Rico Gagliano: Each week, you send in your questions about how to behave and here to answer them today are our two etiquette elves, Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. They spend all year at the Emily Post Institute at the North Pole, AKA Burlington, Vermont, and tell the masses how not to be naughty. They’re also great great grandkids of Emily Post, co-authors of Emily Post Etiquette, the 18th edition, and co-hosts of the podcast Awesome Etiquette. And, Lizzie, Dan. Welcome back.
Lizzie Post: Hey!
Daniel Post Senning: Gentlemen, it’s such a pleasure to be with you.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Is it rude to call people elves?
Daniel Post Senning: Not when they live in the woods.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Okay, all right.
Rico Gagliano: Tolkien’s elves are kind of live and pretty. That’s kind of how I think of you guys.
Lizzie Post: We do have lists and we check them twice, so.
Rico Gagliano: And there’s that. We’ve asked you before what kinds of questions you get around the holidays, but do you get more of them?
Lizzie Post: Yes. Just categorically yes.
Daniel Post Senning: The volume is at 11.
Lizzie Post: I always feel like people are trying to get their question in just before the holiday and you’re like, “I’m not sure if we’re going to have time to answer it. Like, there’s a backlog of 80 questions.”
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, is it rude to kind of wait until the last minute to ask people etiquette questions?
Lizzie Post: To ask your etiquette experts etiquette questions? Yes.
Daniel Post Senning: It’s like tax time. You want to book your accountants early.
Rico Gagliano: Well, guess what? We have more questions for you!
Lizzie Post: Awesome.
Daniel Post Senning: Fantastic.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And we’re recording you, so you have to answer them.
Lizzie Post: You’re at the top of our list.
Gift opportunities are not gift obligations.
Rico Gagliano: All right. Well, the top of our question list is Anna in Los Angeles. And she writes: “Do you really need to give presents to everybody you know because it’s the holidays?”
Lizzie Post: No. I think, is she referencing anything about holiday tipping there? Like, does she mean presents or holiday tipping?
Rico Gagliano: No holiday tipping. Don’t bring that up again, Lizzie. That gets us in trouble every time.
Brendan Francis Newnam: You tell us not to tip the postman. For those who didn’t hear, supposedly you’re not, you don’t have to tip the postman. In fact, it’s kind of illegal or something.
Lizzie Post: Yeah…
Rico Gagliano: And we here at The Dinner Party Download have not received any mail since that broadcast.
Lizzie Post: Sorry.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Thanks a lot, guys.
Rico Gagliano: Thanks.
Lizzie Post: Well, anyway, you do not have to give gifts to everyone you know. In fact, we advise that you start off by sticking to your budget.
Daniel Post Senning: This is a classic opportunity and obligation question. The holidays are an opportunity but it’s not an obligation, and it really is the thought that counts.
Rico Gagliano: The phrasing of Anna’s question bothers me. It says “Do you really need to give presents?” It feels like she’s being pressured by someone.
Daniel Post Senning: And it’s true. People do feel pressure this time of year, and definitely anything you can do to absolve yourself of some of that pressure, I think is smart. Because really, it is. It’s about the good feeling and the goodwill.
Lizzie Post: Yeah!
Rico Gagliano: One problem I can imagine, though, is if you get a present from someone you weren’t expecting to get one.
Lizzie Post: Yeah, I was just going to say.You don’t have to worry about reciprocating a gift. You want to say, “Oh my gosh. That’s so thoughtful of you!” And then just move onto a different topic of conversation.If you start pulling out the, “Oh, I left mine on the counter at home” or “It hasn’t arrived yet….” White lies? I mean, it’s just not worth it. Hopefully, if they’re a good friend, what they care about is that you like the gift they gave you, and all you’re doing in that moment is ruining it for them, and making it about how you don’t have a gift for them.
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. So white Christmas, not white lies.
Lizzie Post: Yes. I like it.
Should you take it upon yourself to crush a child’s sense of holiday wonder and magic?
Rico Gagliano: All right, here’s something from Jila, via our website. We’re not sure where Jila is from. And she writes: “It has come to my attention that my 12 year old niece still believes in Santa Claus. I’ve always been honest when she asks me questions. How do I keep from becoming the Grinch and not ruin her holiday cheer?”
Daniel Post Senning: I’m not sure I understand the question.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, Dan… Do we have to talk to you?
Lizzie Post: Dan doesn’t understand. Santa’s real. What are you talking about?
Daniel Post Senning: I’m willing to remove myself from this discussion.
Lizzie Post: Dan, go wait in the hallway while the big kids and I talk it out.
Rico Gagliano: The Tooth Fairy is out there waiting for you.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, is it an uncle or aunt’s job to kind of explain this sort of thing?
Daniel Post Senning: Well, I would say, you have the age-appropriate discussion with someone. It might be time for some metaphoric thinking with a 12 year old. Santa lives in the hearts and minds of children all over the world.
Lizzie Post: Hold on. First, off the bat, I think the real appropriate thing to do is to talk to her parents about it, before I would just start talking to your niece.
Rico Gagliano: Exactly. It’s not your place to make the call about when the kid learns about Santa Claus.
