Dear Brunch Drunk,

How do you invite your spouse’s Anglican (American Anglican—I know you know what I mean) parents to your Thanksgiving [Editor’s change: Christmas] celebration, knowing they won’t come but wanting to extend the olive branch without making her mom cry?
Important detail: we have the same bits down there.

Cheers,
Daughter-in-all-but-law

It sounds to me like you have the easiest problem in the world! Sending out an invite when you know that the invited party won’t attend!? Simple. You’re extending an olive branch, not a hand to hold. So keep it simple and make sure you put in the least amount of effort without seeming like you don’t care. (And you don’t care, right?)

                                          

Let’s break it down, easy to hard. And by “easy” I mean least amount of physical effort, not awkwardness. In fact, I’d say there’s an inverse relationship between the two in this case.

Easiest: A phone call! Sure, things may be awkward with your “in-laws,” particularly since you’re a sinful lesbian and all. But a quick ring on the phone will show them that you care enough to try and patch up any ill feeling that lies between you. But watch out! People, especially awkward people, are much more likely to accept an invitation when you corner them in person (or on the phone). If you truly don’t want them to attend, why not go with…

Easier: An email! Nothing says “This is me extending a personal invitation to you… but not too personal. It only took me thirty seconds of my time. Now, back to scissoring with your daughter.” Parents love emails, because it makes them feel confident that, yes, they can do technology! And they also feel removed enough to answer you with a terse “No thanks, we’ll be Christmas-ing with our straight children this year.”

Hard: A written note. Granted, the fact that I’m writing this advice to you now means that any piece of mail won’t get to its intended recipient in time for you to write a note, anyway. But, hey! Maybe that’s exactly the point. Written notes are some of the last vestiges of old-school etiquette still (somewhat) in existence. Everyone likes to get written mail, especially old folks. The fact that you paid money— stamps are, what, fifty cents now? No wonder the Postal Service is going under… —shows that you care. And you even wrote out an invite by hand! Maybe you’re not the evil daughter-in-all-but-law that they thought you were. Again, this sort of courtship might actually get them to your house for Christmas. But if you’re confident they won’t attend, then this might be the most beautiful and polite olive branch of all.

In general, recognize that life requires a whole lot of diplomacy, particularly with those you find particularly icy. With enough smiles and politeness, you’ll win them over yet. And remember: babies always help.

I was recently attending a formal social occasion when an individual, who had the attention of the entire party, announced in all seriousness that his wife was a “vile vermin”. The group of individuals included a mish-mash of nerds and frat douche bags who, for their social awkwardness and misogynist leanings (respectively), burst out laughing at the comment. Later on, however, several individuals mentioned how upset they felt that this man had the balls to bad mouth his wife behind her back and in front of a hundred strangers.

I would like to know, generally, at what point you lose the privilege to call someone out for their social faux pas. If you had laughed awkwardly at first, should you only throw nasty criticisms back and forth with other bystanders, or can you still approach the individual in question and lambaste him.

Sincerely,
Another social neophyte

Unfortunately, my friend, it seems that you only seemed to register your disgust after the fact. You laughed, albeit awkwardly, at this gentleman’s nastiness towards his spouse, and are thus beyond reproaching him either to his face or with others. “Vile vermin,” indeed! (Side note: you clearly need to find better parties.)

One finds oneself in these types of situations all the time: someone dishes out a blatantly racist, homophobic, misogynist, misandrist (yes, it does exist!), or otherwise nasty quip and we all give an awkward laugh and pray that someone else calls them out on it. Of course, most people drop their political correctness at times, and (to quote that awful song) you can often “blame it on the alcohol.” It’s not that they suddenly transform from a good guy into a Holocaust denier, but merely say something that’s a bit too off-color for the social interaction at hand. For these slips from normally-pleasant behavior, we should all be forgiven, and such small offenses are unworthy of grandiose public shaming (what are you, a saint?). But if you’re the one laughing at such jokes, you also can’t be the one to turn around and act disgusted later on. Too late, too late.

The proper response is to give the merest hint of a smile, combined with a cocked eyebrow, that registers the fact that you’d rather not hear such clap-trap. Then, being the socially competent person you are, simply move the conversation in another direction, preferably one that doesn’t offend anyone. For example: “How about those Toronto Maple Leafs?”

Let’s look at some visuals.

Someone says something awful. Then,

.

VERY WRONG: Note the sheer delight at the expense of others. Shameful.

WRONG: Sure, this person may have said something flippant and offensive. But let’s not get carried away; you might be socially obligated to interact with them for the rest of the evening, or perhaps for years to come. (Hey, Uncle Steve!)

CORRECT: This is just the right amount of smirk that says “I know better than to give you the reaction you want. What you said is inappropriate, and I’m laughing at you, not with you. Now let’s talk about tax reform. Or how about those Toronto Maple Leafs?”

Can I use the handicapped stall in a public bathroom? These aren’t like the parking spaces, right? Also, I’ve never seen a handicapped person ever use one, and when the bathroom only has one stall, it’s necessarily designated as handicapped!

I’m no legal expert, but I’m fairly certain that you don’t need a permit to use a handicapped stall. Of course, this is also the slippery logic I use while rolling through those “stop signs” in shopping center parking lots. I mean, sure, they look like the real thing… but are they really?

                                 

                                                                  (This dinosaur mural stall is totally worth crashing.)

