Dear Mrs. (Slightly) Sophisticated

Is there such a thing as texting etiquette?

Dear Modern Manners,

This is something you will not find in a book by Emily Post, as I am quite certain she never sent a text message. In my opinion, it should follow the same rules as a telephone with a land line.

When we were growing up, there were strict rules about phone use in the home. No calls before 8 am unless in an emergency. If you received a phone call at 6 am, someone was in the hospital or jail. Certain households had differing rules regarding afternoon and evening hours. Some only allowed calls after
8 pm as to not interfere with family dinner time. Some only allowed social calls in the late afternoon. Most never allowed any calls after 10 pm.

Of course, there were ways around the rules. If you called the bank for the time and temperature at 9:59, when your boyfriend called at 10 pm, the phone never actually rang, and your parents remained none the wiser. Or if you were lucky enough to have a sly little brother, you could make him sneak to the family phone and turn off the ringer at 9 pm and then turn it back on at 6 am. But I digress.

One option is to leave the messages alone until you have time to answer them. Be sure to describe why the reply was not immediately after the last text message. “I am just now replying because I only answer texts after my working hours,” or, “I put my phone on silent during the hours of 6-8 pm to enjoy my family time.”

Another option is to thoughtfully explain that you mute the conversation when you have important issues to handle. Those issues might include a work meeting or even watching a show (or series) on Netflix.

Finally, you can always reply that you would rather set up a time for a face-to-face conversation regarding the texts. You can explain that you would like to meet for dinner to more fully examine your friend’s new stage four clinger of a boyfriend, or the latest family drama that is constantly unfolding.

Either way, it is your phone, your time and your attention.

How can I improve my vacation with my extended family?

Dear Ready for a REAL Adventure,

First, ask yourself, “Do I really want to go on this trip?” If the destination is Branson with a bunch of family members that make your skin crawl, you might as well just say no.

If you know that the entire trip will be a dumpster fire, politely say you are not available. Taking years off your life by being constantly stressed is not worth a day pass to Silver Dollar City… maybe Dixie Stampede, but not much else.

But seriously, following a few steps will make your vacation to any destination a more enjoyable experience.

Set some group rules. If you do not want a part of your personal life discussed while on the trip, politely ask whoever is in charge to pass this request along. It is much better to set boundaries prior to the trip than to deal with issues later.

Is the destination right for your family? Do you want to wrestle a toddler in Las Vegas? Does your spouse deplore skiing? Talk about the pros and cons. That enables you to set expectations and handle possible struggles.

Set times to be away from the group. It is, after all, a vacation. Do you want to be alone for one day? Perhaps an evening with just your spouse. Also, a little planning for the trip helps alleviate potential headaches: girl’s shopping day on Tuesday, golf afternoon on Friday. Plan which nights you will eat at a restaurant. This helps everyone to budget and have a simple schedule to keep. Twelve people in a group, sitting around at the breakfast buffet, deciding what everyone wants to do every day, makes for unhappy folks. That way, your scatterbrained in-laws know the schedule, and no one gets upset about not being invited to golf.

Lower your expectations. Set the bar low. Will there be hiccups? Yes. Try to keep them to a minimum. Discuss with your immediate family your triggers. If your cousin will likely say something about your weight, let your spouse know to take you out of the situation so you don’t shank them. Does the big dinner night out give you anxiety? Let someone else know. They will help ease your fears.

Sometimes a vacation with extended family will be to a destination you could not otherwise afford without the generosity of the organizing family member. Thank them… even if you dislike them. Also, establish your budget for the vacation. Let others in the group know as well. For example, if everyone goes to Orlando for a week, maybe your family cannot afford to take your kids to the parks every day, but maybe your sister and her family can. Discussing this beforehand might mean the difference in your five-year-old not having a meltdown when he is the only kid not going to the park. Maybe someone will offer to take him so you and your spouse can have a day by yourselves. Being open and planning can save hurt feelings and ensure having a better outcome than you expected.

I hope this helps. I have learned these tips from years of extended family vacations. I wish I had known these tips from the beginning. (Maybe I could have prevented my very own chainsaw, mix fueled, dumpster fire, extended family vacation to Branson in 2005.) Anyway, happy traveling!

Is it ever too late to send thank-you notes?

Dear LATE but GREAT-ful,

No. It is never too late. Begin the note with an apology for your tardiness, then profusely thank them for their gift or act of kindness. Then do not let that mess happen again. Get it together.


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