Sunday, December 30, 2012

I need your letters!

Hello Polite Readers!

I don't mean to complain, but my in-box has been sadly quiet lately. I need your letters and column ideas to keep this blog alive! If you have an idea, please send it to me at If you think that your friends would enjoy my writing and have some letters to send it, please share the link on Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, wherever you feel comfortable promoting me.

I would love to continue my 2x a week update schedule, but right now I am coming up with topics on my own without any letters to answer, and I am running a little short of inspiration. I may have to cut back to once a week or less if things don't pick up.

That said, I have really enjoyed these past few months of writing Politely Worded! It's been so much fun reading your letters, responding to you, and chatting in the comment section. I've received great feedback over on Facebook, too. I'm happy that so many people enjoy the way I communicate, and that there's an interest in maintaining civility in the face of rudeness or just plain weird behavior. I will keep it going for as long as I can!

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to hearing from more of you in the New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Please Respect My Diet

Hello Polite Readers!

I just love discussing sticky topics here. Today I'd like to talk about dietary choices, and respecting them. Whether you're on a diet for weight loss, religious/moral reasons (ie, keeping kosher or being vegan), or because of allergies and food sensitivities, you're probably going to run across people who just don't understand and refuse to be supportive.

You see it a lot this time of year. People will say "Oh, one little cookie won't hurt!" not realizing that maybe it will hurt (if it sets you off on a binge), or that the problem is that at every single party you go to, someone wants you to have "just a little..." something or other, and soon enough you've gained five pounds. Or, as was covered in a previous PW column, they'll expect you to give up your dietary choices to try the sacred family recipe that everyone must indulge in or face RUINING CHRISTMAS FOREVER!

And now, of course, we're coming into New Years Resolution territory. Many of you will probably resolve to lose weight, or get in better shape, or eat healthier, and that will often require a diet. People who are not used to you dieting or who just do not support your goals will continue to expect you to go to the all-you-can-eat pizza buffet for lunch and try to sabotage you when you refuse.

Anyway, let's look at a few common diet-related situations and how to handle them in your best Politely Worded fashion:

Situation: "One little cookie won't hurt!" said while offering you a tempting plate of holiday treats.

Answer: "I really have to pick my battles and I'm saving my indulgence for Mom's homemade pumpkin pie at Christmas dinner. I'm sure you understand!"

Situation: "Oh, but you're so skinny! You can probably eat whatever you want" from the person who doesn't realize that you're so skinny because you dance 12 hours a week and maintain a balanced diet.

Answer: "I've got to work hard to maintain this! Thank you but I've got to pass on those cookies."

Situation: "You don't eat enough to support a bird! Have a second helping!" I can't tell you how many times I got as a teenager.

Answer: "Actually, I'm stuffed right now! Maybe later."

Situation: "Should you really be eating that?" said to the overweight person by the judgemental busy-body.

Answer: "That's between me and my dietician/doctor/trainer/conscience." -or- "I've been good all week so I could indulge at this party, if you must know. Please trust me to make my own diet decisions."

Situation: You receive a huge plate/box/basket of treats that are not on your diet.

Answer: Say "Thank you." If allowed on your diet, sample a small amount in front of the gift-giver. In private, feel free to give them to others, freeze them for later entertaining, or even throw them out if you simply have too much and can't keep it in the house without giving in.

Situation: Any snide comment about how much, or what you are eating.

Answer: Ignore, ignore, ignore! If you are asked a direct question that you can't ignore, say something vague and change the subject. Do not allow yourself to be bullied!

Best of luck with your diets and fitness plans, dear readers! If you're making New Years Resolutions, I wish you all of the success in the world. And if someone says something rude to you that I didn't cover, please send it to me at and I'll help you come up with the best answer.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gift Disappointment

Hello Polite Readers!

Well, it's Christmas Eve Eve, so depending on which holiday you celebrate, you have either already exchanged gifts, will soon, or are so sick about hearing about other peoples' gift exchanging holidays that you will skip this entire post and hope that I write about something non-holiday-related on Wednesday. Today's post is about dealing with gift disappointment, from both the giver and receiver's part, which of course can also apply to birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine's Day, and all those other occasions where etiquette says gifts should be given.

