We’d like to say that we’re Grace under fire, but judging from the flames Pride season lures from us, we’re more like Jack, or Karen. How to navigate the social terrain within a community that’s still on its societal training isn’t always obvious. Thankfully we have etiquette expert Steven Petrow to take our hands, one manicure at a time, and guide us through those pesky situations summer poses to the GLBT.
Gay List Daily: For a culture and community that arguably wants to stick out, what would you say to convince them that etiquette matters?
Steven Petrow: Unfortunately, when most of us – gay or straight – think about etiquette, we worry about which fork to use. Will the civilized world end if we use the wrong one? Hardly. But the reason I think etiquette does matter to LGBT people is because of the many new situations we’re facing as we’re more out in the world. For instance, if you have two moms and a sperm donor, what do we call them? If you’re persona non grata to your partner’s family, how do you deal with the homophobia? There are literally thousands of new situations in my upcoming book.
GLD: For summertime parties hosted by folks who haven’t specified items to bring for the event, what’s polite to show up with in hand?
SP: If you’ve been invited for dinner, it’s a swell idea to call or email your host and ask what you can contribute. If they don’t have any suggestions, here’s a trusty list that should work for the most finicky host:
A nice bottle of wine
A pair of beeswax candles
A small box of artisan chocolates
An orchid or other potted plant (stay away from cut flowers because you’ll force your host to run around to find a vase at the same time he’s making cocktails and serving hors d’oeuvres)
Your favorite book or CD of the month
GLD: It’s not unusual to start drinking at breakfast during Pride. How can friends let other friends politely know they should start slowing down?
SP: Good question, especially with the high incidence of alcoholism in our community and the long day that turns into night on Pride. But this is a touchy subject. I’d start by asking a question like, “Don’t you think you’ve had enough Bloody Mary’s for breakfast?” But, remember it’s your tone that really matters: No judgments or accusations. If it really gets out of hand, then you need to cut your friend off, privately and without embarrassing him.
GLD: June is also the unofficial start of wedding season. I’ve heard different ideas of what is the proper way to congratulate a bride-to-be. What would you say?
SP: Let’s run through what the traditionalists would tell us: You say “best wishes” to a bride and “congratulations” to a groom. I don’t think people in our community care about that distinction – or that it matters. I’d say whatever you genuinely feel: Anything from “Mazel tov!” to “I’m so glad you have the right to marry [in this state].”
GLD: For summer events like weddings, there might be instances when guests will be uncomfortable with same-sex dates. How do we act when fellow revelers take obvious, offended issue with who we are?
SP: Quite frankly, if guests have a problem with a same-sex couple at an event that’s their issue. For instance, if they make a homophobic slur, I’d bring it to the attention of the host (who is responsible for the well-being of all her guests). Of course, I’d do this after sending them either dagger eyes or saying directly: “That’s really offensive.”
GLD: In a hypothetical scenario, I’ve been invited to a friend from college’s wedding. I wasn’t out in college and bringing my partner of a few years would let the cat queen out of the bag. How do I not take away from his wedding day with the revelation?
SP: Unless your male partner is more beautiful than the bride-to-be, it will be hard to outshine her on her big day. Ok, just kidding. But since you’re not out to your college friend, I’d write a small note along with your RSVP telling him (and her) how excited you (and yours) are about celebrating with them. Then, just make sure that you let the girls catch the bouquet.
Steven Petrow is the author of “The Essential Book Of Gay Manners And Etiquette,” and regularly contributes to The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, Yahoo! and Shine.
Also look for the upcoming book, “Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners: LGBT Advice For Dating, Sex, Coming Out, Marriage And All The Rest,” out soon from Workman Publishing.