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Posts from the ‘Etiquette & Propriety’ Category


Linens ‘N’ Things

ImageDear Natty Urbanite:

I read yesterday’s post about being a good guest, but what about those people who are terrible hosts? Ok, so I work as a server at a local bar and I’ve been flirting with our DJ for some time now. We finally went out and had a great time and he took me back to his place. When I got there shock and horror. He had no sheets. No, they weren’t dirty, he just didn’t own any. He had a duvet and a thin blanket. Said that he just sleeps on the mattress or o top of the duvet. It gets worse. I asked for a towel so that I could take a shower and he pointed to his on the back of the door. He only has one towel. He’s a 32 year old guy! What gives?  LB

Dear LB:

Ohhhhh that kinda host. Is that what you kids are calling it these days? In my day we just called it a one ni… Anyway, I really hope that you went home [and if you didn’t you may have contracted a flesh-eating superbug]. It pains me to hear when grown men don’t know the basics of home economics. Yeah this is why this guys do shop and girls do home ec is ridiculous. ONE towel? My word, he can go to any department store and get three really good ones for under $50, including tax. But the gall to offer you his used and probably still damp towel is just egregious. It’s way too early to try and wade into his psyche to understand why he lives like a troll. You realize that I haven’t got to the mattress bit yet? Yeah because that would require an all cap rant, and last time I checked, I’m not Kanye.

Men, if you are going to ask someone to spend the night please ensure that you have clean sheets [preferably an extra set so that you can change the sheets and let your companion see that you’re both respectful and a grown-up], clean towels [bath and face] and an extra loofah [c’mon the dollar store ones are fine for this exercise]. The morning after offer to make breakfast and give her a ride home/pay for a cab. All-in-all just treat her like a lady.


On Being a Weekend Guest

Funny Confession Ecard: You'd be hard-pressed to find a worse houseguest than me.

So you’ve been invited to your friend’s cottage/beach house/country home/chalet for the weekend. We get it, you’re terribly excited because you have friends with multiple homes like Mitt [last name isn’t relevant]. It has been said on a few occasions that I make for a good houseguest. I didn’t realize why until I began doing regular houseguest stints with other peeps.  Then it dawned on me. A few mental WTFs were uttered and I decided to help brothers out before the bad-male-houseguest becomes a pandemic.

Uno – Bring the host/hostess a gift. And honestly a bottle of wine [that the gift giver will undoubtedly drink after one too many Miller Chill Limes and say something to the effect of “oh brah I’ll get you another one. Trust!”] doesn’t cut it. You’re $12 pink swill masquerading as a rosé will just leave a bad taste in your host’s mouth. Literally. Opt for something thoughtful for the cabin/yurt/villa where they have invited you to stay. I oftentimes opt for a throw, coffee table book, fancy breakfast pastries, a cookbook of simple rustic recipes, good coffee or a decorative pillar candle.

Dos – Yes it’s a vacation but don’t be the last to get up. Lazy. Set your smart phone to wake you up at a decent hour befitting your environment [9am does the trick for me], get out of bed, make the bed, wash your face, brush your teeth and put on coffee.

Tres – Make the bed. Like c’mon you’re not at the W, there’s no turn-down service. As my friend Barry’s grandma used to say “you’re a hard-grown man” so you should know how to make a bed.

Cuatro – Make a meal. If you can’t cook, you must be able to grill. Right? Anyway, even if you smuggle a canister of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls in your weekend bag then pop it out [when everyone is still asleep] and put pieces of chocolate in the triangle before rolling it up into delish chocolate croissants, your attempt will be appreciated.

Cinco – Clean up after yourself. Sounds simple enough right? This includes rinsing body hairs out of the tub/shower, wiping away the inevitable toothpaste-spit that gets on the glass and washing any dishes that are used.

Now go out there and be amazing houseguests. If you forget everything that I’ve said, just remember do the opposite to Owen Wilson’s character in You, Me and Dupree.


Party Politics

The office party is honestly a pulsating HR disaster. Arch nemeses + surly & bitter coworkers + a handful of interns – spouses & significant others + alcohol + unrequited love/intense crushes – any sense of propriety = drama. Don’t be the person who has to be sending apologetic emails the next day whilst praying that you aren’t called in for a ‘chat’ and made to watch the harassment video, again.

