A three-year-old’s manners; An ill friend; Difficult guests

Q.  Is my three-year-old too young to be expected to shake hands when meeting someone?   A.  She is a little young to understand this on her own, but since many adults do expect it, you can help her become comfortable with the gesture. Because this is a skill that comes with repeated ...

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Introductions; Airplane bins; Baby gifts

Q.  I’m in my 40s and in a committed relationship with a woman, also in her 40s. How do I refer to her when introducing her? “Girlfriend” just seems ridiculous at our ages.   A.  You do not need to identify people by title, occupation or relationship when you introduce them. Simply say her ...

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Holiday questions and answers

Q.  I just started a new job and don’t know what to do about office gifts for the holidays. Should I give everyone gifts, or what?   A.  You have two choices. The first is to do nothing and see what the office holiday culture is so you know for next year. It would be... Read More

Reciprocation; Introductions; Exiting a conversation

Q.  I’ve been invited to a cookie exchange. How does this work?   A.  Guests are invited to bake and take to the party a prescribed number of cookies, usually at least three dozen, arranged on a plate. They are put on a table or counter. When the hostess suggests it’s time, guests take ...

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Bringing and retrieving dishes; Bouncing gifts; Delicate subjects

Q.  Friends have invited us for Thanksgiving dinner. Of course I will contribute to the meal, but don’t know how to get my serving dishes back without just picking them up when we depart. I would want to leave any leftovers with them. How do I do this?   A.  The most graceful way ...

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Dividing wedding expenses; Gifts for hospital visits?

Q.  How are wedding expenses divided up these days?  If the groom’s family makes no offer of assistance to the bride’s family, is it ok to bring up the subject?     A.  The “tradition” of the bride’s parents bearing all of the costs of a wedding is no more. Approaching the subject of ...

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A winter test in Devil’s Den

Sinking sun on fresh snow on the Hiltebeitel Trail, Devil's Den. —Rob McWilliams

It was 30 degrees below freezing, not counting wind chill. A moaning north wind was making the top branches of the woods dance against a gray sky. I climbed over boulders covered in four inches of fresh snow, trying not to step into the now hidden gaps between them. I looked up to the top... ...

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