Monday, February 22, 2016

Manners Monday - How to Mix & Mingle - Socializing Skills for Shrinking Violets & Social Butterflies

Mixing and mingling have been on my mind.  Perhaps it is due to the bevy of stars who will flock to our fair city to schmooze at one of the highly coveted pre-Oscar and Oscar parties this week or possibly as a result of a recent tea party of mothers and daughters I attended in which we were all called upon to bring our most gregarious selves, but it has become abundantly clear how important it is to understand the fine art of socializing. 

Not that everyone needs to learn how to make an entrance and work a room like a Kardashian, but gaining a little knowledge into how to break the ice, keep the conversation flowing, and establish a connection, could benefit younger people and help them in a multitude of social situations as they grow into maturity.  Whether they are a shrinking violet or a social butterfly, there is a formula to feeling confident in social gatherings that is beneficial to everyone. 

Springtime is actually a perfect occasion to test the waters.  Spring dances and formals are plentiful and offer loads of opportunity for practice.  Having these etiquette tools in your child’s arsenal can make all the difference as to whether they will sit on the sidelines watching or be active participants engaged and enjoying themselves at the party. And, isn’t that all we really want for our kids regardless of their age?  Here are a few simple steps to maximize their people skills in any setting. 

Eat a Light Bite Beforehand.  Before attending any social event, eat a small amount of food so that you are satiated and will not be starving.  This will ensure that your focus is on mingling and meeting new people rather than on how much food or beverages you will consume.

Act as if You Belong.  There is nothing more powerful than the feeling of confidence when you enter a room.  Acting as if you belong allows you to internalize a warm feeling of welcome and exude outward self-assurance to others. 

Break the Ice.  When you enter the room, scan the crowd for key people you would like to make contact with. Smile warmly at anyone who meets your eye.  These may be friends in your class, your peers, or other people you may not know, but would like to meet.  Approach them slowly as if you have all the time in the world and nowhere else you’d rather be.

Shake Hands with Everyone.  Exchanging pleasant hellos and handshakes is a wonderful way to greet those you know and those you wish to meet. A handshake is a three part process that involves a friendly smile, direct eye contact, and a firm shake web-to-web.

Look for an Opening.  Start by approaching a small group of people who've left some physical space for newcomers. If they're in the middle of an animated conversation, walk up and just listen for a while. Slowly add relevant comments of your own until you become an equal contributor to the conversation. 

Maintain Personal Space.  When conversing, you should stand at a distance of about 18 inches apart (an arm’s length) to allow others their sphere of personal space.  Just be sure to speak audibly so that people do not have to lean in to hear you. 

Be a Good Listener.  A good conversation begins with active listening. Ask considerate questions that prompt thoughtful answers. Asking questions is an excellent way to begin a conversation and conveys interest.  Stay present so that you are not showing signs of boredom or preparing what to say next in your head. 

Make Riveting Conversation. The key to riveting conversation is to be equal parts interesting and interested.  Brush up on current events, local culture and the latest in sports, weather, movies, books and music, prior to any social outing so that you may make conversation with anyone, anywhere. 

Work the Room. Social settings are meant to spend time with people we know, but also ideal occasions to make connections with as many new people as possible.  When working the room in smaller gatherings, it is best to circulate and engage in conversation with everyone. For larger gatherings, focus on a few key people and instigate conversation with them.

Give Em a Graceful Ending. A graceful ending is just as important as the conversation itself.  Before parting, take a moment to express how much you enjoyed meeting.  This is the time to exchange information if you would like to remain in contact, otherwise a cordial, “It was really nice meeting you” will always leave a positive impression. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Tribute Heavy Night Laced with Lackluster & Luminous Moments – Red Carpet Manners at the 58th Grammy Awards

Grammy producer extraordinaire, Ken Ehrlich, had his hands full figuring out how to incorporate the five collaborative performances honoring each of the musical greats who passed away within the year. There was no doubt they were going to need every minute of the three-hour plus program to properly pay homage to legends B.B. King, Natalie Cole, Glenn Frey, Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie and Maurice White. Veteran host LL Cool J laid the foundation for the evening proclaiming the awesome power of music and praised the Grammys for being the only awards show that does not allow lip syncing. This of course garnered a big laugh from the audience who knows of his newfound fame as the MC of Spike TV's hugely popular Lip Sync Battle. Once the pleasantries were out of the way, it was time to get down to business and who better than to set the bar for the evening than T-Swift with her gorgeous looks and gifted pipes.  She opened the show dressed in a sequined jumpsuit to sing her hit "Out of the Woods," a collaboration with Jack Antonoff of fun. Owning the stage, she looked directly into the camera nailing each move and hitting each note with perfection.

