Reflecting on this month, the prejudices we hold against others are on display …and right now it’s looking ugly. The most important lessons in etiquette and, even more importantly, in humanity are building positive views of oneself and broadening one’s views of others. They go hand in hand. In order to respect another human being for who they are, you must first work on how you view your own character and self worth. If one feels less than worthy, it’s easy to feed off negative stereotypes of others hoping that will make one feel better about oneself.
Whether you’re looking down your nose at Lindsay Lohan for her public conduct and run-ins with the law,
or scoffing at Tiger Wood’s last win because you disapprove of his infidelity,
or judging the teenager walking down the street wearing a hoodie, we must realize that it is our own insecurities at the root of our narrow points of view.
Once we can admit the role we play in perpetuating stereotypes and reinforcing prejudiced acts, then we can decide to heal, grow and empower ourselves and our world. Then we can learn to value others’ lives and stop the proverbial and literal death of our children, our hope, our future. So let us move forward with positive, loving thoughts of ourselves and one another, and build from here.
Scent is one of those things that carries an emotional connection. Getting a whiff of your grandmother’s favorite perfume could take you to the most comforting moments of your childhood, a lover’s fragrance may be exhilarating, and the mean cab driver’s cologne might be repulsive. When you select and apply your own fragrance, think of what kind of feeling you want to leave with others.
To make your best impression, you want to choose those fragrances that complement your body chemistry because they will give off the most pleasant scents. You also want to refrain from drowning yourself in the stuff and dominating all breathable air within close perimeter. A little spritz or dab to your pulse points (i.e. inside the wrists, behind the ears, décolletage or cleavage, behind the knees, etc.) will make the scent last without overdoing it. Also consider the many ways to sweeten your skin, from scented soaps and body washes, to perfumes and body sprays, and from body lotions and body oils, to colognes and aftershave.
So play with it, have fun, but please keep it mild and delightful.
At this intensely charged moment, the hooded sweatshirt is so much more than a fashion statement. It is a rise in awareness, a symbol of solidarity, and a call for action in seeking justice for Trayvon Martin. If you notice groups of people sporting hoodies and carrying signs or voicing their views on injustice and race relations, it’s alright to ask them about it. Go ahead and Google it. Search Twitter for #MillionHoodies. Read The Senseless Killing of a 17-Year Old College Student . Be informed and get active. Maybe the next time you throw on a hoodie it will carry more meaning for you too.
Click here to sign the petition to prosecute the man who wrongfully killed Trayvon Martin and end the injustice.
In the wake of the murder of 17-year old Trayvon Martin on February 26th, I am moved to begin discussing intercultural and interracial protocol. Many people believe we already have a handle on how to interact with others of different races and ethnicities. I beg to differ. When we learn to look at a young Black college student and have our brains register possible College Student instead of Threat; when we learn not to shoot first and then make irrational excuses later, then we may begin to claim that we no longer need guidance in this area.
The back story:
On the evening of February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, a young Black man in a hooded sweatshirt named Trayvon Martin was walking back from the store with ice tea and a pack of Skittles. Upon seeing this young man, self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman identified him as a threat, called 9-1-1, and pursued Mr. Martin. Mr. Zimmerman was directed by the 9-1-1 operator to not follow Mr. Martin. Mr. Zimmerman ignored the directive and ended up shooting and killing Mr. Martin. Mr. Zimmerman claims he acted in self defense and his family claims that he is not racist because he is of Hispanic background. Mr. Martin was a teenaged college student who had no weapon in his possession. Mr. Zimmerman still has not been arrested and the police investigation of this matter was questionable. These facts have lead to protests, the Million Hoodie March, letter-writing, emails, phone calls and the mass signing of a criminal justice petition to garner media attention and force the local police department, local courts, as well as local and federal governments to investigate and prosecute Trayvon Martin’s murderer.
I am asking all of my readers, social media friends and family to take this first simple, but powerful step: Look closely at your own thoughts regarding people of other races and ethnicities. Have you equated a Black man in a hooded sweatshirt to the thug or criminal images you frequently see on your television? Do you assume the Latino woman in front of you on line is an illegal alien, manual laborer who is stealing your jobs and getting away with paying no taxes? Are you fearing that your White male coworker has no conscience and treats multicultural people poorly when he thinks no one is looking? What stereotypes are you subconsciously harboring each day that you and only you have the power to change right now? Now that you are recognizing what those thoughts are, I challenge you to begin changing them.