Lizzie Post: Exactly.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So you should just put your earbuds in and drink eggnog and ignore the kid, basically.
Rico Gagliano: Although, I thought you were going to say, you need to sit down with the parents and be like, “Why are you leading on this child for 12 long years?”
Daniel Post Senning: It’s going to be a rough time on the playground, no question.
Lizzie Post: Sometimes kids are having a tough time, they just need something good to believe in, you know?
Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, that’s true.
Lizzie Post: And I think you don’t, you just never know what’s going on in peoples’ lives, so check with the folks first.
Rico Gagliano: There you go. So just keep your mouth shut or talk to the parents.
Lizzie Post: I feel really bad for all the 8 year olds that listen to this show and are now going to be like, “What do you mean, we need to have a conversation?”
Concluding one’s use of cloth napkins.
Rico Gagliano: I was going to, yeah, I was going to ask the question whether we should ask this question. Okay, this next question comes from Judith in Pasadena, California and Judith writes – I like this question – “If your hostess is using real cloth napkins and tablecloths, what is the appropriate thing to do with your napkin at the end of the meal? A, crumple it up so she knows it’s used. B, leave it on your chair seat. C, fold it and leave it at your place on the table. D, other.”
Brendan Francis Newnam: I like this. A classic Post question.
Lizzie Post: It is a classic Post question. The answer is that you lay it to the left of your place setting. You don’t want to put it on your chair because often you can get anything that has been on the napkin onto the chair, and then if you retake your seat later, often onto you.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Mmm, goat cheese on the chair.
Lizzie Post: Yeah, right? And you don’t want to crumple it up. It’s just unnecessary. Just kind of lay it gently to the left of your place setting.
Rico Gagliano: Why the left?
Lizzie Post: I don’t know.
Daniel Post Senning: It’s often where it came from.
Lizzie Post: Fine, lay it to the right. I don’t care. Typically the napkin is on the left if it’s not right in the middle of the place setting.
Daniel Post Senning: The only thing I’d add is, this is one where there’s sometimes disagreement in the etiquette community. There are some etiquette experts that will give the advice that, during the meal, you leave the napkin on the chair. And that’s a signal to your server that you’re returning. At the Emily Post Institute, we really think that’s bad advice.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh.
Rico Gagliano: So in a way, this is showing your etiquette allegiance.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, yeah.
Lizzie Post: Yeah.
Rico Gagliano: Throw it on the left and you’re like.
Lizzie Post: Are you an Emily Post etiquette expert or are you a…
Daniel Post Senning: Which house do you come from? Indeed.
Brendan Francis Newnam: I want to see an “Anchorman”-style rumble between the Post Institute and other etiquette experts.
Lizzie Post: That would be so awesome.
Rico Gagliano: I think we just came up with an excellent movie idea, guys. Let’s talk after this.
Lizzie Post: I think so, too.
Sometimes the best advice is just buy some earplugs.
Rico Gagliano: All right, here is something from Julia M. in Waco, Texas. Very straightforward. “How do I tell my neighbor that the sound of her crying child permeates my apartment?”
Daniel Post Senning: Oh.
Lizzie Post: Oh.
Rico Gagliano: Tough one.
Lizzie Post: That, this one is so brutal.
Daniel Post Senning: There are times in life where it’s not necessarily appropriate to say something, and I would say they’re probably pretty aware of how much, how often, and how loudly, their child is crying.
Lizzie Post: In fact, they are probably constantly worried that you’re upset about it. I know I get worried if Benny is barking.
Daniel Post Senning: And sometimes it’s parenting, but it’s often not. Oftentimes, there is a child that is colicky or cries for whatever reason.
Lizzie Post: Kids have fits, yeah.
Daniel Post Senning: And it’s not a question of attention from the parents or something they’re necessarily going to be able to fix if you bring it to their attention.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Right.
Lizzie Post: Go for a walk, do what you can. Buy some earplugs. Turn the TV on louder. Whatever you can to make it easier on yourself. This too shall pass.
Rico Gagliano: So Lizzie, you mentioned Benny. I’m guessing that’s your dog, not your child, that barks.
Lizzie Post: Yes.
Rico Gagliano: Now what about a dog? Because again, you can’t really control the animal but…
Brendan Francis Newnam: You’re responsible for your animal.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah.
Lizzie Post: You can’t always control it. It’s a little bit easier, in some senses, that there are training methods that you can try to work with. Whichever it is that you follow, it’s your responsibility as a dog owner to try to curb that as best as possible.
Daniel Post Senning: We should also, though, as someone who has dealt with a neighbor’s screaming child before, I do absolutely sympathize but if the neighbor isn’t taking all steps that they could be taking, like, say, shutting the window of the child’s room.
Lizzie Post: Right!
Brendan Francis Newnam: Just for example.
Rico Gagliano: Guys, I think this is the appropriate question to end on because after the kids hear the Santa Claus question, there’s going to be so much crying.
Lizzie Post: Aww.
Rico Gagliano: Now we know there’s nothing anyone can do about it so, Daniel Post Senning. Lizzie Post. Thanks so much for telling our audience how to behave.
Lizzie Post: Thank you.
Daniel Post Senning: Cheers.
Lizzie Post: And have a wonderful holiday.