Dear Hip-Hop: we’re breaking up. And it’s definitely Drake’s fault.

16/11/2015 § 1 Comment

No Drake, you can't have my number.
image via.

**Disclaimer: I’m about to liberally exercise the f-word and talk about sex, which is somewhat out of character for me on here.  If that’s not your thing, I would encourage you to skip to my next post.  No hard feelings.**

Dear Hip-Hop,

What’s good?  I admit it’s been a bit since we’ve spent quality time together, and I’m sorry about that.  There’s just so much music out there and TBH, I’ve been feeling like maybe we’ve drifted apart recently.  And that maybe (PROBABLY) this time its for good.

How did we get to this point?  This new song by Drake, honestly.  You know, “Hotline Bling?”

Yeah, I’m not sure why his phone blings instead of rings either, but that’s not my main concern here.  Neither are the old man dance moves.  First, I want to ask for a bit of clarification as to what Drake is actually upset about in the song.

You used to call me on my cell phone
Late night when you need my love
Call me on my cell phone
Late night when you need my love
And I know when that hotline bling
That can only mean one thing
I know when that hotline bling
That can only mean one thing

Ever since I left the city,
You got a reputation for yourself now
Everybody knows and I feel left out
Girl you got me down, you got me stressed out
‘Cause ever since I left the city,
you started wearing less and goin’ out more
Glasses of champagne out on the dance floor
Hangin’ with some girls I’ve never seen before

Ok, there’s a lot here I want to unpack, but first, is Drake essentially upset because a girl he used to only talk to in the middle of the night — only talk to in order to coordinate sex, mind you, (only mean “one thing”) — is now out on the prowl herself?  Okay.  Okay, great.  So, it’s totally okay for him to only talk to her for sex (in a purely transactional matter), but it’s not okay for her to go out and get in the mix on her own.  And its especially not okay for her to hang out with girls he’s unfamiliar with.  Have I got that straight?

These days, all I do is
Wonder if you bendin’ over backwards for someone else
Wonder if you’re rollin’ up a backwoods for someone else
Doing things I taught you, gettin’ nasty for someone else
You don’t need no one else
You don’t need nobody else, no
Why you never alone
Why you always touching road
Used to always stay at home, be a good girl
You was in a zone, yeah
You should just be yourself
Right now, you’re someone else

And this person she’s “become” – it’s not really herself, because if she was being herself, she would sit at home and wait for Drake to return to town and then be available only to him, right?  Wait, sorry — only available to him in the middle of the night. Because that’s what good girls do?

Ok, glad that’s clear.  My next question is, where does a barney like Drake, who looks like the guy who would offer to do your Algebra 2 homework JUST to get your phone number, exactly get off?  I’m supposed to believe he has so much swag he’s owed this girl’s sexual freedom?  Or even receive a vote on how she should live her life?  GTFOH.  For real.

Hip-hop, this is why we are breaking up.  You used to be exciting.  You used to be soulful.  You used to be angry.  Now, you’re just….Drake-ified.  And the sexist tropes you continue to trot out make it really hard to even casually listen to you.

It’s because your words have power, even if the mouthpieces are whack as hell.  Hip-hop, think of all the people listening to you on the subway, in the car, at home.  Think of a generation of men repeating over and over to themselves that a girl isn’t a good girl unless she stays home and waits to service me sexually, on my terms.  Think of a generation of women, singing along, quasi-endorsing that this is an okay way for men to think about their sexuality.  Because when you say things, either out loud or in your mind, they affect you — your thoughts, your mood, your state of well being.  It’s not a blatant indoctrination, but it just keeps creeping in and I really think it’s affecting the way that we relate to each other, as human beings.

Now, I hear your protestations, hip-hop.  Drake isn’t all that bad!  He was on Degrassi Jr High!  He had a cute Bar Mitzvah video!  And his song isn’t that sexist!  Maybe he also realizes he is really REALLY lame and maybe there was more to the relationship than we are hearing in the song!

Okay, well, as a bookend, let’s take the other hip-hop/r&b artist in the top 5 this week on the Billboard Hot 100: The Weeknd, and his song The Hills.

