Thursday, December 17, 2015

Holiday Office Party Survival Guide - 7 Tips to Maintaining Your Dignity & Keeping Your Career

If you work for a company, this is the final week to prepare for the holiday office party. Beginning in December, employees and management start bracing themselves for this annual seasonal event. While the minority looks forward with anticipation to the occasion, most drag their feet deliberating over whether they have to attend, how long they need to show face, and what genius excuse they can use to slip out quickly if necessary.  We spend most of our waking hours with our work mates, is it really necessary to celebrate the holidays as well, especially when we’ve seen how fast they can go awry?  Do we really need to watch Angus from Accounting guzzle his fourth bottle of beer atop the bar counter or catch a glimpse of Marsha from Marketing getting too chummy with her coworker in the corner booth?  The answer is YES.  

The holiday office party exists for two simple reasons. First and foremost, to show upper management you are jazzed about your job, and secondly, to mix and mingle with colleagues and prove you are a team player. This is not the time to let off steam from a hard year of slogging in the trenches and no matter how strong the holiday punch, you may never badmouth the boss. On the contrary, it’s an opportunity to network, advance, and shine. Here are seven tips to surviving the holiday office party and keeping your career.

1. Dress Up!  Style experts say to dress for the career you aspire to and the holiday office party is the perfect time to debut your new look. Dress festive, but professional. Refrain from wearing anything revealing and this goes for women, as well as men!  No low declotage or plummer's cracks please.  Leave the questionable Christmas sweater and Santa hat for the family party. This is not the time to let your freak flag fly as they used to say, especially if it will give your officemates the impression that you have an alternate career in the circus. 

2. Ration the Booze.  I generally advise partygoers to down a few espressos and some protein bars before arriving to any work gathering (followed by copious breath mintage). Even if there’s an open bar stocked with top shelf bottles, and you can only afford bottom shelf, make that highball last all night. Keep filling it with ice and water. A series of alcoholic beverages will leave you slow-witted, tongue-tied and a little over-affectionate. You won't be sorry the next day when you hear the story about Dan from Distribution who was dancing on the conference table and drunkenly mimicking the CEO.  

3. Beware of Overstuffing. Eat a little something beforehand to layer your stomach so you are not famished and overstuffing yourself at the buffet table. You are not stocking up for a hurricane. It can get weird watching officemates gorge themselves like it's their last meal, especially when they try to talk at the same time.  No cutting in line and please refrain from eating until you arrived at your table.  Remember, the focus should be on socializing, not filling your belly with food. 

4. Have Fun Without Being Too Friendly. The holiday office party is your in to freely socialize with higher-ups. Don’t ruin it by hitting on your office crush with everyone watching because you’ve downed a bucket of liquid courage (liquid insanity!). Have fun, but avoid getting too friendly. Experiencing a particularly rough holiday season? Keep it on the QT. There is no place for personal business at work.  Save your sorrow-drowning for the privacy of your own home. This is your career on the line. 

5. Keep Your Lips Zipped. This is one time of the year where upper management and employees mix and mingle. Don’t let loose with your opinions, the ones you’ve kept bottled up, all year, under lock and key. And never utter an ill word about the company or co-workers. Avoid talking about politics, religion, money matters, health issues, relationship problems and gossip of any kind. Good topics to get the convo going?  Ask a question or offer a compliment.  Talk about the weather, upcoming plans for the holidays or travel to visit family or friends, timely cultural events and exhibits, holiday movies, music and books.  

6. Sane Gift Exchange. When it comes to gifting policies, it never hurts to consult the HR department or somone who oversees office protocols to make sure it's acceptable. For the boss, nothing too personal or pricey, and nothing that touches the skin (no jewelry, perfume, clothing, intimates). Steer clear of personal gifts unless you know the person very well. Food items such as a fruit basket, bread delivery or coffee/tea gift card are practical and thoughtful. Books or magazine subscriptions make the perfect gift as long as the content is appropriate. Stay away from alcohol gifts, they may be frowned upon. Hand your boss a gift at the office or during the holiday party. Never send a gift to the home. 