As prudish as it sounds, your office party isn’t really where you want to let loose and go wild. Well, maybe you can but c’mon, do you really don’t think that your VP won’t remember your slurred diatribe about the one-ply toilet paper on your floor?

I have a list of rules guidelines of how to successfully navigate your office party without incurring embarrassment.

  1. Take cues from your boss. If he/she is still in work mode and keeping the conversation very beige, take a hint and don’t stir the pot. Don’t start talking about your childhood and the horrible date that you had last week. Keep it amicable but professional.
  2. The two drink maximum. If you can really hold your alcohol, the drink maximum is on a sliding scale. I can have five drinks before I start getting really friendly. And believe me I’m not usually. Don’t allow your superiors to see you getting all lushy and when you start feeling tipsy, stop drinking and take the party elsewhere.
  3. The fake teetotaler. Depending on the company that I’m in, I oftentimes use this trick. I visibly have two glasses of fizzy water and then switch to vodka or gin and ask the bartender to serve it to me in the same water glass. To pull this off effectively, restraint in key. Have one or two drinks less that the your ‘maximum’. It shows that you’re in control or hardcore straight edge.
  4. Leave situations at the door. It’s a festive occasion, do not engage your nemesis. Stand in your corner across the room and give intermittent stank-eye, you know just to let him/her know that you’re feeling merry but not gonna sweep ‘this’ under the mat.
  5. Promotion and raise, what promotion and raise? The party is not the turf on which you want to bat for a raise or promotion. Just because your boss’ icy personality has thawed some, does not give you license to start talking serious business. You can plant the seed by saying “come January I’d like for us to spend sometime discussing how I could contribute more to the organization”. That is all.
  6. Don’t eat where you… Do I really need to discuss how bad it is to do an office hook-up? If your company is 1500 people strong, maybe take the chance. But, if your office occupies one or two floors, don’t.
  7. Be polite, kind and gracious. Whatever the venue, on-site or at a hotel, always be polite to the serving staff. You don’t want to have people going around saying “the people from Blue Crystal Energy are a mean/tight-fisted/overly demanding bunch.” Tip the bartenders and say thanks to the poor girl whose job it is to tote around that oversized platter of coconut shrimp.
  8. Leave before it all ends. This is not the place to put into effect the “I don’t stop dancing until the DJ stops spinning” rule.

It’s a Matter of Respect

Dear Natty Urbanite:

I was in the cafeteria at work the other day and a co-worker, who I don’t know well, asked me to pay for his lunch as he forgot his wallet on his desk. Lunch came to $17.83 and he asked me to give him the debit receipt so that he knew how much to repay me. A few days later he repays me by handing me an envelope containing $15. Am I right to be bothered by his blatant slap in the face? RL

Dear R.L.:

Clearly you’re a baller and buddy recognizes that. Joking. This punk fella is the prime reason why No Scrubs was written and is sung with estrogen-laden gusto at karaoke bars globally. If he’s going to stiff you close to $3, especially after asking to hold on to the receipt and placing the repayment in an envelope [that I’m sure he stole from the company’s stationery closet], imagine the back rent that he owes his parents?

Listen, you were taught a very important and inexpensive lesson – that this guy is a cheapskate. You have a job and can afford to buy lunch so I know you ain’t hurting for the $3, but it’s the principle. And I’m all about principle. I bet this guy is a repeat offender; Nicole in Marketing buys him a Grande latte and he repays her with a Tall mild.Tsk tsk.

My general rule of thumb is this, whatever you owe someone, repay in full [Interac e-Transfer is amazing] and if the amount isn’t a whole number and you’re paying in cash, round up to the next currency denomination [ex. debt is $22 repay $25]. That simple. Now you know never to go out for drinks with this guy. By the way, why was his wallet on his desk?


The Good Dinner/Party Guest

Funny Weekend Ecard: I will be attending your party or a better one if it comes up.

