Monday, September 21, 2015

Red Carpet Manners at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards – “There’s Something about Andy”

The folks at Fox should pat themselves on the back for selecting Andy Samberg to host the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards. He may not have produced stellar ratings, but he sure is appealing thanks to a combination of boyish looks, self-deprecation and an adorable delivery of razor-sharp jokes behind a giant Cheshire Cat grin. The guy who cut his chops for seven years as a cast member on SNL and won a Golden Globe for his Fox TV series Brooklyn Nine-Nine is so likable, you can’t help but smile even when he releases one of his stinging one-liners.  Whether he’s skewering Donald Trump or calling out Kim Davis, or pointing a finger at racism, ageism or wageism in Hollywood, his timing is so quick and stealthy you hardly notice the one-two punch it until it’s passed.  

The comedian opened with a musical number that was both hilarious and cautionary as it poked gratuitous fun at the perils of watching too much “Must See TV”.  While it feels like you literally have to hold up in a Kimmy Schmidt type bunker to binge-watch the ridiculous number of shows, the sad takeaway is that many people would much rather spend time with their television content than engage in risky real live human connection.

On TV's biggest night, however, we were happily glued to our television watching intently and hanging on to every word to bring you our red carpet manners recap at this year's Emmys.

A Sea of Black on the Red Carpet. Stars showed up early on the red carpet in a color spectrum that ranged from teal on Amy Schumer and Kelly green on January Jones to canary yellow and shades of orange on actresses Heidi Klum, Mindy Kaling and Taylor Schilling. Black dresses were all the rage for Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Lady Gaga with sequins and silver showcased on Sarah Paulson, Sofia Vergara and Kerry Washington. Chain spaghetti straps made their debut draped over the gorgeous shoulders of Taraji P. Hanson and Claire Danes while new hairdos were on display on the likes of Elizabeth Moss and Amy Poehler. Lady Gaga looked fabulous in a retro bob and actresses Julie Bowen and Sarah Hyland looked sporty in their shorter loose locks.  As far as the night's biggest fashion winner, the young "Modern Family" actress receives our vote for a classic and chic off-the-shoulder burgundy dress by Zac Posen with matching nails and minimal accessories. However, Padma Lakshmi summed it up best proclaiming that on the red carpet, “nothing looks more beautiful than a smile.”  We couldn’t agree more!

Sweat Etiquette. At 96+ degrees in downtown Los Angeles, the stars were schvitzing up a storm on the red hot red carpet. Many of the women chose frocks with breathable fabrics, but the men suffered in silence with long sleeve button-downs and wool tuxes. Apparently, Mario Lopez soaked through four shirts before reaching the theatre! Amy Schumer felt compelled to wipe the brow of Ryan Seacrest during her interview and a perspiring Allison Janney was still clutching her face blotter when she approached the stage to accept her 7th Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy. 

Most Concise Candid Speeches. Thankfully most winners kept their acceptance speeches concise with the most succinct speeches going to the Outstanding Comedy Writing winners of “Veep” who hilariously thanked HBO “for letting us come over here and make fun of American politics and make American money.” And, Frances McDormand who won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series for “Olive Kittridge” for a short, yet poignant speech that reminded us, “We’re all here because of the power of a story well told. Sometimes, that’s enough.”

Best Category Announcement Look. In anticipation of the announcement for Outstanding Lead Actress in a comedy, ever the jokester Amy Poehler donned aviator sunglasses and a hoodie going incognito when her category was called. She’s been down this road before so when Emmy veteran, Julia Louis-Dreyfus took home her fourth consecutive win, Amy handled it the only way she knew how, with humor and then a few fun follow-up tweets on social media. 

Silliest References in an Acceptance Speech.  The hysterical Amy Schumer who won for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series thanked all the people who helped her along the way, including a shout out to the girl who “gave me this smoky eye.” While Peter Dinklage who admitted he wasn’t prepared at all and was “even chewing gum” apparently kissed his wife and transferred the gum into her mouth before taking the stage to accept his second Emmy win for Outstanding Supporting Actor in the Drama “Game of Thrones.”

