The Diva Edicts – How to Live in Harmony with Your Many Selves, Other Selves, and the Universe without being a Troll

) Good intentions will not suffice. Act properly or stay home.

) Everything requires effort. Some stupid people understand this as “everything costs money.” Don’t think like that.

) Every action is complicated and requires much thought.

) Understand the difference between what you want (Russell Crowe on your personal Caribbean island) and what you are likely to be able to achieve (shaking his hand).

) There are stupid people, evil people, and stupid/evil people about.

) It is best not to be in the above three categories.

) Learn to differentiate between the above three categories.

) Harsh measure are occasionally called for (because of the trolls in the above three categories).

) Divas call things by their proper name. It’s Smoky the Bear and whatever flea-bitten dolt at the Forest Service who thought to change le Bear’s name can pull his (this sounds like a man’s idea to me) mangy head out of whatever compost heap it’s been lodged in and get with the program anytime he chooses.

) Think about the kind of impression you want to make before you walk out the door, then make sure you create that impression.

) Divas don’t go to exasperation. Divas go to pity. It’s not “Oh damn, you oaf, you slammed into me and dumped your coffee all down my new, sky-blue silk shirt. You ox. You bastard. You’re going to pay for this.” Yes, that’s what the world needs, more rude twits. If the person didn’t spill the coffee on you on purpose (and no diva would make a person so mad that she deserved to get coffee tossed on and then be anywhere in the vicinity when aggrieved person was armed with coffee), then you are the only rude one. And Diva’s are never rude without a really good reason. Divas say, “Good grief,” or perhaps, “Oh no.” Maybe, “Ouch.” Then they excuse themselves to clean up a bit. When they return, divas listen to the offender’s sincere apologies and make dry-cleaning arrangements. But what if the coffee-splasher has vanished? Pity. Pity the poor, dumb, lost soul who has so injured his/her karma as to inadvertently hurt someone then deliberately refuse to make amends. The person is no better than a beast. Leave him or her to their assuredly miserable fate.

) Divas have studied and taken to heart Patrick Swaze’s immortal words: “You are nice until it is time not to be nice.” Thus, divas never insult anyone except on purpose. (See above). Or as the hoi polloi say, choose your battles.

) Divas don’t wallow.

) Divas don’t say “I’m so busy” or “I’m too busy.”

) One can do a lot of good in the world if a diva isn’t concerned about who gets the credit.

) Divas are not racist.

) Divas can be atheists or agnostics, but if they pray they pray “Lord, let me be worthy of being on Your side,” not “Lord, be on my side.”

) Divas are not prejudiced against any religion, although they are not under any compunction to be pleasant to individual proselytizers, acting, as ever, in proper moderation (i.e. slam the door or hang up the phone, yes; sic the dogs or scream profanities, no.)

) Divas know three languages:

1) English. Because this is written for people in the United States of America. People in other countries need so fewer lessons in personal management, having social systems more interested in creating a social harmony and thus less celebratory of people all dashing off in different directions and proclaiming the right to do whatever they want whenever they want to. The French, Italian and Northern Scandinavian countries don’t need it because they already have perfect style and the English don’t need it since they are so firmly convinced they are superior, they won’t listen to advice from mere Americans. Am I making sweeping over-generalizations? But of course, my dear. Divas have lots of judgements, not to mention opinions and a clear idea of how things ought to be.

2) Non-verbal communications. Your eye-brows speak volumes. Your hands sketch symphonic poems in the air. You have a glance that would shatter glass and one which would melt icebergs.

3) A few words in some other language – hopefully French or Italian, but perhaps you’d prefer Aleutian or Portuguese.

) Divas are always interested. Always curious. Never nosy.

) In business situations, divas follow Field Marshall William Slim’s timeless advice “You will neither eat, nor drink, nor smoke, nor sit down, nor lean against a tree until you have personally seen that your men [and women] have first had the chance to do these things. If you will do this for them, they will follow you to the ends of the earth.”

) Divas always, always say ‘thank you.’

) Divas know that being rich, beautiful and successful will not make you happy.

) Trolls honor Amundsen because he was first; divas honor Scott because he was good.

) Divas understand sometimes it is necessary to have mashed potatoes for four nights in a row for dinner so that they may go to their favorite café on a Saturday afternoon.

) Divas are at peace with their looks. Not that I said “Your features are perfect.” Or “You have had $5,000 worth of plastic surgery.” Or “you should have $5,000 worth of plastic surgery.” I said “You are at peace.” They have either accepted their looks as they are, they are in the middle of working with moisturizers or tweezers or gelatin capsules to improve trouble sports; or they have decided to attack such problem areas at some point in the future and, thus, are not worrying about them now. These are Diva’s ONLY three choices: acceptance, action, or planned action. No whining.