7. Send Old School Thank You's. Being charming, thoughtful and kind is always be welcome at holiday time. A handwritten holiday card to accompany a gift or a heartfelt thank you note to a colleague takes precedence over a quick text or post on social media. Don't forget to send a special thanks to the person responsible for organizing that lavish, splendiferous, superfun office holiday party. There is no better way to make a lasting impression and ensure your job security in the new year.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Manners Monday - How to Charm Your Way into a Relationship for Cuffing Season

Once daylight savings kicks in and the days grow shorter, singletons start looking for ways to couple up for cuffing season.  With temperatures dropping rapidly in most parts of the country, images of snuggling by a crackling fire, sharing a romantic dinner or holding hands during a holiday movie drive the desire to connect on a visceral level this time of year.  Individuals, normally consumed by hard work and play, start texting potential partners with inquiries to cuddle up and binge-watch favorite television shows or meet at a local hangout for an intimate nightcap.  

(Hand)cuffing season begins just before Halloween and continues through New Year's, but typically arrives with an expiration date well before Valentine's Day. As the air grows colder, the courtship period heats up coming to a full sizzle in December and then fizzling out sometime in mid-January. So if you're looking for a blizzard buddy that will keep you sane at the family Thanksgiving dinner and toast you with champagne at your BFF's New Year's Eve bash, but then set you free before Super Bowl, here are five surefire ways to land a companion for cuffing season. Let the games begin!

1. Turn on the Attractive Behavior.  Put yourself in the most favorable light to attract the ideal mate. Spend a little extra time sprucing up your appearance. Flash an endless smile, it is the ultimate invitation. Convey confidence with good posture. Be an expert conversationalist by showing interest and asking lots of questions. When the floor is yours, be equally interesting, but modest.

2 Possess an Attitude of Gratitude.  Be grateful for any gracious gesture whether large or small.  It may come in the form of an offer to an elegant dinner, a winter getaway or a holiday office party, all invitations are welcome and you are game for anything.  Always say thank you and reciprocate with a note of appreciation or similar sign of gratitude.

3. Keep the Mystique Going.  Beware of revealing too much.  You may want to keep your deep hatred for your mother under wraps. No temporary companion wants to deal with a head case.  Too much drama will send them running for the hills and there isn't enough time for couples therapy.  Maintain the mystique by keeping communication light and breezy at all times.  You can still be intelligent and deep without exposing your veins.

4. Create Connection, Not Friction.  Seek contentment in connecting and avoid getting agitated or resentful.  Don't let yourself go there.  So what if your partner wants to sit around in their sweatpants on Sunday when you'd rather be musing at the museum?  Save that activity for your artsy friend and curl up on the couch with your snuggle bunny. You may miss them when they're gone.

5. Leave the Door Open. While cuffing season is meant to be short-lived and you should never get your hopes up, there is always the lingering possibility that the relationship can continue. The more you are present and relish each other's company, the less likely you are to focus on an end date and greater chance you may enjoy a promising future together.  You never know.  One day, your passing cuff may even want to put a ring on it.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Manners Monday - All-Gender Bathroom Etiquette: Putting a Lid on Bad Behavior in the Loo

All-gender restrooms are all the rage. A New York Times article investigated this new normal and how educational institutions, restaurants, museums and other public entities are embracing an all-inclusive environment for everyone on the gender spectrum.

While this is certainly new territory with an important social message, the act of sharing a restroom space has always existed for those travelling by air.  In a tube 30,000 feet above sea level, there is no room for discrimination.  Everyone has equal access to the facilities and it isn't always pretty. Yes, there's nothing like a trip to the loo on an overcrowded plane.  The lethal combination of frayed nerves, fast food, and fixed quarters pretty much guarantees an unpleasant washroom experience. On a recent trip back to LA, one woman was holed up for so long we thought we'd have to call the paramedics. When she finally exited the laboratory, it looked like a war zone had erupted.  

