Aug 19

How to be a lady in an unchivalrous age

It’s a common misconception that, in order to be a lady, you have to be posh. If you speak poshly, people will tend to assume that you are a lady, but accent doth not necessarily a lady make.  No, being a lady is something to which all women may aspire, regardless of background, class, schooling, and whether or not they attended an all-girls Catholic boarding school.  Just follow these simple steps to help guide you, in a ladylike fashion, through the world of dating’s unchivalrous waters.

Step One: Expressing One’s Opinions

Though being ladylike perhaps suggests a certain girlishness, this is unfounded and untrue. Being a lady is not the same thing as being a nitwit. Ladies have opinions, and plenty of them. They are proud of their opinions – varied, interesting, and likely to be vastly superior to all those around her.  What differentiates a lady from her common counterpart is the way in which she expresses them.

Ladies are assertive.  They are not aggressive and, this is of utmost important, ladies do not swear, nor do they replace rude words with silly euphemisms like fiddle-de-dee. No, though she may feel the urge to utter profanities rising inside her, she channels it into cutting remarks. With a vast array of topics to choose from, there is no need to resort to swear words. Ladies may cast aspersions on all manner of displeasing charactertistics and habits in a man: professional capabilities, sexual prowess, choice of alcoholic beverages, friends, spontaneous loss of sight and hearing at the mere mention of any remotely related to domestics. To save yourself from the temptation to roar expletives which will most likely have no effect whatsoever, compile your own list with put-downs for every little annoyance, no matter how minor it may seem, and keep it handy in your purse.

Nor do ladies shout. Unless you happen to have thrown all aspirations to ladylike behaviour out of the window, along with his belongings, in which case raising one’s voice is unavoidable, one must remember that it is the quality of one’s words and not the volume at which they are spoken that conveys one’s meaning.

Step Two: Style

Contrary to what you may think, if you happen to think it, being ladylike does not mean one is restricted in one’s choice of wardrobe.  It is not necessary to limit oneself to skirts below the knee and blouses that reveal nothing more than a mere hint of one’s decolletage.  The crucial element that every lady must remember is poise.  It is not about what you wear, but about how you wear it.  As a general rule, underwear is preferable, but if you can carry off the risk of exposing your lady bits in a dress slit up to here and down to there, with your posture perfect (a lady never slouches) and your head held high, you will give the impression of self-assurance, a trait indispensable to a lady.  Whether you feel it or not, people will sense a certain superiority about you, whether you are in a state of lusty déshabillée or divine in couture.

Step Three: Indulgence

The lady of yore never indulged more than a a nibble of a biscuit and sip of weak, milky tea with the vicar.  Today’s lady must keep up with the times and, though tea with the vicar may be the highlight of the season, nibbles and sips need not be the extent of her indulgence.  It is one’s manners when indulging, not what one indulges in, that are of importance.  It isn’t necessary to learn which fork is for the amuse-bouche and which spoon for the sorbet.  Unless you have a particular penchant for silverware, it merely takes up space in your head you could be filling with slightly more diverting matters.  All you need do, should you find yourself at table with, say, Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II, is to glance quickly at the other guests and follow their lead.  Be entirely surreptitious or make it look as though you are taking an interest in each member of the party – perhaps use it as an opportunity to introduce yourself to the strapping Lord beside you.  One never knows where such introductions may lead.

Strictly speaking, a lady is never seen to over-indulge, but it might make for a boring time if one adhered strictly to this requirement.  Fortunately, there are ways to preserve one’s ladylike appearance whilst drifting along in a haze of bombay schmint.  Being a lady is based, largely, on projection (of one’s image – crucially, not of one’s stomach contents), so should you wish to indulge till your eyes roll back in your head, you may do so on one proviso: you must, at all times, maintain your poise.  Sip your drink from a teacup if you’d like to conceal it (gin tea parties are, handily, quite in vogue), keep your smile soft and your back straight – wedge yourself between cushions or brace yourself against the side of the taxi, if necessary and, whatever you do, don’t allow your smile to spread into one of those ghastly rictus gapes so common amongst the inebriated.  You will frighten children and make your companion think you’re more interested in biting than bedding him, notions you do not wish to encourage.  If you feel yourself gaping, take a deep breath, close your mouth and give a discrete smile.  Dazzle him with your eyes – not your epiglottis.

Step Four: Going Dutch

In a word, don’t.  This is not a calamitous plunging back into the dark days of pre-feminism.  Au contraire, it is a means by which both to assert your independence and judge the likely generosity of your companion.  Always pay either all of the bill or none of it.  By paying the entire bill, you are demonstrating both your financial independence and your pride.  You are a confident woman of means who does not expect to be patronised or resented for being a burden.  It will also give you a brief glimpse into the ego of your companion: if he regards a woman paying for dinner as an insult to his masculinity, manhood, ego, and entire sense of self, just think how incapable he will be of providing you with the male company you deserve.  The last thing a woman needs – be she a lady or not – is a man likely to mope and whine at the merest pinprick to his ego.  As for paying none of the bill, should your companion be so lacking in generosity that he refuses to pay both your share and his, imagine how he is likely to perform in other areas of his life.  Nobody likes a boring bonk.

Step Five: The Kiss Goodnight

This is a tricky area for a lady to navigate because it is so steeped in social mores that it may feel it is out of one’s control.  At this point, you must remember the assertiveness of a lady – not pushy or arrogant, but sure of her own mind and unafraid to heed its wishes.  Never mind what your companion, the body politic or your mother thinks.  The only concern you should have is for your own wishes.  If you have all the patience of a three-year-old at Christmas, then instead of a chaste kiss on the cheek, open the door and zip upstairs, hopefully with your chap in tow.  If, on the other hand, you believe as some Frenchman once remarked, that the best part of the affair is when one is walking up the stairs to one’s lover’s boudoir, an opinion entirely dependent on whom one is likely to find once one arrives, then wait a little while.  Perhaps not so long that, by the time he may make his stealthy way up the stairs, you’ve had to instal a stair-lift.

I do hope these steps are of help.  They’re guidelines only and need not be adhered to, to the letter.  Feel free to make your own additions. Just remember poise, poise, poise.





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