Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back 2 School Manners - The College Years

The beginning of a new school year is sometimes met with bittersweet sentiment, especially for those parents with older children who are leaving the nest and going away to college for the first time. After years of preparation, test taking, filling out applications and going on tours, the final weeks are spent shopping for dorm room essentials, new wardrobes and such.

I remember my first day of Sarah Lawrence College like it was yesterday. I recall the outfit I wore and the friends that I met. I remember the strange feeling of being in a new environment on my own and left to my own devices. It definitely took some time for me to settle in and feel comfortable. I can only imagine what college will be like by the time my girls attend in about ten years. One thing's for sure, I will want to arm them with survival skills to ensure their transition is a smooth one and bears no resemblance to an episode of Gossip Girl. Below are 8 surefire ways for your child to make the most of their college experience while simultaneously maintaining their respect as well as their reputation.

Be Approachable and Friendly. The quickest way to win friends and make allies is to be approachable, kind and friendly. Your fabulous presentation and engaging personality won't mean much if you forget to smile. Being happy and smiling sends a signal to others that you wish to engage. Use all three to your advantage. At all costs, stay away from negative body language. Crossed arms give the appearance that one is uncomfortable, defensive or does not wish to be bothered. Be aware of this so that you always put forth a positive first impression.

Know How to Start a Conversation. College is a melting pot filled with students from cities all over world. To connect with others, your conversation skills must be up to par. Those that can speak about a number of subjects are more attractive and appear more intelligent. It is a good idea to brush up on cultural events, national news and local happenings so that you may contribute to any conversation topic that may arise. Remember the key to being an expert conversationalist is to be a good listener and ask thoughtful questions.

Keep Your Dorm Room Neat & Be Respectful. When living quarters are shared, it is important to pay extra careful attention to keeping your belongings neat and tidy. Not only are students coming together and meeting each other for the first time, but they are also expected to live together under the same roof and learn to put up with each other's habits and so forth. Be respectful of your dorm mates, maintain your privacy and allow them the same courtesy. This will go a long way towards making sure you and your dorm mates are still close at the end of the year.

Beware of How You Present Yourself Online. Social media has become a very big part one's college identity. After all,Facebook was started by a Harvard college student! Begin your college experience with a clean slate by easing in to your online communications. Remember professors, school administration, your parents and many others may be able to view your postings. Stay away from uploading inappropriate photos or posting offensive messages about yourself or others. Keep certain information private. Leave some details to be uncovered during your face to face communications.
Practice Face to Face Communication. Although you may favor texting to talking or emailing to chatting, it is important to incorporate some quality face time in your relationships. Technology, although convenient, has only moved us further away from our personal interactions and has, in effect, caused us to separate from the people we care about. Schedule regular face time with your friends because no matter how many emoticons you incorporate into your devices, it's nice to read one's true emotions and feelings in person.

Maintain Good Health Habits. Just because you're off to college and there's no adult around to nag at you doesn't mean you should neglect regular hygiene and eating nutritionally. Trust me, your roommate has no interest in living with the stench of someone who has not showered in a week and eating nachos and drinking 20 ounce Diet Cokes for breakfast, lunch and dinner will provide you with absolutely zero nutritional value.

Challenge Yourself and Diversify. You may have already chosen all of your classes, but there are many extra-curricular activities you can enroll in to broaden your horizons and help make you a more interesting, well-rounded person. A challenge is always necessary for growth, take risks and do something that is different from what you are accustomed to. The rewards of breaking out of your comfort zone will pay off in the long run.

Have Fun and Act Responsibly. Most importantly, the time spent at college is meant to be fun. Since you will be there for a good four (or five years), you may as well make the best of it, possess a positive attitude and embrace everything it has to offer. Just remember that fun would not be as fun without the balance of responsibility. Dressing appropriately, showing up for classes on time, communicating respectfully to administration, staff and fellow students, participating in school activities, doing your laundry regularly and finding ways to contribute to your college community are all excellent examples of showing you are growing into a responsible and mature adult.

