The Ultimate Guide to Bedding Part 1

The ultimate bed [Via Wikimedia Commons]

The ultimate bed [Via Wikimedia Commons]

This isn’t technically etiquette but it is etiquette adjacent, because hosting is a big thing in etiquette, and a gracious thing to do as a host is provide a nice bed. And if you are a guest, you are going to want to know what all the parts of a bed are so that you don’t accidentally mess it up.

First the components of a bed:

The frame: all beds should have some kind of a frame. Mattresses on the floor are for frat boys. This frame might simply hold the mattress and box spring or it might be connected to a headboard and foot board.

The box spring: this is sort of optional these days as there are many kinds of beds that don’t need them. But if your bed has a basic metal frame at the bottom, the box spring raises the height of the bed, provides a solid platform for the mattress to rest on (hence why a platform bed might not need one), and by preventing contact with the frame, also prevents wear and tear on the mattress.

The bedskirt: Goes between the box spring and the mattress and hangs down to cover the boxspring and frame. It’s entirely decorative but can really help pull the bed together.

The mattress: is pretty self explanatory- its the soft thing you sleep on. It can be made out of springs, memory foam, water, and other things.

Topper: this is an optional addition to make your mattress EXTRA comfy. It can be memory foam, egg-carton foam, or feathers. Basically, its a thin, extra mattress made out of a luxurious material.

Mattress pad: This is something that you put on top of your mattress to protect it from stains. Some will have a topper built into them, like an extra thick pad. Some are just some batting in cheap fabric.

Sheets: Traditionally, a sheet set includes a fitted sheet (with elasticized corners that no one can fold- it took me a year and many youtube videos to figure it out!), a flat sheet, and pillow cases. You can also use an additional flat sheet in place of the fitted sheet, you just have to make hospital corners on each corner to keep it in place.

Sheets can come in a number of different fabrics: cotton, flannel, polyblends, linen, satin, and silk. Generally, you will want to choose natural fibers- 100% cotton, linen, or silk. For cotton, Egyptian cotton makes the softest sheets because it has longer fibers than other cottons. Linen (which is made from the flax plant) is great for warm climates and flannel is great for when it’s cold. If you can’t afford silk sheets (so, um, everyone?), you might be able to spring for just the pillow cases- they are great for your hair and skin (full disclosure, I have a set). Thread count is important, but anything above 300-400 doesn’t matter much because they are just using thinner thread.

Blankets: Blankets are often pretty scratchy, so they are generally used over a flat sheet, for extra warmth in the winter. It does seem like blankets are falling out of favor these days, with a preference for heavier comforters and duvets. In very cold climates, you can use an electric blanket which have heating coils to keep you nice and toasty.

Duvets: A duvet is a down (feathers) or fiber filled blanket. It is plain white and made out of a cheaper material because it is meant to go inside a duvet cover. They are sometimes also called comforters.

Duvet cover: A duvet cover is two sheet-like materials sewn together on three sides and left open on the bottom. You shove your duvet up inside it and use it to cover your bed for both warmth and decoration. The duvet cover is often a pretty pattern that you can use to match to the rest of your bedroom. The advantage of using a duvet cover is that it can be washed easily without harming the expensive duvet inside. It is so easily done, that many people (especially in Europe) forgo a top sheet on their beds all together and use just a duvet to cover themselves (*shudder*).

Comforter: A comforter is very similar to a duvet+cover except that the warm part is directly sewn into the decorative part. Comforters can be very elaborate and are not easily washed, so you will always want to use a sheet with them.

Bedspread/Quilt/Coverlet: This is a heavy fabric that you put over your sheets and blankets to be mostly decorative (though its great in the summer if you find a comforter or blankets to be too hot). It’s a little old fashioned and you don’t see them much.

Pillows: You rest your head on them to sleep. They come in many types: memory foam, fiberfill, down, bran (idk, its a thing), and many others. They generally have utilitarian covers, so you want to put them inside a pillowcase both for comfort and to protect the pillow from your hair and face grease, sweat, and drool. When putting the pillows on the bed, the open side of the pillowcases should be on the outside edge of the bed.

