Escaping Excessive Birthday Plans, Updating Professional References, Sharing Phone Chargers, and More
Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about escaping excessive birthday plans, updating professional references, sharing phone chargers with guests, and much more. Please follow us! (We'd send you a hand-written thank you note if we could.)
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Producer & Editor: Nick Leighton
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Nick: Hey, everybody. It's Nick Leighton.
Leah: And it's Leah Bonnema.
Nick: And we got so many great questions from you all in the wilderness ...
Nick: ... that we have a bonus episode. So here we go. Our first question is quote, "I've offered to host a birthday party for a close friend of mine. I love hosting parties and I love my friend, and I want to make the day special for them. However, this person likes to celebrate their birthday for a full month. Today is 30 days before their actual birthday, and they sent out a group text alerting all of us that it is officially their 'birthday season' and asking us to prioritize a handful of hangouts. In addition to the large party I'm hosting, they've asked me to participate in a costly one-on-one excursion on their actual birthday that I'm not really into because it will be cold and wet and in the middle of the night. They also like to celebrate their half birthday, which I think is a cute thing to do for children under 10 maybe, but this person is in their mid-30s, and I'm of the opinion that at a certain point you accept that you get just one birthday a year, make it special and move on until next year.
Nick: "I feel that in order to really enjoy celebrating my friend and hosting from a place of generosity, I will need to set some boundaries on just how much birthday I can take. Do you have any thoughts on how to set a loving boundary around my ability to participate in a birthday as opposed to a birth season?"
Leah: You know, sometimes as a side note, but not really a side note. I just would love to know what is an activity that is constantly in the middle of the night.
Nick: [laughs] Yes! Yes! That was the first thing on my list. What is this event? It's cold, wet, in the middle of the night? Is this, like, spelunking at 3:00 a.m.? What is this?
Leah: That's exactly what I thought. Are you going to, like, a cave situation where you're running out into the dark?
Nick: That is the only explanation. We are spelunking at 3:00 a.m., one on one for your birthday. Because otherwise, what—what else is cold, wet in the middle of the night? Anyway, we'll set that aside.
Leah: Set it aside. But also, if you do want to let us know what that is, just to fulfill that hole in our knowledge banks ...
Nick: [laughs] Because really, what else could it be? So I don't think it's unreasonable for you to not want to celebrate your friend's birthday for one-twelfth of a calendar year. Like, I think that's reasonable.
Leah: I think that you could emotionally celebrate it. Like, they sent out this text, "Hey, it's my birthday month," and you go, "Yay, birthday month! Emojis!"
Leah: And when you see her you're like, "It's your birthday month!" But then when it comes to actual activities, you could say, "I'm so excited to host this birthday party for you. It's gonna be so great. Unfortunately, I can't also be at blankety blank, blank." Boom.
Nick: Right. Yeah. I mean, to paraphrase Miss Manners, an invitation is not a subpoena, and you are free to decline. And I feel like if it's something you don't have the budget for, or whatever reason you have and you can't or don't want to do it ...
Leah: It's dark, it's wet, it's cold, it's in the middle of the night.
Nick: [laughs] Right. Those are three good reasons.
Leah: I was literally, "Are we visiting bat caves?"
Nick: I feel like it must be a ghost tour.
Leah: I think it's very funny that we both thought of caves.
Nick: I mean, spelunking is the only thing that is wet and dark and cold.
Leah: We're gonna need an update on this as a—just so we—Nick and I will lose sleep making lists of options.
Nick: I actually did think about this last night as I was going to bed. I was just like, "What could it be? Like, who goes to spelunking on their birthday one on one? What is that?" Anyway, so yeah, you could totally just decline some of these birthday events that you can't do for whatever reason. And your friend should understand. You know, you're gonna be hosting a party yourself. That's a big thing that you're doing. Your friend should be grateful. And regarding this spelunking evening or whatever this is, your friend has actually picked this event and has decided what it is and has decided on the guest list. So technically, they are the host, and so they should pay for it. The cost should be borne by the host here, which is not you. You didn't come up with this spelunking idea. So that's just something to note. If you were having a birthday and you were selecting the guest list and the time and the activity, you are the host and you pay for it. Do not spend other people's money. That's rude. Telling people, "You will buy me dinner at this place at this time," that is rude.
