Friday, November 28, 2008

Not an Etiquette Book Among 'Em....

Today, no etiquette bitching.

Just a personal request, as the holidays are upon us: Buy books this year for gifts. They're less bulky than, say, a sweater; will travel well if you're flying for the holidays; and, as our president-elect says, it's good to "turn off the TV and read with your kids."

I urge you to, ideally, purchase books from your local independent bookseller. "Because a scented candle never changed anyone's life," as indiebound says.

But no matter how you buy books, just get out there and buy some new books.

Some ideas and resources below for you:

The New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2008

Find your nearest independent bookseller at

My favorite reads:

Amy Sedaris' I Like You...Hospitality Under the Influence

David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing That I'll Never Do Again

Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cell phones and food

So from now until about January 2, all grocery stores will be packed. And that's the way it should be -- 'tis the season.

But please realize you are in a grocery store, not your home, not your car, and definitely not a phone booth.

Translation: shut the eff up on your cell phone. Especially you loud talkers. We don't care about your conversation, and we don't want to hear you. I traipsed through Trader Joe's yesterday while some woman stood blocking the produce aisle, yammering away (loudly) on her headset.

Same goes for other public places: restaurants, banks, movie theaters, concerts: we don't want to hear you. Go outside and talk.

Thank you.

(and Happy Thanksgiving)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It's not rude, but it is despicable...

Don't you want your kids to have the same basic rights you do? Things that you probably take for granted? Don't you want your kids, your friends, your loved ones to have a relatively stress-free life?

I lived in California for five years. As I prepared to leave my Midwestern home town for the land of the sun, co-workers bade me farewell with such clever witticisms as, "California! Land of Fruits and Nuts!"

If only.

As I walk this great country (okay, it's mostly air travel, but I am a super busy public speaker), everywhere I go, I share with my audiences, "California is pretty conservative."

The reaction: "No!"

My response, "Look at who their governor is."

Their response: "Oh. [pause] Yeah."

One of the aspects I loathed about California was its omnipresent conservatism and hyper-sensitivity -- and this was in the San Francisco Bay Area. The City itself was, of course, more liberal. But one foot outside of SF, and you couldn't sneeze without offending someone within sneeze-shot.

I once had a class full of old hags from Pacific Bell who were pissed off (and told my incompetent boss so in a three-page letter) because in the Intro to the Internet class I was teaching, I had the audacity to actually -- shocker -- show people how to use the internet to find things such as phone numbers. The bitch bags carped that I was causing them to lose their jobs. They never considered the fact that they spent more time gossiping and smoking than they did working as the cause of their future lay-offs.

Then there were the geniuses from one shipping company who got angry because another instructor merely mentioned their competitor. Not in praise, mind you. Just said the name.

Then there's my Cali-dwelling white friend married to a non-white man who thinks gays don't deserve the same rights as she and her husband.

And this, my friends, is horseshit. The fact that Prop 8 passed in CA last week is horseshit. And it's downright despicable.

About two years ago, the love of my life found himself admitted to the hospital with a life-threatening condition. I was at his side every minute; I can't imagine not being able to be by his side to help him through such an ordeal. And I can't imagine denying this basic right to our brothers, our sisters, our children, our friends, our relatives.

I'm almost, no, right now, I am ashamed to say I lived in California. (btw, I got out, thank god, before Ah-nuhld got in.)

If you don't agree with me, especially if you are straight and don't agree with me, answer me this: how would you feel if you were forbidden to marry your spouse, forbidden to have any say in his/her medical-slash-end of life decisions?

I'm lucky, and grateful, that I got to marry the love of my life.

I'm thrilled that I got to see our first non-white president in my lifetime.

I am sure we will see nationwide gay marriage in my lifetime, and, hopefully sooner rather than later, our first female president.

Mr. Obama, are you listening?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Congratulations, President-Elect Obama

You worked hard and you deserve it. Your acceptance speech was gracious, forward-looking and uplifting. It was a pleasure to vote for you and a pleasure to watch you win.

John McCain, too, deserves Kudos for his gracious, professional concession speech. McCain wasn't my pick, but I admired how professional and polite he remained, even when there were hecklers at his events. He always kept it above-board.

Cheers to you, Mr. Obama. I look forward to the next four years. Couldn't have said that 8 or 4 years ago.

Thank you.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Those Pesky Political Phone Calls

When you get an unwanted phone call -- from a pollster, stranger, telemarketer, etc. -- please just say, "I'm not interested," or, "I'm not comfortable talking about this, good-bye," and then hang up.

I've been calling for my candidate of choice these last three days. I'm happy to say that of people who do answer, most are kind and polite, even the ones who don't support my candidate, but some just blatantly hang up. Where are your manners, people?

Oh yeah -- and get out and vote on November 4.

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The 2nd Presidential Debate - Oct 7 2008

When you finish a Town Hall Debate, the polite thing to do is stick around and chat and shake the hands of the audience members that came out to see you.

immediately and not talk to your (potential) supporters. I'm referring, of course, to the The rude thing to do--and best way to show you don't care -- is to leave the soundstageMcCains, and I don't dare to link off to anything that might benefit them.

Michelle and Barack Obama demonstrated true grace, but, more so, that they care by sticking around after the debate. The Obamas chatted with, shook hands with, and took pictures with everyone who cared to in last night's audience.

Mr. Obama demonstrated grace under pressure and kept a cool head. He shows real class, and manners. Who do you want in the White House? "Cooler heads will prevail," they say, and I say, so do polite ones.

Monday, October 6, 2008

When someone gives you a gift... send a hand-written thank you note.

Not a stupid, pre-printed photo card.

Not "nothing." Especially if they traveled and invested time and expense to celebrate your occasion with you.

The Bitch attended an out-of-state wedding a month ago, and is still awaiting her "thanks." Who knew my friends were so ungracious?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Away from etiquette...Rachel Maddow

Okay, I gotta just say here, I adore Rachel Maddow. (In a totally non-sexual way)
She's just adorable, and has amazing eyebrows. There's something so affable about her.
Go Rachel! You rock on MSNBC.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Basic good manners around politics and email

Wow, never thought I'd say this, but today, I agree with Roger Ebert. He's got a nice little bit on his blog today of what constitutes good manners. To Ebert's entry, I say, "two thumbs up!"

