Archive for the ‘Etiquette & Manner’ Category

Quick Tip: Smoothing Out a Bumpy Road


how to not get attached to stuff


There’s been something of a mass desire to have “balance” in our lives. To keep everything humming along. That’s not a bad thing. But…there’s always that chance it will all come to a halt tomorrow. Or today. Or 5 minutes ago.

A way to make this easier on yourself: Expect the unexpected.

Be sincerely ready with a: “Come on in. Let’s do this.” Or some variant, in your own words.

A friend told me about how a great opportunity came, and then ended. I said, “Aw. I’m sorry that happened.”

He said: “I’m not. I had fun and made money. It was a great experience.”

What a guy. What an attitude.

He told me how, nearly everyday, he thought about how the situation could end. And if it did, he asked himself: “Would I still be happy?”

He made sure the answer was “Yes.” He fortressed himself from attachment to this *thing* so when it went poof! in the night, he was okay. He didn’t love that it went away, but he was just fine—with it or without.

What does this mean for you? Get comfortable with a situation, but know you’ll be comfortable elsewhere, too.

This way, when the unknowable, unforeseen and not-planned-for happens, you’re not thrown off balance.

(I’m trying to do this.)


That Face, That Voice, Those Eyes: Lauren Bacall




That sultry voice, that steady gaze and that confidence. These are photos of Betty Perske, a just-out-of-her-teens cover girl who had been plucked from Brooklyn just a few months earlier and brought to Hollywood to star alongside Humphrey Bogart in her first film, To Have and Have Not (1944).




I have seen all of her early films, and can see why she was such a revelation when she hit the theaters. Lauren Bacall was nearly always shot in close up, and you never get tired to that face. Those saucy, wide-set eyes and downturned mouth set against a voluminous head of hair, with just a touch of wave cascading down those cheekbones.

Of her famous voice, well it didn’t start out that way. Howard Hawks, who discovered her and cast her in To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, was initially nonplussed by her ‘natural’ voice, which was high-pitched and nasally and very New York. Bette went to work on it and within a short time transformed it, substantially lowering it in pitch and stripping out any regional twang. I always liked how she seemed to melodically stretch out each word of dialogue she spoke in her films, and never came off as stagey or affected. Side note: Here are some tips for optimizing your speaking voice.

Of her famed look Lauren Bacall once said: “I mean, that was what started the look — was nerves — just trying to keep my head steady.”

Here she is on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1943, the photo that brought her to the attention of director Howard Hawks,


bette perske cover model


RIP, Lauren Bacall, who passed away on August 12, 2014 at age 89.


Cool Male Move #504: How Stray Litter Can Help a Guy Out


Male etiquette seduction

You’re a dude. You’re out on the beach, on the streets, in a park or so forth. Maybe you’re with a girl; maybe you’re not.

You spot a stray piece of trash, a stray bottle or runaway plastic bag. Increase your desirability in two seconds by picking it up and tossing it in the trash. If it’s covered with grodiness, look for a leaf or something to cover your hand first, or just pass go on the move for the moment.

This Cool Male Move is effective on so many levels they’re hard to count.

The move publicly communicates that you give a rat’s behind about keeping our fair Earth nice. It demonstrates dignity and a community consciousness. It sets you up as an Independent Man of Action with a certain protectiveness that the ladies are particularly keen on these day. (Scarcity principle, you see.)

I could go on, but you get the message.

Most important, this Cool Male Move will actually make you feel good. Removing a stray eyesore from your path will bring a small boost to your sense of self-efficiacy. Which is to say, it will increase the feeling that you have the power to change something in your life, in your environment. Each positive action you take in your life, no matter how small, contributes to this feeling, which is similarly called (don’t cringe, fellas) empowerment.

Finally, you might have to beat back the ladies after executing this Cool Male Move.

easy pick up tip for guys

Caveat (I love that word)

This Cool Male Move is not a suggestion that you become the world’s garbage man, or that you pick up after the drunks on the town square every night.

Origin of This Move

I like to run in the evening, usually after the sun has set. I like to run the stairs near where I live. They are typically empty at this time, so I can zip up and down them without maneuvering like I’m on the freeway.

Here’s the thing. Particularly during summer months there are a lot of people who come to the beach, where these stairs are located. Some of these people are straight-up widgets, in that they stuff empty water bottles in the tops of these nice driftwood columns situated at the base of the stairs.

Garbage tossed in nature is downright blasphemous in my book. I used to cringe when I saw those littered driftwood columns. One day I had a brilliant idea: “By George I’ll just get rid of that trash myself.”

Problem solved. The driftwood gets its dignity back, and I can run in the peaceful and civilized oceanfront atmosphere to which I’ve become accustomed.

In short, I started doing this move for me. Okay, and the driftwood, too. Too bad there are never any hot babes around to see it.



Etiquette Tip: When No One’s Watching…

etiquette tip

One face was a fawning fan…but her nature was that of a devious understudy. Anne Baxter in All About Eve (1950).


I know a woman. She works in casting. She has a fool-proof way of selecting the right talent for her clients. She poses as the underling whose job it is to sign in the actors and models as they come in the door for their auditions.

This helps her spot the wheat from the chaff personality wise. Behavior wise, really. Her job is all about booking the right talent for her clients. Not just the best actor or model with the best look—but the best person.

The one who will show up on time, with a good attitude and a pleasant vibe. A person who won’t be a pain in the arse, in other words. Bad talent doesn’t make for great shoots. And clients tend to not be fond of casting directors who send them annoying talent.

When actors and models meet the casting director or a decision-maker, they are typically all smiles, all sunlight and rainbows and amiability. This is not always the actor or model’s demeanor when they meet the intern, the assistant or so on.

Stepping back, into a position of perceived lesser status, enables this woman to see the true person, right off the bat.

The etiquette lesson is not to pretend to be nice to everyone at the risk that the coat checker is really the CEO. But to disperse your arsenal of good cheer evenly amongst your fellow Earthlings, regardless of their rank, serial number or how much power you think they happen to possess at the moment.





Cool + Quick Wine Cocktail Solution: Bubbly Sangria Plus

sangria spritzer cocktail recipe yellow tail


Let’s say you’re headed to a get-together that involves buddies, booze and laughter—but it happens to fall on the eve before something important, like a day in your life.

If you want to join the festivities, drinks wise, without dry heaving your way to work the next day, arm yourself with this little bubbly sangria spritzer recipe. It will help you stay reasonably sober while being darn festive.

It’s very easy to pull together with just a few ingredients from your local grocery store. As in, pick up two, three things tops, and you’re golden.


yellow tail sangria recipe easy


  • First Step: Fill 2/3 of a glass or pitcher with pre-made sangria

Pulling together a batch of sangria is hardly rocket science, but hey, this recipe is all about ease. I like Yellow Tail Sangria because the taste is fruit-packed and punchy. Plus it’s pretty, a deep ruby,  and easy to find. (A 750-ml bottle is around $5 at grocery store chains and wine shops. I’ve even found it in a drugstore!)

  • Second Step: Fill 1/3 of glass or pitcher with bubbles

Either or seltzer or club soda works fine. The difference? Both are carbonated, but club soda has an extra zip in its taste.

If you want to kick up the festivities a notch, go for sparkling wine or champagne. Select the driest type (extra dry or brut) to minimize the sugar hit.

  • Third Step: Garnish with fruit


Keep it easy. Grab a bunch o’ grapes and toss them in. Pour in a cup or two of frozen blueberries and strawberries to brighten up things up. Frozen pineapple chunks do double duty as ice cubes and future snacks; after your cocktail is kaput, you can fish out those spongy little sangria-soaked chunks of goodness and eat them.

Finally, this tastes best over ice. Since this is warm-weather cocktail is fairly low in alcohol, an added plus of serving over ice is that, as it melts, it will dilute the drink and with it, the liquor content.

So there you have it. Enjoy!

constance dunn entertaining tips lifestyle host

Less time making stuff means more time to mingle!














Cool Male Move #1,042

how to walk into a restaurant

Gentlemen, here is the proper way to enter a dining room, ballroom, party or any other social situation where you are escorting a lady.

Question: Who goes first—you or your date?

Answer: If there is a hostess or maître d’ on duty, then he or she leads the way for your date. You follow. If there is no hostess or maitre de on duty, then you act as de facto host. You lead the way. Your date follows.

captain stubing

Sometimes you have to be Captain Stubing



Hey Ladies! If you reading this, it is possible your date will not know this point of etiquette. He may politely usher you past him with his arm and say “After you.” If this happens, smile and stride forward into the room, Miss Captain Stubing.



An alternate scenario. Ladies, let’s say that you arrive later than your date. He is already seated. The restaurant is a fine one. Announce yourself at the front desk. If there is a host or maître d’ on duty, he will probably initiate escorting you to your table. If not, feel free to ask.

The idea behind all of the above is to reduce any social discomfort a lady may feel walking into an unfamiliar room of people solo. And, of course, get you to the right table.


How to Have Fun Without Getting Hammered

  have fun without drinking alcohol

All the good feelings, but without the booze

This is being written in the first week of January, but it could just as well be written after July 4th weekend, or any other holiday stretch that involves partying, socializing and imbibing more than your share of the sweet nectar. Which is to say, you’ve been drinking more beer, wine, martinis, scotch or whatever-else-floats-your-boat than usual. And you’re thinking about embarking on a dry spell.

There is something called “Janopause,” which is a January without alcoholic beverages of any kind. As you can imagine, there are benefits of this: Preliminary research conducted by New Scientist research Andy Coghlan on a small sample found that those who de-boozed for five weeks lost approximately 3 pounds, plus cut cholesterol and blood glucose levels.

Compelling, isn’t it? You no doubt have a mix of personal reasons for putting the break on boozing, whether it’s related to thinking more clearly, not being a public buffoon, drinking and driving, budget reasons or the mere fact that you realize you don’t particularly like the feeling. Or the horrible, day wasting hangovers that ensue.

Even if you’re the lightest of social drinkers, completely abstaining can be tough. Alcohol is often part of our social rituals, whether it’s the camaraderie of an after work get-together or the clinking on high of wine glasses at the start of a meal or to tag a celebration.

Being the dude with the glass of water can be tough. For starters, other people will want you to be drinking alongside them. Not drinking with them lands you in the out-group, to take a page from social psychology.

Of course, you could spend the night listing for others the very responsible, rational reasons you are not drinking, above the music and laughter. This, however, tends to be not very fun and not convincing to someone who’s in full-blown Party Mode. And you’ll land further from the in-group, socially, and more in the group with the teetotaling aunt and the grandpa wearing the button-front cardigan.

Here are strategies to help you stay off the alcohol while still remaining very much in the heart of the festivities:

Look at the glassware. Is everyone drinking beer out of red plastic cups? Sipping something fizzy from glass flutes? Select the same glass and fill it with something non-alcoholic.

Bonus if your choice visually resembles an alcoholic drink that some or many are consuming. Pour yourself a ginger ale is champagne is what everyone’s drinking, or an ice-filled glass with something that could very well be rum and cola, or a vodka tonic. Complete it with a garnish, like a lemon or lime wedge, for authenticity.

•A glass in hand is worth not having a horrible hangover. Keeping a glass in hand is not just a good visual cue of being part of the ingroup, it is a physiological cue for you that will help keep you in the festive spirit, particularly if you are accustomed to always having a glass in hand at social events.

The glass-full mentality is also a big reason that people end up drinking too much. After a few, they are on auto pilot, and the empty glass is refilled without thinking. If you’re at the party or club long enough, one vodka tonic becomes three, which becomes six.

•To the question: What are you drinking? You can just raise your filled glass and smile. Very different than being the dude with the steamy cup of chamomile tea.

One of the most succinct rebuttals comes from a friend of mine, who happens to be a bodybuilder and a socializer. He trains heavily and has never been a drinker, and when people ask him why, he tells them something along these lines: Drinking usually helps people be more relaxed and social. It does the opposite for me. It makes me want to immediately go to sleep.

It works like a charm. No one wants to put their fellow partygoer to sleep.

If someone is being pushy but otherwise benign, you can say, “Sure, I’ll have a …….. ” Take the drink. Thank them. Don’t drink it. If they get uber-pushy (which they won’t) as in, “I want to see you drink it,” you have a choice. Smile, and dump it over their head.

Or just dump it over their head without the smile.

•Be a fun guy. Sober. Dry. None of those words really help promote the idea that a non-drunk guy is still a fun-as-heck guy!

