Should We Do Away With Gendered Salutations?

Mr-PlowRecently, CUNY Graduate schools sent out a memo that asks staff to avoid using salutations like “Mr.” and “Mrs.,” and instead asks that staff call students by their full first and last names. We talked about it!

Jaya: I am tentatively for this, at least personally. I have no real use for honorifics in my life, and I think we’ve established before they they were sort of a random thing non-noble people came up with in the name of equality? By all means if you’re a doctor or a knight, use one, but all “Ms.” does for me is tell people I’m a woman, which you can usually get by my name/seeing me. I mean, I have a STRONG preference for being called “Ms.” over “Mrs.” (do not call me “Mrs.”), but if I woke up one day and we didn’t use any of them, I wouldn’t miss them.

Victoria: This does not bother me one bit. I kind of like it from a practical standpoint for official correspondence- if everyone is just first name last name, you don’t have to have a human being sitting there being like, okay, this is a male name so it’s Mr. and this is a female name so it’s Ms. Or wondering whether someone is married or what they prefer.

Jaya: That’s true. I guess the one issue is, as some have brought up, that lots of people have valid reasons for why they’d want to use them. In some cultures it’s really disrespectful not to use them. This might just cause more problems than it purports to solve.

Victoria: Someone brought up in the comments of Jezebel that probably when you enroll there is a box or dropdown to choose your honorific so maybe it doesn’t actually save any human time anyway.

Jaya: It says they’re doing this for gender inclusivity, and the Empire State Pride Agenda praised it, saying those titles are an “outdated formality” that risks misrepresentation. So I’m inclined to go with that, especially since I’m not particularly attached to gendered titles anyway. If they’re saying it’s oppressive, it’s my job to listen. I guess I Just have a little bit of a hard time seeing how it’ll help that much. If you’re being misgendered, the person who’s doing it is just as likely to do it by calling you “Mr.” as by calling you “John.”

Victoria: Right, it’s minor, but I think it’s great as a general thing, maybe not even about gender. It’s good in terms of women not having to declare their marital status.

Jaya: What do you think of people who see not using those titles as sign of disrespect? One commenter mentioned that civil rights activists made a huge point of using those titles, because people wouldn’t give them that respect often.

Victoria: Yeah, but that was a time when everything was more formal and it was a serious dig to not be called by a title. Like literally you would call your boss Mr Lastname, which doesn’t happen now as much. Also there are countries that already don’t use honorifics.  In Iceland apparently it is correct to address the prime minister by her first name. By HER first name. No titles= female prime ministers. Definitely correlation = causation, right?

Jaya: Absolutely.

Victoria: But I definitely do see the point where it must be difficult for someone who does not identify as either male or female to explain that to someone who wants to know if they are Mr. or Mrs.

Jaya: Yes, first names are much easier then. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that you shouldn’t need to know someone’s gender unless they want you to know.

Victoria: I can’t even remember the last time someone insisted on calling me Ms. All my professors called me “Victoria.” Like, by the time you are in college, you are an adult and should be treated as one. And adults generally call each other by their first names.

Jaya: Plus, I’d like to think if a student sent an email saying it made them really uncomfortable to be called by their first name, there could be an exception?

Victoria: Oh yeah, for sure.

Jaya: Mainly, I wish more places would just adopt a policy of “ask someone what they want to be called, then call them that.”

Victoria: I think we’re already getting there, hopefully. Most of my mail comes to “Victoria Pratt.” If “Ms.” disappeared I doubt I’d notice. Aside from this particular school- I think it would be great if we could drop titles for formal events without people being offended. It would make addressing, say, wedding invitations a lot easier if you didn’t have to remember what EVERY SINGLE PERSON preferred.

Jaya: God that was such a nightmare. Though, that “without people being offended” is a biiiiiig hurdle.

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Literary Etiquette: Scarlett

Scarlett

You can see how many times I have read my copy, that I probably bought for 50 cents at Goodwill. Also, I went through two packages of post-it flags marking all the etiquette bits!

