19 Comments

  1. Debbie Albert Halla

    Lately in the news, I have heard numerous politicians, pundits, and reports refer to the President of the United States as, “Mr. Obama.” To me, it seems the height of disrespect – not only for the President, but also for our country and the men and women who have sacrificed to defend our system of government. I hope I am mistaken and this is not improper etiquette but I sincerely do not remember any other President being referred to as “Mr.” unless it was “Mr. President”. Does anyone know the true etiquette behind addressing the President of the United States and not just what seems to have been adopted recently?

    • Alicia

      Mr Washington is the gentleman who determined that presidents get addressed as Mr. Typically Mr President if directly speaking to the president but sometimes Mr Last name. Mr. Washington did this to prevent the idea of kings and monarchy and that the president is above the people of this nation. If at an occasion where two or more world leaders are present say President Obama and the president of Costa Rica President Chinchilla you would refer to them as President Obama and President Chinchilla or Mr Obama and Mrs Chinchilla to their faces. When speaking of not to the US president you can use President Obama, Mr Obama, The President, Barack Obama or anything respectful and clear.

  2. Susan

    My family celebrating Christmas at my home this year. My niece wants to bring her boyfriend which I’m totally against, however my mother doesn’t want to make waves and is going to allow her to bring the boyfriend. Our custom is to open presents after dinner when everyone is together. Is it necessary for us to provide a gift for the unwelcome boyfriend, who isn’t family but my niece calls him her “Fiance”. Thank you in advance for your comments.

    • Why don’t you want to welcome the boyfriend? If he has drug issues, has stolen from your family or has abused your niece, I completely agree with you. You should only allow people into your home with whom you feel comfortable.
      However, if he’s not such a bad person and you do decide that you’ll have him over, then please treat him with kindness as befitting the holiday. Get him a little something (nothing too extravagant) so he’ll have a way to participate with the rest of you. I’m sure your niece will get him something as well.

      • Country Girl

        I think Laura has said it perfectly. If there is a really good reason, like any she listed, for not wanting to include this gentleman, then it is fine to say so since you are the one hosting. It might be better to draw a firm but polite line than to make a miserable situation for everyone, as Scroogieness is contagious.

        But if not, I would love to add my own experience for you to take or leave as you wish. It can be easy to forget that being a young adult and trying to navigate love is an emotional and stressful thing. During my dating years, I was fortunate in that whatever part of my family was hosting that year would always generously offer to include my beau of the time. Regardless of how they felt about him, (and honestly it was not always 100% positive) they would always make their best effort to include him and make him feel welcomed into our family by giving a few small gifts and including him in our stocking treasure hunt.

        The result was this: While a few young men did come and go, I can’t express how much it meant to me then, and how much it means to me still to think back.. that my family made the effort to care, and for no other reason than because I cared.

        • Joanna

          How old is the niece? If she’s a teenager, then I would agree, she should spend Christmas at her house and he at his. But if they are in their twenties and have been together a while, then sure, why not?

          Also, will they reciprocate? Will your niece spend time at his family’s Christmas Eve or earlier/later on Christmas Day? That too factors into his reception at your family’s event.

          • Does it matter the age? I dated a nice young man during junior high who came from a very difficult home situation (dad ditched the family, step-dad abused him, so he ran away to live with very low income grandparents). My parents invited that young man to holidays, to church events, and even grocery shopping trips (my mother felt he needed to see how other families operate). We stayed friends through high school, and years later he told me how much being included in a nice family meant to him.
            As a 15 yr old boy he was unable to reciprocate, but he was always very polite, which was all that mattered to my family.

            Again, if the boyfriend is a danger or is disruptive, I don’t blame the hostess’ not wanting him around. But extending the kindness of the season to those not related by blood or marriage isn’t too much to ask.

  3. Claire

    A friend who I have not seen in many years has been invited to stay in my small city apartment for the weekend and I was so looking forward to catching up – until I learned of my friend’s aversion to pets. Though my cat is friendly, my friend has asked that I shut the cat in another room during the visit. I feel that my cat will not understand the unnecessary punishment of being locked away in a smaller room in my already small apartment. Also, I find it rude that my friend is not diplomatic in expressing that pets are “naughty” and that they “dominate” their owners. While I don’t expect everyone to enjoy pets just because I do, my friend was aware of the cat before accepting my invitation. I firmly but politely said no to the request, which I am afraid has hurt feelings. Am I right to feel that this is an unreasonable demand on my hospitality?

    • I love cats, so I think this person is completely off base. However, I don’t care for dogs. If I accepted an invitation to a friend’s home where a pet dog is kept, then I expect to have to deal with the dog. I hope the owner wouldn’t mind if I didn’t allow the dog into the room where I’m staying, but I wouldn’t expect the dog to be banned from its own house.
      Let your friend know that the cat lives there too, and she knew this ahead of time. If she absolutely can’t stand the idea of sharing a roof with something furry, offer some hotel suggestions.

    • Elizabeth

      Claire,
      Your friend sounds like a bit of a nut. It’s fine to dislike animals and it’s fine to want some distance from them. But your friend’s statement about animals dominating their owners is just bizarre. Perhaps she has spent time with people that did not control their animals well, or perhaps she is very needy and has felt like she had to compete for attention with pet owners?? (I did have a friend once that would spend half the time we hung out talking in a really annoying voice to her dog. But this was in no way the fault of the dog – my friend was just obsessed with her dog and I think used him to fill in any silences that she perceived to be awkward.) In any case, I agree with your decision not to confine your cat. If she hasn’t brought up the topic since you declined her request, I would just let go the rudeness of the request. But if she continues to raise the issue, the possibility of a hotel stay might be the right one to raise.