I only call you when it’s half past five
The only time that I’ll be by your side
I only love it when you touch me, not feel me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me, yeah
I only fuck you when it’s half past five
The only time I’d ever call you mine
I only love it when you touch me, not feel me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me, babe

I’mma let you know and keep it simple
Tryna keep it up don’t seem so simple
I just fucked two bitches ‘fore I saw you
And you gon’ have to do it at my tempo
Always tryna send me off to rehab
Drugs started feelin’ like it’s decaf
I’m just tryna live life for the moment
And all these motherfuckers want a relapse

Full confession: yes hip-hop, I love the music the Weeknd makes — THE MUSIC.  It’s dramatic and interesting and it makes me feel like I either want to punch someone in the face or rip all their clothes off.  I fully appreciate the novel quality of his art.  It really does makes me feel something.

But these lyrics?  I can’t.  I’ve seen concert footage of Abel (The Weeknd’s government name) leading hundreds of people screaming about how they will only be calling at 5:30am, and it makes me sad.  It makes me sad to think about people walking around humming the hook — which is catchy as hell, I admit — and what that might be doing to the way they feel about their relationships.  And I’m a reasonably confident, self-assured adult — can you imagine what these words are doing to younger, more malleable minds?  Are you surprised there are sexting rings in high schools?  You shouldn’t be.  You’re only supposed to touch me, not feel me.

But wait, I hear you complaining hip-hop: isn’t this what the modern age of relationships is?  Isn’t it actually so evolved of us to liberate sex from commitment and empower everyone to do whatever we want and hook up with people at all hours of the night?  Sorry, I’m really skeptical.  While it’s a modern notion to treat sex and relationships more casually, I’d argue it’s probably less evolved.  A lot of people are unhappy, unsure and lonely — even if they are having A LOT of sex.  We haven’t figured out how to feel about these arrangements — much less how to feel GOOD about them, and so we get songs from Drake about being upset some girl isn’t willing to exclusively give him…casual sex? What?

Hip-hop, I am tired of you using sex as a commodity.  A commodity that men own and women spitefully keep from them.  A commodity that men are owed and should receive whenever they decide they want it, however they want it.  A commodity that when spent by women is magically transformed into something slutty.  How are we supposed to teach our little girls to feel good about sex — when sex is the safest and most accessible it’s ever been in human history — when Future is writing bars like “I just fucked your bitch in some Gucci flip flops”? (Side note: Which is a 10-word masterpiece of materialistic, emasculating, slut-shaming misogyny, when you think about it.) (Side note to the side note: Future, do you need a hug?)  The point is, if we keep treating sex like it’s nothing, how equipped are we to handle it when it is something?

You’ve let me down, hip-hop.  You’ve grown fat and lazy and you make me feel rotten.  Where are your songs about actually connecting with someone?  About love?  About respect?  About ANYTHING remotely happy?  Why, hip-hop, have you allowed yourself to become so one-dimensional?  And where the hell did Common go?  And while the circumstances I just described aren’t entirely your fault, hip-hop, this is a boundary I can easily draw for myself.

So, it is with regret (?) that I inform you that we are breaking up, hip-hop.  It’s not me, it’s you.

Well, it’s you and Drake.

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Quite Continental Charm School: Day 13 – Watch Screwball Comedies

23/02/2013 § Leave a comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: Watch Screwball ComediesKatharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Baby in Bringing Up Baby, 1938.

Editor’s Note: I’m very excited to introduce today’s guest speaker!  Please meet Michele, the brilliant writer behind the blog Tales of a Madcap Heiress, a witty compendium of silver screen stars, arty pursuits, and her experiences living in New York City.  I’m sure as soon as you lay eyes on Michele’s blog you’ll understand how pleased I was to discover it.  While I like to think that my classic film smarts are pretty good, I am constantly bowled over (and educated!) by this lady’s encyclopedic film knowledge and I couldn’t have been happier when she suggested today’s topic…and then she topped herself by sending me the picture you see above!  If you are not yet familiar with Michele or Tales of a Madcap Heiress, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Michele’s tip for a charmed life.

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Day 13: Watch Screwball Comedies
I’ve often said that if life were a movie, I would want to live in a screwball comedy. The reason? In a screwball comedy you can be a madcap heiress who gets to wear lovely clothes, live in a huge Art Deco apartment, have a group of glamorous friends with whom you drink loads of cocktails and frequent nightclubs, and have crazy adventures with the likes of Cary Grant who ends up falling in love with you. Who wouldn’t want to live in that movie?

