Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 26th 2015 Contents "We advise that a handshake is always safe. But
if you re going to do a social hug then if at all
possible make eye contact first---let them know
you re coming," says Senning, who co-hosts the
Awesome Etiquette podcast.
US Vice-President Joe Biden was criticised last
week for letting his hands linger on the shoulders
of Stephanie Carter, wife of new US Defence Sec-
retary Ashton Carter.
"But I m not sure Joe Biden would go up to a
male staffer, grab his back and whisper in his ear,"
Another rule: "Think about your intention". What
are you trying to communicate by your gesture?
"With Idina Menzel it almost seemed like Travolta
was trying to grab her attention---by literally pointing
her face into his eyes.
"But we tell clients not to touch their own faces.
So someone else s face is definitely off limits."
There s an awkward expression, he says, for people
who behave like Travolta---"being a bit handsy."
And remember, he says, bad social etiquette
doesn t just affect the person you re talking to. The
effect on the witnesses---in this case a worldwide
TV audience ---is often as dramatic as the victim
"There is only one piece of news that penetrated
my social media this morning---John Travolta," says
"So be careful how you greet people in your
workplace. Otherwise, the next day, you might end
up as the trending topic." (BBC)
Just as it seemed John Travolta would
redeem himself for last year s Oscars
social faux-pas, he made the Academy
squirm all over again.
After getting Idina Menzel s name com-
pletely wrong in 2014 ("Adele Dazeem")
the Grease star took the stage alongside
the US singer to mock himself for his error.
He got her name right this time. But
then began stroking and clutching her face
in a creepy manner from which the Frozen
star appeared to recoil.
Earlier on the red carpet Scarlett Johans-
son turned away in apparent disgust as
Travolta reached a palm around her waist
and appeared to rub her body.
They weren t the only ones feeling
"Travolta leans in, grosses out" said the
Boston Globe, while the London Evening
Standard dubbed it "the most awkward
moment of the Oscars".
The UK Telegraph s film critic Robbie
Collin went further, saying the encounter
with Johansson "sums up sexism in Hol-
So where exactly is the boundary
between a fond embrace and a slimy inva-
sion of privacy?
And in the touchy-feely world of Hol-
lywood, is there any excuse for the Sat-
urday Night Fever star s over-friendly fin-
According to etiquette guru Liz Brewer,
there is no public setting in which Tra-
volta s behaviour would be deemed charm-
ing or acceptable.
"The Oscars is a dignified event. There
is a way to behave. You are on screen,
doing your job and representing your trade.
"What was he trying to do? Steal the
limelight? I would have been appalled.
"I don t know how well he knows Scarlet
Johansson, but that is inappropriate---total-
In any professional setting "touching
someone else, in any way, is always a big
deal" says Daniel Post Senning, of the
Emily Post Institute.
"We say the heart of good etiquette is
making other people feel at ease. You have
to have empathy.
"But look at the reactions [to John Tra-
volta]. Idina Menzel can t yell out Stop!
because she s on stage. So when she starts
to pull away from him, he needs to be
aware of that. "I m reminded of when
George W Bush tried to give Angela Merkel
a back rub [at the G8 summit]. She just
winced and shrugged him off."
The comfortable distance in public in
the US is "about 18 inches" says Senning.
Any time you venture closer than that,
you have to be very clear what the rules
Thursday, February 26, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Is John Travolta's touchy-feely style inappropriate?
John Travolta caresses Idina Menzel's face as they present an award at the 87th Oscars on Sunday evening. AP PHOTO
What are the 'no-go' areas?
Hands --- "You're always safe with a
handshake. Unless it's the double-hand shake - I
call that 'the politician'. It's not standard, so you
need to know the rules before you attempt it."
Arms --- "Like hands they can be okay. A little
tap on the shoulder might be fine, as could a
friendly hug. But always make eye contact first -
let them know you're coming."
Fa ce --- "We advise people to avoid touching
their own faces in public - so someone else's face
is not on."
Thigh --- "Are we mates at boarding school
here? Or is this a serious interview?"
Stomach --- "I'd say that's a no-go area."
Bottom --- "Absolutely wrong".
Daniel Post Senning, Emily Post Institute
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