Monday, July 25, 2011

A Grace Walks Into A Bar.....

Ok, Graces, this is seriously one for the books. It requires a bit of background, so bear with me.

Earlier this week, I posted the following comment on my FB page: "Can we start a campaign to eradicate fanny packs? How about a back pack, messenger bag, sling, tote? Seriously, a trash bag would be more stylish." I got quite a few likes and comments, pretty unanimously agreeing with the proposal.

To elaborate, why would you do this:

When you can do this:Or this?

I was prompted to post the (arguably unGracious) comment after seeing a really glaring display of fanny pack faux pas by a gentleman who crossed my path. He was a large chap, which did not help things, and he had chosen a really unfortunate pair of shorts. Remember Cameron in Modern Family when he went through the bike shorts phase?

Accessorize that outfit with a fanny pack, and, well you get the picture.

Fast forward 2 days from the fanny pack fiasco to the record breaking heat wave. Grant hubby and I had plans to meet another couple for dinner at 7:30. GH came home from work at 6 and announced that he was going for a run. This despite dire advisories from health professionals about the dangers of heat stroke being broadcast from every media outlet.

My reaction: "I can't believe you went to Harvard, you are so dumb." (Ok, not the most Gracious remark, but the heat makes me cranky and I rolled the tape forward and foresaw that his plan was going to risk--gasp--tardiness, which puts me way past cranky, approaching livid.) Off he went, returning sodden but fine, but completely unable to stop sweating in time to shower, dress, and arrive promptly for our dinner engagement. He did have the good sense to look chastened and apologize, and I did have the good Grace to leave without him so that at least one of us would be on time.

I arrived at the restaurant, scanned the crowd for our friends, came up empty, and took a seat at the bar to await them.

The bar was relatively empty save self and a gentleman to whom I gave a cursory glance. He seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn't quite place him. He quickly sat down near to me, said, "Hello" pleasantly enough, and then I placed him. It was the Fanny Pack Guy.

What's a Grace To Do?

Above all, be nice. Regardless of your attraction (or lack of) to said suitor it takes some guts to introduce yourself to a total stranger in a bar. He was courteous, pleasant enough, and even if I was not in the market, it was certainly a compliment to be approached.

I returned the greeting and said, "Sometimes it's a curse to be the prompt one. My husband is running late, literally, and the other couple we are meeting has not arrived yet." [Note strategic and immediate reference to husband; regardless of how vexed I was with my heat seeking spouse, I did not want to convey any implied interest or availability.] To FP's credit, he continued with some small talk and in due course the rest of my party arrived. As we exited the bar to have dinner I shook FP's hand and said, "It was nice to meet you."

Somewhere, someday I hope he will find a fanny pack wearing female that will share his cocktails. I feel sure that he will.

Doesn't it seem to you, Graces, that there's a Karmic message in here somewhere?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What to Do When a Guest Invites Herself

This question arrived recently from a loyal reader....

Oh, Grace.... Advise me, please.

Several neighbors have gotten together to plan a block party. I was out this evening distributing the flyers, and saw a neighbor outside. He keeps an inconsistent schedule but is well known and liked and I was specifically told invite him. I handed him a flyer and mentioned the block party. There was woman sitting next to him who I'd never seen before. She asked for one, saying she lived a couple blocks away. I had only been given the exact number of flyers for our block, so I had no extras, and I explained that this is the first year to try the event so the organizers decided to limit it to just our block.

The woman said it was rude to invite him but not her (I knew this, but given my week long hunt for this elusive neighbor, I was willing to risk a bit of rudeness to get the invitation delivered.) She told me that she does a lot of community work and it's good to invite people from the wider neighborhood so they could all get acquainted. She even started rattling off names of people that she knows on my block. After emphasizing again that this is the first year we're doing this on our block, that we want to keep it small and see how it goes, I told her the date and said she could stop by, and walked away.

How should I have handled it? And why do people want to be invited to events clearly not intended for them?

With thanks,
Block party Block head

Dear BPBH,

That kind of pushy, preachy, know-it-all busybody really chips my polish, which is currently a rather fetching shade called Plumberry, recommended to me by my fashionista sister.

Allow me to pause for a deep cleansing breath and a rejuvenating sip of something to steady my nerves. Ok, ready to go.

You certainly landed in the soup--a living, breathing embodiment of the 'no good deed goes unpunished' adage.

I share your pain; I found myself in a similar situation last month with regard to the end-of-the-season softball pizza party for my daughter's team. Having offered to host the soiree and provide all food and drink, I invited the team and coaches only. I made this abundantly clear in the invitation email, and explained that I would wait at the door at arrival and departure times so parents would not have to park or take too much time with logistics.

