March 7, 2022

Turning People Orange, Ordering Extra Courses, Clipping Nails in Public, and More

Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about turning people orange with bath bombs, ordering extra courses at meals, clipping nails in public, 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 turning people orange with bath bombs, ordering extra courses at meals, clipping nails in public, and much more. Please follow us! (We'd send you a hand-written thank you note if we could.)

Have a question for us? Call or text (267) CALL-RBW or visit



  • Should we let my mother-in-law know that her gift turned my husband orange?
  • How do I thank my mother-in-law who explicitly does not wish to receive thank you notes?
  • Is it rude to order an extra course when dining out with others?
  • What do we do about a new acquaintance who clipped their nails in public?
  • How do we decline to attend game night without it affecting our friendship?







Hosts: Nick Leighton & Leah Bonnema

Producer & Editor: Nick Leighton

Theme Music: Rob Paravonian



Episode 129


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

Leah: And it's Leah Bonnema.

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

Leah: [howls]

Nick: That we have a bonus episode. So here we go. Our first question is quote, "My mother-in-law gifted a bath bomb as a stocking stuffer to my husband, a self-proclaimed lover of baths. While this was a thoughtful gift, things took a turn for the worse last night when he actually used it. It turned his skin orange, like the worst fake tan you can imagine. He ruined a white towel—which now looks like it was tie-dyed—and after an hour of intense scrubbing, our tub still has a light Barbie pink glow to it. I'm not upset with my mother-in-law, as I know she truly had the best intentions, and would be mortified if she knew what mayhem this little gift caused. And I feel an obligation to politely inquire if any more of these bath bombs were purchased or gifted in order to hopefully prevent other recipients from having a similarly disastrous outcome. My husband insists that we need not tell his mom what happened because it would only make her feel bad. If it is right to tell her, what would be the most delicate and appropriate way to do so?"

Leah: I feel like my response to this? I started out with a certain response, and then I kind of walked around it, and then came to another response.

Nick: Oh, what a journey! Well, before we get there—bath bomb. Let's just explain what this is for anybody who doesn't know.

Leah: Okay.

Nick: Basically, it is usually a spherical-looking thing, maybe the size of a wiffle ball, sometimes. Maybe they're smaller. They come in different sizes and shapes. But basically you put it in the bath and it's like a big Alka-Seltzer. It usually, like, fizzes. And there's some scents usually, and I guess they're pigmented in some cases. And so you put it in the bath, and it kind of creates a more spa-like atmosphere, I guess. So that's a bath bomb. I get that we don't want to make somebody feel bad about giving you a bad gift. So I understand that impulse. But I guess, is there a safety or health issue here?

Leah: Well, I do think it's interesting that they said if it's right to tell her, what would be the most delicate and appropriate way to do so. So they're saying, "Let's assume that it's right. What should I say?"

Nick: Well, the husband says that we don't need to tell mom.

Leah: Yeah, that's why I feel very divided. I often feel like we should leave it to the person whose child it is to make the decision.

Nick: Oh, okay. I think that's a valid way to approach this, yes.

Leah: That's how I originally thought of it, because if I had something and I said to my partner "I don't want you to tell my mom," and then they told my mom?

Nick: Oh. Well, sure. No, that would be a huge boundary crossing.

Leah: That's how I would feel.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: But then I thought about I often feel like women are held to a different kind of accountability, and I could imagine the mother-in-law saying, "You should have told me."

Nick: Oh, okay. Specifically to our letter-writer, not her son.

Leah: To our letter-writer, not her son.

Nick: [laughs] Right. I see. Yeah, we live in a world that that happens. Yeah. I guess the way I'm thinking of it is: was this the only bath bomb purchased? And could we potentially warn someone else? Because, like, if I got a bath bomb and hadn't used it yet, I think I'd want to know that I could turn into an Oompa Loompa, right? Would I not want this warning?

Leah: Well, also the other thing is like, say you used it, you turned into an Oompa Loompa.

Nick: Right.

