Monday, November 17, 2014

Manners Monday – #DareToBePolite - How We Behave

Step 1/Week 3: First Impressions: How we behave.  Turn on any morning television news show and you’ll witness the barrage of stories dedicated to people’s bad behavior. It may be a fallen politician, an enraged sports figure, a bawdy celebrity or a regular Joe who committed a heinous crime.  Sure these may be extreme examples amplified in the media for pure entertainment, but oftentimes they are not.  Our public role models (save the Joe criminal) tend to disappoint.  And what about our own behavior that is not publicized for all the world to see? How do we conduct ourselves on a daily basis with our families, with our friends and when we’re out and about on our streets and in our communities? 

Each and every day we are confronted with choices that test our behavior and moral makeup.  There is always a clear right and wrong choice and the wrong choice is typically much more appealing because it feels reckless, carefree or fun.  While this may be an acceptable excuse for a two year old who is too young to know better or a reality show star who is being paid good money to behave like a two year old, there isn’t much tolerance anywhere else. 

Granted, none of us are perfect and we do slip up.  It’s hard to hold it altogether 24/7, especially in today’s frenetic society. And if children are in the mix, then all rules are pushed aside and the claws come out.  In “Terms of Endearment,” mama Shirley Maclaine could care less what the hospital staff thought of her as she cursed at the top of her lungs demanding medicine for her daughter who was experiencing pain.  Perfectly understandable.

For the next seven days we are focusing on every day behavior.  In other words, the way we go about our day when not faced with a traumatic or dire situation.  Starting with our early morning routine, from the way we greet our household when we arise to the way we treat the barista at our local Starbucks. Are we cutting in the carpool line at school drop off or giving someone the finger who just cut us off on the road?  At work, are we sending scathing emails to the entire department or stealing someone else's marked food in the kitchen?  Are we chewing out the lunch lady for giving us the wrong change? During the day, are we waiting patiently in line at the pharmacy for our prescription to be filled? Are we treating the restaurant staff with as much respect as our boss sitting across from us at the table?  In the community, are we cordial to the librarian, the policeman, and the gas station attendant? At home, after a long day, are we impatiently screaming at our kids or ignoring our significant others?  When we say goodnight, do we lovingly kiss our loved ones or grunt our way to bed?  

While most of us don't have the luxury of being followed around by our own personal reality show crew, all of us are living under a constant microscope where our every action may be taken out of context and misconstrued. There are a million ways to make a grave mistake and our actions, reactions or inaction has a domino effect on others.

How will you choose to behave over the next seven days?  Share with us what you observe in yourself and in others. Join us now! Make the vow to #daretobepolite!  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Manners Monday – #DareToBePolite - How We Sound

Step 1/Week 2: First Impressions: How we soundWe live in an incredibly social world where we are called up upon to share our thoughts and speak our mind on an endless variety of topics. When given our platform, it is always in our best interest to sound our most intelligent. This is not the time for text-speak, filler words, swearing or slang, however tempting.  This is the age of sound bites where we have to make every second count and speak articulately, audibly and with perfect elocution to make sure our message is clear.

For the next seven days, pay close attention to your verbal communication. Notice your voice. Do you speak loudly or softly? Is your speech high-pitched or low? Do you converse too quickly or slowly?  Are you a chatterbox, or is your delivery slow and methodical? Are you a close talker?  Notice your choice of words. Do you use all those three and four syllable words you learned in school and do you know their meanings?  Do you swear like a sailor?  Do you sound like a teenager sprinkling filler words throughout your sentences? Do you talk in text preferring to say,  ‘brb’ instead of ‘be right back’?  Do you have an accent, and if so, from where?  Boston, New Jersey, Louisiana, the UK? Does it make you sound smarter? Do people make fun of it? Does it help or hurt your personal or professional life?  What is the tone of your voice? Do you sound annoyed? Do you sound happy? Are you curt or do you speak at length? Do your words move people into action or do you feel like no one is listening?  Each of these questions is up for discussion in this second week of our focus. 

