I am 21 years old and currently studying for a degree in a top tertiary level institution. I'm very interested in proper daily etiquette for a young lady as I see that as a desirable trait for a young person. I've read etiquette books but they're based on either UK or US culture and my attempt to follow those guidelines has left me feeling foolish and viewed as 'fake' by other people.
Please, if you can, prescribe guidelines that are more suited to a Trinidadian young lady. I don't think there are many women with this concern and certainly none I've ever met even thought about it. I also need to know how to look sophisticated and classy when I travel.
Dear Young Lady:
What a pity more young women do not think of how they look and behave when seen through the eyes of others, some of whom may eventually be the very ones who just may employ them. I salute you for wanting to know more about sophisticated behaviour that can be comfortably used at home and internationally by all young ladies from the Caribbean.
I have, therefore, taken excerpts from my book "Manners and Entertaining with Marguerite Gordon" which was published in 2008.
Some important words for ladies:
• Being a lady means being sensitive and gracious, allowing gentlemen to open doors for her, but not being too disappointed when they do not, and accepting the offer of a seat in crowded waiting rooms, in churches and on public transports, from gentlemen who remember to give up theirs.
• A lady's table manners are of the highest quality, her vocabulary is restrained and the use of four-letter words are unheard of except when receiving obscene telephone calls (and she has tried and exhausted all other means of protest at this disgusting invasion of her privacy), or if she is being physically attacked, and has been advised by experts to shock and scream.
• Her grooming is elegant and simple with a dash of her own personal style and she leaves very tight and revealing clothes for others to try to move in. Her make-up is subdued, she does not wear all the jewelry she possesses at one time and knows that tattoos on her face and neck, arms and legs do not look pretty — just — pretty awful!
• A lady learns the art of looking straight ahead and ignoring idle men who lean against walls on main streets making disgusting remarks, and if approached directly on a public thoroughfare or elsewhere, she looks haughty, stern, and contemptuous. (This effect can be achieved by looking the offending person up and down and 'cutting the eye'), unless of course, the approach is made by a vagrant. It is then advisable to move swiftly out of the way.
• A lady also keeps an immobile face fixing her eyes on some imaginary point behind either the left or the right ear of intoxicated gentlemen who make vulgar jokes at parties (even though she may find a particular joke extremely funny).
• A lady is very polite, has good poise and deportment. She stands with her legs together, sits with her legs together and speaks softly (though admittedly this last point is not always possible if severely provoked).
• A refined lady smoker asks permission before she lights a cigarette and tries to blow her smoke away from the immediate area. But also now knows that smoking is most harmful and has stopped.
• She does not accept drinks in a public restaurant or bar from a gentleman she does not know, no matter how dashing he appears to be (an exception, of course, can be made if the gentleman is known to others in her party). Neither does she pick up men in bars, clubs or anywhere. She will accept flowers from her unknown admirers since they cannot be returned anyway, but will not accept expensive gifts from admirers with whom she is not close. But if she is travelling in Europe (especially Italy), and a dashing man at a romantic sidewalk cafe starts to serenade her and sends over a glass of wine and is definitely flirting with her, well, why not flirt right back. She knows because she is a lady, when it is time to STOP flirting and disappear, because her self respect is important. Real life is not a movie like 'Under the Tuscan Sun, or Three coins in a Fountain or La Dolce Vita. It is real life and all that glitters is not gold. That charming, handsome guy may be deadly with that late 20th/21st century disease.
• When dancing, a lady does not 'wine' with nor cling to, a gentleman who does not immediately concern her and even if he concerns her, her movements in public are discreet. Under no circumstances does she allow herself to be used at Carnival time as a centre of a gyrating impromptu dance for three on the streets.
• A lady does not speak ill of people, is not a party to vicious gossip, nor does she plot to cause friction between couples. Though a little harmless flirting is sometimes indulged in, she knows where and when to draw the line.
• A lady behaves with dignity if her husband or boyfriend becomes carried away and forgets who his partner really is, but is entitled to show extreme annoyance if this absence of memory becomes chronic. She also realises that the way to the top in a company is by using her initiative and by being efficient and that any other devious route can be her ultimate undoing.
• A lady offers to help with the cutting of the lawn, but since 'swipers' are dangerous and lawnmowers heavy, willingly allows herself to be persuaded by a gentleman that this outdoor activity is not necessarily good for her health.
• And a lady is of course, someone who keeps her word, is honest, ethical, loyal and caring.
Now let's go travelling!
WOMEN AND TRAVEL ATTIRE:
• Women who do not wish to be given lascivious looks by male passengers or looked at suspiciously by immigration, security and customs officers should NOT wear the following outfits on any plane:
Midriff blouses, exposing quantities of flesh, slim, firm and taut flesh or heavily rolled and taut or flabby and quivering.
• Shorts or skirts so tight and short that nothing is left to the imagination.
• Dresses or tops with plunging necklines that expose large (or small) breasts.
• Skirts or dresses with long slits, so deep, that when you sit an entire leg up to the undergarment is exposed.
• Rollers, whether of the same colour or a mixed bag in the hair (even to Tobago).
• Outfits with rhinestones or sequins. Or made of satin organdie or taffeta voile, wraps, bathing suits or any see-through material,
• Long dangling earrings, four or five necklaces, bangles and bracelets from wrists to elbows... rings on every finger and anklets on each ankle.
WHAT TO WEAR:
• Comfortable, fairly loose pants or trousers.
• Easy fitting dresses or skirts.
• Appropriate tops. Of course they may be sleeveless (if your arms are in shape), but remember it can get cold up there. Do you really wish to wrap yourself up in a blanket that has already wrapped many other bodies?
• Take a jacket or a sweater if travelling to North America or Europe between September and March. During these months please do not travel in, or take with you, white or beige shoes.
• Comfortable shoes. There is a lot of walking involved, whatever you feel comfortable in. I tend to favour medium-heeled boots (they hold my ankles more firmly), however security officials regard booted passengers as fair game to be "debooted" and searched. It is, therefore, imperative to make sure that, if you have on stockings there no runs and if you have on socks there are no holes. And colour coordination is the key to effective packing.
I do hope this will help you and also make you laugh a bit.
Dear Readers, I will not be writing my column for the month of August, but hopefully...please start reading me again in September! Be safe!