Noisy Neighbors

It could be worse, your neighbors could play this at 2am. via Wikimedia Commons


Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

Our neighbours and I share a semi-detached home. There is a brick wall between us. The other night they had a very loud party – their first loud one in 3 years.The noise, music and loud talking was awful. By 1:30 in the morning, my husband got out of bed and knocked on their door. They said “oh its only 11:30.”  He politely corrected them, and they said they’d calm down.  We awoke again at 2:30 am due to the loud music. We’ve all been super friendly in the past, and so I’d expected that they would’ve stopped by and offered a chagrined apology by now. Nothing after 3 days.  Now we feel like the old, crabby and dull neighbours.

Are my expectations too high? What should they have done (assuming they even remember that we politely approached them)?


Need Some Sleep


Miss Manners always advises a peaceful and civil communication with noisy neighbors.

We’ve also already covered how to be a good urban dweller, which includes not being noisy and how to deal with noisy neighbors.


Victoria: My first instinct is that if it’s the first time in three years and they are otherwise good neighbors, maybe just let it slide.

Jaya: Three years is pretty good!

Victoria: On the other side, when I’ve had friends who had regular loud parties, they would tell the neighbors ahead of time and that seemed to help.

Jaya: Perhaps the neighbors honestly thought they had toned it down at the first request, so they wouldn’t have thought they needed to apologize.

Victoria: Yeah, drunk people are not exactly the best judges of noise. And at that point, honestly, any amount of noise is going to annoy you.

Jaya: You’re gonna hear anything at 2:30 am. Though if someone complains to you about noise, I think it’s good to do a test!

Victoria: Oooh what kind of test?

Jaya: If your neighbors come to you with a noise complaint, have them go back in their apartment and turn your music up and down and figure out at what level it doesn’t bother them, and then just remember where it’s at for your next party.

Victoria: Ooh that’s a genius idea.

Jaya: (We keep trying to do this with my terrible neighbors and it doesn’t work because they’re the worst.)

Victoria: Hahaha oh no.

Jaya; Every weekend we tell them to turn it down. How the hell do they not remember?

Victoria: Yeah, I think EVERY weekend is insane. But one loud party in three years is not much to get upset about. Consider it a free pass to have a loud party of your own!

Jaya: Yes! And maybe be the bigger people and warn them that you’ll be having a party, so they know that behavior is expected.

Victoria: Yeah, that way you’ve covered your bases if you need to call the police later. Which is always an option.

Jaya: The only time I think there really should be leeway is New Years. If it’s 4am and they’re still going it doesn’t matter, it’s New Years.

Victoria: Totally, and a weekend is going to need more leeway too.Though now that I work on Saturdays I’m not sure how i would feel about a loud party on a Friday, lol. But yeah, if it’s constant and you live in a house, you’re always free to call the police. And now reading this question, it might be a nice gesture for their neighbors to apologize and bring some cookies or something over the next day, especially if they complained.

Jaya: Yeah, that would be nice, though again if they thought they had toned it down enough maybe they didn’t think they had to. I’ve had neighbors mention once to quiet down and I have, and never felt the need to apologize. Though growing up in New York apartments, you sort of have a higher tolerance for noise. It’s a bit more expected.

Victoria: Though I would rather have one loud party every three years than a screaming baby every day, which is what I have now.

Help! Can I ask my hairdresser to fix my hair?

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

I have a question about hairdresser etiquette!

You can’t be afraid of hairdressers or you will end up looking like this.

I recently switched hairdressers (silently, shamefully, and in fact that is probably its own etiquette question, but not what I’m curious about today). I went to a new hipster barbershop/salon in my neighbourhood. I brought a photo to the stylist, let her know about some of my hair’s particularities and issues I’ve had with cuts in the past, and made it clear that while I had a cut and style in mind, she should feel free to make it work the way she thought was best for my hair. It was a nice experience, but two weeks later I have a decided cowlick situation messing with the back of my severe side part, and my curls are not sitting as full as she promised. What are your thoughts on asking a hairdresser to fix a cut that’s off? I’ve done it once before and found it VERY awkward–my then stylist and her colleague were pleasant but definitely made me feel like I didn’t know what was right for my own hair. I don’t know how long to wait (more than a week seems too long, but a few days feels like not giving the cut enough chance). and asking a new hairdresser after a first visit seems like setting a bad tone for the “relationship.” Is asking for a hairdresser to fix a cut ever okay, and is there a way to do it without harming your relationship with them?




Yes, of course you should ask your hairdresser to fix it. Politely.


Jaya: I do think that in our everlasting desire to get rid of all vestiges of servitude, sometimes we go too far and forget that when someone has a service job, their job is to do what you pay them for. And like, not in a mean way.

Victoria:  Hahah yeah! that’s a great way of putting it

Jaya:  But if it’s a haircut, you want a nice haircut!

