March 15, 2021

Burdening Friends with Cake, Ousting Toxic Club Members, Tidying Up Messy Schools, and More

Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this bonus episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about burdening friends with chocolate cake, dealing with toxic club members, tidying up messy piano schools, and much more. Please follow us! (We'd send you a hand-written thank you note if we had your address.)

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  • How do I tell my son's piano school they need to clean up?
  • How do I avoid sending the Zillow link of my new home to friends?
  • Is it rude to leave leftovers for a friend since they'll have to wash the dish before returning it?
  • How do we get rid of a new club member whom we dislike?
  • What should I do about a misdirected thank you note?
  • Repent: Allowing a date to make a mess with rice




Hosts: Nick Leighton & Leah Bonnema

Producer & Editor: Nick Leighton

Theme Music: Rob Paravonian


Nick: Hey, everybody. It's Nick Leighton.

Leah: And I'm Leah Bonnema.

Nick: And we had so many great questions from you all in the wilderness.

Leah: [howls]

Nick: That we have a bonus episode, so here we go. Our first question is, quote, "How do I tell my son's piano school that they need to seriously clean the place up and redecorate? It looks like an episode of Hoarders. It's so dusty. And they have posters hanging from a million years ago, old toys with missing eyeballs. It's like the antique shop in Toy Story 4. How do I encourage them to clean up without being insulting?"

Leah: And there was a photo and a video. I was ready for the video, I was ready for it to be like a full 360.

Nick: Mm-hmm.

Leah: But it was just a very delightful piano playing. Very, very talented piano player.

Nick: Yes. And it had sort of a nice damask curtain background, sort of very 1967, mustard yellow with matching carpeting. it kind of looked like a home in Valley of the Dolls.

Leah: You know, I was just so swept away by the wonderful music.

Nick: [laughs] I see. I mean, let's not go that far. It was just a six year old playing piano, but okay.

Leah: I thought it was great. I just—I also didn't think that it was gonna be anybody playing piano, so as soon as I was like, oh, this is a very talented young pianist, I just got right into it. And then I forgot that's what I wasn't supposed to be looking at.

Nick: And then there's a photo of, like, a closet area that was sort of like some boxes sort of stacked up on a printer and some sort of bric-a-brac, like in a closet area without a door on it.

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: So that was what that was. So my first thought was like, I don't think this is that bad.

Leah: Oh, I don't think it's that bad. And I also think that I cannot imagine a way to bring it up without being insulting.

Nick: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, what do you say? What do you say?

Leah: The only thing if it's very dusty to where it's causing sneezing and itchy eyes.

Nick: Like, I don't think there's a health and safety issue here, so it's just an aesthetic question. And so for that, I think if the music education that we're getting here is good, if we're happy with the services being provided, I think we have to kind of let it go.

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: I mean, the other thing I did write down—because any time I think about, like, redecorating or cleaning a place up, I always think of that scene in Sister Act with C+C Music Factory, "Just a Touch of Love" where they're, like, cleaning up the lot next door and they're, like, cleaning up graffiti.

Leah: Yes. Yes. [laughs]

Nick: Like, I cannot walk down the street in New York City, and I cannot walk past an empty lot without hearing that song in my head. Like, it never fails. I'm always thinking, like, "Oh, let's do a montage with nuns." So maybe there's a way to, like, gather the parents together to do a C+C Music Factory montage sequence.

Leah: Do you have access to nuns?

Nick: If so ...

Leah: And can you get them?

Nick: Yes.

Leah: Also C+C Music Factory makes any situation more fun.

Nick: Yeah. No, I mean, I certainly like cleaning out my closet to that, sure.

Leah: But I don't think there's a way to bring it up, unless it's a health and safety issue where people are getting itchy eyes and sneezes from the dust. As you said, if you're happy with the services you're getting, maybe overlook it.

Nick: I think the one idea I had would be maybe, just maybe, you could offer something along the lines of like, "Oh, I'm cleaning out my house. I have an extra curtain. Would you like it for that door frame?" Which is like, maybe you should put up a curtain in this door frame?

Leah: Okay.

Nick: Maybe. You'd really have to land that, though, to not sound judgmental about the current state.

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: So good luck with that.

Leah: Tell us.

Nick: Did we offer anything helpful?

Leah: No, we didn't.

Nick: No.

Leah: No, our answer was ...

Nick: Tough it out.

Leah: She said, "How do I?" And our answer was, "You don't." So ...

