Thursday, December 24, 2009



Wednesday, November 18, 2009


There is no more rigorous a test of a relationship, especially a new one, than the holidays. We've all starred in our personal Home Alone movie and not always by choice.
I, Yvette, would like to share an experience I had last Thanksgiving. I had been dating someone for about five months. The closer we got to what would be our first major holiday, the more uncomfortable I became. I wanted to ask him what plans he had but I thought I'd put him on the spot. I should have had an idea because I hadn't met any of his family. Not even the cousin he frequently spoke about.

After asking a few friends what I should do, I decided to woman up and ask. "Knowledge is power," I told myself.

"What are your plans for Thanksgiving?" I asked during a phone call. He laid out his plans, they did not include me.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"Nothing", I answered, casually.


A few days later, we had dinner. It was awkward, conversation was stilted and all attempts were made to avoid talking about turkey. At the end of the evening, as I got out of the cab he said he'd call. The day before Thanksgiving, the call morphed into an email wishing me a happy one. Guess he didn't read our post, 'What's Up With Diss Email."

Oh, well I learned a lesson. This wasn't a 'love at first sight' relationship so there wasn't a mad rush to show me off to his family. He'd met mine, it was my birthday celebration. I never considered leaving him out. And in our family, we don't think the next sound you hear will be wedding bells just because you met some of us.

Holidays are simply holidays, to be enjoyed and not to be used as tools of disengagement. What did I learn? I should have asked sooner. I should've lowered my expectations based on his actions. Five months and no introduction to close friends or family? I don't think he was rude for not including me in his holiday plans, the email was. He should've manned up and picked the phone up.

Commitment or lack of isn't a social grace but how you handle it is. Maybe some of us are just too hot to handle. Ha!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


We say they’re going down, especially in our hometown of New York City. What is it about New Yorkers who treat other New Yorkers like the Invisible Man, Woman or Child? How about a nod or a basic greeting, something more humane than walking onto an elevator and distributing the silent treatment?

Cell phones and BlackBerrys don’t help. Now, there’s really no reason to recognize anyone else, we’re too busy fielding phone calls and answering emails. Neighbors think nothing of getting on an elevator and holding conversations as if they’re the only ones on it. At the very least, a whispered, “Excuse me,” says plenty. It says, “I know this is rude to hold a conversation that has nothing to do with you and is invasive to the space we’re in.” Of course, if your phone rings during the ride it’s not your fault, you can either answer it so that the ring doesn’t become a Muzak tune or you can turn it off or answer it and quickly say, “I’ll call you back.”

Babies and their state of the art strollers rule. However, most caregivers and parents are usually very nice about acknowledging the space they’re about dominate as you’re squished into a corner. They’re also more apt to greet you - there’s something you can take to the first floor. But as these babies grow, parents will often let them practice their first steps getting on and off the elevator, this is fine as long as no one else is on it or waiting for one. Otherwise, there’s nothing much to do about precious moments like these except grin and bear it.

Getting off the elevator is another trip. Babies and their equipment get off first, then women and the elderly and then everyone else. In a rush to get off, no one thinks about the doors closing in the face of ‘everyone else’.

“I don’t like it when someone treats a public elevator as if it’s their private elevator” a friend pointed out. She explained that there’s nothing more annoying than someone on the elevator holding the doors open while having a conversation with someone off the elevator. That’s as bad as the person who can’t fathom waiting for another elevator so he/she slices in between the doors with their hand just as the doors were closing and everyone else who waited fair and square were thinking they were on their way.

Speaking of conversation, how soon we forget when an elevator works efficiently. We’re talking about ungrateful riders who get on and when they realize they’re on a functioning elevator as it stops for others as it stopped for them, they say, “Local,” as if the elevator did something wrong. Poor elevators and poor us if we get stuck on this one.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Being twins, we’re used to questions. We’ve been asked them all from “Are you identical?” to “Which one is the evil twin?” Call us sensitive when it comes to some questions, but when a question makes you wince then it’s probably the kind that’s trying to peg your social status, your financial status, your love life, etc. Below are some that pass the wince test. (Please note that some of these questions are perfectly acceptable depending on how well you know the person who’s being questioned.)

1. Do you all have the same father? Families today, don’t look like they used to with overseas adoptions, interracial marriages and extended families. There’s no need to ask a question like this except if you are a doctor inquiring about a family’s medical history.

2. What does your wife/husband do? Just because a man is wearing a wedding band doesn’t mean he’s married to a woman. The same goes for a woman.

3. Are you two married? Asking a couple about their marital status could be uncomfortable if they’re not married and one of them would like to be.

4. How old are you? This age-old question stirs up all kinds of emotions after age ten. The only ones who can get away with it are doctors, lawyers and forgetful parents.

5. Why were you in the hospital? If you don’t know that means you don’t know the person well enough. And maybe they don’t want to talk about their hemorrhoid operation.

6. How big is your farm? This is another way of asking, “How much land are you rich enough to own?”

7. Did your son/daughter get a scholarship? This question could rub someone wrong for a couple reasons. One, it’s an underhanded way of inquiring about someone’s finances. Two, it’s a sly way to find out how smart or talented their kid is.

8. Is he/she gay? Who wants to know and why? This question is usually used as a tool to label someone. It’s also usually asked when a person’s sexual preferences have nothing to do with the conversation or situation at hand.

9. I love your ring, how big is it? We can understand the curiosity of knowing what two or three carats look like but are those dollar signs we see in that bubble over your head?

10. Do you mind my asking how much rent do you pay? Unless you’re a financial institution or offering to pay someone’s rent, don’t ask.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


There is nothing more challenging than going to a party alone and the only familiar face is that of the host’s cat that looks exactly like the one you had as a child.

Most people will know their host but that isn’t a guarantee that you’ll have someone to keep you company during the party. No decent host worth their cheese puffs would spend the whole time with one guest. So, how do you do, ‘How do you do?’ when you don’t know anyone?

First, go to the bar, get a drink and move around the room. Keep moving, don’t find a comfortable chair and own it for the rest of the party. If you catch someone’s eye, introduce yourself and whatever conversation follows, make it about them – “I love that color you’re wearing.” “You remind me of a friend of mine who comes from Boston, do you come from Boston by any chance?” Questions like these lead to conversations. Try and avoid the dull and common, “How do you know so and so?” This could be taken as, “How did you get invited here?” It can also be intrusive. What if a guest doesn’t want you to know that she and the host met at rehab? And whatever you do, don’t ask, “What you do?” What if they respond, “I sell copy paper?” Then what? It’s always much more interesting when you allow others to do the talking. It may never get around to what they do and that’s okay, you will have learned so much more.

Yvette loves art. If there’s one painting or photograph on the wall she’ll strike up a conversation with someone nearby and say something, “I like that painting.” She swears that it’s always a conversation starter. “Everyone likes to play critic,” Yvette said, “you’d be surprised how much people have to say.”

Go to the party and promise yourself a new friend, not as in girlfriend or boyfriend, just a new person. It’s usually the woman or man standing quietly away from the rest. Probably shy, they can usually turn out to be social treasures. They will most likely be smart, observant and ready for interesting conversation. And they’ll gladly come out of the corner with an offer of a drink at the bar or a promise of the best crab cakes on the other side of the room.

Once you’ve brought them into the fold, don’t turn your back on them. Introduce them and engage them in other conversations. You’ll be surprised, they weren’t the ‘losers’ of the party after all, they were the winners and now you’re one of them too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


When we’re not feeling, all we want to do is feel better. We’re so busy minding our health, we forget about minding our manners.

H1N1, depending on with whom you’re talking, is coming our way with a vengeance along with the seasonal flu. Now, more than ever, is the time to go into germ control wherever you are, especially at your place of work.

If you’re climbing up the ladder, slow down during flu season. You won’t get high marks when you and your germs show up in the office, just cold stares from colleagues as you go about sneezing, coughing and touching everything in sight.

“I have to come to work, I have no more sick days,” is a common cry. Dip into vacation days, it may not be a day at the beach but at least if you take care of yourself, you’ll be around to take a vacation. (Excuse the scare technique; we’ve been watching a lot of cable television.)

If you don’t mind, we have some tips:

• When you get to the office, don’t go straight to the kitchen for coffee and dig into the donut box. The coveted donut is always at the bottom.

• If you use the microwave, ‘nuke’ the panel with a sanitizing wipe before and after.

• Before you pick up the phone, touch your mouse or keyboard - give everything a good wiping.

