What Chivalry Means in 2017 and Other Valentine’s Day Thoughts

Etiquette ambassador Daniel Post Senning offers up a few tips to help us avoid faux pas for the most romantic holiday of the year before solving a few of our listeners' car pool problems and more.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Each week you send in your questions about how to behave and usually we post them to a randomly chosen celebrity but here to answer them this week is an actual expert in the field, our friend Daniel Post Senning. And he’s flying solo this week.

Daniel’s the great-great-grandson of etiquette doyenne Emily Post and helps run the Emily Post Institute. Along with his cousin Lizzie, he co-hosts the wonderful podcast “Awesome Etiquette.” And Dan, welcome.

Daniel Post Senning: Gentlemen, thanks for having me.

Rico Gagliano: Thanks for coming back. It’s been a long time, I feel like.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Are you lonely without Lizzie? Usually, we have you here with your cousin.

Daniel Post Senning: I miss her! I do. I miss her a little bit today.

Rico Gagliano: But the good thing is, if you want to, you can talk about her behind her back. She’s not gonna hear you.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, that’s totally polite, right?

Daniel Post Senning: Oh, definitely.

On gender neutral etiquette rules for Valentine’s Day

Rico Gagliano: We’ll get to that later but hey, we had a question for you about Valentine’s Day. It’s coming up. Which can be a total etiquette quagmire, particularly in 2017. This is kind of a very traditional holiday. I think a lot of the rules for it are based in very traditional gender roles and things like that. In 2017, how do we deal with Valentine’s Day?

Daniel Post Senning: One of the great things about etiquette is that it’s gender neutral in a lot of ways. It’s all about respect, consideration, and honesty. And even if you look at chivalry as a historic concept, it was all rooted in respect at the time. It was a way to show respect to women. And today we say that respect flows in all directions.

And you’re right, etiquette does change and evolve. There is an emerging expectation — particularly early in a relationship — that you often times share costs. You want to stay on equitable footing. So no one feels in debt to anyone else.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Wait, what? I’ve been doing it all wrong!

Rico Gagliano: You always pay?

Brendan Francis Newnam: I thought you were supposed to pay at the beginning of a relationship and then afterwards you’re like, “You know what? I’m broke so we need to split.”

Rico Gagliano: Sort of curry favor at the beginning.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Exactly!

Daniel Post Senning: There are certain traditionalists that really enjoy that idea and there is still room to honor that. But I’ll tell you the etiquette tip I give people is: if they want to split the bill, if they want to keep it equal, talk about it early. Say, “I’d love to go out with you, but just don’t expect to pay at the end because I like to cover my share.”

Rico Gagliano: But even then, a Valentine’s Day date that ends with you splitting the check? That doesn’t feel right to me.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s where it seems to me the Venn diagram of romance and etiquette, the overlapping portion is probably not huge, right?

Daniel Post Senning: Although, at the same time, there are deal breakers. Try getting through that romantic meal chewing with your mouth open, talking with your mouth full and watch how it turns out.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Good point.

Rico Gagliano: So whatever you do, whoever makes the reservation and pays for it, just please just chew with your mouth closed.

Daniel Post Senning: Smile. Look them in the eye. Listen to what they have to say, you’re gonna be in great shape.

Rico Gagliano: We’ve got some questions now from actual real people. Are you ready for these?

Daniel Post Senning: I think so.

Hats off

Brendan Francis Newnam: So this next question comes from MJ in San Diego, California. MJ writes: “Mother taught me that a gentleman or even a regular dude removes his hat indoors. I see so many guys wearing ball caps to house parties, proper sit down restaurants, and even church. It drives me nuts. Am I hopelessly old school or is OK to ask a guy to take off the damn ball cap.”

Rico Gagliano: Wow, that’s an old one.