Leah: You called the mother-in-law and said, "Oh no. I just wanted to let you know about this bath bomb." Mother-in-law calls this household. They said, "Oh, we know," and then mother-in-law says, "You should have told us."

Nick: Oh, there's that too. Right. Yeah. I mean, I guess if the mother-in-law calls you and you've already used it, should you admit to the problem or not? I guess you kind of have to. You can't pretend that it didn't happen.

Leah: You have to. You can't lie.

Nick: Right. Yeah.

Leah: It's so layered. But I don't want to go against what the child of the parent—like, if they fully believe that you shouldn't tell, then I sort of feel like your hands are tied.

Nick: Yes, you can't override the child. However, I think our letter-writer is hoping to use us as a way to convince the husband that the mother should be told. I feel like that's our role here. I think that's what they want from us.

Leah: Hmm.

Nick: And you know what? I think I'm gonna give it to them. I do think we want to let mom know that there was a potential problem with the gift. I don't think we want to necessarily say that it was catastrophic, that it was—you know, we've ruined our tub and we now have to have it replaced, and we've ruined all the linens and I will be forever orange. It's now permanent. I don't think we want to have any of that. But I think a way to approach it could be almost like, "Oh, isn't this funny that this happened?" And send a photo. Like, "Oh, here's your son. He just used the bath bomb. It was a little orange, but it was very relaxing." And kind of leave it there.

Leah: Hmm, interesting. I have to think on that.

Nick: Like, kind of make it a lighthearted, like, "Oh, isn't it funny that this happened?"

Leah: And the other option being—I'm thinking about what you said, because I hadn't thought of that. The other the only other option in telling would be like, "Hey, he loves bath bombs, always loves your bath bombs. I just felt like I should let you know it has a skin-staining quality in case you gave—" you know what I mean?

Nick: [laughs]

Leah: But I'm saying this is the other—how else would we ...?

Nick: Okay, yeah. I mean, it could be like a "Thank you so much for the bath bomb. Chad used it last night. The pigment in this batch was maybe a little stronger than maybe we were expecting. So maybe if there's anybody else you gave this to, just give them a head's-up that they just want to be mindful of that."

Leah: I mean, I feel like that's the only other way to do it.

Nick: But I think being silent, I don't like that. I don't think we, like, say nothing about a gift that is, like, a problem. This gift is a problem. You gave me something that actually caused damage to my person and my house. So I think we don't want to, like, let that go if we think other bath bombs were purchased. I think if we're the only recipient of a bath bomb, we're the only person in the family that likes baths, nobody else likes baths, everybody's a shower person, this was it, then ...

Leah: Then I think we let it go.

Nick: Maybe we would let it go. Yeah, I guess the question at the end of the day is: are other people going to have a problem?

Leah: And if we think so ...

Nick: Then you should say something.

Leah: But not if your husband is, like, laying down on the floor against it.

Nick: Yes. If he is very firm on it, then we would just respect that.

Leah: And then he then shoulders the responsibility of the rest of the family getting dyed orange.

Nick: That's it!

Leah: Right?

Nick: Yeah, I think that's all you can do with this. Or just take showers. I mean, who wants to sit in your own water for 45 minutes?

Leah: [laughs] I mean, nobody's asking us to weigh in on that. I don't personally like that.

Nick: Yeah, I'm a shower person, but you do you.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: So our next question is quote, "My mother-in-law has very strong feelings." Oh and PS- this is a different mother-in-law, not the same mother-in-law. "My mother-in-law has very strong feelings about thank-you notes. She thinks they are unnecessary and a waste of time. Weird, right? Obviously, I know to never expect a thank you from her, and while it feels rude, I can live with it. Recently, she has taken to telling me to not send her a thank-you note when she gives me a gift. Given that I was not raised by wolves, I'm accustomed to acknowledging gifts and niceties with a handwritten note, and not doing so feels uncomfortable. How should I proceed? Would it be okay to simply send a text with a photo of us using the gift and a line about how much we enjoy it? Is this enough? Help!"