So much like this impostor signage, handicapped stalls can be used (in this writer’s opinion, anyway) at your discretion. As often happens in life, however, when you break the rules, you tend to break them hard and awkwardly. All’s well and good when you need to drive the fifty feet from your parking space at the Home Depot to one closer to Bed Bath & Beyond. [Editor’s note: Did you know that “Bed Bath & Beyond” contains no commas? I don’t know what a “bed bath” is, but it sounds warm and I would love to find out.] But when you roll through that faux stop sign put up by the store manager and hit an octogenarian purchasing power tools, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. And now you’re going to be awkwardly explaining yourself for hours instead of purchasing a new set of throw pillows and cupcake-scented candles.

Similarly, using the handicapped stall in a bathroom seems like a great idea:
1) It’s HUGE! You could fit an entire film crew in there to film some sort of Hitchcockian thriller set entirely in a bathroom stall. Maybe it could be called: “Handicapped.”
2) Sometimes you get your own sink! Who likes washing hands with others? No one.
3) Like having a larger house than your neighbor, there’s a smug feeling of satisfaction and entitlement that comes with stealing the handicapped stall and getting away with it.

Until, that is, you don’t. Turns out that that are actually handicapped individuals out there who have to use these facilities, you thieving ass. Would they prefer to use a regular stall like everyone else? I would assume so. And yet there you are, reveling in your stolen luxury. So when the nice man or woman in the wheelchair rolls up and attempts to enter the stall that rightfully belongs to them, you better have a witty excuse prepared to give when you waltz out of there on your own two legs.

But for all practical purposes (e.g., when the handicapped stall is the only stall available), it’s perfectly acceptable to use these facilities when you need to. Just remember that you do so at your own risk.

[Side note: Google image search “handicapped stall,” and you’ll find there are an inordinate number of photos of non-handicapped people in handicapped stalls. Like, just hanging out, party-pix style. Is this a meme I’m unaware of?]

[Also, does anyone else think those bathtubs with doors for old people that you can just step into are totally awesome? Who wants to bend down to bathe? Not me.]

[On a non-handicapped note, and since I’m now much more interested in the legality of rolling through signage on private property: click here.]

Dear Brunch Drunk,

Sperm donation. It’s something all family-minded lesbians come to at some point or another, and probably because they’re too poor for adoption and therefore also fancy anonymous Yale grads with great hair and decent jump shots. Jump shots, that’s a basketball thing, right? I’ll ask my lady.

The problem: Our top candidates are out. My brother was always definitely a no, as I’ll be carrying the resultant 12-fingered monstrosity, and now my lady’s best man, who is getting serious with my sister, seems to also be out. It’s just getting a little too Deliverance. We’d ask you, but I don’t want the baby to be cuter and smarter than me.

Where is the line? Who is close enough without being uncle-daddy close?

Cheers,
Two moms-to-be

I love the term “family-minded lesbians.” It almost differentiates between Glinda the Good Witch lesbians focused on bringing bundles of liberal joy into the world, and those Wicked Witch of the West ones who are out to destroy our nation’s social fabric by refusing to wear makeup. And for these “family-minded lesbians” (henceforth referred to as FMLs) who find the thought of having sex with a man (although, being gender-identity inclusive and blah blah blah, I really just mean someone with a sperm-producing penis) repulsive: Where does one go to alleviate insemination indigence? (That was a fun one to write.)

                                                              

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But don’t worry, we’ll be back soon enough with more etiquette advice. Keep those questions coming!

                                              

Q: Is there a right moment to ask your sex worker that you want to move from a “professional” to a “personal” relationship?

A: A right moment? Well, certainly not while your sex worker is servicing you, that’s for sure.

                                                               

But I see what you mean. Several days ago we discussed the etiquette of informing your sexual partners that you don’t really care for them as people but, hey, let’s keep boning anyway!

What about the opposite? What if you’re looking to take your sex to a more personal level? One that involves a date before oral sex.

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Continuing our downward spiral to the outer, dirtiest reaches of etiquette!

Q: Hair and Manscaping: Is a man supposed to trim it down or get rid of it all or do nothing? It is expected of women to expunge their body hair - what is the expectation for the modern man? Should we be looking like Robin Williams?

A: Remember the good old days when men were men, and women were women? Burt Reynolds looked totally foxy in his man-hair-bodysuit (hirsute? har har) in Playgirl, and Hugh Hefner gleefully ran his hands through his Bunnies’ pubic hair every evening (or so we imagine).

                                      

But have you seen the state of body hair these days? I had no idea women (and more to the point, gay men) liked sleeping with pre-pubescent boys.

                                               

Magazines and blogs have covered this issue extensively for both men and women, so let’s take a look at body hair from a perspective of pure politeness.

Too much body hair can be distracting, much like an awkward piece of food on one’s face, visible genitalia through clothing, or individuals who say “irregardless.” When you’re on a boat with a group of people, the last thing you want to take your attention away from scenery is a bunch of fluttering nipple hair. (Especially on women.) And imagine one’s horror to reveal that this same state of disorder continues below the belt! Like a terribly unkempt golf course overgrown with weeds, who would want to play there!? Ask any man or woman without a hair fetish, and they’ll agree: things are better when kept trimmed.

You clean your house before having guests over, don’t you? It’s impolite to invite someone to your privates without tidying up first.

But wait a minute, Sweeney Todd! Put down that razor! Do you remember going through puberty? Remember how terrible it was? The several years of awkward acne, awkward smells, and awkward feelings? Only a few good things came from that experience: a lower voice, expanded body parts, and some hot new body hair. Think of pubic hair as your battle scars, and the primary characteristic that distinguishes you from Justin Bieber and… whoever Justin Bieber’s female equivalent is. (Probably still Justin Bieber.) Life is about moderation, ladies and gents, and there’s no need to endure painful razor burn just so you can look like a twelve-year old. Ladies, wax (just a bit!) if you’d like, or do like the men and trim up your length when necessary. Anything else is just wrong.