“It’s time to realise three things,” says etiquette expert Kathy Buchanan. “Manners are sexy, manners will get you where you want to be and manners are the best revenge.”
With that in mind she has put together Charm School – a one-stop survival guide to help you deal with etiquette in the new millennium. There are no “knife and fork” lessons here, just practical advice on how to be a wonderful friend, to enjoy a fabulous love life and be happy and successful at work. Think of it as a (friendly and supportive) stiletto boot camp and here’s your first class.
LESSON 1: Email dating
It is the ultimate in 21st-century dating to give your email address to a cute guy you meet in a bar. That way you can suss him out even before giving out your mobile number, just in case he turns out to be a weirdo, a stalker, plain boring, or to have a drawer full of aqua undies (eek!). Although don’t go too far. After flirting outrageously in cyber space it can be daunting when you’re sitting in a restaurant with some guy and realize that you either don’t really like him or, if you do, that you’re embarrassed by how much personal information he already knows about you. If you lose your inhibitions on the Net and hit that send button way too quickly you’ll probably regret it.
Don’t go into detail about your sexual history on email. If you’re using your work address, then sending such intimate emails could be a sackable offence, or at the very least a very humiliating incident if someone prints, forwards or is caught reading one of your saucy emails at work. How do you know he isn’t forwarding your sexually explicit email to a group of his twenty closest mates? It has been done many times before and it’ll be done again, just don’t let it happen to you.
LESSON 2: The rules about ‘air kissing’
‘Air kissing’ is the handshake of the new millennium, but if you detest it then get into the habit of being pro-active and offering a firm handshake when you first meet someone. If someone puts out their hand to shake yours, then give them a short, firm, friendly handshake, smile, make eye contact while you’re introduced and then let go.
If someone goes in for the ‘air kiss’, don’t make a big deal and refuse it. Just offer your cheek closest to them and quickly move on. However, never ‘air kiss’ someone you’ve just met or if you’re at a work event – unless you work in the fashion industry – as you might make them feel uncomfortable. It’s okay to make skin contact when you kiss someone on the cheek if they’re in your family, you’re dating or you are good friends.
LESSON 3: Why you shouldn’t ask him ‘Do you love me?’
Asking an unsuspecting guy, ‘Do you love me?’ is just as bad as saying, ‘Do I have cellulite?’ Both questions will probably have him immediately breaking out in a cold sweat before your very eyes. By all means tell him that you love him and wait for a response but this is generally not a good idea in the first few months unless you’ve both pretty much fallen in love at first sight.
If you get a ‘ditto’ or ‘thank you’ (eek!) or, even worse, ignored (double eek!) then leave it for a while. But remember, just because he doesn’t say it back, doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t love you or isn’t falling in love with you. For all you know, he may never have said it to anyone before, and is only planning on saying it to the woman he intends to spend the rest of his life with. That girl may turn out to be you, but if you’ve only been dating for a short while, then to him it may seem like an insincere thing to say until he’s sure.
Wait for a while and give him a chance to say it first. It may take him longer than you’d like but it’ll be so much sweeter when it is his idea, don’t you think?
LESSON 4: Dealing with flatmates and overnight guests
I once flatted with a girl who sneakily moved her boyfriend into our flat without bothering to mention it to our other flatmate or me. We were all out most nights and had an open boyfriend policy, so it wasn’t until we started seeing a week’s supply of his Y-fronts drying on the heater for a few weeks in a row that we realized he was actually living with us. When we asked her if he’d moved in, she freaked out and he (and his Y-fronts) instantly and mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen again.
The stupid thing was, if she’d just been up-front about it, it would have been fine if he stayed for a while. Discuss flatmate and partner issues when you move in together. It is usually a very good idea to say, ‘No moving partners in without everyone’s okay,’ and if someone’s partner does move in for a while, then they should automatically be expected to contribute to the household expenses.
If you live with someone who is bringing home awful guys or girls as ‘overnight guests’ regularly, then it is okay to ask them to cut back if they make you feel uncomfortable. It is great if your flatmates are friendly and you all enjoy having friends and family stay for short periods, but agree amongst yourselves how long guests are welcome before they should start officially contributing to the household expenses or move on.
Visit author Kathy Buchanan's website www.kathyb.net and read more on ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ in Charm School: The Modern Girl's Complete Handbook of Etiquette (Penguin, RRP $24.95) that helps you deal with life’s sticky situations.
Check out the show all about etiquette, Aussie Ladette to Lady, here.