Friday, April 30, 2010

Lesson From My Nephew - Manners Count!

Recently, I was visiting my family out on Long Island and at the end of the day it was announced that Aunt Marni had to catch her train back to Manhattan. Before I could even try to open the front door for myself, my six-year-old nephew raced over and opened it for me. I was impressed. Then, as we walked to the car, his little legs walked slightly faster so he could get ahead and open the car door for me. I was even more impressed. As my nephew and I sat in the rear of the mini-van, my sister passed back a bag of deliciously tart sour patch kids to my nephew. Before even dipping his tiny fingers in the bag, he turned to me, held the bag out and asked if I would like any. Ok, now I was really impressed. Good job, Laura!

Some of the grown men I know do not have nearly as good manners.

Hearing the outcome of countless dates, I can tell you, Guys, that you can win or lose MAJOR points by your display of good manners (which is often simply showing consideration and concern for your date) or your lack thereof.

When I was discussing this topic with male friends at my most recent Sunday at Noon event at an art gallery, one of the guys seemed a little dubious: “I don’t want to be the nice guy who turns into just a friend. What about the woman's need for the thrill of the chase?” Guys, I am not talking here about tripping all over yourself and doting excessively on a woman. I am addressing the expression of basic gentility. Trust me when I say good manners are a big turn on.

So, with that clarified, perhaps you’re thinking your parents didn’t prepare you as well as my sister has trained my nephew. Or perhaps you’re not sure what constitutes good manners anymore (yes, times are a changin’).
[1] Well there’s hope - you can always consult the updated Emily Post Book of Etiquette (17th Edition)[2]. I actually bought it myself – it’s quite large and covers everything from the impropriety of chewing gum with your mouth open – something which many men and women do and which is my personal pet peeve to on line dating tips (“Be honest when you write your profile, and post an up–to-date photo. Proofread your profile carefully.”).

Now, when I caution you, Guys, to try to display the best manners possible on a date or potentially risk falling into the “nice enough guy, but I don’t think I want to go out with him again” category I’m not talking about women getting their feathers ruffled over your using your salad fork for your entree. Instead, I am talking about, among other things:

  • Walking ahead of the girl on the sidewalk (women HATE this and could very easily decide not to go on a second date based on this conduct alone. It shows a real lack of concern about the well-being of your date);
  • Not seeing your date to the subway, into a cab, etc. (shows a complete indifference to whether she gets home ok);
  • Licking your fingers instead of using a napkin, licking your knife, using your fingers to push your food onto your fork, etc. (you don’t think this happens on dates with people you know, but I assure you, it does);
  • Texting on your blackberry during the date (of course, this goes for both sexes).

And one of the BIGGEST complaints I hear from women is men who talk about themselves virtually the entire time and never ask questions (and typically the men are doing this even though they like these girls and want to go out again!). Ok, sometimes these guys ask one or two questions (to their date’s 20 questions). And for every story she has about skydiving, wine tasting, etc. these braggadocios counter with five stories of their own (as Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette reminds, good conversation should be like a tennis volley). Essentially, with these guys it’s all about them. And it’s funny, because despite the stereotype about women being the chattier of the sexes, I NEVER hear this complaint from the guys. Message to the Men: Women find this conduct self-centered, off-putting, and, frankly, just boring.

So if you’re on a date and trying to make a good impression, here are a few tips that, when followed, can go a long way:

  • Walk alongside the women you are out with. Also try to be conscious of the grates on the NYC sidewalks. Don’t be oblivious and force her to walk right onto one and damage her new and beautiful Jimmy Choos!
  • If it’s been raining/snowing, help her to cross the corners which we all know in Manhattan can be a huge mess after a snowstorm!
  • Compliment her on some aspect of her appearance. This shows appreciation for the effort she put in to look nice for your date (but avoid something sexual: a compliment such as “I like your earrings” or even “you look great” is appropriate and thoughtful).
  • Be a gentleman and help her take her coat off (and also help her with putting it back on when the time comes).
  • Ask her if she would like anything else after finishing brunch/dinner - don’t just immediately ask for the check.
  • AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: Show interest in the other person, i.e. ask questions and be a good listener.

Of course, I could go on and on with suggestions, but you get the point … show some chivalry. Women love it (in fact, everyone appreciates good manners), it tends to indicate good upbringing and it makes women feel appreciated. Finding the right person in this giant city is challenging enough, don’t let bad manners be the reason you’re not meeting and (keeping) Mrs. Right!

[1] Some men have reported to me that they have been chastised for holding the door open for women and now are reluctant to do so. My advice, ignore those women and keep opening the doors – most women (at least the ones you want to date) do appreciate it. However, some etiquette books advise that in this day and age men might want to first ask women “May I open the door for you?” That works too.
[2] Emily Post’s famous book of etiquette has been skillfully updated by her great-grand-daughter-in-law, Peggy Post who is also recognized as the leading authority on etiquette and a prolific author in her own right.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Little Prince And Grand Ideas

The Little Prince. Yes, the book by Antoine de Saint- Exupéry. Maybe some of you read it as children, others as adults, and if you’re really impressive, maybe you read it in French (unless of course if you’re French, which would then make it not as impressive). If you haven’t read it, I urge you to stop by the book store on your way home from work and pick up a copy. It’s a quick read - you can polish it off in between your workout and your nighttime t.v. shows. And it is, after all, a classic - one of the best selling books ever, with over 80 million copies sold and translated into 180 languages. Ok, you may be wondering is this a book review or a blog on dating? Well, maybe both… The Little Prince leaves you with unforgettable characters (e.g. the Conceited Man who is lonely and craves admiration from everyone but cannot hear anything that is not a compliment and therefore lives alone on his planet - or the vain, coquettish and foolish but loving rose who drives the little prince to leave his asteroid) as well as the profound and endearing reminder that “On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux."