Well-Deserved Standing O’s.  Everyone was rooting for Jon Hamm to take home the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Mad Men so they happily stood to cheer on their fellow auteur. After eight attempts, the Emmy award was long overdue and more than well-deserved.  The actor was so grateful, he literally crawled onto the stage and gave a speech that was both heartfelt and bittersweet after the long-running series ended. The second standing ovation of the evening went to the dapper looking and still recovering Tracy Morgan who took to the stage to present the final award of the evening. It marked his first public appearance since the devastating accident which took place in June 2014 and left him severely injured. Especially thankful, he was thrilled to return to the Hollywood community and the place he calls home.

Shedding Light on Civil Rights. The two wins for “Transparent” shed important light on the modern day civil rights issue for transgender people with Jill Soloway (Oustanding Directing in a Comedy Series) urging the audience to support the trans equality bill and Jeffrey Tambor dedicating his Oustanding Lead Comedy Actor award to the transgender community. 
Doing Away with Diversity.  Viola Davis' win for Oustanding Lead Actress in a Drama for "How to Get Away with Murder" was history making as the first African-American actress to ever hold that trophy. “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity." "You cannot win Emmys for roles that are simply not there.” The additional wins for African-American actresses Regina King (of ABC’s “American Crime”) and Uzo Aduba (of Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black”) also echoed loudly. The hope is that one day we will do away with the idea of diversity and create a landscape of inclusion where all people - regardless of their race, color, sex or religion - will be celebrated and awarded equally for their efforts. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Manners Monday - No Need to Shy Away from White After Labor Day

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The old adage of 'no white after Labor Day' no longer holds water.  Fashionistas and trendsetters in the know don't fall prey to such archaic beliefs.  They beat to their own drum turning a cheek to the majority and shunning convention.  Coco Chanel, one of the greatest fashion icons of all time, balked at the notion of banning white after Labor Day and made it a permanent staple in her wardrobe. 

Historically, white garments were associated with a look of leisure reserved mainly for the privileged.  They were a status symbol for the fortunate souls who were able to change their clothing with the season.  Many of the well-to-do adorned themselves in white linen pant suits, light cotton shirts and white Panama hats as they escaped their sweltering city dwellings for more appealing climates.  When they returned from their vacations, they would deposit their summer duds and circulate a wardrobe that consisted of darker, heavier material.

Nowadays, we hold a different perspective.  Rather than scramble through the closet searching for white dresses, white pant suits, white flowing tops, any significant white piece of clothing to get our hands on as a last ditch effort to make sure it is worn before the clock strikes midnight, we may regard the cleansing of our white clothing almost as a symbolic ritual.  It is a purging of sorts that helps transition both mentally and physically from the light and carefree days of summer into the more industrious and diligent days that make up the fall season. 

But white is, in fact, embraced and acceptable any time of the year.  You'd be hard pressed to find a closest that doesn't contain a white button down men's dress shirt or a woman's white button down blouse.  These are one of the few essentials of every wardrobe paired beauifully with a pair of dark denim jeans and a blazer for a more casual look or worn with a tailored pant or skirt suit for a formal business meeting. It is one of the top items female executives will wear for their press photo presenting a no nonsense look with a sense of approachability. White sneakers are also all the rage making their debut years ago by famous entertainers and athletes and still a mainstay in fashion, particularly the white leather variety which may be worn in summer or winter.  And, let's not forget winter white with its slightly creamier shade of white and heavier fabric which is very much on-trend in the winter months.  The fashion magazines sing its praises and dedicate pages of styles after Labor Day to the cozy look.  

So while we pay tribute to the laborers who toiled away in the trenches and stood on the picket lines fighting for their rights, step out this Labor Day with confidence wearing your white. Confidence is, after all, the number one accessory that is appreciated any time of the year.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

6 Back-To-School Manners Kids Should Master Before Stepping Foot on the School Campus

Ah, the dawn of a new school year.  Kids are kicking and screaming for having to wake up early after almost three solid months of sleeping in late while parents are rejoicing that they'll have the house back to themselves to binge watch their favorite show on Netflix without interruption.  Not so fast. The race to ensure everyone in the housefhold is appropriately dressed and properly nourished with backpacks and lunches in tow, in the wee hours of the morning, is relentless.  Add in the pressure cooker of arriving at the bus stop on time or fighting traffic in the carpool lane and it's enough to send anyone over the edge.  Let the games begin. 