And while we're talking about manners and politics this election season...

A lot of letters have been popping up in the advice columns, carping (rightfully) about getting politically-tainted emails from a friend or loved one. Said emails usually bash the recipients preferred candidate, or glamorize the sender's preferred candidate.

A note from the Etiquette Bitch: I realize you love your candidate, but please, please, please -- I plead to both parties--don't send such missives. Whether it's your opinion in an email, or a link to a Rolling Stone story about Palin's lies, or the latest digs on politico, just don't do it. Here's why:

1. your vitriol is unlikely to sway the recipient into voting for your candidate
2. the email will not change his or her mind
3. the emails are usually unwelcome (ergo, slightly rude)
4. it's an unproductive use of your energy

If you really care about your candidate, go volunteer for a few hours, write letters to your representatives about the change you want to see, or do something immediate that will have a positive impact in your world: spend time with your kids, clean up your lawn, plant a garden. Sing a song, buy the Flight of the Conchords CD, or go work out at the gym.

While I love, love, love our right (a right that needs to be protected) to free speech, I can't see the benefit of sending a one-sided missive that causes bad feelings between friends and family. Yes, I want you to express your opinion in an open, respectful forum, but one-way bombardment tends to ruffle the feathers. And usually has zero effect.

How about some two-way dialogue?
For an example, see here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Going to a show

Special shout out to Judy who sent me this very cool article from the Sept. 7 Star-Tribune.

Are you going to attend a show, movie, or concert within the next millennium? Then you must read this. Yes, you.

A Withering Glance guide to etiquette for concertgoers and theater patrons. That means you.


Laugh, snort or clap three times louder than anyone else in the audience. We get it: You like it. Now calm down.


Take 15 minutes to select an outfit other than what you wear to mow the lawn. You are joining others for an evening at the theater or concert hall. No need to go all Cary Grant in "To Catch a Thief," but neither do we want to see your

Vikings T-shirt, cargo shorts and flip-flops. Do you really need that fanny pack at the Guthrie?


Take three minutes to "quietly" unwrap the crinkliest throat lozenge since the invention of the Life Saver. Just rip it open and be done with it.


Learn how to silence your cell phone if it should accidentally ring during a performance. Most phones have an exterior button which, if hit once, turns off the ringer. So why do so many phones seem to ring four or five times before their owners discover this feature?

Read full article here. Ignore all the comments, except the ones that say, "this article is perfect." Enjoy! And mind your manners.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wedding RSVPs for the Guests - If you say "yes," show the eff up.

This weekend I was torn -- do I go to the out-of-state wedding I RSVP'ed to two years ago, or do I stay home and deal with my leaky roof (courtesy of Ike)?

Well, I sucked it up and went to the wedding. It was my past experience, and love of good graces, that propelled me to attend.

When you respond "yes," to a wedding invitation, barring death or disease, the only right and good thing to to is to attend. The bride and groom, or their family(ies) have laid out money and paid handsomely for your food and liquor up front. If you don't show, well, yeah, they're stuck with extra food that they won't ever see, but more importantly, it's rude.

If something super major does prevent you from attending, for Pete's sake, call the bride or groom, or a friend who can get the message through, and apologize profusely, and explain what is keeping you from celebrating their joy. And then follow up with a hand written apologetic note (not an email), preferably in the form of a nice card or wedding card, and include a cash gift. It's the right thing to do.

Do not do what (yet another) one of my rude guests did: A young man named "Kyle" was invited to our shindig. He responded that, yes, he and his SO would be attending. Great! As the cocktail hour drew to a close, no sign of Kyle and his SO; their place card sat untouched. No phone messages came in from Kyle; we worried that perhaps he'd had an accident, or perhaps crossed paths with the aforementioned death and disease.

Days after the reception, still no word from our acquaintance. My spouse emailed the young man to make sure everything was all right. His reply came back, "We went to the mall, spent the whole day shopping and had so much fun! We were just too tired to drive to your reception."

That was it. No "I'm sorry," no "oops" -- nothing. Not even a card -- empty or filled with cash.

Notice I called this guy an "acquaintance" -- he surely is no longer our friend.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Happy Birthday Miss Manners!

I love it, I love it, I love it.

WFMT (98.7 FM) has an etiquette theme as their question of the week. They ask, "What is the rudest thing you've witnessed during a concert?"

They're doing this in honor of Miss Manners' 70th birthday. Miss Manners is a great part of my inspiration, although something tells me she would do her darnedest to distance herself from a self-proclaimed bitch.

Check out Miss Manners' "Things to Avoid at A Concert." A great list, although I must point out the syntactical error -- I think it should read, "Things to Avoid Doing at a Concert.",1

Enjoy, and send in your responses! Happy Birthday, Judith Martin! We love you!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Talking on Your Cell public

You don't need to make cell phone calls when you're at the bank, on the el, in the grocery store, at Borders, at Barnes & Noble, the gym, driving your car, etc.

And, should you subject the rest of the world to your cell phone conversations, KEEP YOUR VOICE DOWN.

Just because we can talk anywhere, anytime, doesn't mean we should. Unfortunately, most of the world doesn't get this.

If I hear you yapping at Borders about how you've just "stopped doing the comedy stuff, and now I'm here picking this stuff up for Sarah, yeah, she was offered two teaching positions, one at the Latin School, and one at that other school that was S-O-L" you betcha I'm going to chime in with my two cents and add to your conversation.

Ditto if you're yapping loudly at Barnes and Noble about your latest business deal.

Both offenders were young white males, late 20s -early 30s. Listen Generation Y, the world does not revolve around you, and we don't give a flying fuck about what job Sarah got or how the offer they made you was over the top.

Shut the fuck up. Keep your voice down when you're cell-yapping in public, or -- here's a lovely idea-- don't come into the store at all.

Unless it's urgent, when you get a phone call when you're out and about, tell the caller, softly, "I'm in the store, can I call you back?"

And then do so.