Leah: I think if someone has explicitly said, "Please don't send me a thank-you note," don't send a thank-you note.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, you have to respect that, I think. What I find so confusing is that this person has strong feelings about thank-you notes? I feel strongly about you never sending me a thank-you note? I mean, that's unusual. I have not come across that before.

Leah: Definitely an opinion.

Nick: Yeah. And I guess the question is: is the mother-in-law in this story, does she object to the waste of time it is, or does she object to the sentiment itself? Because if she objects to, like, oh, it's a waste of time to put pen to paper and waste a stamp and mail it, then your text solution sounds fine because, like, that's none of those things. If she objects to the idea of you expressing gratitude, then maybe you shouldn't even send the text.

Leah: Oh, I couldn't—it didn't even occur to me that she would object to somebody sending gratitude.

Nick: Well, I mean, how else do you want to interpret this? "Please don't thank me, ever. It's a waste of time."

Leah: I specifically read it that she doesn't like things being mailed.

Nick: Okay. I mean, she just has strong feelings about thank-you notes. So I guess the note is the thing, the physical note.

Leah: I felt like it was really the paper that was ...

Nick: Okay.

Leah: So in that case, I think, yes, send the text.

Nick: Yeah, I think this actually fits into a larger etiquette topic which is: there are etiquette rules that we all as a society have sort of agreed on, but then we do not actually follow those rules so closely to the expense of actual people. Like, an example of this is being called how you want to be called. Like, if you say, like, "Oh, call me Nick," and I've said this to you, yes, it would be polite to say, "Oh, Mr. Leighton." But I've said, "Oh no, please call me Nick." If you keep calling me Mr. Leighton, that is now rude. Even though as a society, we have agreed, like, oh, we call people by formal names when we're introduced, but now it's rude because I've explicitly told you, like, no, I actually would prefer you to just call me Nick.

Nick: And so I think this is also similar. Like, yes, as a society, it is polite to send thank-you notes. But here's somebody who said, like, don't do it. I know the rule. I know what society says, but I don't want that. And so we ignore that rule—which is global—and we just sort of individualize it for this person. And at the end of the day, that's the more considerate path. I'm more considerate of your feelings here because you've explicitly told me you do not want this thing to happen, even though as a society, we usually do it.

Leah: I think that's the perfect full explanation summation. So depending on how she meant this, if she doesn't want any gratitude, don't do it at all. If she just didn't like the actual mailing of something, I think a text is fine.

Nick: Right. But at the end of the day, I don't think we want to live in a society where everybody feels this way because, I mean, extrapolate that out. If everybody is like, "I don't want you acknowledging gratitude," like, how does that multiply over eight billion people? That doesn't sound like a recipe for success.

Leah: I don't think that this is the norm.

Nick: It is definitely not the norm. But what if it became the norm?

Leah: I mean, we can't live in a world of what-ifs, Nick. It's a slippery slope.

Nick: [laughs] I'm just saying I'm nervous for us as a people.

Leah: I mean, you should be. I mean, this is your opening it up, but let me say, if you're not nervous about us as a people, I don't know what's going on.

Nick: [laughs] Okay. So our next question is quote, "When dining out with others, is it rude to order a course that no one else has ordered? For example, a salad when no one else has ordered one?"

Leah: I feel like this happens a lot.

Nick: Oh sure, yeah. Definitely at a more casual-with-friends kind of meal. Yeah, totally.

Leah: And I feel like if you just say, "Hey, I was gonna order a salad. Does anybody else—do you guys mind? Are we—is there a time issue?" And then if people are like, "We're just doing one meal," I'll get it with my meal.

Nick: Right. So I think generally speaking, when we're dining with people, we want to be mindful of everybody else. Like, that's sort of Etiquette 101 baseline. That's like, what we're trying to achieve. So if it's a formal dinner where you're, like, with the boss or with a client, I think it is usually easier if everybody is sort of on the same journey with the same number of courses. And if you're a guest, you should definitely follow the lead of your host. So if your host is ordering that salad course, then you should probably do that. Or if your host is not ordering that salad course, then you should probably skip it. But when it's more casual and you're like, "Oh, I want the burrata" and you're like, "I don't need burrata, I'm just gonna have a main course," I think as long as there's that conversation before we order about, like, what everybody's doing, I think that's probably fine.

