There is being good – being correct – being moral and then… being charming. Of course you know which one we prefer at Etiquette Central. I mean, being charming encompasses being good and moral but it also has a certain je ne sais quoi, an insouciance. It’s being French, but not too French. Nonchalant without being thoughtless. Arriving late but bringing the hostess her favorite tipple and spending 15 minutes listening to hostess’ aunt whine about her bunions.
It’s ordering a pizza with a cappuccino so your Italian friend can work herself into a frenzy about how one must never have pizza with a cappuccino and thus does your Italian friend forget her anger over the dry cleaner losing her favorite lilac-print linen shift. You see – it’s a way of looking at world that refuses to stay stuck in the lesser, fleeting kinds of misery.
First – start with a proper breakfast we recommend anything F & M (welsh rarebit if it’s cold weather) or, if you must dash, Borgo de’ Medici Fiore al Limoncello Breakfast Cookies.
Then, clothes that make your personality shine but do not scare small children.
And then, off into the world you twirl.
Always supportive even when you don’t understand (or like) what your friend or relative is doing: “A professional juggler, what a lovely idea for a job!” Being charming does not mean one should be realistic or try to get anyone to take the paths you yourself took. Remember that brief scene at the end of the movie Billy Eliot, in which you see Billy’s older brother and father sitting subdued and lost on the subway, going to see Billy (as an adult) dance. They have braved alien London for the love of their son/ brother, venturing stoically into a foreign world to celebrate a way of life they don’t understand. Charming.
Always admit what you have done, how we do hate to venture into politics but, what a good example Ted Cruz is. If he wanted to go to Cancun, have at it but to lie about it by blaming his daughters (and leaving the dog in a freezing house!). Not charming.
When you work at being charming – there is no need, NEVER a need to be bitter or vindictive as the Divine whatever-you-believe-in is always watching. Here is a lovely example for you.
By chance, I run into Gertrude who is now married to Hank. Now when Gertrude met Hank, he was already married. They had an affair and eventually Hank got a divorce and made an honest woman of Gertrude. When I saw her, I remembered this story and said ‘hello’ to Hank nicely. Then in chatting I mentioned to Hank that we had a mutual acquaintance, Esmerelda.
“Esmerelda?” pondered Hank.
“Yes, dear Esmerelda, and her husband, I have forgotten his name, they were friends of yours.” Oh, but oddly Hank could not recall them although I was sure that they had been friends.
A few hours later I remembered that yes, Esmerelda and her husband were good friends with Hank, until Hank bilked them out of quite a large sum of money. And there I had been, saying Esmerelda’s name over and over as Hank feigned confusion. Innocently and charmingly!
Put your pet in a baby carriage and take it for a walk, wear that mint green silk slip dress to the museum, over-tip, pour eco-friendly glitter all over your front steps, bring over-decorated mini carrot-cake cupcakes to boring meetings, unironically wear a mask with a rainbow unicorn on it.
If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.
A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.
Roald Dahl, The Twits
quote from The River Bank: A sequel to Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows by Kij Johnson