“He loves me… He loves me not.”

he loves me he loves me not

I love flowers. And receiving them even more. They are a simple way of making the recipient feel special, whether for a special occasion or just because you can.

You will never offend anyone by sending flowers.

I recently celebrated a birthday. My daughter raced to the florist in the morning, and brought home a bunch of magnificent white lilies. I don’t care how many people say that they expect receiving them, it still makes you feel happy.

Today, Valentine’s Day, is collectively the one day where flowers outdo any other festive gift. It surpasses even the chocolate of Easter.

So, I thought it just apt to write about flowers, and what type of flower suits what type of occasion.

Roses, red roses in particular, are the flower of love. Though all roses denote love, the red rose symbolises romantic love.

Yellow roses are to be sent to friends or co-workers. Pink roses are more about a secret love. White roses are for an innocent love, for family or family occasions, or even for funerals.

I discovered that carnations are for young love, though I’d say that it’s far less common nowadays than in the eighties, when carnations were at the height of their popularity.

Daisies are for loyal love and ideal for Mother’s Day. And giving your daughter lilies seems to denote purity and sweetness. And chrysanthemums are for the bonding of friendship, though probably not ideal for romantic loves.

In the British Debrett’s Guide for the Modern Gentleman, 2009, reprinted 2012:

Flowers are the perfect impromptu present, but follow these basic guidelines to ensure that you get it right;

MIXED BOUQUETS can look cheap if they aren’t of a decent size and well-styled. Instead, buy just one type of bloom, or go for just one colour.

GREENERY is also important – it’s there to bulk up the bouquet and complement the flowers.

DON’T PANIC and just pick the first blooms you recognise. Consider her tastes and style. Classic or contemporary? Minimalist or vintage? Talk to the florist. Explain the style you’re after and the occasion.

BE PREPARED to spend – you can never economise on flowers.

BUY HER FLOWERS on her birthday, on Valentine’s Day on your anniversary and on no particular occasion.

USE THE CARD that accompanies the bouquet to its full potential. For example, include details of a surprise date: “See you in the bar of the ABC Hotel at 7pm”; tell her something you find hard to say: “Thank you for being there for me’; state the obvious: “I love you”/

NEVER ORDER cheap arrangements online; never buy bunches from the supermarket or the garage; never buy carnations or chrysanthemums (the kiss of death); never send flowers as an apology without some verbal backup.

If you want to offer flowers to the host of a dinner or party, it’s best to have the florist deliver them earlier in the day of the event, so that the host has time to arrange them, so as not to be distracted when her guests are arriving. As to the arrangement, it is ideal to ask the florist what is appropriate. They will arrange something either by colour and/or by what is available for that season. Of course your budget also is a big factor, but these days to send a lovely bouquet of flowers, you would be spending about $100 (Australia dollars, or USD). It’s very easy to spend more than this. You can check if the florist has pre-prepared arrangements, as they will tend to be a easier for the florist to pack, rather than arrange on site, and may have a reduced price by the end of the work day.

Online sites for flowers are also becoming very popular and easy to use, and terrific for ordering flowers as gifts for long-distance or international deliveries.

Or going to the local flower markets is always fun, and something of a novelty if you get up early to see the action.

I once picked lavender in a field and was heady from the scents and had to mind all the bees swarming around the pollen. It was lovely to make my own lavender pouches for my dresser drawers.

If my partner came over with a bunch of flowers he picked himself, either from the flower market, or even just as he was walking home by the side of the road, I would be tickled pink… or red. But really, any colour would be wonderful.

Happy Valentine’s Day from the romantics at ETQT.

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The excess of excess

the excess

It’s happened all over the planet, and it’s happening to a woman I know.

Her world of excess, and the lack of modesty about her excess, is getting her more publicity than she probably desires.

It seems that the Eighties and Nineties (that’s the 1980’s and 1990’s) were years of overt wealth and excess. We, if you were establishing your careers during that time, enjoyed a world with less social and economic consciousness, and rarely any environmental conscience. Just watch the movie Wall Street to get a taste of the extreme perversion of wealth.

