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July   3

That Flagging Feeling

Dear Betty,
I used to adore July 4th weekend, but this year I'm really depressed. This terrible war is dragging on, the Supreme Court is up in the air, Social Security is in jeopardy, we are losing our privacy, gay bashing is defended from the pulpit, environmental regulations are being loosened, the rivers are poisoned, the Democrats think it's okay to run an anti-women's rights candidate for the Senate in Pennsylvania, et cetera et cetera. I love this country, but lately I don't recognize it. Please offer a message of comfort that might help me feel the sense of peace that I used to feel on a beautiful summer weekend.
Thanks, A Flagging Flag Waver

Dear Flag,
I hear you.
Love, Betty

July 3, 2005 in Betty Says | Permalink | Comments (21)

daily dish

June  19

You Owe it to Dad

Dear Betty,
My child (age fifteen) doesn’t want to spend her allowance on a present for Father’s Day. She wants me to pay for it for her. Meanwhile, when I ask me husband what he wants for Father’s Day, he says his real desire is for me to “come to Papa.” I want to head for the hills. Any suggestions?
Signed, Squeezed on South Fullerton

Dear South,
Nowhere does it say that money must be spent on the Hallmark holidays, or any holiday for that matter. It sounds as though your daughter is protecting her own interests, which is something we want to encourage in our girls, isn’t it? She’s already fifteen, time for her to learn the fine art of teaching a man what to expect. You may suggest to her that she give her father an IOU for a service; his car washed, the lawn mowed, an evening out for just the two of them.

As for you—it sounds as though you may have made a few slip ups in that department in the past. Now’s the time to make some resolutions and stick to them. Remember, you are setting a tone and a pattern. Heading for the hills is extreme, and not really a solution. There’s nothing that says that you, too, can’t hand your husband an IOU. Or do as my friend does; close your eyes and do what it takes to get back to the book you are eager to keep reading reading after he goes to sleep. That should give you a month of Sundays all to yourself.

June 19, 2005 in Betty Says | Permalink | Comments (11)

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June   5

To Buy or Not To Buy?

Dear Betty,

A friend of mine has a book coming out, and I will be going to her signing at Watchung Booksellers. She has already told me she is going to give me a copy of her book. Do I have to buy one at the reading?

Signed, Been There, Read That

Dear Been There,

While Betty is well aware that the price of books has become daunting, she must also tell you that authors are typically given only 20 copies of their books for free by the publisher. After that, they have to pay for them. Your friend’s gift to you is very generous, considering how far those 20 books have to stretch. I’m not sure you deserve a free copy, but you didn’t sleep with me last night, did you? So that is none of my business. What does fall within my purview is the information that her gift to you is a private exchange. The reading is a different story. It is essentially a sales event, and though you are not expected to buy a book, if you can afford to, you should. Do not count the fact that you already own a copy, by whatever means you received it, as a reason not to purchase another. Show your support of your local independent bookseller and your friend by buying a book and having it signed for another friend. Or two. Or five. You will earn karma points that might prevent you from being reborn as a bookworm.


June 5, 2005 in Betty Says | Permalink | Comments (3)

daily dish

May   8

Grouchy in Gucci

Dear Betty,
I have a friend who has less money than I do, and she’s forever complaining how she can’t do this and can’t do that. Every time I ask her to do something as simple as go out to Fascino for dinner or to Canyon Ranch for a two-for-one weekend, she says she can’t afford it. It’s not my fault that she’s a fabric artist married to a musician, or that her house hasn’t appreciated very much because it’s on the train tracks. I like her, but I’m getting tired of hearing about her so-called poverty—plus I’m getting bored of pot luck. What can I do to shut her up?
Signed, Grouchy in Gucci

Dear Grouchy,

You describe a common dilemma in these eclectic suburbs. You meet someone who seems perfect for you in every way, only to discover they live several streets down the mountain, and drive a Saturn to match. Or vice versa. You can skirt around this discrepancy for a while, but eventually the difference will be felt by both parties.