• Don’t play doctor see a doctor; if you’re working you must have some sort of insurance even if it does need reforming.

• Employers should encourage people to stay home if they’re sick and employees shouldn’t feign illness, not healthy for your karma.

• If someone extends their hand, don’t recoil in fear, shake and wash hands soon after, especially if it’s a client.

• Don’t fuel the discussion of flu shots with anymore misinformation. There's already plenty available.

Stay well! At least, try.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stealing the Show: Noisemakers, Filmmakers and Troublemakers

All Yvette wanted to do was sit back and enjoy Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald in concert. She could hear everything just fine, but McDonald’s body had a camera for a head, compliments of the bootlegging filmmaker sitting in front of her. She wondered what to do, write off the concert or take action? Hoping that he wasn’t some sort of nutcase, she took action.

“Excuse me, sir, your camera and its light are distracting and blocking my view.” He turned around and nodded his head as if to say, “Thanks for telling me.” He resumed filming. Yvette felt like a basket case for the rest of the performance

Continuing her cultural weekend, Yvette went to another concert on Sunday. “Between lack of buttiquette and cameras, it wasn’t a whole lot of fun,” she said.

I went to a play and had an ongoing narrative delivered throughout from a woman in the row behind me. If there was a sound effect of a train, the narrator said, “Train.” My companion missed the second half of the play because the couple in front of him couldn’t bare not to stick like glue to each other, so they locked arms and put their heads together forming a lumpy pyramid.

Going to the movies can be a trying experience too. Depending on where you go, forget about hearing the movie because the shouting from the audience will make sure of that. They give running commentary, take phone calls and supply their own laugh track when nothing’s funny. Some moviegoers are so important; they check messages and don’t give a hoot about the light their devices throw off.

I would’ve whispered something to the couple at the play. “Excuse me, these seats are really low and I can’t see.” I didn’t say anything to the lady behind me because I realized she was sitting with her grandchildren, hence, all the clarifications. I’d stay away from the loud bunch, their actions are already telling you how they’re going to react to your requests.

Enjoy the show, as much as you can.


Our friend’s birthday party was fabulous. Gifts and flowers were delivered before hand and we suspect afterwards too. Some guests brought presents and discreetly hid them in the foyer to be discovered later by our friend who was delightfully surprised.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The No Gift Request, Part One: Ignore it or respect it?

A couple of weeks ago, a very elegant, engraved invitation arrived for a special birthday celebration. There was an email address and phone number for RSVP’s and also a request, “No Gifts Please”.

We are going to that party this evening and we are sure that there will be gifts. Many don’t believe in walking into a birthday party empty handed. It’s a show of gratitude and friendship and who doesn’t like a present? They believe that deep down inside the person who asked for no gifts really wants gifts.

The request should be respected for a number of reasons. A lack of space for another book or knick-knack is one. An article of clothing can end up being more of a hassle than a gift, especially if it doesn’t fit or if it’s just plain wrong. You’re sending the person who didn’t want a gift shopping for an exchange. What if they hate shopping or don’t have the time?

Also, consider those who won’t be arriving with presents in hand. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than a few guests arriving together and some are empty handed while others are holding small gift bags or nicely wrapped boxes. To say the least, it’s an awkward moment caused by, we believe, the gift bearers. Each is looking and the other wondering if they’ve done the right thing no matter what the invitation said. If coming without something makes you feel like a lesser person, why not send a bottle of champagne before the party or after with a note?

We will report next week on the presence of presents at this party. What’s your guess? Do you honor no gift requests?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Heard Any Good Apologies Lately?

In the past week, we’ve seen three displays of egregious behavior on television and not one of the offenders offered what we call a ‘clean apology’. They were big on excuses and double talk but not one stepped up to the plate immediately and apologized for their behavior. Their handlers did it for them, tweaking and re-tweaking stiff, souless statements.

Since most of us don’t have handlers and official websites, we're responsible for making our own apologies. It’s really easy and won’t cost a fortune. Just say, “I’m sorry.” Keep your “but” out of it. Once you’ve added that word, you’ve sleazily taken back the apology. You can do it by phone, a note or if you can, in person. Don’t be a coward and apologize to voicemail, keep calling until you reach the person.

If you’re on the receiving end of the apology, accept it; don’t beat down the apologist by rehashing. Simply thank them, or else, you’ll be sorry.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Yvette marveled when I told her that I more than survived a vacation in one house with 7 adults and one eight year old child. “I couldn't do it,” she said. “I don't need to be with someone who can't talk before they've had their coffee, or an incessant talker, please, I can go on and on.”

I explained to her that when you're with a group of civil, mature people, nice things happen.

  • Men put toilet seats down. (One even vacuumed after deciding that the housekeeper didn't get the job done.)

  • There was a team effort in the kitchen assembling meals and one woman cleaned up to perfection each time willingly.

  • Housemates didn't come running into the house waving flimsy supermarket receipts for a loaf of bread or a stick of butter. We all contributed on our own and since no one's eyes were rolling; I assume it worked out for everyone's vacation budget.

  • The child's mother would send him back to the bathroom to wash his hands; this was refreshing and important since he was digging into bags of cookies and chips we were all sharing. She also didn't let him dominate the television; we were able to watch Meet the Press guilt-free.

  • There were three couples and thin walls but no one lost sleep when others weren't sleeping. That's civility for you.

And that's how it was in one house on Martha's Vineyard for one week. I think Yvette could've done it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Whatever you do, no double dipping!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What A Sham!

In the next week, many of us will be guests or hosts. Here's a subject from our archives you may want to sleep on, or maybe not.

We love beautiful linens. We like lots of fluffy pillows and and pretty duvet covers. Many posts ago, Yvonne wrote about weekend guests and their bed stripping habits. Some have them, some don't (ask your hosts if they want you to strip the bed). It seems like there's another issue - guests sleeping on the shams.

A couple of months ago, a guest who was over-served at dinner went straight to bed without taking off her makeup. When Yvonne went to check on her the next morning, the woman was sound asleep with her head resting on the white sham. It used to be white. Apparently she had tossed and turned and the sham was now wearing her makeup. Some of the duvet cover was also smudged. None of this was pretty.

But all is not lost. There are people who know better when it comes to shams. This past weekend, Yvonne had the guests from heaven. A couple visited her home. The woman came downstairs the next morning to prepare chicken and waffles for breakfast. She apologized to Yvonne for sleeping on the sham. "We were so tired, we fell asleep immediately and didn't remove the shams. I'm so sorry." Turns out the shams were fine, she'd taken off her makeup. "My grandmother taught me better," she explained.

Her husband pointed out that sometimes they'll turn down the beds for their guests and set the shams aside. Yvonne and I think that's a good idea because not everyone knows the difference between a pillow sham and a pillow case. But we don't think it's right to say, "By the way, when you go to bed, please don't sleep on the shams, you know the ones with the ruffle trim." Nothing bad is going to happen in the world if a sham gets soiled. It's just one of those mildly annoying things.

What Yvonne's guest did was very nice, she was truthful. She 'fessed up. And on top of that she made a great breakfast. No sham there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Art of Thank You

In our book, there are several ways to say thank you, here goes...

One, could just say, "Thank you."
Two, write a note. It's thoughtful, classy and memorable.
Three, you can email your thanks but only if the invite was emailed.
Four, you can pick up the phone.
Five, you can send flowers the next day after a dinner party. Try not to take flowers, the host will have to stop and find a vase, fill it with water and then find a suitable place. This precious time could have been used to mix a drink for you.

If you're dating someone, never stop saying thank you.
The same goes for spouses, siblings, parents, etc. You can never be too close or know someone too well to not thank them.

Take care, and thank you for taking the time to read this post.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

House Guesting: Ten Questions That'll Keep You Home Next Weekend

We're going to take some time off and we hope you will too. For the next few weeks, we'll be running posts from our archives.

Try any of these questions the next time you're invited to someone's weekend house and see what happens.
  1. Is this the only television you have?
  2. Did you know the upstairs bathroom toilet is stopped up?
  3. What's for dinner?
  4. Is this the only bottle of champagne you have?
  5. Did you buy any fish?
  6. I don't eat meat, you have any bean curd?
  7. You have a fly swatter?
  8. What's for lunch?
  9. You have any wine?
  10. Will this red wine stain come off your sofa?
Have anymore questions? Email them to us.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Greedy Chairpersons

New York and other cities have been really nice about offering seats in various public spaces. Most people do what you’re supposed to do with a chair, they sit down. Others sit down and take another chair for their lunch, their feet, their shopping bags, handbags, etc.

