April 12, 2021

Buying Engagement Rings, Eating Lunches on Zoom, Snapping at Waiters, and More

Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this bonus episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about spending three months' salary on engagement rings, eating lunches during Zoom meetings, snapping at waiters to get their attention, and much more. Please follow us! (We'd send you a hand-written thank you note if we had your address.)

Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this bonus episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about spending three months' salary on engagement rings, eating lunches during Zoom meetings, snapping at waiters to get their attention, and much more. Please follow us! (We'd send you a hand-written thank you note if we had your address.)


  • What do I do about a friend that doesn't want me to bring guacamole to a potluck?
  • Is it rude for my mother-in-law to snap and clap to get waiters' attention?
  • Does someone really need to spend three months' salary on an engagement ring?
  • My friend is getting divorced...should I hide a photo taken at her wedding when she comes over?
  • Is it rude to eat lunch on Zoom?
  • Repent: Talking loudly in a waiting room





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, "I was invited to a potluck dinner with Mexican food as the theme. Last week, when we were all sitting around at a table planning what dishes to bring. I claimed the guacamole. Everyone was happy with this, as I do make some superb guac. Well, tonight is the dinner party. The host texted the group and asked for a list of what everyone was bringing so she was prepared. I chimed in with my guacamole once again. Then Lisa, another guest who was at the previous meeting, sends a group message saying that she is making enchiladas and has already went to the store and got everything to make guacamole too. She asked—or demanded—that I make something else. Rude! It's worth mentioning that I already dislike this woman. My husband said that I should just make my guacamole anyway, and I admit it would be nice to bring my superior guacamole. Thoughts?"

Leah: A) I'm hungry; B) I love Mexican. We can switch those As and Bs, they're interchangeable.

Nick: Uh-huh.

Leah: And I think yeah, bring your guac. You said it first. Also, there's never enough guacs. Two guacs. More guac!

Nick: Oh, okay. I mean, for me, my first thought was, "Lisa, what part of 'I'm making guacamole do you not understand? I claimed this item."

Leah: You already claimed it.

Nick: Yes. And the whole point of a potluck is that everybody brings different stuff so that when we all come together, we have a full arc of a meal. We have appetizers to dessert and everything in between. Like if everybody just brought flan, we would just have flan and we wouldn't have enough other things. So that is why we all bring different things.

Leah: That's why it's a potluck, not a flan party.

Nick: And I said, “I'm bringing guac.”

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: Right. So yeah, you have the right to be annoyed. And so there's that.

Leah: Yeah, and I think normally old Leah, old Leah would be like, "I just didn't want to cause a ripple. So even though Lisa's completely in the wrong, I'd be like, "Uh." But you're absolutely in the right. You love guac. You called the guac. She came in later and told you to change. No, you just say, "Hey, you know, last week I said I'd bring the guac, I'm ready to bring the Glock. So I'm gonna bring the guac. If you want to bring a guac too, that's cool, but I'm definitely bringing mine. Thanks so much!"

Nick: Yeah, I don't know if we want to present it in those terms. That felt a little aggressive. But I think we do want to just clarify, like, oh, I'm going to be bringing the guac.

Leah: How is that any different than what I said? [laughs]

Nick: I don't know.

Leah: I'm absolutely kidding. I absolutely know how it's different.

Nick: Yeah, I don't know. The way you said it struck me as slightly more aggressive than maybe we needed to be about it.

Leah: Well, I would type it out on my text and then I would delete words that were ringing with aggression.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, I think we would want to approach it as a, "Oh Lisa, I think you just forgot, it slipped your mind that only a couple of days ago when we were talking about this and it was very clear that I was bringing guacamole that, like, I'm bringing guacamole. But, like, surely this is just an oversight on your part. You do not remember that we had this conversation. Totally get it. Not a problem. Of course you're wrong. So this is fine." I think we would want to approach it in that sort of value-neutral way, if possible.

Leah: Yes, I feel like I was trying to get there. I get very passionate about my Mexican food, and obviously our letter writer's guac is amazing, and she already said she was gonna do it. But I think that's the perfect way to be like, "O, you must have forgotten. I already said I was doing the guac. No worries."

Nick: Innocent oversight.

Leah: But of course, I'm bringing mine.

Nick: So there's also an insane postscript on this. So I asked, like, "Oh, how'd the party go?" Because I was like, I want to know how this turned out. And so she wrote that she did bring her own guac, she didn't cave and everyone loved it.

Leah: Good for you.