QC Charm School: Watch Screwball ComediesMyrna Loy and William Powell in The Thin Man, 1934.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the genre, there are a few general rules you should know to help differentiate a screwball comedy from other films:

  1. Though there have been attempts to label some modern films a screwball comedy, the term really refers to a genre of films made during the 1930s and early 40s.
  2. The film’s setting is urban (usually New York or Paris if it’s in Europe) with the closest thing to the countryside being a weekend home in Connecticut. If any scenes take place at the office it’s either a Wall Street firm/bank if you’re wealthy or a newsroom if you’re not (a lot of characters are journalists in these films).
  3. The story usually revolves around a courtship of sorts that begins with either a one-sided infatuation (My Man Godfrey) or a mutual loathing (The Awful Truth). There’s lots of yelling and even physical fights, which the women always win (Twentieth Century). In fact, the women in screwball comedies tend to always have the upper hand in the relationships (The Lady Eve). Yet, like in most films, love prevails in the end.
  4. The plots will include at least one of the following: a case of mistaken identity (Easy Living), the search for a missing person or thing (a leopard in the case of Bringing Up Baby), or somebody on the run (It Happened One Night). All of these serve as an excuse for the leads to go off on a crazy adventure during which they get into all sorts of trouble.
  5. The dialogue, besides being hilarious, is fast paced and clever (His Girl Friday is the gold standard by which all other films are judged). In fact, screwball comedy directors often relied on their smart scripts to help skirt around the rigid rules of the production code (case in point: screwball comedies that openly talk about divorce).
  6. Class plays a big part in screwball comedies with the upper class usually shown to be inferior to the working class (My Man Godfrey). If the storyline involves an heiress (there are quite a few in these films) she will often reject her privileged background (It Happened One Night). As for the servants and staff who populate the stories, they are routinely shown to be wiser than their employers.

It should be noted that within the screwball genre there is a sub-genre that can be called the screwball mystery (The Thin Man, The Ex-Mrs. Bradford). These are just as funny as your standard screwball comedy but with murder thrown in. Basically, there’s something for everyone!

Screwball comedies also give you a chance to see some of the greatest stars of the silver screen acting silly and showing off their comic timing. The list includes Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda, Joel McCrea, William Powell, Jean Arthur (my favourite screwball leading lady), Claudette Colbert, Irene Dunne, and Carole Lombard. And then there is Cary Grant who probably portrayed the screwball leading man better than anyone. And supporting all of them were some of the best character actors of the day including the great Franklin Pangborn, Edward Everett Horton, and Robert Greig.

Now that you know about screwball comedies, which ones should you watch? Below is a list of my personal top ten, all of which are available on DVD and are a good representation of the best of the genre.

  1. The Awful Truth (1937)
  2. Ball of Fire (1941)
  3. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
  4. Easy Living (1937)
  5. His Girl Friday (1940)
  6. It Happened One Night (1934)
  7. Midnight (1939)
  8. My Favorite Wife (1940)
  9. My Man Godfrey (1936)
  10. The Thin Man (1934)

So mix up some martinis, fire up the DVD player, and prepare to laugh yourself silly. And don’t be surprised if afterwards you too want to live in a screwball comedy.

by Michele, of Tales of a Madcap Heiress

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The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 12 – Make the Ordinary Extraordinary

22/02/2013 § 3 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
QC Charm School: Make the Ordinary Extraordinary
Sophia Loren in Italy, 1961.
Taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life Magazine.

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest speaker Jen McCabe is the writer, blogger and marketing genius extraordinaire behind Honey Kennedy, one of my absolute favorite places on the internet — I liken it to falling down a lovely rabbit hole of vintage-infused pretty, with tons to explore and love.  Aside from getting the lowdown on what’s going on in the Pacific Northwest and being introduced to some truly unique and gifted artists and designers hailing from the Portland area, Jen’s constantly discovers some of the most beautiful imagery and fashion collections I’ve ever seen — and did I mention that she’s completely lovely?  I am very happy to include Jen in this year’s Charm School.  If you are not yet familiar with Jen or Honey Kennedy, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Jen’s tip for a charmed life.

