Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah tackle eating corn on the cob, asking people how old they are, handling people who never RSVP, and much more. Please subscribe! (We'd write you a hand-written thank you note if we could.)
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Nick: Hey, everybody, it's Nick Leighton.
Leah: And I'm Leah Bonnema.
Nick: We're in New York today, and let's just get right down to it!
Leah: Let's get in there!
Nick: So, for today's amuse-bouche, I want to talk about corn on the cob.
Leah: Oh, fantastic! It's always so exciting because I don't know if our listeners at home know that I don't know what the amuse-bouche is.
Nick: Oh, it's true. Yes. These are always a surprise for Leah. She has no idea until she hears them right now, which gives her no opportunity to prepare if she wanted to prepare for these things.
Leah: Can't look it up! I just genuinely don't know, in front of people-
Nick: Which is really fun for me. So, let's talk about corn on the cob. Do you eat corn on the cob?
Leah: I mean-
Nick: Some people don't.
Leah: I'm from Maine. We do corn. You go out. You get your corn. You know what I mean?
Nick: Okay ... Leah's like-
Leah: You go pick out your corn. You pull over to the side of the road for people selling corn.
Leah: You pick out the ones that look good. You bring them home. You shuck 'em-
Nick: Here we are.
Leah: You boil your corn.
Nick: Okay, so now we're eating corn. When we're talking about corn on the cob, this is not formal. There is no such thing as a formal dinner party with corn on the cob. [Giggling] Right there, baseline, let's just keep that in mind. But some of the etiquette greats have weighed in on corn on the cob. Let me share what other people have said, and you will see some themes emerge, and I think we'll be able to come to some new rule for the 21st century.
Emily Post encourages you to, "attack corn on the cob with as little ferocity as possible." She just doesn't want you to be ferocious with your corn on the cob. That's her only rule, so- [Giggling]
Leah: That seems sad, to be honest.
Nick: She also says that you shouldn't butter too much of it, since it'll drip. She recommends butter only two rows at a time, and then you add salt, and pepper, and then we're done. Interestingly, she says, you should use your hands to hold the corn because she says that silver handles are not, "often seen in smartest houses." Which I actually thought was surprising that, like, the smartest houses in 1922 didn't have little silver corn things?
Leah: Did they not also have the non-silver ones that have little funny faces that stick out of [2:31]?
Nick: I'm pretty sure they did not have ... Where are those?
Leah: Oh, in my house.
Nick: Funny faces? Why?
Leah: Or just, you know, little fun things that stick out. Hi!
Nick: What? I mean ... I don't want that.
Leah: Because eating corn is supposed to be fun!
Nick: Uhh ... I don't know if I want whimsy with my corn on the cob.
Leah: Really?! You're eating something off a cob.
Leah: To do it with reverence seems silly.
Nick: [Giggling] Okay. Well, I think there's a line between reverence and I have silly cartoon-character corn holders.
Nick: I feel like we have something in the middle, but that's why we're different.
Nick: Miss Manners, she says that corn should be eaten in an orderly fashion. Miss Manners, of course, would like to have order. She also adds that she's partial to the typewriter method, which involves a strict progression of orderly rows. Miss Manners also adds that it is a social error to say "BING!" at the end of each line. If you're eating corn like a typewriter, Miss Manners would rather you not say "BING!"
For our audience, who might be too young to know what a typewriter is, this was a device where you could type words on and, at the end of a line, when you got to the end, it would BING to let you know when you had to go back to the beginning.
So, Miss Manners says do not say the word "BING!" when you're eating corn [Giggling]
Leah: Which I've never encountered in all my years of whimsical corn-eating.
Nick: Right! I feel like saying "BING!" would be up your alley.
Leah: No! That is ... C'mon! I feel like, really? I'm gonna "BING!" when I eat corn? Stop!
Nick: Then, she says she is willing to allow for this, provided you do not leave odd kernels on the cob when one is finished because, she says, "Odd kernels drive Miss Manners berserk!" So, if you eat corn on the cob, don't leave any stray kernels.
Leah: Berserk! It's a strong word!
Nick: Berserk, yes [Giggling]
Leah: It's a strong word for a little piece of corn that was left over.
Nick: Now, Emily Post, in an updated version of the book, the great-grandchildren allow that there is some technique where you take the entire cob, and you roll the whole cob in a stick of butter. Have you seen this?
Leah: Yeah, I see that a lot.
Nick: You see it a lot?!
Leah: Yeah. I mean, that's very familiar. The butter is like- and then you twist it-
Nick: Yeah, it's like you're sharpening a knife on a stone.
Nick: I have not personally seen that. I don't like that idea, and I'm very surprised that Emily Post allows for this in their most recent edition.
Leah: It's a part of the corn culture.
Nick: Well, but you drip butter everywhere! That's not very ... I mean-
Leah: The idea that one would just do two lines at a time?
Leah: If you only want to do two lines at a time, don't eat corn on the cob.
Leah: Get de-cobbed corn!
Nick: [Giggling] Okay.
Leah: It's not a part of the corn-cobbing.
Nick: I mean, I feel like we can enjoy corn on the cob without dripping butter all over our shirts.
