Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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Holiday Hell

To start out with, normally we celebrate Thanksgiving at my parents place. BUT my brother was "on call", so we moved the celebration to his place. Thanksgiving morning everyone got up, and my parents were having breakfast. My dad finished his cereal and went out to the living room - and forgot to take his cereal bowl & spoon to the dishwasher. My mom pointed it out, but my dad's a bit hard-of-hearing, so he didn't even pause on his way out. My husband, Carl, said, "Never mind, dad, I'll get it" and headed to the dining room. BUT, just as he was heading that way, my Sister-In-Law Shelley yells out, "If you don't take care of that RIGHT NOW, I'm going to KICK YOUR A**!" Carl stopped dead in his tracks and EVERYONE stopped talking and just STARED at her. We were all COMPLETELY stunned at this. Finally I managed to say something along the lines of, "Gee, Dad, I guess she's REALLY mad at you!" I mean, NOBODY talks to my dad that way! Shelley said, "Oh. Whoops. I thought it was CARL that had left the stuff there." Carl shot back, "Noooo...I already ATE...and you SAW me put MY stuff in the dishwasher!" Shelley said, "Oh yeah. Well, I'll still kick your a**." Needless to say, we have not been back to visit HER and aren't all that anxious to do so! It's a shame - we love my brother dearly, and would like to see him more; but WITHOUT Shelley.


My brother in-law from my Husbands side is extremely frugal on everyone but himself. He is well to do and has a beautiful house and car. He has two children and we have one. Our family does a grab-bag at Christmas and we buy for our parents and the children. We have set the spending limit to be $50.00. Anytime Christmas and My daughters birthday rolls around I cringe. My husband and I work very hard for our money and I always try and give the perfect gift and sometimes even go over the money limit if it's perfect (especially for the children). There has been several occasions that he has given us items that have been on clearance or plain junk that don't meet the mark. He has re-gifted presents to our daughter. one re-gift being a gold bracelet that their good friends gave their daughter on her own Christening. He also gave our daughter a book that was inscribed by our other sister-in-law to our daughter. I called this matter to his attention and he lied through his teeth. At Christmas he has given the grab-bag person samples that come with the cologne you get but without the actual cologne and that has been part of their gift with a clearance item that is junk. I tried a different approach this year and asked him to get some items from her Christmas wish list. I also asked if he could get back to me so I can give the list to the rest of my family. One of the items that I had asked from him was a Disney movie that would be released on the 18th of December and another little item that she really wanted. Both only cost about $22.00. I called him around the 15th to see if he had gotten the items and he told me he had gotten the movie that hadn't been released yet and was getting the other item. On Christmas day she got the movie and a few other junky Dollar store items and a junky little radio that you get as a freebie when you order something from an infomercial or open up a credit card. I was furious when my daughter asked how come her uncle always gets her presents she doesn't use. She is his only niece. It bothers us on our gifts but it drives me insane when he does it on our child. How do I stop this routine without taking it out on his kids and letting him know in a polite way that I don't want this to continue? Please help! I need advice!!!!!!!!! Holiday0228-02

A few years ago, when my now-husband "John" and I were dating, we were invited to a Christmas Eve get-together at the home of a couple that "John" knew well. "Bob" and "Sue" lived in a gorgeous house in a really snooty neighborhood. They had plenty of money, but as you will soon see, money does not buy class.

We were invited to a party that was to start at 6:00pm. We arrived at 6:15pm.We had driven an hour to the party and were looking forward to having a bite to eat. Well, we park the car and ring the bell. "Sue" answers the door and says,"Oh, we(meaning the guests that were worthy enough to be invited over for an actual meal) were just starting(to eat)...can you come back in an hour?" Keep in mind that we were on time....even fashionably late. Also remember that it was Christmas Eve-we couldn't even go to the local mall to hang out; it was closed!!!! I was so stunned by this utter lack of tact. "John", being a man, let this horrible behavior roll off his back. We ended up going back to the party an hour later(what else could we do at that point?)....Sadly, it was later proven that not only can't money buy tact, it can't buy happiness either-"Bob" and "Sue" are now divorced!     Holiday0402-02

What heinous rude hosts dismissing their guests like annoying hired help!  Such people do not deserve the good will of friendship.  What would I have done?  Said, "We're sorry to disturb you.   Please enjoy your evening," and then left for home hoping I'd find an open Chinese restaurant.