The bathroom debate earned a spot on last weekend's Saturday Night Live with comedian Pete Davidson poking fun at how ladies - contrary to popular belief - tend to leave it particularly untidy. Trying to teach my own daughters good restroom behavior has been thoroughly exhausting. Why they can't be bothered to replace a roll of toilet paper or clean the sink, or put the seat cover down is beyond comprehension! 

So for my girls and everyone else (wherever you fall on the spectrum) let these societal changes inspire us to apply a renewed mindfulness to our bathroom etiquette. Here are ten essential tips to get you going in the right direction. 

1. Knock Before Entering.  All public restrooms have lock features either on the doors or individual stalls, but that doesn't mean they are in working order or that someone has remembered to use them. Always assume it is occupied.  When in doubt, double-check by simply listening intently or peering underneath the stall if you must. Whatever you do, don't just barge in.  

2. Use Seat Covers.  Disposable seat covers are available in some places, but not most. If you can't find a proper paper seat cover, create one of your own with a swath of toilet paper available. For goodness' sake, whatever you do, don't sit down on an uncovered toilet, you can catch hepatitis!

3. Apply Air Freshener.  If you've ever entered a restroom after someone's relieved their morning coffee bowel movement, you know how necessary this step is.  Only certain public bathrooms will have odor-killing aids. If it's there, please use it.  If not, a quick spritz of the free sample of perfume you have stashed in your purse will do.

4. Put a Lid On It. Not all public restrooms have toilet seats with lids.  If there is one visible, take the time to close it. First of all, it will help trap lingering odors from spreading. Secondly, it is good feng shui.  Putting the toilet seat down minimizes the loss of energy and money and who doesn't need that.  

5. Scrub those Hands.  Recalling a popular Seinfeld episode, at some point we've all beared witness to that restroom patron who skips the washing hands ritual altogether, does a quick once over in the mirror, and then bolts for the exit much to our horror.  Hopefully, you are not that person and that you soap up, but good before departing. 

6. Scour the Sink.  You would think the sink is made purely for washing hands, but that is not so.  I've seen all kinds of questionable business in public restrooms from people brushing their teeth to washing their feet.  Let's keep the public grooming to a minimum and in the rare event that you do utilize the sink for such use, have the decency to clean all evidence of hairs, food particles, dirt, and other grime from the scene.

7. Turn Water Off Completely.  While we're on the subject of sinks, let's discuss for a moment water usage. California is in the middle of a major drought, this should be enough of a reminder to use water with discretion. Check the faucet to make sure it is shut with no excess dripping before running out of the restroom. 

8. Place Waste in the Receptacle.  This is one of the greatest areas of contention when it comes to bathroom behavior and the one that comedian, Pete Davidson, above was referring to.  How many times have we seen bloody sanitary napkins, crumpled toilet seat covers, and soiled toilet paper thrown haphazardly onto the floor rather than carefully placed in the appointed waste containers?  Ladies, you are the worst offenders.  

9. Towels Go in the Hamper.  If you happen to wander into one of the finer public establishments such as a luxury hotel, you may encounter the hand towel in favor of the paper one. Enjoy it and relish in the soft luxury as it touches your skin and by all means, do not throw it into the wastebasket! This little cloth is reusable and should head straight to the laundry instead. Please take notice and put such articles into the hamper. 

10. Leave No Trace Behind.  Give the premises one good last look to make sure it is clean and that you didn't leave anything behind ((e.g., house keys, a cell phone, YOUR PURSE!). As with a digital footprint, we want to be conscious of leaving the restroom better for future use.  It is not only respectful to the patrons who follow, it is essential to maintaining good hygiene and health. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Manners Monday - Halloween Guest Party Etiquette - Look Like a Monster, But Don't Act Like One

Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, the perfect night to host a party.  So when my teenage daughter started hemming and hawing over what to do with her friends, I jumped right in with the idea offering to have everyone over to our house for dinner followed by trick or treating in a nearby neighborhood.  

