Happy Thanksgiving!

We will not be posting today or Friday for the holiday, but be sure to save up your Thanksgiving etiquette horror stories and happy stories and share them with us! Email your questions or stories to info@uncommon-courtesy.com


How to Deal with Gross Coworkers

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

I work at a low-walled cubicle about four feet away from the office of a co-worker, whom I’ll call Mr. Mucus.  Mr. Mucus’ office has a door, which he does not close.  Mr. Mucus also spends most of the day (perhaps every 2-5 minutes) audibly hocking loogies and coughing to clear his throat.  It is beyond disgusting.

I usually put on headphones and turn up the volume, but this makes it difficult to concentrate.  How would you handle this situation without coming across as . . . snotty?  (Pun definitely intended.)

Best regards,

Grossed Out

Official Etiquette

In a similar situation, Ask A Manager has suggested trying to move away from the gross coworker. The Emily Post Institute suggests using humor if it seems appropriate.

Our Take

Jaya: I mean, when I had a full time job at a place with cubicles, people had some grossss habits but I was too much of a wimp to do anything but silently seethe.

Victoria: Yeah, me too. I mean, ultimately there isn’t that much you can do.

Jaya: Depending on office culture, you could ask him to at least close his door.

Victoria: Ooh yes, that is good.

Jaya: Or speak to HR and hope that they have a gentle way of handling this.

Victoria: Yeah. Although, a lot of times, you should try to deal with a conflict between yourself and another coworker before going to HR. So if you really want to ACT, you need to say, Joe, I’m sorry but when you spit like that, its very noisy and makes it difficult for me to concentrate. Could you please do it in the bathroom or close your door?

Jaya: That makes sense. Yeah, I think aside from headphones or asking to move desks, trying to confront him politely would be your best bet at putting an end to it.

Victoria: Yeah, depending on your HR they might tell you to just work it out yourself anyway. Since its not actually their role to mediate petty conflicts.

Jaya: Right. And that sounds like a nice way to put things, though there’s always the risk that he’ll be all sensitive about it.

Victoria: Yeah. So you have to decide how much it bothers you and if it’s worth it. And like, to an extent, how you relate on the hierarchy. If you are a lowly assistant and he’s the big boss, there is not much you can do.

Jaya: Do you think it’d be a good idea to talk to other coworkers to see if they find it annoying as well? And then have the person with the best relationship to him/higher up in the hierarchy talk about it?

Victoria: Oooh, yes, that’s a good idea. At least if you feel like you can trust them. You don’t want to get accused of gossiping and “trying to get someone” (idk, some offices are crazy).

Am I Allowed To Have A Shower If I’m Already Married?

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

My husband and I eloped about 2 weeks ago. It was a lovely, perfect day together! We are planning a small reception for family and close friends in the spring.

Two close friends of my husband’s family have just offered to throw me a shower. I’ve known these ladies for several years as well and they also hosted a shower for my husband’s sister a few years ago.

I would like to take them up on this offer, but I’m wondering if it’s gauche since we’re already married. I’ll add that my husband and I have been together nearly 6 years and lived together for just over 2, so we don’t necessarily need a lot of gifts but the thought of spending a morning with the important women in my life is quite appealing.

Thanks very much!

Sorta Wants A Shower

Official Etiquette
A lot of the bastions of etiquette don’t really mention how to have a shower after the wedding, presumably because it was Just Not Done. The point of a wedding shower is to provide the bride with token gifts for her new life and household, according to Amy Vanderbilt, so holding it after the wedding, and after they’ve already presumably received wedding gifts, doesn’t make much sense.

Our Take
Jaya: I think this question gets to the heart of hour our ideas of what a shower is and means have completely changed.

Victoria: Oh yeah?

Jaya: Just from being something done to help set up the future wife’s life, and only held by certain people, to now another excuse for a party. Because if we’re going off the traditional idea of what a shower is, then this is totally gauche. But luckily we’re not doing that.

Victoria: Yeah, it’s definitely not a done thing, technically. I think the problem with shower etiquette is it’s a party being thrown for you, so you have very little control over it.

Jaya: Which is a weird thing in itself. Because if the person of honor doesn’t want the party, you’d think people would back down, but so often that leads to hurt feelings.

Victoria: I definitely think that when you offer to throw a shower, you should definitely be prepared to hear a no. This is how we get 3-4 showers happening, it’s nuts.

Jaya: Here, it sounds like LW is totally reasonable. She wants to hang out with these women in her life, and is not wanting/expecting a registry’s worth of gifts. That’s great! She just seems worried about how it’d look.

Victoria: Yeah, I think if someone is wanting to throw it, and you want it to happen, then, go ahead.

Jaya: And you can give input on what you’re comfortable with, so it doesn’t turn into a huge thing.