Whether they're beginning the first day of kindergarten or starting senior year of high school, the basic tenets of back-to-school manners never change.  Arming children with these important skills, before they step foot on campus, will increase confidence and guarantee success this new school year.

1. Put Effort into Presentation. New dress codes have been established at many schools across the country with extra attention paid to skirt lengths, bare shoulders, and tight or low waisted pants. Staying within school guidelines limits wardrobe competition and eliminates distraction.  Dress for the season and the weather, they don't always coincide. Wear athletic footware for everyday or closed toe shoes for formal occasions.  Putting effort into presentation it is not for show, but an act of self-respect as well as respect for the institution.  

2. Fraternize Politely with Friends.  The first few days and weeks at school are crucial for reconnecting with old friends and cultivating new relationships. Be that brave soul who greets everyone with a smile and kind words. Don't be a busy gossip sticking your nose in everyone's business. Mind your own. Never bully and step up if you see another person the victim of bullying. Look for opportunities to include others. Seek out those who are alone and invite them to join you and your friends.  This small act of sensitivity will leave a positive and lasting impact.

3. Hold Court in the Classroom. Draw attention to yourself, not by being the class clown, but by being the class role-model. Develop a respectful rapport with your teacher saying hello and goodbye each day. Raise your hand rather than blurting out. Sit up straight and lean in to actively listen. Participate and contribute to the conversation, don't detract from it. Create, collaborate and cooperate with classmates on assignments and projects. Respect personal space. Never let your eyes wander to copy another's homework or cheat on a test.   

4. Play Nice on the Field.  Safety comes first. Dress for athletic activities. Hair worn up or pulled back away from the face. Sneakers tightly laced to prevent tripping. Physical exercise is great for the mind and body. Give it your all. Practice good sportsmanship and be a team player. Be supportive to teammates, praise them for their efforts, and remember to thank all for a game well-executed.

5. Make the Most of Table Manners.  Elevate the lunch experience by implementing the tools of the table.  Whether you bring lunch from home or eat the lunch provided at school, dare to dine with some semblence of decorum.  Be sensitive to nut allergies. Avoid packing pungent smelling foods. Never cut the cafeteria line. Recyle where possible and clean up after your own mess.  Lunch is a bonding experience.  Include new friends and old to join you at the table.

6. Keep Tabs on Technology. Or the school will do it for you. Administrators may have access to your social media and be able to monitor your postings. This comes in response to an increase in cyber-bullying, school threats and other cries for help. Remember social media is a public forum. Know that anything transmitted electronically is permanent and privacy does not exist. Tablets and computers should be used for schoolwork only, not to shop online or socialize. Use schooltime to hone your interpersonal skills such as making good eye contact, engaging in face-to-face conversation, listening for tone of voice, and reading facial gestures. Listen and be present to your teachers and your friends.

A special note to parents. Back-to-school is not just for kids. When driving on campus, wait patiently in line for pickups and drop offs. Don't even think about honking. Park carefully in spaces. Greet parents in the hall with a smile and a few simple pleasantries. Sign up and volunteer for school activities when possible. Offer to help fellow parents in need with carpooling duties or a delivered meal.  

Monday, August 31, 2015

Red Carpet Manners at the 2015 VMA’s – A Bacchanal Buffet of Erratic Behavior

After last year’s less-than-stellar ratings, MTV was ready for a comeback and they did so in spades by inviting Miley Cyrus to host their signature event.  Channeling her 2013 no-holds-barred, viral performance with Robin Thicke, they figured she was the perfect gal to turn up the heat, and capture the controversy.  And, boy did their bets pay off.  She was just what they needed to put the famous moon man back on the map.

