Well Man­nered

How do the doyennes of good be­hav­iour nav­i­gate some of life’s trick­ier moments?

Fashion (Canada) - - The Draw | Cool To Be Kind - By Leah Ru­mack

“Best So­ci­ety is not a fel­low­ship of the wealthy, nor does it seek to ex­clude those who are not of ex­alted birth; but it is an as­so­ci­a­tion of gen­tle-folk, of which good form in speech, charm of man­ner, knowl­edge of the so­cial ameni­ties, and in­stinc­tive con­sid­er­a­tion for the feel­ings of oth­ers, are the cre­den­tials by which so­ci­ety the world over rec­og­nizes its cho­sen mem­bers.” —Emily Post, Eti­quette in So­ci­ety, in Business, in Pol­i­tics and at Home (1922)

When Emily Post, the doyenne of North Amer­i­can man­ners, re­leased her first book in 1922— com­plete with in­struc­tions for vis­it­ing cards and thank-you notes “To a For­mal Host­ess Af­ter an Es­pe­cially Amus­ing Week-End” and sep­a­rate chap­ters on breakfasts, lun­cheons and sup­pers, balls and dances and, of course, wed­dings—she couldn’t have

imagined a world in which one ac­ci­den­tally cc’s one’s en­tire email list on an in­vite for a din­ner for 10, party guests ra­pa­ciously post pictures of pri­vate events for ev­ery man­ner of vul­gar per­son to ogle or—worst of all—young, even un­mar­ried (!), ladies peck at a tiny black box in their hands rather than make con­ver­sa­tion with other guests.

“Peo­ple al­ways like to think she’d be dis­ap­pointed,” laughs Lizzie Post, Emily’s great-great-grand­daugh­ter, co-au­thor of Emily Post’s Eti­quette, 19th Edi­tion, co­pres­i­dent of the Emily Post In­sti­tute and co-host of the Awe­some Eti­quette podcast. “Emily al­ways tried to em­brace mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, mod­ern style and mod­ern com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but at the same time she al­ways asked if those changes were con­sid­er­ate and re­spect­ful for all par­ties in­volved.”

While wed­dings are a multi-headed beast all their own when it comes to the list of po­ten­tial faux pas, the age of dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion can trip up the hosts and

guests of ev­ery­thing from the small­est of din­ner par­ties to a 35-per­son baby shower (So. Many. Baby. Show­ers.) to a cock­tail party for 100. We spoke to Post as well as two very active mod­ern-day hostesses—Suzanne Co­hon, the founder of ASC Pub­lic Re­la­tions in Toronto, and Liz Trin­n­ear, the Los An­ge­les cor­re­spon­dent for CTV’s etalk— about how they nav­i­gate en­ter­tain­ing and par­ty­go­ing in the dig­i­tal age.

IN­VI­TA­TIONS If you were to get a pa­per in­vite in the mail for brunch at a friend’s, you’d won­der why he was be­ing so ex­tra. And if he called you on the phone? Ob­vi­ously he must be dy­ing. Other than for wed­dings—and some­times baby and bridal show­ers—pa­per or phone in­vites have largely dis­ap­peared from the so­cial life of 2019 and been re­placed by email, Face­book events, on­line-in­vite sites like Paper­less Post and text mes­sages, each com­ing with its own pluses and per­ils. “I would try to choose me­dia that re­ally in­spires guests to RSVP eas­ily,” says Post. “I could sit here and say that hand­writ­ten in­vites are so kind and so beau­ti­ful, but if no­body replies, they’re not that use­ful. You re­ally want to think about how the group typ­i­cally com­mu­ni­cates.”

Post says that with her im­me­di­ate cir­cle of friends, she of­ten or­ga­nizes things via group text, which is great— un­til ev­ery­one replies to the en­tire group in­stead of the per­son who started it. “I came back to 47 text mes­sages one day,” she says. “This crowd has a sense of hu­mour, and things were definitely not ap­pro­pri­ate on my phone for a while. Group texts can be fun, but they can also be re­ally in­con­ve­nient. You have to re­mem­ber to re­spond to just the host.”