Curiously, this woman I know would have been a toddler during those times, so it’s been interesting to watch her plough head first over all the current concepts and practices of social, economic and environmental awareness. She has made a career of publicising and promoting brands and products that are expendable. Luxuries to some, definitely not a necessity. She attends, or appears to host, many of the most sought after social events in Sydney, and even Melbourne. Her reach extends to London too.

I’m wondering why then do people, a few people, live without humility?

Her baby, now, at 18 months old, has her own blog, written by her mum. It paints a very decadent picture. Dressed in the most stylish and expensive clothes, traveling in private jets. It is odd to think that any mum would want to depict her daughter as so tasteless and indulgent. I have raised my children spoiling them as much as I could, but I can’t imagine proclaiming the details on their behalf. Especially when they don’t yet have their own voice. What’s to come of this little baby when she becomes a young lady with her own sense of self, and looks back at the portrayal her mother has given the world.

Is it not enough that this woman spends most of her waking hours basking in the whirlwind world of press events, launches, red carpet moments and rubbing shoulders with local and international stars? Is it not enough too that her husband is currently getting himself lots of press over his alleged insider trading and could face time in prison.

I’ve always thought that talent should be indulged. If fame or notoriety follow, then it will either be embraced or shunned by the individual. Fame has become a product on its own, as with the likes of Paris Hilton and the Kardashian’s. It humours me, and entertains me (especially at the hair salon where I tend to read most of my trashy magazines). But to pursue recognition for a baby. It feels ugly to me. I feel that this baby is unjustly exposed.

I do think of women who have not had the success or fame in their lives they yearned, who push their children to succeed in artistic talents. That somehow seems understandable, not terrific, but understandable. But why would a woman who already has such a following?

I think that this little baby is going to have an interesting journey.

I’ve yet to find any past or present etiquette that encourages any such behaviour. So, speak only for yourself, not for others. Especially not for those who have yet to form their own opinion.

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Hey kids, what’s with the middle finger!!!

middle finger

I have a thirteen year old. She is a contemporary. She has diverse interests, and also mainstream addictions with her mobile phone and apps like Instagram and Facebook, and lots I can’t recall. Last night she hosted her first party. Yes, she’s had lots of birthday parties, but most of them included lots of parents, lots of entertainment in the form of clowns, pets, rides or bouncy castles. This was her first party where none of these would factor. We did hire a great DJ, but otherwise it was all very simple.

They had a fantastic time. She invited 70 boys and girls, who stood around sheepishly in their respective gender corners for about an hour, and then miraculously merged into a sea of dancing bodies for another two and a half hours. There was lots of soft drinks, pizzas and junk food. Perfect combination for sugar zealots. Parents were not asked to join in, but to stay a safe distance in the front of the house.

She melted into her bed afterwards with a smile stamped on her face. This mum was pleased.

This morning we perused her photos. There were over 800 taken (phew!). Most of the photos were of happy faces. Young teens enjoying themselves without a care in the world. 450 of these photos made their way to a Facebook album.

But why, oh why, do these kids need to stick their middle finger up for the photos?

I just don’t get it!

I know these kids. I see them every day. Not once have I seen them strike these gestures out in the street. Nor when they meet each other, nor when they speak with anyone for that matter. I didn’t see them use this gesture amongst themselves during the party. And yet, one in every four photos included that dreaded middle finger. Most often it was the boys doing so, and yet, there were a few girls who repeatedly offered it up too.

I got to thinking what is it that makes people, including kids, behave like this. The correct etiquette is obvious… but just in case, it should never, under any circumstance be done. Or should it? On further research, I started looking at various hand gestures, and which ones are acceptable, which one’s aren’t. As with most rules of etiquette, it really depends on culture and geography.

etiquette 101 gestures 4

It’s quite amazing how many gestures have more than one meaning. Above image taken from a past issue of Conde Naste Traveller’s magazine.