Leah: Yeah, but you can very lightly do the whole thing.
Leah: I mean, how much butter are you putting on?
Nick: I think if you were taking an entire cob and dipping it into a stick of butter, I think you're gonna get quite a lot of butter on your corn!
Leah: No, you're grazing the top very nicely.
Nick: I mean, who knows how much pressure?
Leah: Not just, you just do two lines, and then, you eat it across, then you do two lines, then you eat it across ...
Nick: Well, you don't even eat it across. You take little bites. I don't think you wanna totally typewriter it across.
Leah: What is this world? What is this world?!
Nick: [Giggling] Okay ... Well, Amy Vanderbilt, she agrees with everyone else about the two-line thing. So, you wanna disagree with Amy Vanderbilt?
Nick: Yeah, you do.
Nick: She suggests that the considerate hostess would not only provide butter but would also maybe add a little paprika to it. So, that's fun! Interestingly, she's also not into the corn holders. She says you are free to ignore those and use your more trustworthy fingers to hold onto a cob. Very interesting that both Amy and Emily do not really go for the corn-on-the-cob-holder things. Amy does say, if you do use them, they go on the left because they're kind of like forks, so that's where you put them.
Leah: I think some people use the corn on the cob- I'm a hand person.
Leah: Some people have corn-on-the-cob holders because of the temperature.
Nick:Oh, it's a temperature thing. It's not a butter thing.
Leah: Because it gets hot!
Leah: When you've just pulled it off.
Nick: Mm-hmm. Yeah, okay. Well, if we're going to synthesize, I would say we first want to take butter from a communal dish and put it on our plate, unless you're using this method of just everybody diving into a stick of butter.
Leah: I think that's more for like outdoor, backyard-
Nick: Well ...
Leah: That's a different- the stick of butter that everybody dives into?
Leah: That's a certain kind of a party.
Nick: Okay. Know what type of corn party you're having-
Nick: -and know whether or not that's appropriate.
Nick: I personally- I'm not gonna go for that. I'm gonna go to a two-row-at-a-time because that's what I'm gonna do. Then, I think we use our hands because, going back to 1922, apparently the smartest houses didn't use the holders. So, unless the temperature is too hot for me, I'm gonna get a good grip on that with my fingers. Then, Iím going to take small bites ... I'm going to take a couple of bites, and then I'm going to maybe rest a moment. I'm not going to just shotgun it all the way across like a machine gun. No ...
Leah: I want to add to the Vanderbilt-
Leah: -about mixing in the-
Nick: The paprika?
Leah: Yeah. I think the reason that often people don't is because different people want spices and their corn salted differently.
Nick: Oh, sure.
Leah: I don't put salt on my corn, you know?
Nick: You don't put salt on your corn?
Leah: No, I just do butter.
Nick: Unsalted butter?
Nick: Interesting. Okay-
Leah: But a lot of people do.
Nick: Yes. Seasoned to taste, yes.
Leah: That's why I think corn is very seasoned to taste, which is why I would argue that they would be separate.
Nick: That's fine. We obviously disagree with Amy Vanderbilt about quite a few things, apparently.
Leah: I just feel like corn is not the food ... I look to Emily Post, and the Vanderbilts, when I'm eating a three-course meal, or where my fork should go-
Nick: I see.
Leah: -but when you're eating of food that I-
Nick: You don't want to hear from Emily about corn on the cob.
Leah: -that I went out into the farm, and I pulled out of the dirt-
Leah: I pulled the thing off, and then, I'm supposed to eat two at a time, and put the ...?! I mean, then don't eat corn!
Nick: Okay. [Giggling]
Leah: It's a part of the party!
Leah: You get your face in it!
Nick: Okay. You know, I just report. What you do with this information is up to you.
Leah: I mean, I understand why people would be like, "That's not an attractive way to eat corn."
Nick: Correct. It's a bit animal-like.
Leah: Yep, and I would say that one eats corn to be an animal. So-
Nick: [Giggling] So, that's your amuse-bouche for today.
Leah: [Laughing] I think this is the first time that I've just disagreed with it, but I just wanna put that out there.
Nick: Yeah, I get it. It is a very casual food. It is not something we do at a formal state dinner. If you want to eat corn, how you want to eat it, who am I to say you can't?
Leah: I just think some people ... I actually don't even like corn on the cob, so I have no-
Nick: [Laughing] Okay.
Leah: People that I know love it, love it. They love to just rollll it in the butter and then they just eat it. You know what I mean?
Leah: That's a part of what they love about it.
Nick: Okay, yeah. I mean, if getting it all over your face is part of the fun for you, then, I'm not gonna rain on your parade.
Leah: It's a weird food to eat in a group, so you're gonna look weird no matter what.
Nick: I believe if you use the version of events that is prescribed by Emily Post, or Judith Martin, or Amy Vanderbilt, it will be more elegant.
Leah: You think it is, but it's not.
Leah: It's really not. You still look just as silly.
Nick: Well, sometimes, delusion is wonderful.
Nick: We're back, and now it's time to go deep.
Leah: Real deep on this one!
