Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Life’s Little Distractions Getting You Down?

DEAR NATALIE: If one is sitting in prime director's circle seats at the Benedum (or any section at any play for that matter), and the couple behind you are continuously albeit sporadically crinkling candy wrappers/plastic almond containers, etc., that they sell in the lobby, what is the polite/acceptable way to get such a boor to stop the distractions without angering nearby patrons with my comment or potentially embarrassing my companion? -- EASILY ANNOYED 

DEAR EASILY ANNOYED: Isn't it funny how something as seemingly benign as a candy wrapper can drive someone to insanity in certain moments? You can react to this one of two ways: 1. Turn around and politely whisper that the candy wrappers/almond boxes are rather loud and you would prefer it if they could wait until intermission to eat their treats. They will either sheepishly swallow the last of their candy whole or they will ignore your remark and unwrap things louder and more slowly. 2. You can take a deep breath, focus on the show and meditate for a minute on why you are so bothered by this noise. It's interesting because all day long we deal with distractions, we tune out conversations and background noise, and we are able to multitask. But whenever we are sitting in relative silence, the slightest noise can become so unnerving. 

DEAR NATALIE: I was recently invited to an engagement party. I have never been invited to one before. What does one wear to such an event (dressy, non-dressy, how casual), and second, what kind of present do the couple expect to receive (or should you not even take a present)? Thanks for your help in making me look socially sophisticated! -- NEEDS A CLUE 

DEAR NEEDS A CLUE: Engagement parties can be laid back or very formal depending on the couple and where the event takes place. If, for example, the invite reads something like "join us for a drink at (insert name of bar) on Friday night to celebrate the happy couple," dress depending on the bar. If it is a swanky place, opt for a cute cocktail dress or a chic pantsuit. If it is a more casual bar, you could wear nice jeans and a pretty top, or a casual dress. If the event is in the home of a family member or a friend, I always say I'd rather be overdressed than underdressed, and a little black dress paired with a snazzy heel will do the trick. And while it is not required, it is always nice to show up at someone's home with a small gift. (I learned that from my awesome mom.) A bottle of champagne is always nice. If the event is out at a public place, a card with well wishes is a thoughtful gesture, but don't feel obligated to bring anything beyond that. Just appear with a smile on your face and have a great time celebrating love! 

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Keep it positive. We have all met the Debbie Downers of the world, those who would rather complain than look on the bright side. Be a ray of sunshine in people's lives (if only for a few moments) by focusing on your passions, your goals, and encourage others to do the same during the conversation. You want people to feel uplifted when they walk away from you. Remember, networking is about putting your best foot forward, so keep a smile on your face and a spring in your step! 

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)