"Back 2 School Manners"

After the Labor Day weekend, children all across the country will finally be back in school. Some parents will be jumping for joy and rushing them out of the house desperate for some peace and quiet and others will be experiencing the bittersweet emotion of separation and loss that their “baby” is growing older. Regardless of your child’s age and how long they have been attending school, we have devised a list of back-to-school manners we believe will help you and your children transition more easily and gracefully into the new school year.

1. Obey “The Golden Rule”. We’ve heard it a hundred times. Treat others they way you would like to be treated. Think about it, if our children actually, consciously pondered this phrase I bet there would be a lot less hurt feelings, bullying, and unruly behavior in the classroom and on the playground.

2. Practice Safety First. Believe it or not, to be safe is to use good manners. When children are watching out for themselves and their fellow classmates, fewer accidents occur. This is true for both the school grounds as well as the surrounding parking area.

3. Bullying is Bad Behavior. Teach your children to be sweet and kind to their fellow schoolmates. Being a bully is usually a cry for help from a child who is in desperate need of some attention and love. Take the high road and show sensitivity towards that child until they are able to learn how to properly express themselves.

4. Friends Forever. Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold. Each year the students in the classrooms change. Children should view this as an opportunity to make new friends. They should be reminded to cultivate the relationships they already have, but also be encouraged to introduce themselves to new students and new classmates. Remember to stand up straight, smile and make good eye contact when making introductions.

5. Cut Out the Cliques and Be Inclusive of Everyone. All students want to be accepted by their peers at school. Speak to your children about the negative effects of whispering, gossiping or excluding others. Explain to them how they would feel if the shoe were on the other foot. They should be inclusive of everyone at all times at school, especially to new students who may be more shy or reserved. They do not have to engage everyone in deep conversation, but a friendly and warm smile is a must!

6. Make Cleanliness & Hygiene a Top Priority. The Swine Flu epidemic was enough to put most parents on high alert. Teach your teacher the value and importance of cleanliness and hygiene. Make sure they wash their hands (with soap) repeatedly throughout the day, sneeze into their arm as opposed to their hands (which carry germs) and (for those with long locks) wear their hair up in a ponytail or braids to avoid bringing home lice.

7. Be True to Your School. Children should be respectful towards the school administration and staff. Encourage them to channel their inner school spirit and support their school teams both academic and sports related. Motivate them to run for student council or take the lead on a charitable drive to raise funds for the school.

8. Practice Good Study Habits. Children quickly learn that homework only gets more difficult as you get older. Better to learn good study habits when you are young so that they become second nature as you progress into higher education. Assist them in creating a schedule with blocks of time for work and for play so that no matter how much work they have, they will feel a sense of balance.

9. Birthday Parties & Sleepovers. This goes back to our rule about inclusion. Children should be sensitive to their schoolmate's feelings and not exclude individuals. For birthday parties, they should either invite the entire class, keep it a same gender party or limit themselves to two or three friends for an intimate celebration. They should send party invitations via email or mail and not through backpacks as they are easily lost. For sleepovers, teach your children to discuss their plans after school to avoid any hurt feelings from friends who are not part of the plan. If they discover a friend is within earshot, suggest to them a sleepover plan for another date in the future.

10. Back-to-School Manners are Not Just for Kids! Parents are often some of the worst offenders. Greet fellow parents each day with a warm and friendly smile. Remember to include new parents in school activities and special events. Avoid gossip or negative comments about other parents or the school. Use the magic words unconditionally and often with teachers, administration and staff. Your children emulate you and will do as you do and not as you say. Better to set them on the right course by setting a good example. Remind them of your expectations and rules with regard to their manners and behavior in general. This will provide them with the confidence they need to achieve in school and have a productive and successful year!

