January 30, 2009

How can you think that smells good?

So you have a stinker in the cube next to you. his cologne is so potent you honestly believe you might be getting drunk off the alcohol after-waff. GROSS!

this happens to men and women. we all have different tastes when it comes to scents. however we are also a pretty sensitive society and smelling bad is up there with being stupid on the insult ladder, so tread lightly.

as a general rule of thumb you should wear very light or no perfume/cologne to work. our olfactory systems are one of the strongest triggers of memory. a common treatment of amnesia patients is to bring in scents they're familiar with, which can often return the memory to the patient. you don't want to offend anyone using this super charged memory trigger.

what if your perfume is the same as the boss's ex-wife's. she broke his heart and he doesn't feel happy when he's reminded of her. your perfume just got you in trouble with your boss, even though you have no idea what you did wrong.

likewise, if someone in your office is a stinker it's really hard to say anything to him without hurting his feelings. if it's truly unbearable than i would suggest making a joke. humor can be the best tool to get a sensitive point across. this is more likely to go over well if you're dealing with a stinky guy than a noxious smelling lady.

"wowsers jimbo you trying out a new tactic to get the ladies? not sure that cologne is going to help unless you're hoping they pass out right off the bat." ha ha


"did Ralph Lauren just come and take a dump in here?"


"man i was worried about eating a tuna sandwich in here, now i think it might improve the air quality."

ok so these are harsh, but if you can joke with your office buddy than this might get your point across and clear the air.

if you're dealing with a woman i wouldn't suggest any of the above.

i would try something like:

when she walks by with a group of people: "do you guys smell that? there's a very strong odor i keep smelling. it's really distracting. i can't figure out what it is."

when she walks by again or when you walk by make a similar comment. you're essentially playing dumb, hoping she'll realize she's the distraction.

maybe others in the office feel the same way and you can work together on it.

this may not work either. i used to work in an office where we tried these tactics. the odor offender would just turn and say "oh, it must be me. my perfume is strong and lasts all day." we'd roll our eyes and agree it sure did last all day. i believe it got to the point where she knew we were all trying to tell her she stunk. she caught on and decided to play the always fun game of i know you're too weak to actually say what you mean so i'm just going to act like i don't know what you mean, even though i do!

the only person who made a difference was a producer who told her she couldn't work on stories with her because her perfume irritated her nose. this worked. it was direct and straightforward. the smelly gal wanted to work with this other lady and realized when she was around her she had to leave the 99 cent perfume at home. however, i believe part of the reason this worked was because she had to change in order to get what she wanted.

we should all be respectful of each others noses. just as you'd find it offensive if someone showed up at the office without showering for days or weeks on end, don't show up smelling like an overly perfumed potty bowl.

January 29, 2009

The Smokers at Dinner

Those who don't smoke tend to hate smoking. those who do smoke tend to love smoking. and never the twain shall meet, that is until you quit. 

there is a lot to talk about in terms of smoking etiquette and none of it has to do with health. so excuse this blog. it's purely an exercise in rationalizing -- which is what smoking is all about.

you're at dinner waiting for the apps; a second round of drinks has come and gone; you're dying for a smoke but at least one member of the dinner will be annoyed if you get up and go outside, what do you do? 

my rule is if there aren't enough people at the table to stay occupied without your presence than you can't go. that's not to say, well there are two non-smokers so it's ok. you generally shouldn't interrupt a meal to indulge your habit. in fact i'd go so far as to say it's rude to leave unless you're demanded outside or the entire party is ok with smoking.

while i said this blog wouldn't be about the stupidity of smoking or the health concerns associated with it, i would be remiss not to mention that undoubtedly people care about you and don't want you to die, so when you get up and leave the table they have no choice but to think about your mortality -- which should be off the preverbal dinner table. 

it's annoying to non-smokers to have you leave because while they too could engage in private conversations while you're gone, you are choosing to have your conversations elsewhere, at least for the time being. when you smoke this isn't what your thinking. your brain has simply felt the sensation and wants to retreat. you're encouraged by the other smokers at the table who also want to partake. however, it's understandable that those left at the table feel left out.

there was great "friends" episode where rachel wants to get into her bosses good graces. her boss smoked and her co-worker smoked. she always felt left out when they disappeared to the back alley and puffed away, gossiping the whole time about office politics. so she took up smoking. she then convinced them to quit, hoping it would put an end to the dynamic. it didn't and true to form hilarity ensued. 

the difference is that you don't live in ny, hang out at a coffee shop, live in a ridiculous apartment without anyone really knowing how you earn any money -- you don't live in tv land and there's nothing funny about you leaving the table. if you want to have a smoke so badly that you can't wait until the end of the meal then you really, really need to quit. no one will appreciate the sacrifice more than your dinner guests. no one is saying that's an easy or even likely answer to your addiction, but you should be aware that you are being rude by leaving the meal to indulge yourself.

next time your smoking buddy nudges you and says, "hey wanna go out for a smoke?" take a look around and decide if anyone would be upset by your absence. you're doing everyone a favor.

you wouldn't want to be left out so don't make others feel they are. 