Unfortunately, the show went downhill and uphill from there with an alternating mix of lackluster and luminous moments. The normally spot-on pairings we look forward to at the Grammy’s somehow went sideways this year.  It was a mashup of odd pairings and musical no-shows. The duet between country stars Sam Hunt and Carrie Underwood fell flat and the lineup for the Lionel Ritchie tribute while packed with individual talent felt particularly odd. Rihanna who was scheduled to perform had to pull the plug at the last minute due to doctors’ orders and Lauryn Hill who was supposed to join forces with the Weeknd left him fending for himself. Technical difficulties also played a part making powerhouses Adele and Justin Bieber sound flat and flailing about for a note. Still there were several luminous moments that hit just the right tone. Chris Stapleton's rendition of B.B. King's "The Thrill is Gone" featuring Gary Clark Jr. and Bonnie Raitt was outstanding and I could watch Little Bit Town sing "Girl Crush" a hundred times and it wouldn't get old. Kendrick Lamar's exhausting poetic performance gave us heart palpitations in a good way and Brittany Howard, frontwoman for Alabama Shakes, put incredible depth and feeling into an impassioned "Don't Wanna Fight." We weren't especially upset when the final production number front lined by Pitbull with a special appearance by Sophia Vergara along with Robin Thicke, Travis Barker and Joe Perry, was cut short by the rolling credits. Too many sparkles, not enough substance for our taste. Here's the rest of our recap on the nights red carpet manners hits and misses. 

Rings & A Rainbow on the Red Carpet.  Never one to disappoint on the red carpet, the artists were decked out in every color of the rainbow from canary yellow to blue tanzanite, but the color that continues to have the biggest impact in the music biz is black. Tove Lo (complete with silver nose ring), Adele, Anna Kendrick, Elle King, Jazmine Sullivan, Meghan Trainor and Carrie Underwood all wore various looks. Dresses in general ranged from the subdued to the sublime. Florence Welch won the most blah dress award in a pale pink long-sleeve gown from Gucci and we were not a fan of Beyonce’s white lace wedding dress from designer Inbal Dror's dress. Selena Gomez, however, got our attention with a jewel-toned cutout sequined dress from Calvin Klein. Both Taylor Swift dressed in Versace Atelier and Kimberly Schlapman wore nearly matching ensembles of fuchsia and tangerine.  Ellie Goulding looked playful and elegant in a low back blush-colored gown by Stella McCartney. At the Grammy’s, the men also come dressed to kill. Hunky Sam Hunt got into the spirit with a pink colored suit by Dolce & Gabbana while John Legend, Common and Charlie Puth wore black tuxes with embellishments. Diplo and Sam Smith were rather debonair in navy suits complete with pin and pocket square accessories. Black and white tuxes were also popular and worn by everyone from Fetty Wap and Big Sean to Justin Bieber. Never to shy away from bold color, Bruno Mars wore a plum colored blazer and vest with matching fedora while Lady Gaga channeled the late David Bowie with a sapphire Marc Jacobs coatdress. The most noticeable accessory this year? Rings and lots of them, even multiple on every single finger as shown by everyone from Andra Day to Ellie Golding and Tove Lo. 

A Trio of Mismatched Duets. Sam Hunt is one of my favorite country breakout stars and he’s not bad to look at either, but the chemistry between him and the equally eye pleasing Carrie Underwood was as mismatched as their attire. Carrie’s skimpy dress and overly glowing skin was equally distracting.  Andra Day and Ellie Goulding was another odd pairing that attempted to blend the breathy vocals of the British singer with the weighty bravado of her American counterpart. I could say more, but I was too busy looking at Ellie’s overly plump lips. Is she already getting injections at her age? She's only 29 for goodness' sake! Justin Bieber and Jack Ü (otherwise known as Diplo & Skrillex) experienced major sound difficulties that left Biebers vocals flat. I loved "Where Are You Now?" on the radio, but don’t think it's meant to be translated on to the live stage. Some songs simply sound better in a club.

