The holidays bring plenty of warm, touching moments that are filled with beauty and grace. They can also bring some situations that can be fraught with discomfort and awkward interactions. Instead of fretting over potential mishaps and missteps, we’re propping you up with some useful pointers from some of the South’s most congenial entertaining pros. Take a page from their playbooks, and handle uncomfortable situations with ease.
Awkward situation: How do you handle it when you’re given a gift, but don’t have one to give in return?
If you are truly caught unprepared, Baylor Stovall, owner of The Stovall Collection in Memphis, graduate of The Protocol School of Washington and co-editor of Crane & Co.’s The Wedding Blue Book suggests, “Do not mention the fact that you do not have one to give. Remember, it is always better to give than to receive. By bringing attention to the fact that you cannot reciprocate the gift, you are taking away from the joy of giving!” Just be sure to write a heartfelt thank you note.
For Birmingham landscape designer and horticulturalist, Clarke Bohorfoush, owner of Boho Designs, LLC, he has a solution so as to never be caught in the situation to begin with. “Here in the South, there is almost a compulsion to give something to everyone, from your mother to your waste management professionals, so you have to be prepared for the inevitable unexpected gifting. After moving back home to Birmingham, I was caught in this situation for two years in a row and resorted to frantically removing tags from family gifts and rummaging through my kitchen for anything worthy of the gift received. I finally came up with a fool-proof solution. I found some beautiful hand-blown glass ornaments for a nice price that were intended to house air plants or bird seed. I bought 20 of them and stuffed them with different exotic air plants. I hung them all on the tree with blank tags that simply read ‘Merry Christmas from Clarke’ and kept a pen on the other side of the tree so I could quickly jot down their name. I was never caught by surprise or empty-handed that year, and I don’t think anyone saw me write their name on the tag. Everyone absolutely loved the air plants and glass ornaments, and to this day, years later, I still get pictures from friends and neighbors showing me how their air plant is blooming or flourishing, and that makes my heart warm.”
Awkward situation: You receive a gift that is completely hideous or worse, is a regift of the very same gift you gave the giver the year before. How do you respond without being completely transparent about your disgust?
Lee Robinson, of The Lee W. Robinson Company in Louisville, suggests, “If the person is not present, write a thank you note that says, ‘Thank you so much for your remembrance. Hope you have a wonderful holiday season.’ By wording it this way, you say thank you not for the gift, but for the remembrance. That way you are not lying. You really don’t like the gift, but it was kind of them to remember you. If the person is present, remark with a smile, ‘How clever!’ You can interpret that any way you want.”
Awkward situation: People ask intrusive and inappropriate questions.
Ivy Schuster, owner of Hatcher Schuster Interiors in Birmingham, opts for a more shocking, direct approach.“There’s nothing more annoying than relatives asking, ‘When are you going to get married?’ or ‘When are you going to have a baby?’ I’ve experienced both, and somehow I did manage to get married and have a baby, but for many years I thought neither of those would be my path in life, and that’s exactly how I wanted it,” Ivy says. “I always find the best response is one that made the inquirer equally uncomfortable. I tried everything from bursting into tears to just completely ignoring the person. Later on, I came up with the idea to say, ‘Actually, I am pregnant, but don’t tell anyone,’ and then down a glass of wine!”
Awkward situation: Someone shows up wearing the same dress as you.
Libby Callaway, fashion editor, journalist, creative consultant, personal style crush and founder of The Callaway, is our go-to gal for fashion advice. When posed with the situation of meeting a duplicate dresser, she says, “If I showed up at a holiday party in the same dress as someone else whom I didn’t know, I’d embrace it as a chance to make a new friend — one who obviously has amazing taste. Ha! Right off the bat, I’d introduce myself and, if I could tell she was feeling awkward about having a party twin, would try to make light of the situation by saying something like, ‘Well, the rest of these clowns must not have heard about the dress code. We look marvelous, don’t you think?'”
Awkward situation: Your little cousin won’t put down his iPad.
One thing to keep in mind is that StyleBlueprint doesn’t exactly recommend following all of the advice given today. But with that disclosure out of the way, we turn to Ben and Morey of “The Ben and Morey Show.” Ben, one half of the comedy duo, says of your little cousin, “Instill in him a love of reading by introducing him to Playboy. Slip him his first beer. The iPad is now less of a distraction.”
Awkward situation: Your left-wing uncle and right-wing sister begin to battle it out.
“Steer the conversation towards religion, so as to distract from the politics,” says Morey, the other half of the above-mentioned duo. “Or go help your little cousin with his iPad.”
Awkward situation: You show up at a party completely over- or under-dressed for the affair.
Style coach and fashion maven Megan LaRussa suggests, “This holiday season if you find yourself attending a soirée where you don’t know the dress code, play it safe with a dressy casual look. But if you get to the big event and realize you are way underdressed, then excuse yourself and apply a pop of color on the lip to instantly up the level of your overall appearance. If you are on the opposite spectrum with a too-dressy ensemble, then slip off anything that reads more cocktail, like a sparkly accessory, or a festive third piece, and leave it in your car. Lastly, the best advice for handling these situations with grace is own your look, exude confidence and accept compliments with a simple, ‘Thank you!'”
Awkward situation: You’re chatting with someone you just met at a holiday party. They have some rogue spinach from the spinach ball appetizers caught between their teeth. What do you do?
“If you are just meeting someone for the first time, be self-deprecating to ease into the conversation,” suggests Lee Robinson. “Say ‘Oh my gosh, these spinach balls are so fabulous, but I feel like all of the spinach is stuck in my teeth. Do I have any in my teeth?’ Then they will ask you the same about their teeth and you can point it out gently.”
Awkward situation: You over-imbibe at the company Christmas party and have the make the walk of shame at work the next day.
The first order of business is an apology. “Make apologies to the host if you were at a party and made a scene,” says Baylor Stovall, and then drop the subject and don’t bring it up again!
Above all else, stay classy and enjoy the holidays!
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