Food Friday: Ask The Lady

Cherished readers, what a timely question this is. The Lady so enjoys Thanksgiving for the family togetherness and of course, the opportunity to show off a properly set table! But just what if the table will be filled with those on opposite sides of the political spectrum?Let us examine…

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett, 

I am a 53 year old woman who is beyond the point of tolerance for my family members. Maybe it’s my age, but I have no patience, time, or inclination to deal with people who are letting their opposing political views get in the way of my Thanksgiving celebration. My darling cherub children and their cousins are pretty much guaranteeing a big family feud as we carve the turkey. I have seen with my own eyes the posts on social media. I find this whole thing absurd and feel caught in the middle. What can I do? I told my husband I am ready to cancel the whole thing and go eat my Thanksgiving meal in peace at Golden Corral. 

Pissed Off Mother of 4

Dear Pissed Off Mother of 4,

Firstly, The Lady would like to point out that this is the precise reason that politics is on the No-No Topic list for polite conversation!

Second, while The Lady doesn’t have a problem with Golden Corral, she is unsure that you will be satisfied entrusting your Thanksgiving enjoyment to this place on what will probably be the most crowded day of the year.

Third, The Lady reminds you that the gathering will be at your home and YOU make the rules. If this animosity if being broadcast across social media, you have every right to send an email or make a call informing the warring factions that they are to leave their political squabbling at the door and not bring it inside. That is NOT what a family meal is for. And as you mention cousins will be coming to your home, The Lady would include their parents (you or your husband’s siblings) on the email or calls. MAKE IT VERY CLEAR (in a mannerly way, of course) that this is a non-negotiable house rule. For example:

Dear Children and Dear Nieces and Nephews, I am looking forward to seeing all of you on Thanksgiving and enjoying much-anticipated family time. I request that we use this day to celebrate family and gratitude and not use it to squabble over politics, religion, or any other divisive topic. I want to hear all about YOU, your families, jobs, and achievements. I love you all and I know that you will respect my wishes as you come to my home. I would be very disappointed to not continue our family tradition due to this matter. We will be family longer than any one person will be the President. Love, Your Pissed Off Mother and Aunt

The Lady is quite frankly tired of the political climate, which is why she frequently watches re-runs of Designing Women and The Golden Girls and has fond memories of the 80s and the Reagans. (The Lady shows her age!)

Please write back after Thanksgiving with an update.

Best Thanksgiving Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Vintage Saturday: A Look At Advice from 1860

Cherished readers, The Lady came across this advice from the The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness by Florence Hartley.  The Lady believes that both of these pieces of advice still stand today. Enjoy a little look back at Conversation Advice.

Never interrupt any one who is speaking. It is very Ill-bred. If you see that a person to whom you wish to speak is being addressed buy another person, never speak until she had heard and replied; until her conversation with that person is finished. No truly polite lady ever breaks in upon a conversation or interrupts another speaker. 

It is a mark of ill-breeding to use French phrases or words, unless you are sure your companion is a French scholar, and even then, it is best to avoid them. Above all, do not use any foreign word or phrase, unless you have the language perfectly at your command. I heard a lady once use a Spanish quotation; she had mastered that one sentence alone;  but a Cuban gentleman, delighted to meet an American who could converse with him in his own tongue, immediately addressed her in Spanish. Embarrassed and ashamed, she was obliged to confess that her knowledge of the language was confined to one quotation. 

Best Vintage Memory Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Vintage Saturday: Advice on Insults from 1967

Cherished readers, The Lady presents to you an excerpt from The Encyclopedia of Etiquette by Llewellyn Miller copyright 1967. This volume is very easy to read as it is written in alphabetical order. Let’s look at what Miss Miller advised when dealing with insults, be they intended or not. (Page 335 in this volume)

A famous definition of gentleman and lady is ‘One who never insults anyone unintentionally.’ To this can be added  ‘A lady or gentleman is one who never takes word, deed, or manner as an insult when none was intended.’ There is no complete remedy for either the calculated insult or one given under the hot impulse of anger. No matter how regretful or abject the apology, the memory of the insulting words remains. However, when an apology is offered it must be accepted. The acceptance can be stiff if the insult was deliberate. But if the insult was unintentional the only sensible thing to do, in sympathy for the embarrassment of the left-footed give, is to laugh and forget it.”

The Lady agrees with Miss Miller. It is certainly better to ignore such things as best as possible. The Lady would even say if it is noted that this same person repeatedly acts in a boorish manner, she would more than likely only see this individual when absolutely necessary. Why subject yourself to more of the same?