I’ve discussed this with my children at length. I’ve explained to them that gestures like these are disrespectful. It is likely that most people make these gestures after being provoked. But, nevertheless, it’s much more appropriate to remain silent. Silence has much more impact. It also gives you time to gather your wits, and if necessary speak more specific and deliberate words.

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First date faux-pas

first date faux pas

I love first dates. So much can happen on a first date. Yes, it can be a short-lived experience, and all you’ve lost is time. But, generally, it’s where everything is new, and anything is possible.

Dating as a single mum has been a roller coaster of a ride. Sometimes it awakens the senses. Sometimes it’s even comedic. And yes, it can also be heart wrenchingly tragic. First dates are necessary, and often feel like hard work, sometimes they’re awkward, and sometimes, if you’re in sync with your date, it is a wonderfully warm experience that you want to revisit over, and over.

Surely, I thought to myself, there must be helpful guide on how to navigate a first date. Though it’s a shame to create a template that is devoid of personal idiosyncrasies and quirks, so  that it’s better to find out what you should NOT do on a first date, and let the rest be guided by your own individual personality. Yes, the etiquette of first dates.

The absolute biggest no-no is when a person talks badly of past relationships.

I researched my favourite etiquette resources, and they state that it’s still inappropriate to discuss religion, politics and money. I agree that discussing money with a near stranger is not a good idea, but today, when religion and politics are at the forefront of our lives, it seems rather impossible. It’s also possibly a good idea to broach those topics early, in case you have opposing ideas on them. It’s either going to produce a healthy discussion, or give you the exit you should take if you can’t stand his or her ideals or beliefs.

As to discussing sex, I have rarely experienced a first date when a man has offered this up for conversation. I’m sure that he thinks about it, and can be quite flirtatious, but it’s definitely up to the woman to initiate the topic. If a woman wants to get physical, she will let you know, just like our minx on our cover photo. If she prefers to establish a romantic relationship before getting physical, she will also guide that. It is acceptable to try to kiss a woman, and some women love that attention, but if she turns away, or indicates that she isn’t ready, then respect her wishes.

There are a few things that men should do. They will not appear old-fashioned if they open car doors for a woman, nor will it seem odd to help a woman with her coat. And even if those seem too much to do for your date, then at the very least you should open the door to the restaurant for your date. Typically the door opens out, and she should pass first, but if the door opens inwards, then you should walk through and hold the door open for her.

There is a very old world rule that says that men should always enter a restaurant before his date. This is to ward off all other gentlemen’s eyes to your date. Today, most women will walk directly behind the maitre-d or host, followed by her partner.

Table manners are also extremely important, and licking your knife, or your plate are forbidden. Tucking your napkin into your collar is only accepted when eating lobster or ribs, and the establishment normally supplies these.

Menu suggestions are great, but taking over and ordering on behalf of your date is not appropriate.

Answering your phone or texting is unacceptable. If you’re in a situation that requires you to keep your phone at the ready for work or if you have kids waiting at home, then let your date know.

And, as a general rule, if you invited your date, then you should pay for the meal. But I will write in depth on this important topic in an upcoming article. Too many have asked me what is the right etiquette with paying for dates.

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Breastfeeding in public

breastfeeding

This week, Sydney has been hit by a wave of controversy over breastfeeding in public. One television presenter on a morning show, David Koch (Kochie) has been dealing with the backlash of a comment he made last week on national television about a woman who was asked to leave a public swimming pool as she was breastfeeding her baby. He stated that women who breastfeed in public should be discreet and with class.

Unfortunately, many women were outraged by his comment, and found him to be discriminatory and sexist.

In an article today, he wrote, “The venom associated with my comments on breastfeeding has been extraordinary. From being called a buffoon with discriminatory views by the Fairfax Media critic Michael Idato, to being accused of hating kids, being jealous of babies and having a boob fetish.”
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/i-have-an-opinion–always-have-and-always-will-20130121-2d39n.html#ixzz2IgWxivkG

He declares that his wife, and mother of their 4 children, breastfed and did so with discretion. He also states that his two daughters breastfed their children.

It made me wonder what really is the right etiquette for breastfeeding in public?

