Thursday, March 31, 2011

Elegance is as Elegance Does

I love reading others report on "chic sightings" in their cities. In fact I spotting a truly glamorous femme d'un certain age this morning on my walk to work. She had forty years on me but she lacked in line-free skin she more than made up for in posture, comportment, understated accessorizing, and general easy style. I wish I had asked for her photo to post here. I didn't, so I will offer this:

. . .which came from this article.

On the other hand I generally don't enjoy reading other bloggers' assessments of the un-chic behavior of others. I figure, it's all a process. Some people prioritize looking good and being turned out well. Others don't. As long as no one is hurting anyone else I fail to see why it matters if someone is overweight, uses the wrong fork, or wears jeans inappropriately. We are all doing our best to whatever extent we can. I'm working on feeling better in my own skin, and while I wouldn't wear jeans to have cocktails at Maxfield's I have better things to worry about than if you do.

Politeness, on the other hand, counts. Politeness always counts. It dawned on me many years ago that though I am female I endeavor always to act the part of a gentleman. It's just ingrained in me: In conversation I position whomever I am talking to in his or her best light (by asking questions that lead them to speak well about themselves);  I say "good morning," and "please" and "thank you." I show up when I say I will. I give up my seat on the train to anyone who is older, more pregnant, more infirm than I am. This just isn't done where I live. A man in his 30's will sit with nose deep in his Blackberry avoiding the gaze of an older woman or a man on crutches. But if you are lovely and 20 and wearing heels too high for comfort there is a good chance his seat will be yours. 

I also hold doors open for people. Not so for Mr. Tweed Suit Older Man in my building. MTSOM let the door slam in my face this morning as I entered the lobby. With my self esteem issues, I of course chalked it up to my not being pretty enough. Ridiculous, right? But that's where I go. Someone's sheer oblivious rudeness translates to my somehow not being good enough.

I ask you, would Argentée (yes, I like silver, so lets name my IFG, shall we?) allow herself to feel less-than in the face of someone else's bad behavior? No, she would not. But it just goes to show how living in a culture in which men and women so completely disregard each other unless there is something to be gained from the exchange. . . well, it isn't a nice way to live, is it? It isn't fun and it may even encourage a fair bit of neurosis. Perhaps a bit more politeness, even a bit more regard for each other as women and men, might make everyone feel better all around. I have read (was it Jamie Cat Callan again?) that not flirting is considered disrespectful in France. Such an interesting idea to me, coming up as I did in radical politics and gender-neutral Northern California.

So I don't live in Paris. And I am surely not going to confront the man for behaving poorly (talk about pas chic). So I did what anyone would do: as we walked into the elevator (him first, of course!) I made sure to hold the door and wait for two others who were coming far behind us. They lagged with their bursting morning bags and briefcases, and as luck would have it they both chose lower floors than us. Let him wait. In my opinion Monsieur Tweed needs to learn to slow down a bit.


  1. This post goes well with what I have been covering in my series. We are living in a very odd time--where good manners are so rare that they are instead called "random acts of kindness". You keep you wits and charm about, girl--and continue to shine in a dark world. xxBliss

  2. Bliss! I've enjoyed your series very much. I love old manuals and etiquette books myself. The chapter you referenced about dating was especially charming. And it is truly regretable that good manners are unusual now. We must remedy this problem, no?


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