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When I graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism (please don’t use the acronym), Ted Koppel was our keynote speaker. As you can imagine, those of us in the audience from Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Journalism were thrilled to have him there and cheered wildly. He looked right at our section and said, “Thanks. But there are still no jobs for you out there.” So you’re telling me, my family invested all this money to go to a really expensive private school and THIS is my going away gift!

Turns out I was employable, but it took a lot of time, effort, and low paying jobs to get to a point where I was existing above the poverty line. I’m sure Jenna Bush is a really lovely person but I hope she’ll understand that I shudder when I see her on national television then think of myself at my first professional gig working part time for minimum wage in a former key kiosk that had been turned into an all-news radio station. “Now Kiki,” you might say. “That sounds like sour grapes.” You’re damn right it is!

But what were we talking about….ah yes, house guests and graduation.

I’ve hosted a lot of graduation parties and the house guests that come with them and here’s my take.

When your host is throwing a party, the basic rules of etiquette are just a little different. You need to understand that you are not the main attraction and that your host has a lot going on. Try to make yourself useful, but if your host turns down help, graciously fade into the background, or better yet find something to do outside of the house.

Fend for yourself as much as possible. “Please don’t bother with breakfast for us. We saw this coffee shop down the street we can’t wait to try.”

Don’t make suggestions regarding the arrangements unless you were part of the planning, this is obnoxious.

Don’t provide food unless specifically asked. Chances are there is a menu planned and your offering might screw things up.

Put all your stuff in your designated area, preferably behind a closed door.

Don’t make demands of your host. They probably don’t have time to stop and set up the ironing board for you. This has actually happened to me on several occasions. And in my house who knows where the ironing board is, do I even have an ironing board?

Our eldest niece is a good example of a handy thing to have around for a party. First of all, she’ll do whatever you ask without question. One time I handed her a pair of pants to hem. Second of all, she’s really good at getting other “helpful” guests out of your hair. “Sweetie, would you help Aunt Agnes gather some lovely flowers in that meadow ten miles away?” “Why certainly Auntie, I’d be glad to do that.” This is actually not far from the truth.

Don’t get in the way of the caterers if they have them. In my case, the “caterer” is my sister. Guests tend to treat her like she’s free to chat. She is, but wait until the food is out and she’s holding a glass of wine or cold beer…that’s your sign to approach.

Make an effort to talk to guests who seem shy or socially awkward. This is incredibly helpful to your host. You obviously have something in common to get the conversation going.

When the party is over, offer to clean up but be sure to follow the host’s instructions carefully. You don’t want to throw out the good paper plates by accident.

Getting back to Ted Koppel, try really hard to say only positive things to and about the graduate.

Things not to say:

“I’ve heard the job market is really awful.”

“How you gonna pay off all those student loans?”

“I hear they’re hiring greeters at Walmart.” Not that there’s anything wrong with this job, it’s just an overused meme.

“So you’ve moved back in with the folks? How long is that going to last?”

“Let me tell you about my wildly successful child who had a full time job with benefits even before graduation!”

Here’s my favorite: “You got a degree in Broadcast Journalism?  So you’re going to work fast food, huh?”

You get the idea.

Congratulations to all the graduates and their families who read this. I wish you well. The only piece of advice I have is to keep your sense of humor. It’s even more important than your degree.

Thank you for visiting,


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