Category Archives: Advice

Sound Advice Thursday: How can I back out of wedding events?

Dear Steph:

When staring down the barrel of at least four weddings and three bachelorette parties in the next calendar year, is there any gracious way to decline any of the associated wedding events (engagement parties, showers, couples showers, etc.) without seeming like a total grinch? And is there any way to bring things up like the fact that spending $1000 on a bachelorette party and another $1000 on the wedding  (once airfare and things are factored in) can be a a real hardship and one we might try to find ways around? I don’t want to hurt feelings, but I also don’t want to go broke. Help!


The Harried Wedding Guest

Photo by Leah & Mark

Photo by Leah & Mark

Dear HWG:

This is one of those areas where I think American society needs a good, hard slap upside the head. Because things have gotten out of hand. In the good old days, if you were invited to a wedding, you’d buy the bride and groom a gift, drive to the wedding, have a nice chicken dinner – maybe a steak if these were fancy people – and then drive home. And you’re done. No weekends in Napa. No weddings in Bora Bora. No requests by the bride and groom to buy them a new house or fund their hypothetical children’s college educations. But sadly, those days are gone. Modern wedding guests are expected to attend – and pay for – a litany of events, with presents and plane tickets popping up at every turn. And there needs, frankly, to be an opt-out option.

I must defer, at least partially, to the inimitable Miss Manners and her incredibly helpful book, Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding, on this question. Miss Manners, over recent years, has noted with dismay the increasing tendency of brides and grooms to turn events, such as bridal showers, into opportunities “to turn a milestone into material advantage.” When posed a similar question as yours by a woman who was facing multiple bridal showers for each of her engaged friends, Miss Manners advised that the letter writer should accept only one shower per couple, if any, and that she “need only express regret when [she] decline[s] an invitation – or six of them.” With regards to bridal showers in particular, Miss Manners has also noted that “[i]n proper American etiquette, a bridal shower is a lighthearted event among intimate friends, not something required to call attention to a wedding in the way that a rain shower calls attention to the need to fetch an umbrella.”

As much as I agree with her, this isn’t Miss Manners’ show; it’s mine. And speaking as a lady who has both gotten married and attended weddings, I am here to tell you not to fret about declining invitations to showers, brunches, lunches, parties, or even weddings. I myself had a bridal shower, thrown by my mother and some of my female cousins. It was a low-key affair for family – and one close friend – held at my cousin’s apartment; it involved party games, homemade lasagna, and tea. It was perfect. The people who were around came; the people who were not, did not. And it was FINE that some people didn’t or couldn’t come. I also had a bachelorette party, thrown by my wonderful maid-of-honor, Karen. Since most of my close friends and I lived on the East Coast at the time, the party was held in New York City. My dear cousin Catie, who was one of my bridesmaids, lives in Seattle and let me know that she could simply not afford to take the vacation days to come to New York for a weekend. And it was FINE. I understood! Because I am a human being with human feelings, like empathy and humility, and I did not expect anyone to shell out big moola to fly to a party for me, although many people did end up doing just that. Because they love me more. Kidding!!

Skipping weddings is also okay. We had people decline our wedding for a number of reasons, and we understood. Weddings can be tough to attend, especially when they involve travel. Of course, we would have loved to have each and every person we invited at our wedding, but we weren’t going to throw a tantrum if people couldn’t make it because we are adults and, shockingly, we are not actually the center of the universe. Remember: no one is obligated to attend a wedding (except for the bride and groom, and probably the officiant).

The bottom line is that if your friends are nice, kind, grown-up human beings, they will understand your sending kind regrets and skipping their many (superfluous) wedding-related events. You do you, HWG.

Good luck!


Sound advice Thursday: How do I “unfriend” someone in real life?

Dear Steph:

How do you “unfriend” someone in real life? One of my best friends has a girlfriend that she met through work that I’m not particularly fond of. Whenever we all hang out, she makes passive aggressive and snarky comments to me and goes out of her way to prove that she and my best friend have a closer relationship. She has always been a “frenemy” that I tolerated for the sake of my best friend (who’s oblivious to this girl’s rudeness toward me).  However, my friend recently moved away for graduate school, and her snarky friend is now contacting me, asking me to hang out. If it’s a big group setting like a happy hour, I’ll go, but I try to avoid any one-on-one time with her. I never initiate any sort of contact with her and I don’t do anything (at least in my mind) that would give her the impression that I like her and want to develop a deeper friendship with her. Is it wrong to completely ignore her or make excuses to avoid her until she gets the hint and stops contacting me?


