Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Four Great Rules

I was at a corporate function last week and had the good fortune to meet a woman who adheres to 4 etiquette rules. When she heard that I write thesocialgrace.com, she was kind enough to share them with me, and I, in turn, will share them with you. Her rules were:

1. Never be rude to someone who can't afford to be rude back to you.

Now, I would probably stop at the 3rd word of this edict, but I realize the world is not perfect. There are indeed degrees of rudeness, and undoubtedly the most reprehensible type is that which cannot be reciprocated. Classic cases of this would be ill treatment of a waitress, a person who is in your debt or employ, or anyone who is in a position of weakness or disadvantage. Rudeness to your haughty neighbor who uses every opportunity to criticize your window boxes I can see. Rudeness to her landscaper, never.

2. Always accept a cookie when the tray is offered.

This is sociable, endearing, and unifying. It is rare indeed for people to be unpleasant when they are sharing sweets. Unless you are diabetic, or have some other compelling reason to decline, such as a severe food allergy, take one. Do not be that person who declines in a superior voice, saying, "Oh, dear, I never eat white flour or refined sugar. I'm watching my figure. But how liberating for you that you don't worry about that. Here, you go ahead and have mine, too."

3. Always write thank you notes.

'Nuff said.

4. Never refuse a breath mint.

This may be offered out of politeness--if I'm digging into the Altoids, I'd certainly offer them around, just as I would with the cookies mentioned in item #2. But it also may be a Gracious way to give you a gentle hint. I'm sure that Caesar salad was delicious for lunch, but its aftermath could be lethal.

So, thanks to my new Gracious Friend for her tips. What are your Rules to Live By?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

You Don't Say!

Do I really look this old, Graces?

Has anyone else been subject recently to comments that simply should not be uttered? I have.

First, and this one really smarts--A neighbor helped me out of a scheduling jam yesterday morning and took my son to school for me. She is a very youthful 30 year old, had her two-year old in tow, and is visibly pregnant. A newish teacher at the school asked me later that day if that was my daughter. Which, for those of you who are still doing the math, means that (1) this teacher thinks I am old enough to have a 30 year old daughter and (2) that I am a grandmother.

Second: I was in Zumba last week and a woman in front of me doubled over in apparent pain. It appeared that she had pulled something in her mid-section the way she was cradling her abdomen. Still smarting from my recently healed fractured foot, I have a lot of empathy for the injured . I took a step toward her and asked if she was ok. She responded, "Yes, I just have gas." Well, I was speechless. And behind her.

What's a Grace to do?

Absolutely nothing. (Though I confess to taking a few steps backward and staying there for the duration of the class.)

This would be one of the many examples of things better left unsaid. You could certainly make the case that I did ask--but Grace would have lied. Or been truthfully tactful: "I"m ok, just a slight cramp."

Have you been the recipient of comments like these? How did you handle them?

In searching for an appropriate video clip for today's post, I came across this one--while not totally on point, it gave me a chuckle....and having been mistaken for a Granny yesterday, I can use all the laughs I can get. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

ReGifting Debacles

In the aftermath of the holidays I have encountered several regifting horror tales. From a gifting point of view these rank right up there with the shower scene in Psycho.

The first instance was my very own. I received a lovely sweater for Christmas from "Aunt Evelyn". (Don't worry, that is not her real name and she doesn't read my blog). To my slight dismay, it was a size too big, but I was confident that I would be able to do an even exchange and be rockin' my new cardie pronto. Normally, I wouldn't have even mentioned the impending switch to the giver, but I was concerned that the return might be noted on "Evelyn's" credit card account and she--ever paranoid of online commerce--would fear she had been hacked.

When I broke the news to my aunt that I'd be making the change, she was oddly opposed. "Isn't it cotton, dear? It will probably shrink." I persisted, and reiterated that I was only telling her because I didn't want to flag her Visa. Then I called the retailer. They traced the purchase using Evelyn's name and zip code, and then the CSR read the following: "Happy Birthday Evelyn, with love from Janet." And there it was: The sweater was a REGIFT!

What's a Grace to do?

Absolutely nothing. For the same reason that I felt duty bound to let "Evelyn" know that I was making the exchange--the off chance that the credit/charge was somehow posted on Janet's account--I couldn't possibly proceed. This could have alerted "Janet" that the lovely cardigan that she bestowed up on Evelyn for her birthday had been regifted. So I did the next best thing: I gave the sweater to my mom, sharing the whole sordid tale with her. She was thrilled with this post-holiday surprise and got a good laugh out of it besides.