I have read various letters on this site, and have enjoyed them, but I think my story beats many of them! While wrapping presents this Dec., I recalled last year's faux pas to my husband. Last Christmas, I was at my parents with my husband and my sister's family. I was given a gift, from my sister. I opened it to find that it was a video of Victor Borge. Now, I enjoy his comedy, and this one looked a bit familiar. The video was not wrapped as in new from a store, it was just in its cardboard cover. So, ok, she gave me a used video. (It was familiar because I had gotten this video for my parents a few years before.) I politely said thank you for the video. I had had some back trouble the summer before and spent most of the time at my parents house. My sister was over that summer and looked through their video collection and borrowed this Victor Borge video from them when I was there. Later, after my sister left, I looked through my parents collection and did not find the video there. So, she never returned what she borrowed, and then gave it to ME as a gift, when it wasn't even hers!!! I told my mother and husband that this was actually my mom's video! I put it in the machine, and the whole thing was so jumpy that it appeared to be ruined on top of everything else! She gave me an old video that I had given my parents and it wasn't even playable anymore!!!!! This whole event is somewhat typical of my sister, but she really outdid herself on this one! I am not sure whether she is oblivious that she had borrowed it, or had any clue of what she did. (which I find hard to believe)


This horrible thing just happened to Maggie, a friend/co-worker of mine. Maggie and this other woman at work, Debbi, had been friends for about a year, in spite of their age difference of about 15 years. They would go to lunch and happy hour together, and would occasionally visit in other places outside of work, like at Debbi's house. About two weeks ago, for no apparent reason, Debbi started behaving strangely toward Maggie. By "strangely", I mean less friendly. The lunches and chatting during idle time abruptly ceased. Baffled, Maggie just shrugged it off as "well, it's the holidays, and she probably has a lot on her mind." Well, this morning was the last day the office would be open before the Christmas holiday, and a lot of people distributed Christmas cards. Maggie received one from Debbi. It contained pre-printed words to the following effect: "Best wishes for a happy holiday" and her name was signed. But there was a yellow Post-It note attached, which read: "No hard feelings. I have moved on". Her name was signed again, then there was a P.S., which read: "I was really too old to hang out with you anyway." How's that for dissolving a friendship? Through a Christmas card! How supremely tacky!     Holiday1220-02

I don't want to sound greedy, or mean, but this always seemed tacky to me. About a year ago I was living with a roommate. She had already picked a fight with me and cussed me out after living together for only one month. One night I had gone out and when I came home I noticed one of my crystal candle sticks had been broken. Now these things were 24% lead crystal and about an inch wide where the stem met the base, so I doubted her story about how it had broken off when she went to pick it up. But I let it slide without yelling to try and keep the peace. Then she said in a flippant way "well, now I know what to get you for Christmas". I thought she was joking. Two months later she had moved out on me and invited me over to see her new apartment and give me my Christmas present. You guessed it. Candle sticks. They were beautiful and of high quality, but it just seems wrong to replace something you have broken as a Christmas gift. I don't know, maybe I’m the one that's being a jerk! Thanks for listening, and keep up the good work!     Holiday1209-02

There is something commendable about restitution.  Just be glad she didn't gift you with your broken candlesticks mended with glue.

I actually thought this was rather funny.  All the blame goes to my roommates, "Aaron" and "Dee". Anyway...

About a month or so after Christmas, I happened to answer the phone, and it was "Aaron's" mother. We had a nice chat, and somewhere in there she asked, "Did you like the gift certificates?" Not having a clue what she was talking about, I just mumbled something about them being great and totally forgot about it by the time my roommates came home. However, I would remember a few months later.

So, a few months later... a LONG time after Christmas... "Aaron" happens to give me two Chapters gift certificates! "Oh, these are your Christmas present from my mom." I was totally boggled. Talk about delayed gift! I'd have told her thank-you, if I'd had the faintest idea! So funny though... when I told "Aaron's" mom, she burst out laughing. So everything was alright in the end.    Holiday0819-02

I had never gotten along well with my mother in law but being newly married I decided to get her a nice present for my first Christmas as a daughter in law. I bought her an expensive pin made of silver shaped like an orchid with an emerald in the center. This was the official flower and gemstone of the country where I had been living. She opened it and said "how nice" with a tone of "I could care less" I never got a thank you note, but seeing as how they are "family" I didn't care. 8 months later they went to Florida and asked us to house-sit and feed the dog. I decided to clean up a bit. While cleaning under the living room couch I found... tah-dah the pin with wrapping paper still attached. I took it out of the box and placed it in her jewelry box. She never mentioned it, and I never got her anything that nice again. Ugh     Holiday1009-02

My mom has done some pretty strange things, but this takes the cake. For my mother's birthday I purchased an item that she had requested -- along with several other item that I thought she would enjoy. On her birthday, I hosted a nice family dinner in her honor. After dinner we retired to the family room where we enjoyed dessert while she opened her gifts. When she opened the gift that she had specifically requested she remarked that she hopped I had saved the receipt. It was not the exact model she wanted and indicated that she planned to return it. About a week later she phoned to inform me that she had located the item she wanted and would I provide her with the receipt so that she could make the exchange. I was glad to provide the receipt and was happy that she was able to locate something that she wanted and would use. Imagine my surprise when she phoned me the following week with the amount I owed her for the exchange. Seems that the item she selected was more expensive than the item I had given and she expected me to pay the difference!!! I was flabbergasted -- but will cough up the cash just to keep peace in the family.     Holiday0904-02

First, some background:

For the past year, my husband has been working at a small, family-run company as a programmer/tech person, programming cash registers & computers. The place drives him nuts, and I've been encouraging him to find a new employer to save his sanity (and mine!) He worked for them before, several years ago, and is now back with them "temporarily"... he knew what he was getting into!