I have a friend who doesn’t drink a speck. But you’d never know it because she’s always the life of the party. She smiles, chats, giggles, flirts, dances. She’s always having so much fun that no one ever thinks to hassle her about drinking. In their buzzed state, others assume that she’s had a few.

how to have a good time without drinking alcohol

•Get in the habit. The first few times you socialize without booze are going to be tough unless you have some strategies in place. Without getting into why, it is much easier to softly detour an existing habit than dynamite a longstanding ritual and start from scratch. Relying on the force of your iron will and white knuckles to change is hard.

Refining an existing pattern is easier. Let’s say you are meeting friends for drinks after work. Without thinking, you probably are used to heading to the bar or nearest cocktail server and placing your order. You recite one of your usual concoctions or you lean into your closest buddy and ask, “What are you drinking?”

You turn to order and say: “I’ll have that.”

Don’t have that. Have your nonalcoholic drink order on the tip of your tongue when you walk into the place. When you’re finished, reorder it. Just like that.

•What are we here for? Over time, you may notice that it’s the balm of positive social contact that relaxes people more than the booze itself, which is ultimately a prop. You’ll notice it in about 20 minutes, when everyone is finishing their first drink and showing noticeable signs of unwind.

Good luck to you on your no-booze journey. And while you’re at it, lift a glass to you: To better health and a more beautiful body and mind.

Salud,  Skål, Santé, Cheers and much more.


Planning a Holiday Party in a Crunch

christmas wreath party


Let’s say the holiday spirit has hit you later than usual, and you’re thinking: Hey, let’s have a party. Here are tips to help you produce a fantastico groovy holiday get-together in a short period of time.

Q. What’s the best way to invite guests in a time crunch (only 1 or 2 weeks of planning time)?

A. A combination of email and word of mouth. Send an email first, then follow up with a phone call if the size of your guest list allows. You don’t need to make explanations or detail your time crunch, either.

Simply let guests know you are throwing a fabulous little holiday soiree, and their presence will make it that much more wonderful. This added personal touch, particularly in an increasingly arms-reach society, will add a warm, welcome note to your invitation and increase the likelihood of acceptance on short notice.

Since parties are plentiful during the holidays, highlight one or two characteristics that make your party unique or somehow different from other festivities, whether it’s the fact that other attendees will round out a group that is never able to meet up, or you’ll be featuring an offbeat theme or item, like December in the islands or Christmas cuisine from around the world.


holiday party tips

Q. What should you have on hand to make guests feel comfortable and welcome?

A. If your party is intimate, say, 20 people or fewer, consider featuring cuisine, beverages or a style of music that you know will be incredibly popular among the majority of the group.

This move is akin to a monogram; a bit of personalization you offer guests to communicate that you considered them and what they enjoy. Let’s say it’s a group of ex-Philadelphians getting together in Los Angeles: Letting them know that cheese steaks, Tasty Cakes and Yuengling lager are on the menu is like dangling catnip in front a cat’s nose. PS. And you can get most of these at Philly’s Best.


greeting your guests

Side note: Party essentials: Handling Your Hellos and Goodbyes.

In the end, no matter how the invitations are extended, what you serve or how beautifully you decorate the room—your guests will remember the total experience. Chiefly, how they felt.

So start the experience off on the right note by greeting each one personally, inviting them into the fold with a drink or food item. At the end of the evening, see your guests to the door personally, if possible, and thank them sincerely for attending.

A warm spirit of welcome and belonging will linger in a guest’s mind much longer than their memory of the decorations, or what brand of liquor they drank.




Junior Party Planners Might Like to Be In on the Action…

Q. If you’ve taken on too much, or are running out of time, what is the best way to ask for help and who should you ask?

A. Brainstorm to come up with two or three seriously close friends or family who you’re almost positive have the time and complete interest in lending a hand. It can even be a child who you know would jump at the chance to be part of something cool and grownup like party planning. Contact each person individually, keep tasks small, and tailor each request to a person’s interest or passions.

You may loathe lighting and decoration duty, but have a friend who is super creative and has an eye for such things. Offer a prospective party helper a choice of tasks, and let him or her choose their favorite. This move will increase compliance and follow-through.

Oh, and make it beyond easy for them to say “No” or even “Hell no!”

Think of a creative way to thank those who have helped out, whether it’s a small gift or an outing to their favorite spot for brunch or a night of cocktails and catching up. During the party, make sure you give ample props to helpers by public acknowledging their contributions. Channel any compliments back to those who had a hand in creating the item, whether it was the awesome music playlist, authentic paella or some other aspect of the awesomeness that was your last-minute holiday party.



Because Conversation is Fun, But Fistfights Are Not…Keeping It Cool at the Table

Follow these table conversation guidelines when it comes to discussing politics and you won't wish you were dining here

Follow these table conversation guidelines when it comes to discussing politics or you’ll wish it were here you are dining


Q. Shouldn’t I be free to express my political beliefs at the table with family and relatives?

A. One should be free to express their political beliefs with their relatives and, particularly if you are politically engaged, you might find it impossible not to. Religion and politics are lumped together precisely because, in addition to involving deeply held personal beliefs, they reveal to others who you are right now.

And it’s hard to have a tight relationship with someone who doesn’t know what you think, feel or believe!

The cost of engaging in what is called “cross-cutting political communication” at the dinner table, though, comes with the high probability of egging on conflict and making others uncomfortable in a setting designed for people to come together and enjoy each other’s company.

Japanese friends have introduced me to a great saying, “TPO,” which stands for “time, place and occasion.” This serves as a great social compass, a consciousness of one’s environment that is the soul of etiquette—which is the practice of positive regard for the places you go and the people you encounter.

Q. How do you keep yourself from joining the fracas when you hear something that arouses your political buttons?

A. Remembering my role and goal can keep me from jumping in the fray. Host duties come with the responsibility of being a referee, if not the outright peacemaker, in the interest of captaining an enjoyable event. And being a guest means bringing positivity, or at the very least, not bringing conflict to a party.

This doesn’t mean that you are agreeing or endorsing opposing political views, either, it means you are choosing a higher goal at the moment. The success of the saying, “We’ll have to agree to disagree,” has to do with the fact that it acknowledges that differences do exist while simultaneously conceding to bury the hatchet, at least for the moment.

Though you might not always be successful in keeping the environment as smooth as vermouth, you will have no regrets for having tried. By joining in, not matter how justified or right it might feel at the time, I am simply adding more noise to the conflict. I’m sorry to say I’ve been there, and it never felt good afterward.

Q. What do I do when I’m the odd man out at a table of people who share the same political identity—and my party or candidate is the verbal piñata?

A. If silence in this situation is, for you, suffering then I recommend you suffer no more. You have options, such as politely asking that the subject be changed or even making a joke, perhaps something along the lines of, “Well, I am happy to see diversity is alive and well in our family” or “I see the apple has fallen far from the tree. Okay, it’s in a different orchard.”

If the hint is not taken, and the bashing persists, along with the rise of your inner ire, you can restate your request that the subject be changed or suggest that another time might be more appropriate for the discussion. If you feel the situation is becoming one of harassment or even verbal abuse, you are well within your rights to excuse yourself or leave the situation altogether.


political fights at the dinner table

Q. What option do I have if I’m a guest and the host wants to have a spirited political debate at the table?

A. Spirited political debates among folks holding opposing political ideologies are about as common as seeing the Easter Bunny moonwalk down Seventh Avenue. I am thinking you’re referring to those saucy table debates that have little chance of blooming into full-scale fighting words because they occur among those who share political premises, such as collectivism or individualism, but differ on aspects of similar policies or support candidates from the same party.

Assuming that politics does not bore you to spinnakers, there is usually no harm in such debates, because the probability of negative conflict is low. If, on the other hand, your host is fond of seeing his friends brawl, then I suggest a reassessment of the relationship and pressing pause on the acceptance of further invitations.

If you happen to be caught on the sidelines, a silent bystander of a debate that has gone from spirited to mean-spirited, you have the option of excusing yourself from the table. Hopefully by the time you return, the topic will have become more palatable and the room full of good cheer.

An emergency measure remarkably effective at achieving verbal cease-fires is to firmly remind everyone at the table that you care about them more than you will ever care about any politician.



Desirous Attachment…Ooh, It’s A Beauty Killer


desirous attachment

Look, No Chains!


So I have been taking meditation classes. They’re not just meditation though. They are led by a monk who also gives a lecture. Always about something excellent and interesting that lingers in the mind forever. One week’s topic was desirous attachment. Also known as misery.

The best way to define desirous attachment is to say what it isn’t. It is not optimistic yearning or healthy ambition or confident possession.

It is shackles and wanting so desperately for something—and probably not a good something. Drugs come to mind as the easy example, but desirous attachment can also mean being tethered with a big ole’ rusty chain to a guy who is poison, to a friend who is betrayal, to a family member who uses and nothing else. An abusive boss or client or coworker or person who is in some position to lord over your life in a big or small way. You get the picture.

When you are finally ready to leave, shake off that attachment, it can happen in a quick flush and be gone. Like a wave that pounds the sand then retreats, leaving little more than a stain that is dried up by the sun.

Something that meant so much all of the sudden means nothing at all. Or close to it.

It’s surprising how fast it takes. The run up to this moment, though, can take years. And there’s no escaping the work it takes to unwrangle that desirous attachment from your life. When you’re ready to embark, the road out of jail can be populated by a limitless mix of helpers, from a great therapist and kind network of friends and family, to meditation and physical exercise—or whatever mix destiny kindly hands over to help you. When good bonds are strengthened, rotten ones fade away.

But you will be better for having experienced it. You should consider overcoming it a supreme personal achievement.

What does all of this have to do with glamour, with presentation and communication, you might ask? It’s fundamental. If you are not free, with a light and peaceful soul, your true beauty is hindered. And that just won’t do.

To your freedom.


Why This is 10 Shades of Wrong for a Funeral



blog wrong

What Not to Wear to a Funeral

blog_funeral wrong

I can’t say I had an expectation that this individual would act with decorum at any occasion, but this image of Kim Kardashian attending a funeral almost made my eyes pop out of my head. Given the current state of popular culture, this is not an easy feat.

A funeral is an occasion where one gathers with others to remember and honor the life of someone dear to them. This means someone other than oneself.

I point out this super-basic detail to illustrate that when one is commemorating another, the most basic commandment is to keep the spotlight on the person in question. The keyword here is respect. Particularly at funerals, this means that party garb, hot date garb, Vegas garb and circus levels of makeup are out. This is because funerals are somber and serious events—someone has died—not time to show everyone how incredibly hot you are and how much everyone should pay attention to you.

That said, here are some traditional funeral dos, along with some serious don’ts, as highlighted by our model and prominent touchstone of cultural decay:

  • Attire should consist of black attire, made from dull and matte fabrics. No sequins, glitters, rhinestones or “Hey, look at me” nonsense like mesh-covered arms, as charmingly sported in the photo.
  • The cut of the clothes should be traditional, modest and clearly of the formal variety. This is done to project awareness and respect, two good things to communicate at someone’s funeral.
  • A man’s suit should not be too slick, and a woman’s body should be well covered.
  • Ladies, wear a skirt or dress if you can, not pants. Don’t even think about wearing shorts, even the civilized kind.
  • Keep jewelry to a minimum, and avoid big, showy or clanky pieces. A ring, solitary bangle or unfussy necklace, such as basic pearls or a simple gold strand, are traditional pieces.
  • Skirt and dress length—nothing above the knee, and I’d shoot for three-quarter lengths to be safe. In the photo, Kim Kardashian’s skirt length here can best be described as somewhere in the lower-crotch area.
  • Add black tights or hose, weather permitting.
  • Not a speck of cleavage. Cover it up. All of it. No spaghetti straps or showy necklines, either.
  • Shoes. For men, wear your best. Ladies, avoid open-toed shoes or anything that brings to mind words like spindly, spiky, stiletto, sexy. The ankle-strap gold-and-shell spiked heels seen in the photo above, for instance, may be groovy to hit the clubs with but are wrong on all counts as funeral footwear.
  • In many cases, black flats, straightforward pumps or boots with a minor heel are the best bet, particularly if you are going to be standing at cemetery grounds. Do not wear flip flops. I am personally begging you.
  • Makeup. Keep makeup simple and understated. Avoid bright or trendy cosmetics on the face or nails. No sexpot, mussed or pageant hairdos.

A note on manner: Funerals are somber events, therefore this is not the time for big smiles, bubbling laughter and loud behavior. Pay your respects to the deceased person’s family with sincerity and sobriety. Keep conversations focused on the person and their life, and in a positive way.