No one deserves to be removed from this earth solely because of another person’s racial prejudice. No one deserves to lose a job, be degraded in public, get rejected by a school, get turned down for funding, and so forth due to another person’s cultural prejudice. And when this does happen, we must bring the perpetrator to justice. They must answer for what they have done.
Currently, people – young and old, across communities, of different races – are taking a stance and voicing their outrage against this latest instance of hatred. I encourage you to see where and how you can make a change. Today, you can start by signing the criminal justice petition to prosecute the killer of Trayvon Martin at change.org.
My mother and grandmothers began teaching me the laws of etiquette from a very young age. (I can remember lessons as far back as three years old.) Through all of the training, a solid group of sayings and thoughts on etiquette, manners, and protocol stuck with me. They have gotten me through many encounters within different settings, cultures, and countries in the company of all types of people and customs. You may have heard some of them along the way, but I’ll share them here with you, because I am confident they will help you shine in just about any protocol bind.
1. There is a time and place for everything (often abbreviated by moms as “Time and Place”). This saying encourages you to remember that you should consider where you are and what is going on around you, before you speak or act. For example, if you are already at the party surrounded by other people, that is not the time to tell your girlfriend she looks like she is gaining weight and her dress makes her look pudgy around the middle. Or consider that if you are at an academic function, that is not the time to run wild and go streaking across the stage.
2. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. (This is still my mother’s favorite saying.) You can and should tell the truth. It’s how you tell it that decides how the other person feels by the end of the conversation. So I can look at you and say, “Whoa you look like crap! What the hell happened to you?” or I can go with, “Hey, it’s been a rough morning. I might need a splash of cold water and a cup of coffee to pick me up too. Want to come with me?” The message is sent either way, but the latter phrasing cushions the message so that you aren’t directly offending the person.
3. If you aren’t sure, follow your host’s lead. Depending on what setting you are in, you would follow the example of the person who invited you, the highest ranking person, or the leader of the group. If you are attending a formal dinner party and don’t know where to sit, look to your host(ess) for a cue. When you are out with coworkers and don’t know if it is okay to order alcohol, wait until the boss or the person who holds the most superior position orders his/her drink and then decide based on what he/she is having.
4. Money can’t buy class. (Wealth does not equal taste.) How many times have you seen this? A new money pop star, crass heiress, brash entrepreneur, a friend who landed a good job, etc. and they have no upbringing, but they find themselves amidst high society and they just don’t know how to act. They need to either learn on their own or be guided in what is appropriate to say, do, wear and so on. But believe me when I say, no amount of money in the world will improve their behavior amongst and towards others (unless maybe it’s money put towards etiquette training).
5. When in Rome, do as the Romans. Along with this concept, my paternal grandmother taught me that the key ingredient is making your host(ess) or friends feel comfortable being themselves around you. Don’t turn your nose up to their traditions, hobbies, cultural practices or daily lifestyle. Of course, you should draw some barriers for yourself, but not so many that you spoil the fun. Jump in, make yourself right at home and put everyone at ease.
6. Good manners will take you far in life. My maternal Grandma always reminded us that no matter what situation presents itself, always mind your manners. Be gracious, courteous and pleasant in your dealings with others, unless or until an issue calls for more aggressive behavior. And even then, you still maintain a dignified position, because when the issue is over you want to come out on top.
Modern etiquette: It’s OK to show your underwear in public…
…if that’s your job and you make loads of mula from it.
Otherwise, you need to pull up your pants:
Today, a man sat down in the seat next to me on the train and began coughing up his left lung. No biggie …until I noticed that he was blasting his germy wetness all over the place. Yet, somehow, it wasn’t as bad as when that guy walking down 48th Street let out a humongoid sneeze, spraying his unmasked diabolical mucous right onto my face. I thought I would just die – right there – just fall out on the pavement.
Well, I lived to tell you about it. So I’m here to say, “Cover your blow hole.” If you’re blowing, spitting, coughing, sneezing, spraying anything out of your mouth or nose, then please, please, pretty please shield that area. Even if you aren’t sick, we, the Random People in Public Spaces, aren’t interested in getting intimate with you on your fancy flying saliva level. No offense, we’re just not that into you. Also consider blocking us from your yawns and belches, because it’s quite unpleasant to catch an unexpected whiff of that pungent French onion soup lunch.
The best options are to use either a tissue or the inner bend of your arm to shield your face. No, wiping snot with your fingers and then shaking someone’s hand is not cool. Of course the tissue is best, because you can discard of it immediately afterwards. Use your arm in absence of a tissue, because that part of you will more than likely have minimal contact with other people.
If you make this a habit, you can make the world a cleaner, germ quarantined place. I know you want that as badly as I do.