Didi’s Manners & Etiquette: Weddings, Funerals, Gossiping +More
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Q. Our daughter's school in Providence is a forty minute commute each way. When it is my husband or my turn to carpool with two other fourteen-year-olds we learn about our daughter's social life through the chatter. Generally she never talks much to us, but she joins in the banter with the two other carpoolers, a boy and a girl. We're not thrilled hearing about the promiscuity and the smoking of e-cigarettes and marijuana. Mainly the gossip is about who does what, where, when and with or to whom. They've gotten so that they forget that a parent is behind the wheel. They assume we're listening to music on our EarPods while they tell tales of their exploits and their classmates mischievous - and often illegal - adventures.
Since our daughter won't discuss these activities we're loathe to question her when alone with her. Not that her parents weren't known to have experimented up until we got married, we don't want to lose her trust. The parents association at her school is quite prideful about how presumably straight the children are, but we're worried about what we're hearing inadvertently. Our first thought is to talk to the principal. However, if we do that we would be implicating not only the other two students in the carpool, but our daughter as well. How do we parents go about helping the school help the students? Name Withheld
A. There are so many issues here. For instance, if these stories you're hearing are happening on the school campus, it is school business. If these are after-school activities, the school may very well tell you that it is not in their purview to monitor what students do off campus. The exception is most likely when either overdosing, suicide or bullying are factors, because death or/and mental health effects all of the students and the entire community.
Make an anonymous phone call to the school on a blocked number to communicate your concerns anonymously. Otherwise you will have to write an anonymous letter to the principal documenting your concerns with a couple of anecdotes. Unless you're worried about a student committing suicide or in naming a bully, you may be able to get away with not ratting out your daughter and her friends. Alternatively, make an appointment to talk with anonymity to the school psychologist off campus.
As you probably know, talking this out with your daughter could either bring you closer or lock an already closed door. If you feel she is too immature to see the larger picture - the consequences of what's going on - she may shut you out for awhile. When you learn from eavesdropping during your carpool rides that your teenager is personally making very good decisions herself, you can bring up your concerns over time.
Q. Two years into our marriage and my husband has suddenly become allergic to everything. We've given away our beloved cat. Had the carpeting and upholstery cleaned, but his nose still drips constantly despite an over-the-counter pharmaceutical to prevent the dripping. Not only that, but it gets worse. He has gotten into the gross habit of catching the drip with the flick of his index finger and then wiping that finger by sticking it briefly in his mouth. When I mention that I think it is a disgusting habit, he doesn't get it. He complains that I don't say nice things to him. That I criticize him. In what way is this not a legitimate complaint? What is a newly wed to do? EP, Wilmington
A. Your husband needs to make an appointment with an allergist. The doctor will test him for allergens to which he has become overly sensitive. His reward for dealing face on with his problem is that you buy him a dozen handsome handkerchiefs -- ones that do not need to be ironed. Suggest that he store them alongside his socks so that he'll remember to shove a fresh hanky a day into his pocket while getting dressed in the morning.
Q. My niece is getting married this fall in a church wedding with a dinner dance immediately following at a private country club. Her dress is a Carolina Herrera and the bridesmaids dresses are from Vera Wang. The groom and his men will be wearing tuxedos and the dress code is Best Business Suits. As you can see it is an over-the-top kind of wedding which includes a heftily priced wedding registry. We're happy to be included, but we're struggling with the paperless-ness. The Save-the-Date came as an email instructing us to click on to their wedding website for information about the wedding festivities. Their website warned us that the wedding invitation would be in the form of an email and guests will be requested to RSVP through the website. The bridal registry is also online. I'm assuming the thank-you notes for wedding presents will be in the form of an email.
The bride's grandmother, great aunt and uncle, and other older family friends don't use computers much so I've become somewhat of the social secretary relaying the plans and wishes of the bride and groom. Let's hope I keep everything straight! What do you suggest? CH, Boston
A. Host a tea for the wedding couple, as soon as possible, inviting guests you're concerned about who are being invited to the wedding to come and meet, or meet again, your niece and her groom.
At that time you can give a very short toast asking the bride or groom to explain the acceptance process and to give them a few details of where to stay, what to wear, and what they should expect during their participation in the wedding. Guests could also sign up on a list designating which festivitive events they plan to attend: the welcoming party, the ceremony, the reception+dinner, the post wedding brunch, etc? Also, during your tea the bride can let guests off the hook about sending a gift from the wedding registry. Instead they can call the store directly and charge a gift card with their credit card information over the phone. That way the bride and groom will be able to put the gift card toward buying an item from the wedding registry without much fuss on the guest's part.
Q. A longtime acquaintance passed away recently and truth to tell I really didn't like her. She was mean spirited and could be extremely cruel. She was such a terrible gossip that people were scared of getting on the wrong side of her. She often spread untruths, which her friends, in turn, would exaggerate upon. Her beloved husband, who predeceased her, was admired by all and so people put up with his wife.
Who did attend and who did not attend the funeral will be recorded in her funeral guest book that will be hard to miss signing at the entrance of the church. It is a small town and people will pay their respects, but quite frankly it would be hugely hypocritical of me to attend the funeral of someone I didn't like, but whom I had known for most of my life. Do I have to attend the funeral, but I'm not going to the reception? Name Withheld
A. There are those who look forward to attending funerals and the reception afterward, and there are those who chose to go AWOL. There are also those who attend funerals for all the wrong social climbing reasons. Your reasoning for not attending is authentic. You genuinely don't want to attend her funeral, so don't go. After the fact, If someone says, "I didn't see you at Edna's funeral," simply say that you had a prior commitment that you couldn't get out of. That commitment of course was to yourself.
Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette at NewportManners
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