Mrs. McVeigh's Manners
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Prom Etiquette

 Going to the prom is often a high schooler student’s first experience of a real “date,” or at least a formal one.  There are some simple things that you can do to make it more comfortable for you and the person you go with.    If you are a guy, walk up to the front door to get your date.  This is something that you should do on any date, and on prom night parents especially expect this.  Texting or honking the horn from the car is not acceptable.  If you are with a big group and are picking people up, the group needs to wait patiently while you go into your date’s house and exchanges pleasantries with the parents.  If you are all friends, it is okay for the whole group can go with you, and hang in the background and wait to be invited inside.   Be sure to shake hands with her parents and introduce yourself if you have never met.  If you are the girl being picked up, don’t threaten to kill your mother when she whips out the camera or video recorder.  Your date will understand, because he probably has parents too.  As an added bonus guys, tell your date how great she looks, and how much you love her dress in front of her parents.  She and her mother have put a lot of time and money into the whole process, and need some reaffirmation that they have made the right choices.  Before you leave, be clear on what time the parents want her home, and what their expectations are of the evening.  They will appreciate you if you reassure them that their wishes will be fulfilled.  Parents worry about their children, and get especially uptight about big nights such as the prom. Open your date’s door when you go to the car, and help her get inside the car.  She probably has a complicated dress and high-heeled shoes, and will appreciate the assistance.  Girls, be sure to thank your date for doing so, and act appreciative.  He is making a big effort by doing this.  If you go to a restaurant before or after the dance, whoever did the asking is traditionally expected to pay.  Ladies, if you asked a guy to go with you, be prepared to pay for anything that comes up.  If your date offers, that is fine, let him pay.  If he does not, do not be mad or surprised.  When at the dance, pay attention to your date the whole evening.  Nothing is worse than someone standing there while his or her date is dancing or falling over someone else.  Gentlemen, make sure your date has something to eat or drink, or whatever is offered.  Offer to get it for her, and treat her like a queen.  If either of you rather be there with someone else, forget about it for the night, and pay attention to the person who you are on the date with.  You don’t have to go out with him or her again after prom night, but nothing is ruder than ignoring him or her, and lavishing your attention and focus on someone else.  As you end the evening, w ...

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Hand Written Notes Can be Cherished Forever

   Last summer I received a call from an SMU student.  She said she was taking a Journalism class, and wanted to interview me about my opinion on hand written notes.  I met her at the local coffee shop, and she explained that her assignment came from our culture becoming so technologically savvy.  A lot of people have replaced a hand written thank you note with an electronic one.  Society now thinks an email or text as a thank you is as good as writing the actual note on nice stationary, addressing an envelope, and putting it in the mail.  I always feel old- fashioned when speaking to college students about etiquette, so my answer is what you would expect. I told her that traditional etiquette dictates a hand written thank you note, and there are no exceptions.  An email instead of a phone call following a party to say “thank you and I had a good time” is fine.   Emailing someone to thank him for a birthday or wedding gift is not acceptable.  A traditional hand written note, sent by “snail mail” (as she put it), is still expected.  After I told her my thoughts, she took it a step further, and it really got me thinking about how hand written notes are still valued beyond those who follow the rules of etiquette.  Her example was a soldier overseas who gets excited when receiving mail.  Some soldiers have access to email, and can check it now and again, but the fact that they have an actual letter to hold on to means they can read it again and again.  I know I still get a twinge of excitement when I come home and see my mail has arrived.  You never know what your mailbox may hold – cards on your birthday or at Christmas, an invitation to a fun party, or a note thanking you for a gift that someone really loved and appreciated.  If I get excited about my mail, just think about how a soldier feels when he or she gets mail.  It is news from someone who is thinking about him, and how much they appreciate the sacrifices he is making for our country. After our meeting, my mind jumped to how I started journaling to my children when they were in the womb, and how I plan on giving them the journals after they are married.  My other thought behind the journals were in the horrible event that my children lose their mother at a young age, my husband would have something to give them, and they would be able to read over and over how special they were to me.   Typically I am not one to save a lot of notes and cards, but I do still have the first card my husband gave me on Valentines Day when we were dating.  It is a giant Garfield card, and he enclosed a hand written a note expressing his love and feelings for me.  I still love it when he leaves me cards or writes me emails about his feelings for me, but his email can be read by his employer at any time, so in emails we are careful what we say.  In a personal note you can say whatever you want, a ...