Victoria: Presumably only relatively close friends and family will be invited, so it’s not like you are giving the vapors to your mom’s garden club.

Jaya: That is a fantastic image. But yeah, if the thought of spending the morning with these women sounds nice, say that! You can be like “since we’re already married and living together, a traditional shower doesn’t make sense, but a ladies brunch sounds just lovely.”

Victoria: Yeah if you feel uncomfortable with a shower, call it like, a meet the bride luncheon or something. Jinx!

Jaya: And the great part is if someone does happen to think it’s gauche, it’s not your fault! You didn’t plan it!

Victoria: Exactly! And hopefully people who think it’s inappropriate, won’t come.

Do I Have To Buy My Cousin A Registry Gift For Their RENTAL?

plutos-housewarming-movie-poster-1947-1010686166Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

My cousin and his girlfriend are moving in together and are having a house warming party (for a rented apartment, mind you). This was fine with me right up until the point where they sent out their gift registry along with a hefty list of preferred colors separated by room (i.e. Red kitchen accesories, purple bathroom thingies, etcetera). I am really put off by the whole thing, specially considering that at my very simple, registry-free wedding my cousin didn’t get me anything himself, but rode along with my aunt and uncle’s gift. Am I being overly touchy about it, or am I right to have “EFF THAT” as my first thought? I mean, I’m gonna have to get them another present when they get married (along with bachlorette and wedding shower ones)?
Thank you very much! 
Off The Registry
Official Etiquette
As we’ve mentioned before, Miss Manners does not consider a housewarming an appropriate time for anything but token gifts, and that goes double for non-permanent quarters, such as a rental.
Our Take

Victoria: Okay, so yeah, this is a no, this is not okay, for me.
Jaya: I’m gonna agree with you there. I think I’d be okay if they had bought their first house together, but for a RENTAL this is too much.
Victoria: Yeah, and I would say if they bought a house and then got married a year later, I would probably still get a present, but it would be MUCH smaller.
Jaya: Definitely. And I think this is another example of people expecting every life moment deserves a gift.
I am all for celebrating more life moments than weddings.
Victoria: Yesss. Not every moment needs a huge gift.
Jaya: I think there are a lot of important milestones that don’t get as much attention, and too much emphasis is put on pairing up or having kids. However, the goal should probably be fewer presents all around.
Victoria: I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love gifts, but like, token gifts are a thing because no one wants to shell out $50 every time someone wants to feel good about their accomplishments. Bring a bottle of wine, a plant, some jam. And like, I’ve said to people who are going to be buying a place soon- wait to make major household purchases until you do actually buy a house, so that your stuff will fit THAT house, not the apartment you had 3 apartments ago.
Jaya: Exactly. You can’t be buying Kitchenaid mixers any time someone rents a new apartment. I will also say, however, that it doesn’t matter that this cousin did not get LW their own gift for their wedding. Or that LW’s wedding was simple and registry-free and the cousins has a color coded list.
Victoria: I mean, I guess everyone has their own internal calculations and if you need to take that kind of thing into account, no one will know (unless you write it into a letter to an etiquette site!)
Jaya: Haha yes! LW is absolutely allowed to have “eff that” as a first thought because, well, you’re allowed to think however you want as long as you don’t call up your cousin and tell them off.
Victoria: Haha yeah. And like, no one knows your financial situation. Maybe you are about to have a baby and your budget isn’t quite as elastic as it might have been. And maybe this cousin is younger and at the time of the LW’s wedding, it was appropriate that he latch onto his parents’ gift.
Jaya: Exactly. No gift giving/non-gift giving should ever come out of that sense of obligation or “well he didn’t get me anything 2 years ago so I’m not getting him anything now.” If you’re going to be going to a housewarming party and find the registry off putting, bring a box of cookies or wine or a bouquet, same as you would for any party.
Victoria: Exactly. And maybe if people don’t bring anything off the registry, people will be like, oh, no one is into this, and then they will tell their friends and no one will do it anymore.
Jaya: One can only hope!
Victoria: The thing with a registry for weddings is that it’s ultimately an organizational tool because the event itself is so much bigger than most life events that people need to have gift ideas without 200 people calling the happy couple. Are 200 people really coming to your housewarming?(And obviously, sometimes people have registries for small weddings, which is fine, but thats because weddings=registry in our culture even when they are unnecessary)
Jaya: You’re so smart about this. But to play devil’s advocate (ugh), maybe this couple isn’t planning on getting married and can’t afford to buy a house anytime soon. Maybe this is their big moment, and they’re trying to treat it as such. I understand that, and as long as they understand that nobody is obliged to buy anything off a registry, there’s little harm in what they’re doing. That’s probably not the case but I like to believe the best.
Victoria: There’s generally no harm in HAVING one, and I think if you want, you can make one and then only give it to people who ask for it. And honestly, do a little white lying and be like, oh well, this is our wish list of things we want to buy for the house eventually. It will go down a lot better. And I definitely keep ideas of things O want for my birthday and christmas throughout the year on, say, pinterest, so that when my mom inevitably asks, I have some ideas. So it’s basically the same thing, and I think thats okay. But issuing an invitation and having “housewarming registry” stuff all over it is a bit…greedy, because it makes it look like you are only having a party to get gifts.

