Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ms. Jennifer's Finishing School

This week I taught a finishing class to a group of teenage girls.  What is a finishing class, you're asking?  Did she really teach a bunch of today's girls how to dance the quadrille, curtsy properly before royalty, and needlepoint cushions?  Nope.  And that wasn't what finishing school really was anyway.  Finishing school was where young women were sent to learn how to behave in public as an adult.  This is, I think we can all agree, something sadly lacking in the curriculum of today's schools and in public in general.

Virtually all finishing schools have gone out of business world-wide.  This is understandable.  Personally, I wouldn't fork over thousands of tuition dollars for this when I could be (and did, although she paid for most of it) sending my daughter to real college.  Let's be frank, if I were going to spend some $$ to get one of my offspring to behave, it wouldn't be a daughter.  And it would be expensive.

We don't need to spend any money to do this, however.  We can do this at home!  Yippee!  I know, because getting your kid to do anything that isn't his or her own idea is cake, right? Ya, I know.  At any rate, I broke it down to three things for them to remember.  Three things.  Not a multi-year program, just three easy steps.  (Stop laughing.) (Right now.) (Really, give it a try!)

Here they are:

1. What is your mouth doing?
2. What is your body doing?
3. What are your clothes doing?

What is your MOUTH doing?

Let's start with a SMILE!  You don't have to grin like a maniac, just don't walk around looking as though you hate the world.  Everyone has what is called a "resting face."  This is what your face does when it's completely relaxed.  Unfortunately for nearly every single one of us, most "resting faces" are a frowny face.  Or a deadpan stare.  Or a blank slate stupor.  Pretty much none of us has Snow White's perfect sleep-of-restful-repose-smile she wears while laying upon her bed in the woods.  If you think you do, you're wrong.  That's all there is to it.  BUT GUESS WHAT?  This is something you can fix!  Learn to smile!  Pay attention to your resting face and learn not to look like a walking mug shot!  This will affect the way other people treat you for the better.  Everyone would rather interact with a friendly face than grumpy cat.

Next, pay attention to what comes out of your mouth.  If it's not nice, don't say it.  This isn't being fake, it's being polite.  Too often we hear, "I'm just being honest," followed by a lot of bile.  That's not honesty, that's your opinion.  Honesty implies acknowledgment of an absolute truth.  What you really think about someone's outfit, hair-do, or personality isn't an absolute truth.  When you stop yourself from handing forth your personal, negative opinion on everything, you aren't lying or being deceptive.  You're being polite.  Being kind and being polite are qualities we could use more of in our world.  Be part of the solution!

Please and thank you.  Know them, love them, use them.  All.  The.  Time.  You will be AMAZED how simply using these two phrases, in combination with a pleasant (i.e.: not insane) smile, in your daily interactions with others will affect your day.  Here's the key -- use them with EVERYONE, not just the people who smile and say them first, not just the people who deserve it, not just the pretty people. Say them to EVERYONE, especially the rude, undeserving, and unattractive.  They probably need to hear it more than others.  Make it a game!  How many people can you make smile today?  Winner gets the most friends!

What is your BODY doing?  

*A quick note: I am not addressing things like moral/illegal behaviors here.  That's a bigger topic for another time.  THIS class concept is about regular, every day behavior.

If your age does, or once did, end with "teen," there are certain things you just shouldn't do in public anymore.  At home with family, fine, if you must.  But the rest of the world doesn't need to see certain things.  These include:

1.  Scratching your butt, boobs, or belly.  Really.  You are not a 50 year-old hillbilly.
2.  Stretching like a spastic monkey.  Girls, DO NOT stretch your back by leaning back over a chair.  We all know you have boobs now, there's no need to expound on the point.
2.5  With regards to The Girls (boobs), go get a bra that fits.  If you've never been fitted, any good department store like Macy's can do this.  Victoria's Secret also does, but no teen girl needs anything from there except their good foundation basics!  Last year's bra may not fit anymore and really, really, you can't get away with one that doesn't fit.
3.  Reacting to everything like you're projecting for the cheap seats.  Laugh, sing, and joke all the time, just don't make a fool out of yourself doing it.
4.  Farting, belching, picking your nose, digging food out of your teeth.  NO.  Just NO.  It's gross.  Really.
5.  We're going to pause for a moment to address #5 fully.  Ahem.


*Again, I'm not addressing more serious cell phone safety and bullying issues with this class, just regular, every day behavior.

When you are talking to someone, DO NOT ALSO TEXT OR PLAY GAMES ON YOUR PHONE.  This is like having two separate conversations at the same time, with the real, live person you are talking to getting the worst of the deal.  Trust me, the cyber world will keep spinning if you step away for five minutes.  Any texts you miss will still be there when your live conversation is completed.  That's the beauty and curse of texts--they don't go away.

A few "DOs":

1.  DO sit up, legs together.  I don't care what you're wearing.  Knees together, no leaning forward.
2.  DO remember to introduce yourself and others when you're in a group where not everyone knows each other.
3.  DO keep your hands to yourself, other than a handshake, when meeting people.  Not everyone likes to be touched or hugged.  If you're talking to an adult with children, this is especially true.  Always ask before touching or (reallyreally) picking up someone's child.  Once you know someone well, you'll know where their "bubble boundaries" are.  Until then, a nice handshake is enough.

Finally, just remember your body language -- what your body is doing -- says much more and says it much louder than your words.  Pay attention to what your body is doing!

What are your CLOTHES doing?

Just like your behavior, your clothes will speak louder than your words.  Somethings to keep in mind:

If you think your too tight/short/low cut outfit is super cute and the cute boy in class is bound to notice you, you're right.  He will notice.  AND SO WILL YOUR 60 YEAR-OLD MALE MATH TEACHER.  Doesn't sound so awesome now, does it?  Your teacher won't (hopefully) notice you intentionally, but if he has eyeballs that work, that's the reality of life.  You don't get to choose who notices your "sexy" outfit.  If you wear it in public, everyone sees it, even and especially the people you don't want to see it.

Then let's think about this: wouldn't you rather the super cute boy notice you for your nice smile, friendly manner, and intelligent conversation than for your body parts?  Because guess what -- every female has those body parts.  If that's all he's looking at, he's not looking at YOU.  Respect yourself, ladies.  Or nobody else will.

Finally, are your clothes doing the job they were hired for?  Pajamas are for bedtime, not class.  Sweats are for the gym or practice, not church.  Swimsuits are for the pool and the beach, not stores.  Jeans are for casual events, not formal events like weddings or funerals.  I wouldn't mention any of these if I hadn't seen every single one of these examples with my own eyes.  There's a reason "Real People of Walmart" is shocking and hilarious.  If random people start taking sneaky phone pictures of you while you're in a store, THIS IS BAD.  Wear the right clothes, don't become an internet joke.

We don't need to be stuffy and formal, but we do need to respect ourselves by behaving politely and paying attention to what we are doing.


And then others will too!

Please, for the sake of us all, share this widely and implement broadly.

And for everyone thinking, "Wow, she's writing this with the way HER boys behave?"  It's a work in progress.  I'm doing my best, I promise!

Thank you for reading this and have a nice day!