You might argue that Gone With The Wind is a very problematic book, and you would be right, but the character of Scarlett O’Hara has captured a lot of people’s imaginations, including Alexandra Ripley who wrote the completely unauthorized sequel, Scarlett, in 1991.

A short synopsis- we start out immediately after the ending of Gone With the Wind- Melanie is dead (spoilers for a 90 year old book!), Rhett frankly doesn’t give a damn about Scarlett and has left her. As Gone With the Wind was all about Scarlett’s scheming to win Ashley, Scarlett is all about her scheming to win Rhett back. In doing so, she estranges herself from everyone in Atlanta by not following the proper etiquette. She follows Rhett to Charleston, where, for the first time in her life she tries to settle down to be a “great lady” like her mother. After a quick side trip to Savannah, she gives up on Rhett and goes to Ireland to visit her peasant cousins and discovers that not everyone has to follow the stiff etiquette of Victorian America and that maybe she is happier and stronger being who she is. As a pretty fancy lady, Scarlett eventually gets bored of hanging out in the backwaters and descends on the high society of the Anglo-Irish gentry and manages to very nearly become a countess. Rhett rescues her in the end from some revolting tenants and they realize that neither of them want to follow any rules and they go off to be adventurers together.  It’s very fun, and Alexandra Ripley seems quite familiar with Charleston and it’s customs (which makes sense as she was from there) and does great portraits of Savannah and Ireland of the 1870s/1880s as well (btw, don’t see the movie, it’s horrible.) What is also great about Scarlett is that Ripley throws a whole TON of etiquette rules and situations in and the fact that I’ve read it…oh a dozen times, probably has contributed greatly to a lot of my etiquette knowledge.

The book is really poorly written, I will grant everyone that. I hadn’t really noticed before I was reading it with a close eye to the details, but it is trashy and delightful. However, I was reading it specifically for the etiquette bits and as I was doing so, I realized that you can map Scarlett’s character development almost entirely by how the book talks about etiquette and how she relates to it over the passage of the novel.

In the first half of the book, Scarlett does a grand tour of the high society of Atlanta, Charleston, and Savannah and comments frequently about all the etiquette rules she has to follow to be accepted as a “lady”:

  • “Oh if only a lady didn’t have to have a companion ever single time she put her foot outside her own house.”
  • “It was more than six months ago now that Bonnie had died. Scarlett could leave off the unrelieved dull black of deep mourning. She could accept social invitations, invite people to her house. She could reenter the world.”
  • “Scarlett wished– not for the first time– that taking a drink was not a pleasure from which ladies were automatically excluded.”
  • “Society needs rules, Scarlett, to hold itself together. What you did broke all the rules. You made a scene in public. You laid hands on a man who wasn’t your husband. In public. You raised a ruckus that interrupted a burial, a ceremony that everybody knows the rules to. You broke up the last rites of a saint.”
  • “A lady’s name could be in the news three times only: at her birth, her marriage, and her death. And there must never be any details.”
  • “Scarlett paused, ready to smile and say hello. The two Elsing ladies stopped dead when they saw her, then, without a word or a second look, turned and walked away…She sent Elias inside with the clerks’ pay envelopes. If she got out, she might see someone else she knew, someone who would cut her dead. It was unbearable even to think of it.”
  • “Now that she was done with deep mourning, it was time to let her friends know that she could be invited to their parties, and the best way to do it was to invite them to a party of her own.”
  • “‘Ordinary mourning’ wasn’t awful like deep mourning, there was plenty of leeway in it if you had magnolia-white skin to show in a low-cut black gown.”
  • “…a man in mourning doesn’t have to give up going out the way a woman does. He can put an armband on his best suit and start courting his next love before his wife’s hardly cold in her grave.”
  • “Even in the spartan conditions of post-War life, society was a quicksand of unstated rules of behavior, a Byzantine labyrinth of overelaborate refinements lying in wait to trap the unwary and uninitiated.”
  • “‘You needn’t call on all these people who left cards, dear,’ she said, ‘It’s enough to leave you own cards with the corner turned down. That acknowledges the call made on you and your willingness to be acquainted and says that you aren’t actually coming in the house to see the person.'”
  • “In fact, most of the cards were ‘old and knocked around.’ No one could afford new ones– almost no one. And those who couldn’t wouldn’t embarrass those who couldn’t by having new ones made. It was accepted custom now to leave all cards received on a tray in the entrance hall for discreet retrieval by their owners.”
  • “…she was out and about by ten o’clock…carrying her card case and her personal supply of sugar, an expected accompaniment in rationing times.”
  • “Scarlett turned automatically toward whatever voice was speaking, an interested expression on her face. When she heard laughter, she laughed. But she thought about other things…She looked at the clock behind Sally’s head. She couldn’t leave for at least eight more minutes. And Sally had seen her looking. She’d have to pay attention. The eight minutes seemed like eight more hours.”
  • “Scarlett’s first ball in Charleston was full of surprises. Almost nothing was the way she expected it to be. First she was told that she’d have to wear her boots, not her dancing slippers. They were going to walk to the ball…”
  • “Charleston had developed formalities and rituals in the long years of its history that were unknown in the vigorous semi-frontier world of North Georgia. When the fall of the Confederacy cut off the lavish wealth that had allowed the formality to develop, the rituals survived, the only thing that remained of the past, cherished and unchangeable for that reason.”
  • “There was a receiving line inside the door of the ballroom at the top of the Wentworth house. Everyone had to line up on the stairs, waiting to enter the room one by one and then shake hands and murmur something to Minnie Wentworth, then to her husband, their son, their son’s wife, their daughter’s husband, their married daughter, their unmarried daughter…In Georgia, [Scarlett] thought impatiently, the people giving the party come forward to meet their guests.”
  • “Dance cards? They must be dance cards. Scarlett had heard Mammy talk about balls in Savannah when Ellen O’Hara was a girl, but she’d never quite believed that parties were so peaceful that a girl looked in a book to see who she was supposed to dance with. Why, the Tarleton twins and the Fontaine boys would have split their britches laughing if anyone told them they had to write their names on a tiny piece of paper with a little pencil so dinky that it would break in a real man’s fingers!”
  • “He bowed over the hand Julia Ashley held out to him; the back of his ungloved hand supported it respectfully, and his lips stopped the prescribed inch above it, for no gentleman would commit the impertinence of actually kissing the hand of a maiden lady, no matter how advanced her years.”
  • “Scarlett covered her mouth with her hand. She’d gone too far. She’d broken three of the unwritten, inviolate rules of the Southern code of behavior: she’d said the word “money,” she’d reminded her dependants of the charity she’d given, and she’d kicked a downed foe. Her eyes when she looked at her weeping aunts were stricken with shame.”
  • “Go ahead and have an affair with Middleton Courtney if you want to, but for God’s sake be discreet. What you’re doing is in appallingly poor taste…This is an old city with an old civilization. An essential part of being civilized is consideration for the sensibilities of others. You can do anything you like, provided you do it discreetly. The unpardonable sin is to force you peccadilloes down the throats of your friends. You must make it possible for others to pretend they don’t know what you’re doing.”
  • “Charlestonians had a particularly vicious and cunning game, developed after the War. They treated outsiders with so much graciousness and consideration that their politeness became a weapon.”
  • “P.P.C’ they hand-lettered in the lower left corner. ‘Pour prendre conge’ — to take leave.’ The custom had never been observed in Atlanta, but in the older cities of coastal Georgia and South Carolina, it was a required ritual. Scarlett thought it a great waste of time to inform people you were leaving. Especially when, only a handful of days earlier, he aunts had worn themselves out leaving cards at the same houses to inform the same people that they had arrived.”
  • “I can’t! Scarlett thought frantically. I can’t shake all those dead cold hands and smile and say I’m happy to be here. I’ve got to get away…’You are not permitted to feel ill,’ [Grandfather] said, ‘Stand straight, and do what is expected of you. You may leave after the ceremony of dedication, not before.'”
  • “She was eating on the street! No lady would do that, even if she was dying from starvation. Take that, Grandfather! she thought, delighted by her own wickedness.”

