The perceived breakdown of civility has in recent years become a national obsession, and our modern climate of boorishness has cultivated a host of etiquette watchdogs, like Miss Manners and Martha Stewart, who defend us against an onslaught of nastiness. Touching on aspects of both our public and private lives, including work, family, and sex, lit …
Host a dinner party * Make a bed * Set a table * Use the proper fork * Polish silver * Prepare high tea * Present a calling card * Make conversation * Fold a shirt ... all with the charm, ease and sophistication of a butler.
In a clear, straightforward style, Charles MacPherson lays out the essentials of entertaining and household management …
The bestselling Fabulous Girl returns with more advice for the modern woman.
Building on the enormous and continuing international success of their first book, The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum, Kim Izzo and Ceri Marsh are back with more invaluable advice on how to travel with grace over the rocky terrain of work, relationships, sex and friends …
Two wise women once said that manners make you sexy. Oh, yeah, that was us. In our first book, The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum, we set out to create a primer for women who crave both style and civility. We wanted to declare that far from making you a retiring bore, manners will make you a better and more socially desirable person.
In our own lives, there were so many women of great charm, wit and decorum that we wanted to celebrate the type: the Fabulous Girl. FG to her friends. She’s that stylish, witty and caring friend you rely on to make parties more fun and disappointments less painful. She is not interested in the much more travelled road of bad behaviour. She chooses to set off down another path, that of civility. The FG knows how to get the most out of life while still remaining a caring part of her society.
But it’s hard. Everyday we all encounter countless acts of selfishness and bad behaviour. Whether it’s a friend who is always late, a mate who forgets to introduce you at parties, the stranger who cuts you off on the road or a colleague who takes credit for your work, etiquette is at an all-time low. At a time when we so desperately need civility, we find an intense focus on personal satisfaction in its place. Although bad manners are not appealing, they are increasingly common. And who wants to be common?
Not the FG. Rather than become cynical as a result of the rude old world she lives in, she rallies to the cause of decorum. The Fabulous Girl is passionate. She may be well-mannered, but she is never mild-mannered. Her zest for life is one of her most charming attributes. It also means she finds herself in extreme situations. Despite the best-laid plans (or because of the best-laid plans), sometimes life spins out of control. An FG does not live to avoid these sorts of adventures. In love and work and in her friendships, the FG throws herself in deep -- which can bring her big success as well as, sometimes, big disappointments. The FG knows that her word to live by is “decorum,” not “doormat,” so she tackles these ups and downs with equal vigour. She defines for herself what it means to have it all, and she looks for balance among the jumble of responsibilities and relationships that make up her life. An FG never shies away from this challenge. She knows that these adventures are the very fabric of her great big life.
The Fabulous Girl’s Code Red is geared toward this very Fabulous Girl. The one who uses her style and social decorum to cope with life’s inevitable rollercoaster ride. We can all behave beautifully when things are going our way, can’t we? But an FG wants to maintain her grace even under extreme circumstances. Some crises and turning points will come as a result of her evolving life -- big jobs, big relationships -- and some crazy and uncomfortable moments -- cash windfalls, getting fired, discovering a philandering spouse -- will arise in ways that are beyond her control. These are the moments that really count -- when it’s hard, when you’d rather be selfish or rude than extend yourself for another person, when you just feel like stamping your little foot -- and they are true tests of character. But it is this ability to behave with grace under pressure, as well as her style, manners and wit, that sets the Fabulous Girl apart and, yes, makes her sexy. And just to add further illustration to this truth, we’ve included the story of the Fabulous Girl throughout the book. As she tackles the extremes of her fictional world she provides the perfect example of how to live life with verve.
CHAPTER ONE: The Workplace
What did you do to your hair? It looks good,”
Cheryl, a senior editor at Smack! magazine, squealed at me as she ran past my desk. Despite the backhanded compliment, I had to admit that I was having an unusually good hair day. Normally my hair misbehaves a few times a week, generally when I have a can’t-miss cocktail party to attend. But that day my tresses looked fab. I chose to take my good hair as an omen.
