This week would have marked the 141st birthday of etiquette maestro Emily Post. Let us all raise our glasses and pinkies to Ms. Post! While we all know the basics of etiquette (napkin on your lap, not plate on your lap), there are some awkward social situations that would fluster even the most graceful of us. Whose armrests are whose? What should you do when you are uncomfortable with a topic of conversation? How do you eat fried chicken?
Fortunately, Emily Post's legacy of social grace and politeness lives on. Her family has carried on her mission through the Emily Post Institute, adjusting the principles of Emily's rules to the changing times. Together, her family members have authored subsequent editions of Emily Post's Etiquette, and the 18th Edition came out in 2011. It's complete with lessons on social networking, modern dating, and airplane travel.
Let's dive into the 10 most useful tips for weird situations!
1. You get a friend request from a friend of a friend you met four months ago at a Shake Shack, when you spoke less than a dozen words to each other.
Emily Post's Answer: Feel free to ignore whichever friend requests and messages you want to. Similarly, you can also delete any posts that make you uncomfortable.
2. You've been waiting for ages for your food and your elbows are weary. Can you rest them on the table?
Emily Post's Answer: Whenever you're not eating, it's totally fine to rest your elbows on table. As long as you don't have silverware in your hands, go ahead. It actually indicates that you're listening intently.
3. You're introduced to someone while you're wearing your huge Gore-Tex gloves. Do you shake her hand?
Emily Post's Answer: If you're outside, it's fine to leave your gloves on. If you're inside, remove the glove from the right hand before extending to shake.
4. You're eating fried chicken/pizza/tacos. Do you use your silverware?
Emily Post's Answer: No way. Use your paws! As long as the food isn't too goopy, your fingers are acceptable. Use your knife and fork to pick up any piece of food that drops to your plate (and, obviously, your mashed potatoes).
5. The saleslady in J.Crew is relentlessly offering to find you a size or a different style.
Emily Post's Answer: A simple and polite, "Thank you, I'm browsing. I'll let you know if I need any help," will do nicely. Be sure to seek her out later if you need to try something on. She's looking for commission.
6. You're introduced to someone who sneezed into his palm five seconds ago and then extends his hand to shake.
Emily Post's Answer: Since he stuck his hand out, you really have to shake it. Just be sure to excuse yourself a minute later and Purell like heck. If you are the sneezer, just explain you're sick but are charmed to make acquaintance.
7. Unfortunately, you're in the middle seat on an airplane. And the passengers on your left and right are being total doofs about the armrests — not even an inch of room!
Emily Post's Answer: Don't be afraid to ask for what you want! Politely say, "Excuse me, do you mind if we share this armrest? Is my arm disturbing you here?" They probably won't object.
8. The guy next to you on the subway is blasting his Enya so loud, you can hear every distinct word.
Emily Post's Answer: Simply tap his shoulder and tell him, "Excuse me, would you mind turning down the volume? You music's quite audible." If he doesn't comply, you can always move.
9. The person next to you at the Starbucks laptop counter is reading over your shoulder.
Emily Post's Answer: Meet the stranger's gaze. If he knows that you know he's invading your privacy, he'll probably stop. And if he doesn't, politely tell him you'd appreciate it if he stopped peering at your screen.
10. You're grabbing a drink with a coworker, and she won't stop talking about how amazing Dick Cheney is. You want to cry and slap her and run away.
Emily Post's Answer: Say, "I'm not comfortable with this conversation." Then, suggest another topic. "What do you think about Kim Kardashian taking Kanye West's last name?