The overly sexualized twenty-two year old seemed proud to dispel all notions of her younger, innocent self.  No longer preaching “It’s the Climb,” but coming across more like a “Wrecking Ball,” she was now running wild on an endless rampage to shock, provoke and disturb.  Perhaps this is a passing phase, but it stings nonetheless, especially while trying to raise my two impressionable girls.  How to rationalize all the references to her “titties,” her unabashed love of marijuana, and her erotically-charged demeanor has become quite the challenge both as a mom and a manners expert. 

The night was a spectacle of low brow entertainment.  The only association made to etiquette was when Miley called out Kayne for not sharing his personal stash of grass, “Where’s your awards show etiquette?”  There was, however, a sprinkling of fairy dust in the form of Taylor Swift who for brief moments elevated the show along with a couple of other standout performers.  On that note, here is a recap of the night’s red carpet manners hits and misses…

Most Brash & Brazen Host. Miley has claimed that her onstage persona is all fun and games, nothing to take seriously.  Okay, but does she have to flash her middle finger and spew expletives every five seconds?  We get it, she’s butting up against the establishment.  Hardly an original idea, but I can think of a lot more creative and intelligent ways to express the same sentiment.  And, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the ten wardrobe changes.  While she’s never been in better shape revealing some seriously lithe hip bones, her ensembles resembled more of a cross between I Dream of Jeannie and a circus clown than anything. 

Underdressed & Understated on the Red Carpet. MTV has always broken the barrier when it comes to red carpet fashion with a motto that screams, the more skin, the better. Miley led the pack and Nicki, Rita, Chrissy, Gigi, Ciara, Serayah and Demi all followed suit with a showcase of lissome legs, bodacious booties, and daring declotage.  However, statuesque goddess Taylor Swift, is the only one who gets our vote for her appropriately hip head-to-toe stunner of an outfit and heels. On the male front, only Empire’s, Jussie Smollett, stood out in his dapper suit ensemble.  Otherwise, it was a less is more feel for Kanye and Justin Beiber who dressed down purposefully not wanting to look like they put too much effort into their appearance.  And, what possessed Kim Kardashian to go braless?  Her massive pregnancy boobs should’ve been harnessed and her nipples properly tucked into place.  They were a complete distraction.  Even Miley noticed it!

Music’s Amiable Ambassador.  From the moment Taylor Swift arrived with her Bad Blood posse, she was all smiles and owning the room.  Bonding with her beautiful friends, raking up award after award, she professed her gratefulness and exuded graciousness whether it was to acknowledge her "Blank Space" director and production team for their hard work on her video or to convey her congratulations to the Straight Outta Compton crew for the film's huge box office success. She is a world-class collaborator, a consummate performer and a professional who deserves every accolade.

The Beibs is Back.  After a five year hiatus from his last VMA performance, the boy who once relieved himself in a restaurant mop bucket was feeling pretty relieved after the successful premiere of his new single “What Do You Mean?”  He was overcome with emotion as tears of joy flowed down his face.  The last several years he had gotten used to being booed for his behavior so when the audience jumped to their feet cheering for the heartthrob, he seemed genuinely grateful and appreciative to be back.

Mad Love & Bad Blood.  The evening began with a mea culpa between Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift who collaborated on Nicki’s “The Night is Still Young” burying the hatchet on a scuttle that exploded on Twitter weeks earlier.  But audiences were stumped by the Nicki Minaj challenge that erupted with host Miley Cyrus later in the show.  Miley, who was interviewed by the New York Times, had commented on the Taylor/NIcki rift and claimed her words were twisted by the press. Nicki wasn't buying it and before she excited the stage went on to mouth, “Don’t play with me, bitch.”  

Video Vanguard Award Goes Wild.  No one puts Yeezus in the corner, especially not MTV.  The highly anticipated Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award presentation went completely off script when a gum-chewing Kanye West took a painstaking thirteen minutes to soak up accolades from the audience and then proceed on an endless rant of ‘bros’ and ‘listen to the kids’ references before announcing his run for presidency in 2020.  Taylor Swift, who presented him with the award, miraculously kept her composure while Kanye recalled the infamous incident in 2009 when he interrupted her acceptance speech to delare Beyonce the more deserving winner.  She didn’t flinch when he admitted to smoking a little something to take the edge off before taking the stage, and she stuck loyally by Kim’s side offering her own personal “Imma let you finish” moment to Kayne as he continued to bury himself on live TV.  My eleven year old summed up his speech best when she turned to me and said, “Kanye West is having an emotional breakdown and needs to see a therapist.”  

