Open Thread

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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.


  1. Krishka

    I have two questions regarding situations at my workplace:
    1. What is the proper way of responding to someone’s comments about my weight? Lately, I’ve lost a few pounds and I feel really uncomfortable when people at work comment. I never know how to respond to: “Have you lost weight?”
    2. I am assigned a position that is different than the rest of the people on my team and involves less leg work. Some of my colleagues make remarks such as: “Don’t work too hard!” How should I respond to that?
    Thank you.

  2. Jody

    Krishka — I don’t know your colleagues, but let’s be generous and assume the remarks are meant to be a compliment (#1) or a joke (#2). If polite remarks such as “yes” or “I don’t like to discuss my personal appearance” (for #1) or “I won’t, thanks” (for #2) without elaboration don’t get the remarks to stop, maybe reacting to them with dead silence or “why would you say something like that” will help. Sometimes people make such remarks without realizing how uncomfortable those remarks make the other person feel.

  3. bridesmaidtobe

    A friend of mine has asked me to be her bridesmaid. Her wedding is in summer 2014, and as of now I have literally no idea where I’ll be living/what I’ll be doing then (I’m currently in a MA program and have lived in 6 countries in the past 5 years, so am just planning to go wherever I can find work when I finish). I am so honored and excited but there is a part of me that knows that I may not be able to make the wedding, due to living abroad and/or finances.
    My question is: should I just accept and make no mention of my worries that I won’t be able to be at the wedding and deal with it if it becomes an actual problem, or should I accept but tell her that I’m kind of tentative? We have been friends since way before I first moved abroad and she knows that my situation for the future is unclear. I’m just not sure because I feel mentioning my uncertainty makes me look less excited/flattered than I am, and I don’t know if it’s being redundant being that she already knows my situation.

    • Jody

      I think you do owe the bride an answer now, even though it’s so early. It sounds like you do want to be her bridesmaid if you’re able. I suggest you let her know you’d love to be in the wedding party but given your uncertain future plans you’re not sure if you could actually make the wedding. That gives the bride the option of saying “thanks for letting me know, I still want you” or “thanks for letting me know, but unfortunately I need firm commitments.” If she tells you the former, make sure you let her know as soon as your location for the wedding time does firm up.

    • With 1.5 years to plan and save up for airfare from anywhere, you can almost certainly make the big day itself (the exceptions might be if you are considering taking a job that doesn’t allow leave–and you could even mention the wedding dates in your interview). The question would be how much you’d be able to carry out bridesmaid duties from abroad: you might be able to be in town a couple of times ahead of the wedding, or brainstorm with her via pinterest, or you may literally only be able to be there on the day. So, I’d arrange to sit down or have a phone or skype call, and say that you love her and would really like to be there for her but that you are uncertain how involved you can be “on the ground” as the day approaches. By showing you understand a bridesmaid’s role as not just wearing a pretty dress, she’ll know how much you care. As she’s your friend, I’m sure she’ll understand your situation–it’s not complicated. Best to be clear with her from the start about your likely not being in the country, but if she’s fine with you just showing up and supporting her on the day, then problem solved.

  4. Lori

    I have been divorced, remarried and had one child that is now 13. My husband of my second marriage passed away last summer. I am now engaged to be married in April. My question is, because of my son do I retain the last name of my second marriage to be combined with my new and upcoming last name? Do I just take the last name of my new husband and drop my last name from my second marriage?

    • Alicia

      Either way is fine it depends on what you and your future husband want. There is no reason you have to change or not change your name.

    • Elizabeth

      I don’t have personal experience with this, but I understand that there are practical aspects to having the same last name as your child (alone or in a hyphenated format). There may be parenting discussion boards where you could get a better sense of what those aspects are. I think the issue can come up during flying, with schools, etc. If you change your name, you may need to carry additional documents in order to prove your parentage for some situations.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      I agree with previous responses. I would like to add that you also have the option of keeping your current last name for legal purposes but using your new husband’s last name for social purposes. Or you could use a hyphenated last name for legal purposes. There are a lot of options and etiquette approves of them all.

  5. Christmas celebration and gifts

    I live very far away from my family and each Christmastime I am invited by some of my friends to spend the holiday with their families. I used to always gratefully decline their invitations because I know Christmas is a time of giving gifts and my budget does not allow for much, plus I do not know any of thee friends’ families that well (perhaps met parents or a sibling once or twice and that is it). I feel that by accepting the invitation to spend the holiday with them I would be obliged to buy gifts for everyone present and I would inconvenience their family members by putting them in a situation where they would have to get gifts for me – a person they hardly know. At one time, a friend told me that he and his family will be exchanging gifts but I do not need to get anything. This makes me feel even more uncomfortable since I wouldn’t want to sit and observe close family members opening gifts. I would feel very put of place. However, this has left me alone on Christmas for a couple of years now, and i did not enjoy being alone on such an important holiday. Any suggestions on how I should handle this? Thanks in advance.