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Day 12: Make the Ordinary Extraordinary
To me, leading a charmed life doesn’t mean that everything is handed to you in a perfect package. I think life requires effort and thoughtfulness in order to make it truly charmed. I’ve lived life in a variety of income brackets through the years and I’ve always managed to find a way to feel like I’m treating myself to a bit of luxury. I’m glad that my husband and I have more security now, but a lot of my daily rituals haven’t changed much from when I would have to decide between bus fare and groceries. Even during times when I was barely scraping by, it was important to me to try to have rituals that made me feel like I was pampering myself and that mundane routines could be turned into something special. Here are a few simple things that I like to do to make my days more cheerful and charmed.

Put a little cardamom in your morning coffee.
I also enjoy maple syrup, cinnamon, honey, or nutmeg. It’s just something to look forward to that gets you out of bed in the morning. Or whatever your beverage of choice! Lemon or basil or cucumber in your water is always good, too. Lavender or earl grey in your hot chocolate, special imported honey in your tea, a little soda water in your juice, etc. Add your own fancy twist to a morning ritual.

Buy yourself some flowers.
Whether they are roses from a nice flower shop or hot pink grocery store carnations (LOVE—and they last such a long time!), flowers make your home a nicer place to be. The color and shapes of the petals are such an inspiring visual break. Taking a trip to buy yourself some flowers is always something wonderful to look forward to if it is once a month or every couple of weeks. I like to split a bouquet up in order to have pretty petals in each room. Waking up to a a bright bloom or two on your nightstand can make a hard day ahead seem a little less daunting.

Give yourself home beauty treatments.
Paying some mind to your fingers, toes and visage is lovely way to pamper yourself. It’s a fun respite on your own or with friends. Years ago, my friend Alice and I had both been laid off from our jobs one month. We lived in the same building and after rough days of job hunting we would rent movies from the library and try different natural beauty treatments on our faces while we studied Hollywood classics. We put banana peel pulp and oatmeal on our faces and made an apple cider vinegar tea infusion toner concoction that I still make today. So fun! Also, when I paint my nails I like to give my hands and toes the full treatment with coconut oil or shea butter cuticle massage.

Have an afternoon break—even while at work.
Whether you work from home or in a shop, restaurant or office, I think it’s important to have something you do for yourself midday. I feel like just taking the time to make a nice cup of my favorite tea and eating a square of dark chocolate does me a world of good. When working in office jobs or retail jobs in the past I would bring boxes of tea to work (I was notorious for having an entire beverage shelf with teapots and coffee presses) or sometimes I like to get out and run to a nearby cafe. Just close your eyes for a minute and just think about the tea you’re drinking. Everything else seems to dissipate—at least for that moment. Then get back to work feeling at least a little refreshed and more centered.

Light a scented candle.
I love to light a favorite fragrant candle before I crack open a book or magazine, slip into a hot bath or start a new writing project. Lighting a candle always seems to make me feel more focused and breathing in the lovely scent makes me feel charged and in the moment. I love Diptyque candles, but for me they are just an occasional splurge. Some other brands I enjoy are Voluspa, Tatine, Catbird and the Paddywax Library Collection. Truth be told, in leaner times I have been known to put a few drops of essential oil in a small pan of water and stick it on top of an old steam radiator in my house or apartment or simmer it on the stove before resting it on a trivet close by. Just make sure to watch it carefully while it’s on the stove!

by Jen McCabe, of Honey Kennedy

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The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 10 – Learn How to Drive

20/02/2013 § 1 Comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: Learn to DriveView along US 40 in Mount Vernon Canyon, Colorado, 1942.  Image via LOC.

As a California native, today’s lesson didn’t immediately come to mind.  When you are a Los Angeles teenager, it is the countdown of all countdowns until you reach the fabled age of 15 1/2 and you are finally eligible to start down the illustrious path to getting your driver’s license.  I remember that storied day in the tenth grade when the oldest person in our grade level took off her morning classes to go to the DMV with her mother.  Her return that afternoon with that piece of paper we all wanted in our own wallets, was something like the opening scene from A Hard Day’s Night.  Okay, not really.  But almost.

