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Modern Manners + Etiquette: Flaunting Too Much Cleavage + More

Thursday, March 29, 2012


With the advent of spring we're seeing couples on sidewalks and beaches holding hands, kissing and asking if they should marry? As well as questions at NewportManners.com about the etiquette of telling a friend they're flaunting too much cleavage. With an empty nest looming, a family wants a "bucket list." A neighbor wants to silence a barking dog.

Dear Didi,
Our circle of friends' version of the Modern Family set includes one career woman, a wife and mother, who flaunts her cleavage at every opportunity from church socials, children's birthdays, cookouts and clambakes to black-tie gala charity fundraisers. We're wondering whether to shut-up or tell her to cover up. Where do we draw the line? She's pushing fifty, and shouldn't she be tucking it in? We're envious but also curious as to what's appropriate and whether or not we should have a "girlfriend talk" with her. The problem is that our kids are now teenagers and have started making fun of her. Of course we can't condone her appearance, but gee whiz, it's hard to respond to your teenager when he says, "Mom, can't you tell Mrs. .......... to cover them up? TMI!" What are we, her girlfriends, supposed to do? Anonymous, Providence

Dear Anonymous,
The great fashion designer Christian Dior is quoted as saying, "Décolleté frocks have always been attractive. Small or big, décolletés are always feminine." What to say to your teenager—or to her? To your kids say, "Mrs. .......... takes a lot of pride in looking womanly and as the saying goes, 'If you've got it, why not flaunt it!'" To your friend in question, you say tongue in jowl, "What brand of brassiere do you wear because my teenagers think I need to show more flesh?" As most women know, a good quality brassiere can do much to make curves curvier. No, you and your girlfriends may not play fashion police, nor do you want to be making unkind comments about Mrs. .......... to your kids behind her back. It makes you sound envious. Set an example, don't talk badly about your friends to your kids. Would you want your friends talking badly about you to their kids? I don't think so. ~Didi

Dear Didi,
There's a new dog in the neighborhood. He's handsome but loud. He barks at five in the morning when they let him out and if it's cold and he wants to come back in. I've tried to tell these new neighbors that I can't go back to sleep after their dog has woken me but I can't find the right words. The dog's on a schedule that's interfering with my schedule, so I'm not sure how we can work this out and continue to be good neighbors. The rich can easily move because they can afford not to have neighbors if they don't want them, but I don't have that option. D.P., Newport

Dear D.P.,
Dogs have been causing problems between neighbors for millennia. It was probably happening when cave people adopted the first wolf pup. What we mean by a "good neighbor" is someone who is friendly without being intrusive. The problem is that everyone draws the line between helpful or intrusive at a different point. Just say, "Would you please help me out, I find it impossible to get back to sleep after your nice dog wakes me at 5:00 AM with his barking. Is there any way you can keep him from barking so early in the morning? Thanks very much." Then after they comply, as a thank-you invite them to come for a drink the next time you're entertaining.

Dear Didi,
How do we know if we love each another enough to get married? We're not getting any younger, we both have good jobs and a nice lifestyle, but we're worried marriage will take away the magic. Caroline, Barrington

Dear Caroline,
There is no litmus test for whether a marriage will work or not. Nevertheless, there are issues that a couple have to be like-minded about.

You both have to be able to compromise.
You both have to be willing to listen to each other.
You have to value each other's opinions.
You must appreciate each other.
You are genuinely happy when you see one another.
You notice when there is something wrong and talk about it.
You respect each other.

If you don't share the same goals, political views and values you will be in for some rough battles. If you don't respect each other, you're probably not right for each other. Religion isn't as significant an issue as it once was, but it is still a topic that has to be discussed, especially if you plan to get married in a house of worship and have children. Which brings us to the most important issue: you do have to be of one mind about whether or not you both want children. After the honeymoon, you don't want your spouse telling you that they don't want to have children. Most importantly, be kind to each other. ~Didi

Dear Didi,
Our family has been working on your list of table manners and we're wondering if you have any kind of a "bucket list" of things we can do with our teens before they leave the nest. We're all so busy. Time is flying and we want to get to know our children better. We don't want to regret not having spent more quality time with them. A.M., Jamestown

Dear A.M.,
At the next family meal, suggest that you collectively come up with ten to twelve long term goals to accomplish as a family. Set a criteria that they should be enriching activities that will broaden your horizons; that they should be something you haven't done before as a family and that nobody is allowed to skip. Post a blank list on the fridge (or bulletin board) and you'll be surprised to find in a couple of months you'll have filled in the spaces. They could be as easy as taking the ferry to Block Island for the day and renting bicycles or going to an art museum, or as challenging as rock climbing in New Hampshire or kayaking around Jamestown. It has to be an adventure or activity that all partake of and, yes, it can be a time consuming process such as planning, planting and nurturing a vegetable garden or learning how to play serious darts, ping-pong, chess, backgammon or bridge, but all of you have to do it together. If you can do something for your community - perhaps volunteering at a soup kitchen or cleaning up a beach on Earth Day—all the better. ~Didi

Didi Lorillard answers questions about etiquette and manners in regard to relationships at NewportManners.com. Find her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest, after you've read her GoLocalProv columns listed below.


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