Memorial Day


We love New Yorkers because they do what they can with the space they have.

Don’t forget that while we might be celebrating the beginning of summer and going to the beaches, BBQs, and picnics, that Memorial Day exists to remember soldiers who have died. So try to be sensitive around people for whom this holiday is not a light-hearted three day weekend.

As a housekeeping note, Jaya is traveling and Victoria is moving apartments over the next few weeks so we are going to be a bit light on content or rerunning old posts.  But we will be back with great new stuff very soon! And we will be celebrating our two year anniversary in the next month! So get excited!

In the meantime, check out our Twitter and Instagram for extra opinions and etiquette related stuff!

Some Thanksgiving Tips

Last week, Victoria and I were interviewed for Metro New York about what to do if you’re a college student spending Thanksgiving with a friend’s family. However, a lot of the advice can be applied in many situations, like spending the holidays with your in-laws or your extended family. Here are a few more tips on how to get through it all without going crazy!

  • Offer to help out as much as you can, but make sure you can really do it: Jumping into the kitchen so Aunt Martha doesn’t have to make everything is fantastic, but don’t do it unless you actually know how to make green bean casserole. The only thing more stressful than having to cook five dishes is having to cook four while answering a million questions about the fifth. If that’s the case, see if there are other ways you can help, like running errands, watching the kids, or setting the table.
  • Don’t be a dick about dietary restrictions:  Some people refuse to believe gluten allergies exist. Others think anyone who isn’t a vegan is a murderer. Most of us can and should meet in the middle. My thought is that the host gets a heavy say in what’s served at their house, within reason. For instance, if you’re a guest in a Kosher household, don’t bring your bacon-wrapped scallop appetizer. However, if you’re the host but the only vegetarian, maybe request that most of the dishes remain vegetarian, but let someone bring a turkey. Also, speak up if you have a serious allergy, like if you’re so allergic to peanuts that the presence of them anywhere on the table will make you break out in hives. And if you have a lot of restrictions, bring a dish or two that you know you can eat.
  • Be flexible with traditions: I was slightly horrified the first time I went to a Thanksgiving dinner and everything was served on paper plates, because I’m a horrible snob and you should never invite me anywhere. But then I remembered that shrimp curry is often served alongside turkey at my family’s house. The holiday is about sharing traditions, not judging them.
  • Pick your battles: We got into this a little in Metro about balancing changing the subject gracefully with calling out someone’s racist uncle. Sometimes it’s not worth the effort to call someone out, and sometimes you can’t just let it slide. Everyone has their own personal thresholds.
  • Have an exit strategy: Most of us have probably felt stressed out at at least one Thanksgiving (or other holiday). It can be a perfect storm of stress, family tensions and loud little kids. Have a plan if you’re prone to getting overwhelmed by these things, like taking a walk or running an errand. Last year I got so overwhelmed at one holiday I excused myself to the bathroom and instead lay down in the guest room for ten minutes. No one will miss you for that period of time.
  • Don’t forget to use your good table manners: The basics- put your napkin on your lap, chew with your mouth closed, elbows off the table, and say please and thank you.

Musings On Religion, Holidays, and the In Laws

Family Saying Grace, 1585

Family Saying Grace, 1585 [Via]

We’ve spoken a bit about etiquette in places of worship already, though the idea is pretty simple. Be respectful, dress conservatively to be on the safe side, and ask if there’s anything you’re unsure about. However, most of us aren’t just popping into random religious services all the time. What’s more likely is that you’re invited to participate in a service or tradition by your close friends and family, especially your In Laws, and with 45% of marriages in the US between people of different faiths, this probably happens a lot!

While my relationship is not interfaith, our families are. My husband’s family is Jewish, and mine is a combination of vaguely Christian, Hindu, and “have you read the new Sam Harris book?” As such, there are occasions where we’ll be asked to participate in services and traditions we don’t believe in, which can be difficult depending on your view of religion.

Here’s my thing: I have a hard time participating in a religious ceremony or tradition if I know I don’t believe it, no matter how welcome my hosts have made me feel. To me, it feels dishonest to fake it while everyone around me earnestly believes what’s being said. I’ve been told many times throughout my life that I just need to go with the flow, and there are times where I have been able to ignore it  and have a good time. But usually I feel like it’s not my place to be there and participate, even if I’ve been explicitly invited. I am a crazy person and maybe you shouldn’t be turning to me for etiquette advice. Oops.

There’s also a difference between a ceremony taking place in a place of worship, or in a more private setting. In a church I can stand and sit along with everyone else, and no on will notice if I don’t say “amen.” However, there are certain rituals that take place in the home, and it’s a lot more obvious if I’m not participating.