Most of us have dealt with gift failure before, probably from both ends. Let's talk about when you give a dud gift first.

Oftentimes, it's not your fault when a gift that you give goes over poorly. You may have misjudged the recipient's taste, you might have accidentally bought them something they already have, or they might just be impossible to please (at least on your budget). We'll discuss later how they should best express their disappointment (or not), but for now let's assume that they don't have the good taste to read my blog and they respond rudely. How do you deal with that?

Resist the urge to snark at them, even though they probably deserve it for being rude. Especially if you're at some sort of group holiday gathering or birthday party, you want them to be the one who looks bad whereas you look cool, albeit possibly a bit embarrassed. Smile awkwardly and say "I'm sorry, I thought you would love it." If you have a gift receipt, offer it to them, but otherwise, don't fall over yourself trying to offer to make it right if the gift can't be exchanged or returned.

If you have a person in your life who is always difficult about gifts, my honest recommendation is not to make the effort anymore. If they're going to snark no matter what you give them, just give them a gift card to some store that they can probably find something they like at. Stop stressing about picking or making the perfect gift for that curmudgeon and focus your attention on the people who actually appreciate the thought and effort that you put into them.

So what do you do if you get a gift that you don't like? Simple. You say "Thank you!" If you're feeling really generous and you know that the person actually thought that they picked out something good, you should maybe try to find something to praise about the item (although the problem with this is that they may then take that as encouragement to buy similarly bad gifts in the future).

I know that it's hard to deal with getting a spectacularly bad gift, especially when you've put a lot of thought into what you gave them in return, but it's wrong to treat gifts like a tit-for-tat exchange and unfortunately part of being an adult is having to put up with disappointment, instead of throwing a tantrum (although even as a kid, I didn't throw a tantrum on the year that my cousins all got awesome Legos and my brother and I got CLOTHES. Clothes! How were we supposed to play with those?). Here are some other tips for dealing with gift disappointment.

-If possible, try to find a way to actually make the gift likeable. Can it be modified somehow to be more attractive or useful?

-If it's nice but just not your style, can you regift it in such a way that the original giver will never find out? I'm not a huge fan of regifting, but sometimes it's appropriate, if you know the new receiver will actually like it.

-If it's unbelievably horrible, well, congratulations! You've got something for the next White Elephant exchange you participate in.

-Can you possibly sell it on eBay or Craig's List or through some other venue, without the giver catching on?

-Is it small enough that you can keep it around and then bring it out whenever they come over? I only recommend this tactic for gifts from grandparents who would be crushed if you didn't display the precious knick-knack that they picked out based on the idea that you are still into the same things you liked at eight years old.

-Can you trade it for something else? When I was a teenager, someone gave me a Wal-Mart gift card. There was nothing I wanted at Wal-Mart, but my parents always shopped there so they bought it off of me for cash value, allowing me to spend the money wherever I wanted on whatever I wanted (probably comic books).

-Another pro-tip for gift cards. Use them for stuff you NEED and suddenly the money that you would have spent on that is available for fun! I love getting Trader Joe's gift cards because I can buy my usual groceries (maybe with a couple extra treats) and then suddenly my weekly grocery money is available to spend on a nice dinner out instead.

-In all of these cases, remember that a gift is yours to do whatever you want with after you receive it. While you certainly shouldn't use a handmade quilt as a drop cloth when you paint your house, you also shouldn't feel guilty if you take that tacky snow globe to Goodwill.

Tired of all these holiday-themed posts? Then send me a letter about a different topic! Email me at

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Chill Out About Christmas

Hello Polite Readers!

I have a confession to make -- I don't celebrate Christmas. For me it's just a quiet day at home with my husband. Maybe we'll go out for Chinese food. And we'll respond to every "Merry Christmas" with a smile and a "you too". Do you know why? Because it's silly to get offended over someone else's well-wishes.

