list. What is the correct way to invite other people who did not make the “cut off” for the original list, or do we just pay for the empty seats and grin???
Thanks

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Alicia November 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Well first speak to your son about if he is ok with you extending a B list invite to others. If your son and you want to send B list invites out then all you do is send the invites out. Then those B list second tier guest RSVP yes or No and you go from there. The problem with this is that if people realize that they were on the B list this can hurt feelings and in addition if they did not get invited as priority guests do you and your son really truly want them there. Saving the money by having a smaller wedding may be a better option

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Elizabeth November 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Alicia is right – you do not have to pay for empty seats. If you invite fewer people, order less food, etc.
But I sort of disagree about the B list. As long as the weekend is still a few weeks away, I think you could still invite additional people without any negative consequences. I think people understand that the costs of weddings and the sizes of venues does limit the guest list.

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Zakafury November 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Speaking as someone who has attended a wedding on a week’s notice, with a clear apology for being included as the 201st guest at a 200 person wedding, it’s not really insulting.

The wedding is not a secret. Getting a late invitation shows that you were thought of first when space opened up. To be offended by this, someone would need to be even more offended by not receiving an invitation.

If there is time to send formal invitations to more people, go for it. There’s no harm. If there is not time for that, you will want to pick people who won’t mind a last minute invitation – young friends of the couple who weren’t on the list are a good option for folks who will be 100% understanding and not annoyed by late notice.

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Winifred Rosenburg November 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Reception halls will ask for a final head count the week of the event so you won’t pay for the unused seats. B lists are a dangerous thing. The only way they can be used is if there is no way for the people to find out they were on the B list. In other words, you can’t put anyone on the B list who knows anyone on the A list. If I got a wedding invitation and found out that others got their invitation well in advance of mine, I would think “I guess they don’t really want me there. They just want to fill some empty seats.” and I would respond no.

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Meg March 3, 2013 at 9:35 pm

My fiance is from Europe, I am from California. My mother has always dreamed of planning my wedding, so we are having a ceremony and reception in California this May. We will have a second reception in Europe; we thought it more polite to add a celebration there, to spare his friends the expense of coming to California.

I wanted to register for charitable donations rather than household goods, but my mother threw a hissy fit about doing that at “her” reception. Is it acceptable to register for donations at our European reception? Or is it rude/greedy to register twice, even if the money goes to charity?

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Elizabeth March 3, 2013 at 10:39 pm

People often create a registry when they plan to have a shower. It sounds like you are not planning a shower, but are referring to a registry for wedding gifts themselves. I don’t think it is rude to create a donation registry, or to simply have no registry at all. What is important is to avoid any mention of gifts on the invitation itself. Some people include registry information on a wedding website, or they spread that information by word of mouth. It is not rude or greedy to register at more than one place, even if one registry is for items and one is for charities. However, you may simply choose to “compromise” with your mother by simply not creating any registries, and then you can donate any money you receive to the charity of your choice. I would quickly disabuse your mother that this is “her” reception. It sounds like you are indulging her, and allowing her to plan it for you. That does not mean that she gets to call all the shots, and you are perfectly within your rights to have a charitable registry or to have no registry at all. Hissy fit or no.

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Meg March 16, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Thank you!

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