Nick: But, quote, "The other guacamole maker was obviously perturbed that I didn't follow her demands by bringing something else. And at one point, she actually walked over with a chip mounded with her guac and force fed it to me while saying, 'I tried yours. Now you have to try mine.' It was weird, and I didn't care for it."

Leah: You can't see this at home, but I'm making a face, I just—who are these people? You're force feeding chips into other people's mouths?

Nick: And to be clear, being force fed is rude. It is not polite to force feed people.

Leah: Oh! What a—what a weird—no.

Nick: Weird is the wrong word.

Leah: Yeah, weird is not the right word. I enjoy weird. Just what is going on?

Nick: Because also, like, Lisa, you're bringing enchiladas, so why are you so invested in the guac portion of your contribution?

Leah: Can we say controlling?

Nick: Yeah, I think there is some control issue here. Sure.

Leah: I'd say more than some. What's the next—what's the next notch up on the glass?

Nick: What's the next nacho up the glass?

Leah: Oh no!

Nick: Sorry. [laughs]

Leah: No, it was great. I loved it. I loved it. [laughs]

Nick: That was a Leah Bonnema joke, everybody. But yeah, okay, so we have some control issues. I mean, is there any advice for how to deal with a controlling person like this in general? I guess setting boundaries.

Leah: Setting boundaries and sticking to what you were doing. And as Nick so wonderfully said, in a polite way, assuming the person just forgot.

Nick: Yeah, that's the solution.

Leah: And also, I think you can say, "Oh, please don't feed me."

Nick: Yes. I think as the chip is coming in very close, I think we can politely decline. I don't think we have to accept food being spoon-fed to you like you're a child.

Leah: Well, and also that other people touched? I mean, come on now.

Nick: Oh, there's also that. Yeah, your fingers are on that chip. Yeah, I don't care for that either.

Leah: Going into my mouth? I do not care for that.

Nick: And also, I don't want your bad guac. Like, I don't want any of these things.

Leah: I don't want any of this, thank you.

Nick: Yeah. No, hard pass. Our next question is quote, "My mother-in-law snaps and claps to get waiters' attention at restaurants. It is mortifying, but no one else in the family seems to be bothered by it. Am I crazy, or is this super rude? Do I say something, or just let it go?"

Leah: I had a heat wave shoot through my body and explode in my head when you read that, because it's so uncomfortable and appalling.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: And I've been at a table when this happened. I've also been a waitress when this happened to me. And it's just so upsetting, super rude. But you can't do anything about it because it's your mother-in-law.

Nick: So just to clarify: it is not correct to do this in a restaurant. Like, you should not have this behavior. This is wrong. Don't do this.

Leah: I've definitely gone back to waitstaff and apologized when nobody was around and extra tipped. Or when they came over to the table, I've tried to make a face like, "I know this is appalling. I have no control over this person."

Nick: Yeah. I think your options include letting the waiter know with eye contact and a facial expression that you're like, "I am so sorry!"

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: "I feel you. I know this is wrong. Please forgive us."

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: And I think slipping to the back to catch the waiter, like, privately during the meal. Like, I'm just gonna go wash my hands, and then catch the waiter and, like, apologize or slip them some money. Also an option. I don't think that's necessarily a bad idea.

Leah: I've definitely done that. I've also gone back where somebody else was catching the meal and I saw that they very poorly tipped. I didn't know how to handle it, but I didn't want to say in front of them, because then that would cause a thing. So I went back privately, apologized and tipped.

Nick: And does the fact that this is a mother-in-law matter? I think that definitely adds some complications, right?

Leah: It does. Because I think if it was your mom, you'd be like, "Mom, come on!"

Nick: And as a reminder, how should we get the attention of a waiter? What are the correct ways to do this?

Leah: Eye contact?

Nick: Eye contact is nice, yes.

Leah: Sometimes I'll do, like, a wave, and then I'll mouth, "When you have a second?"

Nick: And I think if we're gonna hold our hand up, we got to keep it sort of like below the shoulder level.

Leah: Yeah, shoulder level, and it's wavy. It's like, "Hey!" Just so ...

Nick: A little flirty, okay.

Leah: Yeah. Well, not flirty, like, but fun. It's a fun hand. No presh.

Nick: Yeah. We don't want to necessarily, like, hail a taxi.

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: That's not what we do.

Leah: But we're definitely not making noise with our hands.

Nick: There is no noise with our hands, or I think our mouths.

Leah: Yeah. No.

