Thank Goodness We…Oh Wait We Still Sort Of Have Chaperones


But where is the supervision!? [Via]

We’ve already spoken about how no girl of good breeding would be caught dead at a bachelor’s apartment past 10 pm, or ever at dinner alone. But let’s say you’re a man. You’ve been introduced to a lady of good breeding from your own class and she has “meaning intentions” and you want to get to know her better, outside of her home. For that, you’d probably need a chaperone.

Often times, a mother would be the chaperone for her own daughters. But if that wasn’t possible, an outside chaperone could be enlisted. These were typically older, widowed or unmarried women who ensured that a young woman’s virtue remained intact throughout an evening of interaction with men. In Europe in the late 1800s, it was the chaperone’s job to introduce her “protege” to the hostess and other important people at any social gathering. And if a man wanted to call upon the protege, he had to ask her chaperone’s permission first. Chaperone’s had permission to accept or decline invitations from young men on behalf of their proteges, especially if they could not be present, and would often leave their own calling cards along with those of their proteges.

As we hit the 20th century, chaperones were not nearly as omnipresent in America as they apparently were in Europe. Putnam’s Handbook of Etiquette (1913) mentions the “Spanish law which says no unmarried woman may go out unaccompanied whatever her age and mission.” This largely has to do with European rules of class and society. “ In Europe, where social lines are distinctly drawn, a young woman either belongs in ‘society’ or else she does not,” writes Agnes H. Morton in 1909’s Etiquette: Good manners for all people, especially for those who dwell within the broad zone of the average (what a title). “In the former case she is constantly attended by a chaperone. In the latter case she is merely a young person, a working girl for whom ‘society’ makes no laws.” This was the case in America at the turn of the century, where many young, single women held jobs.

Morton agrees that, for these working American girls, enlisting chaperones to take them to and from work every day would be “burlesque in the extreme.” However, just because you work doesn’t mean you’re still not a delicate flower that needs constant watch around men.  “The girl who is thus allowed to go alone to an office in business hours sometimes thinks it absurd for any one to say that she must not go alone to a drawing room and she does go alone. Right here this independent girl makes a mistake.”

Morton suggests the solution is “intermittent chaperonage,” because while at work, a young woman is “shielded from misinterpretation.” This idea of misinterpretation is basically what chaperonage is about–the idea that young people, especially women, needed a social translator, lest they say something risque and their reputation ruined.

As time went on the rules relaxed a bit, and chaperones became more like teenage watchdogs instead of personal attendants. In 1948, Vogue’s book of etiquette mentions teenage dates where young women couldn’t go out without a chaperone if they were going to be out past 7. It also mentions college dances, where male guests must first greet the chaperone or the house mother before entering the party, or cut in to introduce themselves if the chaperone is dancing.

Today, chaperones are mainly relegated to school dances and other organized, nighttime gatherings of teens, though there definitely are still regions where supervision on dates is required (*cough* Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding *cough*). And honestly, how different is the assumption that a boy must ask permission of the father to take a girl on a date than asking permission of a chaperone?

How to Be a Considerate Roommate

When you are sharing a space like this you are going to need manners. [Via Flickr user byrion]

Roommates! We’re all going to have roommates at some point, whether it’s because we’re college freshmen, we’re poor and need to split the rent, or we just can’t imagine spending a second away from our BFFs. However, your BFF is gonna peace out and leave you with all the rent and all the dishes if you are a crappy roommate. So here are some tips to follow.


  • Try to discuss chores in an adult manner without getting passive aggressive or defensive. For some people, having a chart helps. For others, one person needs to take the lead and remind everyone when chores need to be done and who needs to do them. Try to establish something early on.

  • Respect the other’s space and privacy.

  • It’s not required, but it is pretty considerate to let your roommate know if you won’t be home overnight or are going away for a weekend so they don’t worry. It’s also a safety measure- if you get kidnapped or murdered, you will want someone to call the police!

  • After cooking, try to leave the kitchen the way you found it.