Nick: Yeah, enjoy.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: Our next question is, quote, "My husband and I just bought our first home. We're in our 30s and moved around a ton, both separate and together. We do okay moneywise, live pretty frugally, and have been able to save quite a bit for a down payment. I did not realize, however, that when you buy a home, the first thing people ask you is, "Can you send me the Zillow link?" Which is fine, except the listing always reveals the price, which then gives everyone an immediate window into our finances. The most common reaction we've gotten is surprise. They are all shocked that we can afford what we can and live in the neighborhood we purchased in. On the flip side, we have some friends and family that are not doing as well as us financially, and sharing the Zillow link makes us feel terrible, as if we are throwing our money in their faces. Regardless, we find ourselves in a real awkward situation that we can't navigate out of. If we don't send the link, we feel cagey and secretive, while sharing it makes us feel guilty and uncomfortable. Am I being crazy? Is this a normal occurrence for people who buy homes and I just need to get used to it?"

Leah: This is what I wrote one could answer when people ask for the Zillow link.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: And I put it in quotes, because I wrote it all out.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: They email you, "Oh, let us have a Zillow link." We email back, "I'll send you some pics when we move in. I'm so excited!"

Nick: Yes! I think—that's exactly what I was thinking.

Leah: Oh!

Nick: So we are in sync. And video tour, guys. I love a good video tour.

Leah: Oh, that's a ...

Nick: Take me on a spin.

Leah: That's nice.

Nick: Walk me through it. Do a whole Brenda Dixon, welcome to my home video. So I think that would be the way to handle it. But it is true. Everyone's gonna know how much you spent. That's just the world we live in. If you buy a house, I'm probably gonna look it up. So even if you don't send me the link, like, I'm gonna figure it out.

Leah: Yeah. I do understand why it makes our letter writer uncomfortable. This sort of thing is like, if you want to look it up, look it up without me being there, you know what I mean? Don't make me send you the link.

Nick: Yeah, that's fair. And also, what you pay for the house is not actually always a true representation of your financial situation because, you know, you don't know how big of a mortgage you might have, or you don't know how much of it was a gift as a down payment, or did you pay cash, or how much cash do you have left over, you know? So it gives you maybe a hint about someone's finances, but it's not the whole story. So you should never sort of judge someone based on, like, what they pay for their house.

Leah: Also, you shouldn't be commenting.

Nick: Oh, definitely not.

Leah: Our letter writer's saying these people are making comments back. Like, "Oh, wow. I didn't think you could live there." You know what I mean?

Nick: Yeah, that's true, if you have this knowledge, you should never allude to the fact that you have this knowledge. You should always keep that secret.

Leah: Yeah. That's why I think take yourself out of the game by being like, "I'm gonna send the pics. I'm so excited!" And that way you don't have to be a part of somebody commenting when you don't want to comment.

Nick: Yeah. And, you know, for some things in life, it just is what it is, and you don't have to justify it. So you don't have to feel good or bad about what you spent on your house. It just is what it is.

Leah: Yep.

Nick: And you don't have to worry about how other people think about that.

Leah: Absolutely.

Nick: Because, like, the flipside is, if you worried about what people thought, like, would you have bought a less expensive house just so that you wouldn't have to have this conversation with people? Like, that doesn't make sense.

Leah: Yeah, any of their responses are about them, not you.

Nick: Yes. It is definitely more a comment on their character than anything you did. Absolutely. And it sounds like jealousy, really, which is very unbecoming.

Leah: Very unbecoming.

Nick: But it is true. It is a normal occurrence for people to look up how much you spent on your house. But slicker people will just keep it to themselves.

Leah: I just—it actually wouldn't occur to me.

Nick: It wouldn't occur to you? Oh, my gosh.

Leah: No, I would—I actually would just want to see the pictures. I mean, what do I care what somebody spent on their house?

Nick: I mean, I'm—I think as a New Yorker, I'm always fascinated with real estate in general. Like, that's just sort of one of our parlor games here. So I'm always just sort of curious. It's like one of the things we talk about. You know, we talk about something that's closing is now Duane Reade, and we talk about how much real estate is.

Leah: Hmm.

Nick: Like, those are our two cocktail party conversations.

Leah: Yeah, but you're talking about it in a curiosity way. I feel like this person feels it's being talked about in a comment on her character way.

Nick: Yeah. No, that's fair. Yeah. No, I'm never curious about what somebody spent because I'm curious about, like, their financial situation, which is truly none of my business and doesn't really matter.

Leah: So I feel like those are two very different conversations.

Nick: Very different conversations. So yeah, I think just send photos, a great video. And I think when you're gonna do that video, just please use landscape, don't use portrait mode.