The bosses (I'll call them "Dixie" and "Bubba" here -- trust me, the names fit) are just horrible. Dixie (who must be around 60, if not older) is a bad Tammy Faye Bakker clone, complete with bad hair color, faux eyelashes, and enough makeup that I'm sure she uses a spackling trowel to apply or remove it. She dresses like a color-blind teenager who shops at garage sales, and wears too much perfume and jewelry. Bubba is cheap, coarse, and constantly gets on the employees' backs for not getting things done fast enough (never mind the fact that they can't hire and retain employees because nobody is willing to put up with that stress for so little pay; and they take on more jobs than they can handle). He is prone to wearing the same shirt two days in a row, even when they're garishly memorable shirts (like a green/purple shimmery fabric). They both are VERY nosy, yammer on about things, are bigots, and have some weird kind of  religious beliefs (like, Caucasians are one of the lost tribes of Israel, and non-whites were created on the same day as the animals, and whites were created the next day). I could go on for hours, but I think I'd scare everyone away.

The incident that had me really wishing I drank was their employee Christmas party last year. It was at their house, and the invitation (besides the verbal one from Dixie) was tacked on the bulletin board at work. My husband mentioned it, and I sighed and said, "maybe" when he asked if we were going to go.

Why my reluctance? I hated having to call him at work, because invariably Dixie or Bubba would start yammering on about something (it's a toll call for me, and they know it) and I'd be stuck listening to her entire family's health problems throughout history or his political views and thinly-veiled racism for several minutes before they'd say "hold on, let me get him for you" and page my husband to answer the phone. The thought of being stuck in their HOME for three hours or so was not something I wanted to dwell upon.

Also, the day before the bosses' party, there was going to be another Xmas party at a pizza parlor with all the rest of the employees (they have once-a-month get-togethers like this so the employees can socialize -- Dixie and Bubba don't come to these; why, I don't know, they are invited.) And the day after the bosses' party, we were going to be going to a Xmas party at the house of some friends, who have a terror-toddler and destructive dog. I did NOT want the whole weekend to be going to chaotic parties -- I like my peace!

However, closer to the date of the bosses' party, my husband calls me from work and asks again, "Are we going to their party?" I sighed and said, "I don't know; I'd rather not...." then he says that Dixie was going on today about how nobody was going to be there, etc. and she'd bought all this food and giftage, and he was feeling bad that nobody was apparently going to go. So I gritted my teeth and said, "Fine, we'll go." I thought his other co-workers were okay (crazy for having worked for these people for so long, but oh, well!) and was not looking forward to not knowing anyone at the party.

Then my husband told me that the reason the other co-workers were hesitant to come was because Dixie & Bubba's daughter was going to be there. Their 'daughter' used to be their SON, until "Wally" decided he was meant to be "Molly" instead. Everyone who worked there remembered Molly as Wally, (in fact, Molly had worked at the company for a while, much to everyone's discomfort) and they were a little...freaked by it, I suppose. They WERE going to attend the party, though, as Dixie had pulled the "boo-hoo, nobody's coming to MY party" routine. I had a good giggle over it all, but figured "what the heck; if she's happy as Molly, it doesn't bother me."

So the day arrived, and we drove to their house. It was a nice house, from the outside... two-story 'Southern Estate'-style house, nice front lawn & driveway, etc. We got there (10 minutes late, due to bad directions) and were the first non-family employees to arrive. Then the door opened...

"Oh, my God!" I thought in horror. "I've walked into Barbie's Old West Dream Bordello!" That was the only way to describe it. Everything was white and gold (or white painted over gold, for that look that was popular in the 70's); with pink and mint green floral wallpaper and decor (some nice, some K-mart cheap); a dining room with a built-in hutch that looked more like a Gold-Rush era Saloon backdrop, and a gigantic chandelier that was wider than the dining room table (and VERY dirty). The floor of the front rooms, staircase and hallway was wall-to-wall, fire-engine-red carpet. The Xmas tree was white flocked (I think there was a pine tree under all that white stuff, anyhow) with pink, gold and mint green ornaments and ribbon all around it.

