Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bonne fĂȘte!

Forgive me, dear readers, for my absence. I, like you, have been quite busy for the last month, and it took a toll on my blog. I had the most sincere and lovely intentions of writing you a “how to guide” to the holidays, I was froth with all of the wonderful rules and suggestions that I have for making the holiday season as fantastic as possible.

While I have clearly dropped the ball on the 2010 holiday season, I hope that you will accept my apology and we can move promptly onto New Year’s themed suggestions.  That being said, I had the most lovely and wonderful of holidays, and I hope that you did as well. For those of you still bursting at the seams with winter spirit, I hope that you will remember we still have a few more days to eat, drink, and be merry, in the most festive of fashions.

Have you ever heard the phrase “the devil is in the details?” Well, this is true. Yet, it is not only the devil that resides in the details, but the magic and wonder as well. The holidays, and New Year’s Eve, are all about the details.

I would like the theme of this particular blog to be centered primarily around New Year’s, but before we begin that, I’d like to tackle a much more pressing issue. What should one say to properly express our best wishes during this time of year?

First of all, did you notice that I’ve darted around the topic of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or any of the other religiously affiliated celebrations that occur during this time of year? This was done purposefully. From mid-November to early January, every year, without fail, it’s important to be extra conscientious of wishing every single person you see a “Merry Christmas,” while the sentiment is sweet, kind, and undoubtedly sincere, it can be offensive. When I was growing up in Los Angeles, it was a family tradition for us to have Christmas lunch at Canter’s Deli on Fairfax. We were often joined by family friends who happened to be Jewish. Meeting for lunch at Canter’s was a great way to share the spirit of festivity, spend the holiday with family, and friends (as holidays should be spent), and yet it kept things neutral and non invasive.  I received a lovely invitation from my neighbors for their “Christmas party” this year. While the invitation was lovely, as was the sentiment of the invitation, all I could imagine was how alienated I would feel if I were not of Christian faith, and invited to a “Christmas party.” I declined the invitation due to a scheduling issue.
 Whenever you’d like to pay someone a holiday-oriented sentiment, just remember, unless you know the person very well, and you know exactly what holiday they are celebrating (if any) “Happy Holidays” sends the most sincere, and correct statement.

It will literally warm anyone’s heart. Saying “Happy Holidays” says that you’re wishing them a very merry, happy, everyday in between mid-November, until early January. That’s approximately 45 days of good cheer, and tidings of joy, wrapped up into one simple little phrase. It doesn’t cost a penny, yet it’s worth its weight in gold. So I say to you, dear readers, I am wishing you the Happiest of Holidays.

Let’s move on to New Years, and New Year’s Eve.  If you have made plans for NYE, be sure to keep them. The last thing one should do on NYE is jilt their date unexpectedly, it’s the tackiest of faux pas one could make. If one has received another opportunity, proceed after the New Year. If you’re going on a steady date with your special lady or guy, be sure to make plans that you’ll both enjoy. Be willing to compromise so that you both have the New Year celebration that you want. If you intend to keep your dance card more open, then be sure to carry some breath mints, and business cards, New Year’s can be a magical time, and you never know who you might meet!

Depending on where you live, this may or may not be a piece of pertinent advice. I have the pleasure of living in a warm climate, where our lowest of lows rarely reach
20 °F. One of my greatest pet peeves about this climate is that people do not dress appropriately for any occasion. NYE is one of the only days of the year in my town that people dress up, even moderately. If you’re experiencing the same problem in your neck of the woods, just remember, if it’s cold, it is cold, dress appropriately, also, dress adequately.  Remember that you’re at a NYE party, not a clam bake. Therefore, it is inappropriate to wear flip flops, casual denim, running shoes, etc. Ladies, a slight heel, or a fancy flat, can make any outfit more fun. NYE is a night for false eyelashes and a new lipstick, treat yourself to a manicure. Gentlemen, treat yourself to a trip to your favorite barber, get a proper cut and shave. When you get home, iron a button-down shirt. I don’t expect you to put on a suit and tie if you’re going to a casual party, I do expect you to present yourself appropriately. Who knows, maybe your attention to detail, and dapper dress will land you the type of kiss at midnight that will change your life. Whatever you might do to prepare for your party, be sure to relax, and enjoy the last day of the year in style. You’ve earned it.