Nick: I don't think we whistle, I don't think we yell, "Yo!" Yeah, I don't think we do any of these things, right?

Leah: "Hey! Hey!" We don't do that.

Nick: And also, I think we just want to remember that these people are working very hard and they're doing their best, and they probably have other tables.

Leah: Multiple tables.

Nick: And so, like, just wait a minute.

Leah: A lot happening at the same time.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: Just give them a second.

Nick: Just a minute. That's all we need. Yeah.

Leah: When I first moved to New York, I got a, like, the dream shift: summer, brunch, roof deck.

Nick: Mm!

Leah: I was so unprepared for the chaos that I just wanted to give up halfway through. You know, there's so many tables. There's so much—you know, everybody wants refills. It's so much happening at once that you're like, I cannot, you know? It's a lot.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, New York brunch outdoors? I mean ...

Leah: Trial by fire. Trial by fire!

Nick: Yeah, was this one of those places where people are taking, like, jeroboams of rosé and pouring it over each other?

Leah: It was on 7th Avenue and in the Village. It was so busy. There was a line out the door. The restaurant wants you to move people out. People want to sit there and drink.

Nick: So there you have it. Our next question is quote, "Does someone really need to spend three months' salary on an engagement ring?"

Leah: No.

Nick: I mean, the wedding-industrial complex is so powerful. so powerful. Like, this is an insane thing. Totally insane.

Leah: I mean, it's out there. People think that that's what you have to spend.

Nick: Oh, this is out there. Absolutely, yes. This is—I wouldn't even venture to say common wisdom.

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: And no.

Leah: And it's, like, financially crippling to people.

Nick: I mean, if you make $100,000 a year, this "rule," quote unquote, suggests that you should spend $25,000 on an engagement ring. That is insane. That is fundamentally insane.

Leah: Well, say you have, like, a $30,000 salary. The money that you're using to pay off your debts, things that actually go towards a relationship, getting furniture for a home, you know, a savings plan, getting yourselves a new apartment, things that benefit the relationship, you're taking money away from that for something that is—I get that some people, like, want—I don't know. I just think it's really insane.

Nick: So I think it's also important to note that this idea of spending some portion of a salary is a very new idea. So prior to, like, the Great Depression, the idea that engagement rings were diamond at all was, like, not a thing. Like, this happened in the '30s by De Beers, the famous diamond cartel. And they were like, "We got to sell some more diamonds." And so basically, they promoted the idea that love equals diamonds, a diamond is forever. And they came up with this marketing idea that you should spend one-month's salary. One month. It was one month. And then I think when we got to the '80s or '90s, they bumped it up to two months and was like, "Oh, you got to spend two months' salary." And now somehow we're at three. We've just arrived at three, and they've just decided it's three. And all of this is marketing. Like, the idea that an engagement ring needs to be diamonds is just a corporation basically telling you that that's what it is. This is not some long, traditional etiquette thing.

Leah: [sighs] Also, the idea that everybody loves a rock, you know? Everybody's like, "Woo!" Everybody loves that. But the idea that it somehow equals how much somebody loves you is—that's why I think it's insane, because I find it very—it's sad and it makes people feel inadequate.

Nick: It's perverse, yeah.

Leah: You know, you could get a little magic marker, draw a little ring on there. That counts.

Nick: [laughs] Well, I think it is true. We forget the forest for the trees, and that's like, what is the point of the engagement ring? What is the sentiment behind it? And I think we can achieve that sentiment without necessarily a diamond. A diamond is not required. You can have an engagement ring that is not a diamond. That is totally acceptable, totally fine, totally lovely. And so I think we can explore other ideas. But yeah, the idea that, because of a marketing campaign, a very successful marketing campaign that has brainwashed generations of people into thinking that an engagement ring must be a diamond, and the bigger it is, the more love there is in this marriage, this is insane.

Leah: I think we're going to get a lot of angry letters disagreeing with us.

Nick: You know what? And I will take those angry letters. If you want to justify why you should spend $25,000 on an engagement ring, why society requires you to do that, I will be delighted to hear your argument.

Leah: Also, if you want to, have at it.

Nick: Oh, absolutely. If you want to if you can afford it, if that's part of the conversation you guys are having as a couple, like, live your truth, absolutely. Far be it for me to say you can't. But I think the idea that society expects this of you, that you must do this, that it's an etiquette rule, no.

Leah: Also in my relationship, I bought—my boyfriend got me an engagement ring, and then I got him one.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, that's fine, too. Sure. I mean, I think the rules are whatever it is that you guys decide the rules are.