The world thanks you.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ravinia fist fight over rudeness

Okay, finally, some comic relief from that boring wet noodle from Alaska:

Ravinia Festival turf war, food fight hospitalizes Arlington Heights man, cops say

A dispute over lawn space erupted into a turf war that sent one man to the hospital before a sold-out Donna Summer concert Saturday at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, police said.

After setting up their blankets, chairs and a tarp, a group of concertgoers from Arlington Heights left for a restaurant. Returning an hour later, they found their belongings displaced by a Chicago group, which they confronted.

A woman in the Chicago group tried to attack a woman from the returning group, police said. A 40-year-old Chicago man then punched a 49-year-old Arlington Heights man, prompting a wine-and-cheese splattering melee, police said.

The Arlington Heights man was taken by ambulance to Highland Park Hospital, where he received 15 stitches, while the Chicago man was charged with battery.

I have to agree with many of the Trib's comment-posters; to "set up shop" at a festival and leave is rude. "Move your meat, lose your seat" as one poster put it. Yes, I know in a perfect world we can claim a front-row seat at the Free Andrew Bird concert or any outdoor fest; dine at a 4-star restaurant and then return to find our seat unscathed. Sadly, this is not the reality. Either bring your dinner with you, or wait until your later arrival time to claim your seat.

Personally, I'm snickering a little that a fight broke out at Ravinia. I've wanted to pop the cell-phone yakkers there myself.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Good Manners on the CTA

I get asked all the time to post about the rude-asses who ride public transport, and, believe me, one day they'll get their verbal lashing here.

Today, though, I want to point out some good manners I witnessed last night on the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority, for the non-Chicagoans).

Around 10-10:30 pm my date and I crammed onto the super-crowded 151 bus heading north.

A gentleman in a white polo, carrying a "Classic Cars" magazine offered me his seat, and I gladly accepted. I thanked him twice. So mad props to that kind stranger.

Most of you CTA riders could take a tip from that kind man.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What to Wear to A Wedding

Three years ago, at my own wedding, I was appalled at what some people wore. One woman showed up in a skin-tight, crotch-high minidress; another showed up in a ratty dress from the early 90s (it was faded; she looked pretty horrid, like she just rolled out of bed); and another wore thigh-high come-fuck-me boots.

People, you're at a wedding. Decorum is called for. Our wedding was no princess wedding. It was held at a reception hall, and yet a select few felt it okay to look like they were trolling for sex at 2 a.m. on a Saturday night.

No matter how "casual" the wedding, please show your respect when you dress. Your clothes are one way -- a very loud way, if you will -- you communicate your respect - or lack of it - for the people and places you encounter.

Yahoo has a pretty interesting article on 9 Things You Should Never Wear to a Wedding. Many comment-posters made some stupid comments: "These are basic things that people know." "These are obvious; people already know this." Uh, no, folks, unfortunately, they don't.

What killed me about my guests was they knew better: I've attended weddings with all 3 of these offenders, where they dressed well. Why did they dress like shit for my wedding? My guess is they don't respect the Bitch.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Thank You, Swingtown (Janet)

Ah, how I love Swingtown. Janet easily had the best quote this week: "Some people need to be reminded of their manners."

Yes, Janet, some people do need to be reminded of their manners. Thank you.

(Please enjoy Janet's sparky personality via the clip below. The clip of her snipping at a Male Chauvinist Pig [and reminding him of his manners] is not yet available)

Watch CBS Videos Online

On "thank you," and asking for a sandwich

This week's earlier post about rudeness on the best show ever ("Swingtown") inspired a reader to call me and vent about her pet peeve: rudeness in commercials.

Yes, caller, I have to agree with you.

First off, commercials these days just flat-out suck. They're not creative or engaging, and they're violent and stupid. No wonder kids are desensitized to violence -- it's being shown to them as a given in 30-second increments. Example: a woman is pissed off at her boyfriend, so she shoves his truck down the side of a mountain.

What kills me is these moronic pieces of mini-film making give a "warning" in 2-pt font white text on the screen (in a spot where no one looks) that says, "do not attempt." Many advertisers need to be shot.

Okay, back to my point: my caller hates the commercial where a kid walks into a kitchen and says, "Hey Mom, how about a sandwich?" and 10 seconds later, his rude-ass dad does the exact same thing.

People, the correct phrasing is: "Mom, could I please have a sandwich?" or "May I have a sandwich, please?"

It's called asking politely, folks. "Please" and "thank you" go a long way in this world.

And I'm happy to say, after viewing many of these mind-numbingly stupid commercials, I can't even tell you the brand or product they are pushing.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thank You, Swingtown

Why does no one on TV -- even in shows that are set in politer times -- ever say "thank you"?

When someone does you a courtesy, the proper response is, "Thank you."

On last week's Swingtown (arguably the best show this summer, probably this year), Tom the Swingin' Neighbor helps Susan load supplies into a car. Mind you, Tom is not going on this trip; he's just lending a helping hand. The scene plays out thusly:

I'll load these into the car. (Picks up bags)

(weak smile)

Really, Susan, you're that deserving of help that you can't thank the guy that helped you?

Yes, I realize I'm getting spun up about fictional characters. But this is how much I love good manners -- that when an effing fake character overlooks them, I get upset.

I've seen episodes of ER in which the doctor will tell a patient something like, "I removed the bullet and stitched up your chest; you'll be able to make it to the prom by 7 pm," to only receive a quiet nod in response.

You know, I've spent weeks in the hospital with ill loved ones, and here's how the conversation usually goes:

We've reviewed the lab results--

Thank you, doctor!

--and everything seems to be normal--

Thank you!

--so we just want to keep her here for another two hours--

Thank you!!!!

--for observation.

Thank you, Doctor. We appreciate your help so much.

And while my tirade against my favorite show may seem silly, I'm sad to report that crap extends to every day.

Raise your hand if you've ever been asked for the time, and after checking your watch and telling the stranger before you the current time, s/he walks off with nary a kind word.

Yeah, I thought so.

When someone lets you into traffic, say "thank you." (polite wave of the hand)
When someone does anything kind for you -- no matter where you are -- say "thank you."