Throwing a party nowadays is neither cheap nor relaxing. The host/hostess has most likely spent countless hours cleaning, planning a menu and Googling cocktail recipes [while at work of course]. If someone has invited you to a party that they are having in their home, it means that they are really making an effort and would really love if you attended. The gentleman who is the ultimate party guest –

RSVPs in Advance.  Nothing irks me more than people who wait until the last-minute to RSVP or who have to be called to be asked if they are planning on coming. The host has better things to do, like tracking down the landlord to deal with the heating issue that popped up three days before the event.

Brings a Host/Hostess Gift. I prefer not to bring a bottle of wine, unless the recipient is an oenophile who appreciates the fact that you searched high and low for a decent vintage. I prefer to bring nicely packaged home-made treats, a box of pricey-looking chocolates or flowers. Just a note on flowers, if you choose to bring these, please ask the florist to make an arrangement in a vase. You can buy one from the Dollar Store and bring it to the flower shop or do it yourself. Otherwise, the host/hostess has to stop what he or she is doing, unwrap that cellophane, remove the leaves, find a vase, cut the stems… Yeah see.

Never Arrives Early. As a seasoned host, I still loathe that guest who shows up super early and just latches on to me like a remora and continually asks “oh so what’s that you’re making?” or “you make your own jam?!”. Arrive on-time or a few minutes late [up to 15 minutes].

Doesn’t Bring a ‘Rando’. Bringing a random person with you to a party for whom you did not RSVP is frowned upon. This happened to me once and I was just livid. It wasn’t that I didn’t have enough food, I knew nothing about this person and she had to cling to her ‘date’ the entire time, thus did not mingle. If you want to bring a new ‘friend’ ask permission and give the host/hostess some background about the +1. So in stead of “oh and you are?” the host will say “great to meet you! How do you find working at the Bay?”

Eats Whatever is Served. Unless it’s for health or religious reasons, eat what is placed on your plate. The fact that you don’t like parsnips or gazpacho is of no concern to the party-thrower. It’s a free meal, suck it up and be grateful.

Respects Personal Boundaries. Not everyone is comfortable at gatherings. The polite guest doesn’t egg on other guests or discuss topics that elicits heated reactions or result in open jaws and stifled coughs.

Doesn’t Dominate the Conversation. Everyone should have an equal opportunity to contribute to the conversation. Please place your UofT PhD in Comparative Literature in your back pocket and relax. No one likes a prick braggart or the guy who always says “actually, if I can correct you…”

Displays Good Table Manners.  Belching at a table is just uncouth. If you feel it coming, quickly excuse yourself and do it behind the Ficus in the living room. If it is sudden, burp into the napkin as this muffles the sound, and immediately apologize. I don’t need to talk about breaking wind do I? Also, the good guest doesn’t gesticulate with his utensils.

Uses Coasters. If none are provided, use a cocktail napkin.

Doesn’t Overstay His Welcome. Don’t be the last person to leave. Exercise the concept of the ‘three-hour max’. It’s better to hear “ohhh don’t go Miguel!” versus “Great! Here’s your jacket. Peace out bro!”

Says Thank You. Whether it is in the form of a hand-written note [mailed the next day], an email [sent later that night] or a phone call [made the day after]. Expressing your appreciation for the party thrower’s efforts is just the right thing to do.


When Dining Out II – Group Dining

Recently I went out for dinner and the behaviour of the people at the next table was, in a word, abhorrent. My friends and I are loud definitely enjoy a good time, but we are always mindful of those around us. This table however, was just over the top. Firstly,  there was the entrance of a fellow with a retinue of tight-bodied twenty-somethings who announced his presence/arrival to the entire restaurant with a “Whoooooooooooo”. Yes readers, Jager bombs did follow. Secondly, the ad-hoc way in which they ordered, is every server’s worst nightmare. Sure you can change your mind. But four times and then splitting plates?! Too much [yes I was making detailed notes of all their transgressions]. Then came the time to pay the bill, clearly math or the simple use of a calculator was out of their reach. By the way there’s an app for that.

