What do I do if someone takes my napkin or water glass at a dinner?
A. You do what ever you need to in
order to overcome the situation while avoiding embarrassment to anyone else. This may mean that you must
look like the one who has made the mistake. Here are a few examples:
· You discover
that the person dining next to you has taken your napkin and you are without.
o You notice that there is now
a spare across the table that won’t be used because everyone has one. You can say you dropped your napkin and you
see an extra would someone pass it over to you or you could ask the wait staff to bring you one. Chances
are, they will see the spare and bring it to you.
o Someone using your water glass may be a bit more difficult to overcome as
anything you do will probably reveal that someone took your glass. Once again, you may have to ask the
wait staff to bring you a glass. If your lucky they won’t point to the one that should have been
yours and thus reveal that someone took yours. If there is no other way out, you may just have to chock
down your dinner and hope they serve coffee with dessert.
o Generally the most graceful thing you can do is call attention
to yourself and away from the mistaken party. Laugh and admit that you just can’t ever tell at these
round tables whose glass is whose. Apologize for the disruption and ask if everyone has the item in question.
This way everyone will claim what they think is theirs and you may get what you want. Does this
diminish your reputation as a lady or expert in etiquette? If it does, it will be only momentary as you
will have gracefully solved the problem possibly to the relief of others who were unsure.
Q. When can
I wear light colored shoes?
fashion allows light colored footware, suede and patent leather to be worn year round. However, the rule
is light colored shoes after Memorial Day and before Labor Day. This can also be applied to patent leather. Of course these
are American holidays, so it suggests that the rule was attached to events to make it easier to remember and thus easier
to follow. For other countries the rule really matches the warm weather season. In the
Western Hemisphere this is roughly June, July and August.
· The rule isn’t so unreasonable
once you consider it. Fashion aside, it is nice to be able to use seasonable items during
a season and then put them away for the following year. We have recommended this in other sections as a
well to keep your décor and wardrobe interesting both to yourself and to others. When you bring
out the new season items it is like having something new and reduces the temptation to go and buy something new.
Which of course I why the marketers don’t want you to do this.
· Thus, having
your light colored shoes in the summer and putting them away for the fall, winter and spring helps you to get more good out
It is also a more pleasing look to have consistent colors. This makes your ensemble
look more complete and “pulled together”. And, that makes you look more under control!
What do you do if someone is being extremely rude?
A. Maybe we are getting old and cranky
here at Lady Personified, but it does seem that there is an increase in rude behavior. We could go into
a long philosophical dissertation about why this is happening or even if it is happening, but perhaps it is just better to
concentrate on how to handle it properly whenever or for whatever reason it occurs.
· Though it may
sound trite or politically incorrect, the right answer is the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you would
wish to be treated. This must be applied indiscriminately and despite the behavior of
We are advised that we can’t control someone else’s behavior. This is
only partially true. We may not be able to compel someone to act the way we would wish but we certainly
can make it easier for someone to behave badly based on our behavior. So, in the negative, if we are rude
to someone, we have increased the change of them being even more rude. Do you see what we mean?
You growl at someone and they will most likely growl back at you giving you more cause to growl louder.
Soon the situation has escalated.
· The best answer we can provide to the above question is to
be as polite as you can, ignore the rudeness and resist the temptation to be rude.
Q. I have an expensive pair of designer
blue jeans. When can I wear them?
A. Unfortunately, Lady Virginia has a bit of a bias against blue jeans so her answer may not please
you. She would say, “A lady would never wear blue jeans except for an outing in rough terrain”!
However, we will attempt to explain her response and perhaps give you some suggestions. The history
of blue jeans is very interesting and gives an insight into Lady Virginia’s opinion which may seem a bit old fashioned.
Levi Strauss designed blue jeans for the gold prospectors during the California Gold Rush. The tough
durable fabric and brass rivets were ideal for the rough conditions in the mountainous terrain. Additionally,
these durable dungarees are well suited for horseback riding, gardening and hiking. So, you see, Lady Virginia
fully approves if you are engaged in any of these activities. She adds she wishes you luck on the gold
prospecting one. Otherwise, don’t you think there is something more suitable? If
you wish to be treated with the respect due a lady, you must dress like one.
