Sunday, December 27, 2009

Best & Worst Manners List 2009

In a year where there was many a battle of class vs. crass, we decided to weigh in on some of the year’s best and worst moments in manners. In 2009, celebrities, politicians and athletes all made the list and so did a few unknowns desperate for their five minutes of fame. From Captain Sully to Kayne West, we’ve compiled our take on the most civil and uncivil behavior that inspired us or made us cringe.

Best Manners List 2009

1. Taylor Swift. Rather than let the ridiculously rude Kayne West steal her big moment, the teenage beauty acted with grace and poise when Kayne jumped the stage, grabbed her mike and interrupted her acceptance speech.
2. Beyoncé. For graciously giving Taylor Swift back her moment by inviting her up on stage to complete her acceptance speech later that evening.
3. The Queen of England. For always maintaining dignity, elegance and charm with everyone from the President and the First Lady to Lady GaGa.
4. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. For being a hero and remaining calm during complete chaos. The US Airways pilot miraculously managed to land the distressed plane flat on the water in the Hudson River and avoid nearby Manhattan. He saved the lives of over 150 people making him a hero to all.
5. Hugh Jackman. For having patience and stopping a Broadway performance midway to take on an audience member's ringing cell phone.
6. Daniel Craig. For supporting his friend and co-actor Hugh Jackman and refusing to continue the performance until the patron answered their phone.
7. George Clooney. For his take on manners. He states, “To my mind, there is a golden rule in society, which is quite simple and makes everything in the world go round. It is this, treat other people the way you would like to be treated yourself." Words to live by indeed.
8. Electronics Company LG. - For getting teens to think twice before they text. The electronics company created a marketing campaign of humorous sketches featuring teens and bad mobile manners such as sending racy pics, bullying and spreading rumors all of which can be viewed on YouTube and Facebook.
9. The Presidential Dog, Bo. The six-month-old Portuguese water dog has impeccable manners thanks to behavior lessons by a dog trainer. Apparently, he sits and stands at the command of the First Daughters and according to the Los Angeles Times, makes no toilet errors, and does not chew on any White House furniture.
10. Lady GaGa. We may not love her outrageously risqué attire, but her manners were impeccable as she prepared for a recent visit with the Queen. After being briefed about etiquette at the Palace, Lady Gaga made sure to leave a very good first impression.

Worst Manners List 2009

1. Kayne West. For the biggest offense of red carpet manners at the MTV Video Music Awards. Lord knows what possessed Kayne to run up on stage, grab the mike from Taylor Swift who was graciously accepting her award and proclaim Beyoncé the bell of the ball. He is now regarded as a laughing stock in the music biz.
2. Serena Williams. For extremely bad sportsmanship at the U.S. Open. Maybe John McEnroe can get away with it, but a woman must always maintain her composure in public. No matter how she felt, Serena should have never spewed such profanity at the line judge. All it did was tarnish her reputation as a talented athlete and diminish her stance as a role model for young girls.
3. Congressman Joe Wilson. For exemplifying blatant disrespect and heckling the President during his health care speech. Congressman Wilson let his emotions get the best of him and his outburst cost him considerably. He wound up having to apologize profusely and do major damage control.

4. The Salahi's. For trespassing on the White House property and crashing the State Dinner. Tareq and Michaele Salahi, upon speculation of appearing on "The Real Housewives of DC" reality show, took it upon themselves to crash a VIP party they were not officially invited to. As much as this was insanely wrong to do, I do give them kudos for at least looking like they belonged.
5. Tiger Woods. For infidelity and avoiding responsibility with a series of lies. After years of playing golf, a sport known for its decorum and manners, it’s amazing that Tiger would lose all sense of composure in his personal life. He has not only made a disgrace of himself with his family, but he has forever stained his character in the eyes of the public.