Why anyone would spread their lunch on a chair is beyond us. We think it’s nasty. “They looked at me as if I had two heads,” Yvette said. She was in a park and the one available seat in that particular area was occupied by a romantic lunch for two. When she asked the couple if they could remove their lunch, they just looked at her. Yvette left, the lunch stayed comfortably seated.

Seat gluttony happens on buses and trains all the time. Fellow commuters think nothing of resting their weary packages on an empty seat and ignoring the person who’s standing. Our pet peeve is when men, usually younger, (Yvette doesn’t like it when I refer to these types as young punks.) sit with their legs open so wide they take up three seats. They know exactly what they’re doing and their aim is to intimidate. Kill them with kindness. Just say with a smile, “Excuse me, please.” They won't lose their manhood by sitting properly for a few stops.

The next time you take a seat, take one, not two or three.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


It’s not that we don’t like sweets, sweet people, sweet stories, etc., but we think calling people you don’t know “sweetie” is in appropriate. Interestingly, it seems that not everyone is qualified to become a sweetie. To qualify, you have to be very young (like a baby) or on your way to becoming very old (over 40).

There’s a lovely, young barister at a Starbucks in Harlem – she’s quick, always with a smile and unfortunately, always with a “sweetie” at the end of the transaction. Another barrister in a midtown shop seems to have the same affliction. We don’t think that this is in the training manual. By the way, this is not purely a Starbuck issue, it’s happened to us in other retail establishments.

Could it be about class? We’ve spent a lot of time on Madison Avenue and no salesperson we’ve ever dealt with has ever used the ‘s’ word. It may be upbringing. Our friend in San Francisco known for her charitable work and parties asked us when we first met her children, “How would you like them to address you?” That’s a class act.

Men, we’d like to think, know better than to call a woman they don’t know of any age, “sweetie”. But what gives a young woman even a teenager the right to call another woman and in most cases a stranger, “sweetie”?

The only people we don’t mind calling us “sweetie” is the waiter or waitress in the local diner. “Sweetie” is part of the wonderful, American greasy diner landscape.

What do you think, dear?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Door Drama: To Hold or Not To Hold?

What’s up with doors and the drama surrounding them? There’s always that moment of hesitation when leaving or entering a building – who goes first?

It’s simple – if you’re on the handle side of the door it’s up to you to open it and allow a person to enter or exit. If you’re the one entering and the door opens out, you have the handle so it’s up to you to let the person exit before you enter.

But, it doesn’t work like that. Gender can muddy the situation. Should a man hold the door for a woman? I, Yvette, believe a man should always hold the door for a woman. The woman should be grateful and say so. I’ve noticed that oftentimes women go on mute when men step aside to let them enter a building first or get on a bus or train. Yvonne’s more flexible because she finds that sometimes a man’s chivalry causes door jam. If she gets to the door first, she’s opening the door. However, she thinks it’s charming that men in Italy enter a restaurant first. It was explained to her that the man should check out the place and make sure it’s safe for the woman.

Revolving doors are tricky. The belief is that since these doors can be heavy, the man should go first. We agree, but Yvonne asks, "What if you’re with another woman? Should the bigger of the two do the work?" The same goes for which of two women should enter first, is it age before beauty or diamonds before pearls?

We feel for the poor man who holds the door for one prospective shopper and the next thing he’s holding the door for most of the mall population. They don’t say thank you because they don’t see him. He’s been anointed as The Invisible Doorman.

My number one pet peeve is the door slammers. Someone has been considerate enough to hold the door open for them, yet they walk through, hands free not caring about the person behind them.

Apparently, one person’s open door policy is another’s closed door policy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How To Be A Perfect Guest On A Private Plane

We’ve been a lot of places and seen a lot of things but we’re still a couple of private jet virgins. So that we’ll know what to do when the time comes, we asked a couple of seasoned travelers for some tips.

“Wait for the owner of the plane to assign you a seat,” advises Joy. “To me, it’s the most important rule.” Our friend, Martin, who also travels well, agrees but points out the importance of being punctual. “If ‘wheels up’ is at 9am, make sure you’re there 30 to 45 minutes ahead of time and don’t ask your host for a lift to the airport.” He suggests that you arrange your own transportation and ask for the tail number of the plane.

Unlike going to someone’s home, no need to arrive bearing gifts or a bottle of liquor. ”If it’s a business trip, no gift is necessary,” advises Joy. “If a friend is giving you a lift, you can offer dinner at the destination or send an orchid to the hotel or home where they’ll be staying. Never buy a gift for the plane. They’ve spent millions, it’s already outfitted.” She said there’s nothing wrong with a lovely thank you note.

Martin likes to offer to cater a meal. For example, if it’s a morning flight he’ll bring breakfast from a good deli and give it to the flight attendant to organize.

Always ask your host if it’s all right to bring your clubs along. Don’t over pack, it’s considered bad form to arrive with your whole set of luggage no matter how fabulous it is.

Try and take care of your important natural function of the day before boarding the plane (this is a real tip).

And since you’re really flying high, Martin suggests a pair of sunglasses. Cool.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Special Needs Children Need Your Best Behavior

We would like to think that the days of whispering, pointing and staring when encountering a child or an adult with a neurological impairment are gone. According to one parent of an autistic child there’s still some work to be done. She shared with us some of her dos and don’ts when dealing with special needs children.

Are there questions people ask that you wish they wouldn’t about your daughter?
Only after spending some time with her do people realize that she’s not a typical child. They’ll ask me what’s wrong with her not maliciously but it’s not the way I would pose the question. I will usually tell them that she has special needs. My feeling is that nothing is wrong with her. Thankfully, with all of the awareness and attention given to autism, inappropriate questions are rare.

Is there anything that one should do or not do when they meet your daughter?
Don’t treat her differently. I want people to communicate with her as they would with any child her age. If she interrupts your conversation, don’t let her get away with it and don’t go out of the way to meet an unreasonable request she may have. If she begins to focus on something you’re wearing and wants to hold it, don’t give in. A typical child would be told to ‘knock it off’. Real responses like that are better and more helpful to her.

How do your daughter’s peers treat her and what can their parents teach their kids about having a friend or schoolmate with special needs?
Most kids stare and very few treat her warmly. Their parents have passed their fears on to them and steer them away from her because they feel there’s nothing their children can get from the relationship. I think there’s a lot they can learn from a friendship with my daughter. She has the same wishes and desires as any child. I would like parents to instruct their kids to be as real as possible with my daughter. They should teach their kids to feel more at ease with special needs children.

Have you ever had to straighten someone out with respect to how they treated your daughter?
Once, a librarian wanted to ban my daughter from the local library because she had an outburst. Instead of explaining to her that she may have to wait a short period before using the library again, she berated her as if she'd lost control on purpose and told her she could never return. People should understand that behavioral issues often go hand in hand with neurological impairment.

What is the most thoughtful thing someone has said or done for you and your family?
I’m always touched by the way close friends and family rally around my daughter. My girlfriends are my comfort. If they’re close to me they’re going to have be close to her. When people are kind that kindness not only comes through in their actions but also in the actions of their children. Between friends and extended family there is a lot of love around my daughter.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Your Neighbor's Dirty Laundry

Yvette has seen some disturbing behavior in her laundry room and suspects that it’s happening in yours too. You may even be the perpetrator of this dreadful habit – separating your dirty clothes in the very carts that your neighbors have to use for their clean clothes. This must stop immediately. It’s unsanitary and inconsiderate. Why should your clean clothes have to absorb your neighbor’s dirt and who knows what else? Remember, bedbugs are on the rise.

Sorting of clothes should take place in your apartment or at the washing machine straight from the laundry bag or your own cart. Spreading stained clothes on the folding table in order to use stain remover is another bad idea.

Part II of laundry time has its issues too. There’s nothing more annoying than seeing your clean, wet clothes in a cart or on top of a machine’s dusty surface (This really happened, a woman put someone’s clothes on top of the machine and thought she was doing the right thing until Yvette pointed out the contrary.) compliments of a neighbor. But it’s your responsibility to tend to your own wash and timing is everything. It wouldn't hurt to acknowledge your lateness and let them know that you understand.

If you find yourself in the situation of needing a machine and you’ve waited at least five minutes for someone to claim their clothes, remove them and put them in a cart. You can say when the owner of the forgotten load finally arrives, “I'm sorry I had to take your clothes out. I waited but there wasn’t another machine available.” Since all parties think they're right when it comes to laundry room encounters always try to be as civil as positive.