Leah: Maybe they're reenacting the movie The Descent, which is one of the best horror movies ever, about a group of women who go cave diving.
Nick: Okay, but it's still we're back to caves.
Leah: [laughs] We're back to caves. But I just want to say that could be it, and if anybody's seen the movie Descent, you know you don't want to partake in that. So maybe your friend's setting you up for a murder. [laughs]
Nick: Oh, diabolical!
Leah: I really like to take this question in a very dark, dark, dark place. Yes to what Nick said, but also, I don't think our letter-writer's gonna get into who's paying for it with their friend. I think they just want to be able to say, "I don't want to go to all these things."
Leah: But yes, I absolutely agree. And that's the point that you bring up a lot: if they pick it and they are like, "This is what we're doing, this is where we're doing it," they're hosting it.
Leah: But that being said, if you just want to host the party, I think you can celebrate emotionally through the month, say, "I'm really looking forward to doing this event. I'm not available for this other thing." And then they might have a moment where they're like, "Oh, you're not doing everything I want to do?" and be, like, slightly irritated with you. You stay the course. You're excited about their birthday month emotionally, you're setting out the emojis, you're hosting the event. You're not going to apologize to not be available for a whole month.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, that's the best you could do. And then what do we do to get out of this cave diving?
Leah: I don't get the idea that they've agreed to the Descentreenactment yet.
Nick: Right. Okay. So I think we don't. And I'm sorry this is the one activity you want to do at your birthday. Oh, do you think it's like the ball drop in Times Square that as soon as it turns midnight, the birthday celebration starts, which is why this is happening in the middle of the night? Like, is that an explanation? Like, "Oh, it's 12:01, it's my birthday. So now we're having, like, this one-on-one thing in a cave."
Leah: I mean, honestly, all options are open at this point.
Nick: Because spelunking and cave diving and all that doesn't have to be at night. It's dark down there no matter what.
Leah: It's already dark. I was like ...
Nick: "Why am I inconveniencing myself further? It's already cold, it's already wet. Like, why do I have to be up and, like, sleep deprived? We can do this at 2:00 p.m.
Leah: It also might have nothing to do with caves.
Nick: Well, if not caves, then what, Leah? Then what?
Leah: It could be some kind of a—that's also a cave. I was gonna say stalactite tour. Stalactite with, like, a light show. That's also caves. And maybe some sort of a graveyard?
Nick: Or is it like a leaky aquarium in the middle of the night? Is that what it is? [laughs] A graveyard with a lot of mist?
Leah: Something misty.
Nick: Right? Are we going to bogs?
Leah: I—honestly, I love a bog.
Nick: Sure. In the middle of the night?
Leah: In the day I like a bog.
Nick: Yeah. Bogs for me is really more of a daytime activity. Well, we could live with the mystery for a little while, but letter-writer, please let us know.
Leah: Please let us know, and celebrate the emotional, thrilling of the month. But just have your "I'm doing this one thing. Looking forward to it. And unfortunately, I can't do the other things."
Nick: Yeah. Boom. And yes, they may be annoyed with you, but I think you can live with that.
Leah: I also think they'll get over it because if they have to, like, complain about you to somebody else and then they have to say out loud, "They're hosting an event for me, and that's not enough," as soon as those words come out of their mouth, they'll be like, "Oh."
Nick: You think this person's gonna have that epiphany?
Leah: I do, actually.
Nick: Okay, we'll see. So our next question is quote, "I recently applied for a job which required several recommendation letters from individuals already in the field I was applying for. I did not get the job, and I've already thanked all these people for their letters prior to being given the decision. I would like to update them and express gratitude that they assisted me in the process without sounding like a Debbie Downer. As the field is small, it's very likely that they already know I didn't get the job. Is there a good way to do this?"
Leah: I wrote a possible draft letter.
Nick: Oh, okay. Let's hear it!
Leah: "Dearest blank. I hope you are having a wonderful blank August summer season insert."
Leah: "I wanted to reach out and let you know that I did not get the job, but I am so deeply appreciative of your kind letter and support." And then I thought this sentence could be one of two sentences. Either, "I'm thinking of this as a learning experience, and looking forward to finding the job that is the perfect match for me. Yours, blank." Or just, "I'm looking forward to finding the job that is the perfect match for me."
