A friend flirts outrageously with your husband? Your mother gives your brother the table she promised you? You didn't invite someone to a party, and (oops) she found out? From spills to spats to please-earth-open-and-swallow-me-now moments, experts show you how to get out of social mayhem.
"I was working as freelance makeup artist in a department store. This customer came in wearing a micro-mini and her right cheek was hanging out. I said, 'Excuse me, Madame, I thought you'd like to know you're exposed in the back.' — Samantha von Sperling, president, Polished Social Image Consultants
"I was at a black-tie function with my husband, and a woman pointed to my belly and said, 'Congratulations. You are expecting, aren't you?' I said, 'As a matter of fact, I'm not, but I do have a 2 and 1/2 year old.' She said, 'Well, obviously you haven't lost all the baby weight.' Even though I'm well equipped to respond to a lot of things, I did not have a comeback. Amazingly, she moved on from there and tried to pitch me for work." — Harriette Cole, syndicated columnist and author of Choosing Truth
"A friend I see occasionally has a fairly active love life. Finally we thought he had found Ms. Right, because he kept telling us about Sharon, Sharon, Sharon. A month later, he shows up at a party with a gorgeous girl on his arm and I said, 'This must be the Sharon we've heard so much about!' Of course, it wasn't her. I don't think I ever really extricated myself out of that." — Margaret Shepherd, author of The Art of Civilized Conversation
"A situation that still makes me cringe: A colleague at Parsons was leaving to accept a position at another institution in another city. I had forgotten about her farewell party. I scrambled though the stuff in my office searching for an unopened box, the contents of which would be appropriate to re-gift it. (Why I have lots of unopened gifts is another story...) Voilà! I found a sterling silver Tiffany pen that had been presented to me after judging a city-wide design competition. I relished her gush at the sight of the signature blue box and white ribbon. She opened it, and looked at me tearfully and said, 'You even had it engraved.' Oh, no. 'Best wishes from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.' Re-gifting can be very dangerous, indeed. — Tim Gunn, Project Runway's critical eye and the chair of the Department of Fashion Design at Parsons at The New School for Design
"I've had someone, in my home, make someone else at the table cry. That was very uncomfortable. I handled it by letting the lady who was crying go to the ladies' room and get herself under control. When she came back, we had retired from the table, and I immediately sat with her and chatted as if nothing had happened. Half an hour later, I took the person who made her cry and said, 'You are going to apologize right now.' And he did. Then I said, 'And I'm going to sit here between the two of you and make sure that your night hasn't been ruined, and that'—I said this to the perpetrator—'you behave like a gentleman.' They actually went out dancing afterwards with a group of friends." — Carolyne Roehm, author of A Passion for Parties