Below is a guide to dining out as a group –

Reservations – If you have  a table larger than six, it’s best not to ask for a 7pm or 7:30pm reservation. Seven to eight the busiest window for many restaurants and this may result in your table being served later than other tables. Whatever time you make the reservation for, tell your group that it’s half an hour earlier [ex. dinner reso at 8:30pm, tell your friends 8:00pm]. This will allow everyone to arrive on time. Speaking about that…

Arriving – Please, for the love of all things good, arrive on time and don’t occupy the table until the entire group has arrived. Sit at the bar, have a few drinks. It sets a lovely tone for the evening and shows your server that you respect her/him enough not to put her/him through “Ohhh can you give us a few more minutes we’re waiting on some more people” and the dreaded “just water for now until we all get here”.

Ordering – Decide as a group if you’re doing multiple courses. There’s strength in numbers, if only one person wants an appetizer and the others just want to jump straight to the main, well Mr. Scallop-Sashimi-with-Pea-Shoots can get his starter at the same time as his main or just skip it all together.

For the Table – Whoever organized the dinner should spring for some nibbles for the table. Whether it is some warm flatbread and white bean hummus or a couple of charcuterie boards, it’s a lovely gesture to offer the people who will be forking out money to celebrate/hang-out with you something to graze on.

Revelry – Ham it up, but just be mindful of the noise level. If you notice [aka receiving numerous stank eyes] that your fun is making other diners uncomfortable send a round of drinks to that table or have one person in the group go over and explain that it’s a special occasion and apologize for having your fun affect theirs. Believe me, they will appreciate it.

When you’re Finished – Close your knife and fork and place it at a 5 o’clock position, with the fork tines up. This signals to the server that you’re indeed finished. And once the plate touches the server’s fingers do not ask for it again. You’re done. End of story.

The Bill – Ahh the split bill. Here is my recommendation, when making the reservation over the phone ask the restaurant if they would be kind enough to do separate bills for the group. This eliminates the utterance, “oh how much should I throw in?” Here’s my beef, there’s always that one person who NEVER pays his/her full way thus forcing someone else to absorb the shortfall. Also, it’s unfair to the person who had a $14 main to pay part of the bill for someone who had a $38 steak. If the restaurant prefers to do one bill, pull out the smart phones and start calculating.

Tipping – Many restaurants will do an automatic gratuity for tables larger than eight. In this case the tip is pre-calculated, however, if the restaurant doesn’t do this please tip 20% to the server if he/she was particularly good and if not 15%. This 10% business is ridiculous; serving a large table is no walk in the park. If you were not happy with the service ask for the manager and have the dinner organizer speak with him/her. Leaving a crappy tip is just mongrel behaviour.

Leaving – Thank the server[s] and restaurant manager for accommodating you and your [loud] friends.


Sidewalk Etiquette

One of the things that annoys me the most is people who walk without a purpose. You know the kind, the one who walks super-slowly because he’s in his own world ‘liking’ his friend’s pic of her rice cracker covered in Velveeta lunch. Oh, how about the group of three or more friends who HAVE to walk across the sidewalk at a glacial pace thus preventing anyone from going around unless they step into oncoming traffic. Ugh. I’ve been known to do the tap on the shoulder and highlight such selfishness. Using the sidewalk is simple, it’s a matter of yielding to oncoming traffic. Below are a few scenarios for proper sidewalk usage.

Rainy Days – Wo doesn’t love maneuvering a crowded sidewalk during a rush-hour deluge? My rule of thumb, whoever has the bigger umbrella has to yield. End of story. Because we know that the golf umbrella set love to see if their open tent can clear construction scaffolding, then look surprised when it doesn’t. If you have the bigger umbrella and you are unable to move to the side, collapse it briefly giving way to the other person[s], then re-open and go along your merry way.

Baby SUVs – I love kids. No I do. However, my parents had a pram for me and it served them fine. If your stroller looks like a Fiat, then you need to exercise more caution when using the sidewalk. If you have to stop to answer your phone or to find your dry cleaning receipt or to give a dollar to the kid who needs to go back home and wash the green Kool Aid out of his hair, simply step to the side, thus allowing the childless folk to walk freely. If you are with another stroller buddy, please walk one-behind-the-other, it’s just the polite thing to do, unless it’s a wide sidewalk.

