I'm in a bit of a bind just now. My best friend and her boyfriend have recently become engaged, and I've been asked to be the maid of honor. I was honored to accept. The three of us have been extremely close for the entire time they've been together, so it was not too much of a surprise. The surprise came when my friend requested that I wear a dress to participate in the ceremony and the festivities afterward. The thing is, I'm pretty butch, and I cannot see myself in a dress -- but at the same time I don't want to spoil my best friend's day. I've asked for possible options, such as a nice suit that she could pick out for me or even a part on the groom's side if that would make it "look" better for photographs and whatnot. I honestly think that if I'm in a dress more attention will be given to me than the couple! Any ideas? Alternatives? Should I just give in? Thanks for your help.
Dear Pants-Preferring Madam,
If your soon-to-be-wed friend had asked for my advice, I would've reminded her that a wedding ceremony is not a fashion show -- its primary focus really shouldn't be creating a certain look for photographs and whatnot. A wedding is mostly about people, and only incidentally about pretty dresses. I would have suggested that making a dear friend horribly uncomfortable is hardly an appropriate way to celebrate such a happy occasion. And I would've offered options such as letting the wedding party choose from a range of outfits in matching colors.
Unfortunately, your friend isn't asking for my input. And besides, I know from experience that, for many people, nothing I might say will counter the notion that a wedding should be treated as a sort of pageant staged for the benefit of photographers.
On the other hand, a bride and groom should have a wedding that is lovely to them, and, out of respect for the occasion, their loved ones should make the concessions they can. So because you, and not your friends, are asking for my help, I'll offer words of comfort: Madam, you are not alone. As women across the Bay Area read your letter, they are remembering putrid aquamarine satin, torturous full skirts, hair-pulling magenta bows, and other sorts of female-dignity obliterators.
I promise you that if you don't let your discomfort show, your attire won't attract unnecessary attention. I recommend putting on the dress and a brave, smiling face for the photographers. Sometimes, friendship requires sacrifice.
Dear Social Grace,
I was recently given a gift certificate from my friend to get my hair cut by her hairstylist, who happens to be a good friend of hers. Through her, I have known him casually for 14 years. He and I have always had a good rapport, and there has always been a spark between us. When I called to make my appointment to get my hair done, he also happened to invite me to attend a 49ers game. We hit it off very well and possibly will go out again.
My question is this: Since I will be using a gift certificate to have him cut my hair, how do I show my appreciation? I can't tip someone I've gone out with money, right? So what should I do, bake him cookies, take him to dinner? Please advise. Thank you.
Via the Internet
Dear Appreciative Madam or Sir,
Your confusion is completely understandable: This fellow is playing two roles in your life right now. He is both your hairstylist and your new friend. When he is acting as your hairstylist, you should treat him as such -- that is, you pay him the appropriate amount, plus gratuity. When he is acting as your friend, you may give him cookies or take him to dinner (as thanks for the 49ers game, for instance). In general, when you're conducting business with friends, it is wise to keep the business relationship in a mental compartment separate from the friendship. That way, no one ends up feeling taken advantage of.
When this fellow offers to style your hair for free, as your friend, then you can start repaying his kindness with baked goods.
Dear Social Grace,
I am hosting the six men who work for me, along with their wives, for an annual company dinner. This event will be the first I have hosted. I think that the spouses of my employees are fantastic women and, in their own unique ways, they have influenced and encouraged their husbands to be creative, to display confidence, and to employ strong leadership in the workplace. To thank these wives for being "partners" in the overall work effort, I'd like to present each wife with a simple card within which will be engraved a short appreciative phrase. Do you think this is a tacky effort to show my appreciation? Can you think of a better one?
Dear Managing Madam or Sir,
The first correction I offer is this: Words of gratitude (as well as words of condolence and congratulations) should be written by hand, if possible. Not writing the words yourself (you say they'll be "engraved") can seem to cheapen the sentiment.
That said, I am going to steer you away from this sort of note. (That's right: I am suggesting not preparing a thank-you note. Readers, you have finally found a situation in which I don't wholeheartedly endorse them.) Instead, consider some sort of pre-dinner toast to your employees' supportive families, or perhaps thank the spouses verbally some other way. A gift for each couple (a bottle of wine, a food item, or something along those lines) would be nice, too.
Any gift you might give the ladies singly could potentially embarrass them or be perceived as inappropriate (bosses don't normally give their employees' spouses gifts). And a "thank you for being a supportive spouse" card might seem both a bit over the top and rather belittling -- of the women and of their relationships -- sincere as the sentiment behind it may be.