Packed Performances That Blew Away.  Unfortunately, the best performances of the night went largely unnoticed compared to the outlandish celebrity behavior that stole the thunder.  In the event you missed it, our favorites were an energy packed Macklemore & Ryan Lewis debuting their song “Downtown” set in downtown Los Angeles, Tori Kelly who came out of the woodwork and literally brought down the house with a simple guitar and stunning vocals on “Should’ve Been Us”, and happy-go-lucky Pharrell whose penetrating “Freedom” should be one for the history books.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

National Dog Day - Start Your Pooch off on the Right Paw with these Simple Rules of Petiquette

Before children, we had a pet Maltese dog named Max.  He was white, fluffy and absolutely adorable.  He was the love of my life until our girls were born.  I bought him cashmere sweaters, made homemade doggie treats and threw him dog birthday parties in the park.  He was very high maintenance and a tremendous medical expense with so many visits to the pet hospital that our pet insurance cancelled us. Unfortunately, Max had become so severely ill that we wound up having to finally put him to sleep.  It was extremely sad and, ever since, our pets have been limited to whatever can fit into a fish tank. In second grade, my daughter won a blue crayfish at school and named him Georgie.  He was a smart crayfish constantly finding sneaky ways to escape his tank.  One day we would find him hanging out in the kitchen sink, the next he would be crawling around on the hardwood floor.  Lord knows how he got there.  After about 5 years and several layers of shedding his shell, he passed away and we have buried him in our backyard. Now we have Jambalaya, the pet turtle.  My nanny Sonia bought him as a gift one Christmas. He is a colorful painted turtle and lives happily in his tank feeding and burrowing holes.  He is very low maintenance, requiring only food and a clean tank.  We live in the canyon without sidewalks so as much as our girls ask for a dog, it is not happening anytime soon – at least until they are old enough to walk a pooch safely on the street. 

Here in Beverly Hills, it is quite commonplace to treat your pet like a person.  They are a bonafide member of the family attending power lunches, going to the salon and staying in the finest hotels. They hide inconspicuously in Hermes totes and parade down red carpets with equal ease, but just don’t let me catch your pet relieving themselves on my nice Persian rug or clawing their way up my expensive wool coat.  Follow these recommended rules of ‘petiquette’ to keep your furry friend in check.

Be Mindful of their Mess.  My aesthetician told me about a client who routinely brings her pet to the salon only to leave small presents on the bathroom floor for others to clean up.  The dog isn’t exactly potty-trained.   This is not only unsanitary and could cost the salon its license, but it is inexcusable.  Rule number one is clean up after your pets mess.  Have your scooper and small bags handy to remove said offenses immediately. Don’t let your pet relieve themselves anywhere, certainly not on other people’s property. Walk them curbside and encourage them to ‘go’ there.

Approach with Caution.  Not everyone is aware of how to properly approach a pet.   Big, excitable or aggressive dogs must be tethered or leashed in the event a small child or elderly adult decides to get close without a formal introduction.  Want to get up close and personal? Ask permission from the owner first and then proceed cautiously.

Train them Young.  Obedience training is a must for all dogs.  It is for their safety and yours.  Simple commands such as how to ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ are a necessity and will help socialize your dog so that they can be around others.  Even dog lovers do not appreciate a pooch that jumps and claws at you when you walk through the door. 

Travel Companion or Therapy Animal?  As many a non-disabled person will circumvent the law and obtain a handicap placard for easier parking, there are those that claim their pet is a service animal so they may travel with them first class.  Pet Partners® has never been more popular!  If you have an emotional or physical disability and are in desperate need of a therapeutic travel companion, I understand. Have your applicable paperwork, tags and licenses on hand. If not, please don’t subject the rest of us to your service pet antics, it is not very becoming.

