Random Questions, Vol. 5, Issue 6

February 19th, 2006 . by Etiquetteer


Dear Etiquetteer:I may be one of the few people in the country under 40 who has never belonged to a gym, so the whole gym culture is a bit of a mystery to me. However, I recently moved into a condo building with a nicely equipped fitness room in the basement and am trying to turn over a new leaf with morning visits to use the equipment. The room includes a television, and I’ve noticed that it’s usually tuned to news programs. Is this required viewing while working out? On a couple of occasions when I’ve been in the room alone, I’ve taken charge of the remote and turned on some lighter fare, like reruns of “The Nanny.” But I always feel awkward when someone comes in and I offer to turn the TV back to the news. The response is always very nice and people don’t usually seem to mind, but am I breaking some unwritten code of the gym? Is there an acceptable range of appropriate gym viewing, somewhere between Teletubbies and soft porn? And are there any other rules I should know about?Dear Viewed and Viewing:You don’t need to feel guilty about watching “The Nanny” during your workout (though of course Etiquetteer would prefer reruns of “Upstairs Downstairs”). You don’t even need to offer to change channels when others show up in the workout room, though that is courteous. While Etiquetteer suspects that audiovisual programming is handled by the staff at large gyms, in your condo complex folks should be free to ask to change the channel . . . and not be offended if they’re turned down.

Dear Etiquetteer:I just got an invitation to a rehearsal dinner with “evening casual” on it. What on earth does that mean? Can I wear black?Dear Invited:Once upon a time this used to be so easy. Etiquetteer still remembers when everyone understood that “Informal” meant suits and ties for the gentlemen and appropriate dresses for the ladies. Alas the day, everybody’s aggressive embrace of the casual has made getting dressed much more complicated.Etiquetteer imagines that “evening casual” means a blazer but no denim or khaki and no neckties for the men. Ladies could wear something shiny or sequinned that didn’t look too dressy. For instance, a silk mandarin jacket or a shiny silk blouse over slacks might do.As for black, Etiquetteer doesn’t understand why everyone’s so fond of it when there are more beautiful colors in the world. For a rehearsal dinner black should be fine, just don’t wear it to the wedding!

Dear Etiquetteer:I need some etiquette advice, the subject: responding to condolence cards. My father passed away two weeks ago. What’s proper as far as how soon I must respond to cards and notices of donations in Dad’s name? Surely they can’t expect someone in the midst of all there is to handle with someone’s passing to write back quickly . . . but then again, it IS the Deep South. Is something short like “Thank you so much for your kind donation in Dad’s name. I know he would have appreciated it” enough? That seems kind of abrupt.Dear Bereaved:Permit Etiquetteer to offer condolences at this difficult time.So, what’s Perfectly Proper under the circumstances? Respond to those cards and letters now; don’t put it off, or it will become an impossible burden to you later, and Etiquetteer knows from experience, too. Even if you only decide to do a limited number a day — say five or six — you’ll eventually get to the last one. Are you the only person able to write them? Draft other family members to assist who can respond for all of you. And don’t forget that your response may bevery short, even only one sentence, e.g. “Thank you for thinking of us,” “God bless you for your beautiful note about Dad,” or some such. But don’t delay. It may seem insurmountable now, but Etiquetteer promises you the notes won’t be answered later.

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