Let’s use this period to discover the impact we make or do not make on others. Are we effective in getting what we want at home? With our families and friends?  In the dating world and in the corporate world? How do we come across to other people? Do we sound cheery?  Do we sound critical?  While our technological communications have taken precedence, it is our interpersonal connections that still hold the most weight. In these rare instances, we must know how to speak face-to-face and tailor our tone of voice, our velocity, and our volume depending upon whom we’re speaking to or the size of our audience. 

More careful examination should be paid towards what we are saying. Are we repeatedly throwing up words out of our mouths?  Do we apply filters to prevent saying something we will most surely regret later?  How many of us actually think before we speak?  This is certainly not easy in a world where the complete opposite is heralded by society, especially in the media where shock-value is upheld. Take, for example, the latest cultural phenomenon, the Potty Mouth Princesses, who would probably have gone unnoticed if not for the F-bombs sprinkled throughout their video on feminism. How else to perk up the public’s ears? On the other end of the spectrum, are the increasingly popular TED Talks which in a distilled eighteen minutes of mindful word selection are able to educate us, enlighten us and instruct us to make our lives better.  How will you choose to use your voice over the next seven days?  Share with us what you observe in yourself and in others. Join us now! Make the vow to #daretobepolite! 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Manners Monday – Launching #daretobepolite

What’s the manner with people? Rarely does a day go by without someone doing something or saying something to upset us. It may come in the form of an insensitive comment disguised as constructive criticism. Or a rude remark designed to elevate themselves and put down another. Sometimes it’s a piece of gossip for pure entertainment purposes. Other times it’s an unfiltered observation pointing out a serious character flaw.  And oftentimes, it’s a blatant lack of respect for our time, our money or our commitment. At what point did we turn into such a nasty, negative, cutthroat, backstabbing, dishonest and competitive society?

What ever happened to polite? When passersby would greet one another with a knowing nod and smile. When sitting down to dinner meant giving your undivided attention to your dining partners. When a suitor called the object of their affection on the telephone to arrange a date. When an act of kindness was acknowledged with a handwritten thank you note.  

The #daretobepolite campaign is designed to wake up the nation and raise awareness on the importance of politesse and good manners. For the next three months, we will be challenging (daring) the public with three separate 21-day campaigns. Why 21 days each?  Because it takes 21 days to form a new habit and we want these skills to stick.  November launches the campaign with the very basics, otherwise known as first impressions, focusing on how we look, how we sound, and how we behave. December, at the height of holiday season, is devoted to the vast realm of dining and entertaining.  January, we begin the New Year by examining communication in all its forms whether spoken, written or electronically transmitted.

Now, please do not get me wrong. I do not espouse on a pedestal looking down shaming everyone else.  I turn the mirror on myself with every intention to walk the talk. I am the first to admit that I am a work in progress and that I actively practice polite.  I am in the trenches with you, so let’s take the first step together. Shall we?

Step 1/Week 1: First Impressions: How we look.  The first thing people notice is appearance. They sum us up in the first few seconds before one single syllable has been uttered from our mouths.  Everything from our posture and gait to our grooming and attire is being scrutinized.  Is our outfit too revealing or too schoolmarmish?  Are we well-kempt or disheveled?  Do we have any noticeable bad habits?  We are all very quick to judge. We can't help it, we're human. However, we’re not talking about the vacuous pursuit of vanity, rather more about taking pride in the way we look which shows respect for oneself, as well as others, and has a direct positive influence on our relationships whether dressing for a job interview, a first date or a social function. For the next seven days, we are focusing on outward appearance from our skin, hair and nails down to our clothing and accessories. We’ll dissect style guidelines, which wardrobe staples are best, and fashion faux pas to avoid along with a few tips on exercise and diet. We’d also love to hear from you.  Share with us your photos and videos, post your personal do’s and don’ts. Our polite armor sets the tone and is the foundation for virtually everything. Join us now! Make the vow to #daretobepolite!  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Manners Monday – Oscar de la Renta – Paying Homage to a Man who Epitomized Effortless Elegance

I was deeply saddened to learn the passing of Mr. de la Renta just one week ago today. My first and only encounter with the legendary designer was at the wedding of his step-daughter Eliza Reed to Alexander Bolen in June of 1998.  