Some women agree that discretion is necessary. That, though they want to breast feed their children, they will cover up when feeding, or move to a quieter and more discreet location. Some women think that they should be free to feed their children where they want, when they want.

I think that the latter argument shows little regard for others. Many people have cultural or religious stipulations about discretion. It may seem outwardly senseless to those women who want, or need, to breastfeed their children in public, but quite vulgar and disrespectful to others.

I recall when my son was born and I had family members over all the time. I had little desire to offend my parents by baring my breasts, so moved to private location. Etiquette really is about showing respect and consideration for those around you.

If you’re in the exclusive company of women with babies and toddlers, in a baby group or play group, then it would seem logical to feed children as you like. It’s all about the appropriate and courteous behaviour.

There are no laws that say that etiquette is obligatory. It’s just a question of choice.

I suppose that if men can stand side by side in urinals, and many new modern establishments have unisex toilets, then maybe the day will come when we can walk the planet unencumbered by the clothes on our back. The Amazonian’s have done so for centuries. But civilisation requires civility, and that includes modesty and privacy about baring their breasts.

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Friends with an Ex

friends

Yesterday, I attended the memorial service of a very famous sports icon. It was a moving event and heart-breaking watching his young children speak of him with such dignity and grace.

I had done the research on the appropriate etiquette, so participated with a silent and sombre air.

During the service, I sat, unbeknownst to me, next to the divorcee of a very well-known Australian entrepreneur. She waved to many people, and at one point giggled how one particularly famous man she waved to had physically gotten out of shape since their relationship over fifteen years prior. She was a bit disturbed that he waved to her, and declared that she would prefer that they both pretend that they didn’t know each other. She then asked me if I thought it was possible to remain friends with an ex… an ex-husband or an ex-boyfriend?

I have been very fortunate that I have remained on exceptionally good terms with my ex-husband. It seems we actually have put our children first, and been able to let go of our ego’s and get on with our respective lives; it would seem that we are the poster-children for The Modern Family!

I seem also to be happy to continue building, and not dissolving, relationships with ex-boyfriends. Don’t get me wrong, there are some who have been banished from the face of my world. They seem to be the ones who have too much ego, and lack kindness. Does make you wonder why I dated them at all.

Back on track… I figure that just because I can’t have a romantic relationship (meaning with all the loaded expectations and tiptoeing of beginnings, and negotiations of disappointments, etc.. you get the picture, ie a monogamous, committed relationship), doesn’t mean that I don’t like and enjoy facets of our friendship and connection.

I have one friend in particular that I dated about three years ago. Yes, after our break up (if you can call it that – we had only been dating a short while), we did have a cooling off period. There does seem to be a quieting of the senses for a while, akin to recovery, or maybe a little postmortem mourning that’s necessary. But once that was over, it seemed such a shame to lose all contact with him when we had so many things we liked to do together or discuss. We started going to the theatre together, or attending functions when we didn’t have a date. We didn’t talk about other dates. I think that was more out of respect for each others feelings than for any hope that we might rekindle our romance. But I’m thrilled that I have such a good male friend.

But when is it impossible to keep a platonic friendship with an ex? It seems that if there is residual resentment, it’s unwise to try to continue any connection or friendship. And if either party still fancies the other, then it’s probably hurtful to that person. Sometimes the kindest way to end things, is just to end them completely.

But back to the gorgeous woman I met yesterday. She insisted that it’s impossible to have a real friendship with an ex. I discovered that she is one of the most prominent, and successful, divorce lawyers in Australia. I imagine that her career, as well as her much publicised romances, and divorce, must have led her to only keeping girl friends.

Well, then there’s always Taylor Swift…. I wonder how many of her ex-boyfriends want to remain friends after she writes songs about them?

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Keeping your own secret garden

secret garden

In France young ladies are taught by their mothers and grandmothers about decorum. We learn about seduction by watching other women behave. We watch how they tilt their head a certain way, how they sit with their legs crossed at an angle, and how poised they are, when engaging in the art of flirtation. This may seem old world, but if you observe the interaction between men and women in France, or most European countries, you will notice the seduction plays out before your eyes.