Twelve of the 13 families understood, accepted, and abided by this; the 13th family showed up late: Mom, Dad, softball player and evil twin tots, and while I explained that they could pick Isabella up at 7:30, they looked aghast. The two little devils had already run into my house shouting for pizza. I stood firmly at the door and said I'd be sure to have their daughter ready so they did not have to wait. The mother looked mutinous, shouted to her demonic twins, "Damien, Sybil, we're not allowed to stay," and left in a huff. The thing was, if she received the email informing her about the pizza party's time and place, then also contained in said email was the fact that the invitation was only issued to the daughter with clear instructions on drop off and pick up. I found it most puzzling.

That night I, too, asked the question that you pose: "Why would people want to attend a party to which they are not invited?" It truly is a mystery for the ages, along the lines of "why do people still wear pleated pants?" and "where do the socks go that are eaten by the dryer".

But onto your dilemma....

It was awkward to invite the neighbor in front of someone else, but I understand your need to grab him whilst he was available given your description of his irregular hours.

One alternative would have been to fold the flyer and hand it to him, saying something like "I don't want to interrupt you, but have a look at this when you have some time and call if you have questions." Then walk briskly away, leaving Ms. Gate Crash no opportunity to invite herself. (Given her pushiness, I can't assure you that this would have worked). Or, say something like, "I don't want to burst into your conversation, but I've been trying to drop this to you--for your eyes only--and I haven't seen you in a few days." It wouldn't hurt to give him a little wink with the 'for your eyes only' line. The only other possibility would have been to skulk unobtrusively around until Ms. GC left, then rush the chap. But, given the fact that you are undoubtedly a busy woman, this suggestion might be impractical.

Once the cosmo is out of the glass and dripping down your blouse, as it were, all you can do is damage control.

Here are some suggested phrasings, in decreasing order of Graciousness, that you might have tried: (though, again, given her lack of Grace, I can't guarantee their efficacy.)

  • I really am sorry, but as it's the first time we're trying this event, we're limiting it to just our block. I'll be glad to take your suggestion back to the committee and let them know that there is potential interest for an expanded version next year.
  • I was given only the exact amount of invitations for our block, so I am sure that the event is for our block only. I apologize for handing this to Joe in front of you; I've been looking for him all week and he hasn't been here so I took the opportunity to deliver this to him now. Since I am just the courier, I didn't construct the guest list, and I'm not in a position to expand it.
  • Don't shoot the messenger.
  • I believe house #123 on our block is for sale. If you can close by Saturday the 30th, you're welcome to join us.
  • I am not in the habit of issuing invitations to total strangers, nor am I accustomed to being lectured on rudeness by someone who just invited herself to a party. Good Day.

But, ultimately, you were a Grace thrust into a gruntly situation, which hovered dangerously close to a scene. You know how we Graces feel about making scenes: chew the tongue off first. You avoided this and told her she could stop by. Unfortunately, the Way of the Grace can be a challenging one, for we are often forced to compensate for the bad behavior of others. But remember, the high ground is a better place to tread, even if it means we have to open the cooler for the undeserving occasionally.

I hope your block party is rollicking good fun, devoid of molded jello salad, and replete with conviviality. And maybe Ms. Gate Crash will come down with a summer flu or prodigious poison ivy. Fingers crossed.

Speaking of awkwardness around invitations, nobody does it better than Larry David.....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter meets The Social Grace

I am a big fan of Harry Potter. I think the books are worlds better than the movies, but I give the filmmakers their due; they've done an amazing job translating the material to the silver screen. With the opening of the final film this week, it feels like the end of an era.

Carrie Rickey of Flickgrrl fame offers a great take on the series here.

For sheer fun as the momentous day arrives, I thought I would compile a Gracelist--a list of imagined Gracious recommendations for the wizarding world to as they take their proverbial final bows...