However you handle it, remember, it all comes out in the wash.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

When Bailouts Are Personal

In these trying economic times with so many people in dire straits requests for loans from friends are an every day occurrence. It’s the phone call no one really wants to make but sometimes must. It can be embarrassing and debilitating. If someone calls you for a loan, feel fortunate that you’re receiving the call and not making the call – all the more reason to be as gracious and kind as you can be. Don’t make it any more difficult for the potential borrower than it already is. No one needs to hear as one of our friends did after asking someone for money, “Why don’t you ask your boyfriend?” The answer to the question is, ‘yes’ or ‘I wish I could help but I can’t right now.’ It’s not your place to direct the person to someone else whose money you’ve obviously been counting from afar.

If you can make the loan, leave out the lecture on how you think this person should or shouldn’t spend their money. Make sure the payback terms are clear and don’t hesitate to ask for an IOU especially for a large sum of money.

If you're the borrower, don’t feel compelled to pepper your request with a sob story and never lie. Why you need the money is your business. Be honest about when you can repay the loan and never box yourself into a corner with a specific date, you can say within a month, week, etc. If you can payback sooner, that’s always better and puts you in good standing with your lender friend. Repay your loan the way it came to you with a check or cash and the full sum unless you've negotiated otherwise.

Be sensitive to the person who lent the money to you. If she’s staying close to home for vacation, you can understand why she may not lend you money again when she receives your postcard from Monte Carlo. It's human nature. On the other hand, don’t feel as though you have to present yourself as poverty stricken every time you see her.

Whether you're bailing out a friend or being bailed out, mind your manners.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


“You’re very humble. People don’t usually speak to the homeless,” the woman said to Yvonne on a recent bus ride. Yvonne recognized the woman from the soup kitchen where she volunteers. “I don’t know if it’s about being humble,” Yvonne said to me. “It’s courtesy, we know each other. I don’t stop knowing her when we’re outside of the soup kitchen and she’s really pleasant to talk to, obviously educated. Who knows what happened to her?”

Once, our mother told us a story about then called, ‘winos’ who hung out in her Brooklyn neighborhood. She said she always greeted them. One evening, walking home, a man approached her. She said she didn’t know where they came from but in no time they were surrounding this guy who took off into the night. Yvonne and I never forgot this story. It informed us on how we treat people no matter what their challenges are. “Those men never disrespected me and I’m glad I acknowledged them. They appreciated it and came to my rescue when I needed them,” our mother explained.

We are not urging you to run up to a homeless person and engage them in conversation and shove a dollar bill into their face. If one says hello to you, say hello back, wish them a good day. Never hand out money in lieu of a greeting. If you want to give them something, do it if they ask otherwise it’s obnoxious. They have their pride too, respect it and don’t patronize them.

If a person gets on a bus or train or is already seated and it’s clear they haven’t bathed for days, no need to make a face, shake your head furiously and suck your teeth in disgust. Just get up and move to another section.

While we may not have a lot in common with many homeless people, we are all human. And during these tough times, some of us are closer than we think to them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Coffee, Tea or Back Pain?

A few posts ago we talked about butts in our faces when traveling on airplanes. Just like passengers, flight attendants have their issues too.

The next time you board a plane with a big, lumpy bag and wonder why an attendant isn’t racing to stuff it into the overhead compartment, it has nothing to do with laziness. Most attendants aren’t insured for any injury that could result from heavy lifting. However, they will help a person who is obviously too small or frail to handle their bag.

Flight attendants call some carry on bags ‘drag on’ because of their size and weight. They suggest that you take out what you need during the flight before you get on the plane, this way you’re not holding up boarding while you fumble through your bag. (This also causes ‘butt-in-your-face’ syndrome.)

Don’t expect an attendant to thank you for pushing the button. While it’s not always possible and easy to move around the cabin, a visit to the galley is greatly appreciated, especially after they’ve just finished serving and taking a much needed break.

When offered a custom form to fill out some passengers get an odd surge of patriotism and exclaim, “But I’m an American!” Take it easy; even a Martian would have to fill out the form. Just say, ‘thank you’ and take it.

One flight attendant explained, “I’ve learned to be more patient. A lot of people don’t know how to travel because they don’t do much of it.” Even with all of his years of flying he never realized how difficult traveling with babies was until his niece had one. “I’m especially patient with parents.”

The next time you're flying high, take the high road all the way.

Thursday, May 21, 2009



Wednesday, May 13, 2009


On its way to becoming a verb, something funny happened to the French acronym RSVP that stands for, ‘Répondez vous s’il vous plaît.’ meaning ‘please respond’ - people stopped responding. And it’s not because they weren’t fluent in French.

A prominent hostess in San Francisco can’t believe how invitees think it’s enough to call and say, “I’m rsvping.” “What they’re saying is that they are responding,” she said. “That doesn’t tell me if they are attending or not.”

When someone invites you to a party or a wedding, rsvp isn’t on the invitation because it came with the printing deal. It’s on there so that you can let the hostess know if you are going to attend the event or not. Your response lets her know how much she’ll need to order or rent to make sure that guests are comfortable and well served.

Wedding invitations usually come with response cards and stamped envelopes. Yet, brides and wedding planners still have to call guests and ask if they’re coming. “Oh, I thought I had to send the card back only if I’m coming to the wedding,” one invited guest said to a planner.

“I couldn’t have made it easier,” explained the hostess in San Francisco now planning a bridal shower. “There was a designated phone number and an email address on the invitation. Half still haven’t responded.” Instead of making plans, she has to make phone calls to those who think they’ve responded and to those who haven’t at all.

The next time you receive the honor of an invitation, honor it. If you can’t make it, it’s all right to say so but not the day before. If you have pending plans, you can let your host know and give them an answer in a timely fashion. When there’s a stamped envelope, that means that there’s a required visit to a mail box in your near future. Whatever you do, don’t call and just say, “I’m rsvping.” That’s a real, non, non.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Poor Manners: The Proof is in the Pudding

“Here it is,” our hostess announced, “the banana pudding is ready.” She proudly put it on the table next to small bowls and spoons. Her guests started helping themselves. And help themselves they did. The pudding had a crunchy, toasted topping. Within three servings most of the topping was gone. What remained was a pale, picked over mess. Guests had dug in and on the way out skimmed over the top of the pudding stripping it of its crunchy touch. The father of one of the strippers, a ten-year-old boy, just watched almost admiringly while missing an opportunity to teach his son some manners.

It was a pitiful display of greed, selfishness and total inconsideration for other guests. We can imagine what these same culprits would do to a stringbean casserole and its crispy onion top layer! Would you trust your strawberry shortcake to them? We shudder to think what they would do if the pudding were instead a pecan pie.

There are picky eaters and then there are picky eaters. They pick with their fingers for the perfect strip of bacon. They shovel food from bowls or plates onto their plates instead of properly serving themselves by using the serving utensils to pick up and transport the food. They will ruin a dish of green peas and ham by picking out the ham to satisfy their vegetarian leanings while secretly enjoying the flavor of pork. And they will pick through a bowl of nuts looking for precious cashews. (When serving nuts there should always be a small spoon in the bowl.)

Don’t be the pig at a dinner party. Consider the number of people who still have to eat. Consider that just like you, they’ll probably want some of the topping too. Consider that just like you, they don’t like the idea of random fingers doing the walking through the food. If there’s one more serving of something left, look around, ask, “Is it all right for me to finish this?” No one’s going to say, ‘no’. You’re displaying courtesy and thoughtfulness and your hosts will probably urge you to take it.

Language, how well you speak it, can tell people who you are and where you came from. The same goes for manners. The proof was certainly in this pudding.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


We had lunch with a couple of friends, one of them, Joy, is a cancer survivor. We were talking about an acquaintance of hers and how the woman couldn’t eat a meal in peace at her club for all the well-intentioned well wishers interrupting her. Sensing that she had a sense of humor, Joy’s friend said to the woman, “The cancer’s not going to kill you, it’s the well wishers.” He wasn’t far from the truth in that people meaning well can say some really silly, cold, inappropriate things to cancer patients.

Joy was just 53 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and she has plenty to say about what people say.

It irked her when people felt compelled to share stories about others who had cancer or were battling it. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SHARE.

“Don’t worry, you will be fine or you will surely beat this,” were other comments that she could’ve done without. Not one of them came from a specialist. Some ‘specialists’ assured Joy’s 14-year-old son that his mommy was going to be fine. And luckily she was and still is. DON’T BECOME A KNOW IT ALL UNLESS YOU KNOW IT ALL.