Nick: So our next question is, quote, "I visited a friend and brought over chocolate cake still in its baking pan, and a glass pitcher of raspberry lemonade. Her daughters love both so much that I offered to leave them with her to finish, and I'd pick up the dishes later. However, now I worry that I left her extra work to do because she'll feel obligated to wash the dishes before returning them. What's the polite thing to do here? Do I just take my food with me when I leave and not offer to leave any? Should I have asked her for her own container to save the cake and lemonade and then I take my own dishes home? Thanks for the advice!" I mean ...

Leah: I mean, this is my brethren: overthinker people. This is my group of people. We're overthinkers. When I see it outside of myself, I think you were just doing a lovely gesture. Don't worry about it.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, I love that our listeners are so aware of doing the right thing. Like, they're so aware that they're, like, I'm bringing cake and lemonade to a friend, what should I do more?

Leah: Or what did I do wrong?

Nick: What did I do wrong? How can I make this less problematic?

Leah: You're a delight. You just did something delightful.

Nick: This is delightful, yeah. Because here is the social contract: when you offer to leave the cake and the raspberry lemonade, it is an implied contract that you will be receiving the dishes back in a clean state, because we do not return dirty dishes. As a society, we've agreed that when we return dishes, we clean them first. And so by your friend agreeing to take on the responsibility of the cake and the lemonade, your friend knows that she will need to be doing these things that's also required of her. And so she has agreed to this when she said, "I want to keep the cake and lemonade." Like, she knows that that's the deal. And she agreed to those terms and conditions. So you're good. She knows that's the deal. Because, like, what are you gonna do? You're gonna leave it to her own container? Well, that's another dish she has to wash. So you've still created an obligation to wash dishes.

Leah: And I don't think she thinks it's an egregious thing that she has to take on. It's just gonna be a quick boop boop. No problem.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: She's excited about the cake and lemonade.

Nick: I mean, the only solution is, what you can do is you ask her to hold out her hands and you put the cake directly in her hands. And you ask her to open her mouth, and you pour the lemonade directly into her mouth so that no other dishes have to be dirtied. We can do that. It's an option. Put that on the table, sure. But, yes, you are doing a very lovely thing.

Leah: You're lovely.

Nick: And I should note, you offered to return later to get the dishes. So you're not even obligating your friends to come over to your house with them. Like, you're doing all of the full service here.

Leah: You're above and beyond.

Nick: So I think if you do feel concerned, what you could do is ask for permission. Is it okay if I leave these? And you could even say, "Don't worry about cleaning them." You could say like, "Oh, leave them dirty for me. I don't want you to be troubled." Like, I guess you could say that.

Leah: You could say that.

Nick: Yeah. But I mean, washing a pitcher, it's fine. I think it's not a heavy lift.

Leah: It's not a heavy lift. You were great, you did great.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, I would love it if you brought me some cake.

Leah: I know. I immediately ...

Nick: Where's my cake and lemonade, Leah?

Leah: Can I have cake?

Nick: Right? Our next question is, quote, "Our small group meets weekly at the same restaurant for drinks and nibbles and bonhomie. One of our sweetest members said yes when her hairstylist asked to join us. Alas, this newest member is a born annoyer. You know, that person who hogs the conversation ball, asks intrusive questions, comments on your weight, hair and more? Once, when asked to please lighten up and allow others to chat, she got so incensed she boycotted the gathering for one week. We are losing members who have lost hope, as it seems there's no defense except dropping out. We are at a loss as to how to manage this suffocating boundary-pusher. We are polite types and loathe to lie. But dare we fiddle with our moral compasses to be free? Warm thanks for any guidance."

Leah: I found this one—for obvious reasons, knowing my personality—to be rough.

Nick: This is a tricky one. This is sticky. Yeah.

Leah: [singing] Sticky!

Nick: This is sticky, because this is a shame. Because it sounds like we had a good thing going.

Leah: It was so fun.

Nick: We're getting together, catching up, everybody enjoy each other's company. And then out of nowhere, Lisa shows up and ruins it for everybody.

Leah: And our letter writer noted that it was one of the sweet people who, of course, would be like, "Yes, join us!" You know, it was so well-intentioned.

Nick: Mm-hmm. Sure. no good deed goes unpunished.

Leah: Well, as soon as I saw "comments on our weight," I was like, they got to go.

Nick: [laughs] Yeah.

Leah: They gotta go now.

Nick: I think top line, you should not lie. That never works. You will be caught. That is never the solution. So do not lie your way out of this one.

Leah: Yes, I agree.

Nick: And I think the solution is that a polite yet firm conversation needs to happen with Lisa. And then the question is just, who should have that conversation with her? And it feels like the person who's responsible for all this, the sweetest member? I think it's on her.