I loved my job as associate editor for the magazine. Smack! is known in the rag trade as a general-interest magazine, but I’d been hired to give it specific interest: young and hip. In other words, it was my job to tell our middle-aged readership about what the pretty young things were drinking and shopping for, where they went to listen to music and get their hair done. I’d been at it for over a year. And while I was happy, I was beginning to want to move my work in another direction -- upwards, that is -- but unfortunately I couldn’t yet grasp exactly where up was.
Whack! Something walloped my desk with a mighty slap.
“Do you read Dudley’s page?”
There stood John Bradley, Smack!’s editor-in-chief, the big boss, with a wad of rolled-up newspaper in his hand. I wondered if he was now going to swat me on the nose with it.
“He’s funny. Your writing should be more like his. You know, chatty.”
"But he’s a gossip columnist.”
“And I’m not.” I tried not to sound annoyed, but lately Bradley seemed to find fault in whatever I did or didn’t do.
“Well, if you’d rather have dull copy. Did you dye your hair?”
“No, it’s just a good–”
Bradley hurried away, leaving the offending paper on my desk. Dudley’s gossip column ran in a national newspaper. Since being on the job, I’d become an observer of sorts. Being out many nights a week gave me plenty of opportunities to people watch. I’d met Dudley on many occasions and he was not what you’d call gentlemanly. I wasn’t really on his radar -- he would barely say hello to me. And now there was Dudley’s sucky face sneering at me.
Truth be told, I hated his column. It was brash, tacky and rude. He was not the sort of gossip columnist who lived to suck up to local celebrities, he was the kind of creep who wormed his way into parties thrown by the well-known only to turn around and mock their choice of wine or fashion sense in his next column. But like the dutiful worker bee, I read Dudley’s words, most of it meaningless drivel. Meaningless, that is, until I got to the last paragraph, which was horrifying: “TV producer Bingo Jones was all hot and bothered with local celeb news babe Muffie (first name only please) at last night’s opening of the so-hip-it-hurts eaterie Spanks. If Bingo’s regular chica, mag art director Elenor Brown, had eye-spied the duo giving each other a good tongue lashing, it would have been spanks all right.”
Now, I’ve never been a fan of Bingo. He was an ill-mannered lout, the kind of guy who took cell calls at dinner parties, was rude to waitresses and, worse, was a terrible boyfriend. I knew this last fact to be utterly true because Bingo was in a long-term relationship, off and on, off and on, with my best friend Elenor. And the fact that Bingo was now a confirmed cheating bastard (during a supposed “on” moment) really riled me. As did Elenor’s public humiliation at the keyboard of Dudley.
My first reaction? Poor Elenor! My second -- I would never stoop to those depths in my writing! Bradley would have to find another writer to dish the dirt. The fact that I wanted to keep my job, however, prevented me from marching into his office to tell him so. I was hoping he’d just forget the entire conversation and continue with his latest idea for making over Smack!, which was more sex and gardening.
But first and foremost, I had to reach Elenor. She would need her friends. I called her work, her home and her cell. No answer. Which meant one thing: Elenor had read Dudley’s column. There was only one other person who might have known her whereabouts, our other best friend, Missy. I dialed.
A Primer for the Fabulous Girl in Training
"You know the Fabulous Girl, don't you? She's Holly Golightly, the girl you must have at your cocktail party. She's smart, fun, stylish, and of course, beautifully well mannered. She's the friend who always knows when you need a shoe-shopping expedition to lift your spirits. She's the one who calls you aft …
Manners will make you fabulous. Manners are sexy. The well-mannered get invited to more dinner parties and have a wider array of friends and colleagues who admire them. These are the basic tenets of The Fabulous Girl's Guide to Decorum.
The idea for this book came to us gradually over the course of one too many encounters with the socially inept, suffering through bad dinner parties and enduring thoughtless comments. Nearly once a week we would find ourselves on the phone or over tea, railing, "They didn't even put food out until11 p.m.! There was no music at all!" or "She showed up to the cocktail party in jeans and a charity fun run T-shirt" or "We ran into his ex and he didn't even introduce me."
It began to add up. People are rude and inconsiderate to each other every day and in every circumstance, and what's worse, they don't seem to realize it. Perhaps they just didn't know any better. In addition to being vexed by the inadequacies of others, we were crippled by an inability to correct the offenders. As every well-mannered person knows, to correct someone else's breach in etiquette is itself an infraction.