Monday, August 29, 2011

“Oh Yes It’s Ladies Night” – Red Carpet Manners at the 2011 VMA’s

The ladies stole the show at the 2011 Video Music Awards.  Beginning with the arrivals on the black carpet (apparently the red carpet wasn’t cool enough) and continuing with the first draw dropping performance of the evening right up until the final farewell tribute and award for Best Video of the Year.  It was a fascinating night filled with theatrics and thoughtfulness with some of the biggest female names in the business sweeping most of the awards.  The only lady missing, was one Taylor Swift. Nominated for Best Video with a Message, the 21 year old chanteuse was downtown tending to her own audience of thousands at the Staples Center. 

Without a host (or hostess, remember Chelsea Handler last year?) to make fun and point fingers at the performers in the audience, the artists behaved pretty well.  There was no single event that turned sour (a la Kayné West circa 2009).  Just the typical amount of gross humor, especially when the girls (I can’t call them ladies) from “The Jersey Shore” took the stage.  For the most part, however, it was pretty uneventful show.  Instead of the usual MTV debauchery, we mainly saw support and encouragement from the artists, at least on camera. Collaborators sat together, friends patted one another on the back, fans stood and sang their favorite songs. Seemed like a good night was had by all.  Here are some of our red carpet manners hits and misses.

Outrageous Outfits. Never ones to disappoint, both Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry donned costumes that sparked many a conversation.  We’re not quite sure what look Miss Nicki was going for this evening. Her outfit apparently made of stuffed animals along with her surgical mask and ice cream cone necklace had us confused. Was she going to a children’s hospital or a children’s birthday party?  Not one of our favorites.  Neither was Miss Katy’s outfit changes.  Tonight she missed her mark, especially with the yellow colored block of cheese that somehow appeared on her head just in time to accept her award for Best Video of the Year. What in the world was the inspiration for that hat?  I was so distracted, I couldn’t even focus on her speech! Did she remember to thank her husband? 

Triple Threats. Two of the greatest female entertainers of our generation, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé pulled out all the stops singing, dancing and acting their way into our hearts providing us with two incredibly meaningful performances.  Who would’ve thought Lady Gaga could top last year’s meat-themed outfit, but she did. Dressed as her alter ego, Joe Calderone, Gaga took to the stage cigarette in hand and recited a monologue before launching into her latest gut wrenching anthem entitled “You and I.”  An hour and a half later, Beyoncé appeared complete with glittering costumes and blowing hair to deliver her new upbeat tune, “Love on Top.” Smiling from ear to ear, she could not contain her excitement over the news that she and hubby Jay Z were expecting. As if to confirm the good news, at the end of the song, she unbuttoned her blazer and revealed her bulging belly for all the world to see.  

Tributes.  Looking better than she has in years, Britney Spears, was back in full force to accept the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.  Rather than resort to old tricks, thankfully she avoided the lip lock with Gaga.  Although her acceptance speech sounded rehearsed, she kept it short and sweet and made it through virtually unscathed.  When it came time for the Amy Winehouse tribute, Russell Brand began with a sober note (no pun intended) on the dangers of addiction that hopefully many of the young people took to heart.  He then introduced Tony Bennett who praised Miss Amy's jazz singing abilities and showed footage of her performance with him on his Duets 2 album. Following Tony Bennett, Bruno Mars offered a lively rendition of her hit single “Valerie” that solidified her reputation as one of the great talents whose important contribution to music will be sorely missed.

Hostess with the Mostess?  Was it just me or did Miss Selena seem a bit out of her element.  She is one talented young lady, but perhaps the VMA’s are not her thing. I felt her straining and feigning enjoyment.  Her interview with real life beau, Justin Beiber, was particularly awkward. After trying to maintain her professionalism and distance, he looked at her and gave her a giant kiss on the cheek that completely broke her composure.  She rarely smiled and rushed through her lines. Sorry Selena.