I know of a certain office worker who has demanded help on his late night projects. (demanded. not "asked for.") He never once thanked those who helped him--and, surprise surprise--no one ever stays late to help him anymore.

Back to Swingtown: Later in the same episode, Susan does another pet peeve of mine: she hangs up the phone without saying "goodbye."

Believe it or not, I do have hobbies. blogging about and blasting rude-asses is one of them.

Thank you for reading. Good-bye.

Swingtown PS: Anyone besides me think Laurie needs to be smacked into next week? Tell me in the comments.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Wedding Tips for Brides

Hey Brides, Grooms, Mothers-of-the-Brides, Maids of Honors, etc. --

To Anyone Who is throwing a wedding, paying for a wedding, hosting a shower, reception, etc.:

  1. It is rude to ask for cash -- in any form, in any way, for any occassion (bridal, baby, engagement, graduation--anything).

    Written, verbal, on the invite, in an email--it is rude. Don't do it. Not even in a stupid cutesy poem.

  2. It is crass to register for a honeymoon or new house --don't ask your guests to pay for your home or vacation. Rude, rude, rude.
    • Registering for gifts is allowable. Technically, you're not supposed to put "Janie is registered at ____" on the invite. That said, so many people prefer knowing of a registry these days, so include a separate slip of paper listing the registry in the invite.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Common Sense, Some Good Manners

Random thoughts I hope you all put into practice:

1. Again, don't eat unpaid-for food in the grocery store. It's not your food yet, you're spreading germs, and just plain uncouth.

The free samples that the store distributes are fair game.

2. When you need to get past someone, say, "Excuse me." Do not just stand in front of them, or muster past, or physically touch or bump them. It's rude.

3. Road rage or parking rage is bad. And not worth it.

Twice last week, I saw one person who was waiting for "his" parking spot stop the car, get out and yell at the other driver who "stole" his spot. It was almost comical, really, for the passersby witnessing: Pissed-off guy was yelling at the woman who parked, "You're the devil! Bad things are going to happen to you because you're the devil!"

I can't imagine, however, it was too nice for her. (I've been on the receiving end of such a maniac, and it's actually a scary place to be.) When someone "wrongs" you in traffic, let it the fuck go. It's never worth it. You're getting upset over a parking spot? Or whatever, traffic-related? You're health, sanity, and psychic energy just are not worth all the rage and wasted energy it will cause you.

What was unbelievable about the Pissed Off Guy was he spent five minutes minimum (I watched) yelling at this poor woman, and, honestly, she was in the right. When you "wait" for a parking spot, the correct way to "claim" it (little that you can): you wait behind the car that's leaving, not in front of it, as this guy had done. He was wrong; she was right.

After yelling at "devil woman" for 5 minutes, and scaring her into leaving, Mr. Pissed Off Asshole parked in the spot for all of 60 seconds: he ran in to the dry cleaners, got his shirt, and left. Really? You couldn't have illegally parked for 60 seconds, Mr. Asshole?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Entering and Exiting a Restaurant

Chicago doesn't have year-round lovely weather, so it's a treat for us Windy Citiers to dine out at one of those lovely places with open french doors during the summer.

Now, let's make a key distinction here: french doors are actually more like big windows that happen to swing open when weather permits.

A door is the opening through which you enter and exit a room, house, or place of business.

When it's time to leave, lovely people, exit through the second one. How did you enter the restaurant? My guess is you didn't climb through the french doors, disturbing the nice people eating nearby. Exit through the regular door, same as you came in, and don't disturb the nice folks enjoying their meals.

To walk to the front of the restaurant, cut through tables, and then step out through the french doors is plain boorish and rude. Don't do it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Traveling Etiquette

Don't leave your manners at home when you travel.

I just had a lovely week in Seattle, and witnessed a few breaches of etiquette. Ahem:

1) Airline passengers littering the seats, floor, and everything in their radius with their detritus.

I realize that we're all mad at the airlines these days, but leaving a mess in your spot is: a) gross, b) disrespectful , and c) it looks disgusting. As I passed the vacated seats and saw black things (I have no idea what they were-- wrappers? food?) all over the floor and seats, along with various wrappers, crumbs, cheerios, water bottles, etc., all I could envision was the trashy people sitting in those seats. Yecch.

Keep it tidy, folks. You don't want others thinking you're trash, or the flight attendants calling you trash, now do you?

2) A nearly-screwed-then-helped passenger who couldn't say "thank you."

Waiting in security, a befuddled Auntie approached the guy who checks your ID, and proclaimed, "I've lost my driver's license!" An airport employee in uniform heard her, reached over and handed her her license; apparently, she dropped it on the floor. "Thanks," she said to the Airport Guy. "Don't thank me," he said, "thank this guy (points to regular man standing in TSA line). He's the one who found it and turned it in."

Regular guy waves at Auntie.

"Oh," she says.

Uh, jerko, the appropriate response here is: "Thank you, kind sir!" Hell, you don't even need the "kind sir." A simple "thanks" to the man who turned in your license, that thing without which you would be fucked, would do. Nope, she didn't say a word, just, "Oh."

When someone does something nice for you, fucking thank them.

And the rudest thing that happened on vacation:

Asshole Businessman Taking Up the Entire Business Center who popped off after I asked, "Excuse me, sir, do you have any idea how long you'll be on?" He bitched back with, "Uh, yeah, til I'm done," then proceeded to ask bitchy, sarcastic questions like, "Why, did I just ruin your week?" Bitchyman then told my husband to "control me," (ha! like you can control the Etiquette Bitch!), told me I was rude for asking how long he would use the computer (ha!) and then threatened my husband with bodily harm.

We left the hotel for much sweeter confines.

People, when staying at a hotel, since hotels these days provide 1 computer for about 200 people, it's not uncommon for someone to say, "Excuse me, do you have any idea how long you'll be?" Guess what -- it's not rude for them to ask. They're being courteous, and, probably like me, they're thinking they'll go do something else for an hour and leave you alone.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rudeness and Gift Giving

My ears are red, so infuriated I am, having just read about yet another rude bitch in this world.

