Modern Manners + Etiquette: Party Time Greeting + Thanking
Monday, July 11, 2011
One local, very social C.E.O. asked, “If I were a man, women wouldn't be greeting me with a kiss. So why do men I work with think they have to kiss me when they see me socially at parties? I, for one, don't think it's appropriate, but I don't know how to tell them not to kiss me. Without sounding like a stonecold bitch, how do I say, 'Don't kiss me!'? I've worked hard to get to where I am, and I didn't sleep with anybody to get there.”
With children, grownups have the happy high-five greeting where the only bodily contact is a slap of palms. “Take control of the greeting,” I answer: It's a woman's prerogative, she decides if she wants to touch or not. A man waits for the woman to extend warmth. The women holds the lead, if she extends her hand with grace for a quick shake, she is making a statement. Recently, I heard one popular guest say, “It's too hot to kiss, the trouble is,” she added, “everyone has sweaty palms at this time of year.”
When you see him/her headed in your direction, make a slight pendulum wave of your hand from side-to-side, after raising it to shoulder level, that signals, “Hi, nice to see you.” Your hand is now between your body and the approaching scratchy, sun-scorched, sweaty cheek, or the blazing, pursed, glossed lips. To show gentle warmth toward the person, blowing an air kiss will stave off a sloppy kiss. Needless to say, if they're suddenly up close and
Control the greeting
So, women, whether you've just walked off the tennis court from a two-hour game or you're showing off your new, snappy cocktail dress, be discriminating about who's allowed to plant a kiss. Don't allow men to show off their bravado by using you. Put your palm up in front of you, like Queen Elizabeth, and either discretely wave, or shake their hand briefly. Check his facial expression. If he seems surprised at being rejected, and you detect that sad puppy-dog look, then gently clasp your left hand over his right hand, continuing a slow shake and express with words whatever sympathy, condolence, or affirmation you think he's yearning to find. They're either kissing you on a hot steamy night because they think they have to, or they need a bit of nurturing. If he really wants to have sex with you, he'll do more than just give you a peck on the cheek.
Getting a grip on handshaking
Look around at your savviest friends and watch their greet style. One famous tycoon bachelor I know, approaches with his right hand extended and states his name. He knows I know his name, he's introduced himself to me in that same manner dozens of times, he's often entertained in my home, but that's how he puts a stamp on his greeting. He makes it clear that he's not a social kisser, he doesn't want just any woman's hot pink lipstick tattooed on his check; he controls how close you get to him. No man is going to get to hug him, no woman is going to kiss him, but shake his hand you will. He's got style, he's got charisma, as well as great warmth, but he doesn't have to plant a kiss to prove it.
Thanking the host
The second most frequently asked question is about thanking the host. Do you have to call to thank the host the next morning after the party, because you really don't want to get stuck having to make small talk with her/him again quite so soon? If I call the next day, do I have to write a thank-you note or send something? I haven't sent anything and three weeks have passed. What do I do?
Just the way you answer a phone call with a phone call, an email with an email, a handwritten letter with a letter, in order to sustain the relationship it's assumed you'll reciprocate with a return invitation. If you can't reciprocate right away, a strong friendship implies that over the course of time you will. The social amenities have a way of evening out. At any rate, a really good guest greets the host/s when s/he arrives and thanks them when leaving. That's why you go to the party: to make contact, to reconnect with the hosts and connect with their circle of friends. Having to greet and then thank reinforces the connection. Don't sneak out without saying thanks because you might not get asked back, and the host is a valued connector. Good hosts are connectors and will introduce you around, especially if you let on that you're looking to be introduced.
Yes, I'm sorry, but every good guest calls the next day to say thanks. Most hosts let their voicemail take these messages because they don't require a call back. In other words, you don't thank someone for thanking you. If the invitation was for more than just drinks, you can write a brief, snappy note either via email or longhand to refresh in the host's mind that you appreciate having been included. For fundraisers, charity benefits, and other agenda-ridden parties, you don't need to thank the host because, presumably, just your showing up to meet the candidate or new principal, rector, etc., or to honor the honoree, was your only obligation.
But we're not talking business here, we're talking jazzy nights under the stars eating grilled local produce from the sea and local farms, and if we're really lucky, having a dance or two. Being a good guest by circulating and introducing yourself around is a key to being asked back. There are some jolly guests who are so good at being generous guests, that their hosts don't even care that they don't call the next day: they saw them adding good cheer and having fun introducing not only themselves but the person next to them to the person next to her and him.
Do you have to send a gift? Only if the party was in your honor. But then, you would most likely have sent a huge bouquet of fresh flowers the day before. If you're not the honoree but you really want to be asked again, send a book of interest to them (not you). But the best reciprocation of all is to return the invitation. If you know you won't be extending a return invite in the near future, within a month send a brief, heartfelt thank-you note reminding the host of at least one interesting fact about the evening. As long as your voice is authentic, that tone will give depth to your expression of appreciation.
Didi Lorillard finds the task of writing thank-you notes excruciatingly painful and mostly never calls the next day. However, she's striving to be a better guest. For more of her musing, view Didi's Web site, NewportManners.com, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but only after you've read her GoLocalProv columns listed below.
- Modern Manners + Etiquette: Sharing Household Chores
- Modern Manners + Etiquette: Talking About STDs + HIV
- Modern Manners + Etiquette: Reconnecting Lovers
- Modern Manners + Etiquette: Talking About Death and Loss
- Modern Manners + Etiquette: Unwanted Internet Advances