Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Belated Farewell, My Fellow Graces

It's been a long time, Graces.  And how very unGracious of me to bolt without so much as saying goodbye.

The truth is, my day job has gotten, well, daily.    As a result, I have lost the rather large chunk of time that I formerly spent sharing my adventures in Graceland with all of you.  On the upside, the day job has proven to be somewhat enjoyable and even a bit remunerative, if you will pardon the indelicacy of mentioning finances.  But being a day job, it is fairly time consuming.

I have considered my farewell message many times, and, although not by nature a procrastinator, I kept putting off posting it.  But, one of my loyal readers, Grant J. has brought to my attention the indisputable Gracelessness of leaving you all hanging.  So, without further ado, I bid you all a very fond adieu.

Feel free to use the email link to contact me when you have a Grace dilemma; I'm still here for you, just not posting.

Thank you for reading, for sharing scenes of epic rudeness, and for seeking my advice over the years.  Eight, to be exact.  It's been a pleasure connecting with all of you.

Make me proud, Graces.  I know you will.

With love and good manners,

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Grace on TV

Good Day Philadelphia was kind enough to invite me to their studio for a chat about Thanksgiving etiquette.  I know TG has come and gone, but the tips apply to any holiday/celebration.  Hopefully there will be more of these as we cruise into the holiday season...stay tuned!

Monday, November 19, 2012

I'm Baaaack....With a Post on How To Avoid Making Your 'Do a Don't

Well, Graces, it's been far too long.  Not because of an etiquette outbreak, but other responsibilities have kept me from the keyboard. 

But I've had a fair few prods to the posterior to get back into it, so here I am.  And not a moment too soon...

Today's post is directed at benefit event planners, some of whom seem to miss the fact that benefit attendees are giving generously and non obligatorily to their charity.  Donors do so because they want to support a given charity but it's an added bonus if they get to enjoy a night out.   If they have fun they will come back next time and bring friends.     If they do not have fun they will not return, and they will tell friends that the 'do is a don't.

A key to keeping the party buzzing is to avoid devoting any portion of the evening to "educating" the public on your mission if it requires the party to stop.  The supporters are already there.  They've ponied up for the ticket price, so consider them hooked.  Don't pry them away from the bar or their convivial conversation.  They will come back next year if they've had a good time.  They will not come back if they've had to endure horrors like these, all true, all endured by Grace at recent charity functions:

--At a Hospital benefit, a video was shown detailing the intricacies of bowel disease as dinner was served.  Bon appetit!

--At a benefit for a social service agency, a religious leader shared a long story about how the organization helped a family take their grandmother off life support and stayed in the room with them as she died.  Seriously, a tale of pulling the plug on Nana.  Cheers!

--At another charity 'do, the honoree, who was told he had three minutes to speak,  pounded the podium and forcefully asserted strong, polarizing views on the politics of the Middle East who should and shouldn't be allowed to have nuclear weaponry--which he rather archaically called "The Atom Bomb."

--An emcee scolded the audience for continuing dinner conversation while an appallingly bad youth band played in the background.

So cash the checks, write sincere and prompt thank you letters, and strategically and selectively schedule meetings with new donors so you can encourage long term interest and sustained support.  Do not preach, lecture, upbraid, offend, or disgust them while they are supposed to be enjoying your hospitality in celebration of your organization.

Monday, July 30, 2012

No Means No, Gate Crasher!

Graces, you won't believe this tale of woe.  This series of letters, along with my advice will really chip your polish.

Dear Social Grace,

My husband and I live near a beach.  This time of year in particular, we are very, very popular.  People come out of the woodwork and invite themselves for a visit.  In the past we have accommodated these "requests" as best as we could, but we are both getting on in years and have not been in the best of health recently.  We have limited visitors to close friends and family.  Several weeks ago I received an email from a distant relative of my husbands (his late cousin's granddaughter, which I think makes her a second cousin thrice removed.)    She said she would be in our town for 2 days on her way to take her teenage children to camp and would like to come visit.  As it turns out, the dates she offered coincide with my birthday celebration so we have guests coming to stay and a small party planned.  There, literally, is no room for her to stay here, and the events of the weekend make it impossible for me to make time for me to meet her or take her for lunch.   Besides, we don't even know her!  What do I tell her?"