Shams: Shams are very fancy, decorated pillow cases (usually matching or complimenting your duvet cover, comforter, or bedspread). There are two ways to use shams. Either the shams have their own pillows inside them (I use cheap or old gross pillows) and go on top of your sleeping pillows. The other method is to stuff your sleeping pillows inside the shams every morning and put them on the bed like that. You do not sleep on shams! When going to bed at night, either put the shams-with-pillows behind your sleeping pillows up against the wall or headboard, on the floor, or if the sleeping pillows were inside the shams, take the shams off and fold them up and put them on the floor or a chair or something.

Throw pillows: These are decorative pillows and should also not be slept on. They can be piled up in a handy chair or tossed on the floor.

On Friday, I will continue with part two: how to make a bed.

What Are My Responsibilities Towards My Roommate’s Cat?

Why don't we teach our cats to throw up in the toilet?

Why don’t we teach our cats to throw up in the toilet?

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

My roommate has a cat who sometimes vomits and less often … poops … around the apartment. Sometimes when this happens I am the only one home, or the first to find the pile. Am I being an asshole for ignoring it? It’s not my cat! It’s disgusting! There is cat shit on the bathmat at this very moment!

Okay I’m probably an asshole. Please tell me what the right thing is to do here. If I clean it, is there a way to tell my roommate without being sanctimonious? She can’t control her cat’s bodily functions.

Thanks for your advice. In the meantime I’m sucking it up and putting on gloves.



Victoria: So I totally think she is well within her rights not to do any cleanup. Roommate’s cat, roommate’s problem. (For the record, I have a cat AND a roommate and I do everything except when she kindly feeds him when I go out of town.)

But, obviously, if its in your way, it behooves you to clean it up.

Jaya: Right. And it reminded me of something Jolie wrote about at some point, about living with someone and cleaning duties. Because people have different clean thresholds, but it’s unfair for the person who wants things cleaner to have to pick up that slack all the time.

Victoria: Yesssss…that’s my curse, always, haha.

Jaya: Okay it’s not a direct analogy but like, you can protest and be like “no I will not clean this up,” but then you’re living in a house full of cat shit.

Victoria: And you should definitely insist that roommate picks up after her cat as soon as she gets home.

Also! Cat vomit is just a fact of life with cats.

But the pooping thing is concerning

Jaya: Yeah, take that cat to a vet!

Victoria: It’s either because the litter box is dirty or because the roommate is ignoring the cat and the cat is seeking attention.

Or yeah, go to the vet.

But that’s not okay, and the writer should definitely address it with the roommate.

Also, a thing with cats, is sometimes it is best to just remove temptation than get mad that cat is ruining your stuff.

For example, my extremely lovely cat likes to pee on the bathmat. It just feels good on his paws or something!

So I hang the bathmat over the curtain rod when I am done using it. As a bonus, it stays cleaner and fresher longer!

Jaya: Hah! Very practical.

Victoria: But obviously that is easier with some things than others.

Jaya: Right. Yeah I think here, if it’s in a high traffic area and your roommate is not gonna be home for a long time, you should probably clean it up for your own sanity.

But if it’s a matter of your roommate coming home, seeing cat vomit, and doing nothing about it, that’s a problem

Victoria Pratt: Yeah, for me its definitely more of an issue of whether the roommate is dealing with the situation when she

gets there or not. But this writer is totally NOT a jerk for letting the roommate deal with it.

Jaya: Definitely not. Cats are the jerks for not cleaning it up themselves.

Victoria: Yessss, but they do give us fuzzy cuddles, so wash.

Oh also! I think that when you sign up to live with someone who has a pet, you are signing up for all the annoyances that sometimes come with a pet. And if you prefer to not have those annoyances, you should not live with someone with a pet.

Though it sounds like this person is pretty reasonable about it.