A Few Honorable Mentions for the Boys Team. We have to give credit where credit is due. Well-known bad boys, Kayné West and Chris Brown, behaved themselves tonight. Kayné appeared pumped and excited about his latest collaboration with best bud Jay Z.  Although I could barely understand a word they were singing, the two seemed to enjoy performing their latest single “Otis” together. Chris Brown also kept himself in check (probably because he was too exhausted from rehearsing all of those aerial acrobatics) and outshined everyone with his effortless dancing skills.  Finally, we really enjoyed the straightforward delivery from the new indie band Young the Giant. That lead singer, Sameer Gadhia, is one talented fellow and had us captivated.

Tonight’s complete list of winners.

VIDEO OF THE YEAR: Katy Perry - "Firework"
BEST NEW ARTIST: Tyler, The Creator - "Yonkers"
BEST HIP-HOP VIDEO: Nicki Minaj - "Super Bass”
BEST MALE VIDEO: Justin Bieber - "U Smile"
BEST FEMALE VIDEO: Lady Gaga - "Born This Way"
BEST POP VIDEO: Britney Spears - “Till the World Ends”
BEST ROCK VIDEO: Foo Fighters - "Walk"
BEST COLLABORATION: Katy Perry Featuring Kanye West - "E.T.”
BEST ART DIRECTION: Adele - "Rolling In The Deep" 
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY: Beyoncé - "Run The World (Girls)" 
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHYAdele - "Rolling In The Deep"
BEST DIRECTION: Adele - "Rolling In The Deep" 
BEST EDITING: Adele - "Rolling In The Deep" 
BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS: Katy Perry featuring Kanye West - "E.T." 
BEST VIDEO WITH A MESSAGE: Lady Gaga - "Born This Way"

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Manners Monday – “Do You Poop Out at Parties?” – Party Etiquette Tips for Adults

Do you poop out at parties?  Are you unpoopular? Lucille Ball posed these questions to a television audience to encourage them to try a healthy tonic that would instantaneously transform them from lifeless dud into life of the party.  As the Vitameatavegamin girl, she pitched zest and flair in a bottle.  Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  If only there was some secret magic potion (and I’m not talking about alcohol or drugs) that could help us feel more comfortable and confident in social situations, particularly at parties.

Surprisingly, parties produce a great deal of social anxiety for many adults.  They may become nervous or self-conscious, even embarrassed or painfully shy.  They worry about what to wear, making conversation, meeting new people and, for some, the pressure can become unbearable.  Often they fear being scrutinized or judged and they would rather avoid the situation altogether than have to worry about showing up and impressing others.  

My closest friends know I am always up for a party.  I absolutely love celebrations of all kinds.  Birthdays, weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, dinner parties, tea parties, Tupperware parties, you name it.  Just mention the word party and I am there with bells on.  Now, I may love going to parties, but that doesn’t mean that I always feel my most calm, cool and collected.  There are more times than I prefer to count where I’ve left the house thinking I was a total rock star only to arrive at my destination and suffer from concerns of inadequacy.  I must say, however, that after years of experience as an etiquette instructor, I have learned how to at least squash these feelings the moment they occur and reach for my imaginary manners tool belt to help get me over the hump of fear and into the zone of fun. 

Here is a list of tips I find to be extremely useful in adult party situations that not only guarantee a positive impression with others, but also support you in feeling your most fabulous. 

Get the Party Started Right.   In my opinion, it all begins with dressing for the party.  Your attire definitely helps to set the tone, not to mention, that making an effort to dress shows respect to your host.  Take into consideration the party attire requirements. Is it a formal party, black tie, informal, casual or costume?  Dress appropriately for the occasion and give some thought to the suggested attire beforehand.  If it’s a 70’s inspired costume party, embrace it whole-heartedly and break out the platforms and tie-dyed jeans. For a Hawaiian themed wedding, you might choose cheerful bright colors and floral prints.  Sticking to the suggested dress code will be one less thing you have to worry about and will certainly help you to blend in.