Leah: Yeah. I'll be like, "Hey guys, I was thinking of getting nachos up top. How does everybody feel about that?"

Nick: Yeah, I think if you're also offering to share. Like, "Oh, should we get some extra side plates in case anybody wants some of this thing that I'm getting?" Like, I think that's also nice.

Leah: Yes. And I think if you were ordering first and it was a more formal occasion, and you order first so you don't know what your host is doing ...

Nick: Hmm.

Leah: Would you still pop out there "Hey, are we just doing main meals, or did you guys want to get appetizers?"

Nick: I think if there is confusion and it's a formal meal, I think it's fine to ask, like, "Oh, what is everybody doing? Are we gonna do three courses or what is everybody thinking?"

Leah: Yeah. I think just ask what everybody's doing.

Nick: And you can even have that conversation at a formal meal too. You know, just like, "Oh, what's everybody thinking? What looks good?" You can always frame it that way, like, "Oh, what looks good? What's catching your eye?" And if your host is like, "Oh, I was thinking of the halibut appetizer," then you're like, "Oh, appetizers. That's on your radar. Okay." So I think that's fine.

Leah: Yeah, I think maybe sending out a few little feelers so you know what everybody's doing. To our letter-writer's question, is it rude if nobody else has ordered one?

Nick: Not necessarily, no.

Leah: Yeah, I think it depends on what the—if everybody was like, "Hey, I'm in a really big hurry, and I just wanted to—" and then you order, like, seven courses, I think, yeah, that's rude.

Nick: Right. No. if you are, like, trying to do pre-theater dining and everybody just needs to grab a quick salad and you are like, "Oh, can I get the Peking duck that takes 24 hours?" Like, no.

Leah: So I think it depends on the situation.

Nick: And one thing to note: if you get an extra course, don't be that person at the end of the meal which is like, "Let's just split it evenly, guys."

Leah: [laughs] That's what I was thinking. If you get the extra course, make sure that goes on your receipt.

Nick: Yeah, do not make other people pay for your extra course.

Leah: Yeah, I was thinking of that earlier when I was talking about the nachos and I was like, and then the nachos would then go on my bill.

Nick: So our next question is quote, "My husband and I went to a climbing gym with a couple we had recently met. Upon sitting down on the couches at the climbing gym to put on our climbing shoes, one of the people—let's call him Chad—started clipping his fingernails and let the nails just fall to the floor. No, not just a tiny hangnail. He clipped every single fingernail and let the clippings fall to the floor with no intention of cleaning them up. My question is not about whether this is proper etiquette—we all know it's not—but my question is: what are we to do? Do we just let him leave his finger clippings on the ground and say nothing? Do we politely offer him a trash can or find a broom? I felt so bad that the gym staff would eventually come upon a pile of fingernails. In the moment, we sadly did nothing about it, but we're hoping to be better prepared if this ever comes up again."

Leah: So I print out the questions.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: So I can write little notes. I almost set the paper on fire after reading this question.

Nick: [laughs]

Leah: Can you imagine how mortified our letter-writer felt? I mean, I can imagine. It's mortifying.

Nick: Because what I can experience is the sound of the clipping.

Leah: Oh, the sound is the worst.

Nick: The "Clip clip clip." I mean, just ...

Leah: As you slowly realize what's happening, and then you're like, "They're clip—they're dropping it. We're sitting here. We are associated with these people. Someone's gonna have to clean it up." Mortifying.

Nick: The guilt by association part I think I would have trouble with.

Leah: Oh yeah. And also for our letter-writer, I mean, this is one of those things where how could you have planned for this?

Nick: Yeah, there's no back pocket sentence that you can whip out for this. No.

Leah: And the idea that it would ever come up again.

Nick: Well, we're gonna see these people again? Like, that's on the table? I don't know.

Leah: I'm not gonna go out in public with these people. I couldn't handle that. That's too much.