Okay, so what does this mean in terms of practical etiquette? Well, if you get the sense that someone is not comfortable practicing your religion, do not ask them to “go with the flow.” That’s like telling an anxious person to “just calm down,” like really, you don’t think they tried that already? Also, be up front about what’s expected, and be gracious if they cannot meet those expectations, even if they seem minimal to you. If you’re the one being asked to participate, ask questions and participate where you can, and if anyone asks why you’re not participating in a certain ritual, explain that you don’t feel comfortable doing so. If they try to pressure you, they’re the rude ones. Also, see if there are other places you can help out, such as cooking some of a meal or helping set things up. It’ll show you’re grateful for being invited and included, even if you don’t feel like fully participating.

How Do I Decide Whose Holiday Invitation to Accept?

Get it? Because multiple invitations feels like a tug of war! [Via Flickr user futureshape]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

I’m trying to come up with some sort of question in something resembling eloquent English about holiday parties and invitations and respecting RSVP and how do you handle roommate/friends/family invites. Also, if you have multiple invites (lucky child) what is a good way to decline or accept or whatever. You covered parts of this in your “RSVPs are for real, yo” thing, which people know for weddings, but tend to forget/be more lax about when it comes to holiday dinners and then if no one shows, boy your friends are jerks and now you have an entire turkey and a vat of creamed corn and it’s just sad. But basically, if your friend invites you to a holiday dinner first but then your brother invites you, does family trump friends? If your roommates parents have invited you to dinner 8 times and it hasn’t worked out, at what point do you make that plan a priority over all other plans? Help.


I Don’t Know Where I’m Going



You still have to let people know if you are or are not coming to everything you are invited to. Especially holiday dinners. Etiquette has no say about where you go, you have to make that choice for yourself.


Jaya: This is one of those times where I wish I were a kid again. When you’re a kid you just go where your parents go. No need for decisions.

Victoria: Yeah, I guess it’s lucky in a way that I don’t have close-by family, so my sister and I just hang out at home and make some food and watch some movies on Thanksgiving. And I just go to my parents’ house for Christmas. But I think we are in agreement that your family trumps friends for holidays. If someone invites you, you just say, “I’d love to but I have to do family things, so sorry.”

Jaya: I think in general yes, but also, everyone’s family is different. My mom has always said if I wanted to do Christmas with friends or just go on vacation elsewhere, it would be totally fine. But we’re pretty lax about holidays in general. Divorce does that. So just, know your audience.

Victoria: I mean, family trumps if you want to/it’s important to hang out with your family.

Jaya: If you know it would mean a lot to your friend, and your family is cool without you, then go hang out with your friend.

Victoria: I guess by trumps I meant more like, if you can’t come to a friends house for a holiday because of a family thing, they should understand.

Jaya: Oh yeah, definitely.

Victoria: But then again, you don’t really owe anyone an explanation for why you are or are not able to come.

Jaya: Right, but I think it’s understood for holidays that you may have family obligations. But also, even if it is your family, you should give a firm RSVP.

Victoria: Totally! Especially if its not JUST your parents.

Jaya: If you tell your mom the day before that you’re not coming, then that screws them. And even if it is just your parents, that might mean your parents are having dinner alone!

Victoria: Ahhh yeah! So sad (though maybe not if you have siblings). Your single child privilege is showing, JAYA

Jaya : Oh yeah, cause that’s a privilege. WORRYING ABOUT YOUR PARENTS EATING ALL ALONE ON CHRISTMAS. Showing your sibling-ed naivite, Victoria.

Victoria: Yesssss.

Jaya: Let’s talk about for situations with multiple RSVPs.

Victoria: Sure.

Jaya: There is something that I’ve been dealing with recently. If you know about one event first, but don’t receive a physical/official invitation to it until after you’ve been invited to something else on the same day, which do you go to?

Victoria: Okay, so the rule about RSVPing is not that you go with the one you were INVITED to first, you go to the one you RSVPd yes to.

Jaya: Ooooooh.

Victoria: So if you get two invitations before you have a chance to respond to one, you get to choose!

Jaya: Good to know!

Victoria: You just can’t change your RSVP to, “I got a better offer.”

Jaya: Though what if you RSVP’’d to one event and your sister all of a sudden decides to get married. I mean it sucks but people would probably understand?

Victoria: That’s why I really like save the dates for weddings, or sending out invitations for other events on the early side. But in that case, it’s basically a family emergency, as long as it’s not the day before or something.

Jaya: Also your sister is annoying in that case.

Victoria: So she also asks about prioritizing an event you’ve had to reschedule like, 8 times, and I definitely think after a couple of reschedules, you should pretty much drop everything to make it happen- if its important to you to have dinner with your roommate’s parents, or whatever the situation is. Otherwise, you end up looking really flaky, which is not a good look.

Jaya: Right, especially if it’s been your “fault” every time. Though if you’ve rescheduled a bunch because you just don’t want to do it, maybe just come out and say that.

Victoria: And if you are flaking to get out of doing it, then maybe just own up to it. But in general, just try to make things a priority the best you can, and stick to your RSVPs whenever they require action on the host’s part.

Jaya: Whether that’s cooking you Thanksgiving dinner, saving you a seat at a wedding, or telling a bartender how many people you’re bringing.