) Divas are aware of “issues” both general and particular but they do not cause an unseemly fuss. A diva would rather pull every hair out of her head than fax a hostess a seventeen item list of the foods she dislikes or is morally opposed to.

) A diva knows that sometimes one must give up on a relationship. Even if (especially if) she still loves the person, the person is related to her, she has known the person for years, and/or the person once saw her through a rough time.

) Revere your most important role-models, the three M’s: Miss Manners, Martha, Miss Piggy.

  1. Miss Manners is making a wonderful effort to improve you and has written many valuable books for your especial benefit. Buy them or check them out of your library and read them.

2. Martha Stewart is just heaven-sent; she is… what? What did you say? You don’t like her? You’re intimidated by her? You bought that book that’s a spoof on her. Sigh. Fine, as you are a bowl of over-cooked spaghetti, I’m not wasting anther breath on you, go jog for all I care, out of my sight.

No, I refuse to listen to your drivel. You’re wrong. Martha Stewart is a gift from the gods and if you are too blind to see that simple, essential fact, then…all right, all right, stop sniveling.

Look, it’s important to have standards. It’s important to care enough about special occasions and friends that you occasionally make an effort. And there’s Martha to help you: a cornucopia of ideas on how to make Christmas festive, a picnic enchanting, Halloween exciting. Thank her. Bless her. But don’t try to imitate every single decoration idea, don’t try every recipe. From each issue of her magazine you might take one idea, the rest you just appreciate from a distance.

People who go on about being intimidated by Martha are those extremely boring type-A nitwits who made Law Review and know their golf handicap. Everyone, darling, has a golf handicap but no one should make a point of knowing it. These people are driven nuts by the fact that somewhere someone is actually creating something more perfect than them. Or else they have five kids, an old sofa, no time to write Christmas cards and they want to drag dear Martha down to their level of macaroni and cheese from a box.

Oh my Lord, people are stupid sometimes. Do you walk into the Uffizi and say, “Oh no, way overdone, let’s get rid of some of these knick-knacks”? Embrace your boxed dinners, revel in your tin foil decorations, bless you mis-matched linens and then appreciate the fact that tonight for dinner Martha is having season-appropriate food on perfectly matched china with fabulous napkins and the most amazing and amusing table decorations.

Are we clear? You say another word about Martha and I will never speak to you again. But what about people who ridicule your attempts at design, cooking, and entertaining? This is just supposed to be the introduction, well, never mind, a short detour to help you cope with the unenlightened. First my dear, you must resolve to brush off attacks. If you let one little sneer ruin your day, then it’s straight to a nunnery with you because you are too tender for the real world. Someone says, in that singular tone of voice, “Nice cushions.” You smile and say “Thank you.” Yes, of course they meant it as a slam, but you can’t go correcting every idiot who walks into your apartment. Let it go.

But a few too many comments, a few too many arched eyebrows and a lady is apt to get a trifle weary. Darling, pick your target. Don’t go off the handle once you’ve reached your limit. Realize you are reaching your limit and pounce with a plan. Never on a person weaker than you. Think Emma, which you have of course read twice. Seeing the movie does not count. Remember when Emma, at the Box Hill picnic, makes fun of Miss Bates. Knightly rounds her royally for it and she deserved a good scolding. You get points taken away when you attempt to score them off a person younger, less knowing in the ways of the world, more awkward or more inept than you. Wait till the right person makes a comment on something, “Succotash-melon soup, how very last week” and then lie.

Oh no, you did not just say “Lying is wrong” because if you had said it, I would have to unilaterally declare you were switched at birth. I am not related to Puritans. Any comments? No, I thought not.

Now, you lie. With panache. With aplomb. With skill. “The soup,” you smile sweetly, “Oh I had in France once and loved it.” Don’t say “I had it at the Louis XV,” even if you did. Don’t swan on about the places you’ve been. It’s vulgar. But do let enough happen to slip out, casually in conversation.

What? You’ve never been outside the States? Oh dear me, get me a cold washcloth, my aching head. What were your parents thinking? No, no, don’t apologize. Not your fault if your cherished mama could not arrange to have your born in Italy.

Back to the mission at hand: stopping my little diva to-be from being dissed. Your chocolate pie made with pre-formed pie-crust, Cool-Whip, instant chocolate pudding and two “secret ingredients”. Your main-stay, your staple, the one thing you have brought to every pot-luck since sophomore year in college because you’ve been so busy getting that 4.0, running a used car business and tending to your family, you haven’t had time to memorize Mastering The Art of French Cooking. And someone just said in a sotto voice, clearly meant for you to hear, “I didn’t know anyone still ate chocolate pie outside of Des Moines.” You are outraged and a viperous look is not sufficient retaliation. Lie, my sweet. Lie.