Their nuptials took place at the de la Renta estate in Kent, Connecticut. Having never attended a summertime society wedding, I was advised by my father to purchase a hat for the occasion so out I went in search of the perfect accompaniment to compliment my buttercup dress and coat ensemble.  We were shuttled to the property by coach and escorted through the gorgeous gardens to the ceremony grounds.  It was a veritable sea of who’s who figures from the worlds of fashion, media and international society, but what struck me most was the vivid memory of how many dogs were in attendance.  Almost as many as guests!  

The weather was hot and muggy and a last minute torrential downpour made its best attempts to put a damper on the festivities. But not for long.  As if taking a cue from the spirit in the skies, the rain began to subside and out of the mist appeared the dashing Mr. de la Renta steering a golf cart with one hand while simultaneously holding on to the bride-to-be with the other. What very well could have been an afternoon wedding of pomp and circumstance was properly replaced with a warmth and effortless elegance that was welcome by all.  

Oscar de la Renta happened to embody elegance in every sense of the word endearing himself to throngs of fans spanning the globe from first ladies and celebrities to socialites and fashionistas. His elegance did not threaten his masculinity.  On the contrary, it added to it. He was the quintessential gentleman, both dapper and debonair who created a fashion empire that exemplified his zest for life as well as his eye for quality and impeccable taste.  Flawlessly dressed for any occasion, his sophistication and style went unrivaled setting a high bar for future male fashion designers climbing the ranks.  His sun-kissed skin, amiable smile and charming accent disarmed and captivated everyone he met. 

The Dominican-born American icon didn’t skip a beat working tirelessly up to his final days including designing the wedding dress for Amal Alamuddin who stole the heart of longtime bachelor George Clooney.  He will forever be remembered for his refinement and grace. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Manners Monday – Joan Rivers – Brassy Girl from Brooklyn Was Pure Class

A view from outside her condo on East 62nd Street just a few steps from 5th Avenue

We lost a legend last Thursday, comedienne Joan Rivers. That brassy girl from Brooklyn was pure class. A national treasure, a legendary pioneer, she worked tirelessly for over fifty years bringing audiences to their knees with her acerbic and self-deprecating wit.  As one of America’s first female comics, she was a trail blazer paving the way for countless female comics who would come after her from Rosie O’Donnell and Rosanne Barr to Kathy Griffin and Sarah Silverman.  Her jokes could come across as scathing, but they were never meant to be hurtful.  She was the creator of red carpet commentary, launching a whole new genre of entertainment television for awards shows to come. She was a survivor who used humor to get through life’s most difficult moments whether struggling to recover from her husband’s suicide or rebuilding her career after her cancelled talk show. She had grit and she bounced back with a zest and passion for life that was incomparable.

After undergoing routine out-patient surgery on her throat, she stopped breathing, suffered cardiac arrest and was put on life support.  The 81 year old soaked up every second of her fabulous life planning each momentous step of the way.  She even orchestrated her own funeral giving explicit direction, “I want my funeral to be a big showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action.”  And that it was, with luminaries from every industry turning up at Temple Emanu-El on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to pay their respects. And, the New York Police Department’s Emerald Society playing “New York, New York” an homage to the town she loved and called home.

But what will we remember most about Joan Rivers?

Her Presentation and Style. Dressed to the nines with her signature blonde perfectly coiffed hair, she would take to the stage or set in a ladylike outfit and then catch us off guard with her irreverent routine. She was a serial abuser of cosmetic surgery seeking perfection with every nip, tuck and pull perhaps attempting to erase the years that did not seem to match her energy. While she espoused all things style and fashion forward on the red carpet, she was a traditionalist who embodied elegance and grace. It was mentioned that even in her final hours, she had a fresh manicure and pedicure as well as her hair done. She did not want to leave this life unkempt. One would imagine she had on all her jewelry and beautiful silk sleepwear to boot. 

