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Newport Manners + Etiquette: Handling Rude Flight Attendants + More

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


When flight attendants don't treat you with respect, how should you deal with that? Didi has the answer.

Post-holiday blues, lingering memories of the Newtown shootings, a tech-savvy ex-wife drives her kids' father crazy, and short people etiquette were all topics of concern at Didi Lorillard's Newport Manners this season. A stamp of approval for a fiancée's thank-you note to her future in-laws—should it be emailed or handwritten?

Dear Didi,

I'm wondering if you could maybe tell us how to talk to our children about Newtown.  J.F., Providence

Dear J.F.,

If a child no younger than seven brings it up, find out what they know. Then ask what he or she wants to know. Answer questions gently. Don't over dramatize the tragedy. Parental behavior affects children when parents react by seeming anxious themselves when talking about a tragedy. Nevertheless, you don't want to encourage the child to replay the shootings in his mind, which he could well do the longer the images stick.

It's important to dispel any rumors the child may have heard. For instance, there was only one gunman, despite the fact two were initially reported. It was also not true that the gunman's mother was a teacher at the school. Let the child take the lead with questions. Stick to the facts. Be honest, but only share as much information as the young person can handle. If he or she seems frightened, get to the root of the fear. The child may be worried that their classroom is no longer safe and wonder how they would escape from their own classroom if a shooter appeared. Keep to your normal routine for comforting structure. Try to spend as much extra time as possible with your kids, especially at bedtime. Encourage your children to be thankful for their family. Gently remind them that the world is a truly wonderful place, even though once in a great while people do very bad things.  ~Didi


Dear Didi, 

My ex-wife is driving me crazy. We have joint custody of two teenagers, but she has primary physical custody because I travel. My problem is I follow all the details of our agreement and she doesn't. It stipulates that we make ourselves available a couple of hours a day to talk to each other, which I respect, but she's never available. When she is, she'll only text. I pay for my kids' cellphones so I can keep tabs on them. My ex and I started out doing fine because we talked. Now, for example, she'll text that she can't pick the boys up because she forgot it was her holiday office party night, so I have to change my plans; or she needs money transferred into her account for their class trip just as I'm going into a meeting. I married a charming and articulate woman who now defines life in terms of abbreviations, dates, times, dollar signs; I feel lucky if I get a happy emoticon. I fear my boys are being short-changed.  H.P., Dover, MA

Dear H.P.,

Whether your negotiations and plans are made through texts or email, you've got a permanent, time-dated record. If you feel your former-wife is being too curt with you—and possibly with your boys as well—initiate a tracking system specifically designed to monitor both parents' behavior by using a website tool such as Our Family Wizard that has a cellphone app for divorced parents. That way you can both see who's doing what when. Then let your lawyers evaluate both of your parenting skills.  ~Didi


Dear Didi,

I've been putting off thanking my future in-laws for having me come with their son for Christmas outside of Boston for the holidays, because I'm not sure if I can just email them or would it be better to send a thank-you card? I'm ashamed of my handwriting. They are totally proper people and I want to fit in but also be myself. What should I do?  A.B., Manhattan

Dear A.B.,

Most people will tell you that they are 'ashamed' of their handwriting. That's no excuse. Furthermore, according to the Wall Street Journal, in the past year the sales of fountain pens and social stationery has gone up 70%, so people must still be writing thank-you notes, and probably more than ever. Buy a box of plain or colored notecards—devoid of too much decoration—and use your best pen. The stationery doesn't have to have your monogram and the pen doesn't have to be a fountain pen. In return for their lovely invitation and gracious hospitality, write a heartfelt thank-you note. No matter how seemingly painless the holidays may have seemed to you at the time, a lot of planning and work went into hosting you. Be sincere and specific about what exactly you're thanking them for and you'll be asked back again.  ~Didi


Dear Didi,

Is it rude not to say hi or bye or make eye contact with the flight crew when you board or leave the aircraft? (Or would they think I'm conceited, rude, or odd, which I'm really not.) Anyway, I had a bad experience. I took a flight and I could have sworn that while I was exiting the plane the pilot mumbled behind my back calling me a midget and the flight attendants laughed. I guess I am extremely sensitive and thin skinned. I guess I have low self-esteem being a 43-year-old male who is 4 foot 9. Perhaps, I should go by the saying one bad apple doesn't spoil the whole bushel. A response will be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Albert, Chicago

Dear Albert,

Well, you must be used to this by now. You know you can't feel bad about it since you've been going through these feelings for at least thirty years. Life is never perfect. You have to go beyond it. Take the high road—no pun intended—and greet those overworked flight attendants with a smile. It's all in how you present yourself. After all, you're the customer.  ~Didi

Didi Lorillard researches shifting etiquette at NewportManners.com by answering questions on relationship dilemmas, codes of behavior, wedding etiquette, business etiquette, entertaining, dress codes and manners. Or find Didi on Facebook,TwitterLinkedIn, or Pinterest after reading her earlier GoLocalProv.com columns, some of which are listed below.



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