  4. Kitty

    Question: My dad died recently and had a military funeral. (Served in Korean War) His ex-wife took the folded flag that was on his casket (long story). I would like for my brother to have this, but the relationship with the ex has gone downhill (another long story), so I don’t think asking her for it is wise. I would like to buy a “casket flag”, fold it the proper way, and a nice triangle case to hold it in to give to my brother for Christmas. I know it is not the same, but would like to do it anyway as a remembrance. I would be upfront that this is a replica, not the original flag. My intentions are only good, but I wonder if this is possibly “tacky” in any way. I would feel terrible if I committed some horrible faux pas against veterans. Thoughts? Thanks!

    • Jerry

      I think it’s fine from an etiquette perspective. Here’s another idea: as a service to their constituents, many U.S. Senators will have a flag flown over the Capitol building, and they will dedicate the flag to a particular occasion. So you could have your Senator fly a flag, have the flag dedicated to your father’s memory, and present that to your brother. Just a thought.

      And please accept my deepest sympathies for your loss.

    • Good evening, Kitty,
      This is a very kind idea you have. Not only do you wish to keep family peace (which is difficult when funerals are involved), but you wish to give your brother a physical reminder of his father.
      “Casket flags” are actually known as presentation flags or burial flags as the flag is presented to the family of the deceased veteran. The proper folding is not difficult, and there are many instructions online. (A local boy scout troop would be happy to help if you want someone to handle it for you). Here is one site that deals with genuine presentation flags. Make sure you’re getting a cotton one, not polyester, and be aware that this will not be suitable for outside display. Simply googling “presentation flag case” will give you a multitude of different wood types and styles from which you may choose to safely and respectfully house your flag.

      There is nothing tacky about this, as you are not pretending anything by this flag, and in fact intend it to represent your father’s honorable military service. My grandfather’s flag is housed along with his medals from the Second World War. If your brother has your father’s medals, perhaps you may want to include them in the presentation case.

  5. Andrew

    Question: A friend invited people to an engagement party via evites and text messages at a restaurant. Neither set of parents attended. There were 3 siblings of the groom and spouse plus other friends. We attended, and after eating, we were one of the first people to leave. When saying good night, we were informed the check is being split among everyone. We were surprised, but were going to cover our share. One of the siblings decided to have everyone split to cover the bride and groom to be as well (which would have made our bill 3x the cost). The siblings got out a calculator and figured what everyone would pitch in for 10 minutes. I was shocked, but didn’t want to argue so pitched in 2x our bill. There was never any mention of going Dutch for this engagement dinner. Have you ever heard of a “pay your own way” engagement dinner? Shouldn’t this have at the least been specified beforehand (as I wouldn’t have attended if I knew it was “pay your own way”? Now my wife doesn’t want to attend the wedding, and it has moved me to doubtful. Would you attend?

    • Country Girl

      That would leave a pretty bad taste in my mouth as well.

      However it is not clear from your post, was the couple explicitly involved in making these decisions? Perhaps they were in this case, but if they were not it would seem at least a little unfair to punish them for having uninformed or ill-mannered friends/relatives. The onus is typically on the hosts, not the couple, to both send invitations and pay for the party. The couple may not have been in the loop on the sending of invitations and may have assumed payment from the hosts (although if they noticed their guests were being asked to pay, they should have spoken up).

  6. Jody

    Andrew, it definitely was tacky. If the dinner was to have been “dutch,” that should have been specified at the time invitations were sent out. As far as whether I would attend the wedding, it depends on several factors. How close am I to the bride and groom? If I were on the fence about attending in the first place, I certainly wouldn’t attend now. If I’d already responded “yes,” I might feel that I had to attend but wouldn’t be so generous on the gift.

  7. Kelly

    Question: my father in law exhibits terrible table manners. Talking with his mouth full of food, blowing his nose at the table, one-upping any story that is shared are just a few of the things that he does. I have been putting up with it for years but it is getting worse. I dread dining with him and find the experience generally disgusting (who wants to touch a passed dish after the hands holding it have just been on a dirty handkerchief?). Is there anything that I can say, or do I keep biting my tongue and ignore it?

    • Elizabeth

      There is no way to politely correct the manners of another adult. Some of the behaviors you described seem easy to avoid – don’t sit across the table from him, for instance. With respect to the one-upsmanship, Carolyn Hax (advice columnist for the Washington Post) often recommends making a personal game out of it, to find some humor in the situation – how far will he go to one-up your story? The nose-blowing is a little gross, but unless you personally police the hand-washing habits of everyone at the table (and unless he is touching the food itself), there is probably nothing seriously harmful about it. It could be that you dislike this man, and so things you would overlook in others become more intolerable when he does them. I recommend doing what I do when I have to spend extended period of time with my MIL – sit at another table, talk to other people, sit at the other end of the table, smile and nod, engage lightly, and above all – don’t take it too seriously.

    • Jerry

      There’s a potential solution, but you’ll have to enlist your husband’s help. Let your husband know what bothers you. Husband may be able to pass your message on to your mother in law who may be able to pass your message on to your father in law. If it doesn’t work — if father in law won’t change — then you have to bite your tongue or stop eating with him.

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