Registering and Buying for the Bride & Groom

I have a friend who went to a high-end wedding (more than 4 days of festivities). she was very close with the bride. well they had been close. they grew up together and were estranged for a few years until she got a call from the bride announcing her engagement and they immediately became buddies again.

this friend went to the high-end store where the couple had registered and browsed through the selections. with the assistance of the shop clerk she soon realized the least expensive item on the register was $350. it was one soup spoon. not a serving spoon, an individual's soup spoon. (also important to mention, this wasn't a second wedding where people undoubtably have more money, this couple was in their 20s). they were asking for 16 (who has 16 people for a dinner party where soup will be served... that tells you something about the bride, and their dining room table!!). 

this friend was quickly reminded why their friendship had lapsed. she didn't want to be rude, she had the money to buy them a nice gift, but she felt morally opposed when she learned it was assumed that all guest would spend a minimum of $350. she felt like it was a cover charge. "if you can't afford a $350 soup spoon than don't bother coming." she particularly hates these types of people. so instead of buying them the $700 gravy boat she actually liked, she opted to buy a single soup spoon.

was this rude? i say no. 

i think it's absolutely absurd to have an outrageous registry, especially in this economy. so was this friend sending a slightly hostile message via her gift? probably. but honestly, i kind of love it. sometimes the best thing to do is play by the rules, but change them to fit your liking. that's what she did.

at the end of the day wedding gifts are a gesture of gratitude. they're the guests way of saying thanks for inviting me to the celebration of the next chapter in your life. i want to thank you for including me by giving you a gift that i hope will help you in this next chapter. normally you'll pick something from the register, but often if you really know the person giving them something really personal is also ok and can be really special. 

i always keep in the back of my mind one of parents favorite wedding presents: A beautiful salad bowl. they still have and love it. they didn't register it. it's made from a single piece of wood. you don't wash it with soup. the oil from the salad soaks into the wood, changing the color and texture. my mom has gets apoplectic if anyone goes near it with soap -- the soap dries out the wood and can cause cracks and hardening whereas the oil darkens the wood and makes it stronger. i especially love this gift because it ages with the couple. it needs care and love. you can't quickly clean it like everything else, you have to scrub it with a green scubber and while you do this you think about the care it requires, which is not that dissimilar from a relationship. the point is they didn't ask for this bowl, but it's become a favorite. this november they will have had that salad bowl for 50 years. 

so when it comes to registering, think about the things you want and need, don't be gauche by setting the price points too high -- you might end up with cheaper gifts. and don't forget to leave a little room for those who may have a better idea of what's important 50 years later. 

Plus One

Now that the save the date cards are flowing in for next summer's wedding season it's time to go over some of the ground rules.

you cannot bring a guest to a wedding if you weren't explicitly invited with one. it's not up for negotiation. this is an old school rule that in our modern day people think is negotiable. i'm here to tell you it's not.

i have many a guy friend who is under the impression that if you're single and most of your friends are attached you too can bring a date to a wedding. this is not the case. the traditional rule was that if you're married you and your spouse would both be invited. that rule has morphed into inviting couples who live together. most guest lists are tight. weddings are expensive. weddings require a lot of planning. there are seating charts and costs associated with the number of guest attending. you cannot make up your own rules.

remember you are being invited to a very special appointment in this couple's life. you should feel honored that you were included. don't push it. 

i have one friend in particular who has been known to bring his on-again off-again girlfriend to weddings without a plus one. it's a close group of friends and people will rearrange knowing he's likely to show up with someone, at the last minute. this is really unacceptable. 

i will acknowledge that it's hard being alone. it's particularly hard going solo to wedding. but,  you have to deal with it. if you were going to a bbq or a cocktail party and you decided you wanted your significant other there, fine, i'm sure people would be happy to meet her. however, a planned dinner is not the time or the place. 

don't harass the bride about bringing your girlfriend or fling. she's not going to enjoy the conversation and you'll look like an ass. she probably had to cut some friends from college and some friends from work because they couldn't invite everyone. she might even be upset about having to cut the list short of close friends. when you call or email asking why you can't bring that special someone she's going to think twice abut how special you are if you feel comfortable asking for such an egregious favor. you were lucky enough to be included.