One thing that does not happen, and will never happen, is to share everything with your mate. Even if a woman is with her partner for life, she will keep some secrets, le jardin secret (fr), from her mate. These things will include things like farting, shaving, plucking hairs from unfortunate places. These secrets do not limit themselves to physical things either. They can include past secrets, yes, the obvious past lovers, where such history could directly interfere with the success of your current relationship. It can also be some things about herself that she shares with no-one at all, a book of poems that she needs to keep private, a talent that she doesn’t want to share.

Some of these can be embarassing, or humiliating, or if divulged could affect the outcome in the new relationship.

One of the most wondrous experiences a couple can share is to know without a doubt that the bond of the affection is solid, and yet that they each have secrets that neither need to know, as it won’t affect their love and it actually makes you feel strong.

Mystery is powerfully attractive. Sometimes knowing someone too well also breeds over-confidence and, sadly, complacency in your relationship.
It’s a fine line to have the confidence of a solid romantic relationship, without knowing absolutely everything about them.

Leave some mystery.

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and God created woman (part 1)

and god created woman

Prior to creating woman, there was only man. One man. He had no need for leadership, or competition, or ego. He was alone. With only nature to sustain and entertain him. So why then was woman created? Why not just hermaphrodites? Sometimes I ask myself this question. What were we, women, destined for? And what, you may ask, has etiquette got to do with it?

Well, I think that women have been designed to soften this world. It’s all in our physical make up. We are softer, we have curves, we are built to carry life within us, and even built to feed that life when it’s first born.

We are not the same, nor should try to be. And yet, yes, we are equal. We all know that women are pretty much capable of doing everything a man can do, and more. Biologically speaking that is.

The question of etiquette here is really about accepting our differences, and embracing them with elegance and respect, and consideration to our fellow man. Offering him up a warm shoulder to rest his head upon when he realises that for all his physical strength and bravado, we are here to share the joys and happiness of the great adventure in romance.

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Be mine!

kiss

It’s been quite a while since I have actively engaged in romantic behaviour for Valentine’s day. During my teenage years, when I fancied the popular, handsome boy, who I never actually had the courage to talk to, I thought it would be fitting to send him a Valentine’s message. I was more mortified of being caught out than actually using my creative juices to declare my affections and doodle a romantic image of my heart entwined with his.

Now, with Valentine’s looming, I started wondering what is the correct behaviour for our modern romantic day? Is it as simple as buying a Hallmark card, and waiting to have the reciprocal card back, along with a restaurant date, a box of chocolates or a bunch of roses?

I have always thought that a relationship with two individuals is in itself individual and unique. So there really shouldn’t be a set formula that garners romance with food, flowers and a pre-fabricated card.

Etiquette does dictate that sentiment and timing play a big part of Valentine’s Day. If you’re in a new relationship, it’s the perfect time to share with your partner how much you care – which sometimes is awkward in the early days. When you have been seeing each other for several months, it’s a way to highlight how much you cherish them. And during long term relationships, when life, children, work and all the other time consuming distractions can make less time for your relationship, it’s clearly a time to bond.

For me, i think it is least about the giving of physical things like flowers or chocolates, or going out on a date… as all these things I hope to perform regularly with him, it’s more about sharing with him why the uniqueness of your relationship also has affection, warmth and caring. It’s a time when you can think of things that make him feel valued and loved. Like surprising him with tickets to his favourite football game, when he knows that it’s not really your thing. Or organising a masseuse to your home to treat your lovely girlfriend or wife because you know how much she loves them.

I believe that the possessions we give are always less precious than the experiences we share.

But then again, the feeling you get when sending a token of affection to the unknowing man, never to be revealed. That still makes me feel like the giddy teenager.