On the other hand, dressing like Kim Kardashian at a wedding could be a good ploy to bring someone back from the beyond. For I am pretty certain that if anyone attended my funeral in a getup like this I would pop out of my casket to personally boot them the hell out.


Cool Male Move #5,003

male etiquette tip

A little while ago I was visiting a friend’s house for the day. I rung the bell. He answered it. We said our hellos and within a step or two of walking onto his property he had smoothly slid his hand in the handles of my large, beach-ish bag and said with a smile, “Let me get that for you.”

“Why, thank you,” said I.

Why is this a Cool Male Move? It is courteous, yes. It is also friendly and thoughtful—and it clearly distinguishes the move-maker as a man and a gentleman at that. One who wants to make his lady visitor feel comfortable and at home. And guys, there is no muscle minimum needed to make this move.

A few pointers:

  • Smoothness is key. Unhand the lady’s bag naturally, and without tugging, like you’ve done this a million times. The best etiquette moves are those that appear as they are second nature to you.
  • Even if the bag contains a ton of bricks, don’t appear like it’s a hardship for you physically or that you are put out in anyway.
  • Do so with a friendly smile and lock eyes at the same time with a “Hello” in your heart.
  • This move is relationship-neutral, and can be used with charming effect on any lady from your grandmother to your buddy’s wife or to a girl whom you’d like to have spend the night in your very bedchamber, sire!


A Manner of Speaking: Former Versus Ex


former versus ex english usage

Former girlfriend. Ex-girlfriend. They both mean the same, but do they? Well, they pack a different punch, emotionally, so use former or ex based on what you wish to communicate about the subject and his or her relationship or standing to the thing in question.

For instance, you would use “former” to indicate a relationship that is in the past but where there is no animosity, loss of position or negative reserves to communicate. And where a relationship, in the sense of still possessing the skills or honor of the position once held, continues. You are a former scientist, or he is a former Marine, for instance, since once a Marine, always a Marine.

“He is a former boyfriend” or “She is my former spouse” is suitable to suggest a person whom you have no hard feelings towards. Or when you want to be Switzerland about the situation, and don’t want to let on how you feel about the person or relationship one way or another.

Ex on the other hand, sounds closely like “axe,” which is precisely the instrument that you may have thought about employing in relation to this person on more than one occasion. If that’s the case, he is indeed an ex-boyfriend, she is most certainly an ex-roommate, and that gnome is an ex-employee.

In other words, axe the ex is a good way to remember this rule, and refer to any ex-person, place or thing that is nicely tucked in the rearview mirror of your life. Or, you could always just say, moodily and mysteriously while gazing into the distance, “He is someone from the past.” Ah.

when to use former instead of ex?


A Winning Sex-ish Strategy

You, Man. Me, Woman.

You, Man. Me, Woman. Hallelujah!

I had a funny experience last week. I was a guest on a radio show, which is an experience I always enjoy. Quick, spirited and accomplished in my living room. It was something of a last-minute booking, so I didn’t do much research on the show, and received something of a curve ball when the very charming host opened up the segment, post-intro, by asking me for sex tips. That was, after all, the theme of the show.

“Sure,” said I, who does not actually specialize in sex advice, per se. I then launched into something along the lines of sex-ish tips. The host seemed to like this, and the rest of the segment whirled into a great exchange on ways to up your mate game, including tips on improving your conversations (be learned about various topics, be passionate about something and don’t kvetch no matter what) and some non-cheesy ways to charm your date.


Don't give it all away, ladies and lads

Don’t give it all away, lad or lady

The Art of the Tease, Generally

Okay, back to the sex-ish tips. My top tip was about how important it is to understand and practice the art of the tease. If you’ve been dating someone for about two minutes, or have been married for about a gazillion, it is up to you to understand the importance of and the art of keeping desire intact. (I’m assuming here that you want to be in a romantic relationship with the person to begin with.)

Desire, lust and attraction is not some nebulous thing that just “goes away” on some random day. It is a living, breathing organism of sorts that needs tending.

And you, madam, are the gardener. Sure, it takes two, and I’m a firm believer that these things are contagious. That, as keeper of the flame, you will inspire your mate, if he is not as dedicated—or simply does not know how to do this tending—to follow suit.

Two broad strategies to become keeper of the flame include:

Don’t Overshare: Sure, compatibility is a necessity in relationships. After all, you must have something in common with and admire your mate. However, I caution against the “my best friend” mentality when it comes to romance because the best friend designation is a different dynamic than the intimately close, man and woman one. Best friends engage in a complete and utter spilling in a manner that doesn’t seem to jive with romance, at least to me. In other words, a woman should have her secrets.

Keep a Veil, Smartly: Speaking of secrets, if you wish to be treasured, desired and admired, practice a certain type of restraint. This means, essentially, don’t let it all hang out in everyday living. For example, prancing around the house in the buff everyday, no matter how fantastic your figure, will become visually old hat at some point.

That and other activities that one usually engages in private should not be shared with your mate if you want him to continue treating you like his luscious little temptress. Why would I want to see a guy floss his teeth? Flex his biceps, yes. Walk around in a nicely fitted pair of boxer briefs, yes also.

Before I veer too off the subject, I’ll conclude with this nugget of truth to guide your keeping of the flame: Allure requires exclusivity.



Quote O’ The Day

Constance Dunn

Thought of the Day: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin


Fun Guy Book Buy: The MANual by Keith Riegert and Sam Kaplan

The MANual book_riegert_kaplan


I’ve noticed that there seems to be a rise in the number of new titles out there dealing with masculinity, including how to be a guy type books. The reason for this makes sense to me, since there seems to be something along the lines of a crisis breaching in Guyville.

Since I’m in the tortured process of writing a book for women that brushes up against this subject, I’ll skip the topic here. But if you’re interested in the matter, might I point you in the direction of this easy, breezy TED video by notable psychologist Philip Zimbardo on the overriding causes and byproducts of this.

Okay, back to how to be a guy books. I had the pleasure of reviewing one that is funny, great fun to read and surprisingly information packed.

I say surprising because some dude books I’ve perused (usually pickup books) are downright cliche, with lots of women-bashing and promotion of the idea that proper manhood means staying in a state of smirking juvenility and making it apparent that you still hate your mother and have no idea who your dad is. (See the male crisis issue above.)

Books that make me wonder if the authors are secret man-haters out to sabotage fellow dudes.

Not this book. The MANual ($14.95, Ulysses Press) has wit throughout, is intelligent and laugh-inducing funny at points. And the authors, Keith Riegert and Sam Kaplan, are wonderfully un-cheesy. There is a delightful lack of perverted guy talk…no 1970’s-era pickup lines…no jokes about women drivers. In fact, there is no mention of women anywhere in its pages, which may be a nice thing for many readers.

In short, this book will not neither disappoint nor insult the man in your life whom you buy it for.

The book offers a good-hearted, respectable brand of masculinity and a great mix of information that would behoove any dude to know — from the ins and outs of boats and the origins of beer, to knowing the difference between cuts of beef and even a fascinating chapter on boxing. There are also some well-told tales of male heroism in The MANual, spanning from Hannibal’s Roman campaign to a section on the Medal of Honor, America’s highest.

The topics of the book are far-reaching, and presented so well that I found myself moving through it at quick clip, always entertained. The wit is perfect, too, added in just the right dose and always of the smart, never smarmy, variety.

Did you know? The Irish Stand Down is a type of bare-knuckle fighting that was popular in Irish ghettos, and involved standing still and simply punching one another, since it didn’t allow the fighters to move. Did you know? Theodore Roosevelt is the only American president to have received it. He was awarded it in 2001 for his run on San Juan Ridge during the Spanish-American War.

Though the The MANual may cover some grim topics in spots, I’m thinking the stuff about flesh-eating parasites and the Black Plague, the authors do so with a certain style that does not render the book depressing or even gloomy. Here, the authors recount the actions of Master Sargeant Roy P. Benavidez, a Medal of Honor recipient, during a horrific firefight in Vietnam:

Did he cry? No. Where any normal superhuman being would have given up, Sgt. Benavidez was just getting started. The sarge got up, tucked his organs back into his shirt, ran back to the downed chopper, gathered up whatever souls in the wreckage were still breathing, and positioned them in a defensive perimeter until another helicopter could arrive. He then cranked up the radio, called in some air strikes, and ran around handing out water and ammo to the wounded soldiers (what, no moist towelettes?). Oh, and then he got shot again.


Bottom Line:  Authors Keith Riegert and Sam Kaplan give us an entertaining and very smart read in The MANual ($14.95, Ulysses Press). The variety of information is cleverly unexpected and useful, and the writing is concise, easygoing and completely companionable. I would not hesitate to buy this book for any guy in my life, from my teenage nephew all the way to my father, who is a pretty learned guy. Anyone who reads it is bound to learn something new and have some great laughs along the way.


A Conversation With Marie Young, Founder of GoodLooknOut

good look in out

Constance Dunn: I enjoy your site, GoodLooknOut, because it’s filled with a lot of smart content on the 360 of looking and feeling fine. You put out information that a woman can read and immediately put to good – and glamorous – use.

I think, these days, when people say they are “keeping it real” or “just being honest” they use it as a crutch or justification to be crude, coarse or just mean. The increasing number of women and girls who do things like post porno-like snaps of themselves online, or attack other women, is a sign that not all is well with the sisterhood.

Q. What advice do you have for young ladies who want to be themselves, and don’t want to swim with the status quo that increasingly equates personal authenticity with being undignified?

Marie Young: My advice would be to get to really know yourself as thoroughly as possible.

I equate doing so to the intense personal relationship you would share with your supreme higher being. You get into that deeply quiet space where you can be intimate and connect with this higher power to build on the personal relationship you share with this higher being. Well, you have to do the exact same thing with yourself. Be intimate with your self, connect and learn who you really are and what image you want to portray to the world.

Q. Okay, some practical glamour questions. You’ve been sporting natural hair for over one year. What is your top natural hair tip?

Marie Young: My top natural hair tip would be treat your hair as good as you want it to look. This means getting your trims, proper moisture and choosing wisely what products you put in your hair.

Q. And a dressing tip for glamorous and curvy ladies everywhere?

Marie Young: Get to know your body and learn what works best for your shape. If you have a big ‘booty’, own it, yet style appropriately. Meaning not too tight and try to create balance by taking away from your gluteus asset.

I steer clear of buying any jeans with embellishments and every now and then I throw on some heels to accentuate my curves!

simona marie young

Prom Time: Stay Relaxed and Look Beautiful



prom night tips

Montgomery Clift and Liz Taylor from the very beautiful film, “A Place in the Sun” (1951)

So much pre-prom hype floats around that by the time the big night arrives, it can be swallowed in a blur of overdone ensembles, corsages, overzealous makeup and serpentine hair. The natural enjoyment of the event can get obliterated by an emphasis on prom details and decorations – plus the fact that you may be as nervous as a cat at the prospect of the whole thing. Note for your future: The same thing often happens with weddings.

Maybe you’re not feeling up to the brim with confidence in the area of looks or your figure or dress clothes or dancing or whatever else might be fixed in your mind when it comes to prom. Perhaps the idea of dancing in heels makes you feel seasick, or you’re dealing with a monster zit problem that no triple-coating of foundation is going to camouflage. Or you’re insanely and squeamishly in love with your prom date – or the person who is not your date but somebody else’s.

So here are some across-the-board prom tips to keep the main points of the night – happiness, beauty and laughter – in main view, and keep the other stuff, like crippling self-consciousness, back in the shadows, where it belongs.

You’ve heard it before: Your prom is a once in a lifetime event. No doubt, you’ll want the experience and memories of prom to be wonderful, so here are a few keep in minds:

Bust your fears. Write down your top 5 prom plagues. Sort them from most atrocious to least. Then do something about them. Example: If you are scared of dancing, dedicate 10 minutes a day to building your confidence in this area. Rhythmically challenged? Close your bedroom door, put on your favorite tunes and sway to the music, your eyes closed. (No one is watching.) Gradually add more complex moves using your arms and some footwork. Find some videos and copy what you like – just leave out the sleaze moves, ladies; they’re beneath you.


prom relaxation tips

What’s the look? Before you spend a sou on anything related to prom, spend some time thinking about the big picture: What do you want to look like, overall? Summon a few characteristics that appeal to you and don’t censor yourself while brainstorming: Goddess. Sleek. Regal. Exotic. Firm up a picture in your mind and stick with it. Say it out loud. Your styling ideas, purchases and the like should all conform to this vision. This will save you time and money, and give you clarity and confidence.

