Home Advice Adulthood, Maturity, and Etiquette: What Your Mother Never Told You About How to Behave

Adulthood, Maturity, and Etiquette: What Your Mother Never Told You About How to Behave

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There's always that person who fills their champagne glass up to the brim in a crowded room. *Rolls Eyes*

I’ve got tons of friends, but contrary to the way others might approach their friends, I manage my friends with expectations.  Some people use categories such as; associates, acquaintances, homies, friends, or whatever other terms they develop to explain their relationship with a person, but I use expectations.  For this very reason, there are many times that someone will tell me how someone behaved in a situation and I’ll say, “I can’t raise another man, but I’m pretty sure many of them in our networks do not know how to act.”

There are times when you’ll be called upon to attend certain events that you should have coaching on how to behave.  Your mother probably thought she did a great job raising you, but she probably never took the time to finish off the task once you turned 21.  Here’s where you need to be in the company of greatness in order to be your best.  These are some events that many of us will have to attend but need a little coaching to be our best.

Housewarmings 

Some of us look at housewarmings as a time to furnish our house, this is the worst possible way to approach this event.  Others attend housewarmings and never understand the significance of our attendance at these events.  For those who attend housewarmings realize the importance and what’s really going on here, a person is inviting you to their house to turn a purchase into a home.  Focus on that.  It’s not a time to make an appearance and show off yourself, but to commune at a friend’s or family member’s new purchase to turn it into a home.

For those who are throwing a housewarming, it’s not a time to freeload.  Let’s skip the jargon, and move to the meat of the matter.  If you are throwing a housewarming, this is your time to show off your house.  The correct way to hold a housewarming is to provide food and beverages, and you do not have the housewarming until your house is ready to be seen.  You should have decorated and completed every room before you throw the housewarming.  When people walk into your home, they should not be completing your bar or kitchen, or collection of art.  All of those things should be completed before throwing the housewarming.  Yes, a housewarming is expensive, but it is the transition from a house to a home.  Make sure you do this right.

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Weddings 

When you invite someone to, or are asked to attend someone’s wedding it means something important.  For the people who attend your wedding, they are witnesses to the vows you take before God and Family as you embark on a journey for life.  Weddings aren’t a time to throw a party, they are a time to exchange vows.  If someone invites you to their wedding, they are telling you that they want you to be a part of this journey in their life.

The wedding reception is not a time to “hit the open bar” or “make a scene on the dance floor.”  First and foremost, you need to bring a gift.  Your gift should at a minimum cover the cost of your party’s plate.  But in order to make the right gift, it takes more.  Here’s what your gift means, “This is my gift to you, to encourage you to have the best marriage possible.”  A cash donation is totally fine, but make it mean something.  The cash donation is saying to the newlyweds, “Here’s something to help you make it.”  Moreover than the gift, there is how you should behave at a reception.  The program is important because the newlyweds and their wedding party would like to do and say the things that are the foundation of their marriage.  Pay attention to the program, don’t talk during toasts and don’t miss a toast because you want to get another drink.  And never spend time complaining or comparing this reception to another.

The Birth of a Child 

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The birth of a child is a significant event in anyone’s life.  Many of us hope to live forever, but we only have one life to live.  The birth of a child is a blessing from God, given to us to enjoy and celebrate.  Therefore, when you are asked to witness the birth of a child, you should understand the importance and choose your actions carefully.  If this is a close friend of yours, you should be there at the hospital or at the home if a homebirth is chosen.  Be a voice of encouragement and also of joy, trust me both parents will need it.

The Christening or selection of Godparents is another event that many of us totally miss.  A Christening is much like a wedding, the people that you ask to be there are witnesses to vows.  They are there because you have deemed them fitting of being there as you go to God to ask for his blessing and guidance throughout the life of this child.

This next part, I want to be very clear about, the godparents that you select for your child are to be companions in the success of this life, but they must understand and be capable of completing the task if the parents are not.  You don’t pick a godparent for your child because they are your close friend and it would be “cool.”  You pick a godparent because you want them to be an integral part of your child’s life and they have the capability of raising them in your absence.  And if you are selected as a godparent, if you truly feel that you cannot fulfill the responsibility, respectfully decline.

