Open Thread

by epi on January 3, 2013

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.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

LindaB January 3, 2013 at 12:42 am

Thank you for all the Funeral Etiquette.
I recently lost my 28 year old son in an unexpected and swift illness. Most people at my work know me but not him.
I would like to add an additional item to the” Do Not Ask ” section, “How did he die? Was he sick? Was he seeing a Doctor? etc”. If they did not know him, I do not want to have that conversation. Also that line of conversation does not help me make it through the work day. It sort of puts me in a conversational corner.
Thank you for listening.

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Joanna January 7, 2013 at 12:21 pm

First off, I’m so sorry for your loss, Linda.

I think that the folks who ask how he died aren’t trying to pry or be rude, but rather show an interest – after all, if they didn’t know him personally, what else is there to say or ask? So it’s only natural.

But, that said, if you don’t want to discuss it, absolutely feel free to tell people that you’d prefer not to discuss it. There’s nothing rude or wrong about that.

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Jenny January 3, 2013 at 9:32 am

LindaB, I am so sorry to hear about your son. I think if people ask questions you don’t feel comfortable answering, you can tell them politely that you appreciate their concern and thank them for asking, but you’d rather not discuss it. I think people will be understanding, given the circumstances.

I have a completely different question. My fiance and I are planning to send out our wedding invitations soon. As far as I know, the correct way to address a married couple is (for example) “Mr. and Mrs. Scott Fitzgerald,” using the husband’s whole name. This rubs me the wrong way. Is it terribly improper to write “Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald,” or use some other form of address that is more equal?

Many thanks for any answers. I am a longtime reader of the EPI blog.

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LindaB January 3, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Jenny,
Thank you for your thoughtful answer. You are so correct. I have and they do. It just seems so unrelenting. It has only been 14days. I will get better at responding as times passes. Thanks again.

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Winifred Rosenburg January 3, 2013 at 4:02 pm

How you address envelopes should be based more on the preferences of the addressees than your own. Please do not leave off titles as they are a sign of respect. If you have reason to think some of your guests would prefer it, you can address those invitations “Mr. Scott Fitzgerald and Ms. Zelda Fitzgerald” with the names in either order. For those that would prefer “Mr. and Mrs. Scott Fitzgerald” please respect their wishes.

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Jenny January 3, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Dear Winifred,
Thanks for your reply. You’re right to remind me that the addressees’ preferences are most important. The thing is, I don’t know what everyone wants. I could default to the traditional “Mr. and Mrs.”; however, I did also find this useful guide elsewhere on the Emily Post site: http://www.emilypost.com/forms-of-address/titles/96-guide-to-addressing-correspondence. It looks like I could use the “Mr. John Kelly and Ms. Jane Kelly” and not offend anyone else or myself…I hope.
I’d still love to hear the EPI staff weigh in on this.
Thanks!
Jenny

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Lauren January 7, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Dear Jenny,

Just as there may be invitees who are offended by the Mr. and Mrs. John Kelly, there may be invitees offended by the perceived downgrade to unmarried-and-living-together couple with the same last name*. Or there may be romantics/newliweds/etiquette-lovers who find the upgrade to modern woman equally irritating (“I like my social Mrs. title, why does she insist on making me modern!”).

So: assuming you don’t know the invitee’s preference, and since there are probably more people who would choose to identify their married selves as Mr. and Mrs. John Kelly on a *wedding* invite, I’d err on the side of tradition. You probably won’t end up offending too many people going with Mr. John Kelly and Ms. Jane Kelly, but more people will notice and remark on that than they will the Mr. and Mrs.

*I know EPI says to signify this by the ampersand rather than separate lines but I wouldn’t be able to use an ampersand on a formal wedding invitation.

All the best with your wedding! (And yes, EPI staff chime in with your thoughts!)

Lauren

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Nellie January 3, 2013 at 10:05 am

Good morning,
I send Christmas gifts to my sister, brother-in-law, and teenage neice and nephew. Since there is a state’s distance between us, I do not get to view the opening of these gifts.