“I couldn’t stand the facial expressions,” she said. They were either doom or gloom or pity.” PITY IS NOT A CURE.

Others wanted a blow by blow of her treatment schedule and even wanted to know if her hair was going to fall out. DON’T ASK, LISTEN.

Married at the time, she told her husband’s cousin, whom she considered a good friend about her diagnosis. He expressed deep sorrow for her husband not Joy! It got worse. Her former mother-in-law pointed out that, “Breast cancer is nothing, so many women get it.” TRY REALLY HARD NOT TO BE AS STUPID.

And then there were those who knew what to do and say. Her best friend reassured her that she was there for her. “I’ll go with you to radiation if that works for you,” she offered. Joy’s daughter, 24 years old at the time became her surrogate and answered questions when friends called. BE SENSITIVE AND PATIENT.

What can the patient do? “I think it’s important to do the homework, make your choices so you can let friends and family know that it’s being managed and to be there if you need to talk.” She added, “I feel blessed for the early diagnosis, great doctors. I’m a warmer, more sensitive person. And I feel strong because I’m a survivor.” DON’T BE SHY, TELL PEOPLE WHAT YOU NEED.


While Joy was having her treatments, her husband began an affair. Not only is the cancer gone, so is he. Oh, what a joy!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Stinkin' Office Affairs

Unemployment is high but many still go to work everyday and spend eight hours or more in cubicles. Gone are the days of the sacred door that gave us privacy in our own office. We'd like to think that most of us are considerate of our office neighbors but come meal time, or just during the course of the day the best of us can become, well, annoying.

Does Mr. Slurpee realize how annoying he sounds as he sucks the last drops of his beverage even when it's all gone?

Ms. Snappee pops and snaps away obliviously. Every now and then a sound will come out of her mouth that one would expect to come out at the other end. At least Ms. Snappee doesn’t do what Ms. Bubbles does; she likes to blow bubbles right in your face.

And let's not forget Mr. Empty. He eats the last cookie on the plate and just can't make take the few steps to put plate in the dishwasher. He's probably the same person who left the teensy corner of milk in the container and put it back in the refrigerator.

Meet Miss Pickover. She always picks the cheese off of a slice of pizza and puts it back in the box with the untouched slices.

And then there are The Foodies. They eat exotic lunches from around the world and don't seem to care about the pungent aromas we're forced to inhale. On occasion, they'll have something more familiar like bacon and eggs. Fine, but better if you’re in a diner.

The workplace isn't an open market where anything goes. Today, at lunch time, if you're eating at your desk, think about what's between the bread or on the plate or in your cup. And if you must have a piece of gum, try not to disturb the peace.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, Yvette and I flew to Los Angeles to visit our father. The flight was pleasant enough. There was plenty of legroom and the crew was nice, only one got excited when she realized we were twins. Takeoff was smooth and when we reached the proper altitude we were allowed to move around in the cabin and that’s when the problem started. Butts, small and large were constantly in our faces, actually mine, I had the aisle seat.

Across the aisle from us sat a woman who was constantly getting up from her seat and finding reason to bend over to dig into her bag. We realized she was preparing her lunch. Not once did she turn around and say, “Excuse me.” She was a large woman and must’ve known that the aisle could accommodate but so much butt before it ended up in my face.

I guess we don’t think much about our butts because they’re behind us, but so are people’s faces. If you have to stop in an aisle on the plane be mindful of your surroundings, try and situate yourself on the side of a seat this way a passenger doesn’t have to look at the seat of your pants. Never assume that the person on the aisle is okay with your behind in their face due to lack of space. If it’s a split second okay but keep moving. And if you know that beverages send you to the bathroom often, be considerate and don’t take a window seat.

In restaurants where tables are close, there is nothing more unsavory than someone getting up and giving you a view from behind. Make your departure quickly and try to keep your butt out of another diner’s meal.

Maybe we should observe how flight attendants move around in cabins; they seem to do a fine job at keeping their butts to themselves. No?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Wedding Invitation: Expert Dos and Dont's

It’s that time of the year. The Wedding. You may be sending out invitations or receiving them. No matter how hard couples try to make everything about their wedding unique, few invitations are as truly unique and beautiful as those designed by top calligrapher, Ellen Weldon.( She also comes from good stock, her mother is cake maker extraordinaire, Sylvia Weinstock). Ellen read our blog and asked if she could talk to us about invitations. Yvonne and I jumped at the offer.

Warning: Some of these questions may seem dumb but they have been ripped from real life.

1. With same sex marriages how has wording for wedding invitations changed?
With same sex marriages, the wording can be the same as with heterosexuals:
The pleasure of your company is requested
at the marriage of
Tony Jones
Jimmy Smith
On Saturday, the sixth of June, etc

Others have been more creative:
We're doing it!
Sarah Long and Tabitha Haines
Are getting married
On Saturday, the thirtieth of May

Some couples include their families by saying on the first line of the invitation:
Together with their families, etc….
*Ellen notes that depending on the state you live in, you wouldn’t always use the word, marriage.

2. If a couple doesn’t want children at their wedding; can that be stated on the invitation?
You can state on the invitation on the lower right corner:
Please no children
I have also done this on a separate card, so it really stands out.

3. What if a couple prefers money instead of a gift, can that be stated on an invitation? Is it ever appropriate?
You can’t dictate what gifts people will give you. It’s bad manners. Your maid of honor, bridesmaids, and your parents can spread the word that you are saving for a house, apartment or a china pattern and would prefer a gift that could help them reach that goal. Some couples set up a website where guests can receive this information.

4. People send out cards printed with their store registry information, is that acceptable?
Sending cards with bridal registry information is considered bad form. You cannot include that with the invite, it looks as if the gift is the reason you’re inviting them! If you’re having a bridal shower, it can be included in that invitation, but never in the wedding invitation.

5. What’s the most common mistake people make on an invitation?
The most difficult decision for most people on the invitation is the dress code. I don’t agree with "black tie optional". I think it leaves people totally confused and half the guests who do not own tuxedos will be left wondering if they’ll be dressed appropriately. It’s either black tie or not. You must decide so that your guests feel more at ease. If you want women to wear long dresses, that should be clearly stated on the invitation.

The other common mistake is the correct wording for an invitation when it’s in a house of worship or another location. The invite for a ceremony in a house of worship includes the word honor as a show of respect.
The honor of your presence is requested…

The wording for any other location would be:
The pleasure of your company is requested

6.What happens when mom and dad are divorced and mom has been with her new husband or partner for many years and the bride wants to include her stepfather on the invitation?
Stepparents, who have been part of the bride's and groom's lives, should definitely be included just make sure to put the bride’s last name on the invitation to avoid confusion. Another example of a more inclusive invitation is in the case of a Jewish wedding. It’s customary to have the groom’s parents mentioned on the invitation either above, ‘son of’ or at the top along with the bride’s parents.
When there are complications between the bride’s parents, the stepfather can be listed on the ceremony program as the escort of the bride’s mother or grandmother.

More questions? Please post in the comments sections of our blog.
If you're interested in invitations, call Ellen.
Ellen Weldon Design

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ordering Up at the Expense of Others

It always sounds like a good idea to round up a bunch of good friends and go out for dinner. The first round of drinks are served, and soon, the merriment kicks in. Menus are distributed and the evening is off and running. Ka-ching. Ka-ching.

One person is very hungry, so a starter and the grilled snapper entree sounds like a good idea. Another prefers just an appetizer, just enough to justify a second glass of champagne. Someone will mention the big, late lunch they had and thinks a bowl of mussels will do the job. The non-drinker in the group is in the mood for a burger.

The food starts arriving, more drinks are ordered. Everyone seems to be enjoying what they ordered. Some even pass their plate around, why not? They all have a vested interest in everything on the table because the bill will be split, but not before one person orders the dessert special.

Here comes the check.

The non-drinker burger eater will pay almost double for her burger. The three-courser will pay less than he would've payed had he eaten alone. Everyone quietly pays their share, some, no doubt, thinking, "Never again!"

When we note that a non-drinker is being asked to pay for wine, we'll say, "So and so shouldn't pay that much she doesn't drink." This can help others re-evaluate what's really fair. We are not encouraging the ole, "I had this, you had that" exchange.

Choose the place carefully where you want to dine with friends. It's important to be sensitive to the group, who's flush and who's not (you can argue that if you don't have a job, you shouldn't be sitting in a restaurant).