Unless, it finally struck us, we were experts.
And after a lifetime of passionate interest in the subject and experience in a great many milieux, surely we had become experts in etiquette. Having lived as single girls, party girls, married women, out-of-workniks, professionals, world travellers and fashion addicts, we knew the world and, frankly, the way it ought to work.
The essential equation of etiquette is simple: Be nice and assume niceness in others — just like your mother said. Beyond this basic belief, of course, there are specific details for situations, but the foundation is always the same.
Manners are an integral part of good citizenship. Consideration for others and not only for one's own wants and needs is necessary if a person is to be a valuable member of her world. When people of varying cultures and economic brackets must, increasingly, live side by side, etiquette becomes a modern requisite. Pleasant manners are just plain more appealing than bad manners. Behaving in a thoughtful way helps both morally and aesthetically to make the world a better place.
There is a kind of woman who understands this implicitly: We've named her the Fabulous Girl. You know the Fabulous Girl, don't you? She's Holly Golightly, the girl you must have at your cocktail party. She's smart, fun, stylish and, of course, beautifully well-mannered. She's the friend who always knows when you need a shoe-shopping expedition to lift your spirits. She's the one who calls you after your disastrous dinner party and insists that she had a marvellous time. She's the girl you admire, the girl you want to be.
No one is born perfect, and we all have a learning curve toward good manners. And so this book is both a celebration of the fully formed Fabulous Girl and a primer for the Fabulous Girl in training. The life of the modern woman is wonderfully full — work, friendship, romance and sex (we know they aren't always the same thing) are all vital to her happiness. In The Fabulous Girl's Guide to Decorum we will set down modern rules for every circumstance — from bedroom to boardroom — so that we're all armed with the appropriate arsenal of etiquette. Because you need to know how to handle a one-night stand just as much as you need to know how to set the table.
To illustrate this learning curve we've included the FG as fictional heroine throughout the book. Consider her a guide to ease the journey to good manners.
Contrary to popular belief, manners will not make you a bore or a snob. Quite the opposite: Individuals who possess skill with etiquette are admired and desired for it. If you are well-mannered, people will want to come to your dinner parties and will want you at theirs. Manners can make you fabulous, girl — a Fabulous Girl.
Language is a tool, and the Fabulous Girl must learn to use it. Of course the FG moves through life with an uncanny ability to converse with them and charm others from all walks of life, be they neurosurgeons or gardeners. That's right: an FG is skilled at making anyone feel comfortable and worthy. (p. 64)
The Fabulous Girl will have a long list of male friends — be they ex-boyfriends, platonic pals or men who wish they were the boyfriend. Male friends are an important part of a well-balanced social diet. (p. 125)
The Fabulous Girl's Perfect Day Shopping with her best FG
Rise after an extra-long beauty rest. A light buy energy-boosting breakfast.
Wardrobe: White or flesh-tone thong, button-up shirt, skirt and slip-on flats.
Grooming: Shower, full hair and makeup.
Fabulous Girl Tip: A watch is your only accessory.
Meet best friend at the nicest shopping district in town.
Try on lots of clothes whether or not you intend or can afford to buy anything.
Fabulous Girl Tip: Try on clothes only pre-lunch to ensure a flat stomach.
Ladies Who Lunch: Tablecloths, and table service.
Table Talk: gossip, fashion, men, goals.
Fabulous Girl Tip: No fast food.
2:30 — 4:00 P.M.
Après Lunch: Giving the "maybes" a second look.
Manicures, pedicures, magazines, shoe shopping.
Fabulous Girl Tip: Swollen feet guarantee fit.
4:00 — 5:00 P.M.
Tea, read, nap.
Private fashion show.
Remove tags and put away new threads.
Fabulous Girl Tip: Revel in your good taste.
Like a notch in a belt, some women choose to collect items from lovers as tokens of their night together. Whether it's sweatshirts or lighters, this is not a practice of an FG — at least not one out of high school. (p. 156)
Aside from overnight house guests, an FG will receive company into her home frequently and will visit her own friends too. There are a few details of which all should be aware. Never answer someone else's telephone unless you are expressly asked to. Don't open the fridge or help yourself to food and coffee unless invited to. (p. 261)