A Lesson In Tact For Rim Country: Charm School



Ah to posses the quality of charm. That combination of put-togetheredness, genuine friendly smile, and total focus on not only the person one is speaking with, but what they are saying.

I can randomly do three of those things at any given moment but the ability to combine all four, to achieve the "charm" I so admire in others, eludes me.

Perhaps if I'd been raised a Southern belle rather than an Arizona poppy it would have been de riguer for me to "finish" my education as a young woman at a charm school.

Or maybe had I been a young West Virginian in 1929 I could have attended Mary Behner's three-month charm school. Under her watchful tutelage, I might have mastered charms of posture, exercise, diet, sleep, cleanliness (surroundings), cleanliness (personal), speech, manners, friends, sex, spirit, intellect and sociability.

Geez -- and I was worried about my four personal criteria!?!

There are still schools around the world that do nothing but teach people -- many geared to business executives, models and salespeople -- how to be charming.

Now charm/finishing classes are referred to as "image training."

Today the "key components of a winning image" are, according to finishing school maven Gloria Starr, "Poise, Polish, Posturing and Positioning."

Poise means balance.

Yet in a society that increasingly laments Walden with our cell phones pressed to our ears, many are "poised" for the next tragic entertainment.

That is unbalanced.

Polished surfaces are shiny. Great for rings and fingernails but no female I know wants a shiny face. A soft sheen of glitter on the skin maybe, but not shiny.

The cosmetics industry is built upon our money spent on powders and creams that will make our skin look unpolished yet polished at the same time.

There's a bit o' balance.

Our mothers told us repeatedly to, "Sit up straight, don't slouch."

Some of us repeat these commands to our daughters when we get home from slouching over a computer all day.

But the posture of 1929 does not mean the same as "posturing": to assume an exaggerated or unnatural pose or mental attitude.

Posturing is a word with a negative connotation so how might one posture positively?

Attend a political meeting of any kind and see how it's done.


"With that honky tonk badonkadonk," sings Trace Adkins in his chart-topping song about a woman with a particular set of charms.

But R&B group Destiny's Child did go to finishing school I mean.

They even gave Starr's classes on "How to present yourself and your ideas withrace, charm, power, confidence and credibility" a testimonial.

Each had so many of those qualities they split to pursue separate careers.

Big corporations like TDS Telcom and Seagate Technologies send their executives to "finishing school."

Annually 300-500 "social calculus" aka charm-chasing MIT students attend classes such as, "How to Accessorize/Dress for Success and Table Manners."

A modern-day charm and finishing school for the Rim Country might include:

  • Rain Dancing: Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced: A free class to which all ages are welcome, because without more moisture it could be an ugly, smoke-orange summer.
  • Positioning aka Friendly Lane Blocking: Don't you live up here for the slower pace of life? Remember that the next time it happens to you. When you are the one doing the talking you will know you have arrived.
  • Budgeting: Four coffees a day cost more than a six pack of beer.
  • Poise: How to politely complain about antiquated water laws that serve SRP balanced with a request for water from the neighbors.
  • Restaurant Tableware 101: Flatware does not belong in a basket set on the floor while you are preparing the place settings.
  • Apology Training: For writers who mine friends and acquaintances for stories. (You know who you are. Thank you.)
  • Polish: Local nail techs learn to custom mix shades for fun and profit. (Don't try this at home without a teeny funnel.)
  • Chasing Your Tail: Positioning roundabouts.
  • Posture: Backpacks filled with hardcover textbooks should not be carried home from school by 70-pound third-graders. (But we hope students get many chances to walk 5 miles to school in the snow, uphill, both ways.)

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