Observe Pets Presentation. They say many pets resemble their owners. You’ll never see a disheveled or unkempt pet in Beverly Hills.  Just saunter through Neiman Marcus on any given Saturday and you’ll see an assemblage of pets expertly coiffed, dressed to the nines, smelling like a rose in brand name carriers. These owners will have ample supplies on hand, wipes for muddy paws, portable water dishes with filtered water to quench thirst and resting pads for getting some shut eye.

No Barking or Begging Zone.  Excessive barking can be a big nuisance and upsetting to those within earshot.  You don’t want to risk a noise complaint from next door.  High strung pets who live in smaller quarters should have a regular exercise routine to release repressed energy.  A little fresh air and running around will exhaust them and calm them down so they will not bark unreasonably.  Begging is unacceptable and can also spread germs. Never feed a dog table food and if begging ensures, remove them immediately from the scene.

Preferable Pet Sitting.  Leaving town and need a place to park your pet?  Don’t burden your family and friends with the responsibility.  If they are interested in babysitting your pet while you’re away, they will let you know.  Neighbors make a nice option, especially if the relationship is reciprocal and you both leave town at different times. Otherwise, enlist the help of a professional pet sitting service.  Check references and make sure they are insured and bonded before dropping your unsuspecting pet at their door.

Love Me, Love My Pet.  You and your canine may be attached at the hip, but that does not give them carte blanche to tag along to your social engagements or accompany you at work.  Many people are allergic to pets fur. Untrained pets may damage furniture or permanently stain rugs leaving a wake of destruction in their path.  Showing up with yours unannounced can be considered incredibly insensitive.  If you are in a bind with your pet, have the courtesy to ask permission and wait for the okay.  Be gracious and make sure your pet is on their best behavior.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Beware of Licking or Picking - BBQ Etiquette Tips for the 4th of July

Fourth of July is the hallmark of BBQ season.  Sitting outside, soaking up the sun and savoring great eats is a time-honored American pastime enjoyed year after year.  While more hot dogs are consumed on this day than any other, barbecuing is no longer limited to just grilling dogs and burgers, the fare has expanded to everything from pizza to fruit. Plus, there's something about barbecuing that just makes everything taste better.  So if you're entertaining today or attending a party as a guest, take into consideration these BBQ etiquette tips to ensure your July 4th is a smash success!

Be Prepared. There is nothing worse than being invited to a barbecue and arriving when your host is wiping away the cobwebs from the grill or has to run out to the market to purchase the food. If you are hosting a barbecue, plan your menu and purchase your food items a day or two before your event. Clean your barbecue well in advance of your guests arrival and make sure your barbecue tools are handy and in good working condition. You don't want to be flipping burgers with your fingers!

The Hotter the Better. Preheat the grill and allow plenty of time for it to reach the appropriate temperature so that cooking time is efficient. Generally guests come hungry and they will not be very patient waiting an extra half hour for the grill to heat up.

No One Wants to Be Eaten Alive. Everyone knows that outdoor barbecuing means you have to put up with an assortment of bugs invading your space, especially pesky flies and bees. Arm your backyard with insect repellent such as citronella candles and an electric bug zapper. Purchasing food domes will also not only keep food warm, but will dissuade bugs from hanging around the table.

The Grill Master is King. Every household has their designated grill master who is king of their domain and not does want to be told what to do. He or she is confident they can grill anything to perfection. Show them respect by letting them do their job and be supportive by helping in anyway you can. No backseat grilling please!