Her Love of Family. Her daughter Melissa and her grandson Cooper were her greatest joy.  Not a day went by without a phone call to Melissa each morning which would set the tone for her entire day. She loved them dearly and they were by her side as much as possible. Working together on E!’s “Fashion Police” for 20 years and then starring in their own reality show, “Joan & Melissa - Joan Knows Best?” solidified an already tight-as-steel bond.

Her Dedication to Perfection.  She did everything first class. An admitted type-A personality, she preferred to take the helm and do it her way rather than leave anything to chance. Whether it was planning her Melissa’s fairy tale wedding at the Plaza or residing as President of her condo association, no detail went unnoticed and everything had to be done tastefully or not at all.  This was her joy, it made her happy. She had an appreciation for the finer things, but she was equally grateful and gracious.

Her Take No Prisoners Attitude.  She may have been blunt and unapologetic, but she was never mean-spirited. She could care less what other people thought of her. If an audience was shocked or offended by her words, she would simply respond and say, “Oh grow up!” She willingly made fun of everything from race and religion to sex and celebrities, her family life and heroes to politicians and religious figures. No one and no topic was taboo. But she kept her material relevant citing contemporary figures and earning herself the adulation of twenty somethings.

Her Red Carpet Commentary.  Whether covering a live award's show or on the set with fellow cohorts, no one called fashion like Joan Rivers. She coined the phrase, "Who are you wearing?" essentially cementing a relationship between fashion designers and celebrities for years to come. She inspired me to write a regular blog on Red Carpet Manners for what I like to call 'going underneath the sheath' espousing on all things manners related on the red carpet.   

Her Heart.  She had a kindness and charm that endeared her to everyone. Her goodness and heart propelled her to stand up for what she believed in whether it was breaking the glass ceiling for female comediennes, fighting bigotry towards the gay community, or defending Israel.  She gave back raising millions of dollars for causes including AIDS, Guide Dogs for the Blind and Cystic Fibrosis. 

Her Work Ethic.  In her documentary, “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work," she revealed that she wasn’t happy unless her calendar was filled to the brim with appointments. She loved being busy, it made her feel alive. She traveled determinedly back and forth from coast to coast appearing both live and on television up until her last day. She kept a catalog of all her jokes neatly typed and alphabetized by topic in filing cabinets in her New York apartment constantly updating, memorizing and rehearsing her famous one-liners.  

Her Resilience. This tough woman born of Russian immigrants made something of herself.  She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard College with a degree in English. She broke through the male-dominated world of comedy to become an international star. She survived the tragic suicide of her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, and rebuilt her relationship with her daughter. She overcame her own show’s cancellation and became a massively successful author, producer and entrepreneur writing 11 books, selling jewelry and fashion on home shopping networks and heralding at the helm of the “Fashion Police” virtually launching the entire red carpet industry. Her humor was her savior; it got her through the most horrific of circumstances. She knew the power of bouncing back with laughter and harnessed it to conquer every adversity.

Can we talk?  On a personal note, Joan Rivers reminded me of my grandmother, Rose Gach√©, who lived in a gorgeous apartment in the Hampshire House facing Central Park South. I remember the silk fabric walls, the mirrored dressing area, and the chocolate pudding served in crystal goblets. She died young when I was still in high school, but instilled in me an appreciation for quality and the finer things whether it was taking pride in the way I dress or setting a beautiful table. She was generous and gracious.  Similar to Joan Rivers, she had tremendous drive, determination, focus, intellect, sharpness, and enthusiasm. Both are sorely missed.  Rest in peace...