A side note on your prom vision. You are a teenager, and no doubt a bee-a-utiful one! So celebrate your natural allure and find ways to project your favorite features and characteristics on prom night. A gorgeous smile…swan-like neck…amazing hair – find your favorite feature(s) and put them in the spotlight. There will be plenty of time in your adult life to play sex kitten or brazen bombshell, so tuck away modern music and film images of soul-less showgirls (that’s saying it nicely) and embrace you as you are right now. It feels wonderful.


prom style tips

Left: Savoy Dress Right: Indigo Mist Dress | Find Both at Urban Outfitters’ online wedding shop, BHLDN.

Comfort=Ease. Remember this rule before you even think about buying those 6-inch platforms. Or that stiff, complicated dress that makes your most ambitious Halloween costume feel like a plushy track suit. There are plenty of options out there that will satisfy the formality of the night without making you feel and look as carefree as a hyperventilating mummy. Think ease and elegance for prom.

Prom shoe style tip: Those huge platform disasters that everyone has been sporting for the last few years? Ditch them. They are a horror to wear for longer than a few minutes and they don’t look all that jazzy. They almost always give the wearer a Herman Muenster-ish walk, and I don’t think that’s the look you are yearning for on prom night. If you hate all heels and consider them supreme torture devices, consider getting a pair of fabulous, dressy flats for prom. Flats have been hot for a while now, so there are plenty of great designs out there.




Herman Muenster style shoes give one a Herman Muenster walk

Herman Muenster style shoes give one a Herman Muenster walk

dressy flat shoes

There are some fabulous flats out there!


Tip: Tuck a pair of fold-up flats in your bag if you want to wear heels but don’t think you’ll last all night in them. Running around a dance hall barefoot in a formal gown is not a cool look, unless the dance hall is some fabulous lawn party and you can pull it off in style.

Be a great date. Brush up on formal event and prom etiquette and put it into practice. Stand, move and speak like a lady. Be courteous and kind to your date. Don’t spend the night ignoring him while you’re huddled with your girlfriends, or worse, dancing with other guys.

Keep it simple. You will not need an industrial sized purse on prom night. Girl must-haves should be whittled to the essentials, usually a small comb to tame stray hairs, some lip color, money and a phone. And use makeup finishing spray to keep your prom makeup intact for many, many hours. Pack your essentials in the slenderest clutch or bag that you can muster. You will find the lack of baggage liberating on prom night and that you have all you need.

Randoms but important. If fresh breath is a concern, tote a small breath freshener with you. Health food stores have the best. In a pinch, grab a piece of lemon or lime and squeeze the juice on your tongue.

For your best prom photo tips, read this. And if you have a specific prom question or quandary, you can email me here or reach me via Twitter @ConstanceDunn.


formal prom tips

It starts with you. Prom night is not about making sure your hair and makeup are picture-perfect each second. Sure, those details are nice to have dialed in, but the best prom night look for you is to be yourself, feel relaxed and have fun. Whenever you are feel tense on prom night, just smile and breathe. And repeat.

Here’s to you. You will have an amazing time at prom.

Arnold Scassi’s Smart Standard: No Free Frocks

Arnold Scassi is a legendary American fashion designer, having dressed many a First Lady, movie star and debutante from the 1950’s and beyond. I happened to pick up a copy of his book, “Women I Have Dressed (and Undressed!)” at a library sale at one of my all-time favorite spots, The Society of the Four Arts King Library, located in one of my favorite places on Earth, Palm Beach.

The book was a fun read, and one of the things that stuck to me is this: At the outset of his career, Scassi decided that he would not give away his clothes for free. To anyone. Ever.

So when Jacqueline Onassis came calling, her staff interested in having Scassi dress the First Lady – but for free – Scassi had to refuse. Bear in mind that being a designer whose gowns are worn by a First Lady is like being automatically crowned King of the Design Universe, so it must have been very painfully hard for the young designer to utter, “Pass.”




But here’s the thing – he did – and it was a smart, smart move. If he gave away his designs, he would be perpetually fending off requests for free stuff for the rest of his career. Plus, the rebuffed women would no doubt feel a trace of bitterness as they signed their checks to him, feeling that they did not rate enough for a free Scassi gown. Given the gargantuan egos of the women he dressed (Barbra Streisand and so forth), this would be a problem and dilute his super-luxury brand over the long run. Not to mention be a persistent, Grade-A annoyance.

Putting aside the supreme tackiness of someone asking you to hand over your art, your skill, your work and effort for zip, zero, zilch compensation — financial or otherwise  — Arnold Scassi had a tactful way of dealing with those who came asking.


He would explain that his no-free-gowns rule had to do with the fact that he didn’t sing, dance or act. He created clothes. That was his skill and his gift and how he earned his living.

Perhaps Scassi’s standard is a helpful reminder if you are a person who is perpetually being asked to give, give and give your products, work and time. And have a hard or itchy time saying no. It has helped me.

And remember, it is easier if you outline your standards at the outset and stick to them  — but it’s never too late to change.


Street Style Tips: Miss Individuality in Manhattan Beach

There’s this little breakfast and lunch spot in Manhattan Beach, California called Bill’s Pancake House. It’s a great spot that overlooks the Pacific Ocean and on weekend mornings, it tends to be insanely busy. Insanely because I’ve never  noticed anything Earth shattering about their pancakes or any other item on the menu, yet the sidewalk is always lined with people on Saturday and Sunday morning. Maybe it’s that thing about a crowd attracting a crowd.

I happened to be among those sidewalk people one morning when I spotted this very cool-looking woman walk by with great individual style. Tip hunter and glamour stalker that I am, I did a little two-step up to her and we had an impromptu sidewalk interview about her personal style. Fashion tips followed.


glamour street style tips

The vitals: A smart laidback look like this is no accident…items are high quality, in great condition and strategically mussed, cut or sheared. Example: the off-shoulder sweatshirt has colors that work well with her skin tone, and reveal a polka dot bra that’s in pristine condition and looks almost like a tank – a frilly or well-worn bra would have looked cheap.

The tattoos are artistic, and are inked in colors that compliment her skin, which, since she’s showing glimpses of, is in beautiful condition. She told me that her top natural skin tip is the regular use of shea butter to keep her skin in good condition and gleaming.

Because she’s sporting a chic buzz-buzz cut, she can get away with super big hoops, or other dramatic accessorizing, during the daytime. Always think of your personal style in terms of proportions. Notice how Halle Berry can wear super sexy red-carpet ensembles regularly – yet never look anything close to tarty? Her fabulous lithe figure, poise and body confidence have a lot to do with it, and so does her super-short hair, which projects a chic, smart pretty versus the sensual vibe that super-long and flowing locks heap onto a look.

Confidence and happiness. These are two things that she projects, and are what caught my eye. I’ve said it many a time – glamour has zero to do with the price of your clothes and everything to do with your nonverbal communication and the spirit you exude while moving about in the world. A closetful of couture, and a face and figure that have been meticulously arranged fall flat when they’re not accompanied by ease and self assuredness – they are the soul of glamour.



Cool Male Move #5,301

After you say good bye to a girl or woman, make sure they get on their way safely before taking off.

etiquette tip

-Don’t just drop them off and roar off – stay around and watch them get in their car, turn on the ignition and head out.

-If you are returning a girl to her home, your relationship status should determine whether or not you accompany her to the door to say good night or good bye.

-Whether you walk her to the door or not, make sure she gets to the front door, unlocks and walks through it.

This is a very thoughtful move. It communicates to a girl, friend or otherwise, that you care about them. That you are a gentleman who was raised well, or smart enough to independently adapt such moves.

One of my guy friends in college did this regularly after dropping me off at my car on campus. He was a great guy, a nice guy whose mother had raised him very right. Side bar: I noticed that a lot of Philadelphia guys of Italian ancestry are A+ in the manners department, and they put the bar high for other guys.

There was nothing between Steven and I on the romance front, but I always held him in high regard because he was always pulling gentlemanly moves like this. Even if I didn’t know it consciously, I knew he was a good guy with positive regard for women, and me in particular.

PS. If I haven’t said it lately: Nice men, we women love you!

Domestic Glamour Tip #547: Cook to Intimacy

how to make your mate happy

Find your mate’s favorite childhood comfort food, and learn how to cook—and serve—it the way he or she likes. Tomato soup and grill cheese delivered on a tray in bed, accompanied by a gazillion smooches on his face and head, when he is sick. Strawberry pancakes loaded with fresh whipped cream on your girl’s birthday, because that’s what her mother did for her every year. A homemade milk shake made with chunky ice cream served to him in an oversized mug. Home-cooked chicken soup made with the tiny, star-shaped pasta.

This domestic glamour move will make your mate happy. It will make him or her feel like you care about them. This in turn will make you feel happy. Good ole’ rational self-interest at work.

Tip 1: To learn about your mate’s favorite comfort food, be crafty. First, speak naturally and enthusiastically about yours. They will most likely offer up theirs as part of the conversation. If not, oh-so casually ask them outright. Casually. Listen carefully to their answer.

Tip 2: This domestic glamour move works best on somewhat established relationships. By somewhat established I don’t mean the 2nd or 3rd date. There should be a basis of friendship, romance and intimacy involved, lest the move come off as contrived, or worse, as an unwelcome push towards an intimacy that is premature or not desired.


Ask a Master: Raquel Welch on Sex Appeal

Raquel Welch quote men


I like Raquel Welch for many reasons…her smarts, wit and the way she’s maintained that face and figure. Here’s a jewel of a Raquel Welch quote from some lad mag interview:

“Sex appeal is such a subjective thing. When you meet somebody that you know mostly from photos or movies, it’s not really the same as meeting them in person, when you can connect with them as a human being. In my career I’ve met so many men who were supposed to be the sexiest men on the planet, and I’m standing right next to them, thinking, “Hmm. Really?” And then there’s just the opposite. You meet people who are super- attractive in real life but it’s never translated to the big screen. It’s just such a weird, subjective thing.”

Her observation is a very female one. Men seem to be more lured by looks alone, at least initially. Women factor in a lot more variables, different variables, than just the physical.

Research: Ask a conventionally handsome guy how many not-hot women he’s dated. Yeah, zero. Ask a hot chick how many so-so looking guys she’s dated. Yeah, way more than zero.


Steady Now…Vocal Tips For Public Speaking


Public speaking, not always fun had by all…

I had the TV on some sweet C-SPAN over the weekend, watching these super-bright college kids giving speeches at a DC conference. Aside from reflecting that zero of my college weekends were spent giving sophisticated talks on the U.S. Constitution, I noticed that some of the speakers spoke in conspicuously breathy tones, their voices a little unsteady and sometimes quavering.

Ah, I though, speaking in public. In front of a TV camera, no less. Before one of the first speeches I ever gave, I remember fighting to keep my voice from busting into an outright squeak. I had downed two cappuccinos mindlessly, thinking the caffeine would give me a certain energy. It did. I had buggy eyes, sweated and probably set a record for saying the word “Like.”

When nerves start permeating your speech, the effect can be distracting. Even the message of the most brilliant speech can be lost if all the audience hears is anxiety. Here are some public speaking tips to keep your voice smooth:

Practice. Basic but true. The more familiar you are with your material, the more secure you will feel. You will be less anxious, more calm and natural when delivering your speech, and it will show in your voice.

Sing. When I began to do public speaking on a semi-regular basis, I borrowed some choral tricks to keep the quaver out of my voice. One was to join the words of the speech at points. The effect is that your voice will sound smoother. Just remember to enunciate the words to avoid Mumbleville.

Deep Breathe. Also called diaphragm breathing, deep breathing is marked by expansion of the abdomen (rather than the chest) when inhaling and exhaling. To get into diaphragm breathing put one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. Slowly inhale though your nose or pursed lips. As you do, push your belly/ stomach out and feel your stomach expand with your hand. Try singing “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha” while exhaling air from the diaphragm. Your shoulders should stay put when you diaphragm breathe.

Acknowledge it. Evading or pushing away the fact that you are nervous unfortunately won’t quench it, or keep its effects from your body. Consciously identify your anxiety and where it hits you the most in your body. Remind yourself that you are nervous but are prepared, and that you and the world will go on as always before, after and during your speech! Try to channel the nervous energy into excited, motivated and fun energy instead.