The following letter appeared in today's Ask Amy column:

Dear Amy: I am a single mother with two children. We live on a tight budget.

My neighbor invited my son to her son's birthday party and my daughter to the party for her twins the following week.

My children chose the birthday gifts. I thought these gifts were fine—there was a boy's gift and two separate gifts for the twins.

My neighbor called me the following week and said basically that her children didn't like the gifts and they didn't have enough room for them.

She wants to return them.

She said a gift card was the usual gift.

I feel embarrassed and hurt. I would never tell my kids their gifts were unacceptable. I have always taught my kids to be grateful.

What do you think?

I guess I just lost a friendly neighbor.

No, Letter Writer, you didn't lose a friendly neighbor, you got a quick, cheap lesson in whom to avoid from now on.

A gift is a gift. Here's what your ignorant neighbor needs to know:

When you receive a gift, you smile, say, "thank you," send a hand written thank you note and then do what you want with the gift. But never, ever, ever, EVER call the giver and criticize his/her gifts. If you don't like it, and a gift receipt was not included (nice gesture, btw, but not required), then donate it, sell it on EBay, or use it to prop up your uneven patio table.

Letter Writer, your neighbor is a rude bitch, and needs some schooling. Can you anonymously email her this blog?

Dump her, and find friends who appreciate you. I, for one, am glad that you are teaching your children to be grateful!

Monday, June 23, 2008

I'm sorry, why did you come to this club again?

Have you seen that stupid cell phone commercial where some guy is sleeping, or at a diner, and even though he's otherwise occupied, his hand mechanically finds a nearby electronic device and starts typing at warp speed?

Unfortunately, sadly, this commercial isn't that far off the mark. People, just because we can be connected 24/7, doesn't mean we should be.

It's healthy to have some down time or quiet time. It's good--and polite -- to shut off the electronics, especially at certain times. It's good to be present.

Saturday night, I went to The Green Mill for an awesome jazz show by the Moutin Quartet. (highly recommended-they rock.)

The Green Mill gets mad props from the Etiquette Bitch. Upon paying your cover, Bouncer Big Al tells you, "Turn your phone off and keep your voice down." YES! (fist pump into air! Why don't all concert venues do this?)

If you do yak too loudly during a set, a manager will come over and ask you to be quiet.

Now, onto the guys who didn't understand the "turn off your phone" part: Just before the second set, three large men in Cubs jerseys, fresh from the Cubs-Sox game, sat behind me, ordering copious drinks. As the band played, two of the Cubs Fans would not stop texting. They had those phones -- iphones or whatever -- that are all bright screen, so the effect was that of having 20 fireflies behind me. Annoying? Distracting? Yes and yes.

When you go to a show, why did you go? To see the act, or to behave like a moron and text your friends? Hell, Cubs Fan could've saved himself $12 (plus drinks) by just staying outside, typing away in the evening air. If you want entertainment while texting, then plug in your earbuds, genius, and use the little TV or itunes feature, and stay out of a club.

Plus, putting technology away -- whether you're at a bar, restaurant, theater, concert, or even a diner with friends -- is the polite thing to do. Be present with the person(s) you are with. Enjoy your friends' company. Enjoy the music. Enjoy sitting at the bar, seeing a movie, or a play. Hell, enjoy sleeping.

But don't enjoy your cell phone every waking minute. Turn it off for an hour or two. I promise you, the world will continue to turn, and, chances are, you won't miss anything important.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The More (Not Always) the Merrier

When an invitation is extended to you -- no matter how casual or formal the event -- the invitation is only for those to whom it was addressed.

It is impolite to ask, "Can I bring [name of additional guest here]?"

If you are indeed wondering if you can bring your charming friend, mother, dog, etc., word it something like this:

"We'd love to come, but my mother will be visiting that Saturday. "

"Your party sounds great, but we've got Jack and Jill visiting from Europe."

Then be quiet and see what the host says.

This guideline applies across the board for all types of parties -- including weddings. If your children were not invited, do not bring them. If your significant other was not on the invite, it means she/he was not invited. Note that these exclusions, 90% of the time, are not personal.

You can not and should not know a host's reason for limiting invitees. It may be monetary, there may be a certain group dynamic going on, she may need exactly 10 for her Human Rope activity, or perhaps a surprise intervention is planned.

Asking to bring extra guests puts the host in an awkward position: she has to find a way to tell you "no" without pissing you off and creating extra tension when you (hopefully) do show up at her shindig. She's afraid of alienating you, but also wants to keep her party dynamics the way she planned.

And never, ever, ever ask if you can bring your pets. This creates the same awkward situation, and adds one more responsibility to the host's plate. Yes, I know your pooch is a little darling who won't disturb a soul. That's not the reality, and it's not your house.

It is okay to bring along others is if the party notice arrived via eVite, and the "invite other people" feature is turned on, or if the host (or invitation) specifically said, "guests/dates/children, etc. welcome."

Host's house=host's rules. Respect them. If it's too much for you attend without your mom/out-of-town friend/significant other/cat/landlord, etc., then don't attend.

Monday, June 2, 2008

When to be a Soft Talker

1. At a concert.

2. During and after a movie, especially after a blockbuster that half the population is waiting to see.

When you go to hear music...

Let's tackle number 1. I know you think, "It's a concert, it's loud, who cares if I talk?"

The person within earshot who paid 35-50-100+ bucks a ticket, that's who. For humungo outdoor festivals (Bonaroo, Lolla, Pitchfork, Summerfest, Taste of Chicago, etc.), we're going to relax this rule a bit. But when you are at a concert in a smaller venue (think The Aragon in Chicago, The Fillmore in San Francicso, or Ravinia), or if everyone is seated, shut the eff up.

Etiquette Bitch just got an earful yesterday from a young bride who was whisked off on a romantic date to an acoustic concert. This being a special occasion, her husband popped for front-row seats,. The concert took place in a theater, where everyone had a seat. Seat. Theater. Think about it.

Said performer was the bride's favorite, and she was enjoying the show until the brainless bimbo behind her kept yapping away about: shoes, pedicures, hair follicles, the mold in her kitchen. Young Bride asked Brainless Bimbo to keep it down; Bimbo was not happy to oblige. Bimbo bitched.