Trin­n­ear—who is mar­ried to mu­si­cian Nathaniel Motte (one-half of elec­tropop duo 3OH!3) and counts well-known, cre­ative L.A. types among her friends— says she prefers us­ing Paper­less Post or email but has seen some epic fails with those, too. “I was re­cently in­vited to an event via email; they didn’t bcc, and I was mor­ti­fied to see the ad­dresses I had ac­cess to,” she says of the celebrity-heavy event. “That is a party-in­vite ma­jor foul, es­pe­cially when you’re deal­ing with sen­si­tive con­tacts.”

Co­hon points out that an­other com­mon stum­ble with email in­vites hap­pens when you’re cut­ting and past­ing names. “There were times when I ex­tended an in­vi­ta­tion and it was sup­posed to go to An­drew and Re­becca but it was like ‘Hey, Ted and Babs!’” she says. “Ev­ery­thing is com­ing in and go­ing out so quickly dig­i­tally; these mis­takes are just so much easier to make than you think.”

“A com­puter is the way to do it,” says Trin­n­ear of dig­i­tal in­vites. “Not your smartphone, be­cause they some­times have a mind of their own. One wrong swipe or tap and you’re doomed.”

Co­hon still uses the phone-talk­ing ma­chine (So retro! So chic!) for smaller gath­er­ings and pa­per in­vites for more for­mal ones, like show­ers, where she wants guests to have a me­mento, but she is a fan of Paper­less Post for larger bashes be­cause the host can see the guest list at a glance. “Heaven for­bid some­one slips your mind,” she says. “With on­line-in­vi­ta­tion ser­vices, you can act on it im­me­di­ately.” The down­side, she says, is that guests are much more likely to for­ward a dig­i­tal in­vite. “With my big­ger events, the in­vite gets for­warded around—peo­ple are like ‘Oh, are you go­ing to this?’ If they got a proper printed in­vi­ta­tion, they wouldn’t act that way. When peo­ple get some­thing dig­i­tally, it’s open sea­son.”

Co­hon says she’s had friends un­wit­tingly ex­tend an in­vi­ta­tion to un­in­vited ac­quain­tances for one of her larger par­ties more than once this way. Gah! Page Emily Post! “Usu­ally I’ll send an email say­ing ‘I un­der­stand you were speak­ing to so-and-so about our cock­tail party—if you guys are around, I’d love you to join,’” says Co­hon. “I think it’s bet­ter to be in­clu­sive rather than ex­clu­sive.” But if it’s truly an in­ti­mate affair, or one where, for what­ever rea­son, the ex­tra guest isn’t wel­come, it’s on the flip­pant for­warder to clear things up, she says. “I’ll talk to the per­son who for­warded it around and say ‘You’ve got to fig­ure out how to back it up!’”

Post is pro on­line-in­vite sites, but if you use them, she says, it’s best to go to the mi­nor ex­tra ex­pense of us­ing the paid op­tions to avoid spam­ming your guests with ads.

“I pre­fer the ones that don’t send out ad­ver­tise­ments or re­quire you to sign in,” she says. “I don’t think you should ask your guests to do ex­tra work, and you shouldn’t be send­ing your guests com­mer­cials.”

None of our hostesses are fans of Face­book in­vites for par­ties, mostly be­cause peo­ple might not check it and es­pe­cially be­cause of the dreaded “maybe” RSVP op­tion, which can leave party throw­ers at awk­ward loose ends when try­ing to fig­ure out the fi­nal head count. Speak­ing of RSVPing, if you’re a guest, do it. Or, says Post, if you’re not sure, let the host know when you will know and be sure to fol­low up in time for them to ac­com­mo­date you. “Some­one is invit­ing you to a party. That’s a nice thing—try to be help­ful!” says Post. “We hem and haw over whether we’re go­ing to want to go by the end of the week or whether there’s a bet­ter of­fer com­ing.... I do think Emily would have been re­ally dis­ap­pointed with peo­ple’s RSVP skills. She would have found it tact­less and of­ten­times ne­glect­ful.” I H EAR T MY PHONE Should you, or should you not, be look­ing at your phone while you’re at a soiree? “I’ve been on my phone at a din­ner party be­fore, and when some­one points it out, you re­ally do feel like the garbage per­son,” ad­mits Trin­n­ear. “It’s like ‘I’d rather be talk­ing to the peo­ple in this lit­tle black box than the peo­ple in front of me.’ Give the per­son who in­vited you to the party the cour­tesy of pay­ing at­ten­tion and be­ing present—it’s so easy for us to look and swipe; we’re all