Leah: Yes.

Nick: I mean, I think at the end of the day, that's all that the etiquette gods require of you is that you guys are on the same page. Who cares what everybody else thinks?

Leah: That's on the nose. I think that it's your relationship, show your love how you want to show it.

Nick: So just to summarize, do you need to spend three months' salary on an engagement ring? Nope, definitely not. In fact, there is no budget requirement at all. So our next question is, quote, from engagement rings to divorce.

Leah: [laughs] Back-to-back—back-to-back questions.

Nick: So quote, "My son served as the ring-bearer for a friend's wedding. It was a lovely day, and he was so proud to be part of the festivities. Unfortunately, the friend is now getting divorced. So the question is, do I take down the picture I have hanging in my apartment of my son from that day? Or would it be more upsetting to my friend if I remove the photo? What is the proper etiquette here?"

Leah: I don't remember how many episodes ago it was, but you said something that I think is such a great reminder here. I think when you don't know, it's fine to ask to clarify. I don't see what would be wrong with saying, "Hey, I love this photo of my son at your wedding. If I keep it up, does that make you feel any kind of way?" Or I think you could just ask your friend. They know they're getting a divorce.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, it's not some secret to them, yeah. And it's not like they don't have constant reminders throughout their life and day about the marriage that they had and their divorce they're going through. Yeah, I mean, I don't think it's gonna be sort of like, oh, they came over to your house and they saw the photo and were like, "Oh, right. I am getting a divorce!" So yeah, I think asking I think this is good. That wasn't actually even on my list, but I like that idea.

Leah: It was your idea. I just called it back from a few episodes before.

Nick: Like, my first question was, is this a friend that comes over frequently? Or is this just like an occasional one off? I think that was my first question. And then is this photo, like, on the side table in a frame among other photos, or is this, like, mounted three by five feet on the mantle, and this is like the focal point of the room? Like, what exactly is the nature of the photo and how often does this friend come over? Because I think if you're worried about it, like, if you're worried about it enough that you're asking us. and if you can just sort of like take the photo out and no one would notice, then sure. I mean, I guess take it out of the mix, so it's just not visible. And I think that's fine. If your friend is likely to notice that you've done it, then I think that's actually worse, because now you're trying to, like, sneakily do something and now they've noticed it. And now I think that's gonna emphasize the fact that you've done something to protect their feelings, which in fact, makes them feel worse about it, I think.

Leah: I agree 100 percent. That's why I think just ask them.

Nick: Yeah. Asking is good, yeah. Like, "Oh, I love this photo." And I think your friend would probably say, like, "Oh, just leave it."

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: Right? I can't imagine your friend would be like, "No, please take away that photo of your kid, the memories are too painful."

Leah: I mean, as you said, did you blow it up and put it on the ceiling?

Nick: Right.

Leah: You know, and this person lives next door and they come over every day and every day they're like, "Do you need a full-sized ceiling poster of my wedding?"

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: Then it would be a different story.

Nick: That would be a different story, yeah. That would be a decor problem at that point.

Leah: *[laughs] That would be other issues. By the way, if anybody wants to give me a full-size ceiling poster of Gandalf, I am waiting. But otherwise ...

Nick: I mean, we assume we're joking. I mean, although are you joking? Like, would you really enjoy in your bedroom a 10 foot by 14 foot mural?

Leah: I wouldn't—to be honest, I would enjoy. Those that I live with would be maybe not as enjoying of the situation.

Nick: I see. Okay, well, I guess you're not gonna get that anytime soon.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: Our next question is quote, "My company regularly schedules Zoom meetings over the lunch hour, often because that's the only time available in days of back-to-back meetings. Is it rude to eat while on Zoom? What about drinking? Does the type of food or beverage container matter? I should mention that the company's culture is, quote, 'If you're not on camera, you're not even here.'"

Leah: I think that they're asking you to join a meeting over your lunch hour.

Nick: Yeah, that's rude.

Leah: What, are you going to not eat? You got to eat.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, I think you have no other choice. I mean, my first thought was well, then just turn off the camera, but obviously until that last bit of the question, like, well, we have to leave the camera on.

Leah: So you just mute it.

Nick: Definitely mute. Absolutely mute. I think under no circumstances should you be eating on camera with the microphone on. I think nobody wants that happening. But I do get the idea that it's a little awkward to be eating on camera in front of your colleagues.