When Scarlett goes to Savannah, she discovers that she had many O’Hara cousins living there. They provide a huge contrast to the stuff society world that she has been rebelling against. They have loud, fun parties that go late into the night, where the men and women mix, and everyone is allowed to drink.

“Ellen Robillard also instilled in her daughter the rules and tenets of aristocracy. Now her instincts and and her training were at war. The O’Haras drew her like a lodestone. Their earthy vigor and lusty happiness spoke to the deepest and best part of her nature. But she wasn’t free to respond. Everything she’d been taught by the mother she revered forbade her that freedom. She was so torn by the dilemma, and she couldn’t understand what was making her so miserable.”

Scarlett finds out that she is pregnant by Rhett and is extremely happy because that means that they will be able to be happy together again. However:

“When Rhett came for her, she would have to go back to Charleston. Why not put it off for longer? She hated Charleston…

I don’t want to wear colorless dresses and say ‘yes ma’am’ to old biddies whose grandfather on their mother’s side was some famous Charlestonian hero or something. I don’t want to spend every single Sunday morning listening to my aunt’s picking at each other. I don’t want to have to think that the Saint Cecilia Ball is the be-all and end-all of life…

Why shouldn’t she visit the rest of her O’Hara kin? It was only two weeks and a day on a great sailing ship to that other Tara. And she’d be Irish and happy for a while yet before she settled down to Charleston’s rules.”

So she goes to Ireland and has a grand time hanging out with all the peasants she is related to. She finally gets to stop wearing corsets and loves the free and happy family relationship she discovers.

“I’m never going to be squeezed into a corset again, never. I’m Scarlett O’Hara, an Irish lass with a free-swinging skirt and a secret red petticoat. Free, Colum! I’m going to make a world for myself by my rules, not anybody else’s. Don’t worry about me. I’m going to learn to be happy.”

She does so well with her Irish family that they bestow a great honor on her:

“They’re calling you The O’Hara, head of the family O’Hara…

‘I don’t understand. What do I have to do?’

“You’ve already done it. You’re respected and admired, trusted and honored. The title’s awarded, not inherited. You have only to be what you are. You are The O’Hara.”

This is the first time in Scarlett’s life that she has been admired for being just who she is, not what someone else wants her to be:

“They were all wrong! The idea was so explosive that it woke Scarlett from a sound sleep. They were wrong! All of them– the people who cut me dead in Atlanta, Aunt Eulalie and Aunt Pauline, and just about everybody in Charleston. They wanted me to be just like them, and because I’m not, they disapproved of me, made me feel like there was something terribly wrong with me, made me think I was a bad person, that I deserved to be looked down on.

And there was nothing I did that was as terrible as all that. What they punished me for was that I wasn’t minding their rules. I worked harder than any field hand– at making money, and caring about money isn’t ladylike. Never mind that I was keeping Tara going and holding the aunts’ heads above water and supporting Ashley and his family and paying for almost every piece of food on the table at Aunt Pitty’s plus keeping the roof fixed and the coal bin filled.

They were wrong. Here in Ballyhara I worked as hard as I could, and I was admired for it. I kept Uncle Daniel from losing his farm, and they started calling me The O’Hara.

That’s why being The O’Hara makes me feel so strange and so happy all at the same time. It’s because The O’Hara is honored for all the things that I’ve been thinking were bad all these years.

I’m The O’Hara, and I’d never be called that if I was as bad as they make me out to be in Atlanta. I’m not bad at all. I’m not a saint , either, God knows. But I’m willing to be different, I’m willing to be who I am, not pretend to be what I am not.”