Stick to the Singing Please. Arianna Grande may wish to work on her presenting skills.  She is getting older now, a whole 22 years of age, and it’s time to drop the little girl voice and tighten up her vocabulary. The best part of her presentation was when she broke out in song to introduce fellow artist and collaborator, the Weeknd singing, he "Earned It."

Resting Audience Face. You’ve heard of RBF (resting bitch face), well awards show audience members must become more aware of their resting audience face.  We caught many offenders in action throughout the show. Everyone from Pharrell to Sam Smith were looking less than thrilled when the camera lens panned a sweeping eye across the room. When Alabama Shakes won for Best Rock Song, Elle King did not applaud or look happy.  Artists must remember that unless they're seated in the nose bleed section, they must assume the camera is pointed towards them. That means no chewing gum, clapping and supporting fellow artists, bopping to the music, and smiling along at all times (even if it means through gritted teeth.)

A Night of Standing Ovations – Audience members must have been working their thigh muscles throughout the evening with standing ovations for every single one of the tribute songs, as well as for outstanding performances and winners.  Kendrick Lamar was the first to receive one followed by practically every other artist who took the stage thereafter. At one point, it seemed that no one in the audience knew whether to sit or simply stand for the remainder of the show. 

Tributes Galore.  The Eagles may have been singing “Take it Easy” to the late Glenn Frey, but it was a distressed looking Don Henley that had us feeling very somber. Jackson Brown did his best to front the band, but it just wasn’t the same without the singer songwriter. Lady Gaga in all her regalia did her darndest to honor rock icon David Bowie during the 10-song medley, but came across a bit more like a punk Elvis on steroids. Sorry Nile Rodgers, I just wasn’t feeling it.

Emotional Shout-Outs. Stevie Wonder had some fun taunting the audience when he read the name of the category winner in Braille, but then took a more serious turn by saying, "We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability." Here, here! Taylor Swift who swept up her second Album of the Year award had her own agenda to share as she encouraged young women to work hard and reach for the stars and not be deterred by naysayers who will try to sabotage you. Her words of encouragement were strong and resonating. And, Neil Portnow and Common made their feelings known by taking a stand for the people behind the music who receive practically pennies from streaming services for all their hard work. 

Heartfelt Acceptance Speeches. A surprised Ed Sheeran finally received the Best Song award for "Thinking Out Loud" sincerely thanked his parents for believing that he would one day win. Meghan Trainor was equally flabbergasted to win Best New Artist and also thanked everyone from LA Reid to her mom and dad through a steady stream of joyful tears. The Grammys went east coast with a win for Hip Hop musical Hamilton. Still haven't seen the show, but was mesmerized when a well-prepared Lin-Manuel Miranda's proceeded to rap his acceptance speech.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentine’s Day Gift Giving Etiquette - A Pressure Cooker Smothered in High Expectations

Talk about putting on the pressure, the Valentine’s Day gift giving ritual is smothered in high expectations. A seemingly innocent gift from an amour is subject to all kinds of scrutiny that may be dissected and analyzed for years to come. Whether you’re dating or in a committed relationship, the gift is a symbol of the amount of love in the relationship. It is an oil and water check telling us how things are going.  If the connection is in good standing or if we’re headed off a cliff.  Did your mate spend hours pounding the pavement or just a few seconds scouring an online store?  Have they listened closely to your likes and dislikes to select a gift that is most meaningful to you or did they choose something purely for convenience’ sake?  One thing is certain, no one wants to spend the day dedicated to love fighting, or worse, breaking up over a gift that felt insensitive or phoned in. With only two days left, we've compiled a quick list of the most popular Valentine’s Day gift giving dos and don’ts to point your cupid's arrow in the right direction and inspire a day of happiness and passion for all. 