  • Try not to monopolize spaces, or if you do, try to make sure your roommate feels welcome. If you cook every night, offer to share dinner with your roommate (though don’t let yourself become the de-facto chef!). If you watch TV a lot, make sure your roommate also gets a say in what’s on.

  • Respect your roommate’s moods- don’t jabber at them first thing if they need coffee to wake up. On the flip side, a quick good morning or hello when you walk in the door before taking an hour to decompress will do wonders for making your roommate feel like you don’t hate them.

  • If you are a homebody, try to get out sometimes so your roommate can have the place to themselves.

  • Make sure you aren’t taking up more than your share of fridge and pantry space. Part of this can be accomplished by agreeing on certain foods that can be shared. You shouldn’t need to have two of everything when you guys can probably split the same carton of milk or bag of flour.

  • Don’t eat your roommate’s food, and ask before borrowing things. On the flip side, establish what’s personal and what’s shared. You don’t want to flip out at your roommate for playing your records when she thought they were fair game for anyone who felt like listening to music.

  • If you have a significant other, make sure they aren’t spending EVERY night and weekend at your apartment unless they are chipping in!

  • Try to discuss things in a civilized manner without getting passive aggressive or mean.

  • Just clean the toilet already, jeez.

  • And don’t hog the bathroom.


Unfortunately, even if you follow all these rules, sometimes you will just have a shitty roommate. So let’s all commiserate and share our shitty roommate stories. Here are ours:


Jaya: Of course mine was my freshman year roommate from college, who thought that because she went to boarding school and technically had enough credits to count as a Junior when she was 18 that she was incredibly mature and knew all there was to being a roommate. She made a lot of rude assumptions (“You’re an only child, so I know you’ll have a hard time sharing…”), but then proceeded to break every rule she set, such as leaving mugs filled with sunflower seed shells all over the room for me to knock over, kicking me out of the room for a weekend so her boyfriend could stay over, blasting her music when I was studying and then insisting I leave the room while she was studying, and not letting me use the fridge because it was “her” fridge even though c’mon we’re freshmen and I just want a place to store my leftover mozzarella sticks. Oh and she would spend long times guilting me whenever I came home drunk, even though I was 18 and we went to school in New Orleans. And then she’d go out and get wasted and come home at 4am just scream-laughing and waking everyone up.


Victoria: I’ve been pretty lucky in having mostly good roommates, aside from the expected frustrations over chores and sharing the bathroom. I did have one roommate who spent most of her time on the phone with her long distance boyfriend, but that was more just…weird than anything. Another roommate had been on the track team until she was injured and then spent the rest of the semester skipping class to watch TV and thus being in our tiny dorm room at ALL TIMES. She also liked to study in the room all night with the light on (pro tip: sleeping masks are absolutely amazing) instead of going to the library like a normal person. OH! And one roommate let her boyfriend’s friend from home crash in our room during his Spring Break, leading to an EXTREMELY drunk guy crashing through my door in the wee hours and scaring me to death.


Are These Engagement Gifts Totally Weird?

You don't even have to invite them if they got you a crystal bathtub. [Via BornRich]

You don’t even have to invite them if they got you a crystal bathtub. [Via BornRich]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

Help, engagement gifts are making me uncomfortable! My fiance and I just got engaged, and people keep sending us engagement gifts. If it were close family members or friends that would be one thing, but these are all coming from family friends of his that either a) he’s never met or b) met once or twice, most likely at least 5 years ago. Of course we’re thanking them, but is this weird?


Weirded Out By All These Bowls


The short answer is that, traditionally, engagement gifts are not given. In the olden days, when you got engaged, you would tell your parents, and then they would host a dinner or something with close friends and announce your engagement at your engagement party. Since it was a surprise to all the guests, obviously they wouldn’t have brought gifts. And with engagements being far shorter in the past, by the time anyone sent you anything, it would clearly be considered a wedding present. However, with longer engagements these days and engagement parties celebrating the engagement instead of the announcement, engagement presents have started to crop up as a thing. Engagement gifts should really just be a token of your affection for the couple: a bottle of champagne, a pair of toasting flutes, or a nice picture frame. Still, you are absolutely not expected to send/bring anything at all.