    • Jody

      I too am alone at Christmas but I don’t mind it — sometimes I get an invitation to Christmas dinner from friends and sometimes I don’t. Here are some of my ideas. Keep in mind that I don’t know what your budget is.
      1. Treat yourself to a hotel getaway. It can be one night at a local hotel or a weekend at a resort-type place. It’s worth double-checking that the hotel restaurant is open on Christmas Day, sometimes hotels will reduce services. Sometimes hotels and resorts will have holiday specials.
      2. Treat yourself to a nice meal at home, nicer than you usually cook. Last year I bought some steak and crab that were on sale, and made myself Steak Oscar.
      3. Volunteer at a local hospital or nursing home/assisted care facility. There may be some patients who rarely have visitors and just talking to somebody will lift their spirits.

    • Elizabeth

      Another option would be to host a party yourself. You cannot be the only single person you know. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a party with those who would otherwise be alone? It could be hosted at your own house, or you could head out to a restaurant or movie theater.

    • Alicia

      I think most families open gifts in the morning on Christmas. So if invited to Dinner or lunch you can probably aim to come after the Christmas gift opening and before the roast beast. People would understand that sort of timing. During the morning spoil yourself with your favorite breakfast. I think that including friends in holidays is part of the warmth of the holidays. I know I am always hosting Easter with a bunch of friends as well as family.

      • Country Girl

        That is my thought exactly. Opening gifts is usually a very small part of Christmas celebration. I think it ought to be very simple to thankfully accept an invitation by saying “I would be delighted to join you. I understand your family will likely want a bit of intimate family time for things like gift giving, but I’d be honored to join you for (another part of the day).”

    • Scarlett

      Back when I was in college, I spent a few major holidays, including Christmas, with friends’ families. How about something homemade, like candy, brownies or cookies? You could package a few (or several) in a holiday tin/box or even cellophane and give them to individuals or couples. Also, dollar-type stores are a great place to find candles, lotions or hand soap. You can bundle – or not – depending on your budget. Another idea is to be crafty, i.e. if you have them in your area, you could go out gathering pine cones, scent them with cinnamon oil and package them in cellophane or a bag. You can even dust them with glitter for a festive effect. They smell wonderful! I used to make potpourri from dried flowers that I grew in my own garden. People loved it. The point is being thoughtful, not how much you spent on a gift. And you may be worrying too much about the friend’s family getting you something. If they do so, it will be because they want to. From my own experience growing up, our family was very welcoming and loved having “extras” at the holidays. We never minded making them feel special by including them with some type of token gift.

      Since it is early in the year, if you are invited to a friend’s family’s home for something that is not a holiday centered around gifts, i.e. St. Patty’s Day party, Easter, Memorial Day cookout, Thanksgiving, I would encourage you to accept it. It might help you to be more comfortable around them at Christmas time. Hope this helps.

      • Thank You

        Thank you everyone for your wonderful responses. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that I could make them something – like cookies! For some reason I always thought I should buy them something more expensive. And you are right, if tables were turned, I too would much more appreciate home made cookies than a sweater. Thank you, everyone! I plan to be accepting any future invites to holiday parties!

  6. Linda

    My eldest daughter is graduating from college this May with an undergraduate degree in Architecture. She will be heading to graduate school in the fall to complete two more years on her way to a Masters degree. When is the appropriate time to send out graduation announcements…If she sends them out for her May graduation then she would likely not send out again in two years. What is the proper protocol for undergrad/graduate school graduation announcements?

    • Elizabeth

      Congratulations to your daughter, architecture is a super exciting field. Each graduation can be announced. There is no rule that she can only announce once, and that she has to choose between an undergraduate and graduate announcement. If she (or you, if you’ll be sending out the announcements) wants to do it now (and again, later) that’s fine. I did not announce my graduate school graduation, but that’s only because I was on to a big move and a new job, and everyone that was close to me knew directly or through word of mouth. But I certainly could have.

    • As someone with a BA, MSc, and soon-to-be-submitted PhD, I concur with Elizabeth: you can absolutely send out announcements for each degree, if you like. In fact, it would be extremely strange to send out anything now about the MA degree, as she hasn’t got it yet.

      To figure out exactly when to send out the undergrad announcements, pay attention to their wording. If they are in future tense or present tense (e.g. “…announce that Sarah Smartlington is a candidate for the degree of Bachelor of Science…”), and they are announcements not invitations, send them to arrive a few weeks in advance of the day. If you choose past tense, aim to have them arrive just after the graduation. When she’s completed the MA, and knows when her ceremony will be, you can follow a similar timeline.

      And congratulations to her: both on graduating and her acceptance to the masters programme!

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