Getting back to my original point, in my LA brain, it is my default assumption that all adults know how to drive, but when I landed on the East Coast, I realized that this wasn’t actually true.  I encountered plenty of people who had grown up on the efficiency of public transportation and hadn’t needed to learn how to parallel park (okay, yes, I will admit that I envied that part).  And while I currently enjoy partaking of said efficient transportation, there really is something about having the ability to jump into a car and head off into the great unknown…or to IKEA to buy a dresser, if you feel like it.  It is a ticket to adventure similar to my very first Charm School lesson, where I recommended getting your passport.  Adventures happen when you make yourself available for them.  Add a few skills to your arsenal and you never know where you might end up.

Sidenote: For those of you who already know how to drive an automatic, I’d challenge you to learn how to drive a manual transmission, which will come in handy when traveling internationally.  Or when racing cars.  Or when driving sweet old cars.  If you already know how to do that, I’m sure there’s something you don’t know how to drive.  Get out there and find it.

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 8 — Forgive Yourself

18/02/2013 § 11 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: Forgive YourselfAlbino horses fighting, 1945.
Taken by William Shrout for Life Magazine.

Today’s post and today’s lesson is a bit out of the ordinary. While February tends to be my busiest and happiest time of the year here on the blog, with Charm School and Fashion Week and etc., you may have noticed that I went dark after the 8th of February, a full ten days ago. I touched upon the fact that I was dealing with a few things in “real life” in a post I called The Bump, and I was trying my best to keep up with the already rigorous schedule I had set out for myself, but I found that I just…couldn’t. As difficult as it was, I knew that it would be for the best if I stepped away for a short time.

Today marks the first time I’ve felt ready to talk, and while we lost some ground on February, I am promising to you that I am going to finish out my Charm School lesson plan – all 28 lessons of it – even if it takes us into March (and it will). I apologize for this unforeseen delay and I want you to know that I would be honored if you decide to continue to follow along with me. With this mea culpa, I’d like to transition to today’s lesson.

There is a hard law. When an injury is done to us,
we never recover until we forgive.”

–Alan Paton

Day 8: Forgive Yourself
When I decided that I would have to take a short hiatus, I was immediately seized with feelings of guilt. No matter that I knew it was the right thing to do in the moment, for my sake and my personal well-being, I still felt like I was falling down on the “job” and that my readers might be upset that I wasn’t doing what I said I would (or at least, when I said I would do it). I felt like I was letting everyone down, and that really frustrated me, but I had to face reality. I had to be honest with myself that I couldn’t do it all. I needed to create some space in my schedule to deal with more pressing matters, and to do that I had to hit pause on the blog. Most importantly, I also needed to forgive myself for this temporary shortcoming, because without that forgiveness, I would be stuck in a place where I felt like a failure, when the whole point of this exercise was to give me the ability to move forward.

Forgiveness can be a tricky thing. When you feel you have been wronged, it is human nature to seek out a target to blame. It is difficult to deal with the concept of an indiscriminate universe, one that doesn’t bound itself by the sensible rules of fairness, and when things don’t go our way, we want to find a reason. Most times the scapegoat is someone in close proximity to the hurt or occurrence – the boss that fired you, the boyfriend who broke up with you – but sometimes, the scapegoat is yourself. You are the reason your finances are a mess, you are the reason your bed is never made, you are the reason that you don’t eat right, you are the reason you don’t have a girlfriend, you, you, YOU.

Forgiving someone else can be hard enough, but forgiving yourself? It can seem downright impossible, and it is something that I personally have struggled with for most of my life. From the fourth grade when those goddamn multiplication tables would just not stick in my brain, to how frustrated I am currently at myself for not going to the gym enough (ok, ok, at all), I regularly beat myself up about things large and small, and the “blog pause” was no exception. The thing is, when we scapegoat and hold grudges (even against ourselves), we prevent growth. We remain stuck in a whiny, anxious purgatory where all we can do is focus on past disappointments, failures and bad feelings. This is not what I want for you, or for me.  It’s about as far from charming as you can get.

Today I want you to try to focus on taking a step back and forgiving yourself for all those “shortcomings.” Try to acknowledge and accept the fact that you didn’t quite hit the benchmark, but double down on the effort to get there next time. Focus on what can be, not what was, and take positive steps. Make to-do lists, chart progress, count victories, forgive shortfalls. Letting go of the self-blame opens you up to the possibility of living your most charmed life yet; a life that understands we will stumble sometimes, a life that forgives.