Jaya: Right. And this can’t always be avoided. Good roommates are hard to come by. But pets make noise and shed and vomit sometimes. It just comes with having one around.

Victoria: Yep, the cat is your roommate too! And its probably better than someone’s annoying boyfriend who never leaves.

Jaya: If you ever have to clean up your roommate’s vomit that’s another story.

Victoria: Hahaha, I mean, if the roommate is very, very ill, it would be a nice gesture!

Jaya: Would it be a crazy rule to set that, if you clean your roommate’s vomit, they have to pay your rent for a month?

Victoria: Lol noooo. That’s a lot of money. And, like, you can’t put a price on human kindness, JAYA.

Jaya: I can. It’s rent for vomit.

Victoria: Hahaha, I would have a different attitude about drunk vomit vs illness vomit.

Jaya: Hmm, I guess. Though it doesn’t make it any less gross to clean it up.

Victoria: True, but you are cleaning it up out of a great sense of pity.

Jaya: Like again if the cat was sick or if it just ate its food too fast like an idiot

Victoria: hahahahahahaha


(Ed: To our letter writer, we realized we never answered your question about how to tell your roommate if you did clean up. You definitely should mention it, just be like “oh by the way, Snookers threw up again. I cleaned it up but I wanted you to know in case it becomes something you need to take him to the vet for.”)


How To Announce You Aren’t Changing Your Name

Your DJ works for you and should follow whatever script you give them. [Via ]

Your DJ works for you and should follow whatever script you give them. [Via]

Recently, A Practical Wedding had a question for a reader about how to let her vendors know she wasn’t changing her name and how she and her husband should be announced at the reception. And like so many etiquette and wedding questions, the solution felt obvious to me. For the vendors, you simply tell them (although, most of them won’t really need to know as they are doing most of the work prior to the wedding?). They are people you have hired and should therefore address you as you prefer.

For the wedding and reception itself, during the ceremony, you can always skip the “I now present Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName” part. And as for the reception, personally I find the big boxing match style introduction with much clapping of hands and stomping of feet to be tacky (especially when you pair up the bridal party and announce them as couples when they are not and make them run in doing some stupid dance or cheer…), but that is a personal preference and it certainly not wrong by etiquette, so you can skip it if you want to skip the whole issue. If you DO want to do a big entrance to the reception, you can have the MC say something like “the happy couple!” or “the Bride and Groom!” or just your first names. It’s your wedding, everyone knows who you are, so no need to get formal with last names!

Of course, none of these options are informing your guests that you are keeping your last name. You don’t HAVE to make an announcement, simply just keep using your name they way you like it. You can give strong hints by using a return address sticker or stamp with your full names on it. Or perhaps include a little card with your thank you notes that says something like “our marital address” with both your full names and your address (this is especially good if you weren’t living together before the wedding or if you are moving shortly after.) You can also just correct people as things come. Like, getting a check addressed to Jane HisLastName when you are Jane YourLastName- call them back and be like, oh, by the way, I’m keeping my last name, luckily the bank was very understanding about depositing the check.” Or just be a little abrasive and say, “Hi Grandma, I’m soooo sorry, but since my last name is Jones not Smith, the bank won’t take the check you sent…”

Now, the be perfectly honest, you are probably going to have to fight assumptions for a few years unless you happen to have really awesome friends and family. Just be firm and consistent with correcting your name and they should get it down eventually. (And you will definitely still get junk mail addressed to the wrong name, but just throw it in the trash and get your anger out!) Or not- my grandma still calls my mom by her childhood nickname that she hates even though she has been going by another name for 30+ years, so.

The New York Times is Wrong- Parties Are Not Dead

Holly Golightly managed to throw quite a party in a small space with no money.

Holly Golightly managed to throw quite a party in a small space with no money.

Recently, the New York Times’ Style section continued it’s trend for being tone deaf and out of touch by declaring “The Death of the Party”. I made a particularly frustrated noise upon seeing it as I had JUST thrown a party the previous week.