Finger Lickin' Good.The best tasting foods at a barbecue are the ones that happen to be super messy or difficult to eat. Think ribs smothered in sauce, buttery corn on the cob or watermelon juice running down the chin. Not only do these foods require a ton of napkins, but they also tempt us to want to suck the sauce off of our fingers at any given time. Provide cleansing wipes for sticky foods and toothpicks to remove kernels of corn from teeth.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Manners Monday - Graduation Etiquette: From Dazed & Confused to Grateful & Charming

The week leading up to my Sarah Lawrence College graduation was mostly a blur of endless parties, excruciatingly late nights, and boxes and boxes of Kleenex. Not necessarily from tears of joy or sadness - although after four years at my alma mater I was feeling pretty nostalgic - but from an especially strong New York pollen season that had me reaching for a limitless stash of tissues.  Somehow when my name was called, I managed to shake hands, accept my diploma, and return to my seat before anyone was the wiser.  All that blowing, however, must have made me light-headed because I haven’t the faintest clue as to who was in attendance, where we celebrated, or which parties I attended afterward.  All I do remember is that I felt a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment knowing the four years of incessant studying, paper-writing, and test-taking were behind me.  

Graduating from college was a big deal then and has only become an increasingly arduous endeavor.  With tuitions hitting record highs and academic standards reaching new plateaus, the pressure cooker to stay in school and get good grades can be debilitating. It demands a student’s fierce dedication and a family’s unwavering commitment.  As a show appreciation, here are 7 ways for the graduate to shed their dazed and confused demeanor and turn on the charm for guests who have come to celebrate their achievement.  

Cordially Invite.  Eschew the electronic invite in favor of customized printed invitations to distribute to family members and close friends two months in advance.  Out-of-town guests will appreciate a ‘Save the Date’ including hotel options at least six months in advance.  Colleges located in especially tony towns tend to fill up very quickly.  While you want to make everyone feel special, tickets are typically limited to attend the ceremony. Circumvent hurt feelings by making sure all guests receive an invitation to the celebration afterward.  

Dress to Impress.  Although you’ll be covered from head to toe in cap and gown, graduates should dress to impress in appropriate commencement attire. Ladies should wear a dress, slacks or skirt with a nice blouse. Flats or low heeled shoes for comfort and safe walking.  Limit accessories to only those that are necessary.  Have a family member hold your purse. Men should wear dress pants or khakis with pressed button-down shirts and a belt.  Tied shoes or loafers for footwear.  Caps are worn flat on the head with the tassels on the right side unless otherwise instructed for photos, etc. Caps are removed by men only as a sign of respect during the National Anthem.

Glean Jewels from Commencement Speeches.  This is not the time to take a snooze. Put down your phone, sit up straight, perk up your ears, and lean in.  After years of schooling, you must now apply what you’ve learned in the real world and that is no simple task. The commencement speech delivers the goods on exactly what it will take to not only survive, but thrive.  Legendary commencement speakers like Steve Jobs offered priceless pearls of wisdom that still resonates.  Listen with intent, take advice to heart and aspire to live up to the standard your education has provided you.  

Receive the Diploma in a Dignified Manner.  You will rehearse countless times how to approach the stage to receive your diploma, but here are a few extra pointers to be mindful of. Posture, posture, posture! Stand tall, shoulders down and back and walk with dignity being careful not to trip on your gown. Make good eye contact, administer a solid handshake with your right hand using two pumps, and use your left hand to accept the diploma. Move the tassel on your cap if directed by the photographer and be sure to smile with your eyes, as well as your teeth.  Continue offstage confidently and return to your seat. 

Split Time Sensibly between Guests & Grads.  Guests have come far and wide to witness the occasion and they deserve a little quality time and undivided attention before running off to party with your friends.  If your family is hosting a celebratory luncheon or dinner on your behalf, make it your mission to be charming, gracious, interesting, interested and grateful.  Connect with each guest and personally thank them for coming.

Allocate Announcements.  If you have extended family and friends whom you’d like to share in your joyous occasion, limit announcements to those who actually know you are graduating.  “No gifts please” should be added so recipients understand this is purely a gesture to include them in your achievement.

Handwrite Appreciation.  By now, you hopefully own personalized stationery as you are going to need it.  Not only for gifts received for graduation, but also for the countless interviews you will be taking with prospective employers, mentors and other advisors. Thank you notes should be written within a one to two-week period.  Monetary gifts may include a sentence on how the money will be used such as towards a future savings or summer trip.  Being the gracious graduate you are, an expression of gratitude will also be mailed to those who came to support you, but did not bring a gift.