We all have little things of which we are vaguely ashamed or embarrassed. Small skeletons in our closets. I don’t mean the big things that keep you awake at night, but a point in time during which we wished that we had done better.
Back in the late 80’s, my college housemate and I took a road trip down to Florida, stopping off to visit his grandmother. We arrived in the very early morning — somewhere around 3 am. So we pitched a pup-tent in the front yard… well he pitched the tent, it was dark and I have no idea how to actually secure a tent. In the morning, we were invited in for breakfast, spent a marvelous morning with a charming lady and made a date to take her out to dinner that evening.
I forget where we stayed or even if we stayed at her place. But we shaved, showered threw on coats and ties and arrived to have a cocktail before our foray out for the early bird special. Yes, she served us Manhattans! Out the door we went and not long after pulled into a parking lot. I was seated in the front passenger seat, my friend drove and the guest of honor was in the back, behind the driver. We parked. We got out. And while walking into the restaurant, she fell over the curb and her glasses cut her nose.
Which never would have happened if I had remembered my manners and given her a hand out of the car and escorted her into the restaurant.
The folly of youth? Unfortunately, no. Strive as I do, I don’t always make the grade. And you and I are being graded, whether we want to believe it or not.
The heart and soul of living an elegant existence is making it look easy. I’ll say that again, with emphasis added: the heart and soul of living an elegant existence is making it look easy. Which implies effort, continuing effort. The kind of effort that helps you remember a name at a cocktail party, to say “please,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” To stand when you are introduced to a woman. To read the headlines in an attempt to add something intelligent and witty to a conversation. To make your guests feel fascinating and at home. To dance with your date (and certainly don’t abandon her!) To offer an arm for support, needed or not.
Begin to master the details of dress, comportment, entertaining and communicating and elegance lies more easily within your grasp. Just remember to make it look easy. After awhile, I’m sure it will be. And then you can stop wishing that you had done something just a little bit better.