Best “Insulting” Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

 

Manners Monday: Personal Questions

Cherished readers, The Lady had an interesting discussion with a friend on the subject of personal questions. She was amazed that her daughter-in-law actually answered when someone asked her age. I could sympathize with her surprise, but I also acknowledge that the younger generations are generally much more open about things than we ancients are. (The Lady is not really ancient…but she likes to pretend to be of a different era.)

Even with these more open, free social customs, The Lady believes that the following examples fall into the category of personal questions:

-How much money do you make/have/plan to inherit?

-How much did this cost? How can you afford this?

-When are you going to have children/stop having more children/discipline the children you have?

-What exactly is wrong with your health?

-Why are you getting divorced?

-How much do you weigh? (Ha…you knew that one was going to make the list!)

-Did you have some work done? (Referring to plastic surgery, not work on the house or car)

-Is it real? (Whatever it is…a gemstone, bosom, derriere, hair, etc…)

In all things, cherished readers, discretion is your friend. No probing questions.

Best Manners Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Conversational Faults To Avoid

Cherished readers, The Lady speaks to many people in the course of the week and her hectic social schedule. The best conversationalists have great poise and self-assurance and remember that conversation is a two-way street. Based on my extensive experience speaking with the multitudes (tee-hee) I have compiled a list of faults that one should avoid in seeking to make interesting and pertinent conversation:

Repeating the same story over and over is irritating and implies that one thinks their listeners are not paying attention…or even….lacking intelligence. (Horrors)

Unkindness or unpleasantness are never appropriate. Needless to say, it is never appropriate to speak of ill of those not present.

The conceited person thinks he is most interesting and that everyone wishes to know his opinion on a myriad of topics. The Lady believes correcting others falls into the category of conceit as well as long-winded pomposity.

Self-pity and doom and gloom. The Lady has always said that when someone asks “How are you?” they do not want to hear a litany of problems ranging from having gout, to having financial problems, to the kids performing poorly in school. Private problems should only be discussed with close family or friends.

Words and phrases that add nothing to the conversation. The Lady includes “You know” “I mean” “Listen” “Like” and others.

Name dropping….adds nothing to a conversation. The Lady is doubtful people even know those whose names are bandied about freely in regular conversation.

Evil gossip….it is never well-mannered to spew hurtful rumors or comments (even if true!) The best rule is to only say pleasant things. (None of this “if you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit next to me”…unless you are the Dowager Countess of Grantham then you can say whatever you like.)

Best Conversational Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

 

 

Why The Approach Was Wrong

Cherished readers, in Monday’s post I commented that I had concerns about the way Mr. Old High School Crush had approached the seeker of advice. I have received two emails asking me to please follow up. Here are my thoughts, for your eager consumption.

The Lady takes exception to:

  1.  Him staring at someone across the room repeatedly and so conspicuously that they notice.
  2. Him approaching the table and asking the lady if she recognized him. Why not say, “Hello, I am Mr. SoAndSo, I believe we went to high school together and wanted to say hello.” Doesn’t that sound better than “Don’t you recognize me?” and putting the innocent party on the spot?
  3. Him standing over a seated person. If an empty chair was at the table, he would have done well to ask permission to be seated. By remaining standing, he called attention to himself and the table.
  4. Him revealing a lady’s age in public by announcing to all gathered what year she graduated from high school. (Oh, the horror!)

Am I being nitpicky in this situation? I don’t believe so. Certainly, having a bit more polish would have been more of a credit to this man. And if he remembered the basic tenets of Putting Others At Ease and Never Calling Attention To Oneself he would have come out smelling like a rose! However, I suppose in his enthusiasm for seeing his old school chum, he forgot and according to the letter, no harm was done. In this case, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, ignoring innocent social flubs should be part of our own code of etiquette.

Best Mannerly Wishes, ‘

The Lady Hooper Brackett

Complimenting a Drastic Change In Appearance

Cherished readers, I recently had a meeting with someone that I’ve been doing business with for years. I have seen this person once per year for the last decade. Imagine my surprise when I noticed a huge change in this person’s appearance! Not only did he lose a considerable amount of weight, but he also got rid of his glasses and stopped wearing his toupee. The result? He looks years younger!

I wanted to praise the improvements, but my conundrum was twofold. How do I comment on these changes without seeming shocked? How do I comment without seeming as though his former appearance was unattractive? I had to choose my words wisely.

I decided to be cautious and not specifically mention any one of the changes he had made. I smiled and said sweetly, “My dear fellow, how nice to see you looking so wonderful!” This afforded him the opportunity to talk about his changes himself, without putting him on the spot (and talk he did! He was rightly proud of his weight loss!) Win-win….he didn’t feel put on the spot and I was able to bring a spot of joy to his day!

Best Tuesday Wishes!

The Lady Hooper-Brackett