i know this is hard for couples who are talking about moving in together. imagine the scenario where the woman wants to move in, the guy is on the fence, his friend is getting married and it's sure to be a great night. she really wants to be included, but she's not close with the bride or groom. she's bound to feel hurt and left out on account of their living situation which she's already unhappy with. this sucks. no way around it. but the bride she has to draw the line somewhere and if she doesn't she'll end up paying for the wedding for the next 20 years. that's certainly not fair.


when it's your turn to tie the knot and you're negotiating with you soon-to-be mother-in-law about why your buddy the wrecker should be invited you'll understand what's worth fighting for and what's not. 

besides being single at a wedding can be a lot of fun if you play your cards right:-)

The Wedding Gift

Wedding gifts have a lot of different standards. generally speaking you have 3 months to get it to the bride and groom after their nuptials. that whole 1 year thing is for lazy people who don't know the rules.

if you've traveled to a wedding you're not always expected to provide a present. it's a nice gesture and will surely be appreciated, but in our economy it's enough that you bought a plane ticket. that said, if you got in your car that doesn't count as traveling -- despite the price of gas. 

a general rule of thumb is to spend about $100. however, there are obvious exceptions. if it's you sister's friend who you grew-up with and haven't seen for more than 5 years it might be best to go in on the gift with your sis -- assuming she made the cut. also if it's a close friend and there's something special on her registry or that you know she'd love there's nothing wrong with spending more. 

i would also say -- having been a candidate for 27 dresses -- that if you've been involved with the shower, the bachelor or bachelorette party, etc you can think about how much you'd like to spend. in those cases you will probably want to spend $100, but most likely you've already spent way more than $100 on other presents and travel and shouldn't feel like you have to dish out  more if you don't want to. 

likewise, i always think it's super tacky when a bride or groom tries to see who was the cheapest or most generous. it often seems that those who have the most lavish weddings are the ones concerned with how much their gifts are worth. this seems weird. you just put on an elaborate wedding because you love each other and are excited about your future, so why do you care so much about how much people spent on you? 

(discuss amongst yourselves...) 

January 15, 2009

Boys and their pee

i'm not sure why this needs addressing, but every time i tell guys i'm starting to blog about etiquette they say, "oh, are you going to talk about the urinal etiquette." so here we go.

if you walk into a men's room and there are 20 urinals and two guys using them. don't go and stand next to one of them. pick your own, equidistant pee receptacle. it's creepy and uncomfortable to have someone come up next to you when there are plenty of other options. 

it's a similar situation to a bus or a movie theater. if there's a lot of open space... utilize it. even if you have some rationale for why you should use the seat or urinal next to someone who's currently occupying it, just don't. it makes others feel uncomfortable. 

The carousel dilemma

I feel like i'm constantly reminded that if we looked out for each other we'd be better off ourselves. another example of this is at the airport luggage carousel. 

yes, when we travel we are irritable. part nerves, part being in an inhospitable environment and a lot of just wanting to get where you're headed. so it's not a shock that we behave badly when we're on the road. perhaps the worst leg of this physical and mental roller-coaster comes when we've landed and are waiting for our luggage. it's the feeling of come on i'm so close to being home and yet i have to wait for this damn bag.

i hate checking luggage but with the new liquids requirement i have no choice. what can i say i'm a product whore and i need my shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and so forth. 

so there i am standing side-by-side with a bunch of other annoyed travelers. everyone is so freakin eager to get their bag and get out that they're blocking my view. it is impossible to see your own luggage until it is right in front of your face. 

this is how it normally goes down:
johnny-tracksuit next to me is leaning so far over i'm hoping his head smashes into the metal railing. cindy mcnightmare nails is making noises like, "mmmhhh awwww excuse me, i think that's my... oh no sorry they all look alive, mmmgg awww excuse me..." the only one who is making me happy -- while simultaneously disgusted --is mary makeout who's so happy to be reunited with her boyfriend they haven't stopped sucking face long enough to notice the luggage is on the carousel. it makes me so much more frustrated when my bag passes, i lunge forward grab the edge and then almost fall over holding on for dear life to the scrap of the bag i can reach.

please help me and just take a small step backwards, widen the circle of people waiting and allow all of us to easily identify and collect our luggage.