Keep your fire. In an effort to control my voice, I used to push the tone low and space out my words. The effect was a Lauren Bacall-ish robot with little to no spirit. And I still said “like” way too much. Evolve your speech so it sounds mellifluous, but not overly mellow. And, of course, still authentic to you. Spend a few moments thinking about how you’d like your voice to sound. What characteristics do you wish to project? How do you want others to feel when they hear you speak?

Adopt a ritual. Pinpoint some little ritual or exercise or habit that will calm and connect you to the room, the audience and the material beforehand. If pre-speech makeup or hair is involved, use the time to breathe and smile.

public speaking tips

Makeup and hair…an ideal place for you to de-edge before public speaking


A Few New Tricks With Helen Gurley Brown


helen gurley brown-the cosmo girls guide to the new etiquette

The message of eking out your own happy life in this world was woven into everything Helen Gurley Brown did, it seemed.

As a teenager I collected old books–the campier the better–and at a thrift shop or yard sale I came across a copy of Sex and the Single Girl. I was drawn to the very 1960’s cover and snapped it up. I was slumped in a chair reading it one day and my father happened to see the title on the fuchsia cover. He frowned and said, “That’s a filthy book. You shouldn’t be reading it.”

I laughed, because the book didn’t seem filthy at all, more like a fun peek into the life of a saucy single gal in the 1960’s. I don’t think I read the whole thing, and I scarcely remembered, let along was corrupted by, any sex talk–and I loved Helen Gurley Brown’s style.

She was companionable, conspiratorial in a just between us girls way and real-life practical. I recall the book discussing the importance of being financially responsible and getting to work on time. Something about making sure your fanny was in your desk at 9 am, even if your hair was a mess and you had only guzzled down air for breakfast on your way to the office.

Around the same time I came across The Cosmo Guide’s Girl to the New Etiquette, a hardcover book of Cosmo articles that had been published in the early-1970’s. As editor of the magazine during this time, I’m assuming Helen Gurley Brown had something to do with its great compendium of articles, on everything from clothes to budgeting to gift-giving to being a good houseguest.

Her distinctive voice is all over it…encouraging and optimistic, with lots of clever, budget-neutral tricks for the reader. There is a piece on gifts that a modest-budget girl can get for a big-budget friend (a jar of homemade preserves, a certificate to house-watch or babysit, etc) and even how to transform flying into something fun and sassy (book first class, fly at night, look pretty and don’t be afraid to sit next to a handsome stranger).

I re-read the book as a lonely post-college girl living alone in the city for the first time, and on more than one occasion was buoyed by its cheerleading, its message to go out, dig those self-manicured hands deep into your life and enjoy it, damn it.

Every in memoriam of Helen Gurley Brown I’ve seen in the last couple of days seems to focus on her book Sex and the Single Girl and its go-ahead-and-do-it message to single gals of the 1960’s. In a different time Helen Gurley Brown would have a significant effect on me, but her influence had zero, zilch to do with sex and everything to do with cultivating and celebrating the female spirit…joie de vivre…independence…taking care of your life and your self. In all, she promoted what is the positive soul of individual glamour.

RIP and Many Thanks, Mouseburger.


TV Liberation

A week or so ago I made the bold move that I had been contemplating for a while: I got rid of TV for good.

I had just told someone how I was “going to get rid of my TV.” I looked at the TV. It was still there.

I realized I had said this before—but had not yet done it. I seized the moment. I quickly stood up, strode to the TV, unplugged it and carted it to recycling. I moved some furniture around to make the place more open, more of a space where you would be inclined to grab a book or a magazine, pull out the Monopoly board, stare out the window at the trees and ocean, or do some impromptu yoga. Anything but slump on a couch and engage in passive hours of something that adds nothing, really, to your life.

I have had one foot out the TV door for a while. I have not had cable in many moons, and kept a TV around because of a love for watching classic Hollywood movies (1930’s-40’s) and European police shows. If you haven’t seen them, Italian shows Detective Montalbano and La Piovra (featuring the quiet and oh-so alluring angst of Mob-slayer Corrado Cattani) are pretty compelling reasons to keep a TV on the premises.

In the last week, I’ve moved from TV agnostic (a little TV doesn’t hurt) to straight-up TV atheist (no TV is better than a little TV). If you are considering such a move, here are some values and virtues to look forward to in a TV-free home:

Less TV, More Life!

More Space. A TV and all its accompaniments (DVDs, cords, stands, etc) take up room. Not just physical space. It becomes the focus of the room. What direction does the furniture face? A hundred years ago it all would have faced the fireplace. So, a room that has a TV often becomes a “TV room.” A place to watch TV. Delete the TV, and the place reverts back to a room.

More Time, Better Time. My off-time is better spent with no more defaulting to TV. I put a magazine or book on a table, and when I sit down I automatically reach for one. Do you have a stack of publications that you have been meaning to read? Watch it dwindle fast when there’s no TV around.

Energy Purge. The place just feels better, cleaner without a TV. Even though I was pretty selective with what I watched, having this conduit of violence and sleaze piped into the living room was not a positive thing. Now it’s gone.

Two more notes:

Know when you’re ready. Going TV-free is tough before its time. That moment of strength, when you truly feel that your life would be better spent without a TV in the house, is the time to act. Grab the TV and run out of the house as fast as you can. (If I was an artist I would draw an image of this…)

Less TV means more glamour. What the heck does living without TV have to do with glamour or looking/feeling your best? A sparkling, knowledgeable and alive spirit is the soul of glamour, whether you’re a girl or guy. Anything that detracts from your life reduces this glamour. And anything that promotes a greater, more active immersion in your own life will do the opposite.

¡Viva la liberación!


Mobilexpressions Glamour Giveaway: Your Top Etiquette Tip

Covering your iPhone is a nice way to add a blip of color to your day, personalize it and, of course, protect and lengthen its life.

And LuxMobile Group makes zingy little cases for mobile devices…and their new mobilexpressions line is at Target for a limited run. Bright, good quality and easy to clean.

mobilexpressions_lux mobile group

I am giving away 3 mobilexpressions iPhone 4 cases. 

To enter: Share your coolest etiquette move with the class in the comments below.

Giveaway ends Wednesday August 8, 2012 at Midnight, PST, and is open to US residents, 18 years old or older. I will notify the winners via email, so make sure you leave one where you can be reached in the comments form.

Disclaimer: I received complimentary products by LuxMobile Group for the purpose of hosting a giveaway.


Easy Male Style Tips: Q&A with Hayden the Entrepreneur

A few years ago, Hayden was doing what millions of other twenty-something Millennials are doing: Scraping by on a series of minimum wage jobs and wanting more.

With no shop or office space, he learned how to fix iPhones and started making house calls, ending up at construction sites and doctors’ offices where he’d fix customers’ phones on the fly while they kept working.

With an innate entrepreneurial fire stoked, Hayden continued to grow his business (, which led him to start another business centered on websites and online marketing.

The confidence of achievement, particularly one that’s on your own terms, has a certain affect on a man or woman. A good one.

Dawes, who previously felt the nerves while in plush, traditional office quarters, has altered little of his personal style in the face of his growing success. It’s a brand of uncontrived hipness telegraphed with a steady gaze, polished, mostly denim ensembles, and unhurried speaking style tinged with pure Virginian, despite his time in South Florida.

So I grilled him for some tips on how to keep one’s personal presentation its most authentic and attractive no matter what rung you might be on your personal success ladder.

In his earliest days: “It was nerve wracking. I had never worked in any kind of setting as a professional. I did not have nice dress clothes. I was showing up at big, baller executive suites. They would be standing over my shoulder watching me do something I had done for, maybe, the third time in my life.”

“I don’t feel uncomfortable around ‘professionals’ anymore. I don’t look like your typical business executive. I have a beard and a laidback wardrobe. In the past I felt uncomfortable but now I’m okay with this because it’s working for me.”

His ‘work uniform’: “A collared shirt and denims. A collared shirt projects professionalism.”

Dressing up: “I’ll add a seersucker suit jacket over a collared shirt if I feel like peacocking. I love seersucker.”

Favorite jeans: “Levi red tag, button-fly 501s. Original cut.”

Beard maintenance: “People think beards are this low-maintenance look. Actually, you have to take care of your beard. They are high-maintenance. I use Pantene Pro-V Brunette Expressions to shampoo it, and Herbal Essence conditioner.”

On cultivating individual style: “When people try to look hip they often end up looking weird. Don’t go out and buy jeans that look worn. Buy a pair of jeans and wear them.”

Shopping tips: “Flea markets, consignment and thrift shops. I like clothes that have a classic or older-era look to them, so these are good places for me. Even if you have the cash for it, a man doesn’t need to spend a ton of cash to have great clothes. I recently scored an Oscar de la Renta sport jacket at a thrift shop that fits me perfectly.”

Motivation tip: “Take $300 dollars out of your account, put it in your wallet–and leave it there. It will motivate you and you will carry yourself differently.”

The best part of success so far….“Not living for other people. Not living in fear.”



Looking Cool In Hot Weather, Being Yourself And Albedo! Q&A with Meteorologist AJ Colby

Who is AJ Colby? Why, he’s the on-air meteorologist for FOX 8 in Cleveland, Ohio, and someone who knows something about the weather and personal presentation. I recently got to ask Mr. Colby some questions about the sun, looking nice in the heat and staying cool when the cameras are a-rolling.

aj colby

Meteorologist AJ Colby

The sun can be really detrimental to one’s skin, so I always advise men and women to be sunscreen addicts, and apply the stuff daily. Is there any truth to the rumor that you don’t need to wear sunscreen on overcast days or during the winter? 

There is no such thing as a “sunless day”. UVA and UVB rays still penetrate clouds and can damage the skin. On cloudy days, although you may not burn as quickly per se, applying the sunscreen anyway would be a good idea if your aim is to prevent skin aging! The sun, not time, is our skin’s greatest adversary. While time causes chronological aging, the sun causes “photo-aging”.

In the winter, especially over a snow-packed surface, the high reflection properties of the snow (also know as “albedo”) can absolutely lead to a sunburn. Just ask any avid winter-weather enthusiast what happens if they “play outside” on a sunny day over a fresh snowpack. Sunscreen is essential anytime you’re outside during the day, especially between 10 am and 3 pm. This is when the sun’s energy is at its strongest here on earth.

What is a good weather style tip for men when it comes to looking collected and put-together in hot or humid weather? 

There’s nothing more annoying than sweating like a pig on a hot, humid, sunny summer day, especially prevalent during the “Dog Days” of summer! That’s the period from July through early August where heat and humidity are at their peak across the United States. Honestly, I use a highly effective product called “Certain Dry” antiperspirant. I would start there, especially if you’re a sweat-aholic like me!

In terms of fashion, if you don’t want those “pit stains” which can be rather unattractive, wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing! Cotton is usually the best, but ironing is no fun for many, so a cotton-poly blend of some kind would be a good runner-up. I like wearing shorts, but I have several friends who do not, so a good pair of Dockers always wears well in sizzling summer heat.

If you stick to light colors, it helps to REFLECT solar energy instead of dark colors, especially black, which actually ABSORB the energy…causing you to cook. That’s no fun.

You’re in front of television cameras daily, and your fans point to your down-to-earth delivery as something they really like about you. What is a good tip for staying relaxed and natural in front of the camera or when talking in front of an audience?  

There’s little question that live TV can cause you to “tense up” a little. Frankly, I have a tougher time with live and in-person audiences because at least I can PRETEND that no one is watching and that takes some of the pressure off.

When I do public appearances, I usually like to bring a big bottle of cold water. That helps to hydrate the vocal chords, not to mention hydrating the body. I sweat so much when I get nervous, so I try to meditate and pray before the event if I have time. I noticed that helps.

Trying to keep my energy level fairly constant and trying to relax while speaking is a wonderful tip. Knowing your material certainly helps. I always try to ask the organizer about the “lay of the land” if I can, so that I can get a better idea of what to expect in the room. Also, I try to know my audience (with whom I’ll be speaking). Anything I can do to alleviate some of the pressure. In my experience, the very BEST thing to do when talking in front of an audience is try to BE MYSELF! There’s nothing more liberating than that. I strive for that everyday.

More of Mr. Colby can be found at AJ


Get the 80/20 Rule Out of Your Closet

The topic: Getting the 80/20 Rule out of Your Closet. Most of us wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. I share tips with WPLX’s Roxanne Stein on how to shop smarter, more strategically, for your wardrobe. The result: A leaner closet containing only those items that make you look and feel lovely–and no more money or time wasted lugging home bags of stuff you’ll never wear.