After the holidays, there was the traditional new years eve conversation with my sister. During that call, she said, “We have not sent out thank you notes for Christmas. We figure that family will understand if we don’t get to that since we are so busy.”

Thoughts on how to handle this? Hurtful was my reaction.
Nellie

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Alicia January 3, 2013 at 11:55 am

By sending them thank you notes promptly for their gifts they gave you. Nothing will make them feel more guilty for not sending out thank you cards then by receiving them. Specifically send individual cards to each of the people you sent gifts to even if the gift you received was from the family group send a separate card to each family member if you got each a separate gift. Devious yes! But it also lets the teenagers get thank you cards addresses to them and to feel the joy that brings and the understanding of the obligation.

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Joanna January 7, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Don’t send another gift. It’s pretty harsh, but if you want to make a point, that’s the swiftest way to do it.

My understanding is that if someone’s too busy to write a thank-you card — a five-minute thing, including the addressing of the envelope — they’re probably also too busy to open the gift.

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Zakafury January 8, 2013 at 9:25 am

“I thought you were too busy to open the gift,” is the kind of absurd passive-aggressive sniping which keeps people from taking an interest in etiquette.

Joanna is correct that you can stop sending gifts, because there is no reason to continue sending them to recipients who are not gracious about receiving them.

I think the best time to press the issue was when you were speaking to your sister. “That’s a real shame. I always look forward to getting them since I can’t actually see you at Christmas.”

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Clara January 3, 2013 at 1:36 pm

I started a new position in my career just about 3 months ago and I think I have misplaced the key to the front door. I had to be driven to work on Saturday and took the work key off my key ring so that my boyfriend could drive my car back home. I thought I placed it in my pocketbook in a “safe spot” but I cannot find it. I am hoping it is at home in a pocket, but until then I am freaking out. How mortified I will be if I have to ask for a new one. Any advice on how to delicately bring this up if I need to tomorrow?

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Jerry January 3, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Apologize and offer to pay any fees for replacing the lock.

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Meg January 3, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Good Afternoon,

I lived with a close friend of mine for three years until we both decided to move in with our fiances. We had been the best of friends up until the last year when we both became slightly intolerable of one another.
About two years ago, she gave me a pair of jeans that were too small and tight for her. They were not brand new, slighly worn. They were designer jeans and I was delighted to have a new pair to wear. I wear them quite often to this day. About a month ago during a conversation via text messaging (what has happened to us?) she asked if I ever wear those jeans. I answered honestly and said I wear them all the time.

While away on a sailing trip for NYE this past weekend, I received the following email:

“Hey girl. Sorry to bother you while starting your sail…but I’ve been debating this for a long time. I know I gave you those Seven jeans a year or two ago with the contingency “unless I can fit into them one day.” Obviously if I thought that would ever happen, I wouldn’t have given them to you. Well guess what, hell has frozen over lol. I know when I asked you a few weeks ago if you wore them you said yes. So I debated over & over & over asking for them back. Because that is rude. Well, after much debate I figured I have to ask for them back after nearly being in tears last night by not being able to find a single pair of bootcut jeans in my closet that didn’t fit like a garbage bag. So frustrating.
I really REALLY am sorry to ask for them back. Maybe I’m thinking about it too much but I feel terrible. But after trying the same size & style on today & realizing how great they fit, I have to ask. I just can’t pay $200 for another pair right now. So…I’m willing to compromise. How about I send you a check for $50 to go towards a new pair for you & but you can pay for shipping back to me? Thoughts?
Again I’m so sorry to ask you rudely for them back :-( don’t talk mean about me!”

My fiance is appalled at this and would rather I send back the jeans and delete her as a friend, etc. I hate ending friendships, but I am too old for petty stuff like this. I have not responded back to her, please help. I thought about sending them back with no note, just an Emily Post Etiquette Book. Please let me know how I should handle this.