Monday, September 1, 2014

Manners Monday - Seeing White - "Why It's Particularly Appealing Now"

After a weeklong of seeing white featured on the red carpet, as well as adorned on the bodices of women and men strutting the streets and beaches of sunny California, you might think the color was experiencing its last hurrah. At the VMA’s, it displayed its daring on musical artists ranging from Jordin Sparks and Jason Derulo to Nicki Minaj and Usher who flaunted various looks. It revealed its versatility at the Emmy’s with a string of actresses including Sofia Vergara, Robin Wright, Kristen Wiig, Anna Chlumsky and Laverne Cox who all jumped on the white bandwagon  looking absolutely fabulous. And when it comes down to a clean fresh look, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything that beats a spotless pair of white jeans, a sleek white pump, a crisp white button down or a tailored white tuxedo regardless of the season.  No longer chained by the stringent rules of summertime, this color on the spectrum has finally cut loose and is primed and ready to head full throttle into fall.

Historically, there were a number of reasons behind the notion of no white after Labor Day. For example, in the early 1900’s before the invention of air conditioning, white clothing was cooler and certainly more convenient for the hot summer months.  During the summer, white garments were frequently regarded as a look of leisure.  Once fall arrived, it was time to put away the summer whites and don more traditional formal work clothes. It was also a practical remedy for the approaching rainy season, especially in cities like Chicago and New York.  Years later, the fashion industry embraced the color white with open arms and has draped various shades of white on models and celebrities alike.

But why is the color white so particularly appealing now?  Perhaps in an age of oversharing, overindulgence and overloading, white symbolizes all things simple and pure.  In a complicated world where we are inundated and bombarded with endless information, it reminds us to return to a time of innocence and getting down to the very basics. During a precarious time in our history where war is prevalent, it provides us with a feeling of freedom, of lightness, of striving for perfection amidst all of the chaos.  So don’t let your white frocks slip away with summertime, here’s a few tips on how to rock white well into fall and beyond.

Daily Uniform.  You will always be fashion forward wearing a well-pressed white button down blouse or dress shirt.  Paired with anything from dark denim jeans to an embroidered ball gown skirt (think Carolina Herrera), it is perpetually fresh and stunning.

Wardrobe Staple.  A white blazer or coat is an impeccable addition to any outfit.  It lightens up your mood along with your style and becomes a people magnet as others are drawn to the brightness.

Night on the Town.  Rather than the usual LBD, choose a white sleeveless dress in a winter fabric or a sleek white pant suit that moves as gracefully as you do. These are gorgeous looks that are guaranteed to turn heads.

Don’t Be Afraid to Accessorize.  Captivated by a pair of white leather booties? Have your heart set on a white suede clutch? Going crazy for that white cashmere scarf?  Don’t let the fear of stains stop you.  These may not be everyday pieces, but they are treasures to break out for a night out with adults.

Keep it Spotless.  If you decide to don your white wears, be prepared to combat stains head on. Have a small package of baby wipes handy for accidents. The alcohol in the wipes will take out even the most stubborn of stains whether they be from red ketchup or red wine.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Manners Monday - Tanning Etiquette from UVA to UVB

I grew up in Miami Beach in the seventies where tanning was a competitive sport. Each sunny day, we would put on our teeny string bikinis armed with baby oil and a metallic UV reflector to worship at the feet of the sun god. The poster girl for suntan perfection was the cute little blonde from the Coppertone ad. Her bare bottom exposing the difference between pasty pale and beautifully tanned skin.  A tan body was the ideal to uphold. The vitamin D made you feel healthy, you appeared more slender, and you looked smashing in head-to-toe white.  

For years, I would continue to abuse my skin. I recall an unfortunate trip to Hawaii in my teens in which I burnt myself so badly in overcast weather that I had swollen to an unrecognizable state and had to seek medical help from the hotel doctor. He recommended a dose of Tylenol, slathering on the aloe vera and bathing with black tea bags to help take the sting out of my body. Sadly, I was sentenced to the room for days unable to move from the scorching pain and blisters. 