Recording a Pleasing Voicemail Greeting in a Short Amount of Time



You might be in the market for a new voicemail greeting, but are not into the many, many minutes that it might take to get yours just-so. Before jumping into the rabbit hole of your phone’s voicemail system, getting mired in take after take, hitting delete and record, then delete and record, here are some tips to shorten the process and get to a really pleasing message in the shortest time possible:

  • Write out the message, saying it out loud as you do
  • Keep it simple, cordial and un-cutesy
  •  If you’re stuck, here is a sample script: Hello, this is Nancy Jones. Please leave a message and I’ll return your call as soon as possible. Thank you.
  • Think nice thoughts and smile while you record — pretend you are speaking with a friend
  • Exhale while you say your name
  • Enunciate, speaking each word clearly

Cool Male Move: When Walking, Know Your Place


When walking on the street, the man always walks on the side closest to the street and its traffic. I believe the origins of this have something to do with shielding a lady’s skirts from mud kicked up by passing carriages, and that it makes the linking of arms easier. There are no more carriages around, but the protocol remains, and it’s a male-female nicety that works no matter your relationship.

Many males know about this arrangement, either by instruction or instinct, and will automatically take this position when walking with a woman–or make the switch to reverse places.

I’ve become so used to walking this way, on the inside, that if I happen to be waltzing down the street with a guy it will automatically not feel right if I’m on the outside. To correct positions I’ll usually do a little two-step to switch positions and not say a word.

Practical Advice: Stefano Pilati on Elegance

Breakfast at Tiffany picture

Stefano Pilati is the head of Yves Saint Laurent with some wise words on elegance and how it can be cultivated:

My idea of elegance—and this refers to women as well as men—is that someone is elegant when he or she shows a good knowledge of what fits them, where you can find naturalness and self-esteem. Not showing off. Elegance is the idea of showing an optimistic depiction of oneself, and to lose oneself in the frivolity of style and fashion. 

Read his entire interview with Vibe Magazine at

On another note, the above image is a still from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Ms. Audrey Hepburn is known for her style, which always seemed so simple. And it was. The ballet dancer knew how to dress her body, with uncomplicated silhouettes. Here she is wearing a simple boatneck top, denim pants and a turban.

Whether wearing this, or something more dressed, her style always came from her manner, which was graceful and demure. An elegant, uncluttered voice. A girlish, slightly mysterious smile. And the way she walked–proud and strong, and a bit like a cat. There is a reason that Breakfast at Tiffany’s is filled with long- and medium-shots of her walking in the streets.

I came across a quote from Britney Spears, something about how she felt that she was Audrey Hepburn in a past life. Blasphemy, I thought.

Greg’s Best Valentine’s Day Ever

boring valentine's day gifts


I know a man named Greg. He is a man who has been on Earth for a fair number of years; I’ll guess around 50. He is a nice, decent guy who has known his share of women. The best Valentine’s Day he ever had happened when he was a teenager.

Here’s how it goes.

He asked a girl that he really liked out on a date for Valentine’s Day. He saved his money to take her to the grooviest place in San Diego. He got a new suit.

A few hours before their date he was getting swank in said new suit. A bouquet of flowers that he had picked for her were in the refrigerator. Then he got a call.

It was his boss, demanding that he deliver some furniture. At that point in his life Greg was in no position to say no. He got in his work clothes and drove to his date’s house in the company’s work truck with the flowers. His date answered the door. Her name was Debbie and she was dressed to go out. He apologetically told her about his fix. She told him to wait in the truck.

A few minutes later she climbed into the truck’s passenger seat. She was wearing a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and sneakers. “Let’s go,” she said with a smile.

They drove up to Los Angeles and delivered the furniture. During the drive they talked, listened to Led Zeppelin and laughed a bunch.

When they got back to San Diego around two in the morning, they got some fast food and drove out to the beach. They sat on the tailgate, ate their delectable paper-bag feast and talked and laughed some more.

It was, hands down, Greg’s best Valentine’s Day ever. Why? It was an experience. It was a great, romantic experience filled with connection and happiness and laughter. And experienced by two people who enjoyed one another. Oh, and she did think the flowers were nice.

Now, I like a puffy teddy bear as much as the next guy, but would trade a herd of them for five minutes of a Debbie-and-Greg kind of date, the likes of which I truly hope you experience this Valentine’s Day.

The Fine Habit of Holding Doors

I’m a huge fan of door-holding for a few reasons. It’s a potent and quick way to lift the civility of a place. It’s a fine way to communicate who you are (a lady or gentleman), and it bestows a nice and immediate positive feeling to both holder and recipient. There’s really no reason to not hold doors, and often.


*If someone in front of you stops to hold open the door for you before entering an establishment, do pause once inside to give them the opportunity to step ahead and get in line. In other words, do not take this opportunity to get in line in front of the person who was in front of you, but stepped aside to open the door.

*Be democratic in your door holding. I hold open the doors for young and old, women or men. Probably pets, too.

*Holding doors, on top of their above-mentioned rewards, is an investment in your community. It  is one of those public customs that is excellent to establish because it quickly gives others a sense of the place. I may be passing through, but if I happen to be in an area where I observe a lot of door holding, I know it’s a place that I’d probably like to visit again. Like attracts like. Conversely, mean or crass people are less likely to feel comfortable and stick around a community of nice, civil folks.

So go forth and hold doors, civility crusader. And don’t be discouraged if some recipients are oblivious to your nice gesture. Unfortunately, in some corners door-holding is so foreign that people just don’t know what to do.

Q&A with Jon Gordon: Gratitude is Glamorous

Jon Gordon is an author, consultant and speaker who does some very good work, helping individuals and organizations become more positive and productive. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions on how one can extinguish the unbecoming and not glamorous habit of complaining. (I am not immune.)

Here I ask some questions, and he offers some succinct, to the point solutions:

One of your many books, The No Complaining Rule, deals with ways that readers can “battle against individual and organizational negativity.” I’ve noticed that incessant complaining, the type that comes off like a lifestyle rather than a sometimes airing of grievances, doesn’t seem to serve the complainer on any psychological level, nor does it present that person in their most attractive light to others.

There is something magnetic, ebullient even, about a positive person, so leading a complaining “lifestyle” can really hurt a guy or girl when it comes to the quality of his or her social, professional and romantic life. What is one of your favorite, most useful strategies when it comes to helping a man or woman wean themselves from a complaining habit or “lifestyle”?

JG: My favorite strategy is the “get to” instead of “have to” technique. Instead of focusing on what you have to do focus on what you get to do. When you change have to to get to you change a complaining voice into an appreciative heart.

Much of your work seems to focus on how people and organizations can be more productive and fulfilled as a result of positive energy. To what extent do you think positive energy can be instilled in an individual? Do you think some people are “born with it” while, for others, it must be consciously cultivated?

JG: Yes some people are born naturally more positive. Research shows this. But the research also shows that we can become more positive by cultivating it.

Okay, personal trivia time. Is there anything in particular that gives Jon Gordon a lift in those moments when your cup of positive energy does not feel as full as usual?

JG: Yes. A Thank You walk. While I’m walking I practice gratitude and pray. Instead of worrying I let go and let God energize me.


Jon Gordon’s website is

Darn that Sexual Overperception Bias

An adaptation to the "psychological tic in their machinery."

A big difference between the girls and the guys, responsible for many an awkward, uncomfortable (or worse) moment among strangers in public, has to do with what a female does–and what a male thinks she means when she does.

You the girl, you the woman, are in public. You happen to gaze somewhere, thinking of nothing in particular. You may or may not have a pleasant look on your face, or even a full-blown smile. Alas, you happened to look in the direction of a stranger who happens to be male. You look away, quickly. The next thing you know, you are being cruised, heavily. The stranger is staring at you with saucy, hopeful eyes.

“Oh no,” you think. “I didn’t mean that.”

Variants of this scenario happen all over the place, and the one mentioned above happens to be one of the more benign variety. Maybe you politely responded to a stranger’s “helloin a line at a coffee shop, or his request for directions or the time or whatever. The next thing you know, the dude has pulled up a chair, is telling you the story of his life, asking for your phone number. In short, a stranger is imposing an awkward social burden on you that you neither asked for nor want.

If you are a woman, this has most likely happened to you on more than one occasion, prompting you to ask yourself or others: “How does that mean I’m interested?”

"It's obvious, she totally wants me." (Sexual overperception bias in action.)

Sexual overperception bias

Pulling from evolutionary theory gives us a possible explanation on this, something called sexual overperception bias, or why, way too often, guys think that a woman is hitting on them when she is merely being friendly, or even quasi-cordial. Or human. Or just looking in their general direction at nothing and no one in particular. Or breathing.

Evolutionary psychologist David Buss explains that men are more likely to infer sexual interest when there is none due to “the costs of failing to pick up on a potential mating opportunity.”¹ Today’s men, the descendants of men who successfully picked up on a mating opportunity, have a hardwired desire, evolved over time, to do the same, resulting in a higher likelihood of assuming much about nothing at all.

According to Buss: “For males it is better to err on the side of over-inferring sexual interest, even if you’re going to be wrong some time, then in under-inferring it and missing out on potential sexual opportunities.”² These men will make mistakes, but they will also maximize successfully acting on sexual opportunities that do exist.

According to Buss, this is not a conscious calculation in the male mind. Rather, he describes it as “a psychological tic in their machinery.”³ A tic that has settled in over deep evolutionary time.

Men: Evolving past the tic

This explanation for why men are prone to making this social miscalculation does not let guys off the hook.

Knowing about this tic means that a male can pause and use reason to override it as needed. In other words, an awareness of this aspect of your mating psychology gives you an advantage, to change behavior that doesn’t serve your life and might be annoying as hell to others.

You want your mating efforts to be directed at women who are interested. And an innate tendency to over-perceive sexual interest when none exists means that you are going to be off sometimes. Okay, some of you will be off more than some of the time. Thinking a gal has designs on you when she really just asked you the time because she forgot her watch and you happen to be standing next to her on the street. Thinking that a casual smile means “Let’s hit the hay.” And so forth.

Battle the tic by trying, to the best of your ability, to objectively assess a male-female scenario for what it is. If it helps, imagine watching the situation as a detached observer and decode it to the best of your ability. If you feel your social judgement in this area is wanting, improve it by seeking the advice of women and men whose judgement and insight you think is solid.

I’d hate for this to be construed to mean that a man should not make any social overtures toward the opposite sex whatsoever, particularly since several fine gentlemen friends have informed me that uncertainty about a woman’s interest, or the threat of appearing foolish or embarrassing or offensive has kept them from striking up or continuing conversations, or even approaching a woman who they thought was interested. My advice is that such a social miscalculation will never be a big deal provided the approach is polite and low-key.

Women: Adapting to the tic

Women, knowing that sexual overperception bias exists, must unfortunately adapt to the fact that males may misinterpret mere politeness or civility. (I don’t think I actually had to tell you that.)

I fought against this reality for many moons. I’m inclined, with some editing, to look at a room full of strangers as a room full of friendly acquaintances whom I haven’t met, and by default am as friendly to male strangers as female strangers. Or, I was. I insisted on my gender-neutral social ways for too long, much to my own discomfort and detriment, time and again.

On the eve of lifting my white flag to reality, a male friend whose judgement I trust said one of those things that sticks with you because it squares so perfectly with a fresh mental verdict on an issue you’ve been wrestling with forever: “Constance, if you speak to a man you don’t know he will most likely think you are interested in him.”

Ding, ding. Lesson finally learned. These days, if I feel like beaming at a random stranger (not a bad practice to make viral) or engaging in a spot of conversation while waiting in a line, chances are the stranger will be a fellow member of the fairer sex.

At the heart of evolutionary theory is the idea of adaptation. That humans will continue to evolve, to change, in ways that bring them closer to pleasure and further from pain. Males adapting to the tic means relying on reason to suss out bonafide female interest. Women adapting to the tic means always negotiating that line between civility and a warding off of the social burden mentioned earlier.

Ah, adaptation.

¹²³Source: Psych Files. “Episode 98: Evolutionary Psychology – An Interview with Dr. David Buss” June 20th, 2009.


The Art & Style of the No-Shoe Home

no shoe house slippers A few years ago I happened to catch a doctor on the radio who was railing passionately about the evils of wearing outdoor shoes in the home. By traipsing through your home in fresh-from-the-street shoes, you were effectively transferring any and all types of filth—gum, dirt, oil, spit, other things—from the street into your personal space, which really should really be kept as pure as possible, dirtwise and vibewise.