It’s not going to be a major bash, more of an intimate gathering of about twenty or so.  All of the guests are my daughter’s friends and their parents, completely civilized. But this is not always the case, especially on Halloween where we are mostly in disguise, our actions are anonymous, and ghoulish behavior is practically encouraged.  I remember vividly the Halloween ragers I attended back in the day where no less than 300 kids descended upon one address in Beverly Hills only to have the cops arrive not much later to shut it down. The parents were always out of town which made for a mixture of mayhem straight out of a John Hughes movie.  

While no one expects you to show up to a ridiculously large Halloween party with a hostess gift, here are seven surefire ways to guarantee good guest etiquette when it comes to Halloween parties at home.  After all, you may look like a monster, but you don’t want to act like one.

1. Don’t Be Creepy, Come in Costume. This is the one night of the year that allows us to dream, to try on a new look, personality, career. Take advantage of it and dress up in full regalia. Cast your opinions aside and get in the game. Don’t be a Debbie Downer and show up as yourself.  It will kill the vibe. You don’t have to go crazy, throw on a mask or face paint. At least it shows effort. When selecting a costume, consider the age of the guests and make sure the outfit is appropriate for the youngest attendee.

2. Enchant Your Host with a Tantalizing Treat.  Don’t behave like a beast, arrive with a token of appreciation for the host. A bottle of wine for the adults, a special homemade dessert for the kids, a Halloween-themed dog bone for Fido or a Skull candle with matches for the house all make safe choices. 

3. You Are Not a Cadaver, Lend a Hand.  As an invited guest, while you’re still alive and kicking, it is your duty to arrive ready and willing to pitch in where needed.  Whether it’s placing ice in the bucket, arranging a tray of hors d'oeuvres or taking out the trash, an offer to help with set up or cleanup is always welcome. 

4. Stay Within the Darkness, Don’t Go Into the Light.  Abide by the house rules and stay within the parameters of the party. You will know where the celebration is taking place simply by staying in the dark.  Rooms marked no entry usually have lights on which can ruin the atmosphere.  Refrain from entering.  Also, no touching personal belongings, be respectful of furnishings and don’t open the fridge unless asked to do so.

5. Save the Excess for the Afterlife. Remember the motto, everything in moderation. We want to end the night on a high note, not pulling someone’s hair back as they hover over the porcelain throne. Kids, eat a nutritious dinner before you stuff yourselves silly with candy. Adults, line your stomachs with a hearty meal as well. It will help soak up the alcohol.  

6. Show Your Teeth, Not Your Fangs.  You may think this night is suitable for stirring the caldron, but you are dead wrong.  Someone accidentally bump into you and spill your drink? Hold your tongue.  Spot a frenemy wearing the same costume?  Keep it to yourself, hopefully, no one will notice.  This is not the time or place to get into altercations.  Wear a smile and keep it light. Spend time making positive connections and hold the conflicts and criticism please. 

7. Rest in Peace with a Proper Thank You. No party is complete without a proper thank you. Say it in person and follow up in writing with a thoughtful note within 24 to 48 hours of the event.  This will ensure an invitation to next year’s freakish festivities.   

Wondering how to gracefully survive the night of fright? Here's your one-stop shop on all your Halloween etiquette tips, questions and quandaries. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Manners Monday - Passenger Etiquette - Seven Steps to Tame the Turbulence

This weekend's news about a Southwest Airlines flight forced to return to Los Angeles after an altercation in the air is just another incident of turbulence amongst passengers in the not-so-friendly skies. More and more stories reveal bad behavior ranging from the disgusting (clipping toenails) and rude (urine on the seat) to the outrageous (public displays of affection) and dangerous (physical abuse). Gone are the days of getting dressed and gearing up for a gorgeous getaway filled with adventure and possibility. Instead, modern air travel is laden with high-strung, ill-tempered, slovenly commuters whose casual clothing mimics their equally careless attitude.  Add to this already precarious situation smaller cabins, fewer seats, and increased regulations and it's no wonder everyone's on edge. Emotions run high, someone gets ticked off and the next thing you know a passenger is in a choke-hold!  While we may not be able to control the crazies, a primer on how to tame tumultuous situations between passengers before they erupt in the sky is certainly worth a try.  Here are a few travel etiquette reminders to maintain civility and safety when we set soar. 