Nick: So, this was prompted by a question which is: "I invited a small group of girlfriends over for a casual dinner party at my home. One of the guests mentioned that her husband had been getting tired recently and not feeling energetic about the huge amount of work he had left to do in building their house. I looked at her and said, 'Well, how old is Chad?' knowing that he is somewhat older than the rest of us? My friend looked at me, heaved a big sigh and said, 'Well, how old is your husband?'" She said this very accusingly. I responded with, 'He's 55,' which is true.
The conversation went on to reveal that Chad isn't actually tired, he's just weary of the project, but I felt like I had been reprimanded in my own home, and it was awkward in front of the other women. At a break in the dinner. I found myself in the kitchen with the friend, and I said, 'Did I offend you?' She said, 'Yes, I was raised that it's rude to ask people their age.' I responded, 'I thought we were better friends than that.' I do understand that it's rude to ask acquaintances their age, but I've shared so much with this friend that I was taken aback by her stance. So, my question is, was I wrong in asking an old friend how old her husband is?" Hmm. So ... Age.
Nick: Age. So, first of all, let's just talk about the importance of proper skin care, which is sleep, hydration, and staying out of the sun. Just wanna put that out there, just a little pro tip. This is loaded, this whole age question.
Leah: It's very loaded!
Nick: In general, it is rude to ask someone their age-
Leah: And their partners age.
Nick: -and the age of their partner, yes. I don't like that it's rude because it conveys the sense that aging is bad, that we don't want to say how old we are because, as a society, being old is not good. Younger is desirable. So, I don't like this tension of you're not allowed to ask people's age because it's rude, but we don't ask it because we value youth so much.
Leah: It's also not just that. Often, when people ask someone's age, it's in reference to what you've accomplished so far.
Nick: Oh, sure.
Leah: So it's not even about youth. It's about, "I'm gonna decide how you're living your life based on how old you are."
Nick: Yes. I mean, you're asking because you want to size them up in some way.
Leah: Yeah. If you were just asking, and it didn't imply any of those things-
Nick: Although, why would you ask, then? [Giggling]
Leah: Why do you ask, then? That's the thing.
Nick: Right? Yeah, you're trying to determine whether or not-
Leah: Well, in this, in particular, her friend said, "My husband's tired."
Leah: Then you said, "Well, how old is he?" So, that-
Nick: Right there! Right!
Leah: -is you're basically being like, "Oh, is he sleeping until he's dead?" I mean, just that when it was asked is implying-
Nick: Yeah, "Your husband is tired because he is elderly."
Leah: Yeah. That's what you asking, at that point, implies.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, I guess you ask someone their age because you want to know if what they have is something they deserve; like, "Do you have the job you have because you've earned it? Do you drive the car you have because you've earned it?" I think you're trying to assess whether or not a person deserves whatever it is that we're talking about, based on how old they are.
Leah: Which is just not appropriate.
Nick: Yeah, it's rude. Yeah.
Leah: I think this idea- with close friends, I think she felt, "Oh, it's a close friend." Also, there's other people there. It's not just the two of you.
Nick: Right. This is mixed company. I think this happens ó correct me if I'm wrong ó to women far more often than this happens to men. I don't think I've actually been asked my age very often in my travels.
Nick: Yeah. It doesn't really come up.
Leah: Oh, yeah. No, I always get it.
Nick: Right, and, you know, I think it's fair to be annoyed by this question and offended. But then, how do we respond, I guess, is really the question. If we're living in a world in which this question is not going away, what do we do about it?
Leah: Well, first off, should we answer our letter-writer's question?
Nick: Sure. Yeah. So, let's advise.
Leah: Well, we're advising that it's never really appropriate to ask somebody's age.
Nick: Yes, especially since the implication of this question was, well, clearly his advanced age is why he's tired.
Nick: Yeah. No one wants to hear that.
Leah: Even though you didn't mean it that way.
Nick: Well, you did mean it that way.
Leah: I mean, I don't think she meant it that pointedly, but asking, at that point, is why it's-
Nick: No, you didn't mean it pointedly, but you were asking the question because the follow-up was like, "Oh, he's this age ..." and then, the follow-up would be, "Well, then this is the conclusion we will draw from that age."
Nick: Right. There's no nice way to slice that.
Leah: Also, I would assume that everybody has their own thoughts that they have about aging and where they are in their lives. It's not something you just want to throw at people haphazardly.
Nick: Yes, and I think we never know what someone's experience is with anything; like, any comment that we might make. We don't know what type of age discrimination they may have had the past, and age discrimination is a real thing.
Leah: A real thing!
Nick: In personal life, professional circles - it's a real thing that exists. You don't know what someone's experience is with that-
Leah: Even if it's just like, "Oh, you're 30? Why don't you have a house?"
Nick: Yeah, like, "Why aren't you married? Why don't you have kids." Yeah. This is where this comes up.
Leah: Or, "You should be doing more at that age," or "You're at this age; how come you behave that way?" You know what I mean? It comes up in so many different ways.
Leah: So, we've established that maybe not appropriate to bring up.
Leah: "Is there another way I could have handled a sharp reaction?" I mean, you apologized.