Nick: Yeah, I think that's perfect. I mean, I think the only thing we want to avoid is any implication that the reason I didn't get the job is because the letter you wrote wasn't good enough. So I think as long as it doesn't have that flavor, I think just being grateful for the time that they spent and appreciative, I think that's the right tone.
Leah: Well, I think also we want to avoid making it sound like we're devastated and can't come back from this. We're just letting them know this happened because we're respecting their time.
Leah: You know? It's a learning experience. I'm gonna find what's perfect for me. Thank you so much.
Nick: Yeah. All right. Done. That works for me.
Leah: Oh, I'm delighted.
Leah: You know what's funny is that—because you were saying earlier that you were thinking about the cave, what else could it be?
Leah: I woke up.
Nick: For this?
Leah: I just—when I woke up this morning, I was like—I had written something else and I was like, "I have a better idea." And I hadn't had the coffee. Look how messy this is. I mean, it's ...
Nick: Oh! Oh, yeah. That's not great penmanship.
Leah: It's marker on the back of a one sheet for a movie. [laughs]
Nick: So ...
Leah: This is how deeply we care, audience, is what I'm saying. It's in our sleep cycles!
Nick: We actually hear from a lot of listeners who are like, "Oh, I hear you in my head." You know what, people? We hear you in our heads.
Leah: We hear you in our heads.
Nick: You haunt us. You haunt us.
Nick: You do. You really do. So let's continue with the haunting. Our next question is quote, "I'm on vacation with a friend, and she requires me to take so many photos of her wherever we go. We can go somewhere, and I'll spend an hour trying to get the photo just right. Today we went to the beach, and I was taking photos of her, and she said she wanted to redo some of the shots again. I turned around and rolled my eyes, but didn't realize that her other friends were right behind me. So of course, I feel so awkward that they saw me roll my eyes at her, but I was exasperated. How do I recover from this?"
Leah: I think we're eye rolling because we haven't just said to our friend, "I don't want to take this many pictures."
Nick: Yeah. I guess my question is: recover from what? Recover from being caught rolling your eyes? Or do we actually want to stop what is happening in the first place, which is like being someone's personal photographer?
Leah: Right. I think they're asking how to recover from the eye rolling. But I think that what will stop eye rolling when we finally have our needs met, that we don't want to constantly be taking pictures.
Nick: Right. Because, like, this sounds like a real fun way to spend a vacation. Like, taking pictures of someone else? Like, that sounds fun. Let me do that for my entire vacation.
Leah: Yeah, I think we just need to—also, if we say that to her, that it's not like we did it—I think probably our letter-writer feels like they were being underhanded or talking behind their friend's back. That's what the eye roll felt like.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, it's a little passive aggressive. It is not a direct way to handle this.
Leah: The way to do it is to eye roll directly in front of their face.
Nick: [laughs] I mean, it's not etiquette approved.
Leah: It's not etiquette approved, but I mean, I think there's a way to sort of make it into a—if you sort of—I mean, you're past that point, but if you were sort of like, "Hey! Oh, my goodness, more pictures?" You know what I mean? In, like, kind of like a—what an eye roll would be verbally, but we just say it to them, which is not etiquette approved, but obviously you're backed up and you just don't want to take these pictures anymore.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, I think we just have to set some boundaries and say no. Like, "I would be happy to take, like, a few snapshots for you, but unfortunately, I cannot be your dedicated photographer for our entire vacation. And so I'm sorry I can't provide that for you. I'm happy to help when I can, but also it's my vacation, too". And I think we have to just lay it down.
Leah: I think you could also say, "Let's only do, like, three pics because I want to do other stuff."
Nick: Yeah. Although I don't think this person's gonna be happy with that.
Leah: Yeah, but they're not gonna be happy but they can get over it.
Nick: Three shots only?
Leah: Three shots per location. And I think if we feel like our friends saw us being somebody we're not, which is like an eye roller, we could go to our friends and say, "Hey, I don't like that I eye-rolled. It's because I feel sort of backed up about taking so many pictures. So I talked to so-and-so about it, but I want to apologize to you because that's not a thing that I do to friends."
Nick: Oh, yeah. And that's also a nice way to sort of introduce the topic, which is like, "I rolled my eyes because I'm frustrated by this role that I somehow now have."