There are a lot of reasons to not celebrate Christmas. You might belong to a religion that celebrates a different holiday, or no holidays, or you might be living a strictly secular life (though I do know secular people who choose to observe the non-religious trappings of Christmas because they enjoy them). Those are all cool, valid reasons and you should feel free to discuss them with your friends and family if you want, but you don't really need to tell the cashier at the bookstore that you actually celebrate Channukah, and it's actually already over.

Similarly, if you do celebrate Christmas, it's silly to get offended when someone wishes you a generic "happy holidays." Accept it. After all, even if you don't celebrate Channukah or Kwanzaa or the Solstice or Festivus, you still want to be happy on those days, don't you? And on New Years Eve and New Years Day and Boxing Day and whatever else falls in December and January, right?

Remember that whenever you get offended that someone gave you the "wrong" holiday greeting, you're serving as a bad ambassador for your faith or lack thereof. Do you really want to be remembered as the mean old lady who snapped "MERRY CHRISTMAS" to a poor stressed-out postal clerk? Or would you rather keep the social engine well-lubricated by smiling and saying "Thank you, you too."

There's a time and a place for your opinions. If you are annoyed that everyone assumes you celebrate Christmas, complain about it on Facebook. Write a blog post. But don't take it out on the already stressed-out service employees who are probably just saying what their manager told them to say. This late in the season, they're probably not even thinking about it anymore, they're just counting down the days until the holiday rush is over and things get back to normal.

And so, my dear readers, I wish you a happy whatever it is that you choose to celebrate, and a great new year. I will still be writing columns on Sun and Weds even over the holidays, so if you have a question you'd like me to address, please send it to

Sunday, December 16, 2012

No baby here!

Hello Polite Readers!

Today's column is one half advice, one half ranting. You see, as you may have noticed, I am a woman. And for some reason, when you are a woman, people tend to jump to the conclusion that you might be pregnant, no matter your relationship status or stated reproduction choices. Examples of situations where people immediately assume you have a "little bundle of joy" on the way.

-You Vaguebook with something like "I have a surprise!" or "OMG, good news but I can't tell you yet!"

-As a bellydancer, someone captures a picture of you at the bottom of an undulation down. Even the flattest belly suddenly looks like it has a "baby bump" (goodness, I hate that term) and your midriff-baring costume makes it all that much more obvious.

-You turn down drinks at a party.

-You mention that you've been sick to your stomach lately.

Men don't have to worry about this. While the first one MAY illicit some comments about impending fatherhood, it's more likely that your friends will assume that it's good news about your job or some such (although I've also noticed that my male friends Vaguebook less than my female friends, but that may also have more to do with the male/female ratio of my friends list).

I think it's the last one that annoys me the most. If a guy posts that he just threw up, his friends are either going to tease him about drinking too much, ask what he ate for dinner last night, or mention the stomach bug that is going around town. But as soon as a woman barfs, the assumption is that there's a bun in the oven! And as soon as you say "Nope, I'm not pregnant" there's the smug "Are you SURE?" response.

This is so insulting. I feel like most adult woman are pretty aware of whether or not they've recently engaged in the sort of behavior that would result in pregnancy. Sure, there's the occasional surprise birth control failure, but in general, we have a good idea of whether or not there's a chance we've conceived.

It can also be painful. It either serves as a reminder that no, actually, there's no chance that there's a baby because you've been single for so long, or even worse, no, there's no chance of having a baby because you can't conceive. Why would you want to do that to your friends and family, jokesters? It's not funny, it's insulting, it hurts. Stop it.

 There's also the possibility that the lady in question is pregnant but isn't making an announcement yet because it's a high-risk pregnancy. Even in a "normal" pregnancy the couple might wait until the end of the third trimester to announce, just in case. Don't put them in the awkward position of lying and then having to come out later!

So ladies, what do you do when these oh-so-hilarious comments are directed at you? Honestly, if they're on Facebook or some sort of other social media, I'd completely ignore them. Respond to the appropriate comments while leaving the stupid ones unaddressed. In person, say something like "Of course not!" with a slightly surprised look on your face, as if you can't believe they're prying into your reproductive matters.

In the case of your parents who are desperate for grandbabies, you may need to be a little gentler. Assuming that you are, someday, planning on having children, in this case you smile and say, "Oh Mom, you know if that was the case we would have told you already. Not yet, but when it happens you'll be the first to know." Of course if you're not planning on having children and your parents know this but are in denial, you can be a little firmer. "No, we still haven't changed our mind. But look at the latest pic of your grandpuppy!"

Whatever you do, don't make the "Ha ha, only if it's an immaculate conception" joke because WOW is that one over-played. Besides, if you joke, they'll think it's OK to continue to assume that ladies must be pregnant, because that's what we do. We make babies.

Do you have your own frustrating situation that you need to rise above, looking cool and collected? Write to me at and I will try to help you find the perfect words to say.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My customer, my friend

Hello Polite Readers!

Today's post is inspired by a conversation with some fellow small business owners, and it turns out this is a situation many of us have been in... Every now and then you get a great repeat customer who is wonderful, but also thinks that you are their new best friend and sends you long, rambling e-mails all about their life.

Sometimes this is awesome and you find that you have a lot in common with your customer and they actually do become your new best friend! It's great when business leads to amazing new friendships with someone who you never would have met if they hadn't wandered into your store (real or virtual).

But then there are the people who are perfectly nice, but you just don't have anything in common with them. Often times, the customers who latch onto you have a good reason for it. Either your work speaks to them on some deep level that makes them feel an instant connection, or they're leading a really isolated life and are reaching out for any sort of human interaction. As such, it feels horrible to not engage with them, to not give them that connection that they want or need.

However, when you're a business owner, time is often at a premium. Can you really set aside the time to respond to three-page-long e-mails detailing everything that has happened in your customer's week, complete with an outpouring of the emotions they felt? If it's an occasional message it's not that bad, but when it turns to weekly or even daily messages, and then they find your IM screen name or friend you on Facebook and send you constant messages while you're trying to list things on Etsy, well, it gets overwhelming.

I think the best option is to remain engaged, but a bit removed. Skim the e-mails they send you, and respond with something short but heartfelt that applies to the situation. Maybe include the occasional helpful website or inspirational quote. When time allows, send a longer e-mail from time to time. Be sure to make the occasional mention of how busy you are with your shop, so they will hopefully catch on that your e-mails are shorter than theirs because you are so busy creating the art they love, or stocking the supplies they use.

And what about the IM or Facebook convos? This is a firm but polite situation. Maybe chat occasionally, but in general say something like: "Oh, Jill! It's so nice to hear from you but I'm really busy editing photos, I don't really have time to chat right now. I'll e-mail you tonight once I have all these new items up. Take care!" It's friendly, it's sweet, it lets her know when she'll hear from you so she doesn't feel blown off, but it also sets some boundaries.

Too often, when you run your own business working from home, people think that since you are home all day, and perhaps at the computer all day, that you have all the time in the world to chat with them. You may find that you occasionally need to disabuse them of this notion, otherwise you will find your productivity plummeting as your day is suddenly filled with casual chats and e-mails. It's OK to tell people that you're working and you can't chat until your lunch break, or the end of your work day. Just because you're not in  an office doesn't mean you don't keep business hours.

Do you have your own business troubles that you need a polite way to handle? Or do you have some stressful holiday encounters coming up? E-mail your problems to and I'll help!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Day Off

Hello Polite Readers!

I hope you'll forgive me for taking today off. December is shaping up to be quite busy for me in terms of both dancing and my jewelry business, not to mention the usual holiday preparations. I had quite the busy Saturday, as did my husband, so this Sunday is set aside for us to relax.

Past this, however, I would love to keep up my Wednesday and Sunday update schedule throughout the holidays, so if you have any topics you'd like me to cover, please send them to Thank you!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Stupid Man Texts

Hello Polite Readers!

Today's topic comes courtesy of my friend Martha. I'm using the same title as she used on her e-mail, because it amuses me. Here's her letter:

Hey AJ,

So I have this guy I met on the plane back from home - he seemed really nice when we sat and chatted for the three hours of the flight so I gave him my number to contact me to maybe meet up for dinner.

Well, I got one text from him Tuesday that was nice "hey, hope you're having a great day - take care!"  I was busy at work so I mentally noted to respond later.  Later that evening I responded "hey it was nice, thanks - hope you had a good one too."  Nothing major.  The next text I get - same night - "Woo hoo!! - its Full Moon Baby, come meet up with me and lets go have a drink!"  

I won't repeat the expletives I said at having given this sudden idiot my number.  I did not respond at all.  

Two days later I get a text saying "Hey I was just thinking about seeing those gorgeous eyes of yours again - come out and have a drink with me!"  It was Friday - I don't "do" last minute dates w men who have what I consider questionable judgement with a woman he just met.  Again I just chose not to respond and will likely block him going forward.  I have no attraction to him whatsoever and, even if I had initially, it would be gone due to these texts.  Maybe I'm old fashioned but this to me was both unacceptable and creepy.  Is there a better way to handle this situation than just ignoring them and blocking them altogether?  Granted I was dumb to give out my real number... but he really seemed nice on the plane.  Note its very unusual for me to give out my number to ANYONE - esp someone I just met.

I am thinking it will become even more rare now. lol

Anyway, your thoughts are appreciated. I wanted to respond but couldn't think of any response that I felt put a positive light on me.  I would have been a jerk  had I responded... hence my ignoring it altogether.   Yet I wanted to tell him (a) how dare you speak to me like that - I do not know you and you clearly do not know or respect me and (b) I do not date or associate with men who speak to me like that - period.   

Thanks in advance!

So at first I didn't really see what the big deal was. When you said he was sending you inappropriate texts, I thought you meant really inappopriate, like X-Rated stuff. This seemed pretty mild in comparison. But when I looked over it again, I saw the problems. You're definitely not close enough for him to call you "baby" (personally, I don't like that pet name at all, but some people do), and mentioning your eyes after one 3 hour long plane ride together? That's coming on way too strong. Hint to guys: It's creepy to mention a woman's body parts early in a relationship, even if it's a non-sexual body part. Plus there's the fact that you said "Hey, let's do dinner sometime" and each time he invited you out, it was for drinks.

Now, part of this is a conflict of old fashioned vs. current mode. Yes, there are people who think it is OK to initiate a date via text (I find it too casual, but I've been out of the dating pool for a decade and a half. Texts weren't even a thing back then). Also, it's pretty common now for a first date to be coffee or drinks, which does make sense in its way -- it's more casual, and it's easy to cut it short if it goes poorly, or segue it into something else (dinner, movie, shopping, strolling in the park) if you're having a great time.

Note that at no point did I say that it's OK to call a woman that you barely know "baby." Ick. I mean, maybe it was a figure of speech. Maybe he posted the same thing on Facebook. "It's the full moon baby! Looking forward to a drink after work!" But I don't think so.

So obviously this guy is not for you, and at this point it's been long enough that it would be weird if you said anything more to him (unless he hasn't taken the hint and is still inviting you out for drinks without any response). So airplane guy can be ignored for now. But what if you or a fellow reader has this sort of experience in the future? Here's how I would have handled this.

You were already right on with your response to his first text. He could have used that to continue a perfectly normal conversation. If I were him, I would have said "Hey, I had a great day. Can I call you?" Which allows you to either say "Sure" or "No" or "I'm eating dinner, let me call you when I'm done." Then when he has you on the phone, he can invite you out for a drink or coffee or whatever, and you can either accept, or if you are in to the idea but not right away, say "Oh, tonight isn't good for me, how about Friday?"

But that's not what happened. He said  "Woo hoo!! - its Full Moon Baby, come meet up with me and lets go have a drink!" At this point, you had two options -- give him a chance, or boot him to the curb. If you wanted to give him a chance but start gently showing him how you expect to be treated, you could say something like "Oh, that's way too short a notice. How about Thursday Friday instead? I'd love to talk some more." If you wanted to give him the boot, a simple "Actually, it was nice meeting you but I don't think this is going to work out." Then disengage. Block if necessary.

He should have taken the hint after you didn't respond to his full moon message, but nope, he came back again. "Hey I was just thinking about seeing those gorgeous eyes of yours again - come out and have a drink with me!" At this point, unless you're someone who likes near-strangers thinking about your eyes, you could say yes. But you're not, and he's creepy, so you say, "You know, you're coming on a bit strong. I think we're expecting different things from this, and I'm not interested anymore. Please don't contact me again." Then block as needed.

Unfortunately, sometimes people who seem perfectly nice and normal in person turn weird with the veil of technology to shield them. Or people seem awesome on-line and turn out to be awful in person. I'd say in the future, if you meet someone on the plane who seems interesting, give them your e-mail instead. It's a lot easier to manage -- you don't have to worry about them calling you at 3am looking for a drunk booty call.

This concludes Dating Week on Politely Worded! Unless, of course, someone wants to send another dating question to to give me something to write about on Sunday.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Letting them down gently

Hello Polite Readers!

Today's topic comes courtesy of my friend Nancy, who does beautiful beadwork and also sells tutorials if you'd like to bead something of your own. Here's her letter:

Hey AJ,  I had a thought... it doesn't apply to old married me, but I thought that maybe some of your single readers might be interested in what you'd have to say about turning down requests for dates.  I had a horrid time trying to say no nicely when I was younger and dating, especially when it was a friend who all of a sudden wanted a date.  I didn't know exactly how to respond and was really upset that I ended up losing a friend out of it several times, as no matter how sweet I was, it seemed that a "no, I'd really like to continue being friends with you rather than dating" was still hurtful enough as a rejection.

First, a disclaimer. I married young, to the first guy I ever dated. Statistically, a poor move, but hey, when you find the right guy right away, you marry him and save yourself from the insanity that is the dating world. But I'm always amused when people come to me for dating advice -- the assumption is that because I've been happily married for so long, I must know everything about relationships, when really I've just been muddling my way through all along.

However, I feel like this is a topic I can address, because being polite is being polite, no matter what the situation is. And I have had to turn some guys down, but it's remarkably easy when the answer is "Thanks, but I'm married." For those of you who aren't hitched, here's three common scenarios and good ways to handle them.

First, Nancy's scenario of the friend who wants to be something more. This is difficult, but if you're not feeling it, you're not feeling it. Smile a little sadly and say "I'm sorry, you're wonderful, but I just don't see us like that." Sadly, no matter how polite you are, you may lose your friend anyway. This is not your fault. There are some people who see opposite-sex friendships (or same sex, if that's their orientation) as a path towards romance, and once they find out that's not in the cards, they drop you. Other times, they just can't handle the heartbreak of realizing that you don't feel the same way, and they decide to back off for a bit and then it becomes permanent. After some time has gone by, you might want to reach out to them to see if you can save the friendship, but don't be surprised if you can't.

Second, the person who seems perfectly nice but you just don't want to date. Maybe you're not on the market, maybe they're not your type, maybe you're just not in the mood to deal with being chatted up, but there's nothing offensive. They ask politely. You respond politely in turn. "Thank you, but I'm not interested." Don't offer excuses, because as I've said before, excuses can be countered and then you have to offer new ones.

Third, the creep. The person who uses some skeevy pick-up line, or who used to date your best friend and treated her like crap, or who just interrupted your conversation to ask for your number. You should still be polite (always!), but make it the iciest politeness possible. With a blank face, say coolly "I'm not interested." Just keep in mind that if they're a creep, they may hurl insults at you for daring to turn them down. This is also not your fault. Keep your cool, and if necessary, call in some reinforcements (your friends, the bouncer, whoever) to help you tell the creep to back off.

No matter situation, remember that it is ALWAYS not only okay, but appropriate to say no to an unwanted date or request for your phone number or whatever. Too often we (especially women!) are told that we should give everyone a chance, or even worse, we should take what we can get. Well, forget that. You shouldn't have to suffer through a date just because someone asks you. You just need to be nice about it, because it IS hard for some people to summon up the courage to ask someone they like out. Letting them down gently softens the blow, so hopefully they won't get too discouraged and they can keep asking until they find the right person for them.
Do you have an awkward situation that you need help responding to? Send it to and I will do my best to help!