Nick: Yes. I think you apologize, and you don't do it again. At this dinner party, when the friend turned the question around and asked, "Well, how old is your husband?" I think that is not a good response, when we get the age question. Similarly, I don't think we ever want to say, "Well, how old do you think I am?" I don't think we ever want to answer this question with another question.
Leah: Right. They were clearly upset and then, they threw it back, which is not-
Nick: They threw it back, right, which I don't think was the proper way to handle this. I guess one good way to respond to any questions about age is to try and quickly determine why someone is asking the age and then turn it around. So, in this context, it would be like, "Oh, how old is he?" You could say, "Oh, he's very energetic. I don't think it's a health issue."
Nick: You could answer the question like, "I'm not gonna tell you how old he is, but I'm going to respond to the implication that you're making with this question."
Nick: Or, in a job interview, like, "oh, how old are you?" which is illegal, by the way-
Nick: But, if somebody does ask, and it does apparently happen, you could say, "Oh, I am confident that I have the experience required for this position," or whatever you want to say.
Leah: Answer what the question they're really asking is.
Nick: Right, which is, "Are you qualified? Do you have experience?" etc. So, I guess I would answer the question based on the implication for why they're asking the question, I guess could be one way to handle it.
Nick: Or, there's the classic answer, which is the Oscar Wilde quote, which is: "A woman who would tell one that would tell one anything."
Leah: [Giggling] Which I love.
Nick: You could say that, yeah. So, I guess, let's say you encountered this question, and it's an acquaintance that you don't know that well. We can use the Oscar Wilde quote. I guess that sort of light and fun. What else can we say to people?
Leah: I also like the idea of what you just said about answering the question they're asking.
Leah: The thing is that you're putting up your sign, being like, "This is not a thing that I'm talking about with you in that way," and then, it's then on that person to then realize it and switch gears.
Nick: Yes, ideally, they would be attuned, and "Oh, I probably shouldn't have asked that question."
Leah: Yeah, in which case, you just switch gears.
Leah: The problem is when that person comes back and is like, "Why don't you want to tell me your age?"
Leah: Which happens!
Nick: Yeah, yeah, and then they get a little belligerent about it. For that, I think you would then just shut it down more coldly; like, "Unfortunately, that's not something I discuss."
Leah: I mean, that seems, you know-
Nick: That feels a little harsh.
Leah: What often happens when you tell people your age, though, I've noticed, is that they then launch into how they feel about aging.
Leah: And it's like this jumping board into a conversation that you clearly didn't want to be in to begin with.
Nick: That is true. So, how do we shut that down? I guess, don't get there in the first place.
Leah: I know, it's a really hard one.
Nick: Yeah. I guess we want to politely demure, at the end of the day. I think you'll have to read the room to determine what the right strategy is to demure. If it's a dinner party with very close friends, then you might want to joke about it and just sort of say something like, "Oh, age is only important for cheese and wine," and then, move on. If it's- you're not laughing at this joke?
Leah: No, I'm hanging on every word.
Nick: Okay. All right, cheese and wine is not- it's not great; it's not my best material. Okay, fine. If it's a job interview, then, you might want to respond with more of a, "Oh, let me re-answer this question about my qualifications, which is really what you're hopefully getting to by asking that."
Leah: Yeah, because they also know it's illegal to ask you.
Nick: Most hiring managers should hopefully know that; yes, that's true. I guess, if it's an acquaintance that it's really none of their business, then, I guess you'd have to say something that's sort of light and polite, but maybe gets the point across, like, "Oh, if you'll forgive me for not answering, I'll forgive you for asking ..."
Leah: [Giggling] Oh, that's a funny one, too.
Nick: Yeah, you could do that, and you could say that kind of in a nice, playful way, or you can also say that in a cold way. That's very universal ó use that!
Leah: I like it very much. There's this interesting thing, where it's like, "Sometimes things are just personal and people don't want to talk about it," and that should be fine.
Nick: Yeah, and I think the age question should go on the list of things you never ask, like, "Are you pregnant?" I think it's in that category.
Leah: Oh, absolutely.
Nick: You never ask a woman if she's pregnant.
Leah: Also, some things that I would talk about with anybody aren't things other people want to talk about. The trick is recognizing immediately when something is a thing people don't want to talk about, and you bounce.
Nick: Yeah, yeah.
Leah: I would definitely say age is one of those topics that people just don't feel- especially their spouse's age? Because then, I think, often spouses feel like they're somehow telling something personal about their significant other when their significant other isn't there.
Nick: Yeah, and going back to that original question, if you didn't know their age, how close of friends are you, right?
Leah: Yeah, if you didn't know their age, you probably didn't know their age for a reason, at that point.
Nick: Yeah, maybe. So, at the end of the day, I think if we just remember don't ask; don't ask.
Leah: Don't ask!
Nick: Don't do it! Don't ask!
Leah: Nick's given us some really fun quotes.
Nick: Yeah. If they do ask, you can usually wine and cheese example, even though that's not Leah's favorite.
Leah: No, that wasn't not my favorite. I was literally adding it-
Nick: [Giggling] Processing it.