If you have been invited to a NYE party, be sure to RSVP if necessary, and ask your host or hostess if you should bring anything. I do mean anything. Word it like this, “What could I bring to the party?” “Is there anything I could do at all?” do not use phrases like “Is there anything I could do for you” because this implies to your host/hostess that they are not capable of planning or putting together their party properly. Even if your host or hostess says that you can’t help, and shouldn’t bring anything, remember that it is rude to show up empty handed. Bring something thoughtful, a bottle of sparkling apple cider, for people who don’t drink (at parties they are often forgotten and excluded from midnight toasts,) or a batch of homemade cookies, mulling spices from Williams Sonoma, the eternal fail safe, fresh flowers (NEVER carnations or colored daisies) or, perhaps the most appropriate a nice bottle of wine/champagne (it does not have to be expensive.) Moet and Chandon make a sparkling wine (just like champagne, but not from the Champagne region of France) that I swear by called Chandon, and it can usually be found for approximately $10-20 per bottle, if you have a better price range to work with, try Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label. It has always been my favorite champagne, and the holidays aren’t the holidays without it, again, at around $40 a bottle, you’re really getting a fantastic champagne for the price.

Another excellent rule of thumb for that evening is to make arrangements, be it through a car service, cab, or designated driver. Nothing is more tacky, thoughtless, or dangerous than driving under the influence!  Now comes my biggest, and best piece of advice: do not over do it. Last year, I’m ashamed to say, I celebrated a little too hard on December 30, and it put quite the damper on my New Year’s Eve Day. Pace yourself, drink water, take a vitamin/airborne when you get home from your celebration, and get some rest.

Readers, friends, and family, I am wishing you the most sincere, and happiest of New Year’s, I hope 2011 is more magical and wonderful than 2010. Enjoy yourselves, behave yourselves, and most importantly, Happy New Year!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Do's and Don'ts of Public Conduct

Etiquette lesson for the week: Phone calls in public are a definite don’t, as is poor customer service.

I was running errands today, and I had the misfortune of having not one, but two unpleasant retail experiences, both at the hand of rude store clerks. While it was frustrating, I’m thankful, because it gave me the inspiration to write this etiquette lesson.

The monotonous task of errand running is not pleasant for anyone. It’s unpleasant for you, and people working in retail settings. The situation is only exacerbated by people who refuse to show minimal-politeness, by refusing to make their phone calls during an appropriate time.

Allow me to elaborate, there are appropriate and inappropriate times to make/receive phone calls.

It is inappropriate, when you are dealing with a store clerk, checking out, and there is a line behind you. Everyone else in line has places to go, people to see, and things to do, please, don’t be so egocentric and truly selfish as to believe that YOU are the only person on earth who has priorities or obligations. We all have priorities and obligations. Respect for your fellow man should be a lesson learned many moons ago, but just in case, enjoy the refresher course.

Hooray for you, you’ve received a call in the middle of a treacherous line! You’re popular! Rejoice! Oh if only that were true, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. It is impolite to the clerk, the other persons in line who do not want to be privy to the details of your personal calls, to whomever may have accompanied you to the store, and the rest of the store staff. Yes, browsing through aisles, and aisles of miscellaneous objects is a tedious task; but, you’re at the store doing one of two things: you’re on a mission for a specific item, or you’re killing time. Either way, this does not mean that you have the right to devalue anyone/everyone’s time, privacy, etc by taking personal calls in public. When put into these social situations, do the right thing, press ignore, and call them back when you have a free moment, it only takes a second of your time, and you’ll have fantastic bonus-karma points awaiting you in the car.

There are exceptions, of course, and that’s why I adore the science of etiquette, it is an enigmatic art...or is it a science? The best example, might be if you are at the grocery store, when you realize you may have forgotten to write something on your list  in that circumstance, make a quick, quiet phone call “Darling, do we need tomatoes?” Get your answer, and end the conversation. But, don’t forget to pull your cart over, and be continually mindful of other shoppers and their needs.

Do not allow it to become an inappropriate call by shouting your questions/answers at the person on the receiving end of the line, or the call segues to something more private, “Yes, she left him for their children’s art instructor!” Audible Gossip in the grocery store, or any store for that matter, is tacky.  Idol gossip in general is tacky. You’re only making yourself look cheap. Your ultimate goal in life, should be to never cheapen yourself, or the opinion of yourself.  This rule applies to everyone from strangers, to close friends. My best advice to you, is to always make your interaction in the most timely, swift, and polite manner possible, and then leave the store.

Now, we have covered ways to be polite in public, but what is equally important as being timely, and courteous, do not be a door-mat. This is a tricky line to walk; on one hand, you never want to be impolite or pushy, on the other you do not have to put up with maltreatment in any situation. Do not think so little of yourself that you should be willing to accept poor customer service. You deserve to be treated with respect, as you are giving respect in a retail or public situation. The old adage “The customer is always right” is unfortunately, a thing of the past, in most retail situations. Be realistic, you’re buying blueberries at Trader Joe’s, not a Carolina Herrera Ball Gown from Neiman Marcus.

