Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about glaring at others, hanging up guests' coats, picking up neighbors' trash, and much more. Please follow us! (We'd send you a hand-written thank you note if we could.)
Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about glaring at others, hanging up guests' coats, picking up neighbors' trash, and much more. Please follow us! (We'd send you a hand-written thank you note if we could.)
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QUESTIONS FROM THE WILDERNESS:
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Producer & Editor: Nick Leighton
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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 ...
Nick: ... that we have a bonus episode. So here we go. Our first question is quote, "Is a glare ever appropriate and within the bounds of etiquette?"
Leah: I love what I wrote for this one.
Nick: I mean, this is a great question.
Leah: It's a great question.
Nick: Excellent question.
Leah: And I just wrote, "I really hope so." [laughs]
Nick: [laughs] So my first question is: do we think the person that sent this to us—this was a text message we got, so we don't have any other context other than this. So do we think this person is the glarer or the glaree?
Leah: I immediately assumed they were the glarer.
Nick: Oh, okay. They weren't the recipient of a glare.
Leah: Because if they were the recipient and they're our listener, I, of course, want to take their side and be like, "How rude!" But I immediately assumed that they were the glarer.
Leah: Because sometimes how are you supposed to get a point across that someone's overstepping a boundary without escalating the situation?
Nick: That's fair. So Miss Manners says that glaring is a quote, "Questionable technique." And so she does say that it is appropriate in certain circumstances, so like public arenas or concert halls. So she has a great description which is quote, "In a darkened hall, one person looks back and gives the glare to a person who has made noise. The eyes widen, a beam of shocked fury goes forth and without the lips or the eyebrows of the glarer moving, a zap is sent that freezes the offender with humiliation. This is an effective weapon, much preferable under the circumstances to the shush that adds to the noise it purports to stop, or the withering remark that so often leads to symphonic brawls."
Nick: And so I think that glaring? Yeah, that's when a glare is good. Yeah, I like a glare in that circumstance.
Leah: Because as Miss Manners said—I can't believe I'm saying this—as Miss Manners said ...
Nick: Sure. Yeah.
Leah: You don't want to add to whatever it is that you're trying to stop.
Nick: Yes. In general, we never want to add rudeness to rudeness.
Leah: But you have to throw up a "No, no, no, no, no, no." And you do that with the glare.
Nick: Right. Yes. So your eyes can communicate that. And then Miss Manners also has a whole thing about parents and glaring at parents who have misbehaving children. And she says you are allowed to glare at parents when their child is, like, kicking the back of your airplane seat. Like, that is a fair use of the glare. But you're not allowed to do it if it's just a child crying on an airplane. Like, you're not allowed to glare at a parent that just has, like, a crying baby. It has to be like an actively misbehaving child.
Leah: No, it has to be feeling empathy in that part.
Nick: Correct. Right.
Leah: I'm sure the parents are also exhausted.
Nick: Right. So glares are tricky, and they can definitely backfire. So you definitely have to be very judicious with it.
Leah: But I also think my nana who I adored was, I would almost say—I don't want to get boast-y, but I would say maybe Queen of the Glares. And ...
Nick: Queen of the Glares?
Leah: Yeah. A good glare from my nana stopped me in my tracks. I immediately know I'm overstepping. This is a no no. I'm backing up. And I think sometimes people say things to us that are wildly—outside of these examples that Miss Manners is giving us, people will say things to us that are inappropriate. I don't want to engage. It's not like it's a close friend or something where you'd be like, "What's happening?" It's just a random person. You just give them a glare. Like, "No, no, no, no."
Nick: Yeah. I mean, I prefer to do something that's a little more puzzled or disappointed. For me, I prefer those looks because I think it is less confrontational. Like, a glare can be a little aggressive, whereas disappointed or just puzzled? Like, that has plausible deniability in case you're sort of called out, but also conveys really what you want to convey, which is just "You're an animal. And I don't appreciate this."
Leah: [laughs] But I do think there are circumstances where a glare is appropriate.
Nick: Yeah. So okay, it's within the bounds of etiquette.
