Lizzie Post and Daniel Post-Senning, co-authors of “Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition,” are our main etiquette squeezes, even if we were recently caught with a different manners maven. We would be happy to host them all at a tea party together any time.
This week they take on two listener questions – and their laid-back answers to both may be a bit surprising.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So first of all, we have something we should just be straight with you guys about.
Rico Gagliano: We cheated on you with Miss Manners.
Brendan Francis Newnam: We had her on the show to answer listeners’ questions a few weeks back because she had a new book out.
Rico Gagliano: What could we do?
Lizzie Post: Yeah.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And, I mean, she said that it was okay.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah! She said specifically that it was not being disloyal to you, and that you guys are all…
Brendan Francis Newnam: That you guys are on the same team, that there are so many rude people.
Rico Gagliano: You’re like an army of etiquette.
Lizzie Post: Of course she’d say that, boys. Of course she’d say that.
Daniel Post-Senning: And this is where you say she was excellent, but you know, we’re just so glad to have you back.
Lizzie Post: Yeah, come on.
Rico Gagliano: That’s weird, because that is how we feel.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, we feel closer to you now. Is that possible after?
Lizzie Post: Wow.
Daniel Post-Senning: That is funny.
Lizzie Post: I’m gonna have to see if I can still trust you guys. That’s gonna take time to rebuild.
Daniel Post-Senning: And putting on my sincerity, we love Miss Manners. She’s awesome.
Lizzie Post: We do. We actually love Judith Martin, she’s great.
Rico Gagliano: Do you hang? Do you have great, great tea parties together?
Daniel Post-Senning: Not yet. Frankly, she’s a little out of my league.
Rico Gagliano: Really?
Daniel Post-Senning: Well I think of her as really established. She’s been in the game.
Lizzie Post: Ouch. Oh man, never discredit yourself, Cuz. Wow.
Rico Gagliano: You’re the new wave.
Lizzie Post: Credit where it’s due for sure, but you get it too, you know.
Rico Gagliano: We shouldn’t have even brought this up. Maybe the polite thing to do would have been not to talk about it.
Lizzie Post: Awkward.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Maybe we should just move on to our questions.
Rico Gagliano: Let’s do that.
Lizzie Post: That’s a great idea.
Modern Seating Arrangements for All Ideologies
Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Jackie in Naples, Florida.
Dan is wiping sweat from his brow. He’s glad we’re past that part.
Jackie in Naples, Florida writes, “”If you are hosting a party where guests are predominantly couples and they ask you where to sit at the table, should you seat boy-girl-boy-girl, with people not sitting next to their significant others, or girls at one end of the table and boys at the other, or should folks just sit next to their spouse? What are your thoughts on seating arrangements?
Brendan Francis Newnam: Classic question here.
Lizzie Post: Yeah, it is a really classic question. Traditionally, you would sit boy-girl order with spouses not sitting next to each other. I tend to shy away from doing the men at one end, women at the other end, or on various sides, because I think that that gets just a little weird.
Daniel Post-Senning: A little childish.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, what year is this?
Rico Gagliano: Boys versus girls.
Lizzie Post: But I also have seen my mother seat people many a time, just saying wherever you feel comfortable, wherever you like.
Rico Gagliano: I’ve gotta say that this sounds more like something that you would hear about the White House, this kind of formality of seating.
Lizzie Post: It’s definitely protocol for sure, yeah.
Daniel Post-Senning: I was thinking East versus West Coast. On the East Coast, a little more traditional, maybe assigned seating. Maybe West Coast it’s come as you are, find your own seat.
Brendan Francis Newnam: We just eat granola outside together. Cut open a bag, throw it out like feed for people.
I think the key thing is make sure people who are really close friends aren’t next to each other, because you do want to try to open up the room a bit.
Lizzie Post: You definitely want to think about who’s gonna get along well with each other, who’s gonna bring out conversation in each other. You’re not gonna want to put, you know, the Yankees and the Red Sox fan right next to each other.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So you wouldn’t have say John Boehner sitting next to Barack Obama?
Daniel Post-Senning: The danger of an eye roll is imminent.
Rico Gagliano: It could bring down out entire global economy.
Brendan Francis Newnam: They could always chat over cigarettes outside.
Rico Gagliano: That’s true.
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, well Jackie, it sounds like you can do whatever you want basically.
Lizzie Post: Pretty much!
Rico Gagliano: I mean, isn’t that true in the modern world? I mean, do we really have to ascribe to this?