Significant Life Changing Parties 

Over the years, there are birthdays, new jobs, reflection moments and retirements.  To get the most important piece of advice about parties out the way first, remember this, if you can’t afford to throw the party, don’t throw the party.  Nothing irks me more than when someone throws a party and requires that others finance the party.  I’ve thrown a successful barbecue every year, I have NEVER asked anyone to bring a thing.  I keep the company of friends who don’t show up empty handed, but even if you don’t, take that into consideration.  Many of us provide the stage, but don’t finance the show.

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When someone asks that you attend an event of significance, you should make it a point to be there.  Hopefully, your friends won’t require your attendance at every checkpoint, but only at landmarks.  For me, I think that birthday celebrations should happen in the following; 18, 21, 25, 30, 40, and then 50.  They go on from there, but those are the intervals for which you make it a big deal for your friends and family to be there.  When you take a new job or you retire, your friends should be there.  You put a lot into those ventures and your contributions should be rewarded not by only your coworkers, but those who have been soundboards for your many vents and frustrations.

There you have it.  Of course, this is just a sampling, I don’t have all the time to upload all my thoughts on behaving the right way under important circumstances.  I want to add that I’ve picked much of this up from reading books that aren’t targeted towards a particular race or gender, those would only yield a certain type of result.  I also have mentors and friends in my network who have been in rooms that I may not have been in before.  It costs nothing to pick up the phone and call them to ask for a minute of advice, in fact, it can be your most prudent decision.  I’m interested to hear your thoughts, maybe a personal story, or even recommendations for other events where you have been witness to malfeasance.  Cheers.

– Dr. J 

“Maybe i’m just different.”

Comment(57)

  1. "When someone asks that you attend an event of significance, you should make it a point to be there. "

    Very aptly put, Mr J. I agree completely. When I purchased my home this past year, I invited those people that were important to me (either currently, or had been an important part of my life, thereby leading to this eventual purchase). A friendship that I had considered to be very close suffered from the fact that not only did my friend not come to my housewarming, she didn't think to inform me that she'd decided to go run some errands in Queens (we're from Westchester, NY) instead. She simply didn't show up. That was difficult to forgive.

  2. The wedding- other than the reception part ( to me a reception is a party have fun) please don’t invite extra people to my wedding. If your invite says too ppl don’t call me asking can you bring a third the newer is no. Also if my invite says no kids find a babysitter for your children or respectfully decline my invite. Also don’t try to eat all the H’orderves from the other guest I promise I will feed I a full meal once you are seated.

    Children’s birthday parties – if I have a birthday party for my child please be to the event location on time and vice versa if you are throwing a party for your child please be there early to greet your guest. Also if I have a venue from a set time to a set time ( unless stated in the invite) do not just drop off your kids and disappear. If the party is from 3 to 5 be there at 445 waiti to pick your child up.

  3. So nicely written Dr. J! I truly believe that these are the standards to work towards(and I say that because I've shown up to weddings without a gift before *shame*). Thanks for throwing them out there.

    I recently read an article on Clutch where a lot of people sort of berated(actually attacked is more like it :D) the writer for writing about certain behavioral adjustments that people could make in order to avoid raised brows in public. I didn't quite get it because I think no one's ever quite perfect in every setting – a change or two here and there is how we develop into well rounded, well-mannered people. On the other hand, I think perhaps her approach wasn't quite as nice as yours 😀
    My recent post Speaking of…

  4. One very important one you forgot Dr. J is work related events….like Christmas parties, Office parties, after work parties and any get together's (formal and/or unformal) your co-workers and/or supervisor invites you too.
    Definitely ALWAYS be on your best behavior at those because they definitely do affect your job.
    I used to work with a woman who always drank too much at office parties and events. She was talked about afterwords and even though she was with the company for well over 10 years she was one of the first people layed off. A friend of mine told me that her aunts company paid for a business/casual trip to Aruba for a few top level executive employees. Everyone that drank too much and spent excessive amounts of money (on the company's tab) was let go as soon as they got back to the states.
    So no matter what type of company party it is and who your with my advice is to Never party and act like you would with your homies or your girls…..don't act too stiff though either. Just follow what everyone else says and does and do that.