Leah: I also think that sometimes you're out with somebody and something's happening and you need it to stop, but you don't want the rest of the world to see it, so you give them a glare.
Nick: Ah, okay. So you want to communicate without being distracting?
Leah: Yeah. Like, we don't want to get involved in this conversation, or let's not or something. And you just give them a quick glare.
Nick: I mean, at the end of the day, a glare is a signal of disapproval.
Nick: Right? That's what this is. So I think as long as you want to communicate disapproval, like, you just have to make sure that that's what you want to communicate to this person. Like, a glare is a form of communication. So if that's what you want to communicate, well then okay, a glare is a fair way to do that.
Leah: And sometimes a glare is very rude. Like, if people glared at you and you didn't do something, or people—what I love is when people—when the other person does something and then they glare at you. And you're like, "Okay."
Leah: "You just did this, and now I'm being glared at?"
Nick: Right. And that's, I think, the flaw because they are expressing disapproval with their glare, but you didn't do anything that they should disapprove of. You were just standing there looking at them.
Leah: And now we're in a glare off.
Nick: I was just a witness.
Leah: Yeah, that I don't like at all. Or, like, when somebody cuts in front of you and then glares at you. I've had that happen, and I'll be like, "What just happened right now?"
Nick: Yes, I think glares are often used defensively.
Leah: And that is inappropriate.
Nick: That is definitely inappropriate, yeah.
Leah: But I do think there are circumstances where a glare is appropriate.
Nick: Yeah. Like with anything, you just have to drop it in the right way.
Leah: And we're doing it to not escalate a situation.
Nick: Yes. Definitely you want to do it in a way that sort of ends the communication. Like, I'm just signaling this information to you and that's now the end of this exchange.
Nick: This is not an invitation for further conversation.
Leah: Because like in that example, we don't want to tell the person who's being loud in a theater by us being loud in a theater to stop being loud.
Nick: Right. Yeah. No, me shushing you or me saying something under my breath about "Oh, some people are so loud." Right, that's not helpful.
Leah: No. So we just turn and stare at their face.
Nick: I think the only hazard with the glare is there are some people that are immune to the glare's effect.
Nick: And they receive a glare, they know you're glaring, they don't care. For this, there's nothing we can do.
Leah: Nothing we can do.
Nick: No. So ...
Leah: But this is a great question.
Nick: Great question! So our next question is quote, "I am fortunate enough to have a coat closet. When guests come over, I offer to hang up their coat. Many people say, 'Oh, it's fine. I'll just put it on the couch, bed or wherever.' I realize that not everyone has the luxury of a closet devoted solely to coats, but I don't really want their coats taking up seating space or stacked on my bed. How do I get people to actually use my coat closet?"
Leah: I think we just rephrase it from "May I take your coat," to "Let me take your coat."
Nick: Yeah, that's what I had. Don't offer. Insist.
Nick: Yeah, that's easy.
Leah: I just put, "Yay! Thank you. I'm taking coats." [laughs]
Nick: Yes. "Your coat, please."
Nick: Yeah. And then if you're standing there with a hanger, that also helps. That's a good signal.
Leah: Yeah, that's perfect. When you go to the door, have your hanger ready.
Nick: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah, you're standing at the door, the closet door is open, you have a hanger and it's sort of like, "I will take your coat, please."
Leah: And I obviously have the caveat: some people want to wear their coats. That's different than wanting to put their coat on your bed. I don't want outside coats on my bed. You have to understand that people may not want coats on their bed.
Nick: Yes. Well, I just don't want outerwear on my bedding or my couch.
Nick: Yeah, I don't want that. Yeah. I mean, because when was the last time anybody cleaned their coat? I mean, really.
Leah: Well, my rule is if it touched the subway, it doesn't touch where I sleep.
Nick: Yeah. No, that's a real good rule. Yeah.
Leah: And I'm not even a particularly clean person. And that is—not that I'm—I don't mean dirty. I mean, like, messy wise. Like, I'll put a coat on a chair.
Leah: But if you were on the subway? No!