Dropping Gs – So you have eight shopping bags from various high street shops and are not yet ready to call it quits and want to rack up some more debt do some more walking. As a courtesy to oncoming pedestrians, who may also have a bag or two, move both hands from your sides and swing the bags 90 degrees so that one hand is in front and the other behind. This prevents the crunching of environmentally questionable paper shopping bags and giving of serious side-eye. Again, the person with more bags has to yield.

So the next time you’re on the sidewalk and see someone breaking The Natty Urbanite’s law, just tap them on the shoulder and educate them. Failing that, jab them with your umbrella.


You Got This, Right Boo?

I once went on a date and when the bill came my date kept on talking, ensuring not to glance towards the bill. Finally the words “you got this, right Boo?” were uttered. I was immediately awash with consternation, but graciously pulled out my wallet and paid. Lord knows that was the last time I was ever going to see this person, because I was not going to attempt to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

When it comes to the gentleman paying or asking that he and his date go Dutch there are a few key phrases that if uttered will avoid embarrassment  uncomfortable moments.

If you say “Phyllida may I take you out for dinner?” then be prepared to pay. For everything. From subway tokens to coat check, you are taking Phyllida out.

However, if you say “Drustilla do you have plans this weekend? If not, do you care to hang out?” that’s a different kettle of fish. You see, the key term here is ‘hang out’. This denotes something totally casual with a focus on no pressure fun. If you happen to get hungry while hanging with Drustie and you go for a meal, then asking to go halfsies is totally fair.

All-in-all remember be kind, polite and gracious even if you happen to be on a date with a sow’s ear.


Does the Chablis Come With a Straw?

Dear Natty Urbanite:

I finally decided to invite a  fellow, who I’ve been on a few dates with, over to my place on the weekend. He showed up with a box of wine and I asked him to leave. Was I wrong? WGM

Dear WGM:

I have a ‘funny’ boxed wine story. I once went to my ex’s house for Thanksgiving and the family bought me a box of wine and a President’s Choice frozen shrimp ring because they knew that a “fancy pants” was coming to dinner. Oh you didn’t laugh? Well neither did I, especially because I was wearing pants from the Gap.

Let me put it this way, boxed wine is good for three things – binge drinking by broke university students; making mulled wine; and weekend tie-dye projects. I wouldn’t have had the balls gumption to ask him to leave and even though a tad harsh, a box of wine as a gift is indeed in poor taste. So put your feet up on your imported ottoman [I’m sure you have one of those], pour yourself a glass of Veuve Clicquot and start making flyers to stop the boxed wine movement. Oh and in case you want the boxed wine T-shirt, head over to Red Bubble.


Is Twenty-Eight the New Seventy?

Clearly when I celebrated my last birthday I turned into a curmudgeon. I demand expect a lot from people – friends, co-workers, the cute Filipino Starbucks barista, my doctor who has the bedside manner of a dead pineapple – everyone. So pardon me while I vent on this ‘trend’ that I’ve been seeing at house parties. Serving chips, from a bag!

I’m sorry, but if I make the effort to click “attend” on Facebook, trek to the LCBO [for my readers outside of Ontario, that’s the liquor store; I guess I could have simply said, “liquor store”?] and purchase a hostess gift, the least I expect is to be served snacks from a bowl. I really don’t care that you were too busy cleaning to actually make something, but come on! Having your guests rummage through an assortment of chips on your kitchen counter is, in a word, crass. Did I just get transported to a dorm room in the developing world? No, I’m in your Scavolini kitchen watching as Chet wipes salt and vinegar on his jeans because you failed to provide napkins as well. Escandaloso! Oh and wipe that pained look off your face whenever a guest asks for some ice.

Throwing a get-together isn’t that hard. My awesome friend Jessica is the doyenne of casual entertaining. She prettily arranges cheeses [and not the marble kind, I mean the kind of cheese that comes with a dictionary], lays out at least three kinds of salty crunchy things and at some moment during the evening she’ll pull out a well-decorated home-made cake. Yes, she’ll bake a cake. From scratch. Her effort both impresses and touches her group of friends and for this [and other reasons] she’s respected and adored.

So the next time you have people over, I’m not asking you to pull a Jessica, but just put the chips in a flipping bowl. Even if it’s plastic.

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