Victoria:  Totally. And to be honest, haircuts are really expensive.

Jaya:  Especially for women. And you can be all like “well that’s your fault, go to a barber for $10” but c’mon, your hair is a huge part of how you look, and I don’t think there’s any shame in caring about that

Victoria: Nope! I really need to not be such a baby and ask about bang trims more often.

Jaya:  Haha yeah, it’s hard to do on your own. Also, I  do think most hairdressers offer this kind of week-later check up. even if they don’t flat out say it.

Victoria:  Yeah, i think hair stylists expect to have to fix things sometimes and honestly, lots of them get cried at and yelled at, so i’m sure they appreciate a polite “could you please fix this weird thing my hair is doing.”

Jaya:  Yeah! that’s so much nicer than just freaking out.

Victoria: Or not coming back.

Jaya:  Also, they’re professionals. They know what hair is like, and if it’s your first time, duh there are gonna be cowlicks and weird head shapes they’re not going to immediately know, so it helps both of you.

Victoria:  Yep, I think they’d rather fix it and get a loyal customer.Plus then you will have a person who knows about your hair.

Jaya:  Absolutely. I made the mistake for too long of not alerting hairdressers to the weird things my hair does and once I got over that I started getting much better haircuts.

Victoria:  Hahah yeah, it’s scary to try to speak up since they are supposed to know what they are doing.

Jaya:  I think that’s the thing though. They know what they’re doing, but they’re not psychics. They don’t know your head.

Victoria:  Haha yeah, what’s inside it or what’s on it.

Jaya:  If they’re not willing to have a conversation then ok, they’re assholes and find someone else.

Victoria:  Yep.

Jaya:  But there should be a back and forth. They trust you to speak up about anything weird, you trust them to know what looks good from there.

Victoria:  And I think dye jobs too, are especially something you should ask to have fixed if they don’t come out quite right because that’s really normal.

Jaya:  Oh yeah. I’ve never really done that, but that makes sense.

Victoria:  Yeah me either, but it crops up a lot in articles about hair dressers.

Jaya:  how many articles about hair dressers are you reading?

Victoria:  I meaaaaan…

Victoria: Some.

Jaya:  Hahahaha.

Victoria:  Anyway, in sum, hairdressers are professionals and if you aren’t happy with their service, tell them and try to work something out.

Or complain on the internet and tell us your worst hairdresser stories.

Do I Really Have to Touch the Toilet in a Disgusting Bar Bathroom?

Jaya has actually used this bathroom [Via Flickr user gnta]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

From a young age, my mother instilled in me the politeness attached to putting the seat back down after using the toilet. This was a universal lesson that was to follow me beyond the two-males-to-one ratio inside my childhood home. As an adult, I traverse unisex bathrooms in bars and find the water inside the toilet bowl to be merely a suggestion for urine, as the entire bowl itself is some sort of blank canvas for avant-garde piss art. With this in mind, is it actually impolite to leave the toilet seat down in a unisex bathroom out in the shared world?


Curious About Covers


I adore questions that have me searching the Emily Post Institute for the term toilet lids. They are silent on the subject. Miss Manners has discussed it in terms of asking guests to put the seat down (you are not supposed to mention it). In fact, Miss Manners prefers to think that toilets don’t exist, so not much help there. Fortunately for you, we are happy to acknowledge their existence and tell you our thoughts.


Jaya: So my idea is that 3/4 things anyone does in the bathroom require the seat to be down. So on statistics alone you should leave the seat down, always.

Victoria: And REALLY, everyone should be putting both the seat and the lid down to prevent germs flying around. I don’t, but it’s something to work towards. Plus, dudes can take one for the team in being the ones to touch the thing.

Jaya: Totally. And I think this is still the case if the seat is down BUT someone had been in there and peed all over the seat. I mean, at some point everyone realizes they’re in a public bathroom, and things aren’t going to be the best.

Victoria: Wait, what’s still the case? They still have to lift the seat up?

Jaya: Yeah? Or, I don’t know, if you see pee all over the seat, no matter what sex you are, take one for the public bathroom team and wipe it off.

Victoria: Oooh yes, totally. Why doesn’t Lysol or whoever make little purse-sized sprays? Then you could spray and wipe before you sit. They could make a million dollars.

Jaya: THEY DO!

Victoria: They do!??!?!?!

Jaya: Bonus cat!

Victoria: Anyway, in conclusion, the answer to a gross public restroom is to not make it even more gross.

Jaya: Exactly. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to.

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.

Why Did This Person Send Me A Baby Shower Invite, And Do I Have To Send A Gift?

Just hope these aren't there. [Via Cakewrecks]

Just hope these aren’t there. [Via Cakewrecks]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

Hiya!  I love the website so far! And now I have a question of my own.