Dear Long Suffering Host,

Tell her the truth.  Or an expurgated version of the truth.  Email her back and say:  "Lovely to hear from you.  It was so nice of you to think of us.  Unfortunately, the timing doesn't work.  We have a lot of family in town that week and due to recent bouts of ill health, we've limited our socializing to a small circle.  Our house is at capacity with these guests, and we have several events planned around their visit.  I hope you enjoy your trip and that your kids have a wonderful time at camp."  Don't emphasize that you are having a party, she's liable to a) invite herself and her kids or b) get angry for an imagined snub.

So, Graces, I thought that would end this scourge, but alas, this poor Gracious reader continued to be hassled..... I was almost tempted to recommend a barricade.

Dear Social Grace,

I took your advice, copied your Graciously-worded email verbatim.   The distant cousin came back with a counter-offer.  "We will find a local hotel or motel to stay in.  But we'd still like to see you.  Maybe we could stop in at some point for a visit?  We are completely flexible on timing and would come anytime that is convenient."  Now what?

Dear LSH,

Wow, that is chutzpah.  You'll have to come back with something stronger.  Try this:  "We are really flattered that you want to see us.  The timing just doesn't work.  We are at capacity and  have a jam-packed week.   We have relatives flying in from out of town and will be organizing airport transportation and various other logistics.  Thank you again for thinking of us, but we simply won't be able to get together."  Good luck!

Dear Social Grace,

Well, I thought the last message would work, and for the next week, I was lolled into thinking that we were shot of this woman.  But her pitstop in our town is upon us.  She just emailed again:  "We will be in town tomorrow and Friday.  We'd like to meet for coffee, or tea or ice cream."  Where do I go from here?

Dear LSH,

Don't respond.   You are busy with your houseguests and all the associated responsibilities thereof.  You don't have time to respond to pesky emails from pushy, persistent would-be gate crashers.  Press delete.

I guess on the one hand, you could be flattered that she really, really does want to see you.  (Or the beach.)  But this is bordering on harassment.  Enjoy your company and your party, and ignore any further correspondence from her.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Yoga Class Grunts

One would think that in Yoga of all places, people would be courteous, serene and mindful of others.  Isn't mindfulness one of the prime tenets of the practice?

Sadly, Graces, my experience in Yoga last week begs to differ.  I arrived plenty early, and secured my favorite spot--one in a corner, which insulates me from people on two sides. Call me antisocial, neurotic, or misanthropic--I don't care.  I don't want people's sweat and exhalation encroaching my pranayama.      Maybe I'd be less picky if my fellow students were the likes of...

Jennifer Aniston in Side Plank
or perhaps,

Sting in a twist.

But such is not the case.  I get someone like this:

As luck would have it, the class began to fill up, and despite my best efforts, the space next to me was taken by my least favorite gym member.  Without being unduly crass, this woman has very little regard for personal hygiene, laundry, and worst of all, the effect that her uncurbed flatulence has on the surrounding atmosphere.   By this time, the floor was practically full, and I really had nowhere to go.  I pulled my mat as close as I possibly could into the corner, hoping that any distance I could create between us would mean purer air for my ujayyi breathing.  Alas, my strategy backfired.  In creating this small amount of space, another latecomer, an old fat guy as it happened, plopped his mat right down, so close to mine that they overlapped.    Seriously, his mat was resting on mine as he looked around somewhere between clueless and obnoxious, resembling a dog as it circles a spot before lying down.

What's a Grace to do?  

Horrified, I pulled my mat up and moved--to the only spot available, which happened to be behind a large pillar.    I spent the first few minutes of the class fuming, but then I found my groove, and thought that maybe the old fat guy did me a favor.   I didn't need to see the instructor; she narrated the poses and I was able to follow along just fine.  Because of the obstructed view, the spot wasn't overly crowded, which I like.  And most of all, I was spared proximity to the odiferous crone.  Maybe I ought to send him a thank you note?

