Thursday, April 28, 2011

Grunt at Work

Dear Grace,
I work in a large corporation. A chunk of my department is leaving to work for a similar company across town. Their departure is amicable and is not a result of layoffs or cutbacks. I am very close to the folks who are leaving and have the option to go with them but I haven't decided what I am going to do. Imagine my shock when my boss came up to me at the coffee machine today and said, "Jane, if you plan to stay here you should submit your resume to HR and apply to interview for your job." I was shocked--I mean, he basically fired me in front of a bunch of people. To add insult to injury, he said, "I know you were invited to the company dinner at the VP's house next week, but you should probably stay home."

Your thoughts?

Grace Says:

Wow. This goes way beyond the bounds of etiquette, but I am a strict adherent to "staying in one's lane". (It wouldn't hurt to mention to your HR and possibly your legal departments that this occurred--this is undoubtedly against company policy.) But in the meantime, it sounds like this creep made your "should I stay or should I go" dilemma (with apologies to The Clash) pretty easy.

It is the height of rudeness to discuss personal matters (employment status definitely qualifies as personal) in public. As far as revoking an invitation? Equally hideous. But it sounds like it wasn't his to revoke--you mentioned that it is being held at the VP's house. If you would still like to go, do so. Create an opportunity to confirm that with the host just in case Captain Rudeness has intervened. Stop by the host's office, call or send an email to the tune of "I'm really looking forward to your party next week. Thanks so much for including me. Is there anything I can bring?" And if you prefer to give it a miss, issue equally Gracious regrets to the hostess.

I've seen caged baboons with better manners.

It's tough to be a Grace among Grunts--your only strategy here is to take the high road. It's much easier on the Manolos, and more importantly you never want to burn bridges. Even with baboons.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ten Things A Grace Should Do When Spring Springs

It's finally here, Graces. Rejoice, Rejuvenate, Relish. As one who wilts a bit in winter, I am out doing Pastoral Dances right about now. Here are my must-dos for this lovely time of year:

1. Get out. Whether you bask in a sliver of sun that splices skyscrapers or wander wooded wonderlands, just get out. Enjoy the longer days, the sprouting green, (yes, even in a city, there are buds on the trees, daffodils blooming in window boxes, and chirping birds returning to their warm weather habitats.)

2. Lighten up. Visit your hairdresser for some highlights, or the makeup counter for some brighter tones. I love Bobbi Brown's creamy lip color--it's sheer, glossy, and moisturizing all at once.

3. Introduce some color. Not, not the tanning bed variety--you know how I feel about abusing your skin thus. Bring some new shades into your closet. I know, I know, black is easy, slimming, flattering, versatile, and the overwhelmingly dominant shade in my wardrobe--guilty as charged--but trust me, a bit of pink will do wonders for your look.

4. Equip yourself with stylish rain gear--you know the old saying about April Showers. Target has great, affordable trench coats, funky umbrellas and an amazing selection of attractive rubber boots--from pink polka dots (you know how I feel about pink!) to shiny black. They will keep you dry and fashionable in one fell swoop.

5. Do some spring cleaning, whatever that means to you: a wardrobe purge; a house scrub; a ritual emptying of drawers and shelves or a cleansing facial/body buff/pedicure.

6. Host a cookout on the first warm weekend. Keep it simple with burgers and dogs, or go crazy with sockeye salmon and grilled mango chutney.

7. Dine al fresco--whether it's a muffin and latte at your fave sidewalk cafe or a full course dinner at a bistro with a patio; when the weather cooperates, there's nothing like it!

8. Spruce up your scents. Having slathered up with Bath and Body's White Citrus, I am basking in its lovely spring-like aroma. Other delightfully soft suggestions for the season: Estee Lauder's Pleasures and Bvlgari's The Blanc (White Tea).

9. Make your summer plans. If a vacation is in the cards, now is the time to arrange it. Be as adventurous or mundane as you desire, but get moving on it!

10. Turn over a new leaf. In the spirit of the rebirth that nature is demonstrating all around you, make a "spring resolution". Try Yoga. Plan to take frequent evening walks. Learn Japanese. Make a standing date with a person you really like but never manage to see. Limit your junk food intake.

