Culture

Dear HEAVE: Advice on manners, social situations and whether it’s warm enough for you to reasonably undo that top button.

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Let’s face it, your mother was right: You have problems; you have so many, many problems. We have a website. By the Rules Of The Internet, we are qualified to fix your problems and offer advice.

And go:

Q: Last week, a good friend ask me to sub as a last minute date to a wedding she was attending. I did not know the couple getting married, but my friend is close with them. I said yes, brought a nice congratulatory card for the lucky couple, and had a great time, despite the terrible food. A few days after the wedding, my friend confessed that she was angry that I did not offer to chip-in for the gift she brought. I think it’s ridiculous to help pay for a gift when I was only at the wedding as a favor. Have I done something rude?

I might as well change the name of this column to “Dear George Costanza,” because 1) I would make an excellent short, stocky, socially-awkward bald man, 2) no way wine is better than Pepsi, and 3) I agree with George’s frequently-voiced complaint about the socially-mandated obligation to bring something — anything — to any communal function that isn’t a funeral or an orgy. Just try to visit a friend without a carefully selected Hallmark card or an artisanal cheese platter; you’ll be shunned from respectable company and forced back to the wooded Appalachian mountain shack you surely came from.

So in one sense, I can see why you’d balk at the idea of buying or contributing to an expensive gift for people who amount to strangers, especially when it feels like your friend only asked you to be her date to help defray some of her costs for the present. You say that your friend needed you as a last minute “sub,” implying she was originally planning to attend with someone else. If she purchased the gift along with this other person, then I think they owe her the money, not you. If she planned to give the present individually, then she should have been prepared to eat the costs involved in that. But there’s another factor you should consider: Weddings are very, very expensive parties.

Yes, the participants choose to spend the money to have the wedding. And yes, weddings themselves can range from beautiful and fun to oppressively orchestrated and long. Nonetheless, the bottom line is that someone went to an effort and an expense to coordinate the wedding. The food was ordered, the DJ was paid, the venue was booked; whether you know them well or not, I think the expectation is that you bring at least a small gift. You weren’t rude to your friend, but you just might have been unintentionally rude to the couple getting married.

To help you out, here’s my Official List of Acceptable Small Gifts for Weddings of People You Barely Know:

1. Orange Tic Tacs:


But orange is the only acceptable flavor. If you show up with Spearmint Tic Tacs, expect someone to spit on you.

2. Kidz Bop 22:

Nothing encourages marital consummation like a group of preteen kids shrilly singing Nicki Manaj songs.

…That’s it. Just those two things. If you can’t even get your hands on some Tic Tacs before a wedding, you don’t get to be a part of this society.

Q: My work environment is very liberal, and my coworkers are all fellow women. A couple weeks back I wore a low-cut shirt to go into the office on a Friday. My roommate says she would be fired or reprimanded for wearing revealing clothing to her office (she’s a business administrator). I tried to explain that many of my coworkers wear casual clothing, but my roommate insists that it is never appropriate to look casual or sexy at a job. Please back me up here.

Exactly how liberal is your office, and how much cleavage are you showing? Are we talking Rita Hayworth liberal, or Raquel Welch in a sheer bikini liberal? (Note: Those are the only two categories of liberal cleavage that I will acknowledge). You’re mistaken in thinking that the gender makeup of the office matters — if it’s inappropriate around an office of men and women, then it’s also probably inappropriate in an office of mostly one or the other. That said, you know the atmosphere of your work environment better than anyone else, and if you feel you’ve done nothing wrong — and you’ve had no complaints — then you are probably correct. Not every office is the same, so your roommate is overreaching.

But maybe you are too. I have two general rules about fashion: 1) You should always let someone know when they look fantastic, because style takes effort, and someone should damn well notice it. 2) Dress for whatever increases your confidence. I like to teach in sharp shoes and a tapered oxford shirt because it makes me feel put together. Outside of work, I like dark jeans and a white t-shirt, because it is simple and masculine. If showing off your assets puts you in the right frame of mind for work, so be it.

Q: Is it fair to ask someone to lock up their cat for a few hours when I visit? I have bad allergies, but sometimes people look at me like I’ve requested something deeply offensive.

Cats outnumber humans in my apartment 3-2, and they are slowly gaining all the power. Anything you can do to knock cats down a few pegs is fine in my book. And asking a friend to put the cat in a bedroom for a few hours so you can enjoy the party without itchy eyes isn’t exactly Sophie’s Choice.