Monday, December 27, 2010

Disconnet and RE-ENGAGE

Just like that, in the blink of a blood-shot eye, the Christmas holiday has come and gone. In its wake, are more plugged-in and rewired kids (and adults) than ever before. Like the wall of tv monitors at Best Buy, everywhere you look it seems the alien nation of heads drooped down toward their iPads and new cell phones has them connected to Mars, but completely detached from real time contact.
When did we become a divided society of those connected, and everyone else disconnected from human contact and conversation? It is tempting to walk over to the next table in the restaurant and slap the sense back into the parents of the youngster drunk in a digital gaze at the 4x6 piece of plastic between their palms. But the adults are just as oblivious to this lapse in social interraction. Their little droids will only set their mesmerizing hand magnets aside long enough to inhale their meal.
Wait, what was I thinking? Slapping MYSELF back to my senses.
It is absolutely exhasperating though to witness a group of friends ignoring one another to pay attention to an inanimate object, or a family out to an expensive dinner with only half the table looking at each other face to face.
Last time I checked, playmates sat on the sidewalk and talked to each other, like Beaver Cleaver and Opie Taylor, not communicating by thumbs to a new virtual friend in the outer bands of Saturn with a machine smaller than a pop tart. Parents, wake up! Insist your children put down their electronic device with which they are fused to the hip. Politely ask, then demand that they power it off and instead - engage with you at the dinner table, in the car, and most especially in a place of worship.
To let them do otherwise is inconsiderate of you and your time together. The same goes for those on dates. If 'Mr. Right' can't put any distance between the menu and his Blackberry, he is most definitely 'Mr. Probably Not'.
Disconnect and Re-engage, because it DOES 'Manner' A lot!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Be A Guest STAR

'Tis the season to be invited to, and attend holiday parties. The invitations may vary - an open house, a boss' cocktail party, or a five-course dinner,but the basics remain the same. Whatever the venue and however formal, it is always polite to bring a 'hostess' gift'. That may seem sexist and outdated, as the hostess may be a host, but the principle remains the same - it is always courteous and thoughtful to bring the person hosting the party a small gift of appreciation for the invite, especially when it involves a meal.
A bottle of wine is always a great choice, but don't expect it to be served, as the hosts may have already made their wine selection. A small bundle of flowers is always a welcome and nice touch, although you don't want to saddle the hostess with something else to do. Remember, the hostess gift is a small token of your appreciation, not a birthday present.
Last week we hosted our office staff at our home. Only one guest brought a hostess gift - a very nice bottle of Cabarnet we did eventually uncork. While this hostess doesn't need any more 'stuff', it reminded me of how many people are completely unaware of this social gesture. My 'gift' came in the form of the late arrival of most of the guests!
The hostess gift is by no means obligatory either, but it is always considered good form. A candle or handmade dish towel may not guarantee a future invite, but it will certainly warm a party-giver's heart. If you are attending a potluck, no further gift is necessary.
This old-fashioned custom is one of those gestures i'm delighted has survived the test of time. It is a sweet act of gratitude that does not require a great expense or effort. So remember, if you'll be a guest at a holiday celebration this week, bring a little something with you, because it DOES 'Manner' A Lot!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010


There he was, between 'Silent Night', and 'Holy Night', conducting business on his cell phone behind us at our daughter's Christmas program. To his left sat a prominent businessman. Two rows in front of him, a Superior Court Judge, and all around, mild-mannered parents who were simply aghast at the gall. I'm pretty sure the angels on stage heard this boor and his plans for the next morning at work.
Of all the breaches of good behavior, conducting private phone conversations in public has to be the best of the worst! The device has changed the way we live our lives, but it has also changed the way we treat one another in public.
Disrupting events with loud babble, or worse, conducting business in a bathroom stall for everyone to hear, is rude. Anyone who thinks otherwise has had their brain fried by the cellular transmissions.
If the conversation with your mechanic is so important that it can't wait, take it outside and out of earshot. No one is interested in hearing how badly last night's blind date went, or what the guy in physics class said at the lockers.
So the next time Katie Perry chimes in to alert you of an incoming call. Don't answer. Turn it off. Get off the phone and get outside and out of earshot from others. Because it DOES 'Manner' a lot!

Monday, December 6, 2010


One of the most surprising changes in social acceptances of the last two decades has been the embracing of the practice of regifting. You know, the taking of that gawdy Egyptian-themed set of holiday glassware from Cousin Eddie that you know will never see your kitchen's light of day, and rewrapping it to give to someone else. Once considered a social no-no other than at the office party's white elephant gift exchange, today it is such a commonly-accepted act (a staggering 60% of people reportedly approve of it) that there is a National Regifting Week, day and website dedicated to the recycling of someone else's thoughtfulness. Even etiquette columnist Peggy Post has copped to the practice!
The popular "Seinfeld" series gifted the notion into pop culture. No question the economy and environment have also made it easier for regifting to gain acceptance.
I know i'm seriously out of step on this one, but I have never been a fan of the regifting concept. My manners-meter has always pointed to the 'tacky' on this idea. Instead, that crocheted apron and plaster dish of Elvis have gone the way of the grow-your-own-cactus set and rope-trimmed picture frame - to charity! In the next few weeks, that donation pile will be joined by yet more vanilla-flavored jars of wax, mini Christmas-stocking coin purses, and hard-as-nails fruit cakes. I'll accept them graciously, then later designate them to be given away to Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul. Sans the fruit cake of course.
I am outnumbered here, I know. The regifting train has left the station. And although I refuse to hop on board, I'm offering a few suggestions on how to regift with tact: 1. Be realistic about the item and its intended recipient. Will your 85-year-old Aunt Clara REALLY want those ski goggles? 2. Rewrap the item with new paper and ribbon! Nothing undermines your stealth mission like patches of torn paper still taped to the box from the first go-around. 3. Don't regift something that has been used. Those items shouldn't go anywhere else BUT to charity. Doing otherwise would be off the tacky-richter scale. 4. Be mindful of the retailer of origin. It's been several years since Gottschalks closed up shop. Regifting a crystal dish from its shuttered china department may not elicit the desired effect with your mother-in-law.
And remember, it IS the thought that counts, and it DOES 'Manner' A lot!