1Dress for yourself and fellow passengers. Forget the flip flops and short shorts, be daring and put on something decent for the plane! It is entirely possible to appear quite chic while still being comfortable, plus a nice presentation helps to set the tone for your flight. When it comes to shoes, select closed toe and easy to slip off at the security gate. Don't forget to wear socks. Nothing is worse than stepping barefoot on the airport flooring. Wear deodorant, but go easy on the cologne and perfume. It's a good idea to pack some lip ointment and hand creme to combat dry skin. Ladies put a little lipstick on for goodness' sake! You never know who will be seated next to you.

2. Take a chill pill. If you have a severe aversion to standing or waiting in line, do not fly! Unless you hire a special airport greeter or are flying business or first, you must be patient and grin and bear the cattle calls. Getting agitated only makes matters worse. Bring a magazine or book so you can read passively while waiting to check your bags or go through security. To pass the time, you can always fill out your luggage tag. Keep your identification card handy, as well as your boarding ticket. You will be asked to show proof of both repeatedly.

3. Be prepared for small annoyances. There is no way to avoid the safety ritual of walking through security. Everyone must remove their shoes and jackets and risk a pat down by a security officer. To make things easier, wear shoes and outer garments that are easily removed and quickly organize your belongings and place them in the open containers for the x-ray machine. Make sure to separate your laptop in its own container for easy viewing. Remove all jewelry and accessories that may set off the alarm.

4. Avoid confrontation. Make it easier on yourself as well as the flight attendant by not attempting to stuff your entire closet into your carry-on luggage. If you cannot lift your bag and place it in the overhead bin on your own, the flight attendant will be forced to help you and may question its size or weight, especially if they see you struggling to jam it into a small compartment. Either pack lighter, check your bag or call a delivery service like FedEx to ship your belongings door to door in advance. It's not worth getting into an argument on this one, the airlines will always win.

5. Respect personal space. In this tube 30,000 ft. in the air, everything is exaggerated. Some people do not wish to engage and prefer keeping quietly to themselves. Be respectful towards those around you and read their signals. (a) If you are bringing your own food, keep it simple. Do not stink up the plane with smelly cheeses or a pungent dish. (b) If someone is reading a magazine or book, do not engage them in conversation as they may not wish to be disturbed. (c) If you are tired, rest your weary head on your own chair with your blanket and use only one armrest for your arms. (d) Make sure to use the restroom before being seated to avoid musical chairs throughout the flight. (e) Before reclining your seat abruptly, check behind you to give your fellow passenger a heads up. They will appreciate it.

6. Curb the cell phone conversation. There is nothing that equally worries and annoys fellow passengers and flight attendants alike then someone who chooses to completely ignore the FAA's rule to turn off all cell phones and other electronic equipment during take-off and landing. The jury is still out as to whether the radio signals from these devices can interfere with flying equipment so for the safety of everyone, cut it out and follow the rules!!!

7. Check yourself, not just your bags. If you are in a bad mood, meditate, do some calming exercises and settle down. The airport and flying experience is hard enough without the reckless behavior. Present a cheerful face, always be courteous saying "please" and "thank you" and be helpful and accommodating. This will smooth over any extenuating circumstance or accidental wrongdoing.

Let's face it, flying in today's world is a challenge. It gets us at our very core, constantly testing our patience and questioning our abilities. How do you weigh in on the flying scale? Are you nice or nasty? Share with us and let us know...

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.