I don't think you were hired to take those, SO PUT THE CAMERA DOWN

I can't even begin to count how many weddings i've been to where half the guest thought it was appropriate to snap photos during the ceremony. there seems to be a growing epidemic in our culture where people are addicted to taking pictures. i'll be the first to say i love looking at picts of my friends at parties, but when it's a personal, private party keep the camera at home.

maybe it's because we're all equipped with at least one camera -- on our cells -- at all times. i was recently at a bruins game and inside our box there was a dude snapping away. HELLO!! you're really going to hold on to those images and remember when tim thomas saved that goal -- not that you actually captured that moment, i have a hunch what he captured was more like teeny tiny people flying around a big oval. 

ok, so being distracted by this guy at a bruins game was annoying. but when i am trying to be polite by picking a seat near the back of a wedding ceremony and i miss the whole damn thing because those who took the good seats feels the need to stand up to get "the shot" and block all those behind them, then my friend i get pissed. i get pissed like a bruins fan with a mullet and too many miller lights in his belly.

because i believe there is a contagious nature to this problem it's imperative that people cut the cord. if i stand up to take a photo and you're sitting next to me with a camera, you might think i care more about the bride than you, because you're not snapping away. so you decide to stand up and join in the photographic pissing contest. or maybe you're behind me equipped with a camera and now that i'm blocking your view you decide to partake in the action, heck you have the equipment, even if all you really want is to be able to see the bride and groom. if this attitude continues the bride and groom will think they're receiving a standing ovation, while that's the best thing that could come out of this egregious behavior i'm still going to be pissed like a bruins fan. really pissed.

it's almost to the point where i'm starting to feel like these camera-happy morons are just a bunch of self-obsessed exhibitionists. when would you ever think it's ok to stand up in the middle of a ceremony? 

save your memory cards for later when people are drunk and acting goofy, not when it's serious and personal. if pictures of the ceremony are so important to you than i'm sure the professional photog will be happy to sell you some later. don't ruin it for the rest of the guests, you look like an ass standing there blocking our views. 

Cutting in Line

So you're waiting in a long, chaotic line with converging branches. Maybe you're at the supermarket, maybe the ball park, whatever you and everyone else in line wants to get to the front. Some people are willing to squeeze their way in front of you. Nothing is more aggravating than watching this behavior. Not only is it rude, but it's frustrating to everyone else who's been waiting.

Often I don't feel comfortable directly confronting the person who directly stepped in front of me. It seems so obviously obnoxious that I'm left dumbstruck. Audacious behavior like this requires a group effort!

Ideally, the person behind me should say something. If you were behind me and you saw someone step in front of us you could say, "excuse me, but i think you just cut in front of this woman." Or if you feel like being more to the point, "excuse me, i know i was behind her, but i don't think i should be behind you. please respect the line. we're all waiting here."

This approach makes you look like a hero and also a common man. You're protecting your own interests under the guise of looking out for me!

So stand-up to that person two ahead of you in line. Let's take on the cutters TOGETHER!!!

The Ups and Downs of the Toilet Seat

It's common knowledge that men should lower the toilet seat after they've peed. However, it's more of a debate about the toilet lid. Frankly, i don't want to touch any part of a toilet. I would suggest if you're unsure close the lid. It's the safer bet.

I know some people find it really poor form if they go into their own bathroom, when guest are over and find the lid up. I'm not sure what the big deal is. Looking at the water in toilet is offensive? But for whatever reason they do find it disrespectful so please when your unsure drop the lid.

Boys, please don't be lazy and leave the seat up. It gives the impression that you are hanging around public bathrooms where only men are allowed. There's nothing worse than getting up in the middle of the night to go the bathroom, sitting down on your toilet and realizing someone forgot to drop the seat and your sitting on the rim of the bowl. GROSSSSSS!! SO DON'T DO IT!

Office Kitchen Part 1

it's kind of funny that the office is such a cesspool for bad manners. wouldn't you think people would want to put their best foot forward at work? wouldn't you think you'd be embarrassed if your boss came over and saw your kitchen sink full of dirty dishes? so why is ok to treat the office kitchen any differently?

the poor microwave. seriously no one wants to clean it. and who can blame them for not wanting to touch it. some office microwaves are so gross the insides look more like a jackson polluck than a cooking apparatus. little bits of jim from accounting's pizza party, sally from legal's latest diet lunches and big brian from maintenance's leftover meatloaf dot the once white walls. it's disgusting. the bottom line: no one would use the damn thing if it weren't capable of cooking the crap out of your food, prevent any concern that germs were actually festering inside.

but what happens, poor mindy from down the hall always get's stuck cleaning it. does she enjoy cleaning it? nope, but she does it because her boss asked her to stock the kitchen and she feels responsible for it. she has to scrub and scrub to get it clean.

SOLUTION: when you're done using it just wipe it down. simple. easy.

we leave for the next person because we assume we won't get blamed. everyone does it. no one wipes after they're done. why should i? BECAUSE IT'S RUDE TO MAKE OR ADD TO A MESS.

you'll make mindy surprisingly happy if simply clean up after yourself.