And while some may find this "Springtime" clip from The Producers performed by the Glee-Guy un-Gracious, I think it's downright hilarious. Mel Brooks is a comic genius, and Matthew Morrison is rather cute. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sound Seder Hostess Gifts

I've received a fair few frantic notes from Graces invited to seders and wondering about what to bring as hostess gifts. As a fairly devout agnostic with a mildly Christian lineage married to a very reformed Jew, I felt compelled to research the topic rather than give my opinion, which is based on rather limited experience. We think my seders are wonderful, but they would probably not pass muster for the average Rabbi. I polled some of my Jewish Grace pals who run the gamut from strictly Kosher to "of course I eat pork" and this is what I learned.....

Don't bring food as a hostess gift to a seder.

Every family has different traditions--some of the least observant folks embrace Passover fully. Others who are religious throughout the year don't bother with matzoh. There's no way to predict, and rather than committing a gaffe or attempting an in-depth interrogation on your host's level of commitment to avoid leavened bread and grains, separate milk and meat, and steer clear of treyf, bring any of the following:

Flowers--either cut or potted. Tulips, lilies and daffodils are gorgeous right now.

Potted herbs.



Paper cocktail napkins and guest towels.

Linen napkins.

The main thing to remember is that you have been given a wonderful gift--to share in the special tradition of your friend's celebration. Truly, the best gift you can give back is to embrace the evening and enjoy yourself--the prescribed 4 portions of wine per person should help!

In case you want to brush up on the Passover story before the event, I recommend this Hollywood classic--starring Charlton Heston in a pre-NRA role.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Just received this letter from a reader seeking advice on a friendship in crisis....

Dear Social Grace:

I have an old friend, JJ, who has recently behaved in a way that has made me question our friendship. Over the years, he has occasionally been has been rude and disrespectful to me, but I have always let things go. Recently something occurred that I feel was simply over the line. It upset me greatly. I wanted your advice as to how I should proceed.

I have been married for 5 years and last year my elderly mother moved in with me and my husband. My husband and JJ know each other but are not close at all. My husband knows that JJ and I are friends, but sometimes feels a little insecure and threatened by the relationship. JJ has a lot of female friends who really are just friends. There has never been a romantic aspect to my friendship with JJ. We used to spend more time together before I was married, but not as much lately--partly because my husband would not be overjoyed and partly because I have other responsibilities and limited time. JJ knows this. In light of this, JJ is aware that if my husband knew what happened below, he would be upset.

Recently, JJ had a day off and decided to visit me--unannounced. (I work at home.) When he stopped by, I wasn't even home. Upon my return from the grocery store, I saw that his car was in my driveway and apparently he was inside. When I entered the house, I found JJ and his dog visiting with my mother. I was immediately annoyed by all of this. For safety reasons, I do not want my very frail and elderly mother answering the door, and I felt that JJ had been intrusive.

He knew I was upset by all this: the 'surprise' visit; the fact he was already inside my house with my mother; and that he brought the dog. I was not very friendly, and suggested that he'd better get going soon since I had some work to do. But before he left, the dog left a pile on my carpet.

After he left I called and told him that I thought he was out of line. He didn't seem to get it. Then he told me that I have no love in my heart or home. I then said that he was rude and disrespectful to me and that I was upset. He told me then I shouldn't call him anymore.

What do you think?

Grace Says:

Oh, my. Must pause for deep, cleansing breath. So much rudeness in so little time.

I have two different strategies for you; you choose the one that feels right:

1. Take JJ's advice (i.e. don't call). He behaved badly on several different fronts, not, as you mentioned, for the first time. The ball is now squarely in his court to make it right. By my count he owes you apologies for several infractions, but people as inconsiderate as JJ seems to be rarely see it that way.

To accuse someone of being short of love in heart and home who has worked to maintain a friendship with JJ while being respectful and sensitive to your husband's feelings AND to have taken your elderly mother into your home is clearly someone who has plenty of both. Pardon the cliche, but "with friends like JJ, who needs enemies?".

