Ask Cynthia

Southern etiquette is ingrained in many of us from childhood, but being a Southerner is about far more than knowing which fork to use at a dinner party. Here, we asked our resident Southern woman, Cynthia, to chime in and answer some questions about modern etiquette. Read on for expert advice on everything from splitting the bill to staying cool at summer events.

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Q: I have a girls’ weekend coming up and I will be putting the charge for our accommodations on my card. Is there a tactful way to make sure everyone contributes their fair share?

A: This can be tricky – you don’t want to seem like you don’t trust your friends, but you also don’t want to be stuck with a big bill when it’s all said and done! In a situation like this, transparency will be your best option. Once your trip has been booked, you can share the estimated final cost with the rest of the group along with the total that each party will be responsible for. You can also give options for everyone to pay you back – cash transfer apps, personal checks, etc. This way, you’re simply sharing information rather than making demands. If the time comes and someone has yet to pay up, assume they have good intentions rather than using accusatory language to remind them. For example, “I wanted to make sure you didn’t forget to send your share” is much friendlier than “you still haven’t paid back what you owe me.”

– Cynthia

Q: My friend is in the process of buying a new home, and I can’t decide on a housewarming gift! Any advice?

A: This is an exciting new chapter for your friend, and giving a gift is a great way to share in their excitement! First, consider the reasons behind the move – are they downsizing now that the kids have grown up, or are they moving into their first home? If they are downsizing, choose a gift that won’t add clutter to their already-full space, such as a nice bottle of wine or a gift basket with luxury bath products to help unwind after the stress of moving. Otherwise, consider things you know about your friend and the home they’re moving into – do they have a dedicated bookshelf with empty spaces, or do they collect any special décor or trinkets? If you’re still stumped, feel free to ask for their input! It truly is the thought that counts, and there’s nothing wrong with making sure your gift will be well-received.

– Cynthia

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Q: I’m pregnant with my second child, and some family members want to throw me another baby shower. Would that be tacky?

A: Not necessarily! While a baby shower is meant to “shower” first-time parents with everything they need to prepare for the baby’s arrival, a “baby sprinkle” can be a more intimate gathering to express excitement for your growing family. Costly gifts like strollers and cradles won’t be necessary if the first child has grown out of them already, but loved ones will likely still cherish the opportunity to gift a cute outfit or a special toy to your newest bundle of joy. If you want to make sure there is no confusion, you can always include a line in the invitation that says something like “no need to bring a gift, your attendance is all we are hoping for!”

– Cynthia

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Q: I will be attending several outdoor weddings this summer, and I tend to overheat easily. Is there a way to keep cool without distracting from the event?

A: Southerners are no strangers to this feeling – you want to beat the heat, but you don’t want to call attention to yourself or seem impolite to the people who invited you to their big day. In addition to picking summer-friendly fabrics and airy designs, you can plan ahead by bringing a small fan to cool you down during the ceremony. Opt for a folding fan with an elegant design (perhaps something that matches your outfit!) or even a small, battery-powered fan that isn’t noisy. You can also bring some cooling body wipes with ingredients like witch hazel or menthol to freshen up after the ceremony.

– Cynthia

Q: I just got an offer for a great job, but I’m still waiting to hear back about a position that I would consider my dream job. Can I postpone accepting the first offer without damaging that potential relationship?

A: Interviewing for new jobs can be stressful, but it’s important to remember that you are also interviewing the companies that you apply to work for. Employers want to hire people who will be a good fit for the position just as much as you want to make sure a position will be a good fit for you. In this case, it would be best to respond promptly and express your excitement for the opportunity, request a bit of time to consider all of your options, and offer a specific date for when they can expect your decision. This tells an employer that you are tactful, considerate, and in-demand – all desirable qualities for a potential employee!

– Cynthia

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