Of course, Scarlett O’Hara is not going to live out the rest of her life in a mud hut, so she buys the massive Big House on the historic land of the O’Hara’s, Ballyhara and decides to join Irish high society, on her terms. And we get a whole bunch more fun etiquette:

  • “It wouldn’t do for any informality to develop, she said firmly, and she explained the strict hierarchy of an Irish Big House. Her position as housekeeper would be undermined if the respect accorded to it was diminished by familiarity on anyone’s part, even the mistress’s. Perhaps especially the mistress’s.”
  • “To add to Scarlett’s confusion, Felicity and Marjorie were ladies. Not simply ‘ladies’ as opposed to ‘women.’ They were Lady Felicity and Lady Marjorie and their “dim papa” was an earl. Francis Sturbridge, their disapproving chaperone, was also a ‘Lady,’ they explained, but she was Lady Sturbridge, not Lady Francis, because she wasn’t born a ‘Lady’ and she’d married a man who was ‘only a baronet’.”
  • “She was wearing the most conservative riding clothes fashion allowed. Unrelieved black wool with a high neck…Scarlett was rebellious in only one matter: she would not wear a corset under her habit. The sidesaddle was torture enough.”
  • “Almost as bad was the news that ladies dressed for breakfast, changed for lunch, changed for afternoon, changed for dinner, never wore the same thing twice.”
  • “Besides, I know the important part. A duke is more important than a marquess, then comes an earl, and after that viscount, baron, and baronette.”
  • “When Charlotte could speak, she explained.  At the more sophisticated houses the ladies’ bedrooms were supplied with a plate of sandwiches that could be used to signal admirers. Set on the floor of the corridor outside a lady’s room, the sandwiches were an invitation for a man to come in.”

Scarlett does so well she is even presented to the Viceroy, the Queen’s ruler in Ireland:

“Madame, The O’Hara, of Ballyhara.’

Oh, Lord, that’s me. She repeated Charlotte Montegue’s coaching litany to herself. Walk forward, stop outside the door. A footman will lift the train you have looped over your left arm and arrange it behind you. The Gentleman User will open the doors. Wait for him to announce you.

‘Madame, The O’Hara, of Ballyhara.’

Scarlett looked at the Throne Room. Well, Pa, what do you think of your Katie Scarlett now? she thought. I’m going to stroll along that fifty miles or so of red carpet runner and kiss the Viceroy of Ireland, cousin of the Queen of England. She glanced at the majestically dressed Gentleman Usher, and her right eyelid quivered in what might almost have been a conspiratorial wink.

The O’Hara walked like an empress to face the Viceroy’s red-bearded  magnificence and present her cheek for the ceremonial kiss of welcome.

Turn to the Vicereine now and curtsey. Back straight. Not too low. Stand up. Now back, back, back, three steps, don’t worry the weight of the train will hold it away from your body. Now extend your left arm. Wait. Let the footman have plenty of time to arrange the train over your arm. Now turn. Walk out.”

Scarlett does so magnificently among the Irish aristocracy that she attracts the attention of the Earl of Fenton, her next door neighbor. He becomes very interested in her as a wife when he meets her daughter, Cat, who is a marvellous child (not knowing that having a c-section to give birth to Cat has made Scarlett unable to have any more children.) Scarlett is happy to go along with it and become a Countess regardless because the Earl is a terrible person. However there is a big battle between the English soldiers in Ireland and the Irish rebels and some other stuff. Then it turns out that the woman Rhett married while Scarlett was off in Ireland has died, and he loved her all this time, and they hide in a tower from an angry mob, and they finally realize how much they love each other but don’t want to have to live with society’s rules:

“You belong with me, Scarlett, haven’t you figured that out? And the world is where we belong, all of it. We’re not home-and-hearth people. We’re the adventurers, the buccaneers, the blockade runner. Without challenge, we’re only half alive. We can go anywhere, and as long as we’re together, it will belong to us. But, my pet, we’ll never belong to it. That’s for other people, not for us.”

And they go off into the sunrise to, presumably, live happily ever after.