    1. Work parties are definitely a place where you must behave, your date/friend must behave, but at the same time it is a time where you can come out your shell a little bit.

    2. at my christmas party this past year everyone kept asking me why i wasn't drinking. i'm good. this may be a relaxed environment but i'm still with co-workers. plus i'm the only black person? nope i'm good. i'll party for real with my friends.
      My recent post A Revolutionary Act

      1. Only thing I would say is don't be an oddball. If there is an open bar and everyone else is drinking, really consider how that works out for you. The person who is not drinking, people think they are a square, or alcoholic. There are ways to be a social drinker. If not, and you really don't want to drink, try Red Bull & Cranberry. Picked that up from Ochocinco. In order to avoid people buying him drinks, he just drinks that, tastes pretty good and everyone thinks you're drinking anyway.

    3. Everyone's work situation is different. You never know. My company is perfectly fine with people getting WASTED as long as they show up for work the next day. People have been known to have $200 bar tabs and need to be helped to their rooms. There are other jobs where people will judge you for ever having a drink. You have to find the healthy balance appropriate for your job.

      1. Yeah. I've always worked in loose environments with alcohol-related events several times a month. Then there'd be light joking about people getting a little too twisted at the party the next day. Luckily for me, it's always been WORK HARD; PLAY HARD.

        I'm not much of a drinker, but I've gotten a little too tipsy before, mainly because I'm a lightweight. Luckily I'm not an inappropriate sharer when I'm inebriated. I can't say the same for some of my co-workers. I've been victim of inappropriate touching (people touching my body art without permission) at work events, been seriously hit on (like, "PLEASE come to my hotel room."), and heard about very private marriage/sex issues, all at work events.

        As long as you show up for work the next day and haven't physically assaulted someone or caused SIGNIFICANT property damage, it all seems to be good at my jobs.

  5. I really like this post- it's a nice addition to the site and a well appreciated break from relationship topics!

    I don't quite agree with the housewarming advice. I think housewarmings should be thrown relatively soon after the house is bought, and I think it can take a couple years to really, seriously have your house "furnished and finished" if you're buying quality furnishings. I agree you should not be expecting to furnish your home with gifts from the guests, though.
    My recent post 30 Day Dating Challenge: Week 1

    1. See I'm on the fence about the housewarming thing. I do think it should be quite soon after you move in but I don't want to invite my friends over to an undecorated/unfurnished house. My friend was trying to talk me into having one. This was before we bought our couches and she was telling me I could just rent some folding chairs and tables. I don't think that's the best way to showcase your new house though. On the other hand, it's going to take some time before I can have the house completely decorated so I feel like if it takes too long, I'll just have to forfeit my housewarming party. Plus, this is a brand new house so now that it's settling there are cracks and nail pops. The company is coming to fix that after the first year is up so things will look right again but a year later seems too late to me.

        1. I think the rule is supposed to be within ninety days. Honestly, anything longer than sixty days is too long to me. The house ain't new no mo! Our babysitter built her house four years ago and recently she said I still haven't had my housewarming. I'm like you too late boo.

      1. I'm with Chunk on this one – some of the best advice I got from the older folks when we bought our house was to not rush the furniture/decorations. The housewarming is not meant to "show off" your fully decorated home – it's for y'all to celebrate the fact that you managed to buy a house! Take that first year to get acquainted with the bills of the house, they change from season to season. We had our housewarming in the spring, borrowed some chairs and tables from my mom and had a backyard bbq. A nice day outside can really cut the costs. Also, YES your close friends and fam should certainly chip in – I know we've been circulating the same 10 chafing racks, set of lawn chairs and big tubs for ice and soda for years.

        1. I've never actually been to a housewarming party but I know it's more to celebrate the fact that you got a new home and not really about showing it off but I'd still want to give the best first impression of it that I can. That's why it's important to me to decorate and furnish first. I do know that some people like to bring gifts for the housewarming but all I can imagine is boxes and boxes of tupperware. There are some higher end stores that allow you to register for it but I have a hard time asking folks for things. *shrug* Besides I'm not fresh out of my parent's house either so how much stuff should I still need?

        2. My vote is the same – girl gone and have your party, you can "decorate" with some stuff from the party store.

    2. Here's what I think, I wouldn't move into my home until it was ready. Of course, if you're like, "I still want to redo this bathroom and we're probably going to remodel the kitchen" that's fine. But, when I say ready, i'm saying, if you don't have a couch in your house, or a dining room table, etc. That's just stuff that you should be ready to purchase when you purchase your house. You have people who buy an empty house and then piece by piece it into place. That's just not how I would do it.

  6. And RSVP. Do not RSVP for a rack of people either. If the invitation has 'Your Name and Guest' do not RSVP for five people. I'm not sure why folks don't get that RSVP's are need by a certain date to 1) make sure there is enough seating 2) make sure there's enough food. Tack-head folks who've never hosted anything are the first ones to NOT RSVP and show up with extra people. I have managed to deal with this by not inviting them to other things. Oh and even worse than not RSVPing to events where paper invitations are involved is the laziness and disregard for the hosts when folks refuse to click 'yes', 'no', or 'maybe' on an electronic invite. If I see someone has opened it but never responded, I remove them from the list and don't invite them to anything else. I've had people get in their feelings about this. Oh well.

    1. I agree and if you can't make it please let me know. My friend was throwing a baby shower for me a couple of years ago and a handful of people RSVP'd but nobody else called to say they couldn't make it. I had to call a few to see because she was so afraid she'd be short on food if I didn't.

      *Bon Qui Qui voice* Rude!

    2. Nothing worse than seeing that someone has opened an Evite and couldn't have the decency to respond, even if to say, "I'm on the fence." I've actually given up. I tell people in the Evite, if you do not tell me you're coming, there won't be anything here for you. People can RSVP by texting, gchating or replying to the Evite. I even tell people up front, I don't expect you to respond to this Evite. However, if you don't tell me you're coming, I will embarrass you when you come to my house with, "I didn't know you were coming, so can you please go get a bottle of [you need to tell people what to get so you don't get Paul Mason's] from the store?"

      Then they get the picture.

    3. I with you on that e-vite thing.. How hard is it to reply Yes No or Maybe??!!! and the worst are the people who wait until the day BEFORE or the day OF to finally respond and say.. YES.

    4. +1. Been to a wedding where uninvited guests caused some issues because they weren't on the guest list and the person in charge of it tried unsuccessfully to usher them out. Full of attitude too, as though something were owed them.

  7. I heart this post. (Dork Alert) Several years ago I went through a phase where I was deeply interested in reading up on all things etiquette. I never got around to buying that Emily Post book I wanted though. I'd become interested when I was at a Xinos conference and was put in an etiquette class. I was enjoying it but I had to get up and leave so I was bummed that I missed it. Anyway, a lot of that stuff has long been forgotten and unused but when my friend threw my baby shower a couple of years ago, I got her a hosetess gift because I thought that was etiquette 101. She stays doing stuff for everybody but this is the first time she got a hostess gift and she was so very grateful. I don't think every event warrants a hostess gift because "we like family" but it certainly is nice when you bring one for the big things.

    1. Great comment. For myself, I just started noticing one day that I was going to be invited to some events that I had never been to before because of my background and where i'm from. I took interest in that. It's funny now because i've studied all these subtle nuisances and etiquette topics and my family looks at me like i'm weird at times. However, they appreciate that i'm just trying to do better, than good enough.

      1. Thanks for sharing that title Chunk! I read some reviews so I'm all excited to read it now. It's at my library so I've got to check it out. Maybe I won't have to ask Most for laundry advice anymore. lol

  8. This is a good post. Many people don’t realize that catered events require a head count and deposit based on the count. Usually starting around $100 per person and going up from there. So your no show or extra guests is taking serious money out of your host’s pocket.

    Even if its not catered and your auntie is making potato salad and you’re in the grill, feeding a group is expensive, so be considerate. But beyond the money, sooooo many peoples feelings get hurt when they’re so called friends don’t come to a party. When it comes to party fouls, what goes around always comes around.

  9. I feel the sentiment, but perhaps we're running in different circles, lol. My folks are a tad more casual – housewarmings especially are low-key affairs (preferably in the spring/summer) that are meant as a way for family and friends to help the young couple as they start off in their new home. If I waited until my home was decorated/furnished I still wouldn't have had the housewarming.

    To me, it's nice to see functions where people come together to make it happen – the girls' first birthday would have been real skimpy if our family and friends didn't each put something in – a favorite dish, help decorating, picking out the birthday outfits, etc. Every time my peoples get together it's a potluck, we all know which dish we're expected to show up with. That's errybody's birthday, cookout, etc. In our circle if are a woman, and you show up to more than 3 events in a row without something *good* in some tupperware you will find yourself dropped from the guest list. For men, don't show up without some alcohol.

    1. I will say that in various different circles, people have adjusted things because of means. You have to do what you can. For some folks they don't have money like that to pay for food and liquor for their friends, if y'all are going to hang out then you'll all be responsible for putting something in. But what i'm talking about here today is what you need to know, so that you aren't that person with the aluminum foil at the company holiday party.

      1. "But what i'm talking about here today is what you need to know, so that you aren't that person with the aluminum foil at the company holiday party. "

        Right… or the person at the high end table who doesn't know what silverware to use!
        My recent post 30 Day Dating Challenge: Week 1

    2. I feel you… If I had a house warming it would probably be family and friends that my family considers family for the most part.

  10. Housewarmings – Eh…I'm in the middle. I think your house can still look like a work in progress…but decent enough that you can show it off. In my fam/circle, we usually do money/gift cards to assist the person/couple in financing the updates/upgrades. We bring love and support to the new home.

    Weddings – Do not bring your own liquor to a barless reception. I was so disgusted when I went to a wedding and people started pulling liquor out from under the tables, their jackets…GHETTO! A groomsman dropped a flask on the floor during the reception procession!!!! Another groomsmen vomited right before the wedding processional…and nearly passed out standing in front of the church! He had to be sat down and an usher stood in his place. Ridiculous!

    Bottom line: Always show up for your friends and fam unless you absolutely cannot (half dead or on a previously scheduled trip). Always ask if they need you to bring something.

      1. LOL! Trust, there's no valid explanation. The groom & groomsmen partied the night before and stopped at the liquor store on the way to the church. Mind you, the reception was in the hall of a CHURCH!!!!!!!

        Interestinly enough, it was an otherwise classy affair in a church with a classy family…well, the brides side is classy, lol. But, that groom and his groomsmen (minus a few) were subpar. SUBPAR.

        Sidenote: This BYOL thing happened at not one, but TWO weddings I attended. And, at my Mom's wedding, a guest went to his car for a taste and then returned quite loose. Tacky.

  11. Dr J, I can't cosign that housewarming (waiting until your home is completely furnished before showing it off) etiquette, I always thought the purpose of a housewarming was to invite family and friends over to give their blessing and well wishes for your new abode which usually entailed them walking with a gift card/card with money or something.. that's how it went down with the few housewarmings I've been too.

    Me and my ex never threw a housewarming when we bought our 1st house, we just kept a big BBQ 4 months later.

    Don't know if this was added already:

    Another Etiquette Tip: Never show up to somebody's crib for a specific event (bbq/fight party/Superbowl Party/B-day, etc.) EMPTY HANDED, I swear I thought EVERYBODYwho is grown knew this already but apparently I was wrong, in our circle we ALWAYS had this one person who would show up to your crib ON TIME, eat -n-drink you out of house and home and not even bother to walk with a bag of ice — it should be common courtesy as far as I'm concerned.

    1. In my circle, its common courtesy to ask. Once you're told "no", come ready to eat…with ONLY INVITED individuals, lol…don't be adding to the guest list.

    2. Idk about that, i mean if ur invited to thanksgiving dinner or a dinner party I think you should offer to bring something but at a cookout the person who is throwing it should have all the food prepared if not then Don’t have one ( unless u planned the cookout with your friends and said we are all bringing a dish) Other than that everytime i throw a cookout I’m not going to ask ppl to bring something I think that’s kind of tacky on my part.

  12. The godparents advice was SPOT ON. I'm often shocked at how people choose the person/people who are supposed to take care of their child should they die before they can get them to adult hood. I've seen people choose folks who wouldn't even show up to the baby's christening and I'm like wait, what? And the other thing that is interesting about this is folks with several children who all have different godparents… I'm always confused… like really you want all the kids split up if you die? But maybe they're thinking they don't want to burden just one person/couple with all children, either.
    My recent post 30 Day Dating Challenge: Week 1

    1. It's cause people pick their friends and not godparents. Like, "Ooooh you gonna be my baby godmother." Luckily for me, my family is weird in the sense that we have godmothers and godfathers and then godsisters and brothers. And people really take those relationships seriously.

  13. I love this post. Very classy Dr. J. I will add this because of my personal experience. Don't invite people to certain functions over and over just to get gifts (i.e. your baby shower and kids b-days every year, etc.). Clearly if you're family of close friends this doesn't apply. But if you don't have kids and the only time you hear from someone is when it's their child's b-day, or their expecting another baby and you get invited to the shower but haven't even heard a casual "hello" from them in ages…blatantly suspect.

    1. I believe you shouldn't have more than one baby shower. Its ok for your first but your second, third or fourth child is just wanting people to give you gifts. The only execption is if there is a large age gap between the children.

      1. Multiple baby showers are fine by me if, like you said, there is a big gap in ages or if the sexes are opposite. If you're worried about it though other than family and close friends, just don't invite the same people that you invited to the last one.

  14. great post.

    i'm the godparent to both of my best friends' children, but honestly, the grandparents would swoop in far before i ever got a chance to actually assume a parental role if God forbid anything were to occur. so, while i understand the point… i don't know that it would actually work that way.

    the wedding paragraph… great advice. i'm really anal about not looking foolish at certain events so i allllways google or read up on things before i attend an event i've never been to before. the powers of google are a wondrous thing.
    My recent post two sweaty dollars

    1. Well, the godparents thing… there's nothing wrong with that. That's typically what happens, because you want them to be in the fold. I think that the natural order of things is to have the grandparents or an aunt/uncle to take care of them. But godparents are just an added layer of support and why not?

  15. On the housewarming thing, I feel like your living room and the main bathroom needs to be at least 75% furnished (since those are the places people will be using). It seems tacky to me if I come over to your new house and on the outside, it looks like your blood, sweat, and tears went into acquiring it. Yet people are sitting around in rented/borrowed chairs. As Dr. J said, when you close on your home, you know what space you have to work with ahead of time. And you should have already had a good idea of how much you'd be spending on a few pieces of starter furniture, a TV/entertainment shelf, and then the good towels in the bathroom.

    I agree with what everyone said on the RSVP thing too, especially for weddings or if you're having your milestone birthday at a restaurant or lounge. I've been in the situation where someone RSVP'd to my formal b-day dinner, I had to pay for their and their date's plate (who they confirmed for), and they never showed. AND didn't send a gift. That was a blower!
    My recent post Less Liquor, More Life Insurance

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  17. the way i understand it about godparents is that they are supposed to take interest in the religious upbringing of the godchild, not actually raise the child if the parents die! there is nothing legal about being a godparent. it’s a religious practice. anyway, being raised catholic, we were taught to honor our godparents and godchildren by remembering them on birthdays and holidays.

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