Lastly, while stepping away from Charm School for a few days was a personal decision that I forgive myself for, I also hope that you will be able to forgive me for going dark without any notice. It was never my intention to leave anyone in the lurch, and I hope you will decide to stay with us for the remaining lessons. Class is officially back in session.

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 5 – The Bump

06/02/2013 § 12 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: The BumpMrs. Donn F. Eisele during her husband’s trip on the Apollo 7 mission, 1968.
Photo by Vernon Merritt, via Life.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
— Haruki Murakami

Day 5: The Bump
Most times my Charm School entries are plucked from the vintage-imbued ether that tends to swirl about my brain, but there are special times that I find inspiration in what is happening in my own life, or from conversations my friends and family.  Today’s lesson is of the latter category.  When I recently experienced a personal setback unrelated to the blog, it impacted my “production schedule” and, frankly, my motivation and pleasure for writing.  Aside from a general malaise about blogging, I also was sailing upon troubled waters.  I was upset, I was angry, I was hurt, I was worried, and the tumult of these feelings lead to a sort of paralysis — almost like a state of emotional shock.

While I felt like all I wanted to do was to sit on my couch and wring my hands, I knew that the only way to improve my current state was to affirmatively affect the present — not wallow in the past, nor worry about the future — after I took time to honor and own the emotions I was experiencing.  While a lot of this was work I had to do on myself, personally, my lovely family, friends and colleagues also played an important part, offering me support, advice and assistance in many different forms.  They listened to me.  They checked in on me.  They spent time with me.  And as they showed that they cared for me in ways large and small, it helped me to feel stronger.  I felt more and more like I didn’t want to wring my hands.  I felt like I wanted to move forward, and that I had the ability to do so.

I was especially affected by the words of someone very special to me, when we were discussing the fact that I was upset that I didn’t even feel like blogging — something I’ve always taken a lot of pleasure in doing.  He assured me that what I was feeling was okay, and possibly even a good sign, because it showed how much I cared about producing something I was proud of.  He also pointed out that my blog was a reflection of my life, and that with a full life there were bound to be bumps, so the blog was bound to have bumps too.  That I had to deal with the bump, ride over it, and — truthfully — try to be ready for the next one, and that I should not take less joy out of blogging because of the bump, because I was learning about myself.  I was growing.

So for today’s lesson, I want us all to focus on making The Bump our friend.  Whatever troubles you might be facing, big or small, if you can find a way to look at them as opportunities for growth, I can guarantee that you will feel empowered to make the affirmative steps to take yourself up off that couch and to stop wringing your hands.  We are only a victim of our circumstances if we allow ourselves to be.  Rude as it may be, The Bump is there to remind us that it is time to change our perspective.  Let’s enjoy the ride as much as we can.

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 4 – Unexpected Compliments

05/02/2013 § 1 Comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: Unexpected Compliments“Why sir, that is an amazing hat!”
“Funny, I was just about to say the same thing to you!”
William Jennings Bryant and friends. Via SDASM.

Editor’s Note: Today I am very pleased to introduce our first Charm School guest speaker for 2013!  Stephanie Madewell, the brilliant mind behind the exceptionally erudite blog even*cleveland, is with us this morning for her second Charm School appearance (you can find her 2012 entry here).

It is difficult to describe even*cleveland, which is probably why I love it so much.  Somewhat thematic in nature, Stephanie explores various topics (e.g., swans, works in miniature, Louisa May Alcott, winter) through the lenses of art, literature, photography, museum collections and fashion, connecting dots I didn’t know existed.  I find I am frequently staggered at the breadth of this lady’s knowledge about…well, pretty much everything!  Aside from that, she’s also a great source for information on cultured happenings in New York and usually posts awesome weekend tunes.  If you are not yet familiar with Stephanie and even*cleveland, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Stephanie’s tip for a charmed life.

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Day 4: Unexpected Compliments
I don’t know about you, but for me, nothing saves a crummy day like an unexpected compliment, especially the kind that comes totally out of the blue from a total stranger.

Since I’ve moved to New York, I’ve noticed a lot more random compliments zinging around. My theory is that they operate on some kind of karmic exchange, and that you have to pay them to get them. Funnily enough, I’ve found paying strangers compliments is almost as good as getting a compliment myself. Brightening someone’s day is pretty awesome.