Leah: Yeah, she's gonna have an anxiety attack if she's the sweetest member. Also, this was in my notes. I want to know how good of a hairdresser she is. Like, sometimes you go, you search the world for somebody who gets your hair, you know?

Nick: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Leah: And what if this is that person?

Nick: Oh, so we can't burn that bridge.

Leah: Where you would sacrifice your first born, you know, to keep this person as your hairdresser.

Nick: I see. So we are prepared to sacrifice our friendship with 30 people to save the one. Okay.

Leah: No, I think as a group, we could—we'd all have to talk about it, and if this hairdresser needs to stay in this person's life, it's a different conversation. How are we gonna handle it if you want to keep that hairdresser?

Nick: So I think the sweetest member is the one who does need to talk to the hairdresser. Like, I think it is her responsibility to resolve this, because she is responsible for causing this problem. And I think she can throw everybody else under the bus and be like, "I love you, obviously. And unfortunately, all these other people do not." Say that in a nicer way, but that's the gist. And so because of that, I think it would be better if maybe you didn't join us in the future, because all of those other people—not me, other people—it's not working.

Leah: I agree with you 100 percent.

Nick: That is a hard conversation to have.

Leah: It's gonna be a very hard conversation.

Nick: It's very easy for me over here to say that.

Leah: But I definitely think throw your friends under the bus.

Nick: Definitely throw them under the bus, yes. And I think that is perfectly fine when it comes to etiquette here, yeah. And in the future, I think we don't want to let this happen again. And I think, when you have a small group of people that are part of a club, I don't think you can invite other people into that club without the permission of everybody in the club.

Leah: Agreed.

Nick: So I think you can have a guest star, but I think what happened here is, like, this person is just now part of the club, and it just sort of happened. And that is the problem.

Leah: Yeah. I absolutely agree.

Nick: And I think there is a world in which somebody else in the group can also have this conversation. Inevitably, there's gonna be, like, the Bea Arthur who's available in this group. So ...

Leah: I think if you want to keep—if this person wants to keep this person as their hairdresser, they have to have the conversation.

Nick: Okay. So we have to have Rose do this, we can't have Dorothy.

Leah: If Rose wants to continue to see this hairdresser ...

Nick: Okay.

Leah: Rose has to throw everybody else under the bus, but say, "Please still take my money. I still want to be your friend."

Nick: Easiest, though, will be to no longer go to this hairdresser.

Leah: Right. That would be the easiest.

Nick: That would solve a lot of problems here.

Leah: But if you have to, you're gonna have to face them, and just tell them that your friends hate their guts.

Nick: [laughs] Yeah, sometimes etiquette's hard. Sorry. Our next question is ...

Leah: And also so dicey! Please tell us what happens.

Nick: Yeah, this one we definitely need to get some aftermath on. So, yes.

Leah: I'm so anxious.

Nick: Yeah, please tell us how this went, and if our advice was horrible. Our next question is, quote, "Last winter, my cousin had a baby, and I sent him and his wife a hand-knit baby blanket, along with some Christmas gifts for their older child. I never received a thank you card. I know they had my address because I did get a birth announcement card. At first, I chalked it up to new parent brain, but at about the six-month mark, I started receding them in my mental theater. I was talking about this with my twin sister recently, and suddenly it was like a light bulb went off in her brain. Turns out my cousin had sent the thank you note to her instead of me. She had never thought to forward the card or even mention it to me, even though I was making the blanket when we were both home for the holidays, so she knew what the card was about and who it should have been addressed to. My questions are, has an etiquette crime been committed here? And if so, by whom? I don't particularly like that my cousin mixed me up with my twin, and I also feel like my sister should have either corrected my cousin as to who sent the gifts, or at least forwarded the card to me. And two, is there any recourse to be taken here? I feel like the statute of limitations has passed in addressing this with my cousin, but I'm wondering if I should be reconsidering their receding."

Leah: I actually think this can be addressed. It's to be addressed by your twin sister.

Nick: Mm-hmm.

Leah: Who should say to the cousins, "I just saw my sister, and I realized that you sent me the thank you card. It was her that gave the gift.

Nick: Oh, my goodness. I just realized it slipped my mind!

Leah: Yeah. I think that she should address it to them.

Nick: But yes, this is an etiquette crime, I am putting yellow tape around, and I am drawing a chalk outline on the sidewalk. Something bad has happened here, yes.

Leah: Yes.

Nick: And it is your sister who I think is the biggest criminal here.

Leah: I absolutely agree with that.

