Paging Miss Manners…

In a sort of combined preparation for and reflection of the Christmas activity-go-round, I  tried to do some research on etiquette tips for being a good holiday guest and host. When I googled it up, the first page included three sources about dog etiquette during the holidays. Dog owners clearly needing more manners prompts than the rest of the world? What? Actually, one Doggie Etiquette webpage turned out to be some pretty sensible tips for traveling with pets, but that wasn’t what I was looking for.

“Be gracious. Bring a gift for your host’s pet, perhaps a toy or homemade dog biscuits. Author Peter Gethers, who has traveled the world with his Scottish fold cat, Norton, suggests carrying over-the-counter antihistamines to dispense to allergic friends.”

Not bad huh?

There were also links to at least two other sites that proffered “tips, advice, real-life stories” about etiquette in action. Sounded good. But when I got to the first site, I started to be wary: The main page summary boasted “an archive of over 6,000 stories submitted by everyday people tired of the selfish, rude antics of their fellow man.” Hm. The “stories” turned out to be a lot of holier-than thou recitations about how uncultured is the world, and how superior the general population of this particular online community, and how they’d all be vindicated and quite relieved, thenk yew veddy much, when all the un-mannered heathens of the world got their comeuppance.

“First off, people who plan their weddings over holiday weekends annoy me. It’s not just their holiday, it’s my holiday too and I would have liked to enjoy my holiday my way, not at the worst reception ever.”

It went on from there… at great detail.

I will admit that some of the object lessons were really pretty good tips for what not to do in various and sundry situations, but I just couldn’t handle what I suppose was meant to be a “chiding but playful” tone. When did it become “polite” to complain and condescend and condemn? “If you can’t say something nice,…”, right? *  My mother would not approve.

But then! Ah, then! I finally found the sensible, non-snooty advice I was looking for! And where else but the Emily Post Institute? The actual holiday-themed advice was a bit spare, but what there was of it seemed sound.

The Gracious Guest: Five Tips for Holiday Visits

  1. All hosts—including your mother and aunts—love a surprise gift.
  2. Be willing to pitch in, but instead of asking the harried host how you can help, volunteer to do a specific job like loading the dishwasher.
  3. If you make the offer to help and the host firmly declines, back off—some people really don’t want guests in their kitchen.
  4. At family get-togethers, don’t let nosy questions upset you. Deflect rudeness by changing the topic: “You’re right, Uncle Jim, I was thinner last year. How ‘bout those Steelers?”
  5. Visiting friends or family?  Observe this rule of thumb: Three nights is usually plenty. Spell out arrival and departure times well in advance so your host isn’t left guessing.

Common sense, and a good reminder, no? I browsed around a bit more, and consulted the Entertaining and Special Occasion sections. Combined with the “Everyday Etiquette” topics, you can find all kinds of host and guest etiquette essentials, from thank you notes to outfitting your guest bathroom in considerate style.

“A recent survey by the maker of Quilted Northern Ultra Plush™ 3-ply bath tissue found that a majority of us (83%) are eager to judge our host by the condition of their guest bathroom—from its cleanliness to its selection of soaps and towels.”

I beg your pardon, dear friends. I must excuse myself to replenish a fluffy stack of Holiday hand towels in the powder room. Many thanks.

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* Yes, I do realize the potential irony of a blog-writer complaining about complaining. I really hope this never turns into anything like that. I will do my level best to just keep a lid on it. Except for really important complaints that simply must be lodged. In return, I hope someone anyone will please let me know if it descends to the depths? Thanks ever so.

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