Simone Weil said that “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” Paying a compliment to a stranger may seem like a small thing, but telling someone you notice their kindness or even their cute shoes is a small but mighty action that adds a little light to the world. What’s more charming than that?

by Stephanie Madewell, of even*cleveland

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The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

It’s All Transitory

15/09/2012 § 8 Comments

Transitory
tran·si·to·ry/ˈtransiˌtôrē/
Adjective
Meaning: not permanent
transitory periods of medieval greatness
Origin: late Middle English: from Old French transitoire,
from Christian Latin transitorius, from transit- ‘gone across’

Wearing: GANT shirt (similar), H&M skirt (similar idea) and belt (similar),
Cooperative tassel skimmer, Bag by San Fernando Valley Mercantile
Lips: NARS Velvet Matte Lipstick Pencil in Dragon Girl
Photos taken by Jenna Rosebery in Madison Square Park

There’s been a snap in the weather in New York that arrived this week like an old familiar friend.  It was that moment when the endless sun-filled possibilities of summer darken — just a bit — and you realize that it’s only a matter of days before the leaves will be gone and you start to pull on clothes you’ve forgotten you have. While the California girl in me will always want it to be just a little warmer and sunnier outside, since moving to New York I’ve really come to value the transitional seasons of fall and spring — two seasons that Los Angeles distinctly lacks.

Fall is a time for introspection — it isn’t hopeful and promising in the same way that spring is.  There are no fuzzy spring chicks or pretty buds, but rather falling leaves and ripening apples that can cause your thoughts wander to the areas in your own life that have changed, will be changing, or need to be changed.  Definitely over the last few weeks of my own life, this has been this case.  With the emphasis on the spring of 2013 during fashion week, the fact that we are in for a stretch of colder weather, a few more holidays, a new year and yet another birthday of mine, came into sharp focus.  I’ve also been met with some pretty big changes in my professional and personal life that I’m currently navigating.

Taking a step back from it all, the word “transitory” repeatedly came to my mind, and how we are forever in transit, forever navigating, and while changes can range from the annoying to the downright painful, it helps to remember that constant motion forward.  Not to mention the friends, family members and colleagues who are there to help us along the way.  But most importantly, keep in mind that you are completely in charge of yourself.  While we can’t control what happens to us, we definitely can control how we react.  So don’t ever forget to drive your own bus.

With that, please join me in welcoming fall!
xoxo. M.

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 28 — Be Enterprising

28/02/2012 § 2 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Photo by Nina Leen for Life Magazine, 1956.

Editor’s Note: I’m very pleased to introduce our next guest speaker!  My good friend Jessica Goldfond, is the founder of the accessories and fashion PR firm and showroom called The Shiny Squirrel, as well as her blog by the same name where she shares her discoveries in style, art, fashion and aesthetics.  She is a lovely, hilarious and giving person, who I feel lucky to call my friend.  Hanging out all over New York aside, I also had the good fortune to travel with Jessica in California this past fall, when we drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco, with an amazing stop over in Big Sur (you can see that trip here).  Along the way we ate amazing tacos, sang classic rock at the top of our lungs, spied on sleeping elephant seals and took in the amazing beauty of my home state’s coast.  She happens to be quite the traveller, with trips to Turkey and Germany on her list for this year.  Of course I am very jealous she’s not taking me along.

When I began the Charm School project, I approached a disparate bunch of individuals, fully aware that they would each bring something different to the “curriculum.”  Confession: I actually had an idea in mind for each of them, ready to delicately suggest, just in case they had trouble coming up with their own topic.  I will admit that I sort of strong-armed Jess into my topic of choice.  I most hoped she would participate because I wanted to hear how she founded her very successful business, because she truly is an inspiration for all the would-be entrepreneurs out there, and because she doesn’t often tell her story.  If you are not yet familiar with Jessica, or The Shiny Squirrel, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Editor’s Sidenote: I have widened the topic only a bit, only because I believe you can derive a lot of personal satisfaction from your life by simply being enterprising.  Here I use enterprising to mean motivated, venturesome, being resourceful and showing initiative.  While this may manifest itself in the founding of a business like Jessica, it doesn’t necessarily require it.  In fact, I’d even include things such as the founding of a book club, a church group, a blog or even using Pinterest under the enterprising umbrella.  The point is, find something that is completely yours, that will excite you, and throw yourself into it.  A charmed life is a motivated, satisfied life, and if money happens to follow, that’s icing on the cake.