Chocolates. Dark or milk? Plain or nuts? Sees or Godiva?
Don’t: Don’t tempt your loved one with a large box of fattening chocolates, especially if they've been working like a dog to stick to a diet. You want them focus to be on you not spending the night complaining about how fat they look in their skinny jeans.
Do: Opt for gourmet bite-sized dark chocolate morsels with sea salt instead.  These are not only more healthy and satisfying, they are an aphrodisiac too. 

Flowers. To vase or not to vase, that is the question.
Don’t: Avoid the supermarket route cellophane-wrapped flowers complete with the sticker still on. This is a dead giveaway that you waited until the last minute. 
Do: Find out their favorite flower and have an arrangement displayed in a striking vase or present them with a box of long-stemmed beauties. If selecting roses, stay away from the yellow friendship ones. Red is the symbol of romance. If flowers aren't their thing, take a cue from Rachael Ray and wrap up their favorite food item instead. 

Jewelry. This is an investment. Do your due diligence.
Don’t: Purchase CZ’s and try to pass them off as diamonds or splurge on something big and extravagant when all they want is a delicate pendant or handcrafted leather bracelet. Unmarried? Avoid presenting a ring in a box which might be mistaken for a proposal.
Do: Know their taste or confer with a close friend before making any major purchases. Find out if they prefer rose gold, yellow gold, silver or platinum or none of the above.  Getting exactly what they want will thrill them and elminate a next day return.

Lingerie. Who is this gift really for?
Don’t: Use this as an excuse to visit an erotic lingerie store or pick up a prop right out of Fifty Shades of Grey. They might question your sudden interest and doubt their performance in the boudoir. On the flipside, a conservative bathrobe might make them feel old.
Do: Find the goldilocks gift.  Something tasteful, yet sexy.  Know their correct size.  Nothing too big or too small.  Something red or pink sends a loving message that you're ready for a night of fun. 

Accessories.  A smart handbag, shoes or a scarf? Go for the luxury brand.
Don’t: Bring home a fake and try to convince them it’s real. All luxury brands come with a card of authenticity.  Go this route and your partner will think you are incredibly cheap.
Do: Splurge on an item they're sure to appreciate. If you are working within a budget, there are plenty of beautiful accessories in all price ranges. It is much more wise to find something small, yet sophisticated.

Gift Cards. Tread carefully with these plastic babies.  
Don’t: Purchase any old gift card at the checkout stand. While they may need to stock up on household supplies, a gift card to Target hardly screams romance. Nor does a gift card to Starbucks, AMC Theatres or any other practical venue.
Do: Purchase a gift card from a spa that offers a unique experience or opportunity for your honey to rejuvenate and relax. Compliment the card with a small accompanying gift and you’ll get brownie points for going the extra mile. 

No matter how your mate expresses their appreciation, your job is to receive all gifts graciously with a giant smile. Choose to be grateful for your relationship on this day celebrating love. Realize that above everything else, that is the greatest gift of all! 

Read more.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Pay Deference to the Screen & Other Golden Etiquette Rules on Super Bowl’s Golden Anniversary

Super Bowl 50 is hours away and more than 100 million people will be saddled in their seats watching every punt, tackle, and fumble.  This year’s game between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos at the newly constructed Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California promises to be a huge one.  After all, it’s the Golden Anniversary of the institution and they are pulling out all the stops. Stadium and at-home viewers alike are riddled with anticipation gearing up for every over-priced commercial and home-made delectable dish.  And let’s not forget the coveted half-time show sponsored by Pepsi and fueled by high-powered  talent. The night’s lineup will feature British rock group Coldplay with special appearances by Beyoncé and Bruno Mars, both of whom have headlined previously.

Today as you get ready to cheer on your favorite team while consuming massive amounts of food and guzzling unimaginable quantities of beverages, remember to stay mindful of those around you.  The NFL players aren’t the only ones being held under a microscope, don’t be mistaken, your nearest and dearest are holding a close lens on you too.  Before stepping foot out the door, here's how to best mind your manners this Super Bowl Sunday.

