The Royal We

RoyalWeI actually hate reading books reviews (except when the reviewer really hates the book) so this is not going to be one. It is merely a recommendation that you go read this book immediately.

The Royal We is the first novel written by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (better known as the Fug Girls after their website Go Fug Yourself). It is the lightly fictionalized and heavily dramatized account of the courtship and engagement of Kate Middleton and Prince William (except in this case, the girl is an American named Rebecca Porter and the Prince is Prince Nicholas and they meet at Oxford instead of St. Andrews.) It is SIGNIFICANTLY better than the Lifetime movie adaptation of the royal couple’s relationship William & Kate (which of course I watched the second it came out. I also got up at 5am or whatever to watch the Royal Wedding- in case you didn’t know, this is also secretly a Kate Middleton appreciation blog.) So if you like William/Kate, royalty, Oxford, romances, “chick lit” (ew), and generally enjoyable books, you will like this one. I stayed up past my bedtime three nights in a row reading it.

ALSO! It has a fun etiquette bit. So the main character Bex is enduring “princess lessons” of the kind Kate Middleton was allegedly subjected to:

And yet, even without its emotional stalwarts, Team Bex was bigger than ever. Marj drafted a phalanx of expert strangers who diagnosed me as a Neanderthal hunchback with Clydesdale tendencies, and began shepherding my way though Duchessing for Dummies, No longer could I clomp from point A to point B. I had to glide, each leg crossing slightly in front of the other, my food going heel-sole-toe at exactly the right smooth pace. I was taught to don and doff coats without them hitting the floor; to use only my left hand to hold drinks at official events so that my right would never be dam or clammy for handshakes; and accordingly, that I’d be better off never taking an hors d’oeuvre, lest I be forced to shovel it into my mouth. Before sitting, I learned to bump the chair ever so gently with my calves to be sure of where it was without glancing behind me. I must only cross my ankles, never my legs, and when getting up from that position, it is a decreet ballet of scooting to the edge of the chair and then standing quickly while uncrossing things. I am not uncoordinated, but that tripped me up six times the first day. In flats. Marj made my instructor sign a second confidentiality agreement on the spot, and then suggested some off-hours practicing. It’s a wonder it took me as long as it did to hire Cilla permanently, because her suggestion to bring Lady Bollocks into my Duchess for Dummies training was a masterstroke. There was a reason Bea was so successful in Thoroughbred competitions that rewarded obedience.

You can download the first seven chapters from the Go Fug Yourself site in case you don’t trust my judgement.

Who Writes the Wedding Thank You Notes?

I have yet to receive a wedding thank you note in the groom’s handwriting (to be extremely fair I have received very few wedding thank you notes to make a complete analysis), but Jaya assures me that her husband wrote exactly half of their thank you notes. So it got us wondering how other couples had broken up the thank you note duties. Was your division fair? Did you swap families (I think this is cute because it gives your families a good impression of your new spouse)? Vote in our poll and then give us details in the comments.




How To Comfort Someone

Snuggies can help

Snuggies can help

It is a truth universally acknowledged that shitty things happen to good people for no reason. We’ve already addressed how to comfort someone when they’re dealing with the death of a loved one, but unfortunately that’s far from the only bad thing that can happen to someone you care about. So how can you best comfort them in these times?

Firstly, make sure you keep the focus on them. Ask if they’re okay and ask what they need, whether it’s a shoulder to cry on or someone to make them dinner or to be left alone for a while. It’s really tempting to bring up your own personal thoughts or experiences like you would in other conversations, but you should save those for later, otherwise it comes off as trying to use their trauma to talk about yourself. You don’t want your friend to have to deal with your worries on top of theirs.

As things progress, you should be able to offer advice that comes from personal experience (if applicable), but avoid telling your friend what they should or should not do unless they need to step away from some clearly harmful behavior. Everyone reacts in their own way to traumatic situations. For instance, if your friend is going through a breakup, don’t tell them to get out and start dating immediately even if that worked well for you in the past. But if they ask how you’ve dealt with breakups, mention it, and continue supporting their decisions whether they match yours or not.

I’ve found “being there for someone” is actually incredibly difficult. I’m the type of person prone to wanting to fix things, and give solutions and advice. I mean, hello, you’re reading my etiquette advice right now. But not all people need their problems biggest solved immediately. Sometimes they’re only ready for smaller problems to be solved, or just to mourn a situation before they go about solving it. Pay attention to that, and offer your presence in smaller ways, whether it’s offering to see a movie or help them sell some furniture on Craigslist.

Importantly, avoid “I told you so” and all other iterations of this phrase. Even if you’ve been telling this friend for years that their boyfriend sucks/their roommate is crazy/they need to pay attention at work or they’ll get fired, reminding them of this will only make them feel worse. And if you’re the type of person for whom being right matters more than that, examine yourself. You may have been right all along, but sometimes people need to discover things in their own ways, otherwise they won’t learn the lessons well enough. Focus on helping your friends grow so they don’t make similar mistakes in the future, rather than pointing out all the things they already got wrong.