Top Ten Transfigurations The Social Grace Would Like to See:

  1. Hermione, icon and muse for Insufferable Know-It-Alls everywhere, will learn to distinguish between the times to wave your hand frantically in the air to share your prodigious knowledge and the times to sit quietly and keep your own counsel.
  2. Someone will gently steer Luna Lovegood away from the cork necklaces and radish earrings in favor of more tasteful accessories.
  3. Ginny, Luna, Hermione, Lavender, Cho, and all the Hogwarts witches will realize that there will be a lid for every cauldron (if they decide they even want one). They will consider that the Harrys of the world may be famous, handsome and heroic, the Rons of the world are brave and funny, the Dracos of the world are rich but evil, and the Nevilles of the world eventually grow tall, shed their paunches, straighten their teeth, bring you incredible flowers, and will put themselves between you and a Death Eater when it counts.
  4. The Dursleys will read Gift Giving 101 and send Harry a ten-galleon gift certificate to Quality Quidditch Supplies as a thank you gift for saving the world.
  5. Hagrid will appear on "Queer Eye for the Straight Wizard", adopt Metrosexual grooming habits, and retire his horrible brown fur suit.
  6. Rita Skeeter's biography on Albus Dumbledore will be remaindered within a month of its release. A more accurate, honest, and positive version will be authored by Hermione and demand will challenge even the magical inventory at Flourish and Blotts.
  7. A percentage of the prodigious proceeds of Hermione's book will fund Hogwarts scholarships for young wizards in need of financial aid. Muggle borns, half bloods, and pure bloods may apply.
  8. Xenophilius Lovegood will resurrect The Quibbler as a slick, newsy, cutting-edge publication generating sufficient revenues to rebuild his house and get a decent haircut, with plenty left over to buy his daughter some fashionable jewelry and accessories (see #2).
  9. The Social Grace will be a regular column in the new Quibbler. After all, wizards need etiquette reminders, too!
  10. Harry will hire a competent decorator for 12 Grimmauld Place, and will transform the house into a warm, bright, beautiful, comfortable home in which to live happily ever after.

Monday, July 11, 2011

All Star Houseguests

With the All Star Game happening this week--I am an avid baseball fan--it seemed a good time to report on some all star houseguests who visited us at the beach over Fourth of July weekend.

Disclosure: they were not my guests, and a full house at the beach with our extended family disinclined me toward adding more people to the mix, but after their stay, I would gladly trade these guests for some of the regulars. Here's why:

1. They brought wine. Not just a bottle or two, but a case of really good wine. So good that my husband woke me up to tell me about it. The wine and the guests arrived late Friday after I had retired for the night. I was rather irritated with this disruption to my beauty sleep, but when I rose in the morning and saw the labels, I understood his urgent desire to share the good tidings.

2. They brought food. Not just a chunk of cheese, or some Gawd-help-us jello salad, but a bountiful array of delicious vittles: enough bacon, sausage and omelets to feed 20-odd people for breakfast, sufficient sandwich fixings as lunch for the same crowd; antipasti to whet our appetites for dinner that evening, and dessert to complete the meal.

3. Their kids were really polite, quiet, and compliant with the house rules. Not like other guests' children, who treat the living room like a jungle gym despite gentle to progressively harsh reminders from "Aunt Witchie" (aka The Social Grace.)

4. In addition to all of these tangible contributions, they were really nice, fun, and genuinely pleasant to be around.

This was, of course in stark contrast to many other houseguest horrors. Witness, these, all true tales, endured by myself or reported to me by my fellow Graces:

  • The guests who parked themselves on the sundeck like traveling royalty and expected three squares and an afternoon happy hour to be served daily.
  • The guest who recoiled in terror when she learned that the drink she was served contained ice cubes made from tap water. Ditto the guests who don't eat A-Z and expect your kitchen to disgorge the obscure organic/vegan/everything-free tree bark and sap nuggets that they are willing to ingest.
  • The guests who truly believe that the inner workings of their intestines are of pressing interest to all and sundry. Similarly, those who natter on constantly about their medical past, present and future.
  • The guest who insisted on bringing her non-house-broken dog. More on my *pet* peeves in a future post.
  • The guests who confuse "hosts" with "child care providers."
So, tell me, Graces, what are your Best and Worst Houseguest Experiences?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

What to Pack for a Weekend at the Beach

Although I am a die hard city girl, nothing makes me happier than a day at the beach spent with a good book, a salty breeze, a big hat and lots of sunblock. Last week's post generated some specific questions on weekend packing, so in response....

Here is what I bring for weekends at the beach:

2 swimsuits
1 coverup
2 skirts (shorts or skorts can be substituted; I prefer skirts, even for casual gatherings, but that's just me.)
2 tops that mix and match with your chosen bottoms
1 sundress
appropriate undergarments
1 set of sleepwear
1 cardigan or wrap
2 pairs of sandals--one for the beach, one for evenings
Sunglasses(my new zebra print cat eyes adorned with rhinestones are my fave new summer aquisition--a birthday gift from my Grant of a hubby.)

1 exercise ensemble
book--I loved Melissa Jensen's latest release--perfect for girls from 14-104)

And, of course, don't forget your hostess gift.