Friday, May 27, 2011

Let's all go to the movies

When we were in line to buy movie tickets the other night, we were surprised to see a small group of younger teenagers get turned away at the ticket box.

But then we saw a sign prominently posted by the window. At this particular theater, no one 17 and under is allowed to purchase tickets for any movie after 8 p.m. unless they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

That’s right—any movie, even a G-rated one. Such a ban must have been prompted by repeated bad behavior.

Has it really gotten that bad?

It’s safe to say that now is a good time to go over good manners at the movies.

Turn off your phone. If you must have it on, silence it. If you are expecting a possible emergency call, put it on vibrate. But keep it in your pocket. That means no random checking of the time, no text messaging, no Facebook updates (as we witnessed at the last movie we attended). And if you actually do get a phone call you absolutely must answer, leave the theater and go to the lobby to do so.

Find a baby-sitter if the movie is not appropriate for children. If you’re watching an adult movie and bring children, they will likely be bored, scared or disruptive—and who can blame them for crying, sitting in a dark room full of strangers and loud noises? Don’t punish the children for acting their age; just make arrangements for them to stay home. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time at all for children under the age of 2, so your child won’t miss anything anyway. For preschoolers, check to see if your local theater offers special screenings just for children.

Stop talking. Seriously. The actors on-screen can’t hear you, and other theater goers are less interested in your opinion than you may think. Some epic scenes deserve audible gasps, explosive laughter, or the occasional sobbing, but please refrain from loudly narrating the film (“Oh, she’s opening that door!”) to sharing spoilers (“That guy’s about to get shot!”).

Be aware of your body. Even if the floor’s sticky, keep your feet on the ground, not on the seat in front of you next to some unfortunate person’s head. If you need to use the restroom, excuse yourself quickly but without trampling other people’s feet. Use the arm rests, but keep your elbows in your own space. Keep your snacks (and any snack-related trash) to yourself.

Enjoy the show!

Friday, May 20, 2011

School's, get a job!

Around here, school’s out for the summer! Teenagers everywhere are searching for summer jobs — which means résumé writing, possibly for the very first time.

A teenager’s first résumé will look different from an experienced applicant’s, but it can still help land a job.

DO include:
• All of your contact information — full name, mailing address (use a street address, not P.O. Box), phone number, and e-mail address.
• Your education experience, which, at this age, usually means just listing your high school.
• Any previous job experience (even if it’s baby-sitting or mowing lawns). If you’re applying for your very first job, you can include volunteering projects and extracurricular activities at school.
• At least three references, and be sure to ask permission before listing them so they won’t be caught off-guard if a prospective employer contacts them.

Do NOT include:
• A link to your blog or other social media (Twitter, Facebook) with your contact information.
• Any unusual fonts — keep things uniform and clean-looking on the page.
• A list of your personal hobbies and interests.
• A photograph of yourself.

If this is your first job, keep the résumé to one page — and good luck!

Friday, May 13, 2011

N.E.W. Day 5: Free Friday!

As National Etiquette Week draws to a close, we celebrate…


We understand the importance of living frugally, especially in this economy. People everywhere are learning new ways to save money, and partly for that reason there’s been a resurging interest in the old ways of living: growing your own food and even canning or preserving it; D.I.Y home repairs; making your own clothes; and finding every possible way to reuse items before recycling them.

More and more, we eat meals at home to save money but end up appreciating the extra family time. We play at parks with children in lieu of costly vacations, and realize how good it feels to get exercise. We work in the garden, learning as we go, and find out that homegrown food is the best-tasting kind.

See? Sometimes the best things in life are free!

That includes etiquette. Manners cost nothing at all, but what a return! You make other people feel good, and that makes you happy, too. Even the smallest gesture can make the biggest impact.

National Etiquette Week may be over, but you can keep celebrating it year-round—and remember, it’s absolutely free.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

N.E.W. Day 4: Thank You Thursday!

Today is Day 4 of National Etiquette Week, which we’re calling…


Let's face it: for the most part, letter-writing is becoming a lost art. We have texting and e-mail and instant messaging and chat and Facebook and Twitter...why should we take the time to pick up a pen and paper and hand-write a note?

Because a letter is a tangible reminder of someone who cares about you. It's something you can keep in a box — your grandchildren are not going to sift through your e-mails in delight, but they might have fun looking at old letters bundled and found in the attic. You can look at the unique curves and lines of someone's handwriting and think of them in a way that just doesn’t happen when you stare at a computer or smartphone screen.

Thank-you notes in particular seem like a novelty these days, but they are so important. When someone takes the time to write a note of thanks, you know you made an impression. When you write a thank-you note, you take a moment to appreciate a person in your life and his or her generosity and kindness, which surely makes for having a better day in general. And getting mail is fun!

Children can write thank-you notes, too. They don’t have to be long—just a few lines will do. Very young children can dictate thank-you notes, which can make for some humorous keepsakes. Older children’s handwriting will be preserved and treasured for years to come.

Come back tomorrow for the last day of National Etiquette Week!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

N.E.W. Day 3: Welcome Wednesday!

Today is Day 3 of National Etiquette Week, otherwise known around these parts as…


We don’t mean saying, “You’re welcome” (although that’s important, too). We mean creating a welcoming environment for others. How do you do that? With yourself, of course!