Nick: Because she knows that something went amiss and didn't do anything about it. The cousins, we're prepared to give a pass because they did write a thank you note to the wrong person, which is a little inexplicable because it's kind of like, do you not know the difference between these two people? I mean, come on.

Leah: But I think if we were—I think that we can write that off, we'll give them a pass because it's new parent brain.

Nick: We'll give them a pass, absolutely.

Leah: They haven't slept in months.

Nick: Okay. Yeah, no problem. Fine. But yeah, the sister! So I think the sister is indeed responsible for fixing this problem.

Leah: Yeah, and I think that she should.

Nick: And so what the sister should do is she should go to the cousin and be like, "This thing happened. Oh, my goodness." And then the cousin should immediately reach out to our letter writer and say, like, "Oh, my goodness! Cannot believe this happened. We love the baby blanket. So sorry we did not send a thank you note to you. Oh, my goodness."

Leah: Yep. That's ideally how that will play out.

Nick: And then our letter writer would say, "Oh, don't worry at all. Not a problem. I'm just glad you liked it."

Leah: Yes!

Nick: And then secretly, you can harbor resentment.

Leah: [laughs] Although I think that if they apologize right away, we could give them a pass on the baby brain on this one. You could recede them. You could move them back in if they immediately—do you know?

Nick: Yes. If they make immediate efforts, if they send you a photo of the baby with the blanket, if they are very apologetic, then yes, total misunderstanding. You can put them back to their old cedes. Your sister? I mean, relationships between twins are complicated.

Leah: I mean, relationships, I assume, between any siblings are complicated.

Nick: So, yeah. You're kind of on your own with how you want to handle that with your sister.

Leah: But she should fix it.

Nick: She should fix it. Correct, yes. And I think you can ask your sister to fix it. Like, I don't think we have to hope your sister fixes it. I think you can ask your sister, and be like, "Can you please just tell the cousins who actually made the baby blanket?"

Leah: Yeah, I don't think it's a weird ask at all.

Nick: So that's what we would do there.

Leah: Oh, I'm so glad we were on the same page with that.

Nick: I love it.

Leah: I love it.

Nick: It happens.

Leah: I mean, we're on the same page a lot, but we both immediately were like, sister's the criminal.

Nick: Sister's the criminal.

Leah: Fix it right away.

Nick: Immediately. Our next thing is a repent. So as you may remember in a previous episode, we talked about a all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant in which you take the rice and shove it under the table.

Leah: Or which you do not take the rice, but that someone has.

Nick: Yeah, somebody had done that. You should not do that because that's rude. And so we got a great repent, which is, quote, "I am repenting so much!!!!!" Five exclamation marks. "I was on a date with a guy once who did the 'dunk rice in sauce trick,' quote unquote, at a Chinese buffet, and at the time I thought it was cute and hilarious. I was young and naive, and now I know that I should have intervened. I'm so sorry."

Leah: May I add two things?

Nick: Sure.

Leah: A) I love that this letter writer uses a lot of exclamation points to show their passion. Yo también. And I wanted to say, often I think of some time where I did something—like our letter writer's doing—I remember back, "Oh, I did this," or—and I'm mortified.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: And sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I remember my 20s. And I think, "Oh, how are people still my friends?" I do think—I love, I love that people are repenting.

Nick: Yes! Get it off your chest.

Leah: Get it off your chest. Also we must forgive ourselves.

Nick: Yes. By the power invested in us by Romulus and Remus, we give you a full pardon for this etiquette crime, and you now have a clean slate.

Leah: I also actually have a—I got ordained to be a minister at my friend's wedding.

Nick: [laughs] Okay.

Leah: And I remember because I just got the renewal. Not the renewal, but they reminded me, oh, it's the anniversary of you being an ordained minister.

Nick: Okay, here's a new PDF to download certificate.

Leah: Here's your certificate. And on that, I mean, this is just the power vested in me, I am allowed to forgive people. It's on there.

Nick: Oh!

Leah: I thought I could just marry people, but I can also forgive people. It's on the list.

Nick: Oh, so now we actually have credentials? Okay.

Leah: I actually am—in New York only. I'm only certified in New York.

Nick: Oh, I see. This person, they're on their own if they're out of state.

Leah: So if you're out of state, you may need to bring in another person. [laughs]

Nick: Okay. All right. Well, we really offer a whole menu of services here, don't we? Well, do you have something you need to repent for, for which you would like absolution if you're in the state of New York? Let us know. Send them to us through our website,, or Or you can leave us a voicemail or send us a text message, (267) CALL-RBW. And we'll see you next

Leah: Bye!

Nick: Bye!