So that was really long (it is a 900 page book, afterall), but is one of the finest examples of literary etiquette I know about. And I highly encourage you not to bother reading it unless you really like the genre.

Gifts for Second Weddings

FYI I'm getting bored of wedding pictures so have this tattooed Pict lady instead

FYI I’m getting bored of wedding pictures so have this tattooed Pict lady instead

Greetings!

I have a question regarding wedding gift etiquette. This spring, I will be attending the second wedding of a friend. I was in the first wedding, enjoying her bachelorette party and gifting her at her shower and at the actual wedding.
What is your opinion on an appropriate wedding gift for a second wedding? They are not doing a registry and only have a honeymoon fund. Should my gift for this wedding be equal to that of the first? 
Hoping the ladies of Uncommon Courtesy can advise on the appropriate etiquette here.
Sincerely,
Second Time at the Rodeo

Official Etiquette
Peggy Post says that guests who gave gifts for a first marriage have no obligation to give another gift.

Our Take

Victoria: Okay, so I looked it up, and all the official etiquette people say that you don’t have to give a gift for a second wedding if you gave one for the first.

Jaya: This seems so strange to me. First off, it may be the first wedding for one of the couple.

Victoria: Yeah, and theoretically, they would still get presents from all the 1st wedding person’s friends and family, plus all the new friends. Just not the ones who went to the first wedding. I mean, this does seem to be a holdover from the days when a second wedding was supposed to be very, very small. (Second wedding of the bride anyway! A whole other big problematic issue.)

Jaya: Yeah! It’s working under the assumption that a second wedding is a thing to be kept quiet, and that you still need to be punished for getting divorced. (I assume you’re not chastised for marrying again if you were widowed?)

Victoria: I mean, I don’t think its to be kept “quiet” it’s just that its “unseemly” to have a big to do when all your friends and family have already done that with you. I have never read it as “punishment.” Usually just as, you are generally a bit older and to a degree, the whole poofy white princess thing looks a bit ridiculous.

Jaya: I always sorta read “unseemly” as the flip side to punishment. Like, just saying it’s a bad thing for you to be doing this.

Victoria: Ahh thats so interesting that we have two totally different reads on it! That would never have occurred to me.

Jaya: Maybe not quite punishment, but that you should feel bad if you want anything more than something really small. That it’s still shameful.

Victoria: I mean, I guess I always felt in the olden days, the second wedding was more likely to be of someone who was widowed, not divorced, so the shame doesn’t really come in. It’s more that those huge type of weddings are expensive, and previously your parents were always the host of your wedding, but you’ve been living as an adult for quite a long time and wouldn’t expect your parents to host it again. And not to mention the idea of gifts being to set up the household of a young couple, and a second marriage usually doesn’t need that set up.

Jaya: But yeah, that has completely shifted now, in that probably a lot more second marriages resulting from divorces and also that you can throw a big wedding for yourself. Like it’s just working on a lot of outdated information.

Victoria: Yeah, no I know, I’m just saying this is the root where all the “second wedding” etiquette comes from, for everyone’s edification.

Jaya: Haha totally. Okay, so the letter says nothing about divorce or widowing or even the size of this wedding.

Victoria: True. So for ME, I am not particularly one to give extravagant wedding presents anyway, so I would probably just do what was in the budget and that would be that. But like, if you usually gave like $500 for a wedding present, I would say you would be well within the bounds of reasonableness to give a more token gift the second time.

Jaya: I can’t tell where I stand on this. Like, say it’s a divorce. There’s no guarantee my friend has the $500 thing I gave them the first time around anyway. If they’re just doing a honeymoon fund, chances are they’re pretty casual about the whole affair and don’t need a ton of gifts. But I’d also hate my friend to start their marriage thinking I somehow wasn’t as enthusiastic about it this time around.