Daniel Post Senning: Oh, MJ thank you so much for this particular question. I couldn’t agree more and I think the more formal the situation the more you want to honor that traditional etiquette. Definitely in a house of worship, take off that cap. If other people are eating, if it’s a restaurant, take off that cap. What was the third situation?

Rico Gagliano: At a house party though. When I’m thinking of a house party I’m thinking of bumping music and people dancing in the living room.

Daniel Post Senning: In an informal situation, absolutely leave it on. But I really like this courtesy, I think it does show respect. I also– we talked about gender neutral courtesy, I say ladies, if you’re wearing that baseball cap, the same courtesy applies here for you as well.

It used to be women could leave their hats on but those hats were pinned into elaborate hairdos and were part of a Sunday ensemble that was thought out and considered and that’s not the case so often anymore.

Rico Gagliano: But then why didn’t that ever apply to dudes? Very often back in the day a hat was an essential part of the outfit.

Daniel Post Senning: But it was a much easier hat to take off. And if you really want to get into it the idea that you take your hat off came from taking your visor up so you looked someone in the eye so they knew who you were. A lot of our manners are rooted in the middle ages. So you were showing someone, “I come in peace. I come in friendship. I’m not here to attack you.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: I’m picturing a chain-mail baseball cap now, backwards.

Daniel Post Senning: Now that would be cool.

Carpool criticism

Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Leah via our website and Leah writes: “I am part of a carpool, folks take turns sharing the burden of driving, but one of the carpoolers drives in a way that’s frustrating. Hitting the gas and then slamming on the brakes in traffic. It is harrowing and it makes me carsick. Can I say something? How should I address this?” Oh what a nightmare.

Daniel Post Senning: Ugh, backseat driver, side-seat driver, it’s really hard to comment on how someone else drives. Safety trumps etiquette and if you’re really feeling unsafe or unwell, I say say something. But you might wanna just think about how you would feel if you were sitting in the driver’s seat and someone else was commenting on how you were driving before you take the jump.

Rico Gagliano: Why is it, it’s true, but why is it that backseat driving is so annoying? On the face of it it’s just someone saying, hey could you take it easy.

Daniel Post Senning: My idea here’s the driving, it’s almost unconscious. It’s such a practiced act that it’s happening, you’re often in a flow state when you’re doing it and it feels really personal. It feels like somebody’s commenting on part of who you are when they comment on how you drive.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Interesting. Well I also think driving is inherently horrible. And so you’re already in a bad mood if you’re driving and you don’t need someone else critiquing this horrible thing you’re doing.

Rico Gagliano: As an L.A. resident I can tell you that’s true.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So Leah, maybe it’s time to get a bus pass.

Rico Gagliano: Thanks Leah.

Deflecting questions about your job search

Brendan Francis Newnam: Our next question comes from Nate in Brooklyn, New York. Nate writes: “I’m currently unemployed. When I get together with friends and family they inevitably ask how the job search is going and try to give me advice I’ve already heard. If I say I’d rather not talk about it right now they still press the issue. Any polite ways to divert the conversation?”

Daniel Post Senning: I say have a couple of deflecting conversation topics in your pocket and ready to go. “Nope the search continues. And how about that most incredible Super Bowl of all time? Could you believe that?”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Says the guy from New England.

Daniel Post Senning: Just had to get in in there.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I also think that– don’t you think this is a good situation for lying? Can you say, “Oh I applied for a handful of jobs this week”

Daniel Post Senning: See this is why you bring in the etiquette experts because one of the tenants of good etiquette is honesty and I know you know this because you’re so good at heart and that little white lie is so tempting and…

Brendan Francis Newnam: See, you just lied right there Dan. You just said I was good at heart. That was a lie.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, that’s questionable.

Daniel Post Senning: The benevolent truth.

Rico Gagliano: That’s fake news but Nate, sincerely good luck with the job search.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Daniel Post Senning — if that’s your real name — thanks for telling our audience how to behave.

Daniel Post Senning: You’re most welcome. Take care.