Leah: I was adding it to the list-
Nick: I see.
Leah: -underneath the Oscar Wilde quote.
Nick: [Giggling] Okay.
Leah: I also got hungry when you said it, to be totally honest.
Nick: Fair enough. Fair enough.
Leah: I visualized a smoked Gouda, and then we were off to the races.
Nick: So, Leah, how old are you? [Giggling]
Leah: I was about to tell you my weight-
Leah: Because that's- if we're sharing personal information, that's one I'd rather share. [Laughing]
Leah: You know what's funny is that my friends always ask, "How old is that person? How old is that person?" People outside of New York ask me.
Leah: I genuinely do not know the age of any of my friends.
Nick: You genuinely don't know the age?
Leah: It's just never been discussed.
Nick: Interesting ...
Leah: I mean, I could give you within five years what I think they are-
Nick: Oh, that's a big range!
Leah: Oh, yeah.
Leah: Yeah! I just-
Nick: Do you know how old I am?
Nick: Great [Laughing]
Leah: I also don't think- I really don't think about it. I feel like, in New York, we don't have the same kind of landmarks people have.
Nick: Oh, you mean like, at this age, you do this thing, and at this age, this happens in your life? Yeah, that's true.
Leah: Yeah, and everybody's sort of running around, and we're not on this- you know what I mean? On different schedules. I don't really think about it. It doesn't come up in my mind.
Leah: I just have no idea. When would it come up in conversation? I didn't go to high school with people; I don't know when they graduated. I just ... I would never think to ask because I don't see how it has anything to do with anything. So, when people are like, "Oh, how old ..." I'll be like, "I can give you a five-, to seven-year radius that I could guess they are."
Nick: People's age has so little to do with their personality, or their maturity-
Nick: -or their accomplishments, or anything else about them. It's really just about collagen, and skin tone.
Leah: [Laughing] It really is! You know, I had to go to City M.D ... they were amazing. Shout out! ... the other day, and the doctor asked me-
Nick: That's a local urgent care center in New York City.
Leah: Yeah, and they were great. The doctor asked me my age, and I genuinely got it wrong. That's how little I think about age.
Nick: [Giggling] Wow! That is one occasion, where someone is allowed to ask you the age.
Leah: Yes! I had to correct my own age.
Nick: Wow! How off were you?
Leah: Two years.
Nick: Two years! Oh, that's significant!
Leah: Because I just don't ... When do I think about it?
Nick: You're 29 and holding [crosstalk]
Leah: Yes! I'm 29 and holding! [Laughing]
Nick: We're back, and now it's time to take some questions from you guys in the wilderness! So, our first question is-
Leah: Whoooo [Delayed, Unidentified Howling]
Leah: No, I just wanted to throw a noise in [Laughing] That was-
Nick: It was something.
Leah: I don't know what that was.
Nick: Yeah, nobody does.
Leah: I tried to hold back and then, that was like a ... Uh ...
Nick: Did that feel good?
Leah: I don't know.
Leah: You know, sometimes you try things, and that was a no.
Nick: Yeah, that was a- that was probably a no.
Nick: So, our first question is: "If you have an invitation out to several people for an event and one particular person continues to not respond to every event that you put out, is there a certain point where you just stop inviting that person because they never respond to the RSVP?" Mmm ...
Leah: I would.
Nick: Yeah, I think there's a point. Well, here's the thing ó not responding is a response. That's a signal.
Nick: They are sending you a signal because I genuinely believe that people who are interested make an effort, and people who are not interested don't make an effort. This applies to all aspects of social interactions ó dating, business-
Leah: Which is not to be confused with their availability.
Nick: Not to be confused.
Leah: But they make an effort.
Nick: Right, right. No, no, this is about making an effort to respond to your RSVP.
Nick: We can make an effort, yes!
Leah: "Sorry, I can't make it. Thank you for inviting me." Then, I would keep that person on the list.
Nick: Sure. Yes. I would keep inviting that person. The non-responder? Yeah, you get dropped-
Leah: Drop 'em.
Nick: Of course, yeah. Now, I think one instance when we would maybe keep them on the list is if who you're inviting is a group of specific people who are all part of the same thing. Like, this is a happy hour for coworkers in the HR department, or this is for the softball team.
Nick: If you're members of a group, then I think you still send the invite to everyone in the group, even if Chad never responds.
Nick: I think that might be one occasion.
Nick: Other than that, no. You're getting a signal that they're not interested. If they complain, I think you can say, "Oh, I didn't want to bother you with another invitation."
Nick: You could say that, yeah. But, on the flip side, if you're someone who does not respond to RSVPs, don't do that. [Giggling] Please respond, yes or no-
Leah: Yeah, you can respond no!
Nick: Yes, no is fine. I think some people don't respond because they're worried about hurting your feelings maybe, or they don't want confrontation? I don't know why people don't respond.
Leah: Yeah, you can be busy. No big deal!
Nick: Or, you're waiting for something better to come along, which is rude, but yeah, just say it. "I can't make it. I'm so sorry."
Nick: Yeah, but not responding? Come on!
