Your High Culture Etiquette Advisor

Ever wonder if it’s okay to blow your nose during a Beethoven sonata?  Or take a “selfie” in front of a grieving Virgin Mary in Michelangelo’s Pieta?  Ask your High Culture Etiquette Advisor for artistic demeanor guidance!

“Don’t cry, he’ll have a big holiday named after him someday!”


Dear High Culture Etiquette Advisor:

I cut hair at VIP Cuts II and there’s this hedge fund guy “Evan” who is a regular of mine.  He gets kind of flirty sometimes and last week he asked me if I appreciated ballet and I said “Are you kidding?  I am a professional dancer myself!”  This is technically true as I teach Introductory Hip-Hop at Miss Tammi’s Tap Studio.  So he asks me if I want to go with him to see the New York City Ballet, he has a couple of tickets and I said sure, I’m a big fan of all the local teams.

Things were going fine until halfway through the show when I popped my bubble gum and a bunch of people turned around and stared at me.  I didn’t know what to do so I swallowed the wad, which made it hard to talk the rest of the night and I probably didn’t come off as vivaciously as I should have.

Yesterday I saw Evan out the front window of VIP Cuts II and he was walking into Executive Hair Stylists across the street, big as life.  I’m afraid I have broken some “unwritten rule” of the ballet, perhaps you can tell me what it was.

Thanks a bunch,

Tiffany-Marie Santosuosso, Permberwick, CT

Dear Tiffany-Marie–

Yes, I am afraid you have violated one of the cardinal principles of balletomanes, namely, never ever pop a gum bubble during a pas de deux.  For future performances I would suggest you abandon the Bubblicious for something more refined, such as Wrigley’s Spearmint or Dentyne.


Hey High Culture Etiquette Advisor–

I have a question for you.  Last night I went with this woman “Evelyn” to the Boston Symphony.  I didn’t think it was a real “date” date, she is a client of my accounting firm and when she asked me if I was free the boss said I had to go.

Classical music is not my “thing” but I figured I had to for my career so I tried to be an enthusiastic fan.  The first number was Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” which I thought was a singing group with Franki Valli, but I guess not.  Anyway, the band started, played for awhile, then stopped, so I clapped.  I mean, they worked really hard and did a good job–why shouldn’t I applaud?

Antonio Vivaldi, Frankie Valli:  Curiously, never seen in the same room together.


Instead, Evelyn gave me a look like I was from outer space or something.  I kept on clapping whenever the band was through–what was I supposed to do, leave them hanging?  I hear classical musicians don’t make much money, I figured they’d appreciate it.

At intermission Evelyn was pretty icy, which was fine with me, she’s not exactly a candidate for Miss America if you know what I mean.  When the show was through she asked me could I just drop her off at her place, she didn’t feel like a nightcap.

I am wondering whether I did something wrong, not because I want to “jump Evelyn’s bones,” but I would like to make partner at my firm, Frangilli, Ersch & Como, P.C., someday and hope I haven’t screwed things up somehow.

This letter represents just my views, not those of my firm, in case any of the partners read it.


Yours truly,

Mike Adamrick, Framingham, Mass.

“Okay, everybody, you can go home, the opera’s over.”



Sorry to say, you have run afoul of one of the trickier conventions of the symphony, to wit, don’t clap between “movements” of pieces, only at the end.  This hard-and-fast rule causes problems of “closure” when a majority of uptight concert-goers don’t realize that the music is over until the orchestra starts packing their instruments and leaves.

In the future, restrain yourself from being the first to applaud so as not to look foolish before dates and even quasi-dates such as Evelyn.  Or you could just go to Red Sox games, where you can make noise whenever you want.

Mahler, channeling John McEnroe:  “You CAN’T be serious!”


Dear High Culture Etiquette Advisor–

I have been seeing this guy “Fritz” for several months now.  He is originally from Germany so I knew he had more culture than my ex-husband “Jimbo,” whose idea of art is cable TV fishing shows and tractor-pulls.

I know Germans cause a lot of wars and things but Fritz seemed nice and he was always a gentleman, kissing me on the hand when he said goodnight on our first date and progressing slowly from there, not going nuts and “invading Poland” right away like some of my friends warned me.

Anyway, Fritz took me to a concert last night and I couldn’t understand a word of the lyrics, but I hung in there because I am trying to make this relationship work, dammit!  At intermission I asked Fritz about the music and he said it was by some guy named “MAH-lur.”  When I asked him what the words meant he said “It’s the Kindertotenlieder–songs for dead children.”

Mr. or Mrs. High Culture Etiquette Advisor, I nearly fell over as I am not a punk rocker and am not into “twisted” humor like dead baby jokes.  I had half a mind to tell Fritz off then and there, but I decided instead I would just be really “cool” to him for the rest of the night as I did not want to touch off an international incident.

Is there some sort of “nuance” I am missing, or is this another example of Germans being colossal jerks under the cover of “culture,” like that guy Nietzsche who said God was dead?

Melanie Ann Barner, Wilmette, Illinois

Dear Melanie Ann–

I think you owe Fritz another chance.  Yes, Kindertotenlieder is a shocking work that jolts us out of our comfort zone, but so were Rocky Horror Picture Show and “cosmic bowling” when they first appeared on the scene, which many people enjoy today without embarrassment.

High culture, like beer and some cheeses, is an acquired taste, and may be repulsive at first, but the deep rewards it pays to the patient, mature mind greatly exceed the superficial satisfaction you may currently get from watching Access Hollywood.

And I would hold off on giving Fritz “half a mind” as you were tempted to.  It sounds like you’re going to need all you’ve got.


Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Take My Advice–I Wasn’t Using it Anyway.”

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