6. The Balloon Boy Hoax. For staging a publicity stunt that usurped international media attention. Just three days after the Heene family claimed that their 6 year old son Falcon was trapped in a runaway balloon, authorities discovered that the whole story had been fabricated. Richard Heene, later admitted that the incident had been staged to attract publicity for a reality TV show. It's scary what some folks will do for their 5 minutes of fame.
7. Ivana Trump. For being belligerent towards children and flight crew. On a plane departing Palm Beach just after Christmas, Ivana Trump was physically removed from a Delta Airlines commercial jet bound for New York. Apparently, she was unhappy with her seat and frustrated by some children who were running up and down the aisle. I have two words for her, private jet!!
8. Elizabeth Lambert. For ferocious play. The New Mexico women's soccer player was suspended indefinitely for committing a series of excessively rough plays, including yanking a BYU forward to the ground by her ponytail. I know that soccer can be an aggressive game, but I don't believe hair pulling is in the soccer rule book.

9. Adam Lambert. For sexually suggestive choreography. Adam Lambert claimed it was the heat of the moment that caused him to kiss another male on the American Music Awards. Pushing the envelope is more like it! P.S. I thought the same thing about Madonna and Britney Spears' kiss on the MTV Video Music Awards almost seven years ago.
10. Christian Bale. For yelling at a crew member on the new Terminator movie set. The actor went ballistic and delivered a series of rants against the director of photography who had accidentally ruined a scene by walking onto the set. Perhaps anger management courses should be in his list of resolutions for the New Year.

**A special nod to Larry David and Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 10 for continuing to make us laugh by understanding the comedy of manners that defines our daily lives. Everything from the table read where George defiled Larry's pen, to the crazy text messages Larry received from a nine-year-old daughter of a co-worker, to his getting annoyed by his friend Funkhouser who just showed up on the set of the Seinfeld reunion, to Larry getting accused of leaving a water stain on Elaine's table, we didn't stop laughing all season long!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Rules of Re-Gifting

Holiday time is flush with gift-giving. Composing the long lists of whom to get gifts for and how much to spend. Should I give the person something I like or something I think they will like? Will they be happy with their gift or will it make them want to spit in my egg nog? Even if you spend hours deliberating over what you think may be the perfect gift, chances are it may wind up as a re-gift to someone else. Couple that with the current state of the economy and the overwhelming unemployment rate and you'll understand why re-gifting has become a more acceptable pastime. If you are the recipient of a re-gift or a serial re-gifter, here are a few etiquette rules we think will ensure goodwill to all this time of year.

1. Inspect each item carefully before re-gifting. Conduct the equivilent of a Silkwood shower by removing all signs of previous ownership. Make sure there is no hidden writing with a personalized message, monogram or name. There should be no evidence of prior wrapping or packaging torn from being previously opened.

2. Re-gift items that are relatively new. There is nothing worse than receiving a re-gift from a store that no longer exists or an item that shows it's age like a boom box with a cassette player. Have the decency to at least re-gift something purchased within the same calendar year.

3. Some items should never be re-gifted. Gifts that have been opened or used should not be re-gifted. Nor should one-of-a-kind gifts or handmade gifts from loved ones, as that would be truly crushing. Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law should never re-gift items received from each other. Some relationships are so fragile that one re-gift given to the housekeeper could send them over the edge, and trust me, you do not need that!

4. Keep detailed records. Make sure you keep careful records each year of who gave you what gifts from holidays past. This will prevent you from accidentally re-gifting an item to someone who gave you the same gift the year prior.

5. Make the re-gift look spectacular. If you re-gift an item, at least take the time to make it look presentable, even spectacular. Purchase some new wrapping paper, tie on a ribbon and attach a well written, thoughtful card to the new recipient.

6. Acceptable circumstances for re-gifting. (1) If you are financially strapped and you are positive the recipient would enjoy the gift as much or even more than you do. (2) If you are attending a last minute party and do not have time to purchase a hostess gift. (3) If it is an act of generosity such as an article of clothing, a toy or a gift basket that you do not need and would be more appreciated by a local charity organization. (4) If you are participating in a secret holiday gift exchange. The cap for these gifts is typically $20 and just might be the perfect time to unload a re-gifted item that has been stashed in your closet.

7. Re-gift responsibly. Make wise choices and avoid conflict. Don't re-gift Uncle Fred, a recovering alcoholic, with a bottle of champagne you received from your client. Don't bring attention to Cousin Sheila's thyroid problem by re-gifting a giant popcorn canister from the office. And, avoid re-gifting your sensitive friend Susie with a collection of self-help books you received from your therapist.