Nick: Yeah, because I mean, somebody who does this, what else is on that list? What else is this person capable of?

Leah: They've opened a door into a world that I think is—the options are limitless.

Nick: Oh yeah. The limit does not exist.

Leah: I would—I think the first time I would be too knocked over to deal with it in the moment.

Nick: Yes. I mean, I think the best you can do if this happens again—which I hope it does not—is I think we first start with a puzzled, confused look. Just a "I'm confused about what I'm seeing," and see if that actually does anything. Just to ...

Leah: Which my guess is that it won't.

Nick: Yeah, just bewilderment.

Leah: I've been with friends when, like, something happened. I actually haven't been with friends who had—I can't say I've been—I haven't been around this.

Nick: No.

Leah: But I've definitely had somebody do something that I didn't want a third party to have to clean up, and I would say, "Let me just go get a broom."

Nick: Yeah. I mean, I think what our letter-writer doesn't want to do is embarrass the person. I think that's their instinct here.

Leah: Oh, of course. You don't want to embarrass the person, but at a certain point ...

Nick: You should be embarrassed by this.

Leah: This person, they should be embarrassed. This is so rude to do to people that work there, and everybody around who has to listen to your nail clipping.

Nick: Right. And just a reminder: we don't clip our nails in public.

Leah: That's one of the things I do not miss about New York City is people sitting next to me on the train clipping their nails.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, it's a thing that happens more often than it should in New York City. Greatest city in the world, everybody. So yeah, for this, I think beyond the bewilderment that we can express with our face, I think we could say something along the lines of, like, "Oh, let me give you a paper towel for the clippings."

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: I think paper towel feels, like, a little lighter, less aggressive than "Let me get a broom."

Leah: Well, it depends on how big these clippings are.

Nick: Oh my gosh! I mean ... [laughs]

Leah: Yeah. I guess, "Let me get a paper—let me get—oh, let me get a paper towel for those clippings."

Nick: "Let me get a paper towel for you." And I think we say that in our best value-neutral, non-judgmental tone, which you will have to practice because that will be very difficult. And we just sort of like give them the paper towel and we hope that they then collect their clippings in the paper towel and throw it away.

Leah: "Oh, let me get a paper towel for you," and then the silent "You monster." That's silent. It's like the K in "Knight."

Nick: How do you feel about giving your confused look to Chad's partner here? Do you think she's culpable? Do you think she sees it?

Leah: I hate holding partners responsible for the bad behavior of their ...

Nick: Right. I don't think we want to hold her responsible, but do you think we can use her as a tool to get a message across?

Leah: Maybe we should give it a shot. We should give the look to both party members.

Nick: Because, like, there's the car ride home in which she can be like, "You know what you did back there was not cool." Like, there could be that car ride conversation. Although how can this be the first time?

Leah: How could this be the first? Although it's a couple they recently met. We don't know how long this couple's been together. I wonder if this couple actually broke up after this. Because if I didn't know this about somebody and I went on a date with them, and then they clipped their nails and left it A) in public at all, and then B) thought that it was just fine to drop their nails on the ground and have somebody else clean them up, I would be like, this touches to a much deeper side of their personality, and I will never date them again. I feel like the unspoken part of this letter is the couple broke up afterwards.

Nick: Yeah, I would be surprised if we went climbing again.

Leah: I mean, I like the we'll do a look of shock.

Nick: I think look is always nice because also in etiquette, we always want some level of plausible deniability. And so sometimes a look allows us a little more plausible deniability about the horror and disgust that we feel inside.

Leah: Hmm.

Nick: So it's always a good place to start, and we can always escalate from there.

Leah: Start with a look, then we move to the "Let me get a paper towel."

Nick: And then "So fun doing this climbing with you, people. We should totally do it again some time." Meaning never.

Leah: [laughs] I can't!

