Q: Every December, I receive a photocopied holiday greeting under my apartment door, signed by everyone who’s ever worked in the building. How much should I give the doormen, the super, and the porters? And do I have to give to everyone? Even the guys I’ve never heard of?
—FEELING SCROOGEY, Upper East Side
A: Only if you know what’s good for you, ya know what we’re saying, pal? Though you may feel as though you’re being shaken down, and that your chances of getting your radiator fixed in January depend solely on your gift-giving ability, it’s a fact of apartment-house life: Holiday baksheesh is simply the portion of your monthly costs not included in your rent. Fortunately, you needn’t declare bankruptcy to keep up with the Joneses in 4D. Your doormen know what you do for a living—in fact, they could probably come closer to guessing your salary than your own officemates. Because to the building staff, residents are like a baseball team: Everyone knows who the cleanup hitter is (that partner at Goldman Sachs), who the solid everyday players are (lawyers), and which poor souls are just up from the minors (people under 30, city employees, anyone working in publishing). Twenty bucks from a starving artist draws as much goodwill as $500 from a big-deal banker. Tenants, similarly, can get away with less than owners. As for the issue of equality: The superintendent generally gets more than the doormen, who get a bit more than the porters and other handymen. If someone helps you out in some particular way throughout the year, you can certainly acknowledge that around the holidays if you haven’t already. And as far as those lower-profile fellows go, keep this in mind: The guy you’ve never heard of this month may be the guy you’re counting on to fix that drip next month—at which point he may just go ahead and forget who you are. One more thing: Don’t—and we’ve heard supers say this really happens—include a “To Do” list in the envelope.
Q: My girlfriend once said that if I ever cheated on her, she wouldn’t want to know about it. Now I’ve gone and had a one-night stand, and the guilt is killing me. It didn’t mean anything, but I hate keeping such a confidence from someone I’m so close to. I want to marry this woman, but how can I propose with this secret plaguing me?
—REGRETFUL CAD, Soho
A: Your girlfriend has grasped the great secret of infidelity: Never, ever tell. Why? Because telling makes the guilty party feel better and the innocent party feel terrible, which is the opposite of justice. You’re the one who’s supposed to be miserable, while your girlfriend ought to be content, because she didn’t do anything wrong. If this is really something you feel you can’t hide, the only fair thing is to break up with your girlfriend with the excuse that you fear commitment or something. Stay apart for a couple of weeks, then show back up with a diamond and say you had a fling (no need to say exactly when) but realized you wanted to be with her forever and all that. If she decides to forgive you, you can get married guilt-free.
Q: My best friend got her husband a stripper for his birthday party. My husband found this thrilling and now thinks my friend is the coolest person we know. With his 45th fast approaching, he’s gone from dropping hints to pouting about how he wants a stripper, too. I complained to my friend, and she acted like I was a prude. I feel ganged up on and bullied. So do I cave and get the damn stripper or stick to my guns and let my best friend and husband think I’m stuck-up and insecure?
—WITHHOLDING WIFE, Bronx
A: Up the ante and get him a really scary dominatrix, thus upstaging your friend, proving your moxie, scaring the hell out of your husband, and giving yourself some much-deserved revenge via a whip wielded by some Elvira type who’s on your payroll.
Got a Question?
Not sure how to handle a tricky etiquette situation? Ask us.