Victoria: Lol well I kind of think it’s on the couple to not assume that the size of the gift pertains to the enthusiasm about their marriage. You know? Like, it’s not about that. And it sounds like she was in the wedding last time, did the whole bachelorette AND shower and the whole thing. That is a TON of money that you’ve given to your friend already

Jaya: Oh totally, I guess it depends on who the “toning down” is coming from. I feel like if I ever had a second marriage I’d be like, fuck it, let’s elope. But I would hate to ever be in that position wanting a large, fun wedding and having everyone around me telling me it’s bad form. Or everyone to be like “well we would have gotten you something, but we already did the first time…”

Victoria: I guess I just kind of think it’s a bit outrageous to expect that kind of generosity from your friends twice (or three times? or four times?). You know? Like, it’s very unkind. I mean, I am on board with hosting whatever kind of party you want.

Jaya: It probably depends on who you are. if you’re the type of person to use a wedding, or any event, to milk gifts out of your friends then I probably don’t wanna give you that much anyway. But hey, if you’ve had a rough time and are entering a second marriage and want a big, fun party, even if you’ve already had a big, fun party, then yeah I wanna get you something.

Victoria: Yeah, totally! And I actually really think you should at least get something to mark the occasion.

Jaya: I don’t know, I see a lot of people feeling ashamed to celebrate a second marriage at all. And I just wouldn’t want to add to that feeling.

Victoria: :(, I guess I have never really gotten that impression from (okay the limited number of) people I know who got remarried. I mean, I guess it ties into my feelings about extravagant wedding gifts anyway just being sort of unnecessary and getting a bit out of hand.

Jaya: Absolutely, and ongoing wedding extravagance is a whole issue in and of itself. Okay but anyway back to the present, I totally think she can get something equal to whatever she got her friend the first time, if she wants, or donate that much to the honeymoon fund.

Victoria: I mean, I think she can do whatever she feels is best, basically. Like she is within bounds of etiquette to do little or nothing, but it’s also perfectly fine to do as much as she wants. And it is probably nicer to do something rather than nothing. And if they have a honeymoon fund, I would definitely go with that rather than trying to pick out a physical gift since by not registering they are hinting that they would prefer not to get physical gifts.

Email Greetings

Unlike paper mail, emails don’t need a salutation each time.

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

At what point in an e-mail exchange can you start omitting the greeting/salutation?

Sincerely,

Tired of Endless Salutations

Official Etiquette:

The Emily Post Institute says you only need to use a salutation in the first reply.

Our Take:

Victoria: Ooooh, this question came from Twitter.

Jaya: Ooooh, I think it depends on who you’re contacting and their tone.

Victoria: Haha yeah. I mean in my formal business emails I almost never drop it but with friends I drop it pretty much right away. Like, sometimes the initial email will have it but then it isn’t used after that

Jaya: If someone else drops it I will too. But also if they seem pretty friendly I will. That’s been happening recently with research for the cookbook. [Ed: Jaya is writing a book about historical recipies!]

Victoria: Oh yeah! That kind of cold emailing for sources must be really interesting.

Jaya: Like if after one exchange they use a lot of exclamation points and are enthusiastic, I’ll get more casual.

Victoria; Definitely. And i’ve noticed that busier people definitely drop it faster- also they are usually the more “important” person in the conversation.

Jaya: It’s funny, I think we have this idea of older people being very finicky about “professionalism” in email.

Victoria: Haha I think older people are a lot more likely to be short!

Jaya: Yeah!! And to format it weird!

Victoria: Haha yeah.

Jaya: But yeah email is weird; I tend to just take the tone of whoever I’m emailing with.

Victoria: Yeah, exactly. Although, if you were emailing with someone super important, like say, the President, I would recommend keeping the more formal tone even if the other person drops it

Jaya: Oh definitely.

Victoria: Or if in business, they are the client.

 

How To Help Shop For A Wedding Dress

say-yes-to-the-dressWhen I asked my mom and stepsister to go wedding dress shopping with me I specified that they should absolutely be honest with their opinions, but refrain from calling me ugly or anything of that nature. They looked at me like I had two heads, because obviously, normal people do not need to be told not to call someone ugly. However, I had been spending most of my Sunday mornings watching Say Yes To The Dress (I still do), so I was under the impression that “normal people” morph into heinous bat creatures upon entering a wedding dress store.

