Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Grace Sends You Packing

The summer season is upon us, rejoice, rejoice. This often means travel, weekends at the beach or lake, and consequent packing and unpacking. With this in mind, I have 2 words of advice for you, Graces: Travel Light.

I know of what I speak. I got a diamond engagement ring and the accompanying husband out of my ability to pack strategically. On a long ago, 3 week trip to Australia involving 4 distinct climates and activities that ranged from nights at the opera to hiking in the desert and snorkeling I managed one checked bag and one carry on bag. My then-boyfriend (who had brought significantly more luggage than I did) was so thrilled with this arrangement that he decided to marry me then and there. He proposed on the banks of Sydney Harbor, handed over a ring a week after we returned to the US, and by and large, we have lived happily ever after.

Here are my "Greatest Hits of Packing":

1. Roll, Baby, Roll. Just like Jim Morrison said in his iconic hit "Roadhouse Blues" (though in a decidedly different context). Remember the blessed day when the Girl Scout Camping Weekend Trip ended and you rolled up your sleeping bag? Duplicate that method with every article of clothing you pack. A friend's mother once transported a bridal gown using this method. I might not recommend it to this extent, but in general, rolling saves space and prevents wrinkles.

2. Jersey Girl. Whether you prefer the Tom Waits or Bruce Springsteen version (or Bon Jovi--who knew--it's bloody good!), jersey--and all knits--are a traveler's amiga. NOT, God Forbid, a sweatsuit of any fabric (even velour....make that especially velour), but attractive knit pieces. Cotton or silk tees and tanks, knit skirts and dresses, shorts and pants laced generously with stretch all arrive in wearable condition sans wrinkles.

3. These Boots Are Made For Walkin'. Make sure all footwear is comfy, versatile, and neutral. Leave the Blue Suede Shoes behind with apologies to Elvis, no matter how much you love them. And use space inside the shoes--stuff 'em with socks.

4. Back In Black--it goes with everything, can be dressed up easily, doesn't show dirt, and is slimming. What's not to love? If all black is too monotonous or somber for you, choose one or 2 accent shades that intermingle with everything. White is a no brainer, varying shades of greys and khakis work, or bolder, brighter hues of pink and green. Just make sure everything can mix and match.

5. Box of Rain--Bring your own in the form of an Evian Spray Atomizer. I refuse to board a flight longer than 90 minutes without one, and they provide a lovely refresher at the beach. Those clever folks at Evian make a handy 1.7 oz can, which will keep your skin hydrated while your fellow passengers and beachgoers dry up like those shrunken head dolls. Give yourself a spritz every hour or so.

Bon Voyage!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Party Guest of Honor Behaves Badly: Hostess Hell

Here's one for the books, Graces.

My friend Grace S generously hosted a party last week. She did so as a favor to a friend. Well, really a friend of a friend, who needed a place to screen her short film about how Jane Austen's novels affected her dating life.

Given the subject matter of the short film, S. wisely invited women only. I don't care how in touch with his feminine side your guy is--he does not want to attend a gathering like this one and the sizable withdrawal from the relationship favor bank that his attendance would require is not worth his reluctant company for the evening. Trust me.

S and her co-hostess assembled a bountiful buffet of appetizers, red and white wine, and pitchers of margaritas. They gift-wrapped copies of the film on discs for all of the guests, and arranged flowers decoratively throughout the house.

The guest of honor arrived in a dress that was smaller than the DVDs. Seriously. The back plunged so deeply that we were put in mind of plumbers crouching under sinks. The tightness of the dress screamed "anatomy lesson" more than "fashion statement." Her first question: "Where are all the men?" Kind of makes you wonder whom (or what) she had in mind when she selected her attire for the evening. Doubtless Jane Austen would have a wry and witty assessment.

When offered a drink, the honored guest requested red wine. S poured her a glass. Guest took a sip, put the glass down and asked, "Do you have anything else?". Oh, my.

What's a Grace to do?

Let's look from both sides:

Now, we've all been there--you're served something that you just don't like. (Though having attended plenty of gatherings at S's home, I know her offerings are always top notch.) In such cases, you simply carry it around until the host isn't looking and ditch the disliked potable in favor of something you like better. You never let the hosts know.

As far as the host is concerned, you smile warmly and say, "Of course. We have X,Y, and Z if you'd prefer any of those. What can I get you instead?". The high road is always a better route, even if it requires some teeth gritting as you travel it.

And speaking of Jane on film, nobody does it better than Emma Thompson. The acceptance speech she gave after winning the best adapted screenplay award for Sense & Sensibility is worth watching....(scroll ahead to :42 to skip the chaff.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

He's Late, She's Prompt--What to Do?

Dear Grace,
What is a Grace to do when one's better half is constantly tardy? When there is the option, is it more gracious to leave one's companion behind and make a timely entry solo (which makes one's partner look Gruntly upon his or her late arrival), or is it better to enter as a couple, even if late (which makes both of us look Gruntly)?
Thank you!

Grace Says:

Cattle Prods? Strangulation? Divorce? I LOATHE tardiness. But, I'm sure your chap has lots of other redeeming qualities, so, let's solve this one:

My best advice to you is to lie. While I normally advocate honesty in relationships, this goes into the 'little white lie' category, not the 'whopper' classification. You're not claiming to have paid the mortgage when you actually bought several pairs of Manolos, nor are you claiming to be drafting a sales proposal on the computer when you are carrying on a cyber-affair. You are simply ensuring that you depart for social events on time in the most painless way.

If you are due to depart at 6:30, tell him that you need to leave by 6 (or minus whatever his customary time deficit is.) I have the same situation with several of my family members. Last week, they were coming in for a 3pm event at my daughter's school. I told them it started at 2, and I still had to go by myself and save seats. They sprinted in as the music started, round about 3:05. Inexcusable, but after XX years, I know with whom I have the pleasure and I circumvent the problem.

As far as leaving without Mr. Tardy and letting him arrive in his own not-so-sweet time, I'm all for it--provided it doesn't inconvenience you in terms of transportation (having 2 cars at the destination), safety (walking out at night alone), or cost (paying two cab or train fares).

I hope these help! As always, thanks for writing and good luck.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

That Was NOT a Compliment

So there I was at Zumba the other day. You know how much I love Zumba, and you know that the class is rife with non-Graces, for I have detailed their antics before. This particular instance involved an acquaintance and fellow Zumba devotee who gave me what she clearly intended as a compliment but really came off--unintentionally, I am sure--as a barb.

To give you a bit of background: my customary gym attire slants more toward the yoga pants and not-very-fitted tee. I am not one of those bare-all types intent on displaying their parts to all and sundry. But last week, I happened to don more form fitting attire for class. It was hot, and I chose lycra capris and a ribbed tank. After class, the aforementioned neighbor approached me and said, "Grace, you have lost so much weight, I didn't recognize you!" Trouble is, I haven't lost weight--at least not much. Ok, I have been hitting the gym a bit harder of late in prep for beach season, but at most I've toned, lifted, and possibly slimmed down a bit. But not to have rendered me unrecognizable!

Another recent and similar experience:

I worked for months on a benefit to raise money for a local non-profit. At the gala, the organization's director approached me. He said: "Grace, you look so nice, I almost didn't recognize you." It's no wonder that his agency needed some help staying afloat.

What's a Grace to do?

I smiled, nodded, accepted the uber-gaffes as the compliments they were hopefully intended as and chalked the experiences up to good material.

Have you received any complimentary insults lately?