Leah: Come on!
Nick: Come. On. Okay. Our next question is: "I was at a family cocktail hour, and my nephew was riding his bike around, and ran into my car. The accident caused a large dent and scratch on the driver and rear passenger door. My nephew was just being a kid, and since it was an accident, I offered to split the cost of repairs with his mother, who's my sister. I took my car to multiple places and selected the shop with the cheapest fix. Still, it was pricey, and it will require the doors to be removed, sanded, and painted. My sister is now balking at the cost. Am I wrong to think she should pay half? I value family peace, but my husband is frustrated with their response." Hmm.
Leah: This is another one that goes into my, "What?!"
Nick: [Giggling] So, why do you have this reaction? What part of this is like, "What?!"
Leah: Uh, you are not wrong to think that she should pay half?
Leah: She should offer to pay for the whole thing!
Nick: Yeah, yeah, it's true.
Leah: You were being generous by being willing to split it!
Leah: You also did the work, which is- it's time from your day that you took the car to different places-
Nick: True. That's a good point!
Leah: -to find the best price! You can say, "Okay, you take my car. If you're worried, thinking this pricing is incorrect. Feel free to take my car ..."
Nick: Oh, I don't think the sister thinks that the pricing is incorrect. It's just higher than she thought it would be when she agreed to pay for half.
Leah: Well, tough noogies, as my mother would say!
Leah: Tough noogies!
Nick: Tough noogies. Okay. So, one of the nice things about etiquette ó why we have etiquette in this world ó is that etiquette is sort of like the script that we all know about and that we all use in situations. It's just the template, and when we all know what the template is, we all know what we're supposed to do in each situation. When we know what to do, it makes us all feel better about it.
Leah: Yeah, it alleviates the anxiety!
Nick: Right. Right. There is a template in etiquette for this situation, which is: if you break something, you offer to pay for it. Then, whether or not they take you up on it ... Yeah, this can get a little more complicated. But the first part of this little play we're gonna play is you offer to pay for the whole thing.
Nick: So, the way this play should have been is like, "Oh, my goodness! I cannot believe that my son damaged your car! Let me fix it. How do we do that?" Then, the brother would say, "Oh, no, no, no. I mean, he was just being a kid. Let's split it," or "No, no, don't worry about it. I'll just take care of it." But the first part of that play is missing, which is to offer to pay for the whole thing. Because that part of the play is missing, yeah, you can be annoyed by this.
Nick: This is a rude response. Yeah.
Leah: Then, to be upset that it costs more money than you thought it would? Your kid messed up the car!
Nick: Right, yeah. So, if anything, you should be more mortified that it wasn't just a scratch; that the damage the kid did was that extreme, yeah.
Leah: I understand if you're in a bad financial place-
Nick: This is not about financial place.
Leah: -no, but that's not about that. I mean, even then, you say, "I'm so sorry," and then you figure out a payment plan of some sort. You know what I mean? But that's not what this is about.
Nick: Right. No, this has nothing to do with who has money or not, this is, "I just don't wanna pay for it." [crosstalk]
Leah: Yeah. I just don't understand why you would think that you weren't responsible for-
Nick: Yes ... That's a good point. It's not taking responsibility. I think that's probably what feels so jarring here. That's the crime.
Leah: Because people break things. That happens all the time.
Leah: I've sadly broken things of my friends, and I immediately am like, "Oh, let me get you a new one."
Nick: Yeah, no, it's never the crime. It's the cover up. It's how you handled the crime. So, this is not being handled well. So, how do we move forward? I think you have two choices. One is you could just ask your sister to politely pay what she thinks is appropriate and leave that dollar amount up to her, or you just pay for it yourself, and then you file this information away about your sister.
Leah: I'm still processing this emotionally-
Leah: -because I ... This person clearly wants to have- they have voiced that they want to keep the peace.
Nick: Yes. Keeping the peace sounds like we cannot demand that the sister pay for half. That's off the table now.
Leah: Right because you want to keep the peace.
Leah: Because I feel like you could say this is a thing worth arguing over. Not about the money; it's about the taking responsibility.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, if anything, this sort of sets a bad example for the nephew because the nephew should grow up in a household that handles situations like this differently. So, I would like this to be handled nicely for the sake of the nephew, who may not know that when you break something, you should take responsibility for it.
Leah: Yeah. If I had broken something of somebody else's as a kid, my parents would be like, "Well, you've gotta go rake their yard for the next three years."
Nick: Yeah. You make it right.
Leah: I feel like that's just the rule.
Nick: It is the rule, yeah! [Giggling]
Leah: But you want to keep the peace, so I think that that leaves us with what Nick had, which is you say, "Pay what you think is fair, then."
Leah: Or you just pay for it yourself, and then you file it away.
Nick: Yeah. Although, when it's a family member-
Leah: Who wants to file away? You know what I mean? Then you're keeping-
Nick: Yeah, I think you would have to pay for it yourself and then let it go and just realize that we don't get to pick who our family is, and we often have relatives that have bad manners.
Leah: Then, I guess when you go to visit, you park your car in somebody else's driveway.