Leah: I definitely get it. I was on a Zoom the other day where I had to eat, and I muted it and thinking back, it must have been so ridiculous. I didn't know what to do, I felt sort of uncomfortable, so I actually dropped my face down. So it was just my nose, my nose to eyes on the camera. And then I was like, this is even more ridiculous. So I understand feeling uncomfortable.

Nick: Yeah, that's even worse.

Leah: I kept trying to move around to be like, what looks the most normal? And the most normal in the end is just be eating.

Nick: Eat. Like a normal person.

Leah: Like a normal person. I tried to—working around, it looked hilarious. But definitely mute. Nobody wants to hear your chip bag or a fork on a plate or gulping. Mute it.

Nick: And I guess the type of food does matter. Like I don't think I want you eating corn on the cob on Zoom.

Leah: I would. Although that would be hilarious to watch somebody eat corn on the cob. I would lose the meeting, and I would just pin that photo and just watch.

Nick: And I think certain foods, I think would also feel strange. Like, if you ate cotton candy, like, I think that would also be weird, right? If you had a big thing of cotton candy and you were just, like, plucking little puffs of candy off of it? Like, that also would be strange.

Leah: That's another one I want to see. No these are so hilarious, because it's definitely very—it's a statement food, you know?

Nick: It would definitely be a statement, yes. Although I guess I was thinking, if you were gonna eat on camera, I think you'd want to make it feel like hors d'oeuvres. So like sushi, I think would be a good choice, because you can kind of like eat those in bites that are sort of like self-contained bites. Or finger sandwiches, you know? I think that would be an option. So my first thought was like, having hors d'oeuvres.

Leah: At the same time, they're asking you to be on a Zoom during your lunch, so, you know, whatever you brought.

Nick: Yeah, that's true. Although noodles? I mean, do we want to be eating ramen on camera? That's a little messy.

Leah: I mean, you could always just drop your face below the camera and just have your eyes ... [laughs]

Nick: That's—don't do that. Don't listen to her. And what about drinking? Drinking is fine. I mean, I don't think we want to have a martini glass, but I think a coffee mug, a bottle of water, a paper cup. I think all that's fine, right?

Leah: Yeah, just mute it.

Nick: Just mute it. So speaking of muting, our next thing might be a repent, although I don't think she's sorry. Quote, "I was waiting in an empty room recently and a woman came in, sat down, pulled out her phone and started talking loudly. I don't know what came over me, but I began reading out loud from the magazine I'd been looking at at exactly the same volume she was using, surprising even myself. She looked up startled and said, 'Oh, was I bothering you? I'm so sorry, I can go outside.' And she did. Looking back, I realized that the direct approach would have been better. I suppose that if this were really a question it would be, was this rude? Except I'm afraid I already know the answer. The direct approach would have been preferable, but it all happened so fast."

Leah: I love this person so much. I could tell they're not this type of person, and they just—they hit their limit, and it just happened.

Nick: It just happened. Yeah, they were reading Highlights magazine and they just went for Goofus and Gallant at full voice. Yeah, they did.

Leah: I wish I was in this waiting room to see it, because I would have laughed so hard inside my head.

Nick: It would have been amazing to be a fly on the wall on this one, yeah, where you watched this unfold, yes. And to be fair, the woman on the phone, it was rude for her to be on the phone in the room, but it does sound like she did not realize that she was being rude and she did correct it. She did apologize. She did leave. So I think that was a good etiquette response to bad behavior.

Leah: Yeah, she corrected it because she was called out.

Nick: That's also true.

Leah: She wouldn't even have noticed her own behavior if our own letter writer hadn't busted into a monologue, which it's just so—we've all done a thing where we just were overcome and then it was wrong. You know what I mean? But this is just—I wrote "Good on you." [laughs] I just—I love this letter writer. It's so funny. Yeah, it's a little too far. That's what I love about it, because it obviously wasn't planned.

Nick: Yes. I don't think this was premeditated. But in the future, a nicer, polite, yet direct approach would be my preference. So we can try that next time.

Leah: Absolutely, we could try it. My guess is that this woman wouldn't have responded as well to a polite—they would have been like, "Ech!" But they were so taken aback by your oratory performance that they were like, "Oh, am I loud?" And they were shocked. And it shocked them back into having manners. That's what I think happened.

Nick: Okay. Well, if you would like to be shocked into having manners, let us know. Send us your questions. You can send them to us through our website, wereyouraisedbywolves.com, or you can leave us a voicemail or send us a text message, (267) CALL-RBW. And we'll see you next time.

Leah: Bye!

Nick: Bye!