Arrive on Time and Bearing Gifts.  Official start time isn’t until 3:30pm, but many parties will begin well beforehand.  Whatever you do, plan your arrival before kickoff so hosts will not feel compelled to welcome you and interrupt their viewing. Do not show up empty-handed. BYOB (the good stuff please!) or break out your stellar 7-layer dip recipe and you’ll be the life of the party.

Keep it Friendly.  Sunday is a family day so children are typically in tow.  Keep the atmosphere friendly and comfortable for everyone.  Reserve the foul language for the street when you’re walking to your car at the end of the game and monitor your alcohol intake so you don’t embarrass yourself and regret your behavior the next day.  

Acknowledge the National Anthem.  The moment you hear the music play and Lady Gaga hit her first note, it’s time to stand up straight, remove all head coverings, and place your hand firmly on your heart.  We stop and do this simply as a sign of respect.  All conversation should cease, but singing is encouraged right along with Ms. Gaga until the very last word is sung. 

Pay Deference to the Screen. Super Bowl fans want sufficient screen time, but there are always those who are more interested in making conversation than watching the game.  If there are multiple screens, station yourself in the room where you'll cause the least disruption. If you can’t find a seat or feel compelled to stand and shout for your team, just make sure those behind can still see the game. And for goodness' sake, no giant hats or wild accessories that will prohibit the view.

Stay on Topic. On Super Bowl Sunday, the dialogue should be on the game. Know your facts beforehand so you are well-versed in the teams that are playing and the host city.  Learn the vernacular, know the difference between a touchdown and a field goal.  You want to be able to bond and converse with everyone.  This is not the time to bring up a serious conversation, mention a grave illness or ask for a job.  Super Bowl Sunday is supposed to be fun. Keep the tone light and breezy and pay attention to the ball.  Here’s a complete glossary to everything you could possibly want to know for game day terminology.

Avoid Being the Know-It-All.  You may be the type of person who thrives on knowing every minute detail about the two football teams, the players and the Peyton Manning controversy. And you may enjoy spending hours researching the commercials that will be shown during the game, but that information is best kept to yourself.  Today is not the day to sit on your soapbox espousing your knowledge. A know-it-all is a big turn off. 

Display Good Sportsmanship.  Wearing your team's jersey’s and caps, painting your body to show your support, showing the love by cheering them on is all perfectly fine.  What will not fly on Super Bowl Sunday is shouting expletives at the television screen when your team misses the ball or picking a fight with your neighbor because he did a victory dance for a touchdown for your opposing team. Remember you are not playing in the game, you are just a fan.  Don’t make it personal.

Don’t Bet the Farm.  There are more Super Bowl pools than I care to imagine.  Know your limits.  If you’re an out of control gambler, designate the set amount for your bet before you leave the house so that you cannot be coerced into contributing more than you can afford.  There are plenty of pools to choose from and not all require a $500 ante.  You certainly don’t want to dip into your child’s college fund for a silly square on the football grid.    

Absolutely No Double-Dipping.  As George made infinitely famous on Seinfeld, if you take a chip, you get only one dip and then end it! Rather than risk a lecture from the double-dip police, place a handful of chips on a napkin or small plate then use one large chip to scoop extra dip that you can then enjoy with the remaining chips. 

Avoid Cutsies at Buffet Line.  Inevitably, there will be one coveted line with the short rib pizza or the crispy rice sushi that everyone is going to flock to. Whatever you do, please wait patiently for your turn. If you see friends further up, resist the urge to move even if they are waving you in with permission. It’s not their call and the others behind you will be most appreciative.

Leave No Trace Behind.  Be a good guest and clean up after your mess.  All those beef rib bones, leftover cold nachos, and ketchup-soaked napkins aren’t going to deposit themselves. Before making your way to partake in more witty repartee, do a complete 360 and leave no trace of trash behind. 

Compliment the Chef.  Super Bowl Sunday is the second most popular eating day after Thanksgiving and food plays a major part in the enjoyment.  Hosts spend weeks preparing the special menu of finger foods typically based around the two playing teams hometown favorites. A compliment to the chef lets them know they satisfied your every need.  

You Gotta Give Thanks. Of course, it goes without mentioning to make sure you thank the host before you leave and follow up with a nice handwritten thank you note the following day.  Your graciousness will not go unnoticed.

Now go and enjoy the game!!