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and God created woman (part 2)

bardot

Yesterday, as I walked in the city after an early theatre performance, I was commenting to my male friend how people were dressed. It was a warm Saturday night and people were very casually dressed. Yes, we live in a city by the sea, and the culture is a relaxed beach-type culture. More importantly I noticed how skimpy were women’s clothes. It seems that women are displaying all their wares for males, and women, to see. There’s nothing new here, it’s natural to try to attract the opposite sex with visual cues. But have we gone overboard? What is the right dress etiquette to stay attractive without being vulgar?

My friend admitted that women who show too much have no appeal to him. Men are still after the challenge, and a woman who bares too much also leaves nothing to the imagination, nothing for the chase.

There is etiquette on the lengths of skirts, but I do think that it’s really determined by the tightness of the clothing. And, sadly and unjustly, by the shape of a woman’s body. A dress that is worn too tight and short on a portly frame is going to more unsightly than a hugging dress on a very skinny girl. This does not mean that women with curves are unattractive at all. We all just need to learn what is attractive for our body shapes.

Cleavage also is predetermined by the shape of the body. Voluptuous women with ample breasts can sometimes have a sex appeal that a skimpily clad busty woman can not muster.

So, there are a few basic rules of attire etiquette. Most importantly, if you’re going to show off your legs with a short skirt or shorts, then cover your breasts. It’s one or the other… not both. In any case, rare is the woman who has fantastic legs and cleavage, so stick to your most favoured feature, and highlight it.

Unbeknownst to most people, your posture is most likely to by your best asset. Think of people who slouch. They send a message of weakness or sadness. Whereas a person who stands tall, with their shoulders back gives off an air of confidence and strength.

Smile. Yes, I can’t tell you the number of times a man has approached me and told me that he was drawn to my smile. Joy is very seductive.

Clothes that are clean and well pressed are much more attractive than crumpled dirty clothes. And least of all smelly ones.

Wear clothes appropriate to the season. It is ridiculous to see women in skimpy clothes in winter months, and just silly seeing women in thick winter wear during hot summer nights. It doesn’t matter that the clothes figure as the latest craze in the northern hemisphere.

If you’re going to wear men’s clothing (for effect), then make sure that you mix it well with a feminine piece. Great accessories, or fantastic high heel shoes. Or inject colour and contrast.

If you wear white, it invites trouble. You’re either going to display cellulite (easily masked if you had chosen black) or display more than you intended when lighting hits it at the right angle (recall Lady Diana’s early photo shoot in long white flowing skirt).

Oh, and my pet peeve. Never, ever, (ever… though a past write-up offers one recent occurrence for this etqt author), take off your shoes when going out at night and wander with them in your hands. If you can’t bear to walk, then take a pause and recover a while. Walking in high heels, like any skill, must be learnt. Practice wearing them at home for lengthier periods each time. Choose the right shoe for the event you will attend. Extremely high heels at a dinner party is fine when you’ll find yourself seated for most of the evening. Not so fine if you’re going to be dancing or standing all night. Cocktails are tricky. It’s always more appealing to see legs lengthened by heels, but sometimes it’s a painful price to pay. Once, again, practice it over several days, weeks if possible.

As to alcohol and it’s effects on appearance and attractiveness, I recall driving passed a pub with my pre-teen daughter a year ago, and thanks to the perfect timing, a very drunk, scarcely dressed, woman with smudged make up (I think you get the picture),  meandered in front of my car, with sandals in her hands. I pointed out to my daughter that this woman was “cheap” (yes, I was being extremely harsh and judgmental, but please bear with me as I extoll the virtues of this tale), and sadly that this girl would only attract one of two men; a cheap man (slovenly and without virtue) or a fine man who was seeking a temporary fix (ie not a good man either). The moral to this tale is that you get what you put out. This applies to men too. Women are least attracted to drunks, bullies and overtly loud, obnoxious men. It served as a great learning device for this mum. Now, my daughter makes a point of showing me “cheap” girls all the time. Goodness, have a created a monster?

On a more contemporary note about attire for modern woman; if you’re confident that you know what message you’re sending with your appearance, and do not shy away from comments that could be made, then wear what you like. Good etiquette, above all, is about being confident without offending those around you. And fashion is all about expressing yourself on the outside.

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