Dear K&K: My brother’s wife just announced that they were not going to come to our parents for Thanksgiving anymore but instead travel with their kids. They invited everyone to join them. My mom handled it so politely and said they appreciated the invitation but they couldn’t join as they were going to host a traditional Thanksgiving. Umm??? In what world, is this okay?? It is taking every ounce of willpower for me not to write her a nasty email. Please walk me back. Signed: Apoplectic in Atlanta
Dear Apoplectic: Something tells us this isn’t about saying “Goodbye, Thanksgiving!” Perhaps you and your “brother’s wife” don’t get along? First clue is that you don’t refer to her as your sister-in-law or heaven forbid, your sister! Obviously, the second clue is you even contemplating writing a nasty email. Take three deep breaths.
Kelly just heard how a mom friend does this sort of trip and even though Kelly likes her family (usually!), she thought this was a brilliant idea. Holidays with relatives who don’t like you (& vice versa) can be MISERABLE. As times change, more and more people are going to fly the coop rather than put up with it. And even if you DO like your family, Americans get such little vacation time to travel why not take this extra time to go somewhere fun instead of cramming into a relative’s house??
Our best recommendation is to skip the nasty email. Then call your sister-in-law and see if you can come up with a compromise. Maybe you guys all join them on their trip one time as a show of solidarity and then they join in the traditional way every so often. Our extended Breckenridge clan stopped doing family Thanksgiving when it got too complicated. Now, we do a family reunion at a different time of year.
Compromise is hard but it’s the key to happiness and unity. If only politicians understood this verity. 😉 All our best, Katie & Kelly
Dear K&K: I was thinking of asking a group of mom friends/acquaintances to go in on a group gift for a fellow mom who is about to have a baby. Is it okay to ask for money even if not everybody financially can contribute to the gift? Baby Showering in Biloxi.
Dear Baby Showering: Of course, it’s okay to ask if people want to do a group gift. If you ask via email and use a blind copy email list, those that don’t want to contribute can ignore your email or pretend they “missed” it. In addition, if you make it easy to collect money by giving your Venmo information then people can give money at whatever level fits their budget without the hassle of getting you physical cash. If you don’t have the app. then download it, it makes life SO much easier for these sorts of expenditures. All our best! Katie & Kelly
Dear Katie & Kelly: I’m relatively new to our neighborhood so don’t have a ton of friend or acquaintances here yet. Recently someone died but I don’t know how. He was a dad, in his 40s and as far as I know, hadn’t been sick. Is it gruesome to ask someone if they know how he died? I’m an Organic Structure.
Signed: Creepily Curious
Dear Creepy: Of course, it’s gruesome to ask. Lol. You knew that though — you’re a thoughtful Organic Structure — or you wouldn’t have double checked with us, you would’ve already asked someone how he died! Everybody is naturally curious what causes someone’s death because death reminds us of our own mortality. Some people would have no problem with you asking, others would be secretly offended. The way around seeming like the uncaring, creepy new neighbor is not to ask for the details five seconds after you hear about his death, i.e., today, but to instead respect his life and passing by just letting it be for a while. Six months from now if you brought it up with a neighbor, chances are you wouldn’t seem creepy to any personality type but just rather a concerned neighbor.
Best of luck: Katie & Kelly
Dear Katie & Kelly: My mother-in-law to be is insisting on throwing me a bridal shower in her hometown. I told her it was fine but then my mom, a stickler for tradition, told me it most certainly wasn’t okay because family isn’t allowed to throw showers. I already told my MIL it was okay so I don’t want to come back to her and tell her she can’t throw me a shower because of some tradition. Any thoughts on how to please both ladies??
Signed: In a Quandary in Quebec
Dear In a Quandary: Technically your mom, probably a Classic, is correct. It’s seen as unseemly for family members of a bride to essentially be asking for gifts. But it seems to us nobody but Classics and 60-80 year olds follow rules like these anymore. If you’re a Classic and a stickler like Kelly is, see if your MIL can get a friend to serve as a front for the shower — a beard of sorts to mask that your MIL is the real hostess. If you’re not then let it lie and make sure your mom is aware that if a bride is from out of town, it’s traditionally okay for the MIL and a sister or sister-in-law-to-be to throw a bridal shower, especially if the bride is not from their town, because they’re just introducing the bride to people. We’re guessing this was deemed legit because the family members in this scenario are offering a public service — introductions — and not just procuring gifts for you.
Congratulations! K & K
Dear Katie & Kelly: I’m going to a family wedding in a different city this fall and children are not invited to the reception. I have young kids and don’t know what I’m going to do with them. I had assumed since it was a family wedding that we would all be invited. What do I do? I don’t feel comfortable leaving my child with a complete stranger in a town I don’t know.
Signed: Unsure in Utah
Dear Unsure: First, figure out what babysitting set-up they have for guests with children. Inquire with family members close to the couple about who is the best person to ask logistical wedding questions. Once you’ve figured out the point man, then inquire with this person about your babysitting options. Some brides set-up a separate reception for the kids on premises or arrange to have a kids party back at a hotel with a few sitters. You could also set up the latter scenario with other family members or visiting guests that might have kids as well. Other brides might hook you up with sitters they know in the area. If none of these scenarios work or it’s truly a stranger watching your child and you’re uncomfortable leaving them, you or your spouse could skip the reception to babysit the child back at the hotel and just attend the wedding or one of you could skip the trip altogether.
