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Didi’s Manners & Etiquette: Allergen + Cellphone-Free Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Getting ready for Thanksgiving. What etiquette boundaries guests and hosts need to remember. How not to look ugly in family holiday photos. The best questions to Didi Lorillard at NewportManners this week.

Allergen and cellphone-free Thanksgiving

Q.  No matter how hard I try to get my family all together and abide by the allergen-free drill, someone is always disappointed. One apparent fussy eater doesn't like Brussel sprouts and the next day I find them on the floor under the table. Or the lactose-free ice cream had disappeared the night before. The gravy is not gluten-free, there's too much sugar in the cranberry sauce, and not enough salt in the mashed potatoes. 

And yet Thanksgiving is the greatest feast of all. Even for the vegans. One year I added a Tofurkey to the menu; it didn't go over well and I suspect there were vegans who ate more meat than just the sausage in the stuffing -- even though I also made a veggie stuffing. But one of them couldn't eat that because it had onions. The pecan pie was not nut free. 

There is always a family member who can't get away to attend, and that's my biggest disappointment. The other thing I can't control is cellphone use. Everyone is constantly on their iPhone or iPad. It's annoying. But I don't want to be the cranky host who says No Cell Phones. What can I do?  M.M., Boston

A.  Congratulations on conquering the allergens and, yes, there is something quite sensible you can do about the cellphones. Pick a timeframe, probably starting when everyone sits down to dinner and ending after the last pie plate is cleared, when your home is strictly in the No Cell Phone Zone. 

Meaning that all the cellphones go into a basket during the allotted timeframe.  

Ahead of Thanksgiving, let everyone know that due to the proliferation of cellphones when you all get together, you're initiating the No Cell Phone Zone -- say, between five and seven o'clock. Stick to it. 

Make it clear to the adults that there will be no exceptions. If the kids see them checking their email, they'll want to check theirs, too. ~Didi

The ugly duckling speaks up   

Q. How do I pose for pictures? During the holidays when family members post pics of us, I am always the ugly duckling. To be perfectly honest, I'm an ugly young woman. Because I'm so self-conscious, I always look as though I got caught off guard. When I try ducking out of a photo, I get called back. So it is better to go along with being the ugly relative. H.B., Providence

A.  These dos and don'ts for posing for pics can of course be used year round. When possible, suggest that the photos be taken outside, because the natural light is always more flattering. Inside, face a sunny window if you can, but don't stand under any overhead lighting as it will accentuate those imperfections that make you self-conscious. On the other hand, if you're the one taking the photo, stand with your back to the light. After three o'clock, but before dusk, the outdoors light is ideal.

Take care with what you wear. If it's the holidays, a vibrant color will look more cheerful; preferably the same color as your eyes. Your shoulders and hips should be slightly turned in the same direction, and at an angle, whether you're sitting or standing. Don't look down or away from the person who is taking the photo.

Whatever you do, don't appear to look timid by leaning on anyone else or hiding partially behind someone. Be aware of your posture: shoulders should be back, your posture should be straight, and stick in your gut. Forget about saying "Cheese." Think of someone you love as the camera is clicking.

Makeup, especially around the eyes, always helps to accentuate them. If your face looks shiny in pics the way mine does, use a dusting of transparent face powder to blot out any shine. Lipstick helps to make you look more glamorous. Before you leave for an event like Thanksgiving, look picture perfect; it will give you confidence knowing that you look your best because you've prepared.

Style-wise, always wear a clever conversation piece such as dangling earrings, a pretty necklace, well-made eyeglass frames, or a colorful scarf tied around your neck. 

When you arrive at the event, immediately go to the restroom to check your makeup and make sure your hair is in place. Smudgy mascara and lipstick on your front teeth shouldn't be a focal point for whomever you're talking to. Now you're good to go. It's OK to look different.   ~Didi

Didi Lorillard researches all matters or manners and etiquette at Didi's Manners. The best questions-and-answers appear here each week. 


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