Speaking of Yoga, I was reminded of a very funny Yoga-related remark by a dear friend.  She said, "I love Yoga.  Because when I lie down on the floor in my office and close my eyes, I can call it 'Shavasana' instead 'having a nervous breakdown' and no one thinks anything about it."  Thanks for the chuckle, Grace J.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Gracious Guesting

Good guesting practices make all the difference between this:
and this:

'Tis the season, Graces.   Summer is prime time for guests.  This is especially true if one has access to a vacation home, but it also results from people traveling to various places, stopping to visit friends and family on the way.  Mostly this is a good thing; it's lovely to connect and reconnect, and as long as everyone plays nicely in the sandbox, then all is well.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few visitors who never learned the basic rules.

Case in point:  Beach house last Sunday night.  Just shut door on massive crowd (invited by a family member who did not read my previous post).  All breathed a sigh of relief.  Within minutes, that same family member received a text "I'm on the Causeway, be there in 20" from a friend who she had a cursory and inconclusive conversation with 3 weeks ago about coming to visit around July 4.  Despite never accepting the invitation or confirming any plans, this guy decided to come.  He arrived with his girlfriend late that evening.  The alleged plan was for them to spend the night, pass the following day at the beach, and leave in the evening. Four days later, they had not been dislodged.  The crowning moment came when I, mop in hand, bandana on head, sweat dripping with exertion from cleaning up after other people was asked by this Grunt, "We're heading to the beach; can you get me the badges?".  The fact that this chap did not find the mop handle shoved in one of his orifices is a true testament to my self control.

So, in light of that, it seems that people may need a bit of a refresher on Gracious Guesting Guidelines:

  • Accept or reject an invitation clearly and promptly.  Never, never, never show up without a relatively recent communique with the hosts confirming your plans.    Did I say never? 
  • Bring something.  Ideally, this is a gift that the hosts will find useful and enjoyable.  There are never enough towels at a beach or lake house.  I'm also a fan of soaps, cocktail napkins, wine/spirits, nonperishable gourmet foods, board games, and books. More ruminations on hostess gifts here.
  • Pull your weight during the visit.  Buy groceries and cook a meal,  provide takeout or treat the hosts to lunch or dinner in a restaurant.  Take the kids (or grownups) out for ice cream.  Walk the dogs.  Fold and stow the dried beach towels.  Mix a pitcher of cocktails.  We had a prime example of a great guest this past weekend.  Visiting relative who was invited for the weekend called me and said, "I'm bringing something, so you may as well tell me what would be useful.  I know you will get back to me, Grace, so I'm calling you.  A dinner?  Desserts for the weekend?  A case of wine?  Give me some advice or we risk duplication."  I called back, suggested a simple-to-reheat Italian dinner, and this Gracious Guest arranged for takeout lasagne, two salads, and garlic bread for the crew from a local restaurant in time for Saturday night's meal.    They'll definitely be invited back!  Wonder if he's busy this weekend...
  • Come when you say you're coming and--more importantly--leave when you say you're leaving.  I thought last week's pair were going to have to fill out a change of address form before much longer.  Fortunately, they did depart after four--yes, four--days.
I got a kick out of this article from about the 7 Worst Types of Houseguests.  So, Graces, what tales of woe or wonder can you share on this timely topic?

Monday, July 09, 2012

Sharing a Vacation Home Graciously

Hi Graces, I know it's been awhile. Lest you think my silence is a result of an epidemic of etiquette, I am sorry to disabuse you of this idyllic notion.   I have simply been busy working. Writing this blog feeds my soul, surely, but alas, does not feed my family. This working girl was slogging away in the salt mines, so to speak. And I really would have continued devoting my time and energy to paying clients were it not for the epic tales of rudeness involving summer homes and vacation woes that many of you have shared with me over the past few weeks.  This topic will likely span a few posts, so fasten your seatbelts......

As you may recall we are fortunate enough to have access to a beach house owned by my family. This, generally is a wonderful thing; we escape the heat of the city, kids see their cousins regularly, the extended family breaks bread together...the fact that we all run screaming off the Causeway mid-way through Labor Day weekend and don't communicate with each other until Thanksgiving is no indication of the joyful times we share throughout most of the summer. Today's post deals with co-habitation and house sharing. Future posts will address guest behavior, hostess gifts, and related matters. 

