The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘etiquette’


April 5, 2016 | by

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Maskenball, 1911.

It recently occurred to me that there is one aspect of parties I actively dread. It’s not the socializing. It’s not the dressing up—although it’s true I am not burdened by talent in the hair or makeup department, and begrudge the expense. 

What makes my heart sink is the thought of all that obligatory mutual admiration: “You look beautiful.” “You look great.” Hoping to be the first to get it in; not wanting to sound forced, yet absolutely compelled to join in the ritual. Read More »

Group Dynamics

March 25, 2016 | by


I’m currently observing a real-time courtesy lapse so blatant and so amazing that I must give voice to my electrified horror. The scene: a coffee shop, late morning. The players: assorted people drinking hot beverages and working on their computers, and a pair of German-speaking tourists in (I would wager) their midtwenties. 

Since the German couple came in, one of them, a woman, has been on a FaceTime call at top volume, with a shouting man. When it started, everyone looked up in irritation; it did not occur to anyone that it could go on very long. After five minutes of yelling, people started to look up pointedly, or resorted to the always-effective tactic of pursing their lips and raising their eyebrows. After ten minutes, the same people began to meet one another’s eyes and shake their heads gravely. Read More »

Better to Give

December 16, 2015 | by

Ludwig Blume-Siebert, Ein Herzensgeschenk, 1888.

It may be “better” to give than to receive, but for some of us, it’s also easier. To give is to retain some measure of control, even power, in the dynamic; one who gives does not need to worry about expressing enthusiasm or responding in kind or anything other than sitting back and accepting accolades. When you receive, you want to express pleasure—you want to give them that—and this is exhausting. Gracious gift receiving is very hard, and I’m not just talking about things you don’t want. Read More »

Varieties of Reluctance

September 1, 2015 | by


One of Alex Jardine’s illustrations from The Reluctant Cook.

I was delighted, at a London bookshop, to encounter a recent reissue of the 1954 Ethelind Fearon manual The Reluctant Hostess. As far as I’m concerned, Fearon’s entire oeuvre should be in print always, regardless of commercial considerations. She is that idiosyncratic.

Fearon, who died in 1974 and at present doesn’t even rate a Wikipedia entry, was an authority on restoring medieval houses and an accomplished gardener—at one point she kept H. G. Wells’s garden—but as her official Random House bio would have it, “under pressure from publishers and an eager public she also wrote a number of books on such diverse but essential subjects as pigkeeping, pastries, how to keep pace with your daughter, and how to grow herbs.” (I want to meet every member of this supposedly clamoring public.) Read More »

Courtesy Counts

August 21, 2015 | by

The MTA takes a stand against clipping and primping.


Hearken! and observe how healthily—how calmly I can tell you the whole story. —E. A. Poe

With time to kill before my train, I moseyed into the New York Transit Museum’s shop at Grand Central Station. A train-mad little boy was going wild, and a clerk spoke to his mother sharply about not touching, which seemed to me tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment. There were lots of T-shirts with the logos of different subway lines on them.

The shop was also selling merchandise bearing images from the MTA’s recent “Courtesy Counts” campaign—cheeky subway posters prohibiting “man-spreading,” in-car performances, incivility. My favorite is the one that portrays a female figure brushing her hair while a nearby male clips his nails. “Clipping? Primping?” it says. “Everybody wants to look their best, but it’s a subway car, not a restroom.” Read More »

Dress Code

July 17, 2015 | by


From a 1962 Clairol ad.

My mother called me to ask how much to tip on a haircut. “A normal haircut,” she said.

“I usually tip upwards of 20 percent,” I said, “but of course it’s at your discretion.”

“That seems awfully high.”

“I don’t know, not for something you wear every day. And if you have a relationship with your hairdresser—” Read More »