Open Thread

by epi on July 3, 2013

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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 }

Catherine Davis July 3, 2013 at 7:01 am

My husband’s grandmother recently passed away. Several years ago, I gave her a pair of nice earrings for Christmas which she would wear frequently. Would it be appropriate for me to approach her daughters (including my mother-in-law) to see if I could have those as a remembrance of her?

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Just Laura July 3, 2013 at 9:02 am

I would not, unless everyone is very, very good friends. Sometimes such an innocent request might be misconstrued.
However, if your mother-in-law mentions that they are donating Grandma’s things, or spreading them around the family, that would be an appropriate time to bring it up.

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Alicia July 3, 2013 at 9:50 am

Absolutely not. Unless and until there is mention of disposing of grandmas things and even then tread very very carefully in mentioning it. People get very sensitive around the distribution of things after death and you do not want to add to the burden of the children and grandchildren by causing extra stress. I know my grandma just passed away and if one of my cousins spouses started asking for something even innocently while the family is still in grief they would be considered horribly rude to the point of ostracisim. Likely your husband will be asked when they distribute items is there is anything he would like at that point he can mention you always loved grandma and liked those earrings.

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Jody July 3, 2013 at 6:24 pm

I agree with the others, it’s best not to say anything at this point. If and when the family mentions something would be the time to mention it.

It’s possible your husband’s grandmother has left specific instructions as to her jewelry and the family should abide by those wishes. In my mother’s case, we took care of the specific instructions first, and then asked people if they’d like something.

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Vanna Keiler July 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I second the above posts opinions. If you have had a loved one pass on recently, you can probably better relate to how you may react (even inwardly) should someone come approaching you about this or that item. Luckily our family did not experience this when a family member passed on, but I know it would be difficult for me to not project and transfer some of my grief and other emotions into annoyance for the “interest” of others in the deceased’s belongings. Do note that grieving individuals are not in their usual state of mind during this difficult time to comprehend what has occurred.

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Vanna Keiler July 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Just as an explanation to others regarding how family view a deceased person’s belongings: they tend to get VERY protective of their family member’s belongings, reputation, etc., to the point that they may often delay doing ANYTHING with property, belongings, assets, etc. This is due to deference and love for the family member, thoughts of trying to strictly adhere to and determine what they would have wanted done with their belongings, and, quite frankly, the reluctance to move anything or part with anything, which reminds them of the loved one. Lastly, there may be ongoing legal considerations which at some point, as a family they will have to meet and go over with estate lawyers. Therefore, depending on the family and situation, the legal settlement issues will take precedence, followed by a general consensus of what to do with the belongings (if anything, immediately), and absolutely LASTLY, who to give anything to who is not an immediate family member (e.g. sons, daughters, wives, husbands).

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Sue July 3, 2013 at 8:50 am

In the salutation of a letter and using first names who comes first. The man or the woman?
Thank you
Sue

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Alicia July 3, 2013 at 9:51 am

The person who actually wrote the letter comes first and the one who just approved it second.

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Winifred Rosenburg July 3, 2013 at 11:07 am

Either order is correct. FYI, if you’re writing a letter that will in spirit be from both you and your husband, it is not necessary for your husband’s name to be in the salutation. You should just mention him somewhere in the letter. For example, in a thank-you note you might say “We love the coffeemaker! John has been making himself coffee every morning…” Then sign just your name. It will be understood that you are both thanking the person.

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Katie K July 3, 2013 at 1:58 pm

I believe Sue is asking about the salutation (greeting at the beginning of the letter), not the signature.

When writing a social letter to a couple, I’m not sure it matters whose name goes first. If you are writing to a relative and his/her spouse, you probably would list the relative’s name first. If you are writing to friends, perhaps you would put the name of the person you know the best in the first position. If you are writing thank you notes to couples you do not know well (friends of your M-i-L who sent you a wedding gift), perhaps you would use the same order as is on the gift card.

Sue, has someone complained about the greeting you have been using?

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Becky July 3, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Need some confirmation or correction…When eating, where should your non-dominant hand be placed when not in use? I had always understood that it should be in your lap unless you were using it. At most, you could rest your forearm against the table for a brief moment between uses. To rest your forearm against the table while eating has the appearance of hovering over or protecting your plate. A contrary opinion I have recently heard is that as long as your elbows are not on the table it is acceptable to have the non-dominate, inactive arm resting against the table. Trying to figure out if this is a “right vs. wrong” or an “either / or.” Is this a regional custom (southern me, mid-western him)? American vs. Continental? I would be particularly interested if someone could point me to credible sources on the subject because I have not yet located it in my EP copy or in quick google searches. And fyi…I don’t consider Wiki, ask.com and some others as credible sources on this subject since several, even those that parallel my own opinion on this topic, have also said it is ok to place napkin on your chair or plate after finishing your meal – ugh!