The author, Teddy Wayne, says: “The incidence of house parties in America (and sections of Canada) thrown by and for those in their 20s, the prime years for adult socializing, may be dropping for a raft of technological, economic and cultural reasons.”

Now, I am on the older edge of the “millennial generation” but my experience has absolutely been full of parties. I went to many a raging house party full of underage drinking and shenanigans in high school thanks to some friends with remarkably obliging parents. In college, I was in a sorority so there were plenty of parties there, but even if I wasn’t, Tulane was a party school and there was no lack of them. I even attended Stanford for a semester due to some…hurricane problems, and even they had some particularly wild parties. And now as an adult in New York, it’s almost a constant cycle of parties- some in apartments and some out at bars.

Wayne sites David Foster Wallace’s famous prediction “It’s gonna get easier and easier, and more and more convenient, and more and more pleasurable, to be alone with images on a screen,” which is true, I suppose. But if my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds are any indication, it’s all of our friends being out at parties and other fun social events that are giving us FOMO rather than pleasure.

He does point out a fear of party throwing saying that these days a keg and some discount chips just don’t cut it, interviewing one girl who said “As for alcohol, her friends have top-shelf taste. “Now it’s bourbon — and not just any bourbon.” Which…can be true, honestly. I throw parties and I can easily spend a hundred dollars or more on food and beverages. But that’s because I like to put out a really nice spread. In my experience, people are perfectly happen to bring things to share and don’t REALLY care that much about what you serve (and if they do, maybe you need better friends?). If hosting at your own apartment is too much, it’s really easy to “host” the festivities at a bar. Definitely in the millennial age group, no one sees anything wrong with that and plenty of people like the excuse to come out as long as someone is doing the actual organizing. It may technically be “rude” to invite people to a thing and then not pay for everything, but who cares when you are in your 20s (and now that I am going to be moving on up into my 30s, I am seeing that age bracket as not so stodgy either!)? Jaya and I usually throw an Uncommon Courtesy anniversary party every year at a great tiki bar and everyone always has a great time.

Meeting at a bar also solves the problem that Wayne proposes that with rents in NYC so high, the younger crowd is all spread out over the city and going from your house in deep Brooklyn to a party in Astoria can take ages and many subway transfers. To that I say pffft anyway. Are these people really that lazy? Didn’t we all move to New York to not stay at home all the time (and I say this as a major homebody!)?

Anyway, I challenge all of you to pick a date, throw a party, invite everyone you know, don’t worry about space or food. It will be fun! And invite some Times reporters, as they don’t seem to get out much.

More Wedding Guest List Woes

Not everyone wants a 500 person wedding!

Not everyone wants a 500 person wedding!

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

My son and his fiancé are adamant about keeping a tight rein on their guest list. They do not want a large wedding and they have a finite number they want to invite.  My husband and I agree and support their decision. 

One of my cousins desperately wants her son to attend and he’s just not on the list.  Now the suggestion is that he’s a substitute for someone else in the family who can’t attend.  How do I politely say there’s no substitution.  My son and fiancé have other friends they want to move up to fill the spot.  They are not giving automatic “plus 1” invites.

Groom’s mom


Victoria: As a person who has planned a wedding, why don’t you start?

Jaya: So, I think we can all agree that, while you might be disappointed at not receiving an invitation to an event, trying to coerce your way in, ESPECIALLY after one of the planners has said no, is just not a good look. And kudos to this mother of the groom for supporting her kid and backing them up on this.

Victoria: Yes!

Jaya: It’s hard, because it’s family so you really don’t want hurt feelings, but I think reiterating that they’re keeping the wedding small, and that while you’re very sorry, the answer is no, is about all you can do. And you may just have to accept that the cousin is going to be pouty about it for some time.

Victoria: Yeah, I think you don’t want to try to explain or make excuses. Just keep repeating, “I’m sorry, but we can’t accommodate him.”

Jaya: Right, making excuses just opens up more negotiating.