Leah: Because sometimes I feel I want to air it out with people and be like, "That's not me. I'm sorry you saw me do this. This is why I did it. I addressed the situation. It won't be done again. That's not who I am as a person."
Nick: Yeah, I think that actually is the nicest way to handle that. Yeah. So do that.
Leah: And then just have a limit on your picture number.
Nick: Now one issue though is this person's content calendar is gonna be empty. Like, they're not gonna have enough content for their social media account.
Leah: They can selfie.
Nick: That's true. That is tried and true, isn't it?
Leah: They can selfie.
Nick: Okay, yeah. Do that.
Leah: They can be like, "If you want to take pics, I'm just gonna go look at this blank-blank over here."
Nick: And then for Christmas? Selfie stick. I mean, that just writes itself.
Leah: Selfie stick or you're like, "Hey, for Christmas this year, all of us got together. We paid a person to be your assistant twice a week to take pics."
Nick: Twice a week? Oh, that's very nice!
Leah: Yeah, that's a little—I really shot for the moon on that. Maybe once a month, and you could just get everything in on that day that she can parse out throughout the month.
Nick: There you go. Yeah. You just gotta schedule it. Yeah. It's just about planning.
Leah: Speaking of phones ...
Nick: So our next question is quote, "I have a weekend home, and routinely host guests both for overnights and dinners. It seems someone always asks me for a phone charger. I tried keeping a communal one in the kitchen, but it disappeared. So the only option is for me to go to my bedroom and get my personal phone charger and risk having that not be returned. Obviously, I want my guests to be comfortable and have what they need, but this happens all too regularly, and I believe it is a guest's responsibility to bring their own chargers for all their electronics. Am I being rude for not wanting to share my charger? As a hostess, what's the best way for me to handle this?"
Leah: I feel like phone chargers have become very hot commodities. I always, like, put mine in my bag if I unplug it because I just feel like a random person is gonna pick it up. In my own home!
Nick: [laughs] I mean, who knows what's going on in your home, though?
Leah: Who knows? Everybody wants a phone charger.
Leah: I can imagine how it would be exhausting to, like, trying to host people, and every weekend somebody is like, "Hey, can I use your phone charger?" And you're just handing out phone chargers like you're the Apple store, you know what I mean? And you're like, "These are adult people. Why can't they bring their own?" And I think they probably actually have one, they're just, like, hanging out in a communal area and they don't want to go to their bag. So I think you could ...
Nick: Oh, you think that's what it is?
Leah: I think you could sort of break up who needs one and who's just being casual by saying, "I used to have one down here for everybody to use and I don't know where it went." And then you just let that—you just drop that there.
Nick: You just want to let that hang.
Leah: You let that hang. And then if they—my guess is that 50 percent of the time people will say, "Oh, I have one in my car."
Nick: Okay, interesting. All right. That did not occur to me that, like, "I have one, it's just not within arm's reach, and so I'd rather you give me one."
Leah: My guess is 50 percent of the people will. If you're like—you just say, "I used to have one in here for—I don't know where it went." You just let it hang. 50 percent. And I'm throwing that number out, and I'm gonna stand by it.
Leah: Will somehow be able to find theirs. It's just in the car, it's in a bag that's already upstairs. They don't know exactly where it is. It was probably in the bottom of their bag. Now they're gonna go find it. And then we've sussed out who actually needs one, and who is just actually not wanting to put in the work.
Leah: The other thing I thought of is what if you bought one of those flat charging stations that people don't plug into, people just drop their phones on? And you hide it by the door. People weren't allowed to unplug it. It was your—so if people, they can put their phone on it, it's a part of your decor. You just have it there.
Nick: Yeah, that was definitely on my list, which is like, just have something bolted down that can't be stolen, but you're still offering an amenity to your guests.
Leah: Yeah. And I mean, just duct tape it.
Nick: Yeah, whatever you gotta do. But to answer the etiquette question, shouldn't guests bring their own cables? Yes. I mean, in the host-guest relationship, everybody has their part to play. Like, etiquette is two people coming together, and both have some roles here. So yes, guests should bring what they need. It would be good if they'd sort of planned ahead and didn't need that. But hosts should also anticipate needs too, and should provide. And it is not really correct for you to withhold the charger from your guests unnecessarily just because you don't want to share. So I think yes, it would be nice if guests had their own cables, whether or not they're in their car or not, who can say? And it would be nice if you had some extra ones to share, too. And that would be the ideal resolution here. And you are welcome to also ask your guests to return to anything they borrow from you during your stay. Like, that's also totally fine. Just ask like, "Oh, can I get my charger back before you get in the car?" Or like, "So great seeing you at this dinner party. Can I get my charger back?" Like, just ask. That's totally fine.