The next two tales come from a loyal reader. She writes:

Dear Grace,
I gave my father and step-mother a George Foreman grill for Christmas. They had admired ours on a previous visit and talked about how much they enjoy grilled food but how their living space does not allow for outdoor barbecuing. This seemed like a perfect gift. Alas, he called to "thank" us and said: "We're giving the grill to your step-brother Fred because we know he'll use it more than we would." I blame my wicked stepmother, but still....
And the second: I gave a Christmas ornament to my neighbor that was decorated with local emblems (the name of our city and its crest, some iconic landmarks--it sounds kitchy but it was tasteful). She wrote me a thank you and in it said, "I gave the ornament to my daughter. Now that she lives in Seattle, it will be good for her to have a remembrance of her hometown."

What gives?

Grace Says:

These are both instances of sharing too much. Both parties should have quit at "thank you." It is unlikely that you would have caught them in the regift had they not outed themselves, and their unnecessary outspokenness was potentially hurtful and assuredly thoughtless. Console yourself with the knowledge that you are indeed a Grace: giving a present that someone had admired and expressed a desire for is the utmost in skilled gifting, and giving a gift to a neighbor that connotes that which you share (i.e. your hometown) is both clever and meaningful. It's tough to be a Grace surrounded by Grunts.

The moral of the story Graces, is that when regifting, do so with the utmost care and keep your regifting to yourself. Aunt Evelyn didn't even violate any of my regift rules and she was busted--it's a delicate business to be sure. The others, well, they need to remember that ever so simple GraceRule: If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Holiday Horror

Dear Social Grace,
I was the victim of what I think was epic rudeness last week--should this situation arise again, I'd like your advice on how to handle it.

We hosted extended family over Christmas week, which included my widowed father-in-law for a 4 day stay. His other son came with a steady girlfriend for one night. I was in a bit of a quandary--we only have one fully equipped guest room with en suite bath, and I felt it best to give it to "Dad". I cleared this with my husband and his brother; they agreed. Bro said he and GF would bunk anywhere since it was just one night. Happily, I set up the guest room for Dad and planned to give the happy couple my daughters' room which contains two twin beds.

We had a lovely day on Christmas, and when it came time to retire for the night, I showed GF to her room. She recoiled in horror, "why are we in a twin room?" she asked. I calmly gave her the reasons outlined above, emphasized that her BF approved the plan and showed her the way to the bathroom and clean towels. She complained that Dad was only one person, so why should he get the queen bed with private bath, while they were two. She was quite determined that I change the setup. I just walked out. Soon thereafter, my daughter realized she had forgotten her pjs, and popped into the room to retrieve them. The "aunt" stood up, cursed loudly, and shouted "That's it. I'm leaving." When my daughter entered the room, the "aunt" was not sleeping, disrobed, or in any other state that would preclude an 8 year old girl from coming in, but this was clearly the last straw.

She grabbed her suitcase and walked out the front door, evidently planning to drive 150 miles home. My brother-in-law went tearing out after her. Thirty minutes later, the two returned, poured themselves generous measures of whiskey, rejoined the party and acted as if nothing had happened.

We all had an ill-advised extra nightcap and carried on with the evening. Your thoughts, Grace?

Grace Says:

Oh, dear. Hardly visions of sugarplums, that. I'd say you handled the situation with perfect Grace.

  • Yes to giving the elderly relative the most comfortable accommodations.
  • Yes to providing a heads up to brother-in-law about the sleeping arrangement.
  • Yes to showing this specimen to her room and courteously but firmly sticking to your guns.
  • Yes to your daughters generously vacating their room for the visitors.

You showed remarkable restraint in not saying something like:

"Well, if you can't sleep in separate beds for one night there are several hot sheets motels within driving distance, I think they charge by the hour. I can't promise their sheets will be clean but mine are."

"I do apologize that you are uncomfortable with this arrangement; my daughters are sleeping on the basement floor so that you and Bro might have beds; you are most welcome to trade with them if that is preferable."

"Are you hoping to elevate your status from GF to Fiancee? If so, I question your strategy."

But much better to have taken the high road. Let's hope that by next Christmas, Bro finds another companion under his tree.