Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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Archive 2001
Jan - Jun 2003 Archive
Jul-Dec 2003 Archive


So I have this aunt who we know in my family to have certain, eh, problems. She has had closet eating disorders for probably close to 40 years (not that this is an etiquette problem, but is a clue to her mental state). We suspect that she is also a kleptomaniac (in addition to stealing items from stores, she steals food from relatives' homes and restaurant buffets). But the problem that bugs me the most is her cheapskate gift-giving.

Understand, I am not trying to look a gift horse in the mouth; however, the point of giving a gift to someone is to show that you care enough about them to select a certain item that you think they would like. My aunt, apparently, stockpiles cheap items in her home, awaiting a gift-giving opportunity, rather than choosing items expressly for the occasion and recipient.

This thoughtless stockpiling method has resulted in my aunt giving me an identical gift two times in a row THREE TIMES. That means for the last 6 gift-giving opportunities (birthday & Christmas three years running) I have received three items twice. The first time I was confused -- after all, she had given me items that usually come as a "set" and I assumed she was filling out my set. The second time I was annoyed -- when I went to return the duplicate to the store I discovered that it was so old and out-of-stock they could not offer me any refund (I just left it there). The third time I was seriously offended and had to say something: "Oh! Now I have a matching pair!" She replies, "Did someone already give you one?" Me: "Yes, you did, for my birthday."

I would rather receive simply a card or heartfelt wishes than the crap she doles out. Most of it ends up in the garbage, anyway.

(BTW: my youngest cousin, apparently learning from her mom, gave me the same item twice, too, but I called her on it -- graciously I hope. I pulled her aside privately and said "I don't want to embarrass you, but this is the same gift you gave me for my birthday. I don't need two, and you obviously like it, so why don't you keep this one for yourself." I don't want her to be picking up bad habits.)


My daughter’s fifth birthday party included parents who must have moved from Etiquettehell itself.  We invited all of the little girls in my daughter’s kindergarten to come for lunch and games, from noon until 3:00 PM.  One little girl’s father called to RSVP and said that, as immigrants, they weren’t too familiar with birthday parties.  We lived in a very multicultural community and so this was not uncommon.  He wanted to know exactly what we were going to do, where we lived and what it was like, and even on to what we did for a living, did we have two cars????  It seemed a good idea gone way overboard but I chalked it up to a cultural difference.  He asked if his wife could attend with the daughter just to be sure everything was okay and I said sure.  I figured another adult at the party would be nice and that way they would know just what was going on.  He pointed out that he didn’t really like his wife to drive, so he would drop the two of them off at noon.  Again, that didn’t seem that out of line although certainly not the way my family worked.  

On the day of the party all of the little girls came except for that one.  We just assumed that they had changed their minds and didn’t make a deal of waiting for them or anything.  We ate and played games and opened presents and so on.  Then, at 2:50 the doorbell rang and I literally thought it was an early pick-up.  Instead, it was the three of them.  Dad brought in Mom and Child and took a quick walk-through the house and said he’d be back to pick them up in a little bit.  People were indeed picking up their kids as he left so I tactfully suggested that he come back in a half an hour so the girls could spend a little time but I’d still be able to clean up and get ready to go out to dinner (for my daughter’s birthday dinner with the family).  The girls played, I gave Mom cake as she apologized profusely for being so late and stood by the window waiting for her husband’s return.  We chatted a little bit and I found out that she worked and her husband did not, as he felt it was important to drive her to work, drive their daughter to kindergarten, pick her up from kindergarten, and pick her up from work.  In between he liked to shop or visit his friends.  The conversation pretty much convinced me this wasn’t a cultural thing, but just one very controlling fellow.  

This upstanding gentleman arrived at 5:00 to pick them up, in a very good mood and oblivious to the fact that he was an hour and a half later than requested.  At school on Monday the teacher asked how the party went and I said very well, but one girl had arrived at the end and stayed really late.  The teacher immediately named the child and also guessed many of the other details.  We moved away shortly thereafter but I still wonder if they’ve figured out birthday parties yet.



The day before Valentine's day, our local radio station was taking lovers' dedication songs.