Forget Your Troubles and Get Happy!  Once you’ve made the effort to look the part, you must then act the part.  If you have troubles, no problem, just wrap them up and set them on the shelf before you leave the house.  Trust me, a little distance will do you good and you can always deal with them upon your return. A party is a happy occasion and therefore it is your duty to turn on the charm and let your mood and attitude reflect the celebration about to take place.  Wear a warm and inviting smile on your face to make yourself approachable.  Be inclusive, introduce yourself to friends and engage in lively and upbeat conversation. Be open and excited to participate in any activities that are suggested by your host. Tune out the self-conscious noise in your head and throw yourself into an activity.  Dancing is the perfect remedy for this.  

Never Show Up Empty-Handed. It is a privilege to be invited to a party or celebration of any kind.  Remember to acknowledge your host and offer a token of appreciation.  Arriving with a gift in hand provides you with something to do when you first reach your destination.  For birthdays, a thoughtful gift can include anything from a beautiful bouquet of flowers to a comfy pair of pajamas.  For a dinner party, a small plant, a bottle of wine, a homemade food item or chocolates are always welcome.  For a wedding, a gift purchased from the couple’s registry is most appreciated.  Regardless of your selection, it is of course the sentiment that counts. Just be sure to keep the recipient in mind when deciding on your gift.

Be Equal Parts Interesting and Interested.  You are invited to a party because your host finds you interesting and you may be called upon to entertain in the form of providing witty repartee or fascinating conversation.  In order to hold your own on any number of topics, a quick brush up on current events is in order.  A few days before the party or event, check out your local newspaper for cultural happenings, go online to scope out other local news and events, even look at the 5-day forecast.  Our weather is always a great topic of conversation.  Look at how much coverage hurricane Irene is receiving!  Remember a conversation is a two-way street.  Don’t be a conversation hog.  The key is to be equal parts interesting and interested in others.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone.  Making conversation at a party where you only know the host is exceptionally terrifying for a number of people.  How in the world do you walk up to a perfect stranger and initiate small talk?  Well, here are two easy tips.  The first, is to pay someone a compliment.  Approach a person you’d like to meet and comment on something basic such as their hair, their shoes, the color of their nail polish or the pattern of their tie.  Keep it friendly, not familiar.  This will be like music to their ears and will automatically put a smile on their face.  The second tip is to ask someone a question.  A great opener is to ask the person how they know the host?  Just be sure to be nice, not nosy. People love to talk about themselves and if you ask them a question they will feel you are sincerely interested in them and they will appreciate you for it. 

Mix and Mingle Like a Pro.  Statistics have shown that only 7% of our communication is verbal and that 38% is focused on our intonation and the sound of our voice. The remaining chunk of communication, a whopping 55%, is devoted purely to body language.  What this tells us is that the impression we make on others begins, not when we first open our mouths, but with our posture, our breathing and our movement.  When engaged in conversation, it is crucial to be present and give the person you are speaking to your undivided attention.  To convey interest and make the other person feel most comfortable, make good eye contact and try to mirror their actions and gestures naturally. To wind down a conversation, slightly adjust your gaze and body language.  This is a non-verbal signal that lets the other person know you are getting ready to move on.

Depart Discretely and Thank Your Host.   A great deal of effort goes into a party.  The last thing you want to do is depart early and set off a domino effect of copycats that will upset your host.  At large parties, it is easy to slip out without making mentioning of your departure to your host.  This is called the “French leave” and it is perfectly acceptable. For smaller parties, it is critical to thank your host personally for the wonderful time you had prior to departing.  This will ensure you are invited again in the future.  After the party is completed, a phone call or special note of thanks to your party host shows your gratitude for including you in the celebration. 

Do you feel your most confident at parties?  Any personal tips you'd care to impart?  Any embarrassing moments where you wish you had a party etiquette tool to grab on to?  Share with us.  We'd love to hear from you!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Manners Monday – “Time is on My Side” - Time Etiquette

My oldest daughter returned from sleep away camp yesterday and, although she was gone only twelve days, it felt like an eternity.  Time has definitely been playing tricks on me. I’m finding lately that either time is moving very quickly at lightening speed or it is going as slow as molasses and dragging its feet.   It never seems to keep a steady, calm pace.  I’m either playing beat the clock trying to fit in a hundred things like a madwoman or sitting idle rubbernecking every five minutes to see if the clock has changed.