If you feel like having everything from soup to nuts, there's nothing wrong with that, but it's rude to expect your friends to pay for your private feast if they chose lighter fare. Fair share is only fair when everyone is ordering more or less the same.

If you've been invited out to dinner, don't order an entree that costs more than what your host is ordering. That doesn't mean you have to order the measly crab cake and a bowl of soup or a dish you really don't like because the price is right. If your host urges you to try the caviar and the lobster, have it. They are telling you that it's fine with them, don't be shy, forget about the tired, baby roasted chicken on a bed of mystery greens.

Over time, the problem eater is usually identified and probably won't be included when the group meets again or everyone will be on the lookout. It's probably not worth losing a friendship over. Maybe he or she knows not what they do. Maybe they think, "I ordered what I want, isn't that what everyone else is doing, too?"

True, but about the truffle special.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Le Chat Noir On Delicious Matters and Manners

“The only foods you should eat with your hands are French fries, fried calamari (in Europe calamari isn't dipped in sauce), bread and sandwiches,” said Suzanne Latapie, owner of the Upper East Side bistro, Le Chat Noir as she elegantly and properly ate her dinner.

Notice the position of her hands as she holds her knife and fork. In an earlier post we pointed out how violently some people eat and turn into Psycho-diners. They literally stab the meat on their plate as if it were about to be snatched. Not in the picture is the piece of bread on the table. Suzanne took a roll out of the breadbasket and tore off a piece and put it on the table, the roll stayed on the table as well. Never put a piece of bread back into the basket once you’ve touched it. If there’s no bread plate, putting it on the table is fine. If you think the table isn’t clean enough, ask for the check and leave. Suzanne used her knife to gather food onto her fork. Shoving food onto a fork with your finger is fine in the privacy of your home but not in restaurants. Some may argue that it’s never fine; it’s right up there on the no-no list with drinking directly from the milk carton. When Suzanne took a sip of her wine, she held the glass by the stem. 

Sometimes she dines with a close friend and likes to order different entrees. The way she likes to share is to eat a portion of the food on her plate and then offer the other half to her friend and the friend does the same. This way plates aren't going back and forth and no one is eating food that’s been touched. There is nothing ruder than when someone takes the liberty of eating off your plate without asking.

Le Chat Noir probably makes the best chocolate soufflé in town – talk about sinful. It’s eaten with a spoon and when you taste the mouthful of chocolate you’ll understand why spoons were created. We love cheese soufflé and eat it with a spoon even though restaurants will offer a fork and spoon. This could be confusing but soufflé often comes with a small salad and you don’t want a spoonful of salad.

Like most restaurants, there are no toothpicks on the table. When I, Yvonne, lived in Italy, I never understood why there were toothpicks on the table when it was considered really bad form to use them. They'd talk about you like a dog if you even looked like you were going to take one. Toothpicking at a table is as bad as flossing in public. Grooming before, during or after a meal at the table is another ‘never do’.

Dinner was Suzanne’s treat so we left a generous tip. Staff really appreciates that because when they see the boss with friends they also see no tip in some cases. In small restaurants where there’s no coat check, the owner sometimes takes the coats. He or she shouldn’t be tipped.

We had a nice time, the food and wine were great and so was the company. And the manners were impeccable.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Civility Undone

Yvonne and I went back and forth on this. I felt we had to address this tragedy, Yvonne thought what Madoff did was beyond poor manners and to link this story to etiquette would minimize the irreparable damage he has wreaked on people’s lives. She has nothing to do with this week’s post.

I called my friend Barry (he knows someone who lost with Madoff) to discuss where he felt etiquette and Madoff’s actions intersect. Barry said what he did was wrong-headed; Madoff had no respect for anyone. “Civility is the basis of good manners,” said my friend.

What prompted me to bring this up were the reactions from people Madoff swindled. “How could he do this to one of his own?” some asked, “He was one of us.” Well no, he wasn’t one of anyone; he just happened to be Jewish. If he moved as comfortably in another circle even as a man of Jewish faith, say among Catholics or Episcopalians, he would have done the same thing -- and he obviously did; the man Madoff did this, not his affiliation with any organized religion.

I cried watching the damage he did to people while watching a “60 Minutes” segment on Madoff. Not once did I think “I’m glad he did it to them and not us.” Many people felt anger and sadness for those who lost; they saw another human being suffering regardless of their faith or race. Did some cheer and say “good for those people.” I’m sure some did. Being good to one another, respecting one another and being an authentic person, having compassion and empathy for others has everything to do with etiquette.

Madoff demonstrated unbearably bad manners when it came to dealing with his fellow man; what he lacked in civility he made up for in an egregious display of greed. He definitely shattered the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


"I can't believe it, Yvonne. With all the people out of work, I can't find someone to sit in for my assistant who's going to be away for a couple of weeks." My friend runs a successful, public relations firm. I promised her I'd get back to her with a couple of names. Having freelanced for more than ten years, I know what it feels like when the phone rings and there's a job possibility on the other end. To do the same for someone else is a great feeling.

I called a couple of people, left messages on land lines and cellphones and even sent one a message via facebook. I spoke to one friend, and she explained she was interested but was already working on a project. I waited a half hour before I called Yvette to ask if she knew someone who could use a job for a couple of weeks. I waited because I wanted my friends to have first dibs on it.  She rattled off a couple of names and decided to call a recently unemployed friend.

"Be careful, you may make people angry when they call you back and someone else you've recommended gets the job," a friend warned. I told him I understood his point but it's sort of like the early bird gets the worm and explained that I had held off calling Yvette in the hopes of hearing back from one of my contacts.

Meanwhile, the woman Yvette called contacted me. She gave me her information, I forwarded to my friend and within an hour she got the gig! Nothing like helping lower the unemployment rate.

I didn't hear back from any of the people I called. I was a little surprised but who knows, maybe an emergency came up. Maybe they didn't get any of my messages or maybe they aren't hooked on facebook like moi.

I told my friend, the human warning signal, what had happened and added, "I guess everyone's all right and not in need of work, no one called me back." 
"You have to be more sensitive, maybe people don't want to give the impression that they need a job so desperately. Or maybe they thought the job was beneath them." 

I see his point. Once, early on in my freelance writer career, a friend called and said she'd pay me one hundred dollars a day to answer phones at her production company. I thanked her for thinking about me. Lying, I told her that I was already working on something. 

I immediately called Danielle, one of my most level headed friends. "Can you believe it? She thinks I'd answer her phones. I'm a writer," I ranted. "I bet she wouldn't have asked a white senior writer if she would answer her phones." I was all over the map on this one.

"I don't think it had anything to do with race, I think it's a gender thing. She probably wouldn't have asked a male friend to do that," Danielle pointed out. When I cooled down, I realized someone was trying to simply help me.  Thank God I had had the good sense to graciously express my thanks to her even though the last thing I was feeling was gracious.

I still have yet to hear back from the others I called. I wonder, in my thoughtfulness had I been thoughtless? Had I unwittingly insulted them? Did they assume that if I didn't hear back from them it meant that they weren't interested?  In the future, if another opportunity comes up, should I call them?


"I was a bit apprehensive when I contacted my friend, I was afraid she would think the job was beneath her. I had a backup person but when I spoke to my friend, she told me she was willing to do any kind of office work. I was glad she got it, she was very grateful. Who knows why Yvonne's friends didn't respond. Maybe she should ask them if they're interested in a job instead of making the assumption. However,  a thank you is in order because it's the right thing to do. It acknowledges a person's thoughtfulness and your appreciation. And who knows what a future call could bring?  Funny thing about manners, they will tell you what to do the next time.

Once, a relative tried giving me some career tips and suggested that I find work in a hotel making beds. I thanked her for the suggestion, I knew she was well-intentioned. But I made a note to myself to next time consult with a real career counselor. Interestingly, I did work for a while in a hotel answering phones. 

So, to Yvonne, I say, "Move on."  Don't make people wrong for the rest of their lives. The next time you hear about a job, no doubt there will be others to call. But don't be surprised if  the person you contact about work may just not be that into it.


One of the women called and thanked Yvonne again and again for thinking about her. She'd been ill and passed on the information to someone else.  There goes those manners again, they'll tell you who to call next time.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


We used to have a friend who used her ten year old daughter as her personal assistant. If you called to speak to the mother, the child would field the call. You could hear the mother in the background asking who's on the phone. The child would tell her and then the mother would say, "Tell her I'll call back in a little while." The child would dutifully repeat what the caller had just heard and hang up.