A similar thing happened to me at the Joe Henry show at the Old Town School. A table of LP Trixies were seated to my right, and couldn't be bothered to shut up all night--- they yapped away through his whole set, thinking he would break into some Madonna tunes. (How do I know? They left the second Joe finished "Don't Stop," the one Madonna song he penned.)

So what does a well-mannered person do in this situation, when the boors all around you are being rude? Go get an usher, or manager. Hardly seems fair--why should you have to be inconvenienced and miss part of your favorite act due to someone else's rudeness? But go get someone -- it'll be better than you trying to shush them, and getting only a smug "nuh-uh" in return. Trust me -- I tried.

After the movie ends...

Okay, number 2: It's summertime. Many highly-anticipated movies are out right now. When you are leaving the theater, or out having drinks or dinner post-show (yes, even days after), please, please, please for the love of all good entertainment, keep mum about What Happened to Carrie or How Indy Escaped.

Other folks who are dying to see the coolest film have not gone yet. Please keep your voice down.

If you are one of those slow-goers, like myself, feel free to kindly, and politely, lean over to The Spoiler and say, "I'm sorry, forgive me for eavesdropping, but I couldn't help overhear you talking about [Carrie/Indie/Hulk/IronMan/Crappy Drew Barrymore Film]. I haven't seen it yet. Can I just ask you not to say anything please? Thanks."

If this doesn't work, walk away, or stick your fingers in your ears and go "nah-nah-nah-nah."

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Good Driving

Folks, especially you Chicago Drivers, this is why you don't run stop signs, okay?

An ad in The Chicago Reader caught my eye. It's the "UR The Spokesperson" campaign by the Ad Council. The graphic is one of those 1950s-looking guys-- my favorite style of graphic design. The campaign is to promote speaking up against reckless driving.

I love it. Read the safe driving guidelines and then follow them.

It seemed odd to me that the ad was in the Reader, because this campaign, according to Ad Council's website, is aimed at teens. Driving on the streets of Chicago for the last ten years, I think any moron (that means all of us) who gets behind the wheel needs to follow these guidelines. Read what the Ad Council has to say. And please read some of Etiquette Bitch's good driving guidelines. Driving politely is safe, and also demonstrates respect for yourself, and all those strangers out there around you -- which is what etiquette is all about.

Remember, we're all in this together, folks.

Etiquette Bitch's Top 4 Good Driving Guidelines

  1. Don't tailgate. You are not going to make it there any faster.
    Plus, if you rear-end someone, regardless of the circumstances, it is your fault.

    (This is how the courts, insurance, and law will rule. How do I know? Because I rear-ended someone. Twice.)

  2. Stop. You know those red signs that say "STOP"? They mean you need to stop completely. Not "roll through." Not "ignore this sign and go."
    Stop. Fully. Wait. Now Go.

  3. Silence is golden. Unless there is some imminent danger, do not blow your horn. It's noisy, and you are probably annoying someone nearby. Waiting to pick up someone? Then go to their door, lazy-ass, or call them with your cell phone.

  4. Hang up and drive. No texting (teens!) while driving. No talking on your phone -- whatsoever. If you must make a call (lost, directions, etc.) pull the eff over for two minutes, make call, then get back on the road.

    In Chicago, you may only yak on your cell phone if you have a hands-free device, but please don't even use this. When you are on the phone -- no matter how -- while driving, your brain is distracted, and you are not fully present and aware, and your reaction time is slowed.

    Be respectful and present while driving. It's safer for you and everyone else around you.
Thank you!!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Email and Text Never Die.

File this one under a "business" and "personal" etiquette lesson:

1. Watch what you say in electronic communication.

2. If you have something important to communicate (such as "You're fired," "You piss me off," "No, I'm not giving you your money," "I'm dumping you," etc.) do it in person -- not via email or text.

Emails and text messages can and will come back to haunt you. From an etiquette perspective, communicating important or (worse yet) hurtful or angry messages via electronic media is just downright disrespectful. There is a person on the receiving end.

It's appalling that there have been firings and breakups via text message.

And, leaving good manners out of it for a minute, should the receiver ever need to circle back to you, say, in court, you wouldn't want these nasty missives shown to the judge, now would you? This happens all the time on The People's Court and the myriad court shows out there.

Now, for those of you who have some sort of legal bent, such as, "at my job we have to document everything," that's fine, as long as it's done professionally and without attack. But those personal messages? Communicate in person.

I once received a nasty email telling me how "miserable every aspect" of my wedding was, and how the letter-sender "was sorry she had to sit through it." Don't worry, EB has never forgotten this person -- and will never extend kindness to her, either. And yep, the email still exists.

So, today's lesson:

1. When you have something important to communicate, do it in person.
2. If you must document your communication, be polite and leave the negativity out of it.
3. Email and text messages never die.

Got it? Good.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Some Tips For When Plane Goes Bye-Bye

Special thanks to JR for suggesting today's topic.

As a long-time business traveler, Etiquette Bitch has some tips for airline travel. If implemented, these suggestions will keep you from pissing off your fellow passengers, and make for a smoother, friendlier ride for everyone. These guidelines apply 24/7/365; ie, they are not seasonal.

  1. Cover your mouth. When you're on a plane, you're sharing trapped, recirculated air with 200 other people. Sneeze? Cough? Cover your mouth. (best way: sneeze or cough into your elbow. I know, you don't want your germs on your precious hands) Your fellow travelers don't want your effing germs. We have clients and families to visit; please don't spread your sickness.

  2. Even if you think "it's nothing" or "I just have allergies," cover your damn mouth.

  3. Teach your children to do #1 and #2.

  4. No taking off your shoes. We don't care if your feet swell or it's more comfortable. Cover your feet. We don't need (nor want to) smell your podiatric aroma. If you must, then please please for the love of god carry a pair of slipper socks with you and use 'em.

    And for the love of god, please don't do this while waiting :

    Yecch. We don't want to smell your feet on the airplane, or in the terminal, stinky.