Think of three things:

• Your smile. If you want others to feel comfortable around you, give a friendly smile. If you’re worried about looking fake, refer to a mental image of someone or something — a friend, a pet, a good meal, whatever — that really makes you smile. In time you’ll realize you’re smiling because you actually like other people!

• Your handshake. Too strong? Too weak? Strike the right balance with a firm (but not crushing) handshake. Let it last for a moment, but not eons.

• Genuine conversation. This can be very difficult for shy people. If the idea of speaking to strangers (or even friends) at social events strikes fear in your heart, think of a few conversation points beforehand, so you feel prepared. If it’s a spontaneous interaction, try to be yourself — a phrase that may sound meaningless, but should at least remind you to stick to what you know. And remember that an important part of a conversation is taking a break from talking to listen to the other person. Don’t feel like talking much? Ask a few questions, and simply listen to the responses.

See you tomorrow for Day 4 of National Etiquette Week!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

N.E.W. Day 2: Tip 'Em Tuesday!

Today is Day 2 of National Etiquette Week. We call it…


Have you ever heard the story of "T.I.P."? There is more than one, including a little controversy.

The story goes that it stands for "To Insure Promptness," and that once upon a time, customers would put money on the table before the service to ensure that it was good.

There’s another story about T.I.P. By the early 1700s, coffeehouses were flourishing in London, according to "The Art of the Table." At establishments called “penny universities,” customers could get a cup of coffee for a penny, according to the book; for two pence, customers could get a newspaper, candle and bowl of coffee.

"Payment for coffee was collected in a brass-bound box inscribed with the words 'to insure promptness' — hence the expression ‘tip,’ today a remuneration given in appreciation of service," reads the book.

But is that true? Snopes says no.

"Although handing over a gratuity prior to the act might inspire the one receiving the largess to provide a higher level of service, there is nothing 'insured' about the transaction," says Snopes.

People first used word "tip" to describe the act of giving something to someone as early as 1610, continues Snopes. "Tip" became a slang word (not an abbreviation) and was first common in the crime world before becoming respectable.

What do we say?

We say that the origin of the word "tip" doesn’t matter as much as actually remembering to tip your server!

Today, put yourself in the shoes of your waiter or cab driver or hair stylist — and tip ‘em! If you aren’t sure about standard tipping these days, use our guide!

Restaurant servers: 15—20 percent
Room service: 15—20 percent
Food delivery person: 15 percent
Pool attendant: nothing for a towel; for a lounge chair, $1—2
Hotel housekeeper: $1—2 per day
Golf course attendant: $2—3 per bag
Caddy: $25—50 per bag
Skycap: $1—2 per bag; extra if he secures your airline seat for you
Tour guide: $1—5 per person
Hotel doorman: for hailing a taxi, $1
Emergency roadside service: $5—20, depending on the service
Hairdresser: 15—20 percent (but do not tip the salon’s owner)
Shampooer: $2—5
Spa assistants: 15 percent

Come back tomorrow for Day 3 of National Etiquette Week!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Welcome to National Etiquette Week

Happy National Etiquette Week! That’s right — the annual celebration since 1997 is happening right now, May 9-13. We think it’s an excellent way to remind us all about manners and why they truly exist: to be kind and courteous to others.

That’s the heart of etiquette, really. We love all of the details of etiquette — dining, conversations, socializing, even dancing — because they all have the same goal, which is to put everyone at ease so you can enjoy each other’s company. Not a bad idea, right? Wanting to make others comfortable is important, because it means you care about them. Last we checked, caring about others is an important foundation of humanity.

So, before we get too philosophical, what’s the theme of this year’s week? “Manners: Small Gestures, Big Impact.” We love it. It totally captures our personal take on etiquette: that the details matter, that it’s not hard to incorporate etiquette into everyday life, and even the smallest signs of kindness yield big rewards.

We’ve come up with a way to celebrate the week every day with little mini-themes, which we’ll share here. What’s today?


It’s not just a Bangles song(though it’s an awfully catchy one). Today, Manic Monday means adapting new behavior through repetition. “Please,” “You’re Welcome,” “Excuse me” — these are phrases that are easy to forget but have big impact when you remember to say them. Practice makes perfect, so say this today. A lot!

Come back tomorrow to see what’s up for Tuesday!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The humble napkin

Napkins are one of those elements of etiquette that are completely practical: they keep your clothes and (in a pinch) your face clean. They were even more useful to our ancient ancestors, whose mealtimes resembled miniature baths.

Let's talk about cutlery first. Forks first appeared in 11th century Tuscany, where they were rejected by clergy and others who said that humans were meant to use their fingers while eating. Wealthy Tuscans ignored that advice, and eventually others followed suit — thought it took about 100 years for forks to be commonly accepted there.

Forks remained a novelty everywhere else until around the 18th century, with the French leading the way in using forks as a symbol of nobility. What did people use instead of forks? Knives, spoons, and their hands (showing good manners meant using the first three fingers instead of all five, avoiding using the ring finger and pinkie —talk about dainty!).

So you see, napkins were an absolute necessity to keep hands clean throughout a multi-course meal.

As you might expect, napkins used to be quite large—about the size of today’s bath towel. Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks used these extra large napkins along with flower- and herb-scented finger bowls, or small bowls with water. Have a bite, get your fingers wet, towel off.

Once forks became commonly used, there was less of a need to practically wash your hands at the dinner table, and napkins started getting smaller - the perfect size to keep in your lap.