Metro-East Living

Is it rude to ask someone about their taxes?

Q. With income tax day in a few days, would you remind everyone that it is really rude to ask ANYONE, yes ANYONE about their taxes. No one needs to know if I filed, when I filed, did I get anything back, what did I have to pay? And anyone includes sons-in-law and brothers-in law. Am I wrong?

A. No, you are not wrong. It is very rude and ill-mannered to ask anyone, (friends, neighbors, family, co-workers), anything about his or her income tax.

Q. I remember my dad always telling my brother not to button the bottom button of his suit. I don't recall him giving a reason, just that's the way it should be. He's no longer with us, so I can't ask him, but my son asked me "why" the other day. Since I didn't know what to say, could you please provide a reason that I can pass on to him?

A. There is somewhat of a humorous, yet almost pathetic story behind how it came about that the bottom button of a man's suit or jacket is not buttoned. There once was a king many years ago named King Edward VII, who was the British monarch from 1901 until his death in 1910. King Edward loved, loved food, and apparently was not one for getting a lot of exercise. His tailors were constantly tasked to provide him with larger and larger waistcoats to accommodate his ever-growing stomach size. They weren't able to keep up, and as a result, the King became very uncomfortable. He was so very uncomfortable having his stomach constricted by his waistcoat, that one day he casually unbuttoned the bottom to provide him some relief from the discomfort. It did not go unnoticed by the members of his court; therefore, since the King set the fashion trends at that time, this new "fashion fad" spread quickly, and within a short time, unbuttoned bottom buttons were seen everywhere.

Over the years since King Edward VII created this fad, it has remained in men's fashion as a way to honor the memory of "Edward the Wide" as he disrespectfully became known. The difference is that suit jackets and blazers of today are actually designed to cutaway at the hips with the bottom button deemed appropriate to be left undone because of style rather than weight. To button the bottom button would result in pulling and bunching of fabric at the waist which would be very unsightly. Since tighter cut suit jackets and blazers seem to be the current fad with some millennial and those younger (we can only hope it is a dying fad), it would be almost impossible to button that last button. How wonderful it is when one still sees a gentleman wearing a comfortably-fitted suit rather than one which looks like it is at least two sizes too small or one which was accidentally shrunk two sizes while at the cleaners being cleaned.

The final answer is: No, the bottom button is not to be buttoned.

Q. We bought a really nice Easter Lily for a senior person who has been a long-time friend of ours and who we check in on, and visit on a regular basis. While we are visiting, we always ask and try to do things for her that she cannot do. When I went by this weekend, I saw that she had thrown the lily pot and plant into the backyard. I casually mentioned that I had seen it there and she said she was tired of smelling it and was going to put it in the garbage can but since it was raining, she just threw it in the yard. I asked her if I could retrieve it and plant it in one of her flower beds when it stops raining. She then said, "they never grow," so I asked her if I could try to plant it in my yard. She frowned but said she "probably didn't care." When I got home and told my husband, he said he thought it was improper for me to take back a gift and that I should have planted it in her yard or put it in the garbage can.

A. I am sorry but I politely disagree with your husband. You offered to plant the lily in one of her flower beds and she declined the offer, and indicated her intention was to throw it away. That statement indicated she was "done with your gift." The polite questions you asked after that were possibly unnecessary, but since the plant was still on her property, it was appropriate and wise of you to ask if you could have it. After all, why add it to an already-bursting landfill when it can be in the ground bringing beauty for you and others?

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Dianne Isbell at Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to