Nick: Yeah, we don't need to be bringing that in. Sure.
Leah: That should technically stay outside and get hosed down.
Nick: And I think there's always the direct approach. Like, if you have a friend that just doesn't get the hint, which is like, "I insist. Please give me your coat." Then you could say, "Oh, I'd rather there weren't coats on my bed. Let me take your coat and hang it up."
Nick: And you could just say that in a very polite way.
Leah: And I do think, as Nick said, if you're standing there with a hanger, "Let me take your coat."
Nick: Yeah. And I think if they do put a coat on your bed, I think it's actually fine if you just hang it up.
Nick: You can just hang it up. You don't need permission to hang someone's coat that's on your bed.
Leah: Absolutely. Just grab it and they'll be like, "Where's my coat?" "Oh, I hung it up."
Nick: "Oh, I put it in the closet. You're welcome."
Nick: So our next question is quote, "My partner and I just returned from an open house hosted by friends of ours. The wife is a realtor, and my partner has done business with her. And the husband is an artist, and we have purchased from him many times. The wife hosted the event and gave us a lovely pumpkin pie to take with us. Then today, we received a lovely basket from the husband, thanking us for our patronage. Here's the question: Can we send one thank-you note to both husband and wife? Or should we send separate notes?"
Leah: I feel like all note questions defer to Nick.
Nick: Yeah, I'll take this one, Leah. [laughs] Well, I love the question because I love that we are agreeing that a thank-you note needs to be sent. We agree that that must happen. So the question is just the how and how many.
Leah: How many?
Nick: I like the premise, though, is that a thank-you note is being sent here.
Leah: I also love that we know from a prior episode that the basket that you received was actually a thank you.
Nick: Oh, that's a good detail! Okay, that's true. These are thank yous to you. Mm-hmm.
Leah: So that then gets put into the ...
Nick: That does go in the mix. Yeah, I actually had not considered that detail. But yeah, that's a detail that we need to discuss. My question, though, is: did you just get a basket, or was there something in the basket?
Leah: Oh, I think a "lovely basket" is like a gift basket.
Nick: Well, I don't know. I mean, maybe it's just like an empty Longaberger basket.
Leah: I mean, now that you said that.
Nick: Right? I mean, maybe you just got a basket.
Leah: It opens worlds in my mind.
Nick: So, okay. So you've received a pie and you've received a basket. Well, I think we want to express gratitude for our hosts. Thank you so much for a lovely afternoon. It was great seeing you. And I think we can do one thank-you to both of these people since they live in the same household, presumably. And we can thank them specifically for these two gifts. "It was so lovely seeing you. Thank you so much for that pumpkin pie. We devoured it as soon as we got home. And thank you so much for the basket. It was lovely empty. Or it was lovely and all the stuff in it." Like, whatever it was, we thank them for that. "Thank you for your friendship and look forward to seeing you soon." Like, whatever that is. But I think we could do one thank-you note for all of these things to both of these people together.
Leah: I do think that sometimes—like, I just had a situation where I sent a thank-you note to somebody.
Leah: Then they did something immediately and I was like, I'm not gonna send a double thank you.
Leah: Like, a thank-you note and then the next day a thank-you note. I'm gonna put them both in the same thank-you note.
Nick: Right. It's fine to send one thank-you note when what you're thanking them for what happened in sort of the same sort of general time period. Like, "Thank you so much for this thing, and thank you so much for this thing." You want to be effusive and you want to be very specific about both things you're thanking them for. So you want to acknowledge gratitude for each of the things. But yes, you can combine them in one note if required.
Nick: Great! So our next question is quote, "My cousin shares a place of employment with my husband. My cousin—let's call him Chad—is getting married soon to someone we'll call Lisa. Chad is no fan of my husband because my husband is his boss and Chad is lazy. L-A-Z-Y. Lisa sent a wedding invite to my household addressed only to me and no plus one was allowed on the actual RSVP. I was extra horrified and humiliated because my father was traveling in from out of state to stay at my home so he could attend the wedding. One relative suggested that I call and confront Chad and Lisa. Another urged me to attend sans my husband. But I felt I shouldn't grace them with my presence or even send a gift. Thoughts?"