Translation: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye."

A profound piece of advice to searching singles trying to assess what qualities are really necessary in another human being in their quest for love. Of course, Saint- Exupéry didn’t set out to write a book on dating in Manhattan, but single New Yorkers would be well served to read (or re-read) this little gem offering insights on the human condition that are as relevant here on the isle of Manhattan as anywhere else on the globe (or any asteroid, for that matter).

As a professional matchmaker, I am constantly listening to people’s descriptions of what they are looking for in members of the opposite sex: Intelligence. Got it. Kindness. Certainly important. A good sense of humor. Yup. But then there is: A full head of hair (preferably not grey), at least 5’11”, very handsome face, not too much older, must be in great shape AND intelligent, kind, with a good sense of humor, a solid job, wants a real relationship and is basically all around perfect). Or … it may go something like this with the guys: VERY attractive, young, thin, blond, C-cup... smart, cool, really fun, sweet, oh, did I say hot and young? Um, ok. (Actually, in all fairness, I have only had one guy mention to me a requested cup size, so thank goodness there’s actually flexibility there).

Sometimes, I feel compelled to ask the rhetorical question: are you marrying someone’s hair (you do know, they could lose it in 10 years, right?) or his character? And, really ladies, aren't bald guys sexy? Guys, are you marrying a girl’s killer body (yes, that can change too after one kid) or her character? Look around you – if you take a glance at most older couples, typically neither side is looking like a spring chicken. Yes, I know it’s been said before, but at the risk of throwing out platitudes – LOOKS FADE (anyone been to a reunion lately?). Ok, ok, for the smartasses out there, height doesn’t change but you get my point. By focusing so much on the exterior as New Yorkers tend to do and expecting everyone to be perfect (ok, we’re apparently not as bad as LA, I’ll give us that, but many of us are guilty of being unforgiving imperfect perfectionistas in this city) we often stand in our own way of actually having what it is we seek and what would ultimately make us happy.

Please understand, I get that there has to be chemistry – you have to be physically attracted to the other person on some level, you have to want to kiss him or her or it’s simply not gonna work. And we all know that you can’t manufacture attraction no matter how much you try (wouldn’t that be great, though, if there were an attraction manufacturing plant somewhere…).

But the real question that needs to be asked is what makes you want to kiss someone? Just a hot body or an attractive face? Can the qualities that are found below the surface make someone physically attractive to you if you’re in the right mindset to find those things attractive? (i.e. actually heeding and internalizing the above advice offered by the clever fox to the little prince). Let me elaborate.

If you’re at a stage in your life where you are seeking a true partner (someone who gets you, who makes you feel valued, whose company you treasure, who you respect, who’s going to be there for you in adversity, who’s going to be a great mother or father to your kids), then some true soul searching about what really makes you happy might result in a change in priorities and who/what you’re attracted to

So, if a person on a date is great company and shows a window into a soul that is GORGEOUS to you, you might metaphorically “see” with your heart a gorgeous human being (yes, I know you’re thinking, they made a movie like this it’s called Shallow Hal). Actually, I can think of a story of this actually transpiring when I was just a young‘un. All of the kids in my sixth grade class decided to conduct a poll to see who everyone thought was the prettiest girl in the class. As we all read the names aloud, certain prepubescent girls’ names came up consistently in the folded notebook paper squares (where was our teacher? must have been during recess…) and then all of a sudden the name Mary Jane Smith appeared in one tiny square. Everyone knew that the only person who could have possibly put her name down was Leonard Beane as Mary Jane was the farthest thing from what you would call a seductive Lolita and it was common knowledge that Leonard had a huge crush on Mary Jane (names are being changed to protect the innocent). There was something very impressive to me about this even back in sixth grade.

Ok, back to 2010. If you’re looking to fall in love, get married and have a family with someone, let’s say that means spending the next 40 or 50 years of your life with your partner (I mean who’s going into these things anxious to get divorced). When you seriously consider what that means in terms of years and time together, certain physical qualities that you may have put so much stock in back in your younger days might just become less important ... and certain qualities that speak to a person’s character may become more valuable (yes, even serving to make someone more physically attractive to you). So, if your true priority is to meet someone who has all the inner qualities that make for a great partner in life (and for a great parent to your children), then someone who shows signs of integrity, honesty and kindness on a date might in fact get you more than a little hot and bothered …

[1] It’s interesting to know that Saint-Exupéry actually wrote The Little Prince in the United States, while renting The Bevin House in Asharoