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Miss Manners on: Hand Kisses

** Sorry guys! I swear I wrote this to post yesterday! Stupid Tumblr! xo HB.

Q: What should a woman do after she has been kissed on the hand? I am not sure if there is some gesture or response the woman should offer to “complete” the sense of a greeting/acknowledgment.

Miss Manners says: To respond to this gesture is to allow one’s hand to be approached. (Not actually kissed, because a proper gentleman kisses an inch or two above the hand, and would never attempt to do even that to an unmarried lady.) Miss Manners warns you that this is not as passive or as easy as it sounds. Probably expecting a handshake, the lady will hold her hand stiffly vertical and so must gently rotate it to a horizontal position, allowing him to hold it from underneath while he kisses the air above the back of her hand.

Your Head Bitch says: Not that there are all that many men running around these days kissing ladies on the hand, aside from Pepe Le Pew, of course, but that is important information to know, gents — it is major league creep material to kiss unmarried ladies on the hand. And yes, please also refrain from slobbering all over anyone’s hand in the process— just get close enough that everyone gets the idea, make a kissy sound, and then move it along. Nobody wears gloves anymore, so it’s more sanitary for everyone that way anyway. She might have just gotten off the subway, you don’t know!

Anyway, the hand kiss is generally a gesture reserved for old ladies is the point, so the proper way to respond to it may also come off as a bit old lady-ish. Steel yourselves now. One properly responds to a hand kiss by smiling warmly, giving the man’s hand supporting yours a gentle squeeze and saying, “it’s so lovely to see you” and then pulling your hand back at a slow-ish pace so as to not look like you’re horrified by having your hand kissed. That’s all there is to it! Now, go get my fur coat, cigarette holder, and a vodka stinger and we can all practice being fancy old ladies together. That’s my idea of fun!

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And I think we can all agree that Pepe was a major league creep.

Miss Manners on: Diapers

Q: I am a hostess in a family restaurant, and today I had a couple of young parents come in with an infant about 7 months old. I seated them in a lovely booth near the entrance of the restaurant. To my dismay, they changed their baby’s diaper right on their table. Then, they signaled me to come over, and when I arrived at their table, the woman held out the soiled diaper and asked me to dispose of it! I said simply, “I don’t have any place to dispose of your baby’s diaper, but there is a ladies’ room down the hall.” She was obviously annoyed and said, “Oh, come on! Surely you can put it in one of the bus trays for us!” I couldn’t help myself, and so I answered, “We don’t want your baby’s soiled diaper in our bus trays; we cart dishes in those trays.” She became furious and demanded to speak with my supervisor. When she learned that my supervisor was not present, she demanded the phone number for the corporate entity that owns the restaurant, stating that she would make a complaint about me. Miss Manners, how would you have handled her?

Miss Manners says: Without making physical contact. Expressing concern for the health and hygiene of other customers and employees is perfectly reasonable, as long as it is done politely. If necessary, you can blame health department regulations. Miss Manners would hope that any corporate entity would agree — and assures you that she will be none too quick to frequent the establishment of one that does not.

Your Head Bitch says: There’s a weird sense of entitlement that tends to appear in certain people once they have had children, and I’m not entirely sure where it comes from. So, in case anyone is confused, let me clarify. Having children does not exempt you from the social contract the rest of the world adheres to, ok? One of the major pillars of this contract is that there is a certain room set aside for the expulsion and disposal of human waste. Use it for those purposes for both yourself and your child. For the love of god, don’t open up a poop bomb next to me under any circumstances, but especially not while I’m trying to eat a club sandwich. That’s deplorable and unsanitary. Maybe there will arise the occasional emergency situation where you have to change a diaper in public, but it shouldn’t be your default. In a restaurant, there’s a bathroom literally feet away. Fucking get your act together.

Another, perhaps slightly less obvious pillar is this — unless medically necessary, you do not, under any circumstances, hand poop to another human being, unless that person has entered into a legally binding contract to raise a child with you. Otherwise, no. Just no. It’s disgusting and horrifying, and bad bad bad. Bad job on both fronts, ma’am! I’m shuddering just thinking about it. All that being said, using the language “we don’t want” to someone trying to hand you poop (which, I know, is horrifying and repulsive) comes off as personal in a situation where it’s far easier to blame health regulations (and thank god for them!). Not that it’s a situation you should have been put in in the first place, but simply saying “I’m sorry, but legally I can’t handle that in an establishment where I’m serving food” is a much better way to go overall because it creates the mindset that there is quite literally nothing you can do rather than just not wanting to do something. But god willing, it will never happen again, right everyone? Good. Godspeed, brave poop avoiders.

This is literally the face I made while reading this question

Miss Manners on: Typos

Q: In both business and personal dealings, it is often the case that emails are received containing typographical errors. In the days before email, one might ignore or even correct these incoming mistakes in a paraphrase (“In your letter of the 4th you asked about … “) but with email, it is common to have the original email attached at the end of your own. When the spellchecker goes over your outgoing email, it flags and offers opportunities to correct the typos in both your response and the original email. How is this best handled?

Miss Manners says: With restraint. Technology may have made it easier to correct the mistakes of friends or business associates, but Miss Manners notices it has done nothing to make such behavior more endearing.

Your Head Bitch says: You need to slow your roll, lady. First of all, you should only be including those previous emails if they relate directly to what you are talking about, and only the most recent one (or two, if really necessary). Otherwise, delete that shit because it’s annoying and long and impossible to read. Secondly, no, you don’t proofread another person’s emails unless you have been directly asked to do so. While I’ll grant the chance they might notice is pretty slim, if they do notice, particularly in a business setting, it would come off as super passive aggressive. Like, majorly batshit crazy control-freak passive aggressive. Which is bad. So don’t do that. Leave the typos to float off into the forgotten ether of the internet. The internet doesn’t care.

It’s rare that passive aggression makes a good business model.

Miss Manners on: Placement

Q:I find it extremely annoying to be separated from my spouse at the dinner table at my mother’s house. This seems like an old tradition. We like to touch and talk and do not talk about the kids, the dog or work, but we feel isolated and controlled when told where to sit. I would never dream of telling a guest where to sit. Isn’t the job of the hostess to make sure the guest is comfortable? What do you think? She knows we don’t like it but does it on purpose.

Miss Manners says: What about the discomfort you cause those who do not want to watch you and your husband touching each other? And do the others at the table like it when you ignore the opportunity to be with them in favor of someone you see every day? Of course it is the job of the hostess to tell everyone where to sit, in the interest of promoting general sociability. You have provided Miss Manners with an illustration of why this is necessary.

Your Head Bitch says: Ugh, few things annoy me as much as people who say to me very haughtily that they “would never tell a guest where to sit.” Uh, congratulations? You’ve just told me that you throw terrible dinner parties. Great. Look, deciding on the placement (the traditional French term for a seating arrangement) is almost as important as deciding what to serve for dinner. You place people you think will get along near one another in an effort to encourage different and interesting conversations. People are predictable. If you leave them to their own devices, they will sit with the same people, tell the same stories, and have the same conversations. Why even throw a dinner party again if it’s just going to be the same shit time after time? 

Partners are not placed next to each other because they are particularly bad about this kind of thing. They will talk about things that are only of interest to them, in spite the fact that no one else cares, because they have a person to talk to built in. They will inevitably bicker. Even the most sparkling conversationalists will fall into old patterns if seated with someone they are intimate with because those are the people you don’t have to always be sparkly with. Even worse, if there is a lull, rather than keeping things flowing, couples frequently revert to just talking to one another, which is both rude and boring for those around them. Add awkwardly feeling each other up at the table into the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for a terrible dinner party. So quit your bitching. Talk about who is going to pick the kids up from soccer in the car on the way home, and have a real conversation with the people your hostess thinks you might like when you’re at a dinner party. Sit with someone new. Learn something new. You get to spend a lot of time being a couple, so enjoy the opportunity to just be you for a bit.

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Really, you can’t go 2 hours without touching each other? Really?

Miss Manners on: Signing Off

Q: I like “Best wishes” or “Best regards” to end business correspondence, but I’ve been toying with alternatives for friends and family. Here they are: “Live healthy,” “Live free,” “Be safe,” etc. Am I creating a trend perhaps not respectful of tradition (manners)?

GENTLE READER: When traditions need improving, Miss Manners will let you know. There is nothing wrong with signing off with assurances of sincerity or good wishes or affectionate sentiments. Admonishing your correspondents to lead safe, healthy lives sounds remarkably like nagging.

Your Head Bitch says: Girl, what? What the hell does “live free” even mean? Are there people you know who are in some kind of captivity? Because if so you should be doing more than just writing them emails in which you tell them to think free thoughts. Your personal correspondence is not a pickup truck commercial, ok? Ditch the tag lines and sign off with actual sentiments. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with signing an email to friends or family “With lots of love, Aunt Joyce,” I promise.
Also, while we’re at it, you seem like you might be the kind of person who has an automatic signature appended to all their emails which features some cheesy quotation surrounded by some variation on the following punctuation marks: “*~*”. If so, may I also suggest you quit doing this as well, particularly in your business correspondence? It’s something a lot of people did back in the early days of the internet, but is now widely regarded as super lame. Almost as lame as signing off emails with things like “Live your best life!!” which you have stolen from episodes of Oprah. It’s nothing personal, but if you’re going to make suggestions about other people’s lives, you should do them in a context that’s as savvy seeming as possible, or they might not be taken as seriously as you like, is all.

Dream your life dreams, man.

Miss Manners on: Fundrasing

Q: Is it acceptable to solicit cash donations to fund my child’s extracurricular school trip from friends, family and business acquaintances? In the event that someone solicited does not reply, is it reasonable to ask again, or should the silence be interpreted as a “no”?

Miss Manners says: Do you have reason to believe that these people have enough interest in your child’s extracurricular activities and sufficient discretionary funds that they would welcome the opportunity to contribute? Would you gladly do the same for their children? If you cannot say yes to both questions, Miss Manners advises you to refrain from attempting to embarrass them into complying. But she gathers that you did not refrain. Can you at least refrain now from dunning those who did not respond? Silence does indeed mean “no,” if not “Please go away.”

Your Head Bitch says: Look, I don’t have kids, but I know the various costs associated with them generally add up pretty quickly. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can shop those costs around to those around you. I understand that sometimes kids have to do fundraising to get like new cheer leading uniforms, or sell girl scout cookies or whatever the hell, and it’s fine if you want to offer to email some people to help with that process. But you’ve got to keep it casual, ok? Just say that if anyone is interested you can give them more information and leave it at that — don’t badger them about buying shitty Christmas wrapping paper in July on behalf of your kids. That being said, if your kids needs $20 to go on a field trip, I’m afraid that one is on you. The guy in the next cubicle does not need to be donating small amounts for your kid’s trip, I’m sorry. That just comes off as weirdly mooch-y, even if it isn’t intended to be, particularly if you’re not also regularly donating to his kid’s activities too. Leave the appeals to friends and family for large scale fund-raising and try and limit it to twice a year, max. A cheer leading team only needs so many new uniforms.

Plus, everyone’s kids have the same shit, and people only need so many ugly aprons.

Miss Manners on: Barn Raisings

Q: I received an invitation from a friend of mine to spend the weekend at some property of hers. The caveat: We would be building her a house. Granted, it is a “tiny house,” and my friend is not the type of person to follow formal etiquette on functions, but this struck me as beyond the pale. I mentioned it offhandedly to my parents on a phone call, and they didn’t see any problem, calling it a “barn-raiser.” Miss Manners, I feel as though no one should be asked to raise a barn for a woman with a master’s degree. Who’s right, my parents or me? I do plan on declining, due to some health problems that prevent me from, uh, building a house.

Miss Manners says: When the barn-raiser was a recognized event, in 18th- and 19th-century rural communities, it was understood that the favor would later be returned. Miss Manners fears that your friend has missed the importance of reciprocity. Perhaps she could limit her invitations to those who, while she was earning her degree, insisted on asking why she did not spend her time on something more practical. They could then enjoy a last laugh at her expense while she benefits from their more practical training.

Your Head Bitch says: Um, if someone invites me to a barn raising and expects me to participate, that party better have a damn good gift bag is all I’m saying. Also, no offense to my various friends who read this blog, but of all the all the people I know there are only a select few who I would trust to build me a home. That’s generally a job best left to the professionals, as far as I’m concerned. Still, at least she told you it was a barn raising up front, right? She could have done it like one of those surprise weddings people do where you invite everyone to a party and just spring it on them. She deserves a little credit for that, surely.

So, while I certainly wouldn’t want to throw a barn raising party myself (again, no offense, guys) I think as long as people know up front what they are getting in to, it’s probably not that out of line, manners-wise to throw such a party. Still, when no one RSVPs “yes” to this party (I mean, I wouldn’t), she may find that it wasn’t such a great idea after all. Maybe stick to the murder mystery dinner parties from now on, lady.

Did you guys know a barn raising is also called a “raising bee”? I mean, if anything should have told this lady it was an antiquated idea it was that name, right?

Miss Manners on: Buffets

Q: In the buffet line, what do you do when the person in line behind you is reaching in front of you to get food and pushing you along to get you to hurry?

Miss Manners says: Get out of the way. Miss Manners knows how galling it is to allow the pushy to achieve their objectives. She will grant you a sweeping “After you, Alphonse” gesture as you move. But standing between rude people and their feed could be dangerous.

Your Head Bitch says: I am, as you all know, a firm believer in the sanctity of the line. However, a buffet line does not always conform to the traditional line structures. Obviously if things are tight and everyone is slowly scooting their way along, it is a major dick move to reach ahead of the person in front of you to serve yourself, and Miss Manners is right, the best way to handle it if it happens to you is to turn to them and sweetly ask, “Oh, would you like to go ahead?”
However, if people are not standing shoulder to shoulder making their way through the line, it is perfectly acceptable to pass slower people by to get to the things you want. Don’t feel the need to stand behind them staring forlornly at the iceberg lettuce for the sake of politeness — it’s perfectly fine to go ahead. Similarly, if someone is getting something you don’t want (like waiting in line for slices of that weird giant ham, for example) you don’t need to stand behind them either. Think of it like driving. When you’re in rush hour, you don’t swap lanes back and forth like an idiot trying to get around people to no avail, but when traffic is clear, you don’t hang out behind some slowpoke just for kicks. Now, is it just me, or is anyone else hungry?

Dessert buffet?! Now I’m REALLY hungry.

Good manners will often take people where neither money nor education will take them.

Fanny Jackson Coppin

Miss Manners on: Compliments

Q: I recently called a friend of mine cute. She replied, in a very angry tone, “Women are not called cute. I am a grown woman.” I was shocked. Am I wrong?

Miss Manners says: Apparently, since her irate response must have rendered her decidedly less cute. Compliments are subjective, but should not be subjected to such scrutiny if they are kindly intended. If it happens again, Miss Manners advises you to look abashed and say, “I am so sorry. I meant it as a compliment,” and refrain from any further ones until your friend learns how to accept them graciously.

Your Head Bitch says: Yikes. Most people are bad at accepting compliments, but few people reject them so strenuously! People of the world — when someone compliments you, you say “thank you.” Now, this is not to say that all “compliments” are created equal. When some shithead on the street says some stupid shit about you and tries to play it off as a “compliment” you don’t have to say thank you to that. But when a friend says something positive about you as a person, just say thanks, ok? It saves everyone a lot of grief if you don’t try and look for slights in the shadows.

But no, I don’t think it’s improper to call a grown woman cute if she is being cute, if that’s what you’re asking. All you can do though is deal with people’s responses to such things as they come. By following up her negative response with something like, “I was just trying to express how lovely you look this evening” (or whatever you were trying to say) however, you should be able to make her feel appropriately chagrined for having snapped at you, and also get across the nice thing you were trying to say to her in the first damn place. After that, let it go. Two grown women having a fight over the word cute is decidedly not cute. 