2. Wait a few days and call him again. Calmly explain the reasons for your feelings. Give him a chance to say his piece. He may genuinely miss your companionship and have gone about seeking it in a clumsy and inappropriate way. If the conversation is productive and positive, and you decide that you want to maintain the friendship, consider including JJ and your husband together in some group outings so they can get acquainted and possibly forge a peaceful and non-threatening relationship.

Please, please tell me that he cleaned up after the dog.

Good luck!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Your Turf, Your Rules

Recently, a reader posed the following question....

My better half and I bought a house last year, and have finally renovated to the point where we can have guests. For the first time ever, house rules are entirely our choosing--no more "the landlord insists that...." My parents are coming to stay with us next week. How does one gracefully pass on house rules that are our arbitrary choosing, like "no shoes above the first floor," "smoking only on the front steps," "these items are recyclable in this bin but that item is trash and goes in the other one"? Is it better to just let them keep their shoes on wherever they wish and quietly separate out the trash and recyclables after they've left the room?
Many thanks!

Grace Says:

Congratulations on the new home and for getting the place ship (or 'guest') shape. Simple guideline: "Your turf, your rules." You said it best, just pass the policies along--there is nothing unreasonable or punitive in any of the items you listed. Now, if one of your guests would have a legitimate difficulty adhering to said rules, then you can make adjustments out of respect and concern. An example might be an elderly and frail grandmother who would have difficulty walking without supportive shoes, or someone on crutches for whom stocking feet could prove hazardous. Similarly, if someone has a health condition that makes going shoeless painful or difficult (I'm referring to an actual medical condition, not a desire to match the shoes with the outfit) then you may accommodate accordingly--either grin and bear it, provide slippers or acceptable house shoes in the appropriate size, or advise the guests of the shoe situation ahead of time so they may BYO.

Same goes for recycling--When Mom heads for the trash can with her soda bottle, simply show her the recycling bin. "Mom, you can toss the bottle here; we recycle glass and aluminum." No drama, just a simple fact.

Sometimes it can feel odd giving these types of directives to parents or elders, but I am confident that you will do so in a respectful, Gracious way and they will delight in seeing you and hubby in your very own digs.

Enjoy your visit!

On the subject of smoking outdoors, I got a kick out of the following ad. NB: smokers may not.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Oh, Baby!

I just heard about a most disturbing incident that occurred last week during a professional tennis match. Tennis, Graces! Isn't that supposed to be a gentleman's game?

At a match in Florida, pro David Ferrer hit a ball deliberately into the crowd toward a crying baby, who had allegedly distracted him and caused him to lose the point. Video here.

Let me state unequivocally that this is appalling behavior. Someone might have been seriously injured--this is a professional tennis player serving the ball, not me, with my anemic forehand, hurling a ball into a seated crowd (not that I would approve of that either, just to be clear).
Would Mr. Ferrer have executed an overhead lob to a passing airplane, a backfiring car, or a squawking bird that emitted an unexpected sound during a critical juncture of his game? Isn't it focused concentration part of, well, anything that we aspire to do well? If he wishes to play tennis in a silent, controlled environment, perhaps he should consider the Wii version.


And this is a pretty big but.

Why in the name of all that is Gracious did those parents bring a baby to a tennis match, a sport that is known for its quiet crowds and subdued fans? Was the baby a tennis fan? Knowing that babies are not yet capable of understanding that crying at a tennis match is not the done thing, shouldn't the grown-ups in the equation have left junior home?

Lest you think me anti-child, let me state for the record that I have two of my own. They accompany us when and where it is appropriate and stay behind with a responsible caregiver when it is not.

And let me also state for the record that there is no shame in the U-turn. If you bring the little ones along and things go south, then bail. Better to create a short-term disruption leaving a restaurant or movie than a sustained disturbance for the duration.

Time and place, Graces. Like formal dinners, PG-13 and R-rated movies, funerals, and performances that don't involve furry puppets, events that are geared to adults should be attended by adults.

Can you think of any event that is improved by the bawling of an infant? Exactly.