Q. Any tips for controlling an unexpected
coughing fit in public?
This can be such an embarrassing thing. Super dry air such as you find on airplanes can cause you
to have a dry throat that stimulates a cough that just won’t quit. These days everyone is so aware
and squeamish about such things in confined spaces. Sipping a beverage can help to keep the throat moist.
An old fashioned remedy is to add lemon and lots of real sugar (not sugar substitute) as a cough suppressant.
Even if it doesn’t work, it is quite tasty. Another time you may experience an uncontrollable
cough is while dining out. Often there is noise and you find yourself speaking loudly to be heard.
Well, that’s all it takes and, like in a dry airplane cabin, your cough is out of control. Once
again, sipping but not gulping a beverage can help. Also, be careful when eating at such events, as you
can easily choke while trying to project your voice to be heard. Remember, as a lady you do not need to
monopolize the conversation, nor do you need to be the center of attention. Your role is to stimulate others
to contribute to the conversation. Eat slowly, put your fork down frequently so that you can chew your
food, smile politely to encourage the speaker and sip your beverage slowly. Not only will you appear lovely
and graceful, but people will conclude you are a marvelous conversationalist!
Q. I remember my grandmother talking
about a “bread and butter gift”, what is that?
A “bread and butter gift” is an important tool for a lady. Of course it isn’t
meant to be taken literally but represents a modest gesture for a hostess, someone in the hospital, a visitor or in return
for some kindness. In your grandmother’s day these generally were a box of candy, fresh flowers or
a plant. Once again, it is just a gesture of gratitude. For example, someone invites
you to dinner at their house so, you would bring an elegant box of chocolates for the hostess. Lady
Virginia has a drawer she uses to collect “bread and butter gifts” so she is always prepared. We
looked in her drawer and found: an elegant box of bath soaps, a lovely change purse, a box of note cards
with attractive photos, a small cheese board with ceramic insert and an assortment of other small items that can be ready
at a moments notice. Lady Virginia also keeps a supply of small baskets. If she wants
to take a gift with a little more interest, she places several small items in the basket and ties it with a fancy ribbon.
This also works well if you wish to assemble several fresh items for a gift. Lady Virginia will
include a loaf of fresh bread from the bakery, a jar of jam and a box of tea bags. When placed in a wicker basket and tied
with a ribbon, it makes an elegant, thoughtful and useful gift for very little money.
Q. We’ve been invited to a
birthday party for my husband’s boss. Should we take a gift?
A. The answer is it depends, but we have a few suggestions
that might help you decide. The most important thing is to avoid ostentation as it might hint of an attempt
to buy favor from the boss. Additionally, it could prove embarrassing. Therefore, if
you take a gift, make it a small but thoughtful gesture. This will take some work and help from your husband.
For example, you might consider a book on the boss’s favorite hobby or vacation spot. Perhaps
if he/she has a new baby or grandchild, you might get a picture frame. If you bring something small, you
can leave it in the car and see if others bring gifts. Then you can dash our for the “forgotten”
item. Sometimes such events are at a restaurant. Once again, by leaving it safely in the car you can determine whether you
want to deliver it or not.
Q. How does a lady manage a rain storm?
A. We got a good chuckle from this question as we know exactly what you mean.
There you are all ready for an event, dressed and coifed appropriately and the heavens open up and you risk ruining
everything. So, here is what you must do because it will put you in the most favorable position and convince
everyone that you can handle any eventuality with incredible grace and skill. 1) Invest
in a good quality, collapsible umbrella. Don’t go with cheap because it won’t hold up and will
fail you for certain. Though you want it to be as small as possible, you also need it to be functional
so be realistic when you make your selection. Try to get something that is brightly colored.