With all of the back and forth, seems like it would have been easier for the mother to take the phone and just say, "I'm in the middle of something, would love to talk to you, can I call you back?" It's not like the mother was in the backyard weeding. They were in the same cramped New York City apartment, a couple of feet apart.

Is this laziness or another screening technique? Had the mother decided that the call wasn't important enough for her to stop doing nothing?

"My mom can't talk right now, we're in the middle of dinner, can she call you back?", a friend's daughter asked Yvonne who was slightly miffed. Being shooed off the phone by a teenager didn't sit well with her. She felt that she should have been announced to the mother and the mother should've been the one to explain that they were in the middle of dinner and she'll call back. "What I really don't get," Yvonne said, "Why would you answer the phone if you know you can't talk?"

Her friend called back and profusely apologized. She explained that she doesn't allow phone conversations or texting during dinner. Her daughter had picked up the one phone without caller ID and didn't want to miss speaking to her father who was away on business. This is completely understandable and we like that she's teaching her children the importance of having dinner together as a family free of technology.

The phone is a powerful tool, it can be an ego booster or ego buster. It gives power to power seekers, 'I don't take calls that are private or restricted.' The phone can feed paranoia, 'Hello, are you there? Are you there? Pick up, pick up.' Uhmm, maybe the person you're calling has voicemail and not an answer machine wherein they could hear you. It breeds snobs, 'I have to get this other call.' This is always fun, you're in the middle of a conversation and your good friend gets a call from someone more important than you and apparently they can't be called back later because they're so special.

There is value in Caller ID for people who are being stalked or preyed upon by sleazy mortgage brokers and annoying telemarketers. It can also let you know if it's a call that should be answered, especially in the case of an emergency, it could be someone in need. But some ardent fans of Caller ID don't pick up calls from unrecognizable numbers or names. What's a poor caller to do?

We are convinced that call waiting was created by someone who didn't have many friends and was afraid to miss the one call from the one friend. They also didn't understand the value of spending quality time on the phone with someone you care about.

Several years ago, there was an advertising campaign for the telephone company. The tag was, 'Reach Out And Touch Someone'. It was before all the bells and whistles that make it so hard to reach out and touch someone with a phone call in today's world.

Is that your phone we hear ringing? Pick up, please.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


What is it about asking someone's age that doesn't sit right with many no matter how young or how old they are? Is it one of those questions high up on the rude-o-meter along with asking someone's salary? We think it is. Depending on who's asking the question, of course. Say, if our mother asked us our ages, we wouldn't be upset as much as we would be concerned.

"It's personal," Yvette says. "What benefit is there in knowing someone's age?" Now more than ever the age question is a touchy one. A good friend of ours (we don't know how old he is) said, "Asking someone's age is discriminatory, no matter what the relationship is, business or personal. You learn a person's age and then what?" He also pointed out that in today's job market there is no benefit in telling your age.

There are only two times in our lives when we don't mind telling our age - when we're very young or very old. At one hundred, many literally broadcast it. Willard Scott's Smucker's birthday segment begins to look very attractive to a centenarian.

Women start preparing their answers to the age question when they're young, around 11. Who wants to be 11 when thirteen is just around the corner? Young guys add on a few years too. If a girl asks how old you are and all you can say is 12, come back later. You're not boyfriend material yet. No girl is going to brag to her friends, "He's really cute and twelve!"

Once we get up in our years, our twenties, the game changes. When an older man asks a younger woman how old she is, he's hoping to hear a number lower than she looks. He's not interested in someone who looks good for her age, he wants someone whose age makes him look good. When an older woman asks a man his age, she's trying to figure out if he can afford her or vice versa. All the more reason to not ask anyone their age. It's a mess of boxes that we put people in and keep them there for as long as it serves us.

We should always come clean about age is when asked by a doctor, an emergency worker or an officer in a court of law. This is not the time to be coy.

When someone has passed away, one of the first questions posed to the bereaved is, 'How old was she/he?' If the person was a senior citizen people don't seem to mind saying ,"Oh, well he lived a long life." It's as if upon knowing the person's age they've decided that a person's death isn't all that bad, if the person is younger, their death is tragic and that's something to feel badly about. We have bristled when we've lost a family member and well intentioned people have asked how old were they. We bristle because we know that our loss will be minimized or maximized based on a number.

Beware of age questions on the sly and not so sly. 'How old is your daughter?' 'Oh, you love artists. Did you ever meet Picasso?' 'Remember Idlewild Airport?' 'Do you want children?'

'Age is only a number' may sound trite but it's true. And when someone thinks they have your number based on your age, rest assured, you now have theirs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ailing Emailing

"If you haven't received a windfall of money after sending out an email that promised such, don't bother sending it to me." A friend of ours has no compunction about letting friends know that he doesn't appreciate chain emails.

Chain emails intimating doom if you break the chain are annoying and rude. The only benefit is that they tell the receiver something about you. Maybe you aren't the person they thought you were if you believe in five days a person's life with fall apart because they didn't continue the silliness.

Disinformation seems to be very popular with the chain emailer set. Did you know that the Post Office is going to stop using images of blacks on stamps? During the presidential campaign all kinds of disinformation arrived daily - some downright evil. Thank goodness for This site comes in handy when you want to separate cyber-myth from fact. That Dalai Lama list of feel good advice for the good life? He had nothing to do with it. But its warm and fuzzy advice still is a nice read. Do we really think he had the time to pair pictures and words and create a powerful Powerpoint presentation for all the world to see?

We understand that there is no quicker way to report the death of a loved one than a mass emailing. But it can be very shocking way to hear of a loss depending on your relationship. A phone call is in order if you know that a person knew the departed. (Sometimes we're not in daily contact with friends, doesn't mean that we don't care or that we are estranged.) An email to the family expressing your sympathy is thoughtful, but we like notes and phone calls before emails.

If you work via email, be careful to be specific in the subject line. Recycling emails from your inbox can be tricky and you never know where it's going to be forwarded. Yvonne received an email from a friend that had been in his inbox for a while. Its contents included an earlier conversation he'd had with another friend who had been critical of Yvonne and made a comment that wasn't very nice. She never knew that this person felt this way about her and it was hurtful.

If you're going to gossip about someone in an email, make sure you're not sending it to the person you're gossiping about. If that person's name is on your mind and you're writing about them, it's easy to pick their name out of the address book and click. Best to not gossip at all, but if you must, because it can be tempting, pick up the phone or meet for lunch or something.

Speaking of the phone, be sure to follow up important emails with a phone call. Not everyone is email dependent.

Know that the spoken word is different from the emailed word. What sounds pleasant to the ear can be unpleasant when written because you can't hear the person's intention in their voice. Best to read and re-read an email aloud before you send it off.

We have all regretted pressing the Send button and wish we could take back that moment. If you wouldn't send the same message off to someone in a letter, don't do it in an email. Emails are forever and they travel well. And that's not always good.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Talkin' Trash

"Did you really throw that chicken bone on the ground?" A friend was tempted to pose this question to a man who had just polished off a fried chicken wing as he entered a train station on Manhattan's Upper West Side. She likes her neighborhood and she likes chicken but still doesn't understand how someone can throw a bone or anything on the ground. Who can?

On a recent trip to Washington D.C., we saw someone throw a small bag of garbage out their car's window like nothing. They did it as if there had been a sign instructing them to throw out their garbage for the next five miles.

We suspect if we followed these litterbugs home we would not be surprised at the mess we would see in their homes. Or maybe not. Maybe they're the type of people who when they litter in a public space, they believe they are creating or sustaining jobs! Yvette's neighbor was in the elevator when another neighbor threw her apple core on the floor. The neighbor told her to pick it up (hard to do that nicely) and she told him, "No. There are people paid to do that." She must've been having a bad apple day because when she saw her neighbor again, she apologized for her poor behavior.

Maybe litterbugs are created when parents of small children don't pick up after them in public. The cracker the child has been gnawing on becomes a big bore and he throws it down. The parent looks at him and smiles. The kid thinks he's just done something charming. Not too long ago, we saw a family, two adults and two young children, in a restaurant. At a certain point each child decided to share their food with the floor. At the end of the meal, the parents paid the bill, bundled up the children and left a huge mess for someone else to clean up. They had made no attempt to clean up and didn't look back. Not once did they point out to the children that they shouldn't throw food on the floor.

In restaurants, when something falls on the floor, you are not obliged to pick it up. If it's a utensil, you can gently move it with your foot out of the way so no one will slip on it. We're not talking about deliberate or excessive littering in this case.

