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a minute of manners and musings
new holiday etiquette, part 1
November 30, 2010Posted by on
You heard it here first: There are some rules of etiquette that are old and, dare I say, not cool. They don’t apply in today’s society and can even make people feel uncomfortable. The new etiquette world is riding high on thoughtfulness, tolerance, open-mindedness and kindness while the stuffy ole’ rules of years past have been tucked away for another time and place.
This week, I’m going to be posting about New Holiday Etiquette so I hope you’ll stop back by often. This is Part 1…
Entertain This Way, Not That Way
The massive undertaking of putting together a soiree (big or small) used to fall solely on the host and we have all had that it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time feeling when guests are due within the hour. But, that was when June Cleaver was in charge. Today, I don’t have one friend who would be able to pull off a cocktail party given the time spent caring for kids, aging parents or, heaven forbid, themselves. Well, you are in luck! Potluck, that is. The new way to entertain, especially during the hectic holiday season, is to fashion your event potluck style. It is perfectly acceptable to plan a gathering and ask each guest to contribute a food item. It is enough that you are willing to open your home as a venue for friends and family to hang-out and let their hair down. If you are lucky enough to be invited to such a hip and happnin’ party, be sure to contribute your best. Running through the market on your way to the party to pick up the cheese tray in that clear plastic container is not acceptable. It doesn’t look good or taste good. Break out an old family recipe or one you know will win over even the pickiest of eaters, whip it together, put it in an attractive serving piece and you are set. You could even print out several recipe cards that could be placed next to your dish for those that are particularly fond of your tasty treat.
Trifle Recipe Cards (add 5 or so completed recipe cards to this one, tie up with a ribbon and voila!…Hostess Gift!)
Not only will the effort you spent be appreciated by your host, it will serve as an ice-breaker when you find yourself standing next to someone you’ve yet to meet. “Hi, I’m Kate Lewis. My sister just emailed this sun-dried tomato and pesto dip recipe to me. She likes to make this for her book club. Do you like to read?” “Yes, I do, in fact, I just bought a Kindle.” And so the conversation goes…
And since you mentioned it, here are other conversation tips:
* Old etiquette dictates a “respectable exchange of pleasantries” before anything really meaty can be discussed. New etiquette says to simply be pleasant and respectful. Note a person’s body language. If their eye contact is minimal and their shoulders are angled away from you, they don’t want to talk. If their eyes are engaging, they are smiling and their body is fully facing you, go for it! Ask what their plans are for the holidays. Ask if they have any big travel plans this season. Ask if they have stumbled upon this year’s must-have gadget and what they think about it. Start with “Tell me…”, which forces a better response than Yes or No. Just don’t fall into the “So, what do you do?” routine. Go to a party with a list of conversation-starting questions you can draw upon. That will give you the confidence to walk up to a stranger, put out your hand, introduce yourself (with first and last name) and begin a conversation. Your host will love you for helping everyone have a fun time.
*If you find the conversation well running dry, talk about somebody else – in a good way. “Have you met John Wellman? He is the architect working on the new office building by the river. Let me introduce you.” Make the introduction and when a new conversation emerges, make your escape with a soft “Excuse me”. You do not have to wait around to make sure a lasting friendship develops. Do not, however, lose your charm by starting a gossip fest because you couldn’t think of anything else to say. You would rather someone consider you shy than consider you a busy-body.
* Old etiquette says in the case of a forgotten name to not let on for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. Life’s too short for that sort of pretense. Just say, “I’m really sorry to ask this, but would you tell me your name again?” 99.9% of the time I say this, the person laughs and says, “I’m glad you said that because I’ve forgotten yours, too!” Crisis averted and easy conversation about forgetfulness ensues.
Easy as pie.
Or, easy as the pie ingredients you could ask a guest to bring to the Pre-Party Preppin’ Time.
Be sure to check back this week and learn more about New Holiday Etiquette. Oh, yes, there’s more. LOTS more.