Dealing With Rudeness

Jaya had a great question recently:

A coworker was mistaken for pregnant at a restaurant this weekend by the old, Hungarian waiter, and was understandably upset about it. But someone else in the conversation apparently told her to chalk it up to a cultural difference. What is everyone’s responsibility when running into stuff like that? Because perhaps it’s normal in one culture, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt you.

Jaya: It interests me because I think it brings up larger issues about privilege and who controls the conversation. Like, who gets to determine what is rude. Because if our cultures have different ideas of what is acceptable and what isn’t, no one has the right to tell the other one what they’re doing is wrong. As much as, to me, the notion of commenting on a woman’s perceived pregnancy is horrific.

Victoria: Yeah, and to someone else, its just normal small talk.

Jaya: Right. So I think it’s important to be understanding of that, especially if you’re traveling and in a place where your standards are not the norm. Like, don’t go to Japan and yell at everyone for how they don’t do business like you.

Victoria: Haha yeah, for sure.

Jaya: However, I also don’t think that means that you should just roll over and “relax” if someone insults you, even if they don’t see it as an insult.

Victoria: That’s true. But at the same time, what would your response be? Especially in a case with a waiter or someone who you likely won’t interact with again? (I think for friends and family you should make it clear that you don’t appreciate their comments and that you find it hurtful.)

Jaya: Right. I think it’s up to the person, but I also think that you are well within your rights to speak out. There are plenty of times I just don’t feel like engaging, and I brush something like that off, but that’s because it’s my choice, not because I feel like I shouldn’t.

Victoria: True. I guess, that for me, there’s not much point in engaging, especially when a person is likely to become very defensive. For me, I see it as, it’s up to me to manage my feelings on a situation and can be helpful to think to myself “this person has a different idea about what questions are okay and which are not and I will just choose to believe that they didn’t mean anything hurtful” or just “they’re rude and they suck.” But I guess it also depends greatly on the situation and exactly what was said. Or wait, scratch part of that- the “it’s not up to me to manage my feelings” part….more like….I’m in charge of my feelings and I can’t always choose what people will say or how they will act, but I can choose how to feel about it? Oh I don’t know, this is a hard one.

Jaya: That’s a huge part of it! Like, is it emotionally worth it for you to engage?

Victoria: Haha okay, good, I am making sense.

Jaya: Yes! There’s a lot to weigh.

Victoria: Oh! I thought of a better way to phrase it- the only thing in a situation you can control is your reaction to it.

Jaya: YES, which is not to say you need to “control yourself” and do nothing, but really, you do you.

Victoria: So you have to think- is this something that is very important to me? Is this someone I will have to see frequently? To what degree am I willing to escalate it? Yeah, and obviously, we have to point out one of the etiquette golden rules: it is never okay to counter rudeness with more rudeness.

Jaya: I break that rule all the time.

Victoria: Hahah, I mean, we’re all rude sometimes.

Jaya: HOT TAKE: sometimes it’s okay to counter rudeness with more rudeness.

Victoria: lol. I mean, its not OKAY, but sometimes we are people who lose control of ourselves. And that is forgivable.

Jaya: I think, at its worst, etiquette encourages a lot of people to just grin and bear it for the sake of comfort.

Victoria: Well, I mean, I think they are polite ways and rude ways to respond to something that isn’t just grin and bearing it.

Jaya: Oh totally.

Victoria: Like someone is being a racist jerk. You can punch them Which would be rude. Or you can gently but firmly point out that they are being racist and remove yourself from their presence.

Jaya: But yeah I think people use etiquette and politeness to be like, a blanket rule that any sort of response is rude.

Victoria: Well, they are wrong 😛

Jaya: Hahaha duh. Mainly all I want to say is let’s never make comments about anyone’s bodies or really comment on anything and then we can all live and quickly die in dignified silence.

Victoria: Hahah yeah, but sadly there are rude people out there always.

Jaya: Can’t we send them to the moon yet?

Victoria: someday!

Jaya: Everyone fund NASA

Victoria: Someone should run for president on that platform

Jaya: You do it

Victoria: Victoria for president! (except not because it sounds like a really hard job!)

Jaya: Hahaha yeah. Etiquette counselor to the president.