Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning on Gloating and Baby Holding

Etiquette experts Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning explain the proper protocol for holding cutlery ... and holding babies. (The technique is not the same, mind you.)

Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. Courtesy of The Emily Post Institute.
Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. Courtesy of The Emily Post Institute.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Each week you send in your questions on how to behave and here to answer them this week are etiquette authorities Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. They are the great-great-grandchildren of Emily Post and co-authors of “Emily Post’s Etiquette, the 18th edition.” Also they host the podcast, “Awesome Etiquette” and somehow still find the time to join us once a month to help make America polite. Lizzie and Daniel welcome back.

Lizzie Post: Thank you.

Daniel Post Senning: It is an honor and a privilege.

Rico Gagliano: For us especially, and actually, Dan, you are in studio with us in Los Angeles. You have fled your usual hometown of Burlington, Vermont. I can’t imagine why?

Brendan Francis Newnam: This is so exciting.

Rico Gagliano: This is cold warmth you’re experiencing.

Lizzie Post: This is the second time this has happened. I still feel like the kid who doesn’t get invited to the party.

Brendan Francis Newnam: This leads to a question. So, Dan is in L.A. Lizzie is in Vermont. What is the etiquette around gloating? Because honestly, if you live on the East Coast and you go on Instagram or Facebook in the dead of winter, you see tons of people from nicer climates bragging about how nice they have it, just straight up.

Daniel Post Senning: I wish you could see the text that I was sending from the studio lobby earlier today.

Lizzie Post: You know you have to think about — is the cup is half empty or half full here? Like, is it gloating? Because everyone who loves ski season and sees the wonderful the amount of snowfall that we’ve gotten, would absolutely be like, “Yeah, you go and enjoy your 65 [degrees] in no snow.”

Rico Gagliano: Context matters. One could argue that Instagram is basically is just a platform for gloating. Look where I am. Look at who I’m with.

Daniel Post Senning: Not just appropriate de rigueur. It is expected.

Lizzie Post: I think it is fine. You know, you share what you do and if you are in a place where you’ve got beautiful sunshine and tan year round, you go right ahead and share that.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s why I follow just miserable people.

Rico Gagliano: Alright, well let’s talk to some people who are in various states of misery and joy. Let’s answer their questions. Here is something from Joanne in St Louis, Missouri. Joanne writes: “I’d never correct anyone’s use of punctuation at work, that’s just being a jerk, but a manager just used ‘performant’ as if it’s the adjective form of performance, as in ‘high performant team.’ Dare I correct this manager?”

Daniel Post Senning: Yes.

Rico Gagliano: Really, you do?

Lizzie Post: Dan in LA, what do you think?

Daniel Post Senning: I say yes. Quietly, in private. Don’t call them out in front of the team. Broccoli on the tooth, help him avoid further embarrassment in the future, down the line, by addressing the awkward situation.

Rico Gagliano: For those who don’t know, broccoli on the tooth is the general rule we’ve learned here. If you see someone with broccoli on their tooth you should…

Daniel Post Senning: Let them know, absolutely.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I thought broccoli on the tooth was Dan whispering to his agents across the country.

Daniel Post Senning: That’s etiquette expert code for launching an attack.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Sneaking that in there.

Lizzie Post: No, but you do want to be careful. Remember that you are correcting someone who is senior to you at the company and so I think Dan’s right, you really want to make sure you do it aside and do it gently and just say, “Hey, I’d want to know if the situation was reversed.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Because you do not want to get a bad performant review.

Rico Gagliano: Okay. Moving quickly on. Here is something that we got via Twitter from Aisha E. a.k.a @jewelsfactor and Aisha writes: “How I can ‘nicely’ tell someone I don’t want to carry their newborn?” I think we should clarify it. I don’t think that means actually being a surrogate mom. Like literally holding a newborn.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I was going to say, I don’t think there’s a polite way to tell someone that you don’t want to have their baby.

Rico Gagliano: What does she do? That’s true, some people don’t feel comfortable holding an infant.

Daniel Post Senning: A little humor when you’re delivering bad news. I don’t trust myself, please.

Lizzie Post: I think also, head it off at the pass. Let your friend know, yeah of course I want to get together. I’m a little nervous around newborns. Before you hand him off to me, let’s work our way up to that or something like that.

Daniel Post Senning: The stigma that comes with this is that it’s like, “Oh, you’re anti-child and disapprove of me having one.”

Lizzie Post: You know people have all different reasons for kind of being uncomfortable around kids. Some people might be going through their own issues with whether or not they can or can’t have kids and I think it’s okay to not have to share those things if you don’t feel comfortable sharing it, but to just say, “Hey this scenario. I’m a little uncomfortable, but I really do want to spend some time with you.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Can’t you pretend you’re sick? “Oh, I’m getting over a cold.”

Lizzie Post: Then they’re not going to let you in the house at all.

Rico Gagliano: Daniel’s shaking his head

Daniel Post Senning:  No deception.

Brendan Francis Newnam: No deception okay, but I’m not that one of those people. I am totally happy to hold children. You can call me up.

Rico Gagliano: There you go, @jewelsfactor, call Brendan.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I totally hold babies. Baby holder. @babyholder. Alright, so this next question comes from Steve in Lihue, Hawaii. That’s a cool town to live in. Steve writes: “I was taught after cutting your food, you take a piece to your mouth either with a fork in your left hand, tines down, European style, or with the fork tines up in your right hand, American style. But lately I’ve noticed that some people spear the food the with fork with their left hand in a vertical position, their thumb is at the top of the fork and the handle of the fork  grasped with their full hand like a fist, as little kids frequently do. Is it acceptable?”

Rico Gagliano: So it’s like they’re clutching the fork in their fist, with their thumb on the back of the fork and then point your fist down, like thumb down, like you’re sending a gladiator to their death.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Me hungry. Me hungry.

Lizzie Post: It’s like a stabbing guys, c’mon.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Wait, has anyone seen this though? Is this a thing?

Lizzie Post: Dan and I see it all the time, but we typically we see it with little kids. In fact, Dan’s mother witnessed a little kid holding their fork like that and they sent a piece of chicken flying across the room.

Rico Gagliano: Oh my gosh.

Lizzie Post: Because you do not have a lot of control. One of the reasons we hold our forks and knives the way you see it suggested on is because you get the most amount of control.

Daniel Post Senning: In the same way that you notice it, other people are going to notice it also. So, in what way is it wrong? As Lizzie points out, you don’t have maximum control and it’s going to raise questions in other people’s minds. If you want their focus to be on that, by all means continue to eat that way, but people will notice it as strange.

Rico Gagliano: Alright, Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning and we are out of time.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And Dan, do you need to tell them again? Broccoli in tooth.

Daniel Post Senning: The blue monkey crosses the yellow moon at midnight.

Brendan Francis Newnam: The etiquette sleeper cells around the country are activated.

Rico Gagliano: Lizzie and Dan, thank you so much for coming on the show and telling people how to behave.

Lizzie Post: Thanks for having us.

Daniel Post Senning: Indeed.