One time, sitting in my usual aisle seat, the guy behind me not only took off his shoes, but then put his foot up on my armrest. I had to do a few bumps and comments to get him to move his feet. Disgusting. Funnier still, when a business writer asked me for stories of yucky air travel, I shared the above with her. Her email came back, "Oh, well, I've done that before." Yeah, I guess that's 'cause you're a rude bitch.

Any other travel rudeness you've experienced? Email me:

Friday, May 9, 2008

What does your living room look like?

What pisses you off the most when you go to the movies?

The outlandish prices of tickets and snacks? The insane length and amount of trailers you must endure? The tortuous commercials? (I paid to come to a movie, and now you're advertising to me?)

Or is it the boors in the theater who think that a movie theater is their own fucking living room? (Note: this may be you.I know, you think you're an angel at the Landmark; you're not. Please keep reading.) They talk throughout the movie, never daring to lower their voices to a minimal whisper, and/or talk incessantly.

The respectful thing to do when watching any performance-- live or filmed -- is to keep quiet. There's nothing wrong with an occasional, softly-whispered "What did he say?" But other than that, folks of all ages, keep the chatter to a bare, bare, minimum. Non-existent is best.

And I do say "folks of all ages" because, kind of like the creeps you see on "Dateline: To Catch A Predator," you can't classify these loud morons. They come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. My two worst:

  1. A Thursday night 2 summers ago, "Little Miss Sunshine," Landmark Century Cinema. You figure a weekday night crowd will be more tolerable than a Friday or Saturday night. You think wrong.

    Seated to my right was an elderly couple, as old as my grandparents. This was the generation that had manners, right? "The Greatest Generation," as Tom Brokaw would say. Well, from my 101 minute experience, these two were The Rudest Generation.

    They talked through the whole damn movie in what I would call the "water cooler voice." Not quiet at all. And what's worse, the husband was a "predictor." He would announce his guess on what would happen next to the whole audience.
    (Spoiler Alert--Plot Points of "LMS" coming up)
    For instance:

    • "Oh, he's going to take the moped and go to Albuquerque."
    • "She's going to ask him about the suicide."
    • "They're going to sneak the body out the window."

    Their yakking was only compounded by the moment when everything comes together in the movie, and Gramma and Grampa Rude decided to open their plastic grocery bag and debate over which 100-calorie snack pack they should eat.

  2. During that awful turd that Judd Apatow dropped, "Movie About Fat, Ugly, Abusive Asshole who Knocks Up Lame Chick, and Yet She Loves Him," Davis Theater, god knows when.

    Forgettable movie, unforgettable assholes seated next to me. Said assholes were a couple in their late 20s- mid30s. Every moment on the screen was punctuated by one Rude Lovebird sharing thoughts with the other Rude Lovebird, who would then continue stream of consciousness. Example:

    Girl: [stoner character walks into frame] "That guy looks just like Dave!"
    Guy: "I know!" [they giggle to each other] "Wouldn't it be funny if Dave wore shorts like that?"
    Girl: "I know, we should ask him if he's seen this movie."
    [2 seconds of silence pass, then:]
    Guy: "Hey, should we call Dave and go out tomorrow?"
    Girl: "Yeah, maybe, but we should see if Darcy wants to go with us?"
    Guy: "Yeah, that would be cool."
    Etiquette Bitch [leaning over and touching Rude Girl's arm]:
    "I'm sorry, please stop talking."

    Girl made a snotty face, but it sure as hell shut them up for the rest of that turd. Granted, it was a sucky movie, but I paid to hear the movie, not your rude ass yap away all night.

    A movie theater -- hell, any public venue -- is not your living room. Look at your living room some time--and note how it does not resemble a movie theater. When you're in your living room, yak away.

    Are you in a movie theater? Is it dark? Is a movie playing on the screen? If "yes" to any, shut the fuck up.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Aww, you got a present. Now say, "thank you," lazy-ass.

Yes, the true spirit of a "gift" is to give something with no expectations of anything in return.

But, hell, a "thank you" would be nice. Written, preferrably.

Look, people: the gift-giver spent time, money and energy. The least you can do is say -- verbally and written -- "thank you."

There's an unfortunate trend going around right now -- helped along by the retail paper, wedding industry, and photo-ordering sites, no doubt-- of these stupid "photo thank yous."

I'm sad to say that I've received my unfortunate fair share of these lazy, thoughtless photos posing as thank-yous. These flimsy photos have landed in my mailbox after weddings, christenings, and children's birthday parties. The photo cards are pre-ordered by the clueless parents (or, in one case, bride) before the occasion. Immediately after said party, to which I drove over an hour, purchased a gift with my good money, and spent my time watching you corral your brats (or get married, whatever), the lazy parent or lazy bride then shoves a pre-printed photo card with a photo of guest of honor into an envelope, does not include a personalized note, and sends it off.

Frankly, I'm offended. (see effort, time, driving, money, etc. cited above)

Whenever someone makes the effort to show up for you, and has gone to time and expense to bring you a gift, take 30 seconds, grab some note paper, and write a couple sentences of thanks, then spend 42 cents and mail it, lazy ass.

Monday, April 21, 2008

It's Not Your Food -- Yet.

Again and again, Etiquette Bitch finds herself shaking her head asking, "Didn't your mother teach you any manners?" The answer, unerringly, is "no."

When I was a little girl, Mom took me to the local WiseWay to grocery shop. Not eat. That's what you do at home in the privacy of your own dining room.

About 10 years ago, I was shopping in Andronico's with my friend Tina. Apparently, she was hungry. She brandished a bag of cookies. "I'm starving. I'm going to eat one of these now," she said.

"Are you kidding me?" I said.

"What? Don't you just eat in the grocery store when you're hungry?" she asked.

"No. That's rude. It's not your food yet; you haven't paid for it." I also mentioned to her I thought it was disgusting--when you open food and eat, you've got germs and bacteria flying around. And who knows where your hands have been.

Tina ate a cookie, then sheepishly stowed the bag in her cart, to be paid for later. After that day, Tina loved to gush at parties about how, "Etiquette Bitch thinks I'm rude for eating cookies in the store."