This is actually a safety measure as you want to be visible in the rain. Additionally, when you
leave it upon entering a building, it will be easier to find it among all the black ones! 2) Purchase an
attractive lightweight, water repellent raincoat that can be folded up and put in a suitcase or tote bag. This
is in addition to your all weather coat or a heavy raincoat that you would select when you are going out in the rain rather
than getting caught in an unexpected shower away from home. 3) Get a functional rain hat that covers
your head completely and will fold up and fit in the pocket of the above mentioned rain coat. These are
not attractive nor fashionable, but the are very, very useful. (Occasionally you can find a style that resembles a scarf
and is not only functional but attractive. When you find one of these treasures get several of them and
keep them in various locations for emergencies. They can also make good gifts as every women is looking
for something functional and attractive. The idea is to be completely covered so that your garments and hair do not get
wet. You will shed these outer garments upon arriving at your destination and you will look dry, appropriately
dressed for the function and amazingly in control despite the weather. Lady Virginia keeps an extra pair
of shoes in the car in case she gets caught in a real deluge. Better to arrive in an old pair of shoes
that to ruin you best designer pumps. By being completely covered and dry, you have no worries and can
select a convenient parking place because you have no fear of walking in the rain. Lady Virginia added a post script
to our response. She reminded us that it rains on the just and the unjust alike, so everyone will get caught out sooner
or later. This happened to her lately when she was in a home improvement store getting some plumbing supplies.
The rain was sudden and torrential so she popped over the the industrial construction section, selected a two piece heavy
duty, yellow slicker for under $15. Following her purchase she donned the outfit which covered her completely from
head to foot and sloshed out into the parking lot much to the amuzement of the other shoppers who were standing at the door
waiting for the storm to pass. We might add that Lady Virginia normally wears an extra small and understandabley such garments
don't come proportioned. Thus the effect was even more amuzing but also functional as she was able to cover her purse
and purchases under the slicker. We understand that some of our younger readers would be horrified at this soluction.
Rest assured that someday you will reach an age where these sort of things just don't matter. This is to say, a Lady
uses her imagination at all times. So, when confronted by an unexpected situation, use your head, hail a cab, buy an umbrella,
use a plastic bag or bags!
Q. Should a lady stand when shaking hands?
A. We allow some judgement on this one. To stand is always a sign of respect.
However, if the situation is awkward such as in a crowded spot or you are sitting at a table, you might just remain seated.
If the person with whom you are shaking hands is much older than you, then you should make the effort to stand if possible.
Another option is to shake hands and then stand up to talk with the other person. In this way you are showing respect,
making it easier to converse but not leaving them with their hand suspended while you gracefully try to get on your feet.
Put another way, if it is obvious that the other person will linger to talk with you, then you will probably want to stand.
Q. I have reached an age where I would like to have a really fine strand of pearls.
What do you recommend?
ANSWER: Pearls are always in fashion and can be appropriately worn for absolutely any occasion. However, they are
very fragile and can be damaged by hairspray, perfume, lotion or body oils. Further, they need to be kept in a separate
bag so as not to get scratched. Really good pearls are very expensive and it is easy to be fooled. If you are
going to get real pearls (natural or cultured) go to a reputable jeweler and allow them to advise you. However, there
are many beautiful, well made imitation pearls on the market. They can look absolutely real both in weight and appearance.
So, before you make an expensive purchase do consider the alternatives. If you are selecting a necklace try to get
a length that will fit nicely in an open neck blouse or dress. You will find that you can use this length most often.
If you get a longer length necklace you can get a pearl shortener to make the necklace more versatile.
Q. How do I know what length gloves
Your gloves should come to the length of your sleeve. If you are wearing a coat, you can have slightly longer gloves
and scrunch them up at bit to make a generous look. Glove length is measured by the number of buttons whether they
have buttons or not. If you are in a formal evening gown, you would wear the long over the elbow gloves. These
have buttons at the wrist to make it easier to remove them. However, remember your gloves are either on or off.
You can remove the right glove and hold it in your gloved left hand if you wish. The most versatile length is the
short glove called a wrist length. You can wear this length any time.
Q. If the main course or entree is a salad, which fork do I use?
ANSWER: If the table has been properly set, you would use the farthest fork to the left
of your plate. Often, out of habit, the place is set with the salad fork and dinner fork without regard to the fact
that there is no first course. In this case, you will watch what your hostess or host does. Absent this clue, Lady Virginia
would use the dinner fork to eat the entree salad.