As you sort through what to do and probably get annoyed at the bride and groom while doing so, keep in mind that inviting children to receptions (not to be confused with the wedding ceremony) is a relatively new phenomenon. Plus, the couple might be Classics or Smarts who stick to tradition in which case it’s nothing personal so don’t take it that way.
All our best: K & K
Dear Katie & Kelly,
I want to buy my niece an etiquette book but am not sure which one to get. Any advice?
Wondering in Wisconsin
With Donald Trump about to win the Republican nomination, American manners are officially dead. Therefore, we suggest looking east across the pond to Britain where she can learn to have more internationally agreed upon manners and code of conduct. We like William Hanson’s The Bluffer’s Guide to Etiquette. He’s witty and cutting yet informative. We also like Debrett’s New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners. Your query gives us hope for the survival of Western Civilization.
All our best,
Katie & Kelly
Dear Katie & Kelly,
I’ve noticed that these kids, no more than 6 or 7, years old are playing in the playground near my house frequently without a parent nearby watching them ever. I’ve come close to calling the police a few times because I’m genuinely concerned for their well being with such absentee parenting.
Concerned in Camden
It’s very thoughtful of you to keep such a close eye on these random kids. What’s that Hillary Clinton saying, “It takes a village”? Well, you’re part of that village for these kids that’s for sure. We’re guessing from your note that you’re a Classic or an Organic Structure. Most Smarts wouldn’t bother to notice or think about ringing the police in this situation nor Organic Freedoms or Funs who can buck the rules frequently. We take it you’re concerned that these children will be kidnapped or harmed because their parents are not present.
Before you call police on these “negligent” parents, remember, kids can just as easily fall off the monkey bars with a parent present than without and know that stranger kidnappings are extremely rare. VERY rare. Children are 2x more likely to die of the flu and 4x more likely to die of heart disease than to be kidnapped by a stranger. In fact, the average child is more likely to die in a plane crash than be kidnapped. Sure, we’d like to eliminate all risk from life but the way we see it, it’s not our job to eliminate minute risk from a stranger’s life or their child’s. It’s a free country still. Right?
All our best,
Katie & Kelly
Dear Katie & Kelly,
My friend’s dad just died. There’s a wake on Friday night and then funeral on Saturday. I didn’t know him very well. Do I go to both or one? What’s considered polite?
Mourning in Missori
It’s not really about being polite. It’s also not necessarily about how well you knew the man. It’s about supporting your friend. Do what you can and what you have the time to do. Funerals are not planned so sometimes you can’t make them or the events surrounding them. Kelly will always feel sad that she missed her best friend’s mom’s funeral because she’d booked a non refundable trip to Buenos Aires with her husband and another couple. Do your best to be there for them. If you can’t attend services in anyway, make sure you send your friend a condolence note. In addition, check up on them periodically because sometimes it takes a long time to get over a loss as big as losing your dad.
Our condolences to your friend,
Katie & Kelly
Dear Katie & Kelly
I share a desk with a colleague. We work part time and keep different hours. We both leave a few personal items on the desk. I never touch her things. But recently, I’ve noticed she keeps moving my things around so that I have trouble even finding things and can’t seem to find a pair of my gloves that I left one day and I swear she’s eating my lifesavers. Would it be rude to leave a note asking her not to move my things?
Annoyed in Annapolis
Umm, no, leaving a note like that is never a good idea UNLESS you’re spoiling for a fight. Hear us out. Kelly once left an anonymous note in her sorority’s house fridge asking people not to eat other people’s food. It seemed a perfectly normal request because somebody had repeatedly eaten her various leftovers in the fridge without asking. Rude! Whoa nelly. Her note sparked a firestorm the focus wasn’t on the food stealer but the rude note author.
In review, a note is fine if you want to sour your relationship with this person and risk her doing something very naughty to your lifesavers and then putting them back in your drawer. The other solution would be to ask your supervisor for a desk with two separate locks to drawers so you can put your things away at day’s end and not worry about anyone disturbing them.
All our best,
Illustration available at BreckWorks on Etsy
Dear Katie & Kelly,
My in-laws live in a two bedroom in Florida and want our family to stay with them over the winter holidays to get away and relax. Although it’s a really kind offer, we’re a family of 5 and this place is way too small for all of us. It will not be relaxing. How do I politely decline their offer without hurting their feelings?
Well, there are two ways to go about politely declining the offer. Okay, maybe three. First, you lie. You tell them you already have plans. I’d go with this plan if it’s a good lie as in you know telling your in-laws you don’t want to stay with them in their tiny apartment will hurt their feelings. The second way is to tell them the truth: It’s such a kind offer, you would love to see them, it’s just too small of a space for you guys to truly relax, etc… If you think they’d understand the honest approach then I’d go this route for sure. People often smell a lie and you’ve got to keep stories straight. The third option is a hybrid. Accept the offer to visit them but get your own place nearby that you feel is big enough. Obviously this entails being a little truthful about their place. We’re not in college anymore and unless someone has a big pile in the country, technically, you don’t have to stay with them. It’s all about the finesse, say it kindly and any normal person will understand. If they do have a problem with it after you use your best finesse then it’s their problem not yours.
Katie & Kelly