Nick: So our next question is quote, "I have a question about a Dungeons and Dragons group. My husband and I are in a D&D group with some friends from college. Everyone in the group, apart from us, live about 15 minutes away from each other. My husband and I live in another state, so we always call in on Zoom to play. The first few rounds of the game were so much fun, but the game is taking much longer than we anticipated. We meet on Thursday nights, and while our friends are okay staying up until midnight to play, my husband and I would rather go to bed at a normal hour so we're well rested for the day ahead. We both agree that we want to leave the group, but there's a caveat: the friends who invited us to the group asked me to be a bridesmaid at their wedding in four months. What should we do?"

Leah: I am delighted that we're getting questions about D&D groups. Up my alley.

Nick: [laughs] Okay. And explain what is D&D to somebody who may not know.

Leah: Dungeons and Dragons is a fantasy game. It involves storytelling.

Nick: Yes, it's a role-playing game.

Leah: Some people dress up. I have a cape.

Nick: Okay. And basically, there are quests that you go on, and there's a dungeon master who sort of leads the story. And everybody plays a different character, and different things happen in the story. And depending on how maybe the die is rolled, different things may happen. You'll either be able to unlock the door or you won't.

Leah: Different characters have different strengths and weaknesses.

Nick: Right. Yes. I think I was an orc, so I think I was very strong, but I couldn't do much else.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: So which, you know, art imitates life. So the idea of D&D, though, is that it also takes forever.

Leah: It does.

Nick: It is not unusual for a game to go from three to 12 hours. Like, that's—and that's just one quest. I mean, quests then continue. You are on campaigns forever. It kind of never has to end. But one quest can really be hours and hours and hours, so it is not unusual for them to be playing till midnight, of course.

Leah: Yes.

Nick: So, okay. So we have this game, and you would like to bow out. Okay, fine. I think it is perfectly reasonable to say to these people, "It's been so fun. Unfortunately, we just can't stay up as late as we need to." So I think you have a couple choices: can we make the quest shorter? You know, it is possible the dungeon master could make a quest two hours—a very sort of mini-quest. Totally possible. Or you join the Zoom, hang out, but you're not a player. You're just an observer. And that's fine. You can hang out and watch the game happening on Zoom. Or you just bow out altogether and be like, "Unfortunately, it's just not working for our weeknight schedule. So sorry, we can't do it." I think all of those are possible.

Leah: I don't think that in any way relates to being a bridesmaid in four months.

Nick: Right. That is where I'm very confused. How are we taking the leap from being in this Dungeons and Dragons Zoom group that we don't have time for, to jeopardizing our entire relationship where I'm no longer eligible to be a bridesmaid? Or somehow this will be catastrophic for our relationship. How are we going from A to B?

Leah: I mean, if this is the kind of person that if you're like, "I have to get up early, and I can't stay up this late," and then they take it so personally that they un-bridesmaid you? I just ...

Nick: But that's what it sounds like. We are concerned that that is a possibility.

Leah: It is completely reasonable and absolutely fine that you can't stay up until midnight.

Nick: On a Thursday.

Leah: On a Thursday.

Nick: Correct. Yeah, we don't live in this world. Sure.

Leah: There's nothing rude about that that you can't stay up that late on a work night.

Nick: So I think we just explain that in a nice, polite way, which is fine. And if they take it so badly that they're like, "How dare you? How dare you leave our Dungeons and Dragons group?" and they banish you from the kingdom? I guess maybe your relationship was not as strong as you thought.

Leah: I also think Nick's idea of, like, "I'll come for the beginning because I like hanging out, but we can't stay up this late."

Nick: I think that's a nice compromise, yeah. Like, "We'll join on Zoom when we can, which will maybe be weekly anyway, but we just have to bow out at 10:30."

Leah: And that's absolutely reasonable.

Nick: Totally reasonable.

Leah: And not rude in any way.

Nick: Do you think it's a D&D-themed wedding?

Leah: I hope so.

Nick: I mean, if it is, I would love to go.

Leah: Me too!

Nick: So do you have questions for us about Dungeons and Dragons or anything else? Please let us know. You can let us know through our website,, or you can leave us a voicemail or send us a text message: (267) CALL-RBW. And we'll see you next time!

Leah: Bye!

Nick: Bye!