I’m not sure if it is the fact that I’m getting older or if life is getting busier, but time is flying by on a daily basis and I’m finding myself struggling to keep up.  Summertime is usually reserved for less stringent time constraints.  Once the school year ends, the crazy schedules are supposed to cease and families are encouraged to take a brief breather.  Now as September is rearing its official head just around the corner, those lackadaisical days will soon become a distant memory and we will be held accountable for showing up on time in every aspect of our life both social and professional.   

Time has become a priceless commodity in today’s world, especially when we are expected to work 24/7 and it is assumed that we will respond immediately to almost anything. Good time management is seen as a sign of respect whereas poor time management often leads to stress and obvious loss of productivity. In order for us to get a handle on time and rein it in, it has become essential to plan each day meticulously, prioritize our tasks, and limit (or remove altogether) any distractions.  To put time back on your side and guarantee the admiration of others, we have devised a list of appropriate time etiquette guidelines for the most common scenarios. 

A job interview.  If you want the job, any lateness is considered too much.  Think ahead, research directions and calculate your driving time, account for parking, elevators and bathroom use.  Arrive at reception at least ten minutes early.  Should your interviewer be ahead of schedule, you will be perceived as prepared and ready to go.  

A dinner party.  It is considered rude to arrive early to a dinner party as you might accidentally catch the host by surprise and find them in their bathrobe putting the final touches on the table.  It is perfectly acceptable to arrive at a dinner party around 10 to 15 minutes after the start time.

A restaurant date.  I had a friend who consistently arrived 20 to 30 minutes late every time we planned a dinner out.  Needless to say, after the third time, I was over our relationship. Even if date is easygoing (which I like to think I am), it is completely disrespectful to arrive more than five minutes late.  If you are detained beyond five minutes, have the courtesy to call or text your date to let them know you are on your way.

A movie or play.  Once the majority of the venue is seated, no one appreciates a Johnny come lately to come traipsing through the aisle.  Allow enough time for the bathroom and purchasing of snacks and be seated at least five or ten minutes before the curtain goes up and the show begins.

Appointments with doctors, hairstylists, etc.  This is a big point of contention for me as I generally squeeze in appointments between juggling the kids and work and only allow about a minute or two of leeway.  If I make an appointment I expect to be seen on time and I am always respectful by calling ahead if I know I will be even two minutes late. Punctuality is particularly important when it comes to appointments otherwise an entire day can be thrown off.   

A wedding ceremonyIt is best to arrive at least 15 to 20 minutes early for a wedding ceremony to allow for bathroom time and a quick greeting of family and friends before sitting.  You don’t want to get on the photographer’s bad side by trying to slip into your seat while the bride is preparing to make her grand entrance down the aisle.  If you are late, have the decency to wait outside until the processional is complete.

A cocktail party or large reception.  Since these gatherings are generally larger and consist of a flow of people both entering and exiting at will, a delay of between 15 to 30 minutes is considered normal and will not disrupt the ambiance or mood of the party. 

A business meal or meetingYour time is certainly of value and so is the time of others.  Showing up late to a business meal or meeting, not only wastes your time, but the time of everyone else in attendance.  Show your regard by arriving a few minutes early or at least on time.  This will always result in much more favorable business dealings.

Have any other time tips you'd like to share?  Maybe an incident that occurred when someone was late?  Are you punctual or do you suffer from chronic lateness?  We'd love to hear from you!

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Manners Monday" - When Is a Kiss Just a Kiss? - Kissing Etiquette

The act of kissing has been a hot topic in my etiquette classes this past week. First, during a group session with Korean students, one gentleman in his twenties wanted to know how to stave off women who act too familiar and prefer to greet him with a kiss. Then, during a private session with two brothers, it was a precocious six year old boy who couldn't’t wait to recount to me his disgust over how adults kiss by putting their tongues in each other’s mouths. Finally, it was a conversation with a business client who had read an article in the Financial Times about Germany’s irritation over the rise of the office kiss.

