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Modern Manners + Etiquette: Icebreakers + Condom Etiquette

Friday, June 15, 2012


How and when to "bring up" condom use with a new partner? Yes, there's etiquette for that.

Icebreakers for meeting anyone anywhere in a social situation and condom etiquette are hot topics this spring at Didi Lorillard's NewportManners.com. Along with inquires from ladies wondering where to place their evening bag at dinner and appropriate dress code for the mothers of the bride and groom in a November 2012 wedding.

Dear Didi
I get anxious in social situations. I don't go out when I'm asked because I don't know what to say when I get out. It's that first, "Hi, I'm Andrew, blah, blah, blah," that I can't do. What are some icebreakers I can use?  A.L., Boston

Dear A.L.,
None of us is perfect. Get over thinking you can't socialize because you're not perfect. People are more interested in what they are projecting socially than looking for your imperfections. Most of us have nothing to say of interest when you first meet us. Give us a chance and you may be amazed when your effort leads to a decent conversation. Social anxiety comes from a fear of thinking you won't stack up in conversation. If you're over thirty years of age and still haven't found your skill-set socially, discuss your problem with a doctor and perhaps get something to take the edge off the anxiety. It may not work right away nevertheless getting help to understand why you think you're socially inept is a start. Your fears could be holding you back in other areas.

In the meantime, try this. Force yourself to go out and ask someone standing near you questions about their life. Think of it as a scavenger hunt. You're looking for common interests—politics, movies, music, sailing, sports, stock market, travel, etc. Go from one subject to the next. How did you meet your wife? How did you find your apartment? How did you get your job?

Start by saying something as simple as, "This Newport Storm beer is good!" Then introduce yourself. Whether you put out your hand to shake hers or not depends on the formality of the meeting. Then it's her turn to introduce herself. You're lucky if her name gives you a reason to say, "How did your parents come to name you Lucky?" An open-ended question keeps up the conversation. Steer clear of questions that have yes or no answers. Respond to answers with parallel information that give a glimpse into your world. Think of the experience of meeting someone new as you would watching a movie or reading a book, the deeper you get into it, the more engaged you become in the storyline and curious about the ending. Small talk leads to deeper conversations.  ~Didi

Dear Didi,
What is appropriate condom etiquette?  F.J., Providence

Dear F.J.,
The hard and fast rule is to bring it up before it gets up. Before the situation at hand becomes explosive, work in tandem to discuss the issue of condom use. Avoid ambiguity. Effective communication, starting with eye contact that you keep up throughout the length of the conversation, is the appropriate etiquette.  ~Didi

Dear Didi
Where does a lady put an evening purse at dinner? Virginia L., Barrington

Dear Virginia,
The reason evening bags are so small is so you can slide it behind your back when seated in your chair or rest it gently on the table, either to the left of your fork or in front of your plate. The more elegant the evening bag, the easier it is to display. Some ladies opt for an evening bag with a narrow chain that can be hung over the back of their chair. If neither of those options work, place it hidden deeply enough underneath your chair so that it isn't mistakenly kicked. Although, not in a restaurant because you wouldn't want it soiled, if it got stepped on. Think of a beautiful evening bag as a lovely accessory.  ~Didi

Dear Didi,
What is appropriate for the mother of the bride to wear at a 3:30 pm wedding in November? The bridesmaids are wearing long, eggplant-colored gowns.  Alice, Johnston

Dear Alice,
Traditionally, as you know, a 3:30 pm wedding is not formal because the later in the day the wedding ceremony, the dressier the dress code. Your dress code would be "Suits & Dresses." Even when the bridesmaids are wearing long dresses, the bride and groom's mothers (including grandmothers, godmothers, aunts, etc.), really shouldn't. Quite frankly, you wouldn't want to be traipsing around in a long dress from two o'clock in the afternoon (when you'll be getting dressed) until later that night. Count the hours. You want to look fresh and crisp throughout the entire wedding from 2:00 pm to the last goodbye.

The mother of the bride, as you know, sets the dress code for the other "mothers." For an afternoon-going-into-evening wedding, she would wear either a knee-length, dressy skirt suit, a dress with a jacket or bolero, a cocktail dress with sleeves, or a dress with a coordinating coat. Look for 3/4 length sleeves for a dressier, more flattering look. An afternoon wedding is the perfect time to wear a lovely hat, that can be taken off for the reception. Beautiful shoes and legwear a shade lighter than your skin tone always give added glamour.

As the mother of the bride, you want to look elegant and dignified. A well-made, well-tailored, thick silk-blend skirt suit that is fitted to accentuate your curves and falls just below your knee, with 3/4 length sleeves and a low décolleté, would be perfect for the mothers of the bride and groom.

Because I don't know your coloring, why not Google "fashion fall colors 2012" to find the colors trending that work with your coloring. According to the winter fashion forecast the traditional winter darks and berry colors are more mid-toned and less blackened than they were last fall and winter. The colors showing for this fall and winter—that I like for the MOB and MOG—are deep plum, sky blue tones, and mauve shades, all of which would look lovely alongside the eggplant-colored bridesmaids' dresses.   ~Didi

Didi Lorillard tracks shifting trends in wedding etiquette, dress codes and manners at NewportManners.com, where you are welcome to ask your questions. You can also find Didi on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest, after you've read some of her prior columns listed below.



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