guilty of it. I’m a big fan of peo­ple say­ing ‘Put your phone away; be here.’”

Co­hon is also not a fan of obsessive phone use at pri­vate par­ties. “I’m like ‘Why are we all here?’ If you’re con­stantly check­ing your phone, you could be on your sofa eating take­out. If some­one has a child who’s sick, I get that. But this obsessive look­ing at In­sta­gram? I find it to­tally of­fen­sive.”

Post says that the amount of phone us­age that’s ap­pro­pri­ate re­ally depends on the over­all vibe of the affair and that there are no hard and fast rules, ex­cept for one—ab­so­lutely no phones on the ta­ble. “When you leave [your phone] out, it’s a tick­ing time bomb,” she says. “You know it’s go­ing to go off at some point.”


“There are two dif­fer­ent types of par­ties I get in­vited to,” says Trin­n­ear about how she gauges how much post­ing to do about any given event. “I al­ways ask ‘Do you want me at your party or do you want me to post about your party?’” For business-re­lated gath­er­ings or events meant to drum up pub­lic­ity, the an­swer is usu­ally ob­vi­ous: The hosts ab­so­lutely want you to post about their party and will of­ten fur­nish hash­tags to help you do so. But the lines get murkier when it comes to pri­vate en­ter­tain­ing. “For work stuff, great—put it out there, tell all your friends!” says Co­hon. “But when I’m en­ter­tain­ing at home, I want peo­ple to make mem­o­ries and not be so con­sumed with putting it out there and mak­ing sure that they’re witty or the pic­ture is great.”

Co­hon says she’s also sen­si­tive about hurt­ing the feel­ings of those who weren’t in­vited. “I’m not hid­ing any­thing,” she says, “but I don’t like rub­bing it in peo­ple’s faces.”

Post says that it never hurts to sim­ply ask the hosts if they want you post­ing about the party. “Just ask ‘Why not?’” she says. “It’s not your house—it’s nice to ask be­fore you take pictures and post them on the in­ter­net.”

One eti­quette no-no is ne­glect­ing to ask other guests be­fore you post pictures of them, es­pe­cially if you’re tag­ging them. Trin­n­ear points out that many peo­ple have the lo­ca­tion turned on in their In­sta­gram, which can pro­vide an un­wanted real-time GPS for any­one who ends up in one of those snaps. “I’m very aware that some­times peo­ple don’t want to be on so­cial me­dia,” says Trin­n­ear. “I al­ways ask peo­ple if it’s cool that I post. The same goes for se­cu­rity rea­sons—you’re ba­si­cally open­ing up a door for any­body to nar­row down where you are. There are creep­ers ev­ery­where, whether you’re a pub­lic fig­ure or not.”

Co­hon points out other rea­sons you should ask be­fore you post pictures of peo­ple or tag them on so­cial me­dia, in­clud­ing po­ten­tially in­crim­i­nat­ing pictures of some­one be­ing out the evening they called in sick or, for ex­am­ple, get­ting caught wear­ing a loin­cloth. “We had a big Hal­loween party, and it was manda­tory cos­tumes,” says Co­hon. “If you’ve got a 50-year-old guy dressed as Tarzan and he has to go to his bank job on Mon­day, it might not be so well re­ceived. We have to be re­spect­ful of the fact that not ev­ery­body wants to be broad­cast to the world.”

“I’m like ‘ Why are we all here?’ If you’re con­stantly check­ing your phone, you could be on your sofa eating take­out. I find it to­tally of­fen­sive.”

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