There is something about shopping for that dress that brings out weird things in people. It’s held up as this “moment” that should be savored and remembered, the pressure of which automatically sets everyone on edge, and the stakes are somehow seen as higher. This isn’t just a flattering dress, it’s THE dress, which will be immortalized on film and passed down through generations so why on EARTH would you want to buy that one when it makes your hips look so huge? (Thankfully, a lot of people are realizing that no, you do not have to spend $5k on a dress if you don’t want to, and it doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t even have to be from a bridal store. You can just wear something that makes you feel pretty and happy and that’s it.)

There’s also a lot of pressure because if someone chooses you to help them pick out their outfit, they’re saying they trust you, they want you to like it, and they want your honest opinion. But too often people mistake “honest” for “mean,” so here are a few tips on how to make sure you don’t end up on SYTTD’s “10 Worst Bridal Entourages” reel.

1. Talk About It Before: Talk to your friend/daughter/sister/whoever about their tastes before you go shopping, just so you don’t spend the entire time pulling stuff they hate. Ask them how they see themselves, what they want to highlight or hide, or just how they want to feel in it. That way, while shopping you can ask them these questions in return to help them see how they feel.

2. Forget About Your Own Tastes:  It should not have to be said that you are not the one wearing this outfit but, you know, YOU ARE NOT THE ONE WEARING THIS OUTFIT. Thus, it does not matter if you would not personally choose to purchase it, or if you hate lace, or you think tea-length dresses are “tacky.” If the dress is five sizes too small then yes, that’s an issue, but it not being something that would match your closet is not. This also goes for general expectations. While wedding planning, I always heard the argument that parents had been dreaming of their children’s weddings longer than their children had. Which, yes, I guess my mother had the capacity to think about my wedding before I did, but that doesn’t mean her opinions trump mine. It doesn’t matter if you’ve always envisioned your daughter/niece/cousin in a satin ballgown if that’s not how they envision themselves.

3. Give Your Opinion…Nicely: My grandpa had this saying: “Eat what you want to eat, but wear what other people want you to wear.” I don’t entirely believe that’s true, but I do believe in getting a second opinion. That’s why you’re there in the first place, right? So what if you think there is a problem with the outfit that the bride just doesn’t see? Try to go about it in the nicest way possible. A good strategy is to ask some questions and let them decide.Your first question should always be “What do you think?” instead of throwing all your opinions out there. Then, based on their answer, you can help them figure out if they’ll be happy or not. Are they comfortable in a corset? Do they think they’ll spend all night pulling up a strapless dress? Will those sleeves and satin make them hot? While shopping, I tried on one dress that was beautiful, but my mom mentioned that it probably wouldn’t match with the jewelry I was planning on wearing, which was something I honestly hadn’t considered!

Also, take a moment to figure out if your judgments are about the bride or about the dress. If you think the bride looks bad in everything because she’s not a size 2, that’s on you, not them.

4. Take The Bride’s Lead: Presumably, this is someone you know well, so you know what they look like when they’re excited, confused, upset, etc. Pay attention to that. If they look uncomfortable, tell them they look uncomfortable. If they look puzzled, ask them what they’re thinking about. And if they look overjoyed and say this is the prettiest and happiest they’ve ever felt, for god’s sake, tell them they look beautiful.

5. A GIFT IS A GIFT, OMG: You may be in a situation where you’ve offered to pay for all or part of the dress as a gift to the bride. All too often, on TV shows and in real life, I’ve heard of people using this as a threat, saying they have ultimate power over choosing the dress and that they won’t pay for something they don’t love. I’ve never understood this, especially here. Do you want your loved one spending the entire wedding hating how they look but grin and bearing it because they wanted to make you happy? Because that certainly wouldn’t make me happy.