Leah: I have thoughts.
Nick: Yeah. No, I have a few. Sure. I mean, the first is just a wedding invitation is not a subpoena. So you are free not to go. That's totally on the table. That's totally fine. This is totally allowed.
Leah: And I'm gonna tell you Leah five years ago might have gone.
Leah: No. I wouldn't go. I wouldn't go.
Nick: Yeah. No. I mean, it sounds petty that your husband is being explicitly cut out of this wedding because the groom doesn't like him.
Leah: I mean, it's more than sounds petty.
Nick: I guess it is petty. Right. [laughs]
Leah: Because—and then your father's coming to stay at your house to go to this wedding? They know this.
Leah: They know that your father's going and he's from out of town.
Leah: It's very petty.
Nick: Yeah. No, it's pretty petty.
Leah: And it's your husband. And we're protective of our partners. And so I wouldn't go.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, it's pretty aggressive to explicitly disinvite someone, which is really what is functionally happening here. When you've filled in the RSVP card, presumably, which is like no extra guests, only you, only your name is allowed.
Leah: I wouldn't go, but I think that she is—our letter-writer is saying they feel horrified and humiliated. Like, you're upset. This upsets you. So then don't go.
Nick: Yes. No, I think not going is how we are going to resolve this. We're not gonna go. And if you don't go to a wedding, you don't have to give a gift. And so that is totally fine. So the question is: do we confront Chad and Lisa? That's one of the questions our letter-writer has for us.
Leah: I don't think we have to confront. We're just not going.
Nick: Yeah, I don't think we have to. And I actually don't think we should.
Leah: I don't think we should.
Nick: I think we just send our regrets with no explanation. "Unfortunately, I can't make it, but we hope it's a wonderful day." And I think we leave it at that. We don't need to send a gift. No problem. Just your best wishes. And that's it. That's just where we leave it.
Leah: Because you're just being like, "Okay, you're allowed to not invite us, and I'm gonna not come."
Nick: Yes. On the flip side, as a host of an event, you are free to pick the guest list as you wish. Like, you can invite or not invite whomever you want.
Leah: But this is petty.
Nick: Yes. I mean, you have to know that not inviting certain people is going to send a signal.
Leah: When they're in a couple. I mean, not only are you not inviting somebody, you're inviting half a couple.
Nick: Yeah. No, your invitation is sending a signal. And so you just have to be mindful that you're sending a signal, and so you just have to make sure that's the signal you want to send. So it is pretty clear that this is indeed the signal that they would like to send. So signal received. I get it. Yeah, no problem.
Leah: I hear the signal. I see the signal, and my signal is, then I'm not coming.
Nick: Yeah, and that's fine. And that's actually probably what they want anyway. So everybody gets what they want, I guess.
Nick: So one potential option just to throw out there—maybe it's terrible—is that your father in law is coming to town. Presumably, his sibling is one of the parents here. And so he could have a conversation with his sibling about this if he wished. And he could be like, "Oh, I'm not sure if this was intentional but, like, maybe there was a mistake. I just want to make sure that, oh, the invites were actually sent correctly." Could there be a world in which we do that? Or is that—I don't know.
Leah: I mean, there could be. If you want to double check.
Nick: Right. To make sure that this isn't a mistake.
Leah: It seems to me like it's not a mistake and they're being extremely rude.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, I guess when the actual RSVP is very clear that there's no plus one allowed, then I guess probably not a mistake.
Leah: I think that goes along with the not confronting. Like, they've made their choice that they don't want to invite. And that's fine.
Leah: But then this is now we're icing them out. Done.
Nick: Yeah. And we're done. Okay.
Leah: And half a couple is really a strong signal. It's one thing if nobody's invited and then you don't have space, you don't—all of those things. But to invite half a couple?
Nick: Half a couple is really a bold move, yeah.
Leah: Because the other person is going to be protective of that person. That's just how it works.
Nick: And just as a reminder: you should invite couples. Couples are a unit. They should typically always be invited together. And when you don't, that's a real bold move.