Nick: Well, for sure. Yeah, or do not let the kid anywhere near it. So, our next question is: "Stop me if you've heard this one before, but what do you do if someone starts telling you an anecdote they've already told you? My normal conflict-avoidance instinct is to just let them go ahead, but then, sometimes, halfway through, they'll stop and say, 'Have I told you this one before?' Then, I'm stuck looking like I let them ramble on without stopping them. So, what should I do?"
Leah: Quick thing up top ó I don't think it's necessarily conflict-avoidance instinct, not telling people; sometimes, you just don't want to embarrass somebody.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, do you have this problem? Do you repeat stories?
Leah: I've had a lot of stories repeated to me, many times.
Nick: [Giggling] Okay. I only have four anecdotes, so I think I do probably repeat stories to people. I only have so much material, so I don't remember who I'm telling what to.
Leah: I'll just say to people, "Did I tell you about ...?" up top if I can't remember.
Nick: Yeah, that's a good way to handle it.
Leah: If somebody is telling me something, and I've already heard it, and it's not gonna be a five-day story, I'll just sit through it.
Nick: Uh, yeah ...
Leah: Unless they ask me. Then, if they ask me, I say, "Oh, is this the part about ...?" Then, I say something that happened in the story. Then, the person is like, "Oh, yeah," and then we move on, and it's not a big deal. If they don't ask me, and it's gonna be a quick one, I'll sit through it.
Nick: Yeah. Sometimes, it's easier just to pretend you haven't heard it and just go along with it. Miss Manners has been asked this question, and she says that the trick is to jump in quickly, like right up top. As soon as you recognize it happening, you've got to jump on it and say like, "Oh, I love this story," because if you let it go on too long, then, yeah, you just- you're in it.
Leah: You're in it once it goes on.
Nick: It's like if you are talking to somebody, and you don't remember their name. The window of opportunity to ask them what their name is closes, the longer your conversation goes on.
Nick: So, at the end of a conversation, where you can't remember their name, that's a lot more awkward than right up top. Like, "Oh, would you remind me of your name?" I think a similar rule applies for repeating stories.
Leah: Yeah. It goes up top, or you're hanging in.
Nick: As someone who, I think, does repeat stories, and I'm sure my friends listening are like, "Yep, he does that," I would personally want to be told like, "Oh, yes, we are familiar with this anecdote, thank you so much." Happy to move on.
Leah: Unless somebody asks me, I don't bring it up because also, sometimes, I'm being told this story because it is in, somehow, reference to what we were talking about, so the version of what comes out of this story, I might learn something new.
Nick: Oh, I'm pretty sure you're not gonna learn anything new. [Giggling]
Leah: I may! You know, I'm a [crosstalk] kind of girl.
Nick: That's a very charitable ... Okay. It's possible ... Anything's possible.
Leah: Also, as a standup comic, I tell the same story 975,000 times. I'm happy to listen to the story and listen for new details.
Nick: Okay. All right. So, if you're a professional standup comic, then you could do this. Okay.
Leah: Also, if you ask me, I'm gonna be honest. I'm not gonna lie that you haven't told me.
Nick: Right. Yeah.
Leah: Otherwise, I can hang in for 60 seconds.
Nick: Well, you hope it's only 60 seconds.
Leah: Yeah. Oh, if it's gonna be a long one, and I realize it up top that I've heard it, I'll say it up top. Otherwise, why not? Tell me again.
Nick: Do you have questions for us that we've heard before?
Leah: But maybe they're a little bit different? I'd love to hear it again with your version.
Nick: [Giggling] Right! Maybe we'll get a different detail out of it.
Nick: So, send them to us. Send them to us at our website, wereyouraisedbywolves.com, or leave us a voicemail/send us a text message: (267) CALL-RBW (267-225-5729)
Nick: We're back, and now it's the part of the show where we play a game we like to call Vent or Repent.
Leah: [Chanting] Vent or Repent, Vent or Repent ...
Nick: This is our opportunity to vent about some bad etiquette experience we've had this week, or we can repent for some etiquette faux pas we've committed. So, Leah, would you like to vent or repent?
Leah: You know, just to really change it up, I'm gonna vent [Laughing]
Nick: All right, what has happened to you?
Leah: So, I wrote this down as a- I wrote "Gentle Vent."
Nick: Okay, so on a scale from one to 10, this is a seven?
Leah: No, it's less than that.
Nick: Oh, okay.
Leah: Because I think it's a Vent PSA.
Leah: I've noticed, during this time of upheaval, with COVID ... Unemployment rates ... There's a lot happening right now.
Leah: It seems that when some people send out emails asking for things, it's as if they don't realize that maybe some people are in other positions.
Nick: I see. So, you are concerned about some people being tone deaf?
Leah: Yeah. When you send out an email during this period of time ... I got a bunch of emails!
Leah: The month, when we were all quarantining ... Where people are just asking for things ó favors ó which, you know, you're allowed to do ... Without any recognition that the person receiving the email-
Leah: You'd have no idea. People could be ... They're home-schooling their kids now. People are in new times!
Nick: Right, yes.