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No thank you notes for Grandma!

 Dear Mrs. McVeigh,

I may be old fashioned, but when I give a gift to my grandchildren, I expect a thank you note.  I never seem to receive one.  They are all elementary school aged, so maybe their mother (my daughter-on-law) does not think that they need to write them yet.  I would think she would at least write one on their behalf.  I have tried dropping hints to my son and daughter-in-law about it, but they do not seem to get them.  Are thank you notes old fashioned, or should I be mad about not receiving them?  I have thought about not giving my grandchildren gifts anymore, but why should I punish them? I blame their parents for not raising them correctly.

Mad Grandma


Dear Mad Grandma,

I agree with you that your grandchildren should write a thank you note to you for any type of gift that you give to them.  You are also correct to expect your daughter-in-law or son to write one on their behalf if they are too young to write yet.  As soon as my kids were old enough to sign their name, I would write the note, and have them write their name on the bottom.  They now write their own notes, and I just look them over, and make sure they make it to the mailbox.


As for dropping hints, how about giving your grandchildren a gift of personalized stationary for their next birthday?   When they ask you what they should use if for, you can sit down with them and give them an example of how to write a thank you note.  They could bring their new stationary to your house after their party, and you could help them write all of their notes for their gifts, and make it a fun project that you work on with them.

Disrespectful Child

 Dear Mrs. McVeigh,

My son has gotten an attitude when he speaks to me, and I can not find a punishment that will work for him.  I asked his teacher is he has been mouthing-off to her, and luckily she said no.  It just seems to be with me.  Do you have any suggestions on how to get him to stop being so rude and disrespectful to me? 

Upset Mother


Dear Upset Mother,

Next time your son says something inappropriate or uses a bad tone of voice with you, ask him if he would speak to his teacher, principal, spiritual leader, or coach that way.  When he says no, then ask him what he thinks his teacher would think about you letting her know how he speaks to you.  Tell him that you will tell his school principal (who he is probably intimidated by), that you are going to let her know about his rude attitude towards you.  I am sure he will get scared and stop it right away.  Just like calling Santa Claus when kids are not behaving when they are little, you can tell him that you will call someone who is an authority figure to him.  If the threat of a phone call or email does not work, then actually ask someone he looks up to, such as his coach or principal, to have a discussion with him about straightening up at home.



Stepmother Tries to Change Family Traditions

Dear Mrs. McVeigh,

My father has recently remarried, and his new wife is very pushy.  My dad, stepmother, siblings, grandparents, and my aunt’s family always get together at the holidays.  I am almost 30 years old, and the whole family likes the way we celebrate every holiday.  For example, at Christmas the kids rip open their presents, and then the adults would take turns opening theirs.  This is how we did it when I was little, and this is how we let our kids open gifts.  It is a little chaotic and crazy, but just how we do things.  My stepmother said she could not see all of the gifts, and wanted everyone to go slower and take turns.  Last week on Easter, she tried to change another one of our traditions of how we let the kids hunt eggs.  How should we tell her to nicely butt out and mind her own business?  We are all walking on egg shells and do not want to hurt her feelings, so she ends up getting her own way.  How should we politely tell her to leave things the way they are without upsetting my father?

Mad Stepchild


Dear Mad Stepchild,

Your stepmother should not be able to “take over” the holidays for your family, especially if the whole family is happy with the way things have been done.  I suggest speaking to your father about it first.  If he defends her, or is not helpful, then ask one of the older relatives to have a talk with her, or the person who has the best relationship with her.  If no one is willing to sit her down to discuss the situation with her, then agree to stick together, and do things the way that you always have.  If she tries to suggest doing it another way, keep on going, and nicely tell her that this is the way you are going to do it.  If she gets mad, then she will have to figure out how to get along with the whole family.  Be polite, but stick to your guns.


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