Leah: It's very bold!
Nick: It's—I mean, what's stronger than bold?
Leah: I was about to say that. I can't think of whatever the next thing past bold is, but that's what this is.
Nick: It's aggressive.
Leah: It's aggressive. It's divisive. It's like starting a war.
Nick: Yeah, it's like the defenestration of Prague. It's the start of something big.
Nick: So our next question is quote, "I live in a townhouse complex, and the way they're organized makes it so every townhome that has a carport like ours has an open design with your neighbor's carport located in the same stretch. There's no dividing walls or anything like that. We do not have a messy carport by any means, and there are many neighbors throughout the complex who have carports messier than ours. But like most people, our garage and carport space isn't in perfect condition at all times. Our neighbor—let's call him Chad—is friendly and mostly keeps to himself. But we noticed a few weeks ago that he's been picking up pieces of trash and other small items from our side of the carport and leaving them in a bucket that we keep in the carport for when we wash our cars.
Nick: "We do not throw trash into our carport willy nilly, but every once in a while a wrapper may fall out of the car, or my husband might drop a screw or nail when exiting the attached storage space. Once a month or so, I sweep the carport and get rid of all this stuff myself. But Chad seems like he's making it known that he would prefer I do this more frequently. Am I right to feel it rude that he's rather passive-aggressively cleaning up our carport for us? Do I need to sweep more often, or am I cleaning it a reasonable amount? I don't really consider our carports a shared space because there is a clear distinction between the two. But should I? If so, I understand that it's polite to keep shared spaces especially tidy, but I'm inclined to think it's an overstep on his part, especially because if I were to step outside and catch him in the act of perusing our side of the carport for trash, it would obviously be uncomfortable for both of us. What do you think?"
Leah: I wrote, "Overstep. Actually, trespassing?"
Nick: Oh okay. Interesting. I mean, I think in general, picking up trash in a communal space is fine.
Leah: It's not communal.
Nick: Well, I guess that's the question.
Leah: It's visually ...
Nick: Visually communal.
Leah: Because I think it's a very good point that if our letter-writer came out and saw this person there ...
Leah: It would be inappropriate. So they're doing it when they're not there. So if you're only doing something when people aren't there, then you know it's not appropriate.
Nick: Well, I think what probably catches my eye is that I'm leaving the trash for you. Like, there's a bucket that they have in this carport area.
Nick: And I'm leaving the trash in the bucket for you. And it's kind of like I could have just thrown away the wrapper myself. Like, I'm pretty sure you didn't need this plastic gum wrapper, but I'm leaving it for you and I'm sending a signal. It's like a horse head in the bed. And so I think that's, I think, what I'm bothered by. Like, if I just picked up a piece of trash that was on your side of the line, like, that's fine. Like, throw it out. Okay. But to leave it for me?
Leah: Yeah, to leave it for you and not even in the trash, it's in the bucket they used to wash ...
Nick: Yeah. No, you're specifically leaving it for me and sending a signal. Right.
Leah: Yes. And so also the idea—I get this feeling to be like, "Oh, should I have to clean more?" It's like, it's your garage. It's not particularly messy. Like, do we have to be so aware every moment in our own life? You know what I mean? It's like, I don't think it's fair to ask you to be—you're doing the best you can. You're driving in, you're parking. It's obviously not trash everywhere. Sometimes things fall out. You'll catch it next time.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, I guess we should be more mindful of our space. And so, you know, maybe we need to check behind us more often to see if we dropped anything. Like, that could be a behavior. That could be something we could try differently.
Leah: But it's in her—what I think is that we throw up some sort of a screen in between.
Nick: That? We can't do that.
Leah: Why? Why can't we?
Nick: I'm sure the homeowners' association is not gonna allow that.
Leah: Well, it's like if I pay for something and I'm really—I'm not a total mess. Sometimes things drop out. I'm doing my best. I'm running around life. I'm running errands. I now have to be—because I have a neighbor who needs to come over in the middle of the night and pick up trash and leave it for me? I mean, how far do you have to go? Do you know what I mean?
