Please Pass the Manners

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    Not so long ago, women were taught from birth that meekness and modesty were beautiful traits. We were told that the content of our conversation was not as important as the quality because it was more important for us to sound feminine and genteel than intelligent.

    Thank goodness proper etiquette has changed with the times!

    While some of those old, Victorian rules such as “Gentleman should be seen and not smelled,” still apply, many of them have changed. It’s OK for women to have an intelligent conversation now, but it might be best to save the political discussions for the second (or third) date. Of course, if arguing is something you both enjoy, go for it! Who knows? It could be the start of something beautiful.

    And another thing. Don’t stand someone up. Have the decency to call him and let him know that you won’t be able to make it, even if you don’t have any intentions of ever meeting him. Letting him be the guy that sits alone waiting for you to show up is just plain rude.

    So, you didn’t stand him up, you showed up — on time and stunning — and you have finished your dinner. The waiter brings the check…Who pays? Traditionally, he does. But if you did the asking, you should make the first move for the check. If he wants to take care of the bill, let him, just don’t expect it. You can take care of the bill on your second date.

    0208GIBBERMAN.gif Speaking of restaurants, here are a few tips on tipping. The general rule for tipping restaurant servers is 15 to 20 percent of the total bill, keeping in mind that the average gratuity is 18 percent. If you’re having drinks at the bar, you should give your bartender 15 to 20 percent of your total bill as well. If you’re just having one drink, a dollar per cocktail is acceptable. Just like with restaurants, the average tip expected in a hair salon is 15 to 20 percent. If more than one person tends to your follicular needs, such one person to cut and one person to color your hair, you should split the total tip between them. The 15 to 20 percent rule also applies when receiving a manicure or massage. If you valet, the standard tip is 2 to 5 dollars, and you should tip the person who brings you your car and not the one who takes it away. And here are a few general rules to follow for tips when traveling, according to


    • 1 to 2 dollars per bag for the sky cab at the airport.
    • 15 to 20 percent for taxi or limo drivers.
    • A dollar a bag for the bellhop.
    • A dollar for the doorman who hails your cab or retrieves your car.
    • 15 to 20 percent of the bill for room service.
    • 2 to 5 dollars a day for housekeeping.
    • 5 dollars for the concierge who makes a dinner reservation, 20 dollars if he/she gets you theatre tickets, and up to 25 dollars if they go above and beyond to meet your request.

    Etiquette is also quickly evolving in the professional arena. This week’s career story has in-depth tips for staying professional at work, but just keep these basic tips in mind:

    • Be kind to your co-workers. Avoid perfume that is too strongly scented. Roses or repugnance, no one wants to smell you eight cubicles away.
    • Speaking of smells, sauerkraut probably isn’t the best thing to bring for lunch. Think of it this way: if your entire floor of co-workers will smell your lunch after you pop it in the microwave, don’t bring it.
    • Don’t get too casual on Casual Friday. You’re still at work and you still need to look professional. Keep your jeans crisp, clean and untattered. Save the super casual jeans for your weekend!

    Even with these improvements in etiquette, at least as far as we women are concerned, some basic rules have been forgotten by the last couple of generations. Things like thank you notes are always chic! Take the time to send someone a handwritten note thanking them for a gift, a kind gesture or favor they have given you. Hyde Park-based Poeme is our favorite stationery shop with the most unique cards and corporate gifts.

    Replying to an RSVP is also always proper. If the host asks you to let her know you are coming, there’s probably a reason for it. She will need to make sure she as enough food, drinks and seating for everyone. If no one RSVPs, she will think that no one is coming. Imagine if several people plan to attend but do not let her know. There won’t be enough of her famous guacamole to go around!

    Hosting rules have changed as well. Where several-course meals were standard and supplying your guests with soothing music on the pianoforte after the gentlemen have brandy and cigars in the library are completely outdated. Instead, intimate dinner parties with lively conversation among friends are preferred. After dinner, we keep the conversation going and entertain our guests with some party games that gets everyone involved!