Leah: But I also understand the feeling of being sort of exasperated that you've just been like an AT&T store for these people, and you're like, "Hey, guys."
Nick: Well, is it the same people? Or are we just all guests?
Leah: It seems to be all people, and that's why I'm suggesting we're separating who actually needs it from who's just being like, "Oh, I don't want to go to the trunk!"
Nick: I just don't know how we do that in a nice way. But okay.
Leah: I think it's totally fine to be like, "I used to have one down here for everybody to use. I don't know where it went."
Nick: No, I get what you're trying to say.
Leah: And then if they don't have one, you'll say, "Let me"—but then at this point, we've bought a docking station, so we just say, "Oh, I have a docking station by the door."
Nick: That's it. That's the solution. Just offer someplace for them to charge that they can't steal. Done.
Leah: And then a docking station, multiple people can put their phones on at the same time.
Nick: So hospitable.
Leah: Oh, that could be—if you don't have a docking station and you say, "Oh, I had one in the kitchen. It's gone." And they say, "Oh, I didn't bring one." All you say, "Okay, let me just bring it up to my room. I have a docking station. I'll go plug it in." Then you plug it in, then you let it charge, then you bring it back. That way you maintain reign ...
Leah: ... over.
Nick: I see. Yeah, if you could get away with that. Yeah. Like, oh you have to turn over your phone and you can't have it for the next two hours.
Nick: Hmm. I don't know if people are gonna be into that.
Leah: Well then I think they'll be like, "You know what? I think I have one in the car."
Nick: Okay. Yeah, I guess that's how you suss people out. That's it.
Leah: Yeah, that's how you suss them out. "I'll go plug it in in my room. I have one up there." But docking station seems to be the easy out.
Nick: Yeah, that's the path of least resistance. Just do that. So our next thing is some aftermath.
Nick: So you may recall in a recent episode, we had a letter about a sinister cilantro stealer, where somebody had an office where they were growing cilantro and other things for an end-of-season salsa party for the whole office. And someone ate all of the cilantro. Like, just took it all.
Leah: It was harvested.
Nick: Yeah, it was just like, there was none left. And a lot of theories about what this could have been and how to handle it. And I assumed it was obviously somebody in the office.
Leah: I think we all did, and so did the letter-writer.
Nick: So it turns out it was a gopher.
Nick: That's it. That's what it was.
Leah: Are we really talking about—talk about not assuming. You're like, "It legitimately—" because wasn't one of your things to say, "There must have been a wild animal loose?"
Nick: Yeah. Cheekily, the email to the office was supposed to be like, "Oh, there was a wild animal who ate all the cilantro. If you see them, let me know." Yeah. And actually turns out it was a gopher. And so they sent a photo of this happening where there's like a gopher basically on top of the bush eating the cilantro that a coworker had sent to our letter-writer, which is like, "Oh, actually, you know that cilantro you're talking about? Here's what happened." And so we'll post a link to this photo in the show notes so you can see what it looks like.
Leah: Also, one of our Patreon members, Lynn, had wrote in saying, "I think it was slugs."
Nick: Yeah, we actually got a lot of feedback from people who were like, "I think this was actually an animal or slugs or, like, something other than a coworker."
Leah: And I was like, "Oh, that had never crossed my mind." And then boom! Gophers.
Nick: And what does that say about us that we just assumed the worst in humanity?
Leah: Well, I think we were going with what was told to us.
Nick: But it is our job to look beyond the page, beyond the words, between the lines.
Leah: I'm happy to assume that most things were gophers, honestly. I would rather we lived in a world where, "Oh, it was a gopher that did that."
Nick: That's true. Yeah. Oh, yeah. The person who cut me in line at Starbucks this morning?
Nick: Mm-hmm. That's it. So have you heard some questions on our show that you want to know, "How did it work out? What happened?" Let us know! We'll track them down and we'll get the aftermath. And do you have questions for us? Oh, yes you do! 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!