Victoria: Yeah, and hurt feelings of friends being invited over family, etc.

Jaya: And you want to make it clear this is non-negotiable.

Victoria: Aaybe once you repeat it a couple of times say “Cousin, I’m sorry, but I have already explained multiple times that we will not be able to accommodate your son. I will not discuss the subject further.”

Jaya: Yes. And yeah, weddings make emotions run high. You may be risking pissing this cousin off a lot, or the cousin holding a grudge for a very long time, but if your son has made that choice and you’re supporting him, that’s how it’ll be.

Victoria: Yeah

Jaya: It always baffles me, the lack of self awareness some people have about this stuff.

Victoria: I know.

Jaya: I obviously don’t know their family situation, but I’m not super close with most of my parents’ cousin’s kids!

Victoria: Hahaha yeah, me either.

Jaya: And just, the reaction that not getting invited to a wedding is the end of the world. And begging to get in.

Victoria: I’m interested to see if there is a shift when our generation are the parents of the couple, since we have seen a shift in weddings from being about the whole extended family and kinship/business circles to being more centered on the close relationships of the couple/the couple paying for a bigger portion vs the parents of the bride being the sole payers and hosts.

Jaya: Yeah, that will be interesting. Because right, for so long it was a party thrown for the bride and groom, not by them, and thus usually up to the parents who to invite.

Victoria: Yep, so all the aunts and cousins and stuff expected to be invited. Whereas when we are the older generation, we might not be as focused on that (but maybe it’s an old people thing, who knows?)

Jaya: Even within our generation it’s interesting to see the breakdown, between weddings where it seems like the couple got to invite a lot of their friends, or weddings where the parents got control of the guest list and there weren’t many friends.

Victoria: Haha yeah.

Jaya: It’s still such a cultural difference, depending on where you were raised, whether your family is all in one area, and your religions/traditions.

Victoria: Yeah, and even just individual family traditions.

Jaya: But even then, even if you grew up down the street from your 2nd cousin and have known him all your life, you’re still not obligated. This question is really sticking with me. I cannot fathom a situation in which, after being told that there is no room for me, I try to continue to make room for myself.

Victoria: Yeah, it’s absolutely mind boggling. Like, you just don’t try to negotiate invitations.

Jaya: Because then what, you’re there, and the bride and groom have in their mind everything you’ve done to get there when they’re interacting with you.

Victoria: I do kind of feel like with unreasonable people its probably better to just separate yourself from them, even if you are related. I mean, it depends on your family and blah blah blah, but by the time you are old enough to have a kid who is getting married, you probably aren’t going to be forced to interact with your cousins that much! Like, your grandparents and parents/aunts/uncles are probably dead or about to be, and those family ties tend to be easier to sever the farther apart everyone gets.

Jaya: Right. At some point those relationships pass to the next generation. And at this point, you’re talking about the relationship between your son and your cousin’s kid, who I’ll assume are closer in age. And if they haven’t forged that relationship on their own, that’s their business. This is also an instance where I hope, going forward, weddings become less of a *thing*. Treating them like the MOST IMPORTANT EVENT EVER makes people act crazy when they’re not present.

Victoria: Haha yeah, it’s weird, I feel like for a loooong time they weren’t a big thing. And then they became a HUGE thing.

Jaya: Right! Maybe that’s just because we’re in the thick of wedding age right now? But yeah, not getting in invitation turns into this huge personal affront instead of like, just not being invited to one thing.

Victoria: Yeah, I also have found it so freeing to turn down invitations. I have a rule that I am not getting on an airplane for someone I wouldn’t get on an airplane to see just for a visit.

Jaya: That’s a good rule!

Victoria: Yeah! So like limited to really close friends and my cousins/sister (who are awesome). Although, I suppose if it was a cool destination and a lot of other people I knew were going, that might make it worth it.

Jaya: Yeah, I mean obviously use your discretion. If it’s someone you like reasonably well and you can afford flying to Hawaii, go for it!