Here are some Gracious rules of thumb, which, you no doubt can infer, were grievously violated in recent weeks.

1. Do not invite vast numbers of guests when the regular occupants are all in attendance.  Or at a minimum, clear it with your co-habitees.  Comparing calendars is really not difficult in this day and age--iCal or Google calendar, anyone? Sure, go ahead and invite your therapy group, the mailman, your guru, fortune teller, and dental hygienist--just do it when the usual crowd is elsewhere.

2. Kids and dogs.  Train them.   Take care of them.   Or leave them home. If they are in attendance, provide more than cursory surveillance of said dependents. When both sets of species have resorted to foraging in cabinets at mealtimes and strewing trash, wet towels, banana peels, candy wrappers and other forms of waste on the floor, put down your beer, haul yourself off the beach, and do the needful.

 3. Share.  This means the workload, the goods and the costs.  Writing your name on the Cheerios box is neither Gracious nor effective.  This doesn't mean that every single person has to do a load of laundry or chop the equivalent number of onions.  It means that everyone pulls some weight.  Call me a Marxist, but I'm a proponent of "each according to his ability and each according to his needs."  To a point.  Just because you excel at reclining on the couch and hoisting Coors Light cans doesn't make that your contribution.   Buy the groceries.  Cook a meal.   Do the dishes.   Take the kids mini golfing. Lead the charge at putting them all to bed.  It doesn't really matter what it is, but be sure to do something that makes the day run more smoothly.

Anything I've forgotten, Graces?  Next post:  Gracious Guide to Being a Good Guest.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

I Love You, But I Don't Want To Hear About Your Laundry

Dear Social Grace,

 I have a friend who is wonderful in most ways. But she has one serious flaw: an absolute lack of awareness of how (un)interesting her day to day life is, and she yammers on about it endlessly. If her voice were a bit more soothing I could seriously fall asleep while she drones on.

 She has a near constant need to inform me in great detail what she is doing--and trust me, her life is not that fascinating. I get a lengthy litany of her daily errands, her kids' homework assignments, her parents' ailments, the tedium of her job, her workout routines and her household chores. Aside from that she is a really good friend. She's thoughtful, generous, kind, considerate, helpful, supportive and in many instances, fun to be with. But this saturation is, well, saturating me. Help!

 Dear Saturated,

 I empathize. I really do. No one wants to function as a one-Grace stream of consciousness twitterfeed dump. I freely admit that this would drive me nuts. But go back to your statement for a moment: "She is a really good friend..thoughtful, generous, kind, etc." Let's face it, nobody's perfect, and in most ways, she sounds pretty great. Friends like that don't sashay up the runway every day. That said, it doesn't mean that you have to become a repository for her minutiae. Take tactful, and ideally undetectable steps to combat the scourge.

 Here are a few ideas:

1. Only accept her calls when you have limited time so there is an end in sight. Say, "Hi Anita, I have a few minutes to chat, I"m on my way to [open heart surgery/the Cannes Film Festival/the supermarket] but we can catch up until I get there." Blah, blah, blah, making meatballs for dinner, blah, blah, just ran my stockings, my boss is wearing a hideous tie, blah, blah, blah. "Ok, Anita, I've arrived here, so I'll have to talk to you later."

 2. Call her when you have enforced "dead time". During your commute, say--assuming you have a hands-free device in your car. When you are waiting for the cable guy. While folding laundry--but don't, no matter how tempted you are, give a running narrative of the darks and lights as she might do to you. There's nothing Gracious about spite, and more importantly, Graces are good conversationalists and there is no standard by which laundry talk could be classified thus.

 3. Return her calls with a text. "Can't talk now, but can text. What's up?" It's unlikely she'll regale you with details of junior's times tables if she has to let her fingers do the talking.

Hope these help.

I know the question wasn't exactly about cell phone rudeness, but I love these "cell phone karma" ads.  Enjoy...