There seems to be a fascination with throwing trash on train tracks. Candy wrappers seem to be popular. Maybe people think because they're tiny pieces of paper they don't matter as much and won't ever cause a fire on the tracks. Or maybe they're on a sugar high and aren't thinking clearly. Others brush up on their basketball game using trash bins on subway platforms as hoops. When they miss, they rarely pick up the 'ball'.

Nowhere is there more trash found everywhere except in trash receptacles than on the floors and counters in ladies' restrooms. Many women cover the toilet seat so that they can sit more comfortably and avoid the cooties. That's fine. But leaving the toilet paper to fly all over the place and not flush it down is vile. Paper towels don't seem to make it the bins either. And the worst collection of garbage in the ladies room? Near the door. No one wants to touch the doorknob. So the towel or tissue that's used to open the door and shield the hand from killer deadly germs ends up on the floor if no basket has been provided nearby. What a mess!

We don't suggest that you tell strangers to pick up after themselves. If their garbage bothers you so much and if it's manageable, like a piece of paper, you can pick it up with as little fanfare as possible. If you can get away with it, you can throw them a look - try not to scowl. They'll probably be embarrassed and either pick up the offending trash or totally ignore you. If they do, let it go and be thankful that you don't have a litterbug bone in your body.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

When Someone Offers You A Flyer

Some people go to work and push paper, others go to work and hand out paper, aka, flyers. We see these people doing their jobs every day especially in urban centers. We see them but we don't acknowledge them. They become invisible men and women. We're not recommending that you strike up a conversation. But you don't have to go out of your way to get out of their way. When one is in front of you, a little eye contact can't hurt. Or what about, "No, thank you."?  Yvette actually received a thank you back from a man handing out a sale flyer "You could tell he appreciated that I noticed him instead of acting as though he wasn't there."

"I don't take flyers from people on the street because it's a waste of paper. I'm just going to throw it out," one friend argued. There's validity in that argument and we like trees too but someone has a lousy job to do and there's still room to be gracious.

Times are tough, people are doing jobs they never thought they'd be doing. It could be us. In fact, it was. During the campaign we both volunteered to hand out flyers for Obama. Most people took the them, some even smiled. Others walked by without so much as a glance. One man tried so hard to avoid us, he bumped into another passerby.  You'd think we were handing out the plague. We knew it wasn't anything personal, but being treated as invisible women was weird. Of course, when we gave out buttons, we received plenty of eye contact and outreached hands.

Don't let a piece of paper send your manners flying out the window.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


What is it about some people who seem to always know the right thing to do or say? Is it in their genes? Was it taught? Or are we all born with the basics and some how through the years what came so naturally becomes undone? 

Our parents teach us to say 'please', 'thank you' and 'you're welcome'. Each and every one of us comes across adults every day who don't seem to have much use for these words. You know they've heard of them and even used them once upon a time. But for some reason, they've thrown them away as if manners have become a relic of another era.

There's clearly a new rule. In the city we see it on buses and trains. Men will look up at a woman from their seats and continue to sit. They will bury themselves in books and newspapers oblivious to the lady standing. Young people will sit in seats reserved for the elderly or physically challenged while laughing or talking on their cell phones as if it's all right.

Neighbors will get on elevators and not acknowledge you. They will take out their cellphones and hold a conversation while they invade your space filling every square inch with rudeness.

We were told again and again, what we do is a reflection of our parents. We wanted them to be proud of us. And they were, every time it was reported by our friends' parents how well mannered we were.

On another note, we heard from our mother who was at the inauguration that there was a lot of booing whenever Bush's name was mentioned.  This was disturbing. Why boo during a joyous celebration of another person's success? This was a time to be gracious. President Obama was. 

We have a new First Family. They are poised, gracious, engaging, respectful of each other and all of us. Let's take a page out of their historic book. Or why don't we revisit our own book - it's all there.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dreams do come true.

Thank you, Dr. King.

We'll be back on Wednesday.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Guest Towels: Why They Count

There's something about guest towels. Some guests use them and many still don't. It's as if they think they don't deserve to wipe their hands on a nice piece of cloth, better to use their host's personal towel.

To use guest towels or not to use them depends on your own family's bathroom traditions. In many families, nice towels were just for 'show'. They were a way to create or complete the color scheme of the bathroom. Often, they took up valuable real estate and sent guests guessing. Is this for me? Is this for show? There's always toilet paper. But those little wet bits and pieces are so annoying and picking them off your hands is time consuming. 

Using 'show' towels, depending how close you were to the resident interior designer aka the woman of the house could earn you a scolding or calling out. "Who used my towel? It was for show." Should they have used your towel? No one wins when a guest uses a personal towel to wipe their hands. The host gets to do more laundry (their towels are larger than guest towels) and guests get who knows what.

"I didn't want to use your nice towel, so I used the one hanging on the wider rack." A well meaning guest said recently. That towel, apparently not as nice ended up in the hamper and was replaced by a fresh one. Meanwhile the guest towel was still fresh. The intention was thoughtful and kind but guest towels are called that for good reason. In trying to do the right thing, they have done the wrong thing.

Yvette takes her towels out of the bathroom when she entertains and places towels on the racks and a tray of paper napkins near the sink.

I take my chances. I leave my towels in the bathroom, cover one with a sheer guest towel hoping that someone will get the hint, 'Use this, not MY terrycloth towel underneath.' I then place a couple on the sink. 

Our mother has come up with a solution that we strongly don't recommend. She has three guest towels. Pinned to one of them is a little note, 'Please use paper guest towels.' While we share many genes with her, the show towel one skipped us.  We prefer thank you notes.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Thanks For Sharing, But No Thanks

Sharing seems to be in with the economic crisis hitting us where it hurts. In our stomachs in restaurants where sharing, nothing new, seems to be a practical idea. 

Some foods are a natural for sharing such as French fries. There's nothing like a crispy plateful among friends. It is perfectly acceptable to eat French fries with your fingers. However, digging through the pile in search of the perfect fry isn't. The one you touch first is the one you eat. Most restaurants will give each diner a small plate. This should be used to put on individual helpings of ketchup.  It's probably one of the rare occasions wherein you can double dip with gusto. If the idea of someone taking a fry off the plate with their hands is uncomfortable, take a few with a fork off the plate without making a fuss. You can say, "I'm just having a few, you can have the rest."

Sometimes it's fun to order different foods at a restaurant to get a taste of this and that a la Chinese but not in a Chinese restaurant. This can be a mess if there aren't any smaller plates on the table onto which you can put a sampling of someone else's entree. A piece of flaky fish may not make it from one plate to another.  A crab cake could work or a slice of meat or a chicken leg may travel better. Unless you're a food critic, plates shouldn't take table tours.

We've all seen one person digging into another's plate without asking permission. Maybe none is needed if you're close enough to the person but it's probably not an example of well mannered dining.

Soup just doesn't work when it comes to sharing. No matter how delicious it is, don't offer a taste. Good friends and loved ones have germs too. And somehow slurping already slurped soup isn't appetizing. The same goes for a salad. There's nothing wrong with sharing an abundant one but not from the same plate. Put it on a separate one and this way you get to choose your dressing. Maybe you don't like creamy Ranch.

Calamari is another good sharing food. Some like to dip it in a sauce, (This isn't done in Italy, you ask for a dipping sauce there and they will look at you with great disdain and mumble how Americans don't know how to eat.) others like to squeeze lemon over them. If you don't mind several dippers in the same small bowl of sauce, enjoy. Fortunately, calamari is a one bite food so the sauce should remain 'clean'.  If you want to have some with lemon, take a few off with a clean fork off the main plate, put it on another plate and go for it. Just try to remember to leave some for the others.

Restaurants make sure that there's enough bread for each person. When taking a roll from the bread basket, take the whole roll. You can tear off a piece any way you want once it's on your bread plate. Never put it back in the basket. Imagine, you're fresh from a New York subway ride, didn't think to wash your hands and now you're in the bread basket. You see where we're going?

Our friend in Chicago asks, "What do you do if someone accidentally drinks your drink or wants you to taste what they're drinking?"

We think the best way to handle the first situation is not to point it out and if you can, get a fresh drink. Don't make the accidental drinker feel badly. Don't say a word. If someone is insisting that you take a swig of their cocktail, that's up to you. If you're uncomfortable, you can point out that you're getting over a cold.  A germy laden excuse is always convincing.

What do you think? Feel free to share, please.