8. Accept re-gifts graciously. Never point fingers at a re-gifter and don't feel obligated to tell the recipient they just received a re-gift. There is never a good way to mention a re-gift so it is better to keep this information to yourself on either end of the equation. If you receive a re-gift, simply accept it with grace and say "thank you". If you are the re-gifter and you are caught, the best you can do is pass it off as an intentional gag gift and then high tail it to the nearest store to buy something new and fabulous and include a gift receipt!

A final thought to re-gifters. A gift that is given from the heart that is either handmade or purchased is the best gift of all. Sometimes a re-gift feels like a slap in the face and conveys a feeling of I don't care enough about you to spend the money and that can feel pretty hurtful. Gift giving and receiving should induce pleasure. It should not feel obligatory. After all, it's not about what you give or receive, but the sincere thought that goes into the exchange.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Oh the holidays! 'Tis the Season and Such...

Personally, I love this time of year. We Southern Californians get a touch of cold weather and clear skies and we can actually drink hot chocolate without melting. All is cheerful and festive. What I don't subscribe to, however, is the stress and chaos that seems to go along with this time of year. The list is never-ending from the holiday cards, to the gifts and parties, not to mention the family, school and work obligations, it is a wonder we make it through alive. To make the holidays nicer for all, here are 9 quick etiquette tips to guarantee a stress free and joyous holiday season!
1. Eat, Sleep & Be Merry. A hungry stomach or a tired body is a recipe for holiday party disaster. Schedules tend to be packed during the holiday season leaving little or no downtime to recharge batteries. Avoid any pitfalls by making sure everyone gets plenty of rest and eats a light snack before attending any holiday celebration.

2. Dress for Party Success. Dress appropriately for the occasion. If your family is attending a party at a ski chalet then a pair of clean jeans, a parka and Uggs will suffice. However, if the holiday gathering is a more formal affair then party attire, in the form of a dress or a nice pant suit, is a wise choice.

3. On the Road. On your way to the party, make sure to review any rules such as the type of holiday party you will be celebrating, who will be attending, what kind of food will be served, and any special activities your family may be asked to participate in.

4. Arrive on Time & Bearing Gifts. Your hosts are looking forward to your arrival so avoid being late and make preparations ahead of time. Select your attire beforehand, make sure all gifts are wrapped and a proper note has been written, map out your route and write down a contact phone number in case of an emergency.

5. Essential Holiday Table Manners. (a) Wait to be seated until everyone has arrived at the table. (b) Follow the lead of your host or hostess for everything. (c) Place your napkin on your lap. (d) Pass all trays of food to the right and all condiments in pairs. (e) Make pleasant table conversation with the person on your right and your left. (f) Chew with your mouth closed. (g) Wipe your mouth before taking a drink. (h) At the end of the meal, place your utensils in the finished position on your plate and your napkin loosely on the left side of your plate. (i) Ask to please be excused.

6. Clean-Up & Be Invited Again. If you are attending a sit down dinner celebration with family or with friends, offer to pitch in. This will guarantee future invitations.

7. Gracious Gift Receiving. Graciously accept all gifts whether they already have them or not. Focus on something positive to say. For example, if you do not like a gift, you do not need to say they do. You can simply say "thank you" or "how nice of you to think of me". Being polite always pays in dividends.

8. Departures. Designate an agreed upon beginning and end time with your family to prevent any misunderstandings when it comes time to leave the house or return from a party.

9. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You! A phone call or, better yet, a hand-written note of thanks to your holiday party hosts shows your appreciation for all their hard work. If you've thanked someone in person for a gift, a thank-you note isn't obligatory. But, it is never wrong to write a thank-you note. If you receive gifts from family members that you won't see to thank in person, write them a thank-you note-both to let them know their gift arrived and that you liked it.

The best way to alleviate stress from the holidays is to do something charitable. Look into your local organizations to see how you candonate your time to those in need. Offer to serve a holiday meal, hang decorations, bake cookies, read stories or sing holiday songs. Set a good example for your children while doing something fun and inspiring for the whole family. Take a moment to realize how lucky you are and be thankful for all that you have.