Many thanks,
Meg

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Alicia January 3, 2013 at 4:13 pm

I’d send her back the jeans. I would not delete her as a friend. Clearly this is a bit tacky to ask for something back that had been a gift a few years ago. However, clearly she views the several year old jeans as worth the resulting awkwardness of the relationship you have. You are clearly not close now so just let the relationship figure itself out either you will get closer in which case who care or you will not in which case oh well you were ready t o burn that bridge anyway.
Oh and rent the movie the sisterhood of the traveling pants.
p.s. if you really like the fit look online for the same model and size. I recently saw some seven jeans on sale at 6pm.com for about 70% off.

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Winifred Rosenburg January 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Is her description actually what happened? If so, she didn’t give you the jeans she lent them to you, and she is within her rights to ask for them back. I wouldn’t accept payment if I were you; I would consider the shipping cost to be the cost of renting designer jeans for two years. If she is, to give her the benefit of the doubt, remembering wrong and the jeans were a gift, I understand your frustration. Still, I don’t see how arguing over what was or was not said could end well. I would still send her the jeans. I would turn down the offer for cash except to reimburse the shipping cost. After that, it is your choice whether or not to continue to be friends with this person.

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Just Laura January 3, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Accept her offered payment, and send them back with a lovely note describing how pleased you are that she’s able to fit into them again. You will be tempted to ask if you have to return all the other gifts she’s given you over the years, but please refrain.

Then take your $50 and go buy a pair of Seven-For-All-Mankind jeans on eBay. Mine were around $45, and came new with tags.

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Jerry January 3, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Return the jeans, congratulate her on the weight loss, decline the $50, and tell her that she can pick them up or that she can send you a prepaid UPS or FedEx envelope. I would absolutely not pay for the cost of the shipping.

(And, Winifred, I would characterize the transaction as a contingent gift, not a loan.)

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Jody January 4, 2013 at 7:42 am

I agree with Jerry’s solution. If your friend balks at sending you the prepaid envelope you can explain that it’s hard for you to get to the post office and that would be the easiest way to return the jeans (which is the case for me). As for ending the friendship, as others have said that’s really up to you. Were you close to this friend before the “return the jeans” incident or were you drifting apart anyway?

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Rae January 4, 2013 at 3:43 pm

WOW. WOOOOOOOOOOOOW.

Well, that’s a new one. I think people are right, you have nothing to win by keeping the jeans. If she wants 2 year old well-used jeans, that’s up to her. But I think you should be done with her. My feeling on this is if she mis-remembers something like giving you a $200 pair of jeans as being a conditional loan (is that what Jerry called it? I might have messed that up), then she’s probably going to mis-remember or misrepresent this event in your relationship as well. Just send them back and be done with her. I mean, seriously, if you decide to stay “friends” with her, you’ll just be waiting for the next episode like this. And, to the extent that you can, don’t talk about this with your pals, especially people who may know her. It seems that she is sensitive to how this looks, but really wants the jeans anyway. You may as well be the bigger person here and buy yourself a pair of pants that no one can take away from you.

Rae

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Vanna Keiler January 4, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Hi Meg. I think Alicia has it right when she described your friend’s request as “tacky”. The general consensus on this thread seems to be to return the jeans. I think the rationale for this is based on the possibility of continued harassment and/or drama by the “friend”. I think I will have to agree, because the request is so extraordinary, it does seem possible this individual may continue to pursue the return of her gift—maybe in-person while you’re observed wearing them one day! What I wouldn’t do is go through any trouble to send her the jeans: allow her to make all the arrangements and do not accept any monetary amount in exchange. I would have to advise against continuing this friendship as well, which seems like it has run its course and value for both parties concerned. Good luck. :)

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Bill January 3, 2013 at 6:21 pm

I have been reviewing the formal wedding invitation information and have not been able to find the proper wording if my fiance and I are older and “hosting” the wedding ourselves, not our parents. Our parents will be in attendance; however, not paying for the wedding.

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Alice January 3, 2013 at 8:53 pm

On addressing invitations and cards to families.