I had a lovely Halloween, and I hope that you did as well. My Halloween was so lovely, that I purchased too many supplies at a national-chain beauty supply, I’ll allow you to use your imagination (another etiquette lesson, it is impolite to name names unless completely necessary. It is almost never completely necessary.) I had some items that I needed to return, and I needed to purchase a few toiletry staples; I collected the things that I needed, and headed to the register. It took the staff two minutes to realize that I was standing at the register, customer-service faux pas number one, then, in the middle of my transaction, the store clerk took it upon herself to take a phone call. This slowed her momentum down to the pace of a snail, while not one, but two staff members looked on, breathing heavily through their open mouths, which, ironically, is an etiquette lesson they should have learned years before joining the workforce.
It took 19 minutes for me to exchange two items, and purchase two items. I’m a fairly patient woman, but that is nothing short of ridiculous. This both wasted my time, and tried my patience. The clerk neglected to bag my items, or ask me where I would like my new receipt. She also neglected to say goodbye, or thank me for my time or patience, which again, is just brutish, sad behavior from someone working in a customer-related field. Shame on you, Betty, shame on you for having no work-ethic, or integrity.

My second encounter took place at a national drug store, on the way home, where the store clerk was distracted by another co-worker, who was busy spitting out questions at my clerk, rather than waiting her turn to speak, when my transaction was complete.
One of the most disappointing, and distasteful traits socialized into most american people is a lack of patience. When you interrupt what anyone else is doing, or when someone else is speaking you are sending them a very clear social message. That message being that “My time is more valuable than yours, my ideas are more pertinent than yours.”  This brash staff member didn’t even wait for my store clerk to respond, she answered her own question, by moving my handbag and cellphone out of her way, and grabbing a stack of candy bars that the bag/phone were sitting under. This made my transaction take 3 times what it should have, first of all, and secondly, it invaded my privacy, personal space, and possessions. This is the type of instance when you are allowed to invoke my “don’t be a door mat” advice. You don’t have to stand for such behavior. I intend to call the store manager, and suggest that he discuss what appropriate and inappropriate behaviors are with is staff. Large companies are often guilty of allowing, accepting, or teaching deplorable behaviors to their staff, their ultimate goal is the mighty dollar. In my personal opinion, my dollars are valuable, and can easily be spent elsewhere, perhaps in a store with polite staff! Every day is election day in retail, my darlings, always keep that in mind! Take your business elsewhere, if you’re not happy, I know that I will!

It is easy to become resentful of the fact that because I’m clearly in my early 20’s I am not treated with respect, the way that a patron in their 80’s would be afforded. The reason for this, is that people understand young persons will accept, and expect poor treatment, because they generally don’t command, or understand the difference. I urge you to take a stand, and, like Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” 

Good taste isn’t about money, or status, it is a matter of knowing the difference between the meanings of the words class, or classless, and living those differences, even when there is no “reward” for doing so. Having class in a classless nation is its own reward.

I hope that you’re having a wonderful week, and you’ve enjoyed our lesson. The holiday season is approaching, I am coming up with some really lovely, and exciting holiday related topics to discuss. Until week meet again, behave yourselves!

Thursday, November 4, 2010


My name is Josie, I am the product of fastidiously meticulous manners sticklers. I was raised in arguably, the most traditional, not traditional home in the Western-united states, where my lessons on etiquette began almost at birth. I am now a college student, writer, makeup artist, daughter, friend, girlfriend, and consummate lady, always on manners  patrol.

I loved my daily etiquette lessons, I reveled in the idea of becoming a more polished young lady. As I got older, I realized, and was appalled by my peer group and their general total and utter lack of manners. I loathe that we live in a society that promotes and rewards bad and or poor behavior, I want to do everything in my immediate power to change that. Whatever happened to codes of conduct, or self pride?

I have had a life-long love affair with everything “old” I am guilty of loving everything from vintage  literature, film, clothing, architecture, and of course, life-style patterns and behavior. Previous generations valued manners and etiquette in the highest of esteems,  a system that transcended breeding, background, or financial means.

I believe that there is a happy medium, there is a way to conduct yourself as a lady or a gentlemen in the 21st century without being a drag, or a stick in the mud. I hope to be your guide on your fabulous manner-minded journey.

I believe in the power of please, and thank you’s, of hand written notes, or at the very least an email, about considering “dated” etiquette practices, and reviving them to be practical in our daily lives. I believe that good-manners can save the world.

Let’s save the world together, I will explain actual scenarios from my week, you’ll ask me questions, and every week I will commit to answering  the scenario with a modern, younger, twist. I promise to serve up my advice with garnishings of style, taste, and good humor.

I look forward to getting to know you, Polite Patrol. Until we meet again, behave yourself!