Molly was there with her boyfriend (!) and introductions went well. Then my husband was asked if he could look at their computer and fix something (this always happens whenever we go somewhere), and was shunted into another room with Bubba and Molly's boyfriend. I was stuck talking to Dixie, Molly, and another lady. There was some food spread out on the dining room table, but nobody else seemed to be eating it, so I didn't touch it, though I was ravenous. Kids (Dixie & Bubba's grandkids and some other kids whose relation I never established) were romping through the house, squealing and yelling from time to time. I clenched my plastic punch cup and tried to make small talk. Molly was nice -- probably the most normal person there, if you could believe.

Fortunately, the other guests arrived soon, and I found myself happily conversing with a few people I knew. Finally my husband reappeared (he'd been gone a half-hour!) Then Dixie started laying out the rest of the food on the dining room table and encouraging us to come help ourselves. Food was good; we sat in their forest green and gray, cow-decorated family room/kitchen area on sofas or chairs, with TV trays (if we were lucky) or hunched over a small coffee table (if we weren't).

Once we'd finished eating, it was time for games. (sigh) The first game, Dixie happily explained, we would have a famous person's name taped to our back and had to go around asking questions that could be answered yes or no about who we were. The 'famous people' included actors most people didn't know, 'Osama ben Ladden' [sic], and so forth. I got stuck with Ronald McDonald -- literally. The card got stuck in my waist-length hair, as she used WAY too much Scotch Tape to attach it to my dress.

Most of us really didn't want to do this, but dumbly played along. The first few people who guessed correctly won a prize, but we had to keep going until everyone had guessed right. There was one 'famous person' that none of us knew very well by name, but was Dixie's favorite actor. I finally whispered it in the victim's ear when Dixie and Bubba were distracted just so we could be DONE with it. Then we went into the pink & wicker living room with the flocked tree-thing to have dessert goodies and play more party games. (groan)

I was probably the only adult who was even trying at these games! It was so obvious nobody really wanted to participate, or even BE there.... After winning two in a row (each one earning me some cheesy wrapped prize/gift from under the tree), I shut up and didn't even try to play along. Then my husband won one. I gave one of my gifts to one of the kids who was there. The kids were all whiny, tired and bored (I could relate!)

The whole evening just dragged on and on. We sang some Christmas carols. Then Dixie wanted to show me her two cats (as I'm a cat person). We trekked up the stairs to see the cats, who'd been confined to a bedroom and were quite shy. One of them, who acted friendly ("oh, I'm so cute and furry, pet me!") I was warned not to touch, as he did bite people. Dixie left the room to find a treat to coax the other cat from out of the dark recesses of her walk-in closet, and I decided to risk the cat's viciousness, as it was trying to climb on me at this point, and I didn't want strange-cat smells on me when I went home, or worse, a bite on my face. It did try to chomp me, and was rewarded with a bop upside the head (not hard, but enough to drive the point home). Cat was very well-behaved after that. Dixie commented about how tame the cat was being around me. "He must know I'm a cat person, I guess." was all I said.

Finally went downstairs, where my husband was talking to two of the other men about computer stuff. The wife of one of those men was nodding off, she was so tired. Another couple was getting ready to leave. Fearing we'd be stuck there all night, I had to give my husband several "looks" before he caught on that it was time for us to go. We gathered up all the packages we'd won/been given and got the heck out of there.

And yes, I did send them a note, thanking them for their hospitality and the gifts.


Miss Jeanne is having a hard time trying to figure out what the faux pas is in this story.  The way people dress or how they interior decorate their home is not a faux pas.  As long as clothes are not dirty or odiferous, there is nothing wrong with wearing the same clothes two days in row (how many of us rewear the same blue jeans several days in a row?).   While my tastes don't fall into the "Barbie Western Bordello" look, it won't kill me to socialize with people who do.  It seems the hosts were trying their best and some credit has to be given for effort.  Our story contributor gallantly and gamely makes the best of a esthetics dilemma, not an etiquette one. 

My husband's cousin celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary and sent formal, printed invitations to 400 people. The party was to be at their home. We had been told about the date and time of the party several weeks in advance so we could plan the four hour trip and make babysitting arrangements for our son. The invitation arrived in the mail two days before the event and where the printer had placed the time as "five to seven p.m." in silver ink, the wife had drawn a line through this time with a blue maker and written "six-thirty p.m." I thought that it was in questionable taste to alter a printed invitation instead of buying new ones if you had to change the time for some reason since these can be reprinted in such a short period of time, but we loaded the car, got all dressed up, took the kids to the sitter and hit the road. We arrived to discover that the party had actually started at 5:30, but some "less important" guests had just been invited for the last thirty minutes so the house wouldn't be so crowded. At seven o'clock, the remaining guests were thanked for coming and shown the door. The good news is we were back home before eleven.        Holiday0711-02

Page Last Updated May 18, 2007