No, I said YOU’RE the cutest!

Happy Fourth of July!

Owing to the fact that your Head Bitch is currently on vacation, and graduating this weekend, AND the fact that it’s the 4th of July, I am going to take the next two days off. I’ll be back on Monday with your regularly scheduled snark. Enjoy the holiday and don’t get bbq sauce everywhere, America.

xo, HB

Miss Manners on: Taxis

Q: I take taxis to the airport about four or five times per year. Most drivers take the direct route, but a fair number will take a slightly longer route to up the fare. What is the proper etiquette for what to do when this happens? Skip the tip? Argue over the bill? Pretend nothing happened?

Miss Manners says: None of the above. Miss Manners urges you to speak up — and quickly. Specify your preferred route when you give your destination. This will forestall any contemplated dishonesty — and you may even learn that the driver was actually trying to save you money by avoiding a delay of which you were unaware.

Your Head Bitch says: Girl, please. It is not rude to ask the cab driver to go a certain way. And of course you may find out that he’s not doing it to run up the bill, but because he knows about an accent or bad traffic on the main road. I find it’s always best to ask rather than accuse first. People are much more reasonable if you don’t immediately put them on the defensive. And if you don’t ask and it turns out they were taking the different route to help you, then you look like a real dick for skipping the tip. A lot of the world’s problems could be avoided if people assumed less. Just say something (politely!) and get it straightened out.

Don’t let this be you.

It is a mistake that there is no bath that will cure people’s manners, but drowning would help.

Mark Twain

Miss Manners on: Butter Knives

Q: Due to their similarity, can a butter knife be passed off as a fish knife in a formal setting (where there should be no butter knife present to reveal the ruse)?

Miss Manners says: If it is one of those notched butter servers, sure. Miss Manners promises not to tell.

Your Head Bitch says: Have you been stockpiling butter servers? Because I agree that a notched butter server looks so much like a fish knife that no one will look twice at it, but who has enough butter servers for everyone in their silver service? As far as I know, most people only have one. All that being said, I think most people wouldn’t know a fish knife if it hopped up and tried to flake them. If you use the butter server to serve the fish and just regular knives at the table, I’m certain that no one will have either the knowledge or gall to say anything about it afterward. Just make sure you’ve done a good job getting the bones out, please.

And the fish won’t be happy about it pretty much no matter what, so I say fuck what he thinks.

Miss Manners on: Notes of No Thanks

Q: I wrote a thank-you note to a co-worker over a year and a half ago, and just this week it came back with a sticky note attached that said, “I am returning this card to you with the spirit in which it was given.” What does this mean? Is it a true thank-you, or a slap in the face? I am confused; I have never gotten a thank-you note back, and she held on to it for almost two years.

Miss Manners says: Nothing good can come from sentiments exchanged on sticky notes. Evidently, this person thought that your thank-you note was somehow sarcastic and has decided to take it as an insult. Miss Manners suggests that you ignore it. If you still work with the writer and your curiosity gets the better of you, you may ask if you inadvertently offended her. But if the answer is yes, please resist the urge to write, “I’m sorry” on yet another sticky note.

Your Head Bitch says: Guuurrrrl, that is straight crazy. Like, major league crazy. Who keeps and seethes over a thank you note for two years while plotting their post-it note based revenge? Like, full on mental patients, that’s who. Which is why Miss Manners is right, you should avoid mentioning it to her at all costs. It will turn into some crazy passive-aggressive battle, and as entertaining as it might be for your co-workers, it will be terrible for you, not to mention super unprofessional. My only advice to you is to read over that thank you note carefully to see what she might have taken issue with and maybe avoid saying that in future thank you notes. If you can’t find anything, ask a trusted friend to read it for you and see what she thinks. If neither of you can find anything, assume you aren’t really at fault, but still — proceed with caution around your co-worker. Don’t put your coffee down near her, is all I’m saying.

And maybe let other people go through doors first for a while.