I heard my husband's ex-wife's current husband call in to the radio station. They have been married a year and are expecting their first baby. But did he ask the disc jockey to play a song for his wife? Nope!

He told them to play him a racing song, because he was ready for racing season to start so he can go race his stock car.

Nothin' says lovin' like Nascar, I guess....



Hi Jeanne--

Love the site, my productivity decreases sharply for each year for a couple of days which correlate directly to the ehell updates. Coincidence? I think not.

My submission may not be as heinous as many you receive, but it is still bothering me three years later and I thought writing it down might free me once and for all from the angst it still causes me. My husband and have a couple that are very dear friends of ours. We were in each other's wedding parties, we socialized often, we took care of each other's pets/houses during vacations, etc. Each year we exchange holiday gifts with them as part of our annual new year's eve celebration. One year, a little over a month before the holiday, I was out shopping with "Melissa" and she pointed out a pair of pajamas that she really liked. Sensing a gift-giving opportunity, I filed this information away and the next week went out to purchase the pajamas. The store was out of the appropriate size in the pair she'd indicated she liked, but called another branch in town to reserve the item in the correct size for me. I drove across town, purchased the gift and wrapped it along with a gift receipt and put it under the tree.

When we exchanged gifts that year, she responded very positively after opening her gift. We all thanked each other for the gifts we'd received, and celebrated the new year together. Imagine my surprise when I walked into work after the holiday and read the following email:

Dear XXXX,

I don't know how to tell you this, but the pajamas you got me weren't the ones I wanted. I normally wouldn't say anything, but I've decided that I'm not going to keep my mouth shut anymore when I'm unhappy about something just to protect the other person's feelings.

We had a great time, as always, the other night! Melissa

If I am not mistaken, isn't "to protect the other persons feelings" pretty much the NUMBER ONE REASON to "keep your mouth shut when you're unhappy" about a gift? Couldn't she have simply returned the pair and, in the unlikely event that I had occasion to notice she wasn't wearing the pajamas, said that she returned them for another pair that fit better/was a different color/had feet and a butt flap, etc? I mean, I thought the resin picture frame with the sailboat on it and gift card to the large home improvement chain that she bestowed upon me a few nights before were both ugly and impersonal (in that order) but did I send an email saying so? No. I smiled gratefully and thanked them for the gifts because I realize that gifts are just that: gifts. They are not a right, or an obligation, and since no one in this world owes me anything I was lucky and pleased to get anything at all. 

I struggled all day with an appropriate response before settling upon a polite, sincere apology for the misunderstanding and a gracious wish that she find a pair she liked better when returning them. Believe me, it took me several drafts that were far more rude before I swallowing my pride and responding appropriately. I was taught that it's rarely ever a good idea to follow up rude behavior with more rude behavior.

To this day, I have never mentioned it or let it color our relationship. At least I can take pride in the fact that I kept MY mouth shut when I was unhappy to protect HER feelings.



Hi Jeannie,   This is about the fourth story I have submitted to your site, but this time, the unfortunate incident happened to a friend of mine.  I told her about your site, and she agreed that this story would be perfect, sadly.  LOL

P. is a very dear person, kind and considerate to a fault.  She and E. have been married for almost thirty years, and have two bright and beautiful kids.  Both P. and E. lead very busy lives, so their "alone time" is limited.  This past weekend, they attended their daughter's performance in the high school play, and afterward, decided to grab a bite to eat at the restaurant owned by P.'s sister and her husband.  (We all work there, which is how I happen to know P.)  Upon entering the restaurant, E. encountered a group of people with whom he used to work, until the factory closed a couple of years ago.  The factory closing was unexpected and sudden, and it cost a lot of people their jobs and pensions.  E. has moved on, however, and is enjoying early retirement. 

Well, E. said his hellos, and one of his former co-workers then proceeded to come over and sit with P. and E.  He started bitching once again about the factory closing, then moved on to bragging about his new job, and how much money he was now making.  he mentioned specific hourly amounts and everything.  P. decided to allow E. and his friend to visit a bit so, once they had ordered their food, she went in search of her sister to chat with her a bit, until their food arrived.  After a little while she looked up to see the waitress carrying their food over to their table, so she went back up to rejoin E. and have their meal.