Once regarded as a simple, sweet peck on the cheek, today’s kiss seems to be loaded with hidden meaning and negative connotations. It is no longer innocent, but laden with ulterior motives to the point where a casual greeting kiss may be misconstrued for something much more and a discrete kiss between colleagues at the office may become fodder for the rumor mill and unwanted cooler talk.

Kissing has long been a source of great interest and mystery. From a very young age, we were introduced to its almighty power. Whether watching Snow White awaken from a deep slumber after receiving her long-awaited Prince's kiss or Cinderella fitting the glass slipper and sharing a wedding kiss with Prince Charming before skipping off happily ever after or Romeo and Juliette sharing one final kiss before their last breath. Nowadays the kiss is more about shock value than an expression of romance with awards shows handing out statuettes for Best Kiss and such. It’s time to put the innocence back into kissing and review a few of the etiquette rules associated with one of life's greatest forms of expression.

The Proper Air Kiss. Contrary to popular belief, casual, friendly kissing should never involve lip to lip or even lip to face contact. The proper kiss is actually an air kiss that involves cheek-to-cheek activity only. In order to avoid bumping noses, the air kiss always begins with the right cheek first. Hands typically touch the shoulders and the duration of the kiss is fairly quick.

The Social Kiss. Social kissing is the most common form of affection between good friends. We use the kiss to greet one another hello as well as goodbye. Kissing is a reciprocal expression and requires each party to act appropriately. To avoid any miscommunication, sticking to the correct technique is imperative. This will guarantee that your actions are clear and that the recipient is aware of your intentions. Social kissing is harmless and should never be rejected. That is considered the height of rudeness.

Practice Good Hygiene. Good oral hygiene is always appreciated, especially when engaging in romantic kissing. If possible, begin by brushing your teeth and gargling with mouthwash to ensure even fresher breath. For impromptu kisses, a mint candy or gum beforehand will do the trick. Avoid dry lips by applying a little dab of your favorite lip moistener. Ladies, go easy on the dark lipstick. Your partner may not appreciate permanent red stains on his face. Gentlemen, groom your facial hair to make sure your ladies do not walk away with burns from hair stubble.

Romantic Kissing. This is the only type of kissing reserved for lovers, partners and romantic relationships and involves direct lip-to-lip contact. Without getting too technical, most people equate a good kisser with being good in the boudoir as well. If you are a novice and a bit hesitant in this area, just follow the lead of the person you are kissing. Romantic kissing is a deep, passionate expression between two people and can often be more intimate than sexual relations.

Office Kissing. Kissing colleagues or clients at work is a big no, no. For everyone’s sake, professionalism in the workplace must always reign and showing respect is first and foremost. That being said, the ultimate deciding factor is based upon the profession and level of familiarity. In conservative work environments, social kissing would be considered out of place, however, in some of the more liberal work environs a kiss between colleagues or clients is customary.

When in Rome. In America, we favor the air kiss initiated on the right cheek, but not every culture adheres to the same kissing rituals. If you are greeting someone from abroad, be respectful and greet them in the way they are most comfortable. In France, friends and family kiss each other on two cheeks left and then right. In Belgium, they engage in three air cheek kisses, alternating right, left, right. In Austria and Italy, air kisses on both cheeks are exchanged once a person becomes more familiar. In the UK, friends often kiss on one or two cheeks. In the Middle East, men kissing each other on the cheek is standard. Kissing any member of the opposite sex is considered offensive. Indians refrain altogether from any show of public physical affection.

Parental Kissing. A parent's kiss is the most comforting type of kiss a child may receive, however, it should not be on the lips. Parents can convey just as much affection with a warm kiss on the cheek or forehead. Growing up, I remember my paternal grandfather had a fondness for kissing me right on my eyelids. The wet slobbery kisses that smelled of cigars often required a towel to wipe them dry, but that was his way and I felt the love.

Have any issues with kissing? Any inappropriate behavior you have encountered or questions you have regarding awkward kissing situations? Share with us. We'd love to hear from you!

Monday, August 8, 2011

"Manners Monday" - Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow - Hair Etiquette

My hair runs my life! It all started about 10 years ago when I became pregnant with my first child and completely lost patience with washing and blow drying my own hair. You see, I have very thick wavy hair and, if not blown dry properly, tends to look like a frizzy, hot mess. For some reason, when my hair is good, all is right with the world. I might not feel my thinnest or my most stylish, but a good blow dry undoubtedly makes me feel more confident, more beautiful and definitely more put together. When I finally found a hairdresser who knew how to not only handle, but tame my hair, I was hooked, line and sinker.

Now, those that know me well know that I live for my weekly blow dries. My hairdresser only works 1½ days a week so my whole world revolves around her. The good news is that once my hair is blown dry, I do not have to think about it for the rest of the week. It maintains its shape and luster and I can get away without washing it in between. Sure a little maintenance is required and I can’t dunk in the pool, but it’s a small price to pay. When I tell you that people stop me all the time about my hair, I am not kidding. I was vacationing in Aspen a few years ago with friends and I was literally stopped 3 times in one day about my hair.

Okay, you get the point. My hair is my thing. So after reading an article in the New York Times yesterday about the debate over straight hair versus curly hair, it got me thinking about hair etiquette in general and all of the little sensitivities surrounding the issue.

Looks Like She Put Her Finger in an Electrical Socket. First rule of thumb, never speak ill of someone else's tresses! We understand, hair envy is hard to shake. Those with stick straight hair want waves and those with endless volumes of ringlets desire silky and smooth strands. Hair is personal and whether you have fine or thick, curly or straight, we all have to learn how to embrace our natural look and stick up for our fellow comrades who may have less than perfect locks. The main concern is to keep things well-coiffed so that whatever you do, you always look your best.

Your Roots are Starting to Show. As we get older, our natural color starts to wane in favor of darker roots or, g-d forbid, greying hair. Most of us are careful to schedule our next appointment for a coloring, streaking or highlighting, but sometimes life gets in the way and we have a bit of a lapse. The worst is when a friend or relative notices that in-between stage when you are awaiting your next appointment and blurts out a less than flattering comment about your need for color. If you encounter someone going through this phase, tread lightly and don’t point out the obvious. I’m sure they are well aware of the need and have a date on the calendar already.

Once You Go Brazilian, You Never Go Back. The Brazilian hair treatment has turned into a lifesaver for those with extremely curly hair that want the straight look for months at a time. One 2-3 hour session offers peace of mind for up to 12 weeks and leaves the client with silky, shiny hair that can be washed and air dried to perfection. This is a terrific option for those who need professional looking hair without the fuss and time commitment of going to the salon on a regular basis. Although I personally have never tried it, my girlfriends that have swear by it!

Haircuts, Blowouts, Extensions, Oh My! Hair maintenance falls under the umbrella of manners, in particular, of our personal grooming and is an important part of our overall presentation. At the very least, haircuts should be scheduled every couple of months to get rid of damaged hair and help with reshaping. With the rise in popularity of blow dries, salons have been popping up all over the place to cater to those that jones for a regular blow dry at a reasonable price. Hair extensions should be reserved as a last resort and only in emergencies. Unfortunately, no matter how lifelike they are, they still never look right. They are usually too long and the hair gets knotty and matted very easily. My advice is to use them sparingly and if you do, take the time to brush them properly so that they look their most natural and becoming.

The bottom line – learn to love your hair. Cuddle your kinks, twirl your curls, stroke your mane and do whatever else it takes to appreciate your hair because no one else has hair like yours and the sooner you learn to love your hair, the easier your journey will be.

FYI, my hairdresser's name is Tanya Quintero and she works at Warren Tracomi in West Hollywood. To make an appointment, call (323) 651-4545 and don't forget to tell her I referred you!