The Posts Tackle Tea Troubles and Facebook Birthday Burdens

Etiquette scions Lizzie Post and Dan Post-Senning return to the show, bearing advice about bread-breaking and birthday-wishing.

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

Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning are the great-great-grandchildren of Emily Post and co-authors of Emily Post Etiquette, the 18th edition. They also host the podcast Awesome Etiquette and somehow still find the time to join us to help make America polite.


Rico Gagliano: Lizzie and Dan, welcome back.

Lizzie Post: Thank you!

Daniel Post Senning: Gentlemen, it is always a pleasure.

Lizzie Post: God, you always up me on the intro. That sounded so good.

Brendan Francis Newnam: No, Lizzie, I liked your enthusiasm there.

Daniel Post Senning: You always lead us off!

Lizzie Post: Thanks, guys, I appreciate it.

Rico Gagliano: And Dan, your gentlemanliness is also appreciated. You’re both great. See, look how polite we are.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Lizzie, speaking of that energy, here in New York it is a pristine day, and I can’t help but think on days like this, psychiatrists have all these cancellations, people are kinder to each other. Do you experience a similar dip at the Post Institute this time of year? Like, people are just being kinder to each other and you guys are like, “Darn it! Our phones aren’t ringing!”

Lizzie Post: I think that in general, people have this sense of hope.

Rico Gagliano: Of course.

Lizzie Post: The world’s not so bad!

Rico Gagliano: But what we’re saying is does that then correspond to you guys feeling terrible because you don’t have any business?

Brendan Francis Newnam: A drop in etiquette questions.

Lizzie Post: No, because I get to cut out and go play golf earlier.

Rico Gagliano: All right, so we have plenty of questions on our end, anyway, regardless.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s right. There’s still people with problems.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, somehow.

Lizzie Post: That’s true.

Rico Gagliano: The shut-ins who don’t like the sun, I guess. Let us begin with this one from Judy, who contacted us via Twitter. Judy asks, “How do you handle sharing an uncut bread loaf that is served at a table? Do you each cut your own slice? Can you put your hands on the loaf? Flummoxed more than once.”

Lizzie Post: This question really gets people.

Daniel Post Senning: Flummoxed, you’re not the only one.

Lizzie Post: You really aren’t, yeah.

Daniel Post Senning: If they provide a knife, go for it. The tactic usually is to use the napkin that’s in the bread basket to hold the loaf, and then the only part that you touch with your own hand is the part you’re going to tear off for yourself.

Lizzie Post: …you’re going to eat, correct.

Rico Gagliano: Oh, that’s what it’s for. I thought it was just a nice little nest for the bread.

Lizzie Post: Well, it serves both purposes.

Daniel Post Senning: …But you can use that napkin to hold the part that other people are going to eat.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But wait a second, guys, I’ve never been to a restaurant where they handed me just a loaf of bread in a basket.

Daniel Post Senning: What?

Lizzie Post: Really?

Brendan Francis Newnam: I’ve gotten rolls in a basket or pre-sliced bread in a basket.

Lizzie Post: Or have you ever gotten one where the pre-sliced bread — they haven’t gone all the way down through the bottom part of the crust?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Okay, yeah.

Lizzie Post: And so, it’s like you go to tear it off and you get half a piece of bread.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I guess I wasn’t even picturing this question happening in a restaurant. I was thinking this was something that would happen at home.

Lizzie Post: At someone’s home? You’d do the same thing.

Rico Gagliano: But I guess then that’s incumbent on the host, to make sure it has its little napkin nest.

Lizzie Post: You got it.

Daniel Post Senning: You got it.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I think it’s okay to touch the loaf, guys, is what I’m trying to say. Come on!

Lizzie Post: Brendan, you and I can eat bread like that any day of the week.

Rico Gagliano: Touch the loaf.

Lizzie Post: I’m with you. I’m not a germaphobe. I don’t have a problem with it.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah! That’s why they made the crust.

Rico Gagliano: Maybe Judy works with a lot of nurses and people who are otherwise handling ill people or something like that.

Brendan Francis Newnam: They wash their hands all the time! But okay, two strategies. If there’s a napkin there, Judy, use it. If you’re at my house…

Rico Gagliano: Rip away!

Brendan Francis Newnam: Grab the bread. All right, our next question comes from Sarah in D.C. Sarah writes: “My fiance and I are in the middle of wedding planning, and a debate with my future mother-in-law resulted in her making a beeline for the nearest bookstore to gift us the Post book on wedding etiquette.” The Posts have a book on wedding etiquette.

Lizzie Post: We had a book sale!

Brendan Francis Newnam: Okay.

Rico Gagliano: That’s probably where she got it.

Lizzie Post: No, no, not like a book sale, like a book sold. Yay!

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, okay, okay.

Rico Gagliano: Hooray!

Brendan Francis Newnam: I thought you were advertising. I was like, geez Louise, this is public radio!

