So, while Rico is away, Brendan enlisted the help of etiquette ambassadors Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. And he left them this note (written on a coaster) in the studio before taping:
Dear Lizzie and Dan,
Rico is out of town and I had something really, really urgent come up, so I left you guys this week’s etiquette questions to read and answer on your own. Since you guys host a podcast called “Awesome Etiquette” and are the co-authors of “Emily Post’s Etiquette 19th Edition,” I know you can handle it. Thank you for understanding.
PS: If Rico asks… this was your idea.
Was it rude of Brendan to foist this task upon our etiquette friends? Lizzie said, “Well, yes, but no. No matter what we should not return potential rudeness with rudeness, so maybe we should answer the questions.”
In the audio above and text below, you’ll hear them tackle our listeners’ problems with grace and wit like the true experts they are.
Help! My spouse holds utensils like a cave man!
Daniel Post Senning: Our first question comes from Seth in Seattle. Seth writes, “One of the first things I noticed when my now-wife and I first started dating was how she held her fork while eating. I am familiar with European and American styles, but she goes with a bit of a caveman hold. Now that we’re married and have many years left together, we’re in our mid-30s, I think it’s worth figuring out how to politely suggest to my wife that the way she had held her fork for her entire life is, in fact, incorrect and everyone around her is silently judging her and her barbaric silverware handling style. Ideas?”
[Ed note: Here’s the example Seth sent in:]
Lizzie Post: Seth, I think if you deliver it like that, we’re gonna have not a very happy next 30 years together.
Daniel Post Senning: Help Seth out. Give me a sample script.
Lizzie Post: It doesn’t have to be such formal language, but you might say something like, “Honey, I noticed something. And I realized there might be things like it that I do and I wanted to give us the chance to talk about these types of things. Do I have your permission to start this conversation, babe?” Or honey. Sweetheart. Whatever you call her.
Daniel Post Senning: I can hear Rico’s incredulous voice coming in here at this moment saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
Lizzie Post: I think Brendon would say that. But do you think? You are married. Like this couple, you are going to be married probably for another 30, 40 years, I would hope. Do you think this would be a fair thing to try to invite into a relationship?
Daniel Post Senning: I think you gotta go for it.
Lizzie Post: Yeah?
Daniel Post Senning: You gotta try.
Lizzie Post: You gotta try.
Daniel Post Senning: You do it in private.
Lizzie Post: OK.
Daniel Post Senning: I like how you’re priming for the conversation. Ask just a little bit. You know, “There’s something a little difficult, awkward I’d like to talk with you about. Is now a good time?”
Lizzie Post: The thing that doesn’t work is just saying, “It’s just how it’s done.” If you give a whole speech about American vs. Continental, I don’t think that’s the argument that’s gonna win because your wife has been doing this for 30-some odd years comfortably.
Daniel Post Senning: “Honey, I love you…”
Lizzie Post: “Honey, I love you” is a great place to start, Dan.
Daniel Post Senning: “When you’re eating lasagna on our laps in front of the TV, it really doesn’t matter to me at all. When we’re out, I would want to know about something that X, Y, or Z,”
Lizzie Post: Be delicate with that sample script, but either way, we think that if this is really important to you, then broach the subject.
Daniel Post Senning: It’s worth it.
If you’re using your talents as a gift, have the conversation upfront
Lizzie Post: Our next question comes from Laurel in Washington, DC. And she writes, “I played piano for my friend’s wedding last year. I was honored, and it was great. But, preparing for it took a lot of work. Here’s the thing: I still haven’t gotten them a gift. I recently confessed this to another friend who suggested that playing music at their wedding sufficed as a gift. Is that true? Have I already done my part?”
Daniel Post Senning: Laurel, yes you’ve kind of done your part. That is true. At the same time, you really haven’t done it all yet, I don’t think.
Lizzie Post: Right.
Daniel Post Senning: It’s not quite gonna get there.
Lizzie Post: No.
Daniel Post Senning: You didn’t talk about it ahead of time.
Lizzie Post: That’s correct.
Daniel Post Senning: And they probably would’ve taken that it would have counted as the gift.
Lizzie Post: Bingo!
Daniel Post Senning: So, I would recommend that you get her a little something. It doesn’t need to be a big deal. You have done a lot already, and I’m sure that they appreciate it. I’m sure that they treasure the experience of you participating in the wedding in that way, and that is significant. But, at this stage, a little gesture, a little something, that you approached as an opportunity, not necessarily as an obligation, might be a nice way to round out this whole experience.
Lizzie Post: And in the future, it is perfectly OK for you to ask friends whether they would like this to be the gift to their wedding or just a part of their wedding. Things like that — especially if you do this professionally and usually get paid for it — that’s something that it’s OK for you to broach that subject with your friends when they ask you to perform at their weddings.
Daniel Post Senning: You might even say, “I’d like to offer to do this as a wedding gift for you.”
Lizzie Post: Yes — bingo! Love it. Communication, always helpful.
You get a car! You get a car! You get a car!
Daniel Post Senning: All right. One last question. It comes from Daniel in Vermont.
Lizzie Post: What a coincidence!
Daniel Post Senning: Dan writes– I mean, Daniel writes, “How should one respond when a national radio host asks his buddies and frequent guests to do his job for him? Follow up: What thank-you present should he absolutely give them?”
Lizzie Post: A car! A car feels really appropriate for this circumstance.
Daniel Post Senning: Not bad. A little bigger than I was thinking. Scotch?
Lizzie Post: Car and scotch!
Daniel Post Senning: Appropriate.
Lizzie Post: We are the experts.
Daniel Post Senning: There you go, Daniel in Vermont.