Daniel Post-Senning: I like Lizzie’s answer. Mix them up. Take people out of their comfort zone to generate a little interest.
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, there you go Jackie.
Sealing Out the Smoking Section
Rico Gagliano: Okay, here’s Robbie in West Los Angeles. Robbie writes, “I’ve been living in this tiny ramshackle apartment with a courtyard and I really like it. I only have a few neighbors, but many of them smoke, and their favorite place is at the communal picnic table right outside by unit. The smoke gathers and comes in through my heating duct- not pleasant in my living room, but it’s obvious that it’s the nicest place for them to light up. Should I say something? It’s gonna be a major buzzkill for them, literally, and I can probably live with it.””
Brendan Francis Newnam: This is a great question. I have a similar question here in New York. My neighbors smoke and it drives me crazy.
Daniel Post-Senning: They’re wrestling with it in Burlington, where they’re banning smoking on the public streets.
I definitely like the awareness that smokers are bringing to thinking about the environments that they’re in. This living situation, it might be tough to break up that kind of a social clique, particularly if they’re already stepping outside.
I would get specific here and look at maybe that vent. Maybe there’s something you can do to the vent. Maybe there’s a way to just close it when the session’s going on or whatever it is.
Lizzie Post: I’m with Dan.
Rico Gagliano: That’s interesting. It’s rare that we hear actually etiquette in favor of the smokers anymore.
Lizzie Post: The smokers need a place to go. It is important to recognize that they have every right to smoke and they are doing the right thing by smoking outdoors. So I think the best thing he can do is talk to his super about if there anything he can do to close that vent.
Brendan Francis Newnam: But there’s science now that says secondhand smoke is equally as damaging to the lungs as firsthand smoke.
Lizzie Post: Oh that’s right, I forgot, you’re trying to find reasoning for your neighbors.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Well, I’m just saying, years ago I think if this was a question about a restaurant we would say smokers needed a place in the restaurant to smoke. And now we almost universally don’t think that’s the case. So when is the tipping point?
Daniel Post-Senning: When you can’t close the vent and it starts to really be a problem. You can’t go to sleep at night, maybe you escalate. That’s the time to get the person with the authority or the standing to address the situation.
Brendan Francis Newnam: What about being passive-aggressive? What about destroying the table, stuff like that?
Lizzie Post: Oh yeah, we haven’t had a passive-aggressive answer in a while.
Brendan Francis Newnam: I would cook something that smelled awful and blow it on them with a fan.
Daniel Post-Senning: Just pull the picnic table 10 feet away.
Lizzie Post: Here’s our passive-aggressive answer: you leave a note on the picnic table that says “I’m so happy that you can enjoy conversation and your cigarettes outside, because it does help the building so much, but I do wish that you could blow the smoke out of my general direction as I don’t enjoy it in my living room.”
Rico Gagliano: Do you think it’ll work?
Lizzie Post: No. Not at all.
Daniel Post-Senning: No.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Not with smokers. They’ll smoke more.
Daniel Post-Senning: It sounds like the smoke gathers and travels in the vent.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah, it’s not gonna be easy unless they have a fan.
Lizzie Post: Yeah, and the other thing – and I hate to have to say this but – you do choose to live there, and at some point you can choose to leave.
Rico Gagliano: Oh man.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And Robbie, you choose to live in LA where people can sit outside a lot of the time, so why don’t you move somewhere colder.
Rico Gagliano: That’s true. And as they often say, living in LA, breathing the air, you’re smoking cigarettes basically.
Lizzie Post: Poor Robbie though. I feel like we did not give him a real answer.
Brendan Francis Newnam: I think we kind of showed how complicated it is. It sounds like people need a space to smoke outside, they live there too, but if it really starts to get really bad, then after talking to the super, you might have to leave.
Daniel Post-Senning: Look who’s getting good at the etiquette advice.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah, Brendan.
Brendan Francis Newnam: A-student.
Lizzie Post: We should just have Brendan answer that one.
Brendan Francis Newnam: You know why? You know how I got better? Miss Manners. I have to tell you. She just really made everything so clear.
Lizzie Post: By the way, Sam has a look of shock on his face with that. His eyebrows just hit the ceiling.
Rico Gagliano: Sam, one of our studio engineers, cannot believe his ears.
Lizzie Post: Yes.
Rico Gagliano: Lizzie Post and Daniel Post-Senning, thanks for telling our audience how to be polite.
Lizzie Post: Thank you.
Daniel Post-Senning: It’s so good to see you.
Rico Gagliano: You’ve got some work to do on Brendan.