Rico Gagliano: Celebrate!

Lizzie Post: No. I’m going to be quiet.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Guys, can I continue with Sarah’s question?

Daniel Post Senning: Yes, please.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Sarah continues, “I thought it was passive-aggressive but acceptable at the time. The book is quite useful. Until I received another even larger general etiquette book from my mother-in-law a few months later.”

Daniel Post Senning: What?

Brendan Francis Newnam: “Now I’m insulted that she has such a dim view of my manners. Is there another interpretation here?”

Rico Gagliano: Sara’s being gifted encyclopedias of etiquette. She’s so impolite.

Lizzie Post: Well, first, I hope that the second book that came was not someone else’s etiquette book, but that aside, this is a question Dan and I get all the time, and that people are really nervous about gifting these books because they’re like, “Am I implying something?” You’re not implying anything at all.

Daniel Post Senning: You might take it as an indication that this person thinks you would appreciate a book about manners.

Lizzie Post: That you’d be interested in it.

Daniel Post Senning: That you’d be interested.

Lizzie Post: That it might be useful.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, well, of course, but that’s what she’s saying. If it’s useful, then that means I need it.

Lizzie Post: Not necessarily so.

Daniel Post Senning: Think of it as a gift for the family library. It’s a reference to keep in the home.

Lizzie Post: Yeah. It’s a pretty book, too.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Brought to you by “Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition.”

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, like, you’re welcome for giving you an opportunity to give people a reason to buy your book.

Lizzie Post: Oh, I like that. That’s good. Yes.

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, next question.

Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Johan in Kolbotn, Norway. I hope I’m pronouncing that right.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Very cool.

Rico Gagliano: All the way up in Norway. “Regarding birthdays on Facebook,” asks Johan, “what is the line between what’s expected from a friend and coming off as a cold-hearted jerk?” So, I guess, is he obligated to post a birthday greeting? Should it be a long birthday greeting?

Daniel Post Senning: To me, this question’s about an emerging tradition, the Facebook birthday, when Facebook tells all of your contacts that it’s your birthday if you’ve provided that information, and they all wish you a happy birthday, and people love this. Some people really enjoy the Facebook birthday.

Rico Gagliano: I do, yeah.

Daniel Post Senning: But you’re not expected to participate. You could have not been at your Facebook that day. No one’s going to hold it against you that you didn’t offer that birthday greeting.

Lizzie Post: Yeah, I forget birthdays all the time.

Rico Gagliano: And it also seems to me that there are so many. Generally speaking, if you have a significant chunk of friends on Facebook, you’re not going to notice the people who didn’t chime in.

Lizzie Post: Right.

Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s not like those Valentine’s cards you get in grade school.

Daniel Post Senning: When you keep track of the people that don’t?

Lizzie Post: When you notice that the five kids in the…yeah.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Exactly.

Lizzie Post: Johan, I would say that to be a cold-hearted jerk, you would have to say something mean to the person on their birthday. That would be doing it.

Rico Gagliano: You have to point out: I am pointedly not wishing you a happy birthday today.

Lizzie Post: Exactly.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah. All right, this next question come from Kristaps in Baltimore, Maryland. Kristaps writes: “If at the end of a dinner party, the host/hostess offers coffee and tea, should you feel pressured to take coffee even if you really want tea? Often there are only one or two tea drinkers at a party full of coffee drinkers, and the host now has to make two beverages to accommodate everyone. On the one hand, they shouldn’t offer something that would be a pain for them to procure but still, what’s a tea lover to do?”

I have an answer, but I want to hear your answer first.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, Brendan’s a tea lover.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I feel like tea drinkers in America are an abused minority, actually, and I think that this is an opportunity to stand up.

Lizzie Post: Yeah! Let’s face it, it is not that hard to boil some water and put a teabag or steep some leaves in it. This is not complicated stuff.

Daniel Post Senning: And it’s nice of Kristaps to be thinking of the host, for sure.

Lizzie Post: Yeah, it’s nice of you to think of the host but have your tea.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I mean, ideally, you would have your tea delivered in a pot with a little thing of sugar cubes, and that sort of thing, but you know what, tea drinkers, we’re so abused that we’re…

Rico Gagliano: They’re just happy to be acknowledged.

Brendan Francis Newnam: We’d just be happy with, yeah, a teabag with a string with a dumb slogan sticking out of it.

Rico Gagliano: In a cracked cup, it’s all leaking out.

Daniel Post Senning: Lukewarm.

Rico Gagliano: You’re just glad not to be mocked.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Let’s start another tea revolution, Kristaps.

Lizzie Post: I like it, only this time we won’t throw it overboard.

Brendan Francis Newnam: We will not.

Rico Gagliano: All right, Lizzie Post, Daniel Post Senning, thanks once again for telling our audience how to behave.

Daniel Post Senning: You’re most welcome.

Lizzie Post: Thanks so much for having us.