In the past few years I have an increasing number of new and blended families on my holiday mailing list. As is the not-so-new trend, very few of the last names match across all three, four, or five family members living under the same roof. How should I address the card, not wanting to leave the children off entirely? Or is that just too improper, and I should forget the children? I like including them, I loved being included on the address line when I was young.

I’ve gotten over the Ms./Mrs. question, and I believe able to properly address cards and invitations to couples with completely different names. I basically follow the guidelines here: http://www.emilypost.com/communication-and-technology/notes-and-letters/96-guide-to-addressing-correspondence

Examples:

Mr. John Kingsley and Ms. Sarah Talbot have two children: Sophie (the elder, a girl) and Jackson (the younger, a boy). In school Sophie and Jackson have their father’s last name, but Sarah never uses it and no-one ever hyphenates their names.

I can think of many options, but the most obvious seem to be these:

The Kingsley Family
The Kingsley-Talbot Family (which goes against the family preference)
The Kingsley & Talbot Family
The Talbot & Kingsley Family
John, Sarah, Sophie, and Jackson Kingsley (which ignores the mother’s preference)
John, Sarah, Sophie, and Jackson Kingsley-Talbot
John, Sophie, and Jackson Kingsley and Sarah Talbot (this seems awful!)
Sarah Talbot and John, Sophie, and Jackson Kingsley

Or a version on multiple lines and everyone spelled out:
Mr. John Kingsley, Ms. Sarah Talbot,
Miss Sophie Kingsley and Mr. Jackson Kingsley

I can get even crazier. How about:
Misters John and Jackson Kingsley, Ms. Sarah Talbot, and Miss Sophie Kingsley
That’s about as wrong as I can make this.

Clearly I’m overthinking it. Can someone untangle me? I’ve got some formal invitations coming up that I’d like to do right.

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Alicia January 4, 2013 at 8:51 am

Mr. John Kingsley and Ms. Sarah Talbot
Miss Sophie Kingsley
Master Jackson Kingsley
123 some street
Town, St
12345
This assumes Jackson is under 13 if older he is Mr.
“and” on envelopes means married so never use and between kid names just stick on different lines.

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Elizabeth January 4, 2013 at 9:00 am

I think Alicia’s way is proper. However, if you are like me and lazy, I can’t imagine that offense would be taken to “The Kingsley and Talbot family.” It is, after all, what they are!

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Winifred Rosenburg January 4, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I think the previous suggestions are good for greeting cards. You should know that for formal invitations one generally does not address the outer envelope to the whole family, just the parents. You can then list all of their names on the inner envelope.

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Elizabeth Wilhelm January 9, 2013 at 3:39 pm

we are a blended family, with none of our children living under our roof. we recieved a wedding invitation from my husbands neice. The outside envelope was address to The Wilhelm’s and inner envelope had specific handwritten names above invite, my husband, myself, and only his 2 biological children. My three biological children were not included. When my neice sent out wedding invite, all of us were invited, including my husbands biological children who do not live with us and were barely known to them. I feel offended and that the names of only 4 out of our family of 7 were handwritten in. Is this proper etiquette to include only “some” of the family , or am I just being overly sensitive?

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Winifred Rosenburg January 9, 2013 at 5:00 pm

When decisions about guest lists are made, lines need to be drawn somewhere. No, it is not rude to invite only their blood related cousins to trim the list.

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Elizabeth January 9, 2013 at 5:38 pm

I think it depends how long you have been married and what kind of relationship the bride or groom has with the respective family members. I agree that this is likely poor form – if they don’t know his children, why invite any of them, why not just the two of you? But however you feel about the invitation, it’s not likely to change and you should not raise any objections. Go if you want to go, and decline if you want to decline. Your kids are likely pleased not to have to attend a boring wedding of some far-off relation they’ve never met.

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Alicia January 10, 2013 at 10:58 am

Kinda depends on the ages of the minor children. As none of the children live with you that also makes it complicated. I think it is very understandable to only invite relatives by blood. However if you wish to decline for the children or all of you over this that is reasonable as well.
The children of your aunt by marriage who do not live with her is a very different relationship then your cousins.

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