You have three choices. The first is to discuss the problem. Although Betty was brought up not to talk about money—“never ask what a person does for a living, because he might be an alcoholic”—she has found that this advice is self-serving for the richer among us. If it is distasteful to talk about money, how crass is a labor union? So Betty believes in bringing the subject out into the open, especially among friends. Have a good old fashioned communist Chinese style struggle session, and tell her how you feel.

Second, you can pay for her to keep up, or sink to her level without complaining.

Third, you can drop her. For an example of how to do this, observe the Bush administration’s policies toward the middle classes. In other words, squeeze her until she disappears.

May 8, 2005 in Betty Says | Permalink | Comments (12)

daily dish

April  24

Answering the Hard Questions

Dear Betty,

My child is going to lots of bar and bat mitzvahs this year, but I can't find anyone who'll level with me about what to give as a present. I don't want to be talked about behind my back -- unless it's about my lack of back fat. Please advise.

Goyishe in Glen Ridge

Dear Goyishe,

I've never heard that name before! How perfectly adorable.

Good question. Betties always like to give the right thing, and each occasion and locale has its own norms for giving. I've always thought a crisp ten dollar bill and a Cross pen set were plenty for any child, but my local authorities tell me that, while everyone understands and believes that a bar mitzvah, like a wedding, is a joyful ceremonious occasion that requires no gift giving at all, custom has it otherwise.

Inside sources tell Betty that the current local rules are as follows. If the child will be attending on her own, and you the parent don't know the bar mitzvah boy, fifty dollars is acceptable, especially if you're not rich/attend a public school. Multiples of eighteen, which is the numerological equivalent to chai, meaning life, is considered good luck, so spring for fifty-four or seventy-two. If you are rich -- or if other people think so -- cough up a hundred, with eighteen in cash nestled next to your check. This is the norm for local private schoolers. If the whole family is going, give the equivalent in worth as you would for a wedding, or what you guess to be the total of the catering costs to feed and water your group. If the child is a relative, remember; children know who gives them what and they live to tell the tale -- to their children. If you don't want to be Uncle Cheapo for all eternity, be generous. One hundred eighty and a good dictionary is what one local lady gives her nephs and nieces. Objects are acceptable, too, but make sure you buy something returnable and not on sale. No T.J. Maxx items in Neiman Marcus boxes. Leave that trick to your mother. I have it on good authority that the lowliest trinket in the blue Tiffany box is valued more highly than 14K from Fortunoff.

Above all, be a good guest, dance, smile and write an appreciate note afterward. Your host and hostess will remember it all as a blur. Let them know you--or your child--appreciated their efforts, loved their speeches, thought their pride and joy brilliant, and had fun. If you think the ice sculpture was over the top, keep to yourself.

April 24, 2005 in Betty Says | Permalink | Comments (17)

daily dish

April  10

Let's Meet Betty

Barista is pleased to welcome Betty Albright to our fold for a new column called Betty Says. Betty is an internationally renowned expert on betiquette, which is an awful lot like etiquette, only bettier. She'll be joining us every other Sunday to share housekeeping tips, fashion manifestos and to answer all your betiquette questions.

Betty recently sat down with us for the following interview and, lovely thing that she is, she even brought home-made peanut butter cookies, our favorite. How did she know?

Barista: Of all the suburbs in the United States, why would you come to ours?
Betty: I am like a television angel. I go where I’m needed.
Barista: How do you like it so far?
Betty: Everyone has been so friendly! As I drive around town observing the speed limit and braking for crosswalks, people always toot their horns and wave to me in the cutest way, with their middle fingers raised.
Barista: Uh, okay. So what’s your first order of business?
Betty: Spring cleaning! Now’s the time. Dust, degerm, scrub, polish. DDSP. Simply remember the initials after your dentist’s name and add a P for pretty.
Barista: No rug beating?
Betty: That’s what vacuum cleaners are for! Do your cleaning as quickly and efficiently as possible so you can move on to the headier work of being a good neighbor.
Barista: We have good fences for that around here.
Betty: Oh, that won’t be necessary in my case. Speaking of which--it won’t be a problem to find a 4-bedroom Georgian with a big garden and a lap pool in the $300,000 range, right?

Have a question for Betty? Leave it in the comment section below. Maybe she'll answer in her next column.

April 10, 2005 in Betty Says | Permalink | Comments (0)

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