E.s former co-worker, a very large man, was still sitting there, blocking her entrance to the booth, and the server could barely even get close to the table.  To boot, some other people had now joined E. and the big jerk at the table, and P could not even get close to the table or her food.  She stood there, hoping the other people would get the hint, get up, and leave P. and E. alone to eat.  Nope!  The Big Jerk made some lame joke like, "no thanks, I just ate!", when the server set her food down, and did not move an inch to let P. sit or eat.  He just sat there, breathing on her sandwich, and flapping his jaws at E.  E. could not get a word in edgewise to suggest, politely, that Big Jerk allow his wife and he to enjoy their meal.

After five or ten minutes, P. asked the server to grab her sandwich for her, and she went off and ate it alone.  The Big Jerk and his entourage never did get up, until E. had paid the check and he and P. went to leave.  Needless to say, P. was livid, and with good reason.  Some people are just so clueless, you wonder how they ever made it to adulthood.



I was headed for the last luggage cart in sight at Heathrow airport, with a large tote bag on my shoulder, a good-sized suitcase in each hand, and a 3-month-old baby strapped to my chest. When I was 10 feet from the cart, a 40-something businessman passed me and took the cart - for his briefcase. (The baby is now in graduate school, and I'm still pi$$ed off at that jerk!)



Against my wishes, I somehow agreed to have dinner with my estranged father ("John") and his girlfriend ("Cindy"), to celebrate my father's birthday. We made plans to meet at the nicest restaurant in my small town and have a quick dinner, which turned into an ordeal of several hours. Over the lengthy course of the meal, John and Cindy finished two bottles of wine and a few cocktails, which is the only possible explanation I can imagine for their behavior, which was simply horrid. I do not know Cindy well, and John and I haven't spoken in years, but I made every effort to be cordial and polite. They encouraged me repeatedly to order a drink or have a glass of wine, knowing that I was on prescription painkillers because of recent surgery. While I attempted to limit the conversation to topics such as John's job, their travel, and my school, Cindy shocked me by announcing that she had a close relationship with my deceased great-grandfather, who she had never met.

The highlight of the evening took me by complete surprise. I was talking about attending college in New England, and mentioned that one of the drawbacks was that it was difficult to wear pretty shoes in the winter. Cindy told me not to knock comfortable shoes and proceeded to remove her shoe (a Birkenstock-style clog) from her foot and hold it high above the table for all to see.

I cannot conceive of any situation in which holding one's shoe above the dinner table would be acceptable. Even elevating a Prada boot in a fast-food restaurant would be vile, but here we were, at the nicest restaurant in town. And it was NOT the nicest shoe.


The setup: We had recently had our first child as young parents. Our less than one-year old baby was strong-willed, a bit high-strung, and rather demanding. Every evening from about 6 PM to 10PM, he would scream at the top of his lungs. This was not just wailing, but a very intense, give-it-all-you've-got kind of yelling; it was his way of blowing off steam according to the doctor. Needless to say, this was very stressful and we would do anything to keep him at a dull roar, which kept us rather occupied all evening either walking or driving. Night sleep was usually interrupted several times. I was full-time college and working 20 hours a week. My wife, understandably, was somewhat mind-numb and weary after months of only dealing with this child all day long, all night long.

My fall: After a rare several days of relative quiet and peaceful, uninterrupted sleep, my wife felt enough motivation and energy to clean the apartment: the kitchen, bathroom, dishes, clothes, everything. She was well proud of what she had accomplished for us, and showed me the kitchen. Alas, I lifted the toaster and...proclaimed the presence of crumbs. She was hurt and hugely offended.

That was thirteen years ago; we are still together. I keep that story in my Hall of Shame to help remind me to stay sharp, to provide laughs to others, or to acknowledge to my wife that I realize I've gone and done something insensitive again.



I've got one for you. These past few weeks I have been extremely sick. I was bedridden for four days and had my first ever hospital visit because of my illness. I wasn't even born in a hospital, but that's another story. This is one about not so good friends.