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Winifred Rosenburg July 3, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Miss Manners’ answer on the subject of elbows on the table is: “The rule is still valid. Actually it applies only when one is eating, not when one is lingering over a completed meal or attending a meeting around a conference table. Etiquette, being custom, is not obliged to provide reasons, but confidentially, it is repulsed by the sight of an arm hovering, cranelike, over the plate–or circling around the plate, even if you have to protect your food from predators.”

There is no mention of a rule against arms on the table in general in either Miss Manners’ book or the EPI book, which leads me to believe such a rule doesn’t exist. However, Miss Manners’ statement implies that you shouldn’t place your arm in any way that could be considered protecting your food. It seems a docile arm on the side of the table would be acceptable.

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Vanna Keiler July 4, 2013 at 1:23 pm

There was an interesting debate on this website some time ago regarding Continental vs. American use of utensils in public, to the point of whether a left-handed individual should even use utensils in their left hand. I suggest exploring more of our old blog posts, as there is actually a wealth of opinions on this, depending on which side of the Atlantic you reside, whether you feel compelled to follow traditional rules or “break them” in lieu of more practical considerations, and the like.

Here is some contrasting schools of thought I recall from this discussion:
• Use your right hand when utilizing a fork or spoon, regardless of whether you are left or right handed, leaving the left hand in the lap
• Use your left hand if you are left handed with a fork or spoon, leave other hand in lap
• You may use the left hand to cut through items with a knife, but left hand then returns to lap, and right hand is used with fork or knife.

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Karyn July 4, 2013 at 9:16 pm

My daughter is the maid of honor for her friend. She is throwing a shower with the bridesmaids but has also been invited to a shower thrown by another family friend. Her shower will take place first. She has heard that she is not expected to bring a gift to the second shower but I say she needs to bring a gift. What is the right thing for her to do?

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Just Laura July 5, 2013 at 9:58 am

What is within her budget?
If another gift is no financial hardship, she may like to do that. However, a card would be sufficient. Personally, I would bring a card or something small and modestly priced.

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Winifred Rosenburg July 5, 2013 at 10:47 am

She does not have to bring a gift. Typically guests are not invited to multiple showers specifically so they do not feel obligated to give more than one gift. Sometimes an exception to this rule is made for the bridal party so they can be included in all wedding events, but in these cases each guest is still only obligated to give one shower gift and doesn’t need to bring gifts to additional showers.

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M M Thomas July 9, 2013 at 3:20 pm

I don’t know if they still do this anymore, but when i got married in the 80′s, we had tables set up in the livingroom to display the gifts. Any friend could drop by to view them.

After the first gift, I made it very clear to my bridesmaids that they were to bring no more gifts to the showers thrown for me. After I had opened the gifts others had given, I would make the comment, “Ya’ll need to come by the house and see the lovely teapot Sara gave me.” That way, they would not lose face or feel they had to explain the situation themselves.

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Alicia July 9, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Showers are absolutely something that people should be bringing the gifts to. Half the entertainment of a shower is supposed to be watching the gracious honoree opening their gifts. Displaying tables of gifts in the living room however has gone out a favor as we have as a society moved from all living within a short distance of our social circles to having friends across town across the state across the country and across the world. I have never seen this outside and old movie.

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Elizabeth July 9, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Your daughter could purchase a two-part gift, and then give one part at the first shower, then the second part at the second shower. (Like two place settings of silverware, or similar.) alternatively, she could do her main gift at the first shower and a second low-cost gift at the second. I think it would be awkward to go empty handed.

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Becky July 5, 2013 at 11:18 am

A thought if she would like to attend, but not “empty handed”… if it is known how many showers and gift giving events there will be (presuming she is included as a bridal party member as WR mentions)…opt for a gift or series of gifts that make up a set, and break into logical units for each of the events. though the individual units may be a little less of a gift than might be given if it was the sole gift. Only example that comes to mind right now might be a bar set….an ice bucket for one event, a set of glasses for another….but it will also depend on the gift theme(s) as well.

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