This is Dear Fancy, Jezebel’s advice column about non-fussy modern etiquette.
I have a friend who I like a lot. We’ve been friends for a long time and I enjoy her company. My issue is that, 90 percent of the time, she calls me while she is driving and will stop the conversation as soon as she arrives. I feel like I’m not valued because she rarely calls me any other time. I also feel like she values her time much more than mine because she will only talk when convenient for her. When I call her at other times of day, she rarely answers. I feel like if she didn’t do this as frequently or if she didn’t always insist on wrapping up the convo as soon as she reached her destination, her tendency would be less likely to irk me.
I realize having a conversation with her about this is probably a productive way to fix the problem, but I hesitate because CONFLICT, because similar conversations in the past haven’t gone so well and also because I am not sure of exactly how to phrase things. What do you think I should do?
Congratulations: you have a problem every single one of us has. Your friend is guilty of a crime we all commit: she’s using her phone as entertainment when she’s bored. She’s listened to the latest episode of 99% Invisible and is kinda over Candy Crush, so she calls you, and that makes someone you care feel like they’re indistinguishable from Angry Birds or cat videos.
Since you mention corrective conversations haven’t been productive in the past, you have a couple ways to deal with this that are less direct but might work before you have to resort to “Hey, I hate it when you do this, so knock it off.”
It’s pretty easy to tell that someone is driving when they call you, so when she rings and you can hear the radio in the background or that wind tunnel sound you get sometimes, say, “Rachel, I’m so glad you called! I’m just about to step into the shower and run out for dinner, so could we talk later? I’m dying to catch up but now’s not good. Could I call you around 9?” You can set a time and make a phone date at a time that works for you both. Better yet, try Skyping! It’s fun to sit with an old friend and drink wine and look at each other, and you give each other good, old-fashioned, undivided attention.
If that’s STILL too much conflict for you or she’s not receptive to making a scheduled time to catch up, you can always tell a white lie: “It’s hard to understand you because of the background noise. Can you call me back when you’ve arrived? I want to make sure I can pay attention to what you’re saying.”
Readers, if you’re the friend who does this, stop it. It’s dangerous to talk on the phone while driving, and you can’t focus on your friend telling you about his dad getting arrested or her promotion at work when you get pulled over for weaving.
Yours in Tranquil Transit,
I have a stationery dilemma. I’m recently engaged, and I want to send out engagement announcements, but considering the cost on top of a save the date AND the regular stationery, not to mention how many samples I’m realizing I’ll have to see before I’m satisfied, I just don’t think I can do it. I want to make sure the people who are really special to my fiancé and me get a special message, but I’ve told about a dozen people by phone and I’m just tired of talking about it for right now. So, my question is: in this age of electronic wonderment, is an e-card announcement a viable substitute?
Paper, or Plastic?
Dear Paper or Plastic,
If your friends and family have not already done so, let me be the first to extend my best wishes to you and your intended! What an exciting time to be you. Or should I say, what an exciting and expensive time to be you. Stationary adds up so much faster than one might initially suspect, to say nothing of postage.
Facebook relationship status updates (and newspaper notices, if you’re as old-fashioned as me/Benedict Cumberbatch) should inform only your peripheral circle of friends of your major life events, and your impulse to inform those nearer and dearer with something more personal is thoughtful and correct. I think a pretty e-card is a fine solution in your effort to cut down on costs, waste, and time sucks surrounding your upcoming wedding. Pick one out with your fiance and send it forth into the series of interconnecting tubes.
I do want to caution you about one thing: when you first get engaged, everything is heady and uncertain. You haven’t done stuff like making a guest list yet, and that’s okay, but be aware that anyone who receives an engagement announcement will be expecting a wedding invitation at a later date. In the interest of preserving feelings and tens of thousands of dollars, don’t send one to everyone in your address book. Cull the list to people you care about, then let those people be emissaries of your good news.
Hello, Ms. Fancy,
I am close friends with two other women, Mary and Sarah. We’ve known each other for years, we’ve travelled to foreign countries together, had countless drunken nights together, and spent a lot of time at each other’s homes.
Mary and her husband recently invited my boyfriend and me over for dinner, along with Sarah, her husband, and their baby. Sarah and her husband live in a town about 30 minutes away. Mary texted me asking if I could come, saying that they’d be providing dinner and could I bring either an appetizer or dessert. I brought dessert, and Sarah brought a nice spread of cheeses, meats, crackers, olives, peppers, etc, as well as a some nice beers.
A week later, Mary remarked to my boyfriend that Sarah had poor manners because she didn’t bring a hostess gift. I thought this to be extremely rude and unnecessary when Sarah had already been asked by Mary to bring a dish for the meal, and clearly spent a lot of money on it.
Talking-behind-your-friend’s-back-issues aside, when is it unnecessary to bring a host/hostess gift?
Not That Fancy
Dear Not That Fancy,
While the exact rules and regulations of hostess gifts are regional, your friend Mary is acting like a jerk regardless of where this little get-together took place. Hostess gifts aren’t usually exchanged between close friends, and they stop being obligatory once you’ve held someone’s hair back while she vomits.
The basic rules for hostess gifts are this: Yes for a casual get-together, no for a formal dinner, always for a housewarming or a weekend stay in someone else’s house. Pick something that might be of use during the soiree, like a drinkable/edible item, a pretty candles, flowers already in a vase, or some cute soaps. If you know their tastes and are confident in your own, you can opt for a book or record, but if you’re that confident about what they like, you’re probably a post-gift friend.
This dinner party entered Potlucklandia, making it marginally murkier. You were both asked to provide a course, which you did, fulfilling your obligation to not show up empty-handed to someone else’s home. Whichever way Mary interpreted her own invitation, Sarah was exhibiting Correct Behavior when she brought a cheese plate and some beers (as directed!). Unless she was territorial about sharing her beverages, she’s completely in the clear.
Laugh this one off if she brings it up again. Joke about how you’re wayyyyyyy past hostess gifts and well into “I listed you as my emergency contact on my health insurance” territory. Hopefully, she’ll take the cue and drop it.
Yours in Gentle Gift-Giving,