    0408OAKLEY.gif Something else that’s changed over the years is the proliferation of pets. These furry friends are now members of the family and are increasingly going everywhere humans do. Many local churches, shops and even restaurants are welcoming pets with open paws. Here are some pet etiquette – or “petiquette” – tips from Charlotte Reed, pet expert and author of The Miss Fido Manners Complete Book of Dog Etiquette :

    • Call ahead: Always verify the pet policy of your destination before heading out.
    • Travel planning: “Bring plenty of food, supplies and toys so that your pet feels comfortable. And make sure that your pet practices its best obedience,” Reed says.
    • Keep it clean: You never know when nature will call. Come prepared with bags and disinfecting spray.

    Of course, with the rise of electronic communication a whole new form of etiquette has emerged: netiquette.

    Virginia Shea, the “Miss Manners” of the Internet, laid down some rules in her book “Netiquette” to help guide us in our cyberspace travels. She gives 10 core rules of netiquette:

    1. Remember the human. Keep in mind that all you and the other person see of each other are words without tone or body language. As we learned in last week’s career story, body language makes up at least 97 percent of what people think about us and what we are saying. Be mindful of what you say to others because it could be misinterpreted.
    2. Follow the same rules online that you do in real life. Sometimes it’s easy to think that because you are faceless online that you can break rules and get away with it. While you may be right in most cases, law enforcement patrol online is getting more sophisticated. Watch any pirating and copyright rule infringement.
    3. Know where you are in cyberspace. Shea says to “Lurk before you leap.” What she is warning against is getting into a message board or chat before knowing the ground rules. Each group will establish their own rules for what is acceptable, and it is a good idea for you to read a bit to find out what is typical behavior in the group you plan to join.
    4. Respect others’ time and bandwidth. Remember that most people do not have an abundance of time to waste online. Things like posting threads multiple times takes them extra time to read and takes up more bandwidth and server space.
    5. Make yourself look good online. Spelling and grammar do count. You are being judged by how well you can write your thoughts, not by how well you think on your feet, how presentable you are or any other physical feature or body language. You’ve got one way to impress your potential cyber friends and it’s with your words.
    6. Share expert knowledge. Never be afraid to share your knowledge about a particular topic. The Internet is full of people spewing completely useless and inaccurate information. Straighten out some of the myths whenever you can.
    7. Help keep flame wars under control. In case you don’t know, “flaming” is when someone gives a no holds barred account of exactly what they thing about something or someone, sometimes of fellow message board members. As Shea points out, these can be funny and entertaining at first, but they have a habit of turning into a flame war where two or more members are flaming each other. When that happens, it changes the entire tone of the board and makes the experience less enjoyable for the other members. Its OK to express your opinion and let someone know what you think about them, but don’t let it turn into an online shouting match.
    8. Respect other people’s privacy. Don’t read other people’s e-mails or private information, even if they left it logged in on a computer. What’s in someone’s private or work e-mail is their business, not yours. If you find someone’s account still logged in and they’re nowhere around, do them a favor and log it out for them. What if someone started going through your private information?
    9. Don’t abuse your power. Face it, some people have way too much computer knowledge. They can crack anyone’s password and get into anything. Or, they are an administrator of a Web site and have access to anything anyone has. If you are one of those people, even though it might be the most fun you’ve had in years, don’t take advantage of your power. Be responsible and respectable of others online.
    10. Be forgiving of others’ mistakes. Some people, especially message board newbies, will sometimes make mistakes. Shea’s rule is to think twice before calling them out on it. If it’s a minor infraction, just let it go. However, if you do think that they need to be called out on it, don’t do it in the public forum. Send them a private message and politely explain their mistake. Let them know you aren’t trying to attack them (otherwise you could start a flame war).

    Another new area of etiquette that is still emerging is cell phone etiquette. Just because cell phones are portable doesn’t mean they can be used anywhere! Dinner tables, cramped spaces and bathrooms are all examples of places where it is not polite to use your cell phone. It may seem like common sense not to use your phone in places such as a theater, people break the rules all the time. The best rule to follow is the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you wouldn’t want to hear someone else’s conversation, don’t subject others to yours.

    The Golden Rule doesn’t just apply to cell phone etiquette, it applies to manners across the board. With all the changes in etiquette over time, one thing remains the same: always treat others with respect.



    Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography
    Location: Gateway Quarter
    Brandi Mendoza
    Makeup Artistry: Jocelyn Sparks, Zoë Custom Cosmetics