“Funny you should mention Des Moines,” you begin, with downcast eyes and a trembling voice. “That’s where my favorite aunt was from. It’s her favorite recipe. Well, my dear uncle’s favorite recipe in fact. Oh, how he loved it.” Now with happy memories of these two mythical people flooding your mind, look up, smile warmly, your eyes slightly misting over.

You then tell a story which combines this pie and some cherished element from the life of the person who was rude to you. Say she’s into bulldogs. Then it’s a story about how your relatives went on a picnic with a pie and their beloved bulldog and the bulldog ate the pie. If Ms. Nasty loves to canoe: out on a lake were you relatives when a big wave came along and tipped the pie right out of the boat. A few sentences should suffice, now, turn melancholy. “Of course, once she got arthritis, she couldn’t cook anymore, so when I went to visit, I would always make it for them. She would always say it was better than hers and he would always say it was excellent, but no one could make it as well as his dear Charlotte.” Start crying.

“He died in his sleep one night, we all flew out immediately of course. I wanted her to come live with me. She was such a wonderful person. But she died herself the next night. Sleeping on the sofa. She couldn’t face being without him.” By now at least three people in the room should be crying. Wipe away your tears; put on a brave face and say in the gentlest voice, “That’s why I like to make this pie, to think of them, what kind and lovely people they were, how much they loved each other. I know it isn’t fancy, but it brings back such warm memories.” Everyone will now look at the person who was so offensive with unadulterated disgust. Problem solved.

3. The third person in your pantheon of heroines is of course Miss Piggy. Sigh. Raise your glass (champagne, naturellement) to that paradigm of porcine perfection. And pay attention to the lessons she teaches through excellent example:

a) You could possibly fall in love with a person who is a different species and 1/3 your size. Let it happen. Revel in it. Ignore all common sense about mixing breeds (much less classes, religions, races, or ethnicities). Love is so precious, it must be honored. Love him (her) dearly, hold her (him) close.

b) Pet names are sweet, charming and not for public consumption. Keep the “Kermieeeeee” for behind closed doors and sound-proofed walls.

c) Although all correct-thinking people are non-violent by creed, Miss Piggy instructs us that some people do not need sympathy or understanding, they need to be karate-chopped. Do your chopping with flair, finesse, and good sound effects.

d) Wear a tiara.

e) Occasionally over-act, it gets the blood going and if you can’t stand a little attention, live in Nebraska.

) The Queen of England is the role-model you keep constantly before you in every public transaction. Never tell anyone this. But if it should happen to leak out allow me to assist you in dealing with those ignorant, twitching goats who bleat about how monarchies are repressive and how Her Royal Highness has robbed people, etc. ad nauseam. Read the sentence again. It doesn’t say “Become a Queen, oppress people, live in a castle.” The sentence says “The Queen of England is the role-model you keep constantly before you in every public transaction.” People who blather on about H.R.H.’s wealth are the same people who screech at the thought of paying inheritance tax or do not expect to receive any inheritance. Ignore the first group and repeat to the second group that you are not attempting to reinstate feudal landownership et al, you merely aspire to a public personae which does not resort to haggling, whining, bickering, cussing, shrieking and/or spitting to get through the daily round of errands, personal interactions and social celebrations.

) Don’t talk about a subject you don’t know anything about if there is a good chance you will get caught out.

) Vote.

) If one does not vote, Saints forbid, in every single election (high school, dog catcher, city manager, president,…) than you are not allowed to voice any sort of opinion at any time (until the next election, at which point you will immediately rectify your erring ways) on government (city, state, national), taxes, parking meters (controlled by city), who’s in charge, condition of the schools, foreign policy (including police actions, wars, and armed peaces). You can now see the beauty of this. The time and energy you expend in voting allows you to vociferously complain (following, naturellement, the Diva’s Code of Complaint – DCC). Now if you have some particularly irksome twit who complains vigorously to you about politics (not following the DCC), then you are entitled to ask, in the spirit of breathless inquiry, “So who did you vote for in the last elections?” If said twit begins a long harangue about s/he never votes, wouldn’t vote, the system is corrupt… you shake your head sadly and remark in a voice full of remorse, “But if you didn’t vote, you can’t complain.” If twit attempts to prolong the conversation, repeat the words, “We’ll have to agree to disagree,” until twit goes away.