I just got my first baby shower invitation (yikes).  I am busy that day so I can’t go — but do I still have to send them a present? If it matters, this is an old high school friend who I’m not very close with, and I wasn’t invited to her wedding (which I was totally fine with–I only mention it to illustrate how not-that-close we are and I think it is weird I got this shower invite).  Is it a huge faux pas to forgo a gift? If you tell me to, I will get something small from their registry, otherwise my natural inclination is to buy books and give them to her at some vague point in the future, because I buy everyone books.


Strangely Showered


You are under no obligation to send a gift, though, of course, you can if you wish.


Jaya:  Baby shower gifts! I actually just got invited to a baby shower, so this is timely.

Victoria:  Nice! Yeah, gifts are totally optional if you can’t go. And for someone not close like this I would totally not send something because…it kind of seems like a gift grab? Showers are tricky, they are really supposed to be just for your super intimate friends, but now we have people inviting all the female wedding guests to them and all kinds of craziness.

Jaya:  Absolutely. And yeah, it does seem like a gift grab. It’s probably not intentional, but presumably this mother-to-be knows they are not that close.

Victoria:  And usually, I think the hostess will get a list of guests from the mother-to-be?

Jaya:  Right. But just inviting everyone you know to every occasion (unless that’s culturally what you do) seems a bit like a ploy for gifts. I don’t know, showers bother me sometimes in general.

Victoria:  I don’t mind them so much for babies, but I wish they would fall out of favor for weddings as they are starting to seem redundant with all the crazy gift giving that is starting to happen. Like, why are people giving you TWO (or MORE!) gifts for the same life event?

Jaya:  And also, you’d think anyone important and supportive in your life would already know you’re having a baby, and would probably buy you a gift.

Victoria:  Yeah, because its kind of like, for the baby!

Jaya:  I have no problem with people throwing parties! I love parties! But yeah, to invite everyone you know, who may not have been a part of this baby’s life already, sounds like you’re trying to get more stuff.

Victoria:  Weirdly, I have heard a thing that it is bad luck to throw a baby shower before the baby is born.

Jaya: Oh is it bad luck?

Victoria:  I have heard that, but it seems like everyone does them before anyway.

Jaya:  Problem solved. Don’t send a gift or the spirits will get you.

Victoria: I guess the idea is that birthin’ babies is dangerous and it might die and then you will have all these presents to deal with, but no one wants to think that way!

Jaya:  Omg Victoria!!!!!

Victoria:  It’s a thing I heard! Not something I believe!!

Jaya:  “Please save the money on buying me a baby bjorn in case I die and you need it to raise my orphan child.”

Victoria:  No no, they are afraid the BABY will die.

Jaya:  Ooooh.

Victoria:  Don’t Indians not give babies names until they are like, 2, because of the same reasons?

Jaya:  Yup! Also because they wait until the baby has a personality, so their name will match who they are. But yeah don’t waste the good names if they’re gonna die of malaria by the time they’re 4 anyway.

Victoria:  Ooooh, that makes a lot of sense actually.

Jaya:  Hi! Ok, back to gifts, and not infant mortality.

Victoria:  Yeaaaah, I really like the idea of sending a classic children’s book.

Jaya:  For this person, I think it’s totally up to her whether to send a gift. Gifts are always optional no matter what, and especially in this case. And I love the books. Good, gender neutral option.

Victoria:  I personally wouldn’t send one, I don’t think. What am I, made of money? No. But maybe if later on they invited me over to come see the baby, I would probably bring something. And then I would squish its little face. Although, I do think if you choose to attend a baby shower, you do need to bring something since the main activity of a shower is gift giving.

Jaya:  I always liked the idea in these things of like, giving something not related to a baby. Like how nice would it be, as a new mother, to have someone give you a nice robe and some bath salts and be like “hey, take a night not as a mom.”

Victoria: Remind me to invite you to my shower if I ever have a baby.

Jaya:  Also, pregnant ladies of the world, do not invite acquaintances to your baby shower. There is probably a lot of vagina talk and that’s weird.

Victoria: I hear there are games where people put melted candy bars in diapers and you have to guess what candy bar it is. Although, again, there is this whole hyping up of every portion of our lives- baby showers, gender reveal parties, specially colored cakes! Where does the madness end??? (I don’t really object because I love parties, but still!)

Jaya:  I also had no idea Baby Registries were a a thing until last year.

Victoria: Yeah, actually, interestingly, while it is not etiquette approved to put registry info on your wedding invite, it is totally okay to put it on shower invitations.

Jaya:  Oh interesting. I guess because you’re not inviting people to your birth. The shower is sort of the one event. Unless you want 60 people to see a baby and your bloody vagina. Which…hyped up!

Victoria: OMG that is absolutely going to happen. What a world we live in.

Jaya:  I can’t wait to get invited to my first birth. What sort of cardstock do you use for that?

Victoria: Although! It would kind of be more traditional! Because it used to be all the ladies of the village would come help out.  Paleo-birthing, it’s gonna be big.