He convinced me. I’ve been a practitioner of the no-shoe domicile for a while and wouldn’t dream of going back to having that level of grossness imported inside again. Levels of grossness of course, being relative to where you live. Cape Cod; not so bad, maybe some sand or a spot of soil. Manhattan or Downtown Los Angeles; unprintable.

I’ve noticed that in the U.S. it is increasingly common to visit homes that are no-shoe homes. That is, you leave your shoes at the door for all the reasons your hosts might desire: the basic hygiene argument outlined above, heels carving up a soft wood floor, an addiction to white shag carpets, and so forth.

Here are a few ways to gracefully adapt to or advocate a no-shoe house, either as a guest or host:

-Ask. After stepping into the entrance or foyer of someone’s home, ask if they prefer for you to remove your shoes. If they run a no-shoe house, they’ll love you. On a related note, recently I’ve had the fortune of befriending several lovely women of Japanese descent, who tell me that in Japan it is standard for a guest to remove his or her shoes before stepping into the main area of the house. Always.

-Offer House Shoes. As host of a no-shoe house, it is wise to keep a few pairs of house shoes, slides or slippers on hand to offer guests who might not want to walk around barefoot or in their socks. Keep at least two sizes on hand, one that will fit men and one for females. A great bachelor buddy of mine offers female visitors their choice from a basket filled with new, silken mules in a range of sizes, a gift to take home if they wish. I’ve never seen the basket he offers males, but I’m sure it’s equally as class. If you’re interested in this route, you can get house slippers in small lots, in an array of sizes, on ebay or even at discount and stores specializing in imported goods.


khussa slippers

Khussa Shoes







-BYOS, or Bring Your Own Slippers. Particularly if you’re going to be staying overnight or longer at someone’s home, and don’t feel comfortable mincing around the dining room in your bunny ear slippers (please don’t), bring a pair of grown up house shoes, flip-flops or slides to wear around the house. I have a totable pair that fit in almost any purse, take up nearly nil room in luggage and work with almost any ensemble, stylewise. Personalize yours if you wish by wearing an exotic or monogrammed pair.

For women. I love dainty leather Khussa slippers and shoes, which are easy to slide in your overnight bag, ornate and pretty. They are easy to carry with you and can be slipped on quickly. They are typically hand made, leather and beaded, with flat leather soles that are easy on any floor. You can also wear them on the plane if you wish. And when you tire of them, they can become street shoes, though I’d slip an insole in them for comfort.

  delicate soles

 Alternately, indulge in the totable or roll-up flat phenomenon that has made its way into the market the last few seasons and buy a pair of these sassy, take-it-with-you shoes, which have practical glamour implications far beyond the home, such as at the office or in the car. Though I have not personally tried any of these, I am aware of Fast Flats by Dr. Scholl’s (approximately $8-10), Delicate Soles (about $16) and Rollasole (about $20), though there are many other makers of these.

For men. Offer the menfolk a pair of cool indoor footwear that won’t embarrass them, either in the form of slides or house slippers. Admittedly this is a taller order than finding indoor footwear for women, since there are fewer options for men. You might want to offer something with a cool motif or keep it basic with a few pairs of rubber Adidas slides, which you can get for about $20 a pair and are easy to wash and reuse for other guests.

Adidas slides


Lastly, the interesting blog Shoes Off at the Door Please lists the plusses of the no-shoe house. I happen to like #25: “Psychologically, removing your shoes helps you to enter a frame of mind where you keep your everyday troubles outside your home.” Hear, hear.

Hear, Hear: Myrna Loy On Individuality & The State of Screen Sex

Myrna Loy

The elegant and sassy Myrna Loy


“I admire some of the people on the screen today, but most of them look like everybody else. In our day we had individuality. Pictures were more sophisticated. All this nudity is too excessive and it is getting very boring. It will be a shame if it upsets people so much that it brings on the need for censorship. I hate censorship. In the cinema there’s no mystery. No privacy. And no sex, either. Most of the sex I’ve seen on the screen looks like an expression of hostility towards sex.”  –Myrna Loy (1905-1993), speaking in the late 1960’s

She’s right. Still. About everything.

PS. If you’re looking for a nice film, might I recommend The Thin Man (1934), starring Myrna Loy and William Powell. One of the most refreshing things about this and other movies from that time, something that has been nearly extinguished from the popular culture scene since about the mid-1960’s, is the display of a relationship dynamic between a man and a woman that is filled with romance, dignity and positive regard.

Saloon Etiquette & Alone At A Bar


joe brooke_next door lounge

Joe Brooke from Next Door Lounge in Hollywood. Photo by Rachel Burkons

The following guidelines come from an insider, Joe Brooke, who is the head bartender at Next Door Lounge in Hollywood. Interviewed in September 2011’s issue of beverage journal The Tasting Panel, Joe shared some of his on-the-job pet peeves.

I thought I’d share three of them, chosen because I presume they are universal don’ts among bar staff, and because they underscore some basic do’s of bar and lounge etiquette:

– People who take it upon themselves to pick their own garnish out of my trays. It’s rude.

– Impatient people. The worst is when we’re super busy and they see how hard I’m working–and they’re impatient anyway. 

– Guests who leave bags on the bar. You’re taking up precious space. 

On a different but related note, I’ve long cautioned the lone gal against sitting at a bar by herself, my reasoning being a mix of tradition and pragmatism: A woman sitting at a bar alone makes her prey, a green light, for the worst kind of pests imaginable, even if the place is super class. And there are few of us who want to be pestered or annoyed or insulted when we go out. I recommend toting along one, or, better yet, two friends to act as pest buffers if you’re truly yearning to sit at the bar.

There are a few women I’ve known who can pull it off, sitting at a bar alone, and they tend to be gals with strong, pest-repellant personalities who become fast pals with the bartender. Such a woman, a buddy of mine, who travels a lot for business says she hates to be holed up in her hotel room each night, so she will go to the hotel lounge to dine at the bar when she feels like it, but makes sure she clears out by early evening. She adds that she does this only at hotels where there is the assumption that the menfolk will not act like outrageous gnomes. (I had heard a rumor that a hotel chain, popular with business travelers, was toying with the idea of establishing a ladies-only lounge to accommodate female business travelers. Smart.)

Bottom line: As a woman you enjoy every last right as a man when it comes to sitting at a bar and spacing out with your thoughts and a glass of good scotch, but you’ll have a much better time of it, trust me, if you take a seat at a nearby table instead.

Forever And Always

september 11 forever and always

On The Mood-Manner-Glamour Connection: Sophia Loren

sophia loren picture

As you may have suspected, Ms. Loren’s longevity and master glamour status are due to elements beyond her sculpture of a face and figure. Yes, she is disciplined and smart in maintaining her presentation and dressing her body to its best–but it’s really her attitude and spirit that tie up the package so beautifully.

“I always wake up early and jump out of bed – sometimes not wanting to, because one can always find an alibi not to exercise – and then I take a walk for an hour. And as I walk round the park I always think, “Maybe round the corner I am going to find something beautiful.” I always think positively. It is very rare that you find me in a mood that is sad or melancholic.’” –Sophia Loren, quoted in the U.K.’s Daily Mail

6 Sassy Late-Summer Dates To Go On Now

picnic on a hill

Not so fast. Summer is not over. Not yet. However, if you think of Summer in terms of a June-July-August trio, we are fast approaching the end of the ball. To that end, I know there are some things that you want to do, some things you planned to do, but have not done, because you kept saying to yourself: Hey, Summer just got here! I’ve got plenty to time. 

Indeed, in an eyeblink you will be saying: What the heck happened to Summer? Where did the Summer go? What happened? Resist the sleepwalk through the remains of the season, and go out there and grab some summer pleasure, and stat.

Here are some sassy seasonal dates you may not have thought of. The nice thing about them is they don’t necessarily require a girlfriend or boyfriend or spouse by your side. You can engage in any of these six outings solo or with a friend or acquaintance or person who is, as of yet, completely undefinable:

  • An afternoon or evening of skating. The ice or roller type. Fall down laughing and dine at the luxurious snack bar. A Slushie and a hot dog. Nachos, milady?
  • A university or college arts event. If there’s even so much as a community college in your area, discover their areas of strengths and tune in to their calendar of events. The final summer concerts, outdoor film series, plays or events will all be happening during the next couple of weeks–and sometimes they are the highlight of the season.
  • A shaker of martinis and it’s cocktail hour aux deux. Sit on the porch, walk to a nearby park or watch the stars from up on the roof.
  • A night at the museum. There are few cities, towns or hamlets that don’t have at least one museum. Typically there is one night that the museum stays open later than usual. Find that night. Park your car a handful of blocks away and stroll to the museum. Find a cafe or wine bar to go to afterwards, and have a bit of whatever floats your boat. The weirder or more obscure the museum, the better.
  • An exotic dining outing. Go to your town’s Ethiopian Row or Thai Town or Chinatown or Little Tokyo or Little Italy and dig in. In college my buddies and I would regularly go our favorite Indian restaurant in West Philadelphia where we would eat delightful samosas and chicken tikka masala and engage in marathon debates.
  • A picnic on a hill somewhere. Last week I was at a place that looked like the picture above. Actually it was the place exactly. An absolutely civilized and wholesome looking young man drove up in his car. He got out and opened the door for his lady friend, a demure doll in a white sundress who was the spitting image of a young Natalie Wood. She had a picnic basket in her hand. He got his guitar out of the back seat, and they set up on a grassy patch under a tree and overlooking the ocean, all smiles. It was as if someone was shooting a video for young men on how to plan a creative date and how to behave while on one.

The Great Voice & Looks Mismatch

Voice and looks don't match

Have you ever met a voice that didn’t fit? You didn’t know what the man or woman looked like since you only spoke on the phone, but you sure liked what you heard. And your mental image of who they were, or hoped that they were, was greatly imagined by that lovely, resonant voice of theirs. And you expected, assumed or hoped there’d be a match in terms of appearance.

And there wasn’t. Not by a long shot. That Lauren Bacall voice belonged to a gal whose appearance was anything but. And that clear, assured male voice that made you want to do a little jig in your living room belonged to a scraggly prepubescent in his 30’s with a grubby baseball hat on backwards for extra measure.

So, what happens when there is a gap in one’s physical and vocal attractiveness? A study in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, which is truly a hot read, finds that when a person has an attractive voice and a not-so attractive physical appearance, this discrepancy creates disappointment in the person beholding the physically unattractive person with the hot voice.

Not just your basic disappointment, either. Pairing an attractive channel (voice) next to an unattractive one (appearance) moved the impression of the person in a more negative direction than if the person simply had a voice and appearance that were equally matched in terms of attractiveness.

Sidebar: A good friend “fell in love on the phone” with a guy. Never saw a picture of him. When she went to meet him for the first time, all jittery and happy with the prospect of standing face to face with her phone-line dreamboat, she said that she almost uttered, “Oh, no” out loud, so much did he look like a hobo. She, being a girl, had spent about two hours getting ready and looked like anything but. He was thrilled, she was not. They stayed friends.

Since I’m known to dispel information on how to make your impression its most optimum, I say do a little information-gathering on the extent that your voice matches your physical appearance. And where there are gaps, close them tight.

  • Beautiful voice? Good for you. Make sure your appearance is just as pleasing. And if you don’t think it is, then get Practical Glamour and read it from cover to cover and follow all of the instructions and it will be. (That was easy.)
  • Attractive appearance and not-so-much in the voice category? Change it. This is one of the easiest areas to change and its impact on your life will be significant. I am tempted to write a volume right here and now on the matter. I do touch on the basics in my book, but if you are interested in a major vocal redo I recommend casting around for information from a speech therapist, vocal coach or the like.

Source: Zuckerman, Mirion and Sinicropi, Veronica (2011). When Physical and Vocal Attractiveness Differ: Effects on Favorability of Interpersonal Impressions. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 35(2): 75-86.

The Beauty of the Cowgirl

For me, seeing a genuine bona fide cowboy or girl is along the lines of seeing a Martian. I was raised far from cowboy country and I don’t have a speck of cowgirl DNA in my being. Recently I had the distinct pleasure of being around several, and found that there is a unique and singular glamour about the cowgirl.