) Give advice when asked, but only on the point in question. Never give advice that the person can’t follow, has already disparaged and/ or when the person has already decided what they are going to do.

) Watch the Oscars.

) If you walk out of the house expecting to be insulted, you will be. Divas walk out of the house expecting everyone to be as kind and smart as their marvelous selves.

) Understand that the question “Do you like my haircut?” can only be answered after sufficient processing. If you are one of those tiresome people who say “I always tell the truth” on such matters, then you are clueless. Go away right this instant. Go out into the world and be truthful. More power to you. When you say something that stuns the dinner table and dissolves the hostess into tears, I hope there will be a diva on hand to smooth over the moment and comfort the poor dear; when you dare to say the truth at a moment when everyone else is ducking the issue, I hope a diva is on hand to applaud you. You might be (as long as you are not mean-spirited and quite equal in all your truth-dispensing) a good creature, but you aren’t a diva. This essay has nothing for you. Away with you.

Divas believe they are “A participant in the doctrine of constructive ambiguity” (Vernon Walters). If they like the hair cut, they say so immediately, loudly, repeatedly. If it is hideous process, process, process:

  1. What does the person think of it?
  2. Is there time and/or money to fix it?

If the person likes it – the diva likes it. If there is nothing to be done about it, then a diva likes it and finds something positive to say: “You have such lovely ears, this style shows them off so well!”

Please note – from one week before a wedding until 2 days after, every bride, every single one, is beautiful.

One petite exception: people who ask “Do I look OK” often, relentlessly seeking approval, get a bland ‘Yes,’ nothing more. Exception to the exception: non-obnoxious teenagers get as much flattery as you can trowel on. Poor dears.

) People who tell you something positive about themselves when they first meet you are lying. “Hi, I’m Janice. I really believe in open communication” means “I am a blow-hard, braggart, conversation-hogging troll.” The woman who sent around a nasty e-mail my first day of work, then came hurrying over to my office to introduce herself “because I don’t want your first impression of me to be from that e-mail, I really am a very nice person” had the nick-name “she who eats her own children.”

) People who instruct you that your relationship with them must be “fair” or “honest” when they first meet you are unredeemable, evil-hearted trolls who will stab you in the back.

) Be a feminist. You know those tiresome, mis-guided, kind of idiotic women who walk around saying that feminism is dead, or that they don’t consider themselves to be feminists? Don’t be like those kind of women or I will have you kidnaped and put in an igloo with only A Room of One’s Own and “The Yellow Wallpaper” until you come to your senses (or lose your mind, in which case I’ll just ship you to your cousin in Texas and you can live out your days in perfect security and peace wearing fake nails and cowboy boots).

) Every sentence you say in a fight must begin with “I,” never “you.” And a diva may never say the word “always.” Note the difference between “I am so mad that you taped a baseball game over our wedding video” and “You always ruin everything.”

) Never expect any one to give you money. Ever. If your best friend wins the lottery, you say “How wonderful for you!” not “When are you taking me to Ibiza?”. When your dear, rich great uncle dies you say “A wonderful man, how I shall miss him,” not “I hope I get the Van Gogh.”

Never expect presents for your birthday, holidays or weddings. NEVER EXPECT ANYONE TO BUY YOU ANYTHING EVER. And don’t ever buy a second gift for anyone who doesn’t politely thank you for your first gift.

) With caveat of above edict in mind, say what you want: be it a kiss, a phone call, lower volume on the stereo or the recipe of that orgasmic zucchini casserole.

) Simply because you have stated that you want something, doesn’t mean you will, in fact, receive it.

) Divas revere Winston Churchill. Divas adore Winston Churchill. When divas put on their pin-striped power suits and go to fight boardroom battles, they say softly to themselves “No one can guarantee success in war, but only deserve it” and “We shall go on to the end…we shall never surrender.”

) Pretend not to notice anything that can’t be fixed immediately (either by you or someone else at hand) stains on coats, dust on the bookshelves, hideously wormy husbands.

) Call careful and gentle attention to anything amiss that can be fixed – spinach in teeth, spelling mistakes on documents, a girlfriend carrying on with the badminton team in the guest bedroom at this very moment.

) Trolls think it’s important to be thin; divas know it is important to be kind.

) A diva knows that happiness is not a zero sum game. An increase in someone else’s happiness can never diminish a diva’s own happiness. Casting cold water on someone else’s happiness, big or small, will never increase her chances for happiness. Gloating in a discernible public way over another’s problems will in no way lead to her happiness. Failing to celebrate another’s joys will leave her alone on the days when she would most like someone to celebrate with and will insure that when things go wrong for her, others will take a particular and noted interest.