Victoria: Obviously these rules about what the expectations regarding engagement presents are all well and good until someone completely ignores them and sends you a lavish gift anyway.

Jaya: Yeah, this is one of those situations where everyone says “oh, how thoughtful,” but actually it’s not that thoughtful of them! Ok, it’s a little thoughtful, but not in the way you’d like.

Victoria: I think the only thing you can really do in that instance is accept the gift in the spirit of generosity in which it was offered and send a nice thank you note immediately. And don’t feel any pressure to invite a random person to your wedding just because they sent you a gift!

Jaya: Right! I think a lot of people hear a couple got engaged,  get them an expensive crystal bowl or something because it’s expensive and “nice,” and then they think they’ve done this great job. Meanwhile, the couple is probably freaking out thinking that now they have to invite this person, or their parents are saying “they were nice enough to send you a gift, can’t you make room?”, and they have no idea how to use this gift and just feel guilty that someone spent upwards of $100 on something they didn’t even want.

Victoria: What a mess.

Jaya: Is there any way to stop the madness?

Victoria: I think the only thing you can really do to discourage it is to hold off on setting up a registry and if someone asks just say “oh, it’s all so new, we haven’t even begun to think about presents yet!”

Jaya: Yeah, and in general people need to consider their relationship to the couple. If you’re their best friend, go for it. If you went to high school with the groom’s mom and keep in touch with her but haven’t seen her son since he was in grade school? A gift is probably not necessary!

Victoria: Maybe as a safeguard you COULD revive the tradition of sending out wedding announcements AFTER the wedding, in which you have a nice card printed the basically just says so and so were married on such and such a date. It’s just a nice way to let people know that you did get married, and it has no expectation of gifts.

Jaya: But a pre-wedding announcement doesn’t have an expectation of gifts either!

Victoria: True, and there is the danger that people might feel compelled to send you ANOTHER gift. But, hopefully, these people are considering these “engagement” presents to be a wedding present too and are just getting it sent early?

Jaya: Yeah. But it’s so easy to read into it another way. Sending gifts is a wonderful thing, and it may come from a genuine place, but weddings are so fraught with tension and meaning, that sometimes a simple “We’re so happy for you” is more appreciated than anything.

Victoria: Absolutely.

Jaya: But yes, write them a thank you note, figure out a way to use/return the gift, and hope that it’s not a secret ploy for a wedding invitation.

Victoria: When in doubt, write a thank you note.

Thank Goodness We Don’t Have to Do That Anymore: Dueling Etiquette

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr fight their famous duel
(Alexander Hamilton is the hottest founding father, please discuss.)

Duels were a popular way of hashing out ones differences from the Middle Ages to the late 1800s. During that period, guns became much more accurate and thus you were more likely to actually DIE during a duel. Also, people started going to law school when they didn’t know what to do after graduation, leading to more lawyers who could resolve our differences in a courtroom rather than on a field of honor.

Dueling worked like this:

A gentleman insulted another gentleman and that second gentleman challenged the first to a duel. Each chose a “second,” a person to act as their representative and make sure the fight was fair. The seconds would actually do a lot of the work. They did all the negotiating and trying to calm everyone down, then when that failed, they loaded the guns, counted out the paces, and signaled to fire.

There were several ways to end a duel which had to be agreed on before beginning. It could end at first blood, when one party was too injured to continue, death, or after each man had fired one shot. They could even agree to purposefully miss- apparently in their famous duel, Alexander Hamilton  purposefully missed (or deloped) Aaron Burr. Either Aaron Burr didn’t get the memo or was a true cad because he (obviously) shot to kill. Though, some duelists felt that this practice  implied that you thought the other guy was not worth shooting and was thus even more of an insult.

