Friday, March 26, 2010

Just Ask Joan

Illustration by Bob Schulenberg.
(sometimes she may even be right)

Dear Joan,

"How do you know the hosts?  I've never seen you before." What would you have said? I won't tell you what I said back to her, but I will say it wasn't diplomatic (and I wasn't exactly proud of my response even though she deserved it). I'm sure you would have handled it differently. What could/should I have said?

A Reader In Need Of Diplomacy Lessons

Dear Reader,

I would tell the truth to this woman but there’s no need to descend to her snarky depths. Just say either, “Actually, I went to kindergarten with our host and to college with the hostess and they’re my children’s guardians but I’ve been living in Tangiers for the last ten years so I guess that’s why we haven’t met.” or, “Actually, Susie and I met two weeks ago in the Ten Items Or Less aisle at Safeway and we just began talking and we really have fun together.”

And don’t ask how she knows the hosts. She doesn’t deserve that opportunity. Just say you’re going to get another drink, smile pleasantly (if not genuinely) and move on to talk to someone else.

Dear Joan,

Should I, as a woman, inform a total stranger that she has lipstick on her teeth or that her bag is unzipped and her wallet and cell phone are falling out? Or tell a man that his fly is unzipped?

Questioning In Queens

Dear Questioning,

I would say yes, tell another woman about her lipstick and her bag, because I assume that anyone would certainly want to be aware of something that could be embarrassing or complicated but easily fixed. If there is a spot on her jacket or blouse, don’t bring that it up because there’s nothing to be done until she gets home and changes her clothes but you can tell her about a tag hanging from her jacket. However, I would refrain from informing a man of his sartorial dishevelment and stick to the old saying, “Avert the eyes.”

Dear Joan,

I’m always late for lunches and dinners parties and it drives my friends crazy. I know it’s basically thoughtless so I’ve made a new pact with myself. I’m going to not only be on time, but I’m going arrive early. What do you think?

Early on East Eightieth Street

Dear Early,

Oh, please don't arrive at parties before you're due. That will be just as annoying and inconsiderate to your hosts as being late. Showing up at a friend's apartment when she's still applying her lash primer and arranging the grapes on a cheese tray will be very inconvenient and is rather selfish. Don't make it all about you. If you can be early, then you can be on time. And if you find that you're ready for a dinner party at 6:30, and it doesn't begin until 7:30, just while away the time alphabetizing the spice rack and emailing a friend who lives in San Francisco. You'll be early there, too, but no one will care.

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