My friends, who I thought were the greatest people in the world when I first met them, not only did not call me when I disappeared for two weeks, but by the middle of the second week they had written me an e-mail, or I got an e-mail from them. I had been unable to do anything but lay there for quite a while. Anyway when I check my e-mail I got a letter from them saying how rude it had been of me to just drop off the face of the planet and ignore them. Believe me if I had been in any condition to call them I would have, but I wasn't. They didn't have enough concern for their friends to call and see WHY I had not contacted them. They had made no effort within those two weeks to contact me to see if maybe I had gotten sick or they had done something to anger me. No, they immediately assume that I was ignoring them because I have no manners. I wanted to call them, I wanted to hang out with them and talk to them, believe me. But I was unconscious for four days. It is kind of hard to make a phone call when you can't stay awake long enough to even finish tossing your guts into the toilet!



 I have lived all of my life in the American West-- mostly in California, and for a few years in Utah. Both states have a large Latino population, particularly California, some of whom do not speak English well enough to be able to sit through a movie filmed in English and grasp the gist of the movie without assistance. I don't have a problem with Latinos, and I don't have a problem with Latinos who choose not to learn English, or who know English, but prefer to speak Spanish or a tribal language whenever possible. I'm a registered Libertarian, so obviously I believe we all have to co-exist, and we all have the right to use the language(s) of our choosing. But, on the other hand, the cost of movie tickets and refreshments has gotten so high, and the inconvenience of sneaking in one's own refreshments is a pain (c'mon I am not the only one who has tried it), so I don't feel it's discourteous of me to say it's an etiquette violations the many times I've gone to the picture show and wound up sitting near Latinos who wound up disrupting me because they do not speak English and they chose to come to a movie filmed in English with an interpreter. Sure, maybe Hollywood needs to get in touch with the reality of the marketplace, and start automatically including Spanish subtitles, but that's not how it is. Stay home and watch it on cable or on video or DVD if you want to be able to have someone interpret the movie for you.


My story starts when I got off the plane in the Dominican Republic. I was in line at immigration the place was packed full of vacationers. I had been in line for a hour when more people started to pour in. I was in a line when this French family walked up in front of me and broke into the line. I asked them to get in the back of the line. They said to me "Its O.K." I said no its not I had to wait so should you. They kept saying "Oh no its O.K." So I put my bags in front of me and started to slowly edge them out of the line .They were talking a bunch of smack about me in French, but by the time I got to the immigration gate I had pushed them out of the line. 4hrs later!! I had never had a problem with "French people" before, but I'm schooled now!!! Thanks 4 your web site!!!!!


I have been friends with this girl for the past 3 years, and she used to be my 'best friend'. She has always been a little odd, and likes to think of herself as 'alternative', but this does not excuse her behavior! Last year she made a compilation CD and gave me a copy, just as a nice gesture, which was cool. She then made 2 follow-up CDs and gave me copies, which was also very nice.

Last Christmas, towards the end of the autumn term when my group of friends were exchanging Christmas gifts before the holidays started, she announced she didn't have any money as her mother had not given her any pocket money due to bad behavior. Ok, fine, so she said she would get people gifts in the sales after Christmas when she was more affluent. I was also not that well off at the time, but through some ingenuity, managed to buy or make all my friends and family presents. As her birthday was on the 19th of December, and she was going to have a birthday party, I offered to buy her a manicure as a joint birthday/Christmas present before her party so she would have pretty nails on the night. I took her to the shop, helped her choose a neutral color, then sat and waited 30 minutes for it to be done. The day before her party I see her in school and she has chipped it all off and drawn all over her fingers in blue ink. I politely point this out, and she says 'Yeah, well, it wasn't really me, was it?'

To top things off, as Christmas presents for at least 5 of our friends she gave them the exact same CD she had given me earlier in the year. And not even the set of 3 each, just one CD. Home made CDs are fine, I made one for a friend too, but I spent a lot of time finding music she would like and asking my brother, a good graphic artist, to design a cover for it. In such cases, it really is the thought that counts. She never did buy them gifts in the sales. I try to limit my contact with her these days, I wonder why...



Page Last Updated May 15, 2007