Without any further ado, Jessica’s tip for a charmed life.

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Day 28: Be Enterprising
I can’t say I have any great wisdom or a formula as to how to make it work or even where to begin. I started my business or the concept that would be my business 6 years ago and been organically letting it evolve ever since. I decided to launch a PR company and showroom because I was tired of working for other people and wanted to feel 70 years from now that I really accomplished something with my life. I have been striving and working on that feeling everyday since.

I think the best way to start a business is to look at what you love and think about how you can formulate that into a plan. It’s important to ask questions, always take calculated risks, and develop the ability to recognize an opportunity when it presents itself.There are no failures if you learn from the mistakes you made along the way. I think a bit of self-reflection always helps to build the foundation of a company and let it take shape. Passion, Hard Work, Kindness, Generosity and patience are definitely some of the key factors in making something successful.

It is always important to remember that a business is built in a series of blocks or stages. Slowly but surely it all comes together over time.

Here are a few things I think would be awesome for building a business:

Present and Correct has some of the best office supplies around and I would love to use this little pad to take invoices if I am writing an order.

I find Fort Standard’s work and products really inspiring and would love to add these building blocks to my growing collection of their work.

I never seem to have a nice pair of scissors on my desk so these are a beautiful shape and have a nice feel to them.

I love having plants around me especially in lovely containers like this.  It is inspiring and refreshing if you have to sit indoors all day on a computer.

by Jessica Goldfond, of The Shiny Squirrel

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 The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 27 — No Contest

28/02/2012 § 1 Comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Winner of first place high diving award Vicki Manolo Draves with second place winner Patty Elsener at the 1948 Olympics in London.  Taken by Ed Clark for Life Magazine.

Day 27: No Contest
When I saw the picture above, of Vicki Manolo Draves and Patty Elsener at the 1948 Olympics, winners of the first and second places in the high dive, I was inspired to write about something that is related — but not specifically limited — to the sporting world.  In fact, my chosen subject has the ability to permeate our entire lives, pretty much from birth, if left to its own devices.  What am I talking about?  Competition.

On the whole, competition can be a rather tricky thing.  It can positively motivate us to improve, but if allowed to run wild, it also has the ability to poison personal relationships, cause stress and lead to unhappiness.  This double-edged sword needs to be dealt with gingerly.  Please also note a distinction between ambition and competition: ambition means you want bigger and better things, competition means you want bigger and better things than that other guy over there (and maybe even at his expense).

First, identify it.  What are you competing for?  Wanting to be the fastest runner in your jogging group or top of the class is altogether different from a generalized feeling of competitiveness with your coworker, friend or partner for no distinct reason.  Generalized competitiveness is the one you have to watch most closely, because if you aren’t competing for a specific outcome, item or position, then why are you competing in the first place?  What is the prize that you are hoping to gain?  Take a step back and think hard about this.  Is all you really want schadenfreude?

Second, can you be supportive?  I don’t necessarily believe that all competition is negative.  Rather, healthy competition can definitely motivate improved personal performance and achievement, such as sibling valedictorians and husband and wife collaborative teams.  But if you find yourself unable to support your fellow “competitor” like Vicki and Patty appear to be doing above, your may need to admit your competitiveness might stem from feelings of insecurity or jealousy.

Third, call yourself out.  Be brave enough to admit to yourself that your ego is a bit out of control, or that you are envious.  Write it down in a journal and ruminate on why this has gotten your goat.  Better yet, if you are close to the person who is inspiring these feelings, admit to them how you are feeling.  The best way to combat unhealthy feelings of competitiveness is to come clean, either privately or publicly, so that you can begin to deal with what is hiding underneath them.

This can be tricky for me at times.  As an oldest child, I have a natural inclination to be the best and the first.  When the whole world seems to be focused on what I lack, it’s easy to turn that same lens upon myself and identify those who seem to have “it all” as my main competitors: she’s smarter, he’s richer, they’re married, he has an amazing job, etc.  But I’ve come to recognize that in the long run, a tendency to compete will only serve to hurt me — and what is there to win, anyway?  Absolutely nothing.

Let’s do our best to change it together, shall we?  For life is not to be “won” but rather, to be relished.  Let’s endeavor to be thankful for what we’ve got, and to support each other on our path to bigger and better things.

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

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