Now in my forties, I am still learning from past lessons.  I admittedly forget to slather on the sunscreen and then wonder why I'm developing white spots all over my fair skin.  A recent scare from a close friend who had a pre-Melanoma shark bite chunk of flesh removed from her leg by a dermatologist has me finally reaching for the maximum UV protection.  The universe is also sending me signals. This weekend while shopping at J. Crew in Malibu, I came across a flyer for #JCREWSMARTSUN, an Instagram campaign they launched to coincide with July's UV Safety Month raising awareness on skin cancer and Melanoma research. The message - do sun smart by covering up and protecting your skin.  So to help inspire those negligent souls such as myself, as well as those who may need enlightening in a few areas, I have comprised the following top ten list for proper tanning etiquette tips.

1. Know your "UVA's" from your "UVB's".  Ultraviolet A rays are more serious and oftentimes associated with skin cancer as well as skin damage and aging. Ultraviolet B rays are the main cause of burns due to sun exposure. The label Broad Spectrum Protection means the product protects against both UVA and UVB rays. 

2. SPF (Sun Protection Factor) guidelines.  Don't bother applying a sunscreen with an SPF lower than 15 as it will not protect against skin cancer.  When making your purchase, choose SPF 50 if possible. Anything higher than SPF 50 has not been proven to be more effective. There is no such thing as a waterproof sunscreen, only water-resistant. 

3. Limit time in the sun.  Sunbathe early or later in the day when rays are less damaging.  Typically the sun is strongest between 11:00am and 3:00pm, but stronger at higher altitudes in the mountains as well as lower tropical regions. Beware of water, sand and snow. They amplify the sun's burning rays making them more powerful. 

4. Sunglasses are a must.  Select a pair with built-in UV protection.  CNN news anchor, Anderson Cooper, regrets forgetting to wear his sunglasses while on the water in Portugal years ago.  He became the focus of his own news story after burning his eyeballs and temporarily going blind for 36 hours.  

5. Seek out stylish rash guards.  Great news, you don't have to sacrifice style to protect your skin! Wear hats, shirts, cover-ups and other protective clothing to guard against harmful rays.  I love these zip front 3/4 sleeve shirts by DHUFISH sold at the Beverly Hills Bikini Shop, as well as this sleeveless one from J. Crew

6. Apply sunscreen spray far away.  Unknowing offenders proceed to cover every inch of their body up-wind from their neighbors. Spray sunscreen, similar to substitute sugar packets, easily seeps into the mouth and tastes awful! Let's also mention that it may be inhaled into the lungs which is harmful in itself.  Be mindful of where you are standing and move away from others when applying.  

7. Use lotion sunscreen sparingly.  How many times have we applied white lotion sunscreen only to discover we look like we just finished a face-painting session for clowns? While products with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are highly recommended, they tend to leave a milky white film on the skin.  Find a mirror and rub in the areas around your nose, hair line, chin and neck so there is nothing left visible and you can still look fabulous.

8. Sunscreen 101.  Don't go for a dollop.  Apply a liberal amount of sunscreen over all exposed areas.  Re-apply sunscreen every two hours and especially after swimming. Don't let cloudy skies deter you. Up to eighty-percent of the sun's UV rays can pass through clouds.  Use sunscreen rain or shine.

9. Stick to simple suits.  If opting for sunscreen to flaunt that bikini body. Select simply designed suits and avoid fancy/crazy strap lines or shapes in visible places.  As much as they may be appealing in the store, they become a nuisance when attempting to wear that strapless/backless dress to the next fundraiser.

10. On meds?  No sun for you!  If taking antibiotics, stay out of the sun. Certain medications make you more sensitive to rays and heat and may cause dizziness or dehydration.  Others will cause you to sunburn more easily. Grab a good book and stay in the shade.

Please note, I am not a skin care professional. If in need of expert advice on sunscreen or skin care management, please consult a licensed dermatologist or medical doctor.