Well, yes, I do. And I'm still appalled to see this happening. Today, ~ 2 pm, Whole Foods Evanston, the checkout line. A little imp of about 9 years old was helping push his mom's cart into line behind me. He whined about how heavy it was (it was; the woman was cramming a month's worth of groceries into one of those half-carts); he started to unload the cart onto the conveyor belt, and then he yelled for the cashier who was waiting on the guest ahead of me. He jiggled a Stonyfield Farms yogurt in his hand. "Excuse me! Excuse me! Do you have a spoon?" he called out three times, before the cashier, bless her, answered him.

"No, I don't have a spoon," she said.

Okay -- let's just pause here for a moment and examine this situation. The kid is in the checkout line. He will be out of the store and free to eat in 3-5 minutes, if that. And he has to yell two customers ahead to get a fucking spoon so he can eat right now.

So, of course, the impatient brat didn't wait. "Do you know where I can get a spoon?" he called.

"They're in the cafe," said the cashier.

The kid blew outta there, and in a flash, he was back, plastic spoon in hand. He ripped open the yogurt faster than you can say "Stonyfield Farm," and had three spoonfuls shoved in -- most of it dripping down his chin--before his mom asked him to go get yet another item, because she needed four--not three-- pounds of butter. He kept shoveling and guess where the yogurt ended up? Some on him, some on the groceries.

What galled me, too, is that the mother stood there, ignoring: his yelling, his impatience, and his mess . Why are we not teaching our kids patience? A two-minute wait would not have killed him.

NOTE/UPDATE: I will allow that when the grocery store is handing out free samples, chow away. They are giving you the food. The unopened bag -- you haven't paid for it. And how grimy/uncouth is it to ask the cashier to ring up your opened, empty bag that just had your food-coated hands all over it?

I recall another food store visit when the woman ahead of me in line had just snarfed down a candy bar. She then handed the grimy, chocolate-smeared, torn wrapper to the cashier with a, "here."

Folks, I don't care how hungry you are. You're not supposed to go shopping on an empty tummy. You spend a ton more money that way. If you're hungry on the way to the grocery store, go get a cookie at Starbuck's, or drive through some fast-food joint, and chow down. Eating food you haven't yet purchased is not only rude, it's pretty disgusting. I'd even say unethical -- you have yet to pay for it.

The food isn't yours 'til you pay for it. Wait until you get to the car, then snarf away. Believe me, Etiquette Bitch does this regularly with her bulk chocolate and bananas.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bringing and Receiving Wine: Guests and Hosts

There seems to be a lot of confusion over whether guests should bring wine, and what should be done once the vino is proffered.

Let's straighten this out, shall we?

It's nice to bring wine, whether or not the host asked. As a host, it's okay to have a BYOB party. Keep reading to know what not to do in both sitches.

For the Guest

Scenario #1: You're invited to a dinner party. Host has asked for nothing, but you bring a bottle of wine.

First off, good on you for the nice manners. A certain etiquette columnist scoffs at the idea of bringing wine as "admission" to a dinner party. I don't think anyone thinks of it as "admission," merely the right thing to do.

Didn't your mom ever teach you, "never show up empty handed"? If she didn't, you should have at least heard this from Deepak Chopra.

When you're a dinner guest, it's nice to bring something--dessert, wine, even a nice card. Conventional wisdom says, "don't bring flowers -- it's extra work for the host!" but I disagree. I love flowers, I love people who bring me flowers, I love bringing my friends flowers.

For the Host and Guest

But back to the wine. When nothing was requested, the good host will thank you, and perhaps put it out, or she may set it aside. It's also nice if the host asks, "Would you like me to open this now?" The proper response is something along the lines of, "Whatever you want." It's rude to make a host feel like she HAS to open and drink your bottle right there. Besides, what if she's a recovering alcoholic?

If you're the host, never ever do what Jan on "The Office" did and say, "Oh, good, we'll use this for cooking."

Also, if you've brought wine, do not, under any circumstances, ask for or take it back at the end of the night. It's classless, and looks cheap. I once hosted a dinner where we could not open all the wine that was brought. I was once told by one guest, on her way out the door, "Go ahead and keep the wine." Um, yeah, I was planning to do exactly that.

For the Host: BYOB Parties

Scenario #2: You've indicated your party is BYOB (acceptable) and everyone brings wine.

Leave it out for partygoers to enjoy.

I once attended an engagement party where we were told on the invite, "Bring wine or presents." Okay, demanding anything is rude, but I played along and brought a nice vintage. I arrived, handed my wine to the host, and watched as she promptly turned and stowed it in her liquor cabinet for her personal use. Rude.

So, got it? Bring wine as a nice gesture; as the host, leave it out. Good.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rule #1 for Rude Hosts

Okay folks, listen up. Time to behave when you throw a party.

Today I'm starting with hosts. Don't worry, I'll butcher the rude guests in later posts.

Lesson #1 -- for all occasions -- do not ask for money. EVER. It's rude, it's uncouth, and it makes your event feel like a shakedown, not a celebration.

I don't care if you're getting married, you're both over 30, and "have everything you need."
Too bad. It's rude to ask for money -- any time, any reason. And don't even get me started on those stupid "dollar dances," wherein guests must pay for the "privilege" of dancing with the bride (or groom. I hear they can go either way).

And no, by cloaking your request in a "sweet little poem" does not make it any less rude. I was appalled to stumble upon a website offering "cute, polite ways to ask for money." The most offensive one I saw included the lines, "please do not take us wrong/..../please play along." Boy, asking your guests to "play along" with your childish whims -- that's a good one! Hoo-doggie!

I don't care if you threw a lavish party and "it was really expensive." Host the party you can afford, cheapskate. Or host a potluck.

Similarly, it is rude to ask for gifts -- or ask for specific gifts. Recently, Etiquette Bitch was invited to a baby shower with this directive on the invite: "No Baby Clothes!" Gee, I was about to spend time, energy and money on this joyous occasion, and you have the gall to tell me how to spend my money? Uh-uh, sister.

Have you ever been shaken down by a host? Any rude requests, or manners questions you have for me? Email me: