From Nude Retreats to Wedding Gifts: Modern Etiquette for the Curious Millennial

Man Repeller explores the wild world of etiquette

When I saw my friend Joe tweet about a need for millennial etiquette guidance, I knew a story for Man Repeller was inevitable, and that he should be the one to pen it. This was the man, after all, who made his own pine-cone turtleneck for a Christmas wine-tasting jaunt. Joe and modern etiquette are a match made in heaven.

Last week, I asked you, the greater Man Repeller audience, to send me any and all etiquette questions gnawing at your well-mannered souls, and Joe heroically dove into the over 400 responses. If you feel befuddled by weddings, texting, ghosting or tipping, you are not alone! Let Joe help you (and me) better navigate these social waters.

Have more questions for him? Leave them in the comments.

-Nora Taylor

1. My mother has five brothers and four sisters that I don’t necessarily agree with on a lot of things (Donald Trump, immigration, LGBTQ rights). Do I seriously have to invite them all to my wedding?

That depends.

If your mother is paying for a large portion of the wedding, then it’s understandable that she would want a say in the planning, i.e. who comes. Having all of her family present has likely been part of her vision for a long time. She will not easily budge on that. Maybe you could talk her down to only inviting aunts and uncles (not their children). If you have to concede, then communicate the tone of your wedding in the invitations. Make sure your service is feminist and inclusive. I’ve also seen couples include donation links to their favorite non-profits as an option on their registry page.

If the wedding is not financially dependent on your mother, then no — do not invite these people who you don’t even want to be around. When couples make a wedding invite list, they should strive to assemble the village that helped them become who they are as individuals and as a healthy couple. Creating a happy marriage takes daily work and you want your wedding witnesses to be the people who you’ll turn to when the work is exceedingly work-y. Focus on people that you want in your future and who will make the day more joyful.

I will add that cutting out your mother’s siblings might mean you need to make deeper cuts to the entire list. And you should send all not-invited family members a formal announcement of your marriage after the wedding.

2. Say you’re at a clothing-optional retreat, and you run into some friendly acquaintances in the sauna. What kind of greeting is appropriate? And does one ever talk of the encounter again?!

Running into acquaintances in compromising situations is awkward for two reasons: 1) You don’t yet know if they’ll be cool about it and 2) there’s no telling whether they’ll blow your spot up later. This sauna-mate was probably just as concerned as you were that you’d talk to them while disposed or, worse, see them in public later and tell everyone they really should get the mole on their ass checked out.

Nod at them with recognition and a brief smile that says, “We know each other but I’m not going to talk to you.” Then leave them alone. If you find that you can’t keep your eyes off them — sometimes the thing you aren’t supposed to look at becomes optically magnetic — recline slightly and drape a towel over your head for a few minutes. (This is less applicable at Chipotle.)

As for later: Give them the same respect you’d like in return by not detailing their naked body to other people.

When you see the person again, casually raise the topic to diffuse tension but give them room to confirm/deny as they please: “I’m not sure if I saw you at the spa or not but I had a really good massage the other day.” or “Have you done any retreats the summer? I got away from the city recently and it was incredible,” etc. If they want to deny it, support them. If they directly ask for an opinion on the mole, refer them to a professional.

3. Is there a good excuse to check your phone during lunch/dinner (besides, say, your wife may enter into labor anytime)?

If you don’t think your friends are annoyed when you text in front of them — they are. This was the most asked question by FAR.

If you’re going to be needed at some point in the meal, you should know that before you sit down, and warn your party ahead of time. When that point comes, you can excuse yourself by either leaving the table to talk on the phone or quickly responding to the timely, important message and apologizing. After that is taken care of, the phone should disappear.

The moment you pull out a phone, the cultivated environment is broken, and everyone else wants to check theirs too. Per the Pacific Standard: “Even just the presence of a smartphone lowers the quality of in-person conversations.” If you care about connecting with who you’re with, keep your phone out of sight. It will make the meal more enjoyable for you and everyone around you.

4. I am spending thousands of dollars to be in a wedding — flights, hotel, bachelorette parties, etc. — is it okay to skip the gift?

No, but it’s okay to go cheap. Possible exceptions include: If you already got them a nice shower gift; if they requested “no gifts”; if you are traveling for the wedding and aren’t in the wedding party; if the bride is aware of what’s going on and personally gave you a pass (which may be a conversation worth having).

Weddings have gotten out of control and I’m sorry that your friend has made it expensive for you to be a part of her day. Wedding gifts began because the community wanted to support a young couple who needed to fully stock their home for the first time. This is less and less frequently necessary and gifts have become more about cash or honeymoon contributions. For guests who are covering expensive travel, just their presence (and a thoughtful card) can be enough of a gift. But since you’re a member of the party, you should send something.

I’d recommend going in on a group gift with other members of the wedding party or sending a card and something luxurious but less expensive (flowers when they return from their honeymoon, a nice picture frame, a nice candle).

And, when it’s your turn to get married, please don’t exact revenge.

5. How should we address someone if we don’t know their PGPs [Preferred Gender Pronouns]? Is it more offensive to mis-gender or to assume someone uses gender-neutral pronouns?

People’s “preferred pronouns” are simply their “pronouns.” There isn’t a secondary, non-preferred set, as referring to someone with non-preferred pronouns is mis-gendering.

The singular “they” is appropriate for anyone you haven’t met or for whom you don’t know the gender yet: “You said that your cousin will be in town. Remind me where they’re coming from?” You can also get very far simply using someone’s name and avoiding pronouns altogether.

If you really want to know someone’s pronouns, introduce yourself first and volunteer your pronouns. If you are in a small group, ask every person their pronouns. This normalizes the conversation. They still may not respond with pronouns. They may not feel safe in the space, may still be discovering their pronouns, or may not want to come out to you — all of which are understandable. Do not push. It’s okay for you to feel uncomfortable having the conversation. It’s not okay to make them uncomfortable.

If they tell you their pronouns then it is your responsibility to use them and to correct others if they get it wrong.

If they don’t volunteer pronouns or it doesn’t feel okay to ask, then stick with their name and “they” if a pronoun is needed.

6. Is it rude to not follow someone back on IG after they request to follow you?

Not following back would be rude only if you two will frequently interact on Instagram.
Otherwise, it’s fine. Everyone curates their social streams differently. Personally, I follow very few people who I know on Instagram and have little overlap with who I follow on Twitter. I like that they’re very different streams.

If you are hoping someone new will follow you back, then message them something like, “It was nice to meet you at _______! I hope you had a good time,” or comment on their story. It’s a polite way to make yourself more noticeable to them, without applying pressure.

You don’t need to apologize for not following someone and you shouldn’t bring up that someone doesn’t follow you. And never say, “We should follow each other” then hang over the person until they either hit the “follow back” button.

You can follow Joe on Twitter here.

Collage by Edith Young. Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images.

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