Some fun dueling etiquette facts:

  • There were several published codes of dueling. The Code Duello in Ireland in 1877 and the Wilson Code by a South Carolina governor in 1838

  • Duels usually took place at dawn in some hidden location like an island in a river to help avoid arrest because you a) can’t be seen and b) the jurisdiction over strange locations is often hazy.

  • Only gentleman were allowed to duel, because you had to have a certain level of honor before it could be insulted. “Lower class” men had different ways of resolving their differences.

  • If a man refused a duel, he might be “posted” meaning a poster would be placed in a public place calling him a coward or some other foul thing until he was SO insulted that he would have to accept the duel.

  • The goal of a duel was not necessarily to kill but to gain satisfaction and show that you were brave enough to face death for your honor.

  • One statistic says that between 1700 and 1845, in England, dueling had a 15% death rate.

  • Back when duels were fought with swords, women would fight topless. The reason for this was so that if they were stabbed, the sword wouldn’t push any of their clothing into the wound, causing infection. Men had never thought of this and many wounded duelers died of sepsis.

How To Be A Decent Person At A Wedding

Just make sure you look like this [Via Perez Hilton]

Just make sure you look like this [Via Perez Hilton]

The big day is finally here! You’ve sent in your RSVP, you’ve selected and sent a gift, you know what to wear, and now it’s time to see your dear friend(s)/family/strange coworker tie the knot! But what happens at a wedding and how do you know what to do?

The Ceremony

  • Show up around 15-20 minutes before the time stated on the invitation. The time on the invitation is generally the time the bride intends to walk down the aisle and you do NOT want to be skittering into the ceremony behind the bride. If you do end up late, wait until the bride is all the way at the end of the aisle and then quietly take a seat in the back.

  • If you are staying at the “official” hotel with a provided shuttle, make sure you know when and where it is picking up so you are on time!

  • Traditionally friends and family of the bride sit on the left and friends and family of the groom sit on the right. If there are two brides or two grooms, these sides may be labeled. If you are close with both,  you sit where there are less people. However, almost no one is going to care if you forget, and many couples may explicitly state that you sit wherever you want.

  • Everyone seems to stand when the bride walks down the aisle, so go with the crowd. Either the officiant should tell everyone to sit, or people should just sit when they start talking, but this doesn’t always happen. There’s not much you can do about it, but I hope if you get stuck standing that the ceremony is pretty short!

  • Obviously turn your cellphone off.

  • Many couples are starting to request that people not take pictures during the ceremony. If they haven’t specifically asked you not to, you still can, but you might consider just enjoying the moment! These days many couples post their official pictures online for people to see later and they are going to be MUCH nicer than an Instagram shot of the bride with everyone’s head in the way. Plus, no couple wants to look out at their guests and see a sea of iPhones.

  • If the ceremony is religious or has unfamiliar elements, hopefully there will be an explanation of anything you might be asked to do or not do. Otherwise, just sit back and watch.

The Reception

  • After the ceremony, there might be a variety of things happening. There might be photos, everyone might head straight into the reception, you might have to go to another location for the reception, etc.

  • When you get to the reception there might be a receiving line (there probably won’t be a receiving line), in which case, you need to stand in line and wait your turn to congratulate the couple, and greet their parents before going into the reception.

  • When you get to the reception, there might be a cocktail hour, there might be a sit down dinner, there might be assigned seats, there might be assigned tables, just go with the crowd when figuring out what to do.

  • I think cash bars are extremely poor hosting (we will get to this later), but they do happen, so keep some emergency cash on you, just in case.

  • There might be a box for cards, so put it there if you brought one.

  • In the olden days, you were supposed to stay until the bride and groom left, but since couples are more likely to stay until the bitter end now, the cake cutting has become the signal of the end of “official” activities and you can properly leave any time after that.

  • There is some debate on whether or not you must say goodbye to the couple before you leave. I say, say goodbye if you can, but don’t worry too much if you can’t find them or they are deep in conversation or dancing.

  • Many etiquette sites will tell you not to get drunk at wedding. I’m not going to say that, but you should take into consideration if you are a good or bad drunk or are likely to get sick or cause problems.