Traditional Anniversary Gifts

This is the only thing made of tin with which I am familiar.

This is the only thing made of tin with which I am familiar.

Have an anniversary coming up and don’t know what to get your partner? These are the traditional anniversary gifts for each milestone year:

1st: paper

5th: wood

10th: tin (is anything even made out of tin anymore?)

15th: crystal

20th: china

25: silver

50th: gold

75th: diamond

Now, Emily Post says that guests attending an anniversary party are supposed to bring the appropriate category of gift. However, I think celebrating anniversaries that are not your own is SUPER WEIRD and except for a 50th anniversary, they should not be public things. My grandparents had a MARVELOUS 50th anniversary party and as far as I know, no one brought gifts (my cousins and I had to wear color-coded teeshirts to make it clear which of my grandparent’s five kids we belonged to, which, at 12, was gift enough.)

Paddington Bear is the Politest Bear

Paddington Bear has his own statue at Paddington Station! [Via Wikimedia Commons

Before I picked up A Bear Called Paddington recently, all I could remember about Paddington Bear was that he wore a navy toggle coat and a red hat and came from Peru. I also, unfortunately, remember the time when my sister was in pre-school and I was a little bit older, she brought home some kind of class book that had a line drawing of Paddington in it and I took it upon myself to color him in. My mom was furious and marched me in to apologize to the teacher for defacing school property. Pretty good parenting, but a mortifying memory for me.

It turns out that the Paddington Bear books are extremely lovely stories about an ACTUAL bear who is adopted by the Brown family. For some reason, all this time, I assumed that Paddington was a stuffed, toy bear that could talk (because that makes much more logical sense?) Paddington loves marmelade and is always getting into scrapes. He is also extremely polite.

  • Right from beginning, Paddington shows his good manners when he is introducing himself to Mr. and Mrs. Brown: “The bear raised its hat politely—twice. ‘I haven’t really got a name,’ he said. ‘Only a Peruvian one which no one can understand.'”
  • Paddington demonstrates his respect towards his elders by always addressing adults by their title. Even though they’ve adopted him, he always calls his caretakers Mr. and Mrs. Brown: “Paddington licked his lips. ‘I’m very thirsty,’ he said. ‘Seawater makes you thirsty.’ He picked up his suitcase, pulled his hat down firmly over his head, and waved a paw politely in the direction of the buffet. ‘After you, Mr. Brown.'”
  • While he waits for Mr. Brown to bring them some food and tea, he spies a half eaten bun on the table but the waitress scoops it away befoe he has a chance to say anything: “‘You don’t want that, dearie,’ she said, giving him a friendly pat. ‘You don’t know where it’s been.’
    Paddington felt so empty he didn’t really mind where it had been, but he was much too polite to say anything.”
  • Sometimes, however, Paddington’s attempts to be polite and helpful go awry: “The taxi driver jumped at the sound of Paddington’s voice and narrowly missed hitting a bus. He looked down at his shoulder and glared. ‘Cream!’ he said bitterly. ‘All over me new coat!’ Judy giggled, and Mr. and Mrs. Brown exchanged glances. Mr. Brown peered at the meter. He half expected to see a sign go up saying they had to pay another fifty pence. ‘I beg your pardon,’ said Paddington. He bent forward and tried to rub the stain off with his other paw. Several bun crumbs and a smear of jam added themselves mysteriously to the taxi driver’s coat. The driver gave Paddington a long, hard look. Paddington raised his hat, and the driver slammed the window shut again.”
  • While Paddington is very polite, sometimes he has a hard time actually showing correct etiquette. He IS a bear afterall, and things like eating breakfast in bed can be quite tricky even for well-mannered people: ‘Now, I wonder what she means by that?’ said Paddington. But he didn’t worry about it for very long. There was far too much to do. It was the first time he had ever had breakfast in bed, and he soon found it wasn’t quite so easy as it looked. First of all he had trouble with the grapefruit. Every time he pressed it with his spoon a long stream of juice shot up and hit him in the eye, which was very painful. And all the time he was worried because the bacon and eggs were getting cold. Then there was the question of the marmalade. He wanted to leave room for the marmalade.”
  • He even has quite a disaster on a trip to the theater. His family is helping him take off his coat and get him settled in his seat, but: “‘Mind my marmalade sandwich!’ cried Paddington as [Judy] placed it on the ledge in front of him. But it was too late. He looked round guiltily. ‘Crikey!’ said Jonathan. ‘It’s fallen on someone’s head!’ He looked over the edge of the box. ‘It’s that man with the bald head. He looks jolly cross.’
    ‘Oh, Paddington!’ Mrs. Brown looked despairingly at him. ‘Do you have to bring marmalade sandwiches to the theater?’

Paddington Bear is so charming and funny that it is pretty appealing even to adults that I read the first book the whole way through. It’s always nice to see, too, when a beloved children’s character is also an example of good etiquette.