I Don’t Want To Be Your Friend

Poor Chris Birillo. He never saw it coming.

Poor Chris Pirillo. He never saw it coming.


If only unfriending an annoying person in real life were as simple as it is on Facebook: just click “Remove friend” and you’re done.  Easy. Painless. Quick. But IRL, as the kids say, things are more complicated. There’s no easy unfriend option, and simply ignoring the negative Nelly in your life might not actually rid you of her.  I think the success of your ignore and wait strategy with Nelly will depend on two things: 1) the likelihood of your running into her while you’re out and about, and 2) your ability to persevere in the face of her continued friendship overtures.

You didn’t say whether or not Nelly and you run in the same social circles or whether your only connection to her was through your friend who moved away.  If it’s the latter, then simply not answering her emails, or replying with a curt but polite brush-off (e.g., “I’m so sorry, but I’m afraid my dance card is full for the foreseeable future!”) might do the trick.  Even though it sounds from your letter that Nelly is not the most adept at social cues, there’s not much she can do in the face of your unresponsiveness.

On the other hand, if you and Nelly are apt to run into each other frequently, you need to be more direct.  Let’s say you’re at your local watering hole having a beer with friends and Nelly saunters up and asks if you got her last six emails and if you’re free for drinks next week.  Be polite but firm.  Say something like, “Thank you so much for the offer, but I don’t think I’ll be able to make it.”  You don’t need to give her a reason or an excuse. All you owe her is courtesy (which is more than she has shown you in the past, apparently).

The second important leg of a successful avoidance strategy is the ability to resist the urge to answer her repeated emails, texts, and calls to make excuses for yourself.  Women are socialized to be polite and to think of others’ feelings, which can be wonderful in many contexts, but which can also bring up unnecessary feelings of guilt and anxiety when trying to avoid or get rid of someone who is a drain on your positive energy.  It may be tempting to want to give Nelly a list of reasons why you can’t hang out with her, but it’s simpler (and more honest) to just say you can’t make it and thank her for the invite.  Eventually she’ll get the hint.

Your letter begs the question of why someone who makes snarky, passive aggressive remarks to you would be so eager to hang out one-on-one, but I suspect it’s because Nelly doesn’t have a lot of friends.  She has probably alienated many potential pals with her nastiness and is now struggling to find people to hang out with, which is actually quite sad, if you think about it.  However, life is short, and my advice is to limit or cut out contact with people who make your life worse.  If you’re feeling charitable and/or masochistic and want to give Nelly another chance, feel free, but keep your expectations realistic.  It might take some tough love for Nelly to change her tune.

Good luck!

Yours, Steph

Please send your burning etiquette/life questions to stephanie [dot] early [dot] green [at] gmail [dot] com.

Sound Advice Thursday: Do I have to tell him I’m seeing other people?

Dear Steph:

I’m recently single and have been trying to get back into dating mode. I don’t know what the technical term for this is, but I’ve been hanging out with a few different guys on a fairly regular basis. I’ve made it clear that I’m not looking for a relationship, but I haven’t really mentioned to these guys that I’m also seeing other people. Is that a necessary conversation, or is it okay for me to continue as I have been?


Playing the Field (but not a Player)

Dear PTF (BNAP),

Dating etiquette these days is complicated, eh? With the New York Times heralding The End of Courtship (replaced by oh-so-classy casual hook-up culture, a vestige of the millennial college experience), it’s hard to know what’s socially acceptable and what’s just plain rude when it comes to dating.  Does playing X-Box and making out count as a date?  Is it a date if his bros from Sig Ep are there, too?  Is it okay to break up with someone via emoticon? And if so, is it okay to use the Robocop emoticon? ([(  (“Your move, creep.”)

But let’s get to your question. If you’re wondering if it’s okay to date multiple people, of course it is!  But is it okay to keep that fact to yourself?  That depends.  But probably not.

First, you’re doing the right thing by making it clear to your potential paramours that you’re not looking for a husband, which should help clarify your intentions.  However, men can be quite literal and may be bad at reading between the lines.  This means that if you hang out with a guy long enough, you’ll need to disclose to him that you’re also seeing other people. Why? Because at some point, if you spend enough time together, the guy will assume that you’re probably a couple.  The precise point at which each guy will assume you’re an item depends on the guy – but for his sake and yours, you should let him know you’re not exclusive before things get awkward.

Let me give you an example using the hottest current pop stars: imagine you’ve been seeing Howie, Brian, and Nick, each for about three weeks, maybe once or twice a week.  Nick assumes you’re seeing other people and so is he.  Brian thinks you’re only seeing him but he’s seeing other people.  And Howie, bless him, assumes that you’re only seeing him and is saving up money so that he can someday buy you your dream home in Orlando (WITH an aboveground pool), because even though you say you’re not looking for a relationship right now, Howie knows you two are meant to be.  Do you see the issue here? Same time spent with each dude, but three different sets of expectations.

Don't break Howie's heart.

Don’t break Howie’s heart.

So when to have this conversation? I’d say after the third or fourth time you go out with someone, you should casually mention that you’re seeing a few other people.  If the guy is looking for a serious commitment (which you’re not), he’ll probably balk.  If he’s not, perfect, you can continue as before.  I understand that telling someone you’re dating other people has the potential for awkwardness, but this is a small amount of awkwardness in order to avoid a large amount of awkwardness down the road.  So just do it.  And tell Howie to hold off on that down payment.

Good luck!

~ Steph

Please send your burning questions to [at] gmail [dot] com.

Sound Advice Thursday: The Instagram Addict’s Lover

Happy Thursday everyone! I’m introducing an exciting new feature to my blog. To compliment Book Review Tuesdays, I’ll now be offering Sound Advice Thursdays, in which all of your burning questions on manners, relationships, and other human interactions will be decisively answered, or at the very least, guessed at. Please send questions to with subject line Advice.

I'm listening.

I’m listening.

Dear Steph:

I spend most of my free time with my boyfriend, whom I adore. The problem is that we have radically different views on what’s an appropriate amount for him to use his iPhone camera when we’re together. While I would rather that we take in our life as it comes and create genuine memories – like, in our minds – he would prefer to record every second of every day by taking photos with his iPhone. I understand that this is a decision he’s made on how he wants to live his life, but it’s not the way I want to live my life and it leads to a lot of conflict.

My main issues with his constant photo-journaling are: 1) I don’t like to be photographed all the time, 2) I don’t like taking pictures in front of people, and 3) I don’t want to have my own ability to process experiences determined by him in that way. But he’s addicted to taking photos and then posting them on social-media sites for his friends to enjoy. What do you suggest?

Living with a Paparazzo

Dear LWAP,

I must confess that I, like your darling boyfriend, am a digital shutterbug. I whip out my iPhone and take Instagram photos in line at the grocery store or while having a romantic dinner with my husband. So perhaps I am not the most objective person to offer advice on this particular issue. But maybe I can give you a window into the psyche of the compulsive photo-taker. People like your boyfriend and me like to take photos partly to maintain a visual record of our lives so that we won’t forget our experiences, but also partly to demonstrate to others what we’re up to. It’s not easy to admit, but some of the allure of posting photos on certain social media sites (which shall remain nameless) is to show off. There, I said it.

But in order to scratch the twin itches of recording memories for posterity and showing off, one or two photos at each event, activity, or place should suffice even for the avid iPhone photographer. There’s no need to live behind the lens of the camera unless you’re being paid for it, I say.

I think a compromise can be reached here. Tell your boyfriend that while you think he’s a fabulous photographer, the Instagram equivalent of Ansel Adams, you wish he’d confine himself to one or two photos at each activity or event in your lives. Explain that you don’t want your picture taken often and don’t enjoy posing in front of other people. Request that after he’s captured the moment, then the camera should be put away so that you two can enjoy your time together, sans technology. Explain that while you don’t want to ban his photographic efforts entirely, you enjoy his company more when he’s not squinting at you from behind an iPhone. As a cautionary tale, you might also show him this video, which demonstrates the perils of Instagram obsession.

However, as for your not wanting your memories and experiences to be shaped by his photos, you, my dear, are in control of that. If his photographic portfolio warps your memories, simply don’t look at it, or else record the memories in your own way, by keeping a journal, for example.

Yours, Steph