Leah: So, sending out emails ó if you want something from- you're asking a favor; it's not their job ó it would be nice to have a sentence or two up top recognizing that it's not time to ask somebody for something.
Nick: Yes. Okay, so don't pretend like it's not happening.
Leah: Or it may not be happening for you! You could have worked from home already. You live in a place where people don't have to take a subway, and their complete means of getting around has been shut down. Possibly, you live in a whole other world. You know what I mean?
Nick: Yes, but don't send an email pretending that it's not happening in the world.
Leah: Yeah, and that other people are on this schedule that they could just get right back to you. Their lives are in upheaval.
Leah: I think it's important to recognize that up top.
Nick: Okay, so, yes ... Things are a little discombobulated.
Leah: I got some emails that I'm like, "Are you on this planet?"
Nick: [Giggling] Okay, maybe not!
Leah: Well, I mean, they could not be! That's why-
Nick: A lot of people left New York City, so they might have gone to a different planet. We don't know.
Leah: That's why it's ... Yeah, but I mean, they're ... I have my friends outside of New York City who are also ... You know what I mean? Their kids are at home. They're crazed!
Nick: Yeah. Okay, that's a good Vent PSA. If you're gonna send an email, you don't know what other person's circumstances are. Check in, maybe.
Leah: Yeah, just say a little sumpin'-sumpin' up top, where you recognize their humanness.
Leah: Especially if you're asking for something!
Nick: Right, yes. If you also want something from someone-
Leah: I mean!
Nick: Yes, that's ... Even if you don't care how they are, at least pretend.
Nick: That's just strategic!
Leah: Yeah, just at least grease the slide!
Nick: [Giggling] For me, you may recall, in a previous episode, that I shot a flare across the bow.
Leah: [Laughing] Oh, yes! The flare across the bow!
Nick: You know, just a little warning shot. So, I would like to now vent that, as of our recording today, I have not received a thank you note for that wedding gift.
Leah: You know, what's funny is that I actually thought about this the other day.
Leah: I was like, "I wonder where this pending situation is?"
Nick: So, that is all. I have no further comment.
Nick: Just gonna leave that right there.
Leah: I actually just had the hair on the back of my neck stand up. [Giggling]
Nick: So, keep checking back in with me. We'll see how this goes. But, as of today, nothing.
Nick: Wow. [Giggling] Yep, that's my vent!
Leah: I visualize this shot across the bow as, now, just a direct shot at them. [Laughing]
Nick: Right. Now, I'm aiming at you.
Nick: So, Leah, what have we learned?
Leah: I learned some really amazing quotes to pop out at people when they ask questions that I don't think are appropriate.
Nick: Okay. I mean, the quotes are just for age questions. I don't know if the cheese-and-wine thing works!
Leah: I know. I really feel like I could say, "A person who would tell you that would tell you anything," about a lot of things! [Laughing]
Nick: Okay, fair enough. I learned that you're not gonna be tied down when it comes to corn on the cob.
Nick: Rules do not apply to you!
Leah: Not with corn!
Nick: Well, thank you, Leah.
Leah: Thank you, Nick.
Nick: And thanks to you out there for listening! If I had your address, I'd send you a handwritten note on my custom stationery.
Leah: He will!
Nick: Your homework this week is: I want to hear from you. Send us a question; send us a vent; send us an observation; tell us where you are in the world; send us a poem, a haiku, I don't know ... Send us an email! Reach out! Let's work on our friendships! Sharing is caring.
Leah: Yes! Oh, send us vents!
Nick: Yes, please send us some vents, yes. We'll see you next time.
[Instrumental Theme Song]
Nick: All right, Leah. It's time for some Cordials of Kindness ..."
Leah: [Chanting] Cordial! Cordial!
Nick: But it's 30 seconds, so go!
Leah: I have this amazing Zumba instructor at the gym. I actually switched gyms to follow her. Her name's Laura.
Leah: I absolutely love her. When we all went inside and quarantined, two weeks in, I got a text from her. She's been doing her classes on Zoom for free!
Nick: So, it's "ZOOM-ba"?
Leah: It's ZOOOOOM-ba ...
Leah: It really just ... The first class where I logged in, I actually teared up because it was so nice to see somebody-
Leah: -and to move. She won't take donations ... She just wants to keep us all ... We check in; it was like a check-in. How is everybody? We dance around. It lifted my spirits more than I can even say, and I am so grateful for Laura. It just really was just ... It has been so wonderful!
Nick: That's nice! For me, I have long maintained that the secret to living in New York City is leaving New York City.
Nick: You gotta get off the island every so often to remind yourself why we're doing this. You need that moment where you come back, and you see the skyline. You're like, "Ah, yes! This is why it's worth it!" So, I am very thankful that I am going to escape the city this weekend. What I'm very thankful for is that my friend is letting me borrow a car to do it! Which, in New York City, is very exciting.
Leah: It's huge!
Nick: That's a big deal! So, I'm very excited that it will get to borrow a car -- I hope I remember how to drive -- and I get to go out of the city for a little fresh air, and a little change of scenery. I can't wait.
Leah: That is wonderful and so exciting!
Nick: So, thank you to my friends who have cars!