For one, they spend time outdoors. A lot of time. So much that every inch of their face, style and body reflects it, cowgirl or boy, whether it’s in the form of deeply tanned skin, dusty boots or strong build. A quick way to tell a real-deal cowgirl or boy from the urban variety is in their movements, strong and purposeful and unhurried all at once. That, and a glance at their hands. The hands of the real deal are muscular and constantly being used to tie something or grasp something or direct something. They are typically thick, strong and sinewy and lined. Like the face, there is a lot of authenticity in the hands of the cowgirl or boy.

The life of the cowboy or cowgirl is not an easy one, nonetheless there is a freshness and satisfaction that I see in their eyes and faces that I don’t see in a lot of other people. Here’s the thing: the cowgirl works her tail off but does not look worn; she looks refreshed and alert. The people I see who look the most worn or fatigued by life are those with deep circles and paunches and unhealthy skin who spend too much time indoors or in cars or staring at computer screens and eating too much sugar.

cowgirl_beauty_natural_jackson hole

Cathy, pictured here, is a real cowgirl who is also one of the most beautiful women I’ve seen in a while. She ropes and calves and breaks horses and does many other things along these lines, starting from when the sun is not yet up until it sets, and in places like North Dakota in the snow.

When I asked her for a glamour secret or two that I could share, she blushed and said she doesn’t do anything special on the looks front. She did say that she let her natural hair color come in, a strong silver that goes beautifully with her deeply tanned skin and sparkling blue eyes.

I figured that ultimately it is her projection of strong, physical energy and joie de vivre that really wraps up her lovely figure and face. So, the beauty of the cowgirl essentially has to do with these nuggets:

  • Be authentic to who you are.
  • Spend a lot of time outdoors breathing fresh air and engaging in vigorous and purposeful activities.

It seems that, if you are a cowgirl or boy, it is because of a calling and one that rules out the option of doing other, non-cowboy things with your life like sitting in heels and a skirt at a desk, or knotting a tie around your neck in a condo somewhere each morning. A cowboy told me that once he tried to sell cable from an office in San Diego and lasted only a week. Four days, actually.

I’ll save a discussion on cowboy etiquette for another day. Suffice it to say, I’m convinced that all is not lost on the civility front as long as cowboys remain in our great nation.

Practical Presentation: Recast Your Emotions


My input on cultivating star-like confidence appeared in a recent issue of Woman’s World Magazine. The piece “Turn on Your Confidence and Be the Star of Your Own Life” by Alison Bell contains some great nuggets like:

  • Re-write your mental lines. Author Mick Berry says that performers who manage stage fright well do the following: Before heading onstage, instead of telling themselves, ‘I must do well,’ they said, ‘I want to do well.’ This simple change in wording takes off a lot of pressure, so ‘you’ll feel and perform better,’ he explains.
  • My tip on using your emotional energy: “Actors know that some of our most basic emotional responses can be turned into solid gold onstage. Marilyn Monroe reported that one of her directors helped her with performance anxiety by telling her to use it!”  To translate your tension into positive energy, tell yourself “I will use this nervousness to give my speech or presentation extra energy.”


I’ve liked Woman’s World Magazine forever. Though probably not considered the most chic or glossy book on the block, it’s a great grocery line weekly that imparts a heap of practical and usable information each week, and is beautifully devoid of celebrities bending over in their swimsuits.

Happy Birthday, Miss Monroe

Today is the first day of June and also, if she were alive, the 85th birthday of Marilyn Monroe.

marilyn monroe with horse Born in Los Angeles in 1926 and reared in a series of foster homes, Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortenson, managed to cling to her unique and beautiful spirit, and manifest it outward, in person and on screen.

The young Norma Jean was a master of practical glamour: she studied herself, then optimized her face, figure and movements to realize and communicate the persona of Marilyn, and she did this with few resources. She jogged in the streets to maintain her figure well before it was a trend, she studied anatomy charts and even lobbed off a bit of the heel of one of her pumps to enhance her sensual sway. Good move, for her walk got her a bit part in a Marx Brothers movie (Love Happy) where she was showcased simply walking across the screen, an appearance that got her a mention in Louella Parsons’ high profile gossip column and caught the eye of her future agent.

Much has been written about Marilyn Monroe as a star and a woman, but the most on-target analysis I have ever read comes from Ayn Rand, who wrote the commentary “Marilyn Monroe: Through Your Most Grievous Fault” two weeks after Marilyn’s death on August 5, 1962. Below is an excerpt:

If there ever was a victim of society, Marilyn Monroe was that victim–of a society that professes dedication to the relief of the suffering, but kills the joyous.

None of the objects of the humanitarians’ tender solicitude, the juvenile delinquents, could have had so sordid and horrifying a childhood as did Marilyn Monroe.

To survive it and to preserve the kind of spirit she projected on the screen–the radiantly benevolent sense of life, which cannot be faked–was an almost inconceivable psychological achievement that required a heroism of the highest order. Whatever scars her past had left were insignificant by comparison.

She preserved her vision of life through a nightmare struggle, fighting her way to the top. What broke her was the discovery, at the top, of as sordid an evil as the one she had left behind–worse, perhaps, because incomprehensible. She had expected to reach the sunlight; she found, instead, a limitless swamp of malice.

It was a malice of a very special kind. If you want to see her groping struggle to understand it, read the magnificent article in the August 17, 1962, issue of Life magazine. It is not actually an article, it is a verbatim transcript of her own words–and the most tragically revealing document published in many years. It is a cry for help, which came too late to be answered.

“When you’re famous, you kind of run into human nature in a raw kind of way,” she said. “It stirs up envy, fame does. People you run into feel that, well, who is she–who does she think she is, Marilyn Monroe? They feel fame gives them some kind of privilege to walk up to you and say anything to you, you know, of any kind of nature–and it won’t hurt your feelings–like it’s happening to your clothing. . . . I don’t understand why people aren’t a little more generous with each other. I don’t like to say this, but I’m afraid there is a lot of envy in this business.”

“Envy” is the only name she could find for the monstrous thing she faced, but it was much worse than envy: it was the profound hatred of life, of success and of all human values, felt by a certain kind of mediocrity–the kind who feels pleasure on hearing about a stranger’s misfortune. It was hatred of the good for being the good–hatred of ability, of beauty, of honesty, of earnestness, of achievement and, above all, of human joy.

Read the entire piece here.

*More Marilyn can be found here, in a 6-photo slideshow of seldom-seen photos taken by a LIFE photographer. They show a young Marilyn who, despite being in studio starlet training mode, nonetheless appeared to be every bit the blossomed star.

Practical Romance: The Case For Falling In Love By Mari Ruti

And what a case she makes. Mari Ruti, author of the new book The Case For Falling In Love reminds us of a central virtue of the thing: falling in love (and even having your heart broken) can prompt you, no, force you, to grow in profound ways. In other words, you are better for having loved and lost than for having never loved in the first place.

And when you do: Take the lesson and exploit it positively to the hilt for the betterment of knowing who you are and what makes you tick. In other words, your experiences in romantic love can be a potent master class all about you.

Store book shelves are packed with relationship books, an uneven supply quality to meet a human demand that never seems to waver. A need to understand what the hell is going on…with you, the other person, why they don’t like you, love you, want you, lust you, call you, and on. And on.

The central value of this one, though, is how well Ruti brings the most challenging landscapes of romantic love back to their basics. Bitter with the sweet basics. Rolled-back and untangled, potent basics that bring relief because they are so certain. These are, after all, the logical conclusions that once upon a time, a step or two into your romantic history, you computed quickly and surely. Since then, paved over by justifications and twists and guesses, they’ve become harder to come by.

If you keep the book around the house, I suspect it will become dog-eared from random and impromptu readings. And its confident message to be particularly valuable to those about to enter the dating and relationship world either for the first time, or for the first time in a long time.

The Case for Falling in Love (Sourcebooks Casablanca, $21.99) by Mari Ruti, Phd is available on Amazon and probably at many a fine bookstore in your area.

From the author’s list of “potent anti-rules,” a few of my favorites:

  • A love failure is not a life failure.
  • Stop running after guys who don’t want you. I’ll add a vice versa for the men in the audience: stop running after girls who aren’t over the moon to be standing by your side.
  • Stop being afraid to have needs and vulnerabilities.
  • Stop manipulating the guy you love. For this, Ruti advises the following: If you need a project, treat your life like a work of art. Here, here.

Practical Enchantment


Guy Kawasaki is the former chief evangelist of Apple, amongst other things. In his latest book Enchantment, The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions (Portfolio/Penguin) he gives an accessible tie-together of some of the most popular persuasion techniques and how you might apply them positively to your life, business or creative endeavors.

The author defines enchantment as “the process of delighting people with a product, service, organization, or idea.” Its outcome: “voluntary and long-lasting support that is mutually beneficial.” If not a purveyor of such things, at the very least a working knowledge of how these techniques go to work on human psychology is crucial for not getting hoodwinked or drawn in by the smoke and mirrors of such strategies when used negatively.

So how does enchantment relate to glamour? Being glamorous, like being enchanting, is often the result of you at your most authentic and attractive. It comes from culling that thing about you, that only you have–pulling it forth, optimizing it and unfurling it in the light of day, for all to see. And the results!

The first step on the road to enchantment the practical Kawasaki points out, is likeability. He asks: “Has anyone you disliked ever enchanted you?” And to get to likability, he has a few tips to enhance the four factors that create a good impression:

Your Smile: Kawasaki points out that it costs nothing to smile. A non-smile “creates an opening for many interpretations, including grumpiness, aloofness, and anger–none of which helps you enchant people.”

Your Dress: Kawasaki’s recommendation is to “park your ego” and go for “likability–not superiority.” I love that he points out the following: “Underdressing says, ‘I don’t respect you. I’ll dress any way that I please.'”

Your Handshake: He recaps fundamentals like making eye contact, smiling, standing a moderate distance from the other person and holding the handshake for no longer than two to three seconds. Oh, and making sure your hand is “cool, dry, and smooth.”

Your Vocabulary: This factor Kawasaki positions beautifully: “Words are the facial expression of your mind: They communicate your attitude, personality, and perspective.”

Find Enchantment on Amazon, as well as many other places.



The Beauty Of Sleep

Night time is deep, beautiful sleep time

Energy is vitality—and vitality is the stuff that powers the projection of your personal energy. It is far easier to present your best self when you are well rested and your skin, hair, teeth, nails and figure are in their optimum state. When these are not maintained, your attention first and foremost, naturally goes to how tired you feel, or your hangnails, unruly hair, dry skin…

Presenting your most authentic and attractive self to the world on a daily basis takes a certain persistence. And it is hard to persist at anything other than seeking relief when you feel tired or unhealthy. Looking, acting and feeling your most handsome or beautiful takes sleep, and enough of it.

While I know you've felt the drastic difference between getting too little of it and just the right amount, here are some additional nuggets of information on sleep to help goad you to do whatever you can to phase out the time robbers in your life and get a good's night sleep:

  • Sleep deprivation magnifies the effect of alcohol, so if you are tired expect to feel a lot more blitzed than usual when intaking the same amount of alcohol.
  • You will stress out faster and more intensely if you've not had enough sleep, and everyone knows that the gritted-teeth look is not your best.
  • Studies have reported an association between insufficient sleep and high blood pressure (see the previous point).
  • The amount of sleep a person gets influences the symptoms of mental disorders, so blame your tantrum on lack of sleep.
  • Studies suggest that not sleeping enough has a negative effect on the immune system. For example, while rats normally live for two to three years, those deprived of REM sleep survive only about 5 weeks on average. Those rats deprived of all sleep stages live only about 3 weeks. Also, the sleep-deprived rats developed abnormally low body temperatures and sores on their tail and paws.

Positive sleep byproducts include the following:

  • You'll get an A in math, gym and remember everything. Lack of sleep leads to impaired memory, physical performance and reduced ability to carry out math calculations.
  • Sleeping deeply will make you look better. Many of the body's cells show increased production and reduced breakdown of proteins during deep sleep. Since proteins are the building blocks needed for cell growth and for repair of damage from factors like stress and ultraviolet rays.
  • You'll feel and behave better. Activity in parts of the brain that control emotions, decision-making processes, and social interactions is drastically reduced during deep sleep, suggesting that this type of sleep may help people maintain optimal emotional and social functioning while they are awake.

For most adults, 7 to 8 hours a night appears to be the best amount of sleep, although some people may need as few as 5 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day. Women in the first 3 months of pregnancy often need several more hours of sleep than usual.

Note that getting too little sleep creates a "sleep debt," which is much like being overdrawn on a credit card. Sleep is not an area where our bodies learn how to adapt; eventually, your body and mind will insist that you pay it back with some pillow time.

-Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health