Nick: Well, yeah. I mean, I guess it's the leaving for me that I think is really what bothers me. Because, like, let's say these are lawns. Let's say I have a whole house and I have a front lawn. I think if my neighbor came by and picked up a soda can that was in my lawn as a courtesy, I actually would be fine with that. Oh, there was a can on my lawn that kicked in there? Okay, great. You picked it up. You took it away. That's great. I think if you picked up that can and then left it on my doorstep, I would be like, "What's that about?"
Leah: I agree a hundred percent. And I think that's what our letter-writer is feeling.
Nick: Because yes, the neighbor is trying to make it seem that you are inadequate and you are not cleaning your space as often as you should, and is letting you know what trash he's finding.
Leah: And I think you have every right to be irritated by that.
Nick: Yes, you definitely do. But what do we do about it? So do we say anything to the neighbor or no? I say no.
Leah: But I mean, are we just gonna be irritated for infinity?
Nick: Yes? [laughs] That's not satisfying.
Leah: It's so annoying because it's in our own home and you're like, "Do I have to feel this? Like, do I have to pay money to live here and then be irritated?"
Nick: Okay, so I guess if we wanted to have a conversation with the neighbor, we could just say, like, "Oh, so sorry that, you know, sometimes there's trash. If you ever find something that's trash, like, feel free to just toss it. No need to leave it for us." Is that satisfying?
Leah: So they go over to the house and they say, "Hey ..."
Nick: "We noticed you're being petty."
Leah: Is that—what's the opening line? I just—am I right to find it rude that he's rather passively-aggressively cleaning up our carport? Yes.
Leah: It is rude the way it's happening.
Leah: Do I need to sweep it more often? I feel like you're really trying your best. It's not messy. Sometimes you drop things. Life happens!
Nick: Yes. But I guess could you do it more often? I say you might. Yeah, you could. Sure.
Leah: I'm coming down on the other side on that one.
Nick: Okay. How often you want to sweep? I guess, you know, we'll leave that up to you.
Leah: If he wants to pay a portion of your rent to keep it how he wants to keep it, then you can sweep it.
Nick: Oh, okay. That's how we're gonna do it.
Leah: It's you pay for it.
Nick: Yeah, although I don't love that argument.
Leah: I know. But it's—I don't think this person is messy. I think we're talking about, like, a gum wrapper every once in a while.
Leah: And every time you drop something by mistake, somebody needs to blow it up in your face? "Oh, I put it in the bucket so you know that you weren't perfect on Wednesday afternoon."
Nick: Yeah. No, that detail is maddening. Sure.
Leah: One option is you have no conversation. You swap the bucket out that you use for cleaning the car with a trash can, and then you move the bucket to the other side of the car. And so if they want to pick up trash, they can put it in the trash can.
Nick: Okay. I like that. That's sort of a signal that we acknowledge that sometimes there's trash happening, and that if you feel inclined to put trash into a cylinder of some sort, here is a trash can to do it.
Leah: Because they're actually not picking up the trash. They're moving it to a different place where you then need to move it.
Nick: That's true, yeah. Okay, so I like that. We're gonna get a trash can for our carport. We're hiding the bucket.
Leah: Hiding the bucket.
Nick: We only have a garbage for this person to use.
Nick: Right. So yes, if he feels inclined to clean up your carport, which you know what? Have at it. Clean my carport! Here's the garbage where you can put garbage.
Leah: Yep. And done.
Nick: And then everybody wins, right?
Leah: They get to clean and you can ignore it.
Nick: Okay, great. Oh, okay. I think we really came to something with that.
Nick: I feel pretty good about this. So letter-writer, please let us know what you decide to do.
Leah: I feel like we're in uncharted territory on this one.
Nick: Oh, for sure. No, this is the part of the map that just, like, has serpents and mermaids. Yeah. No, we don't know what is on the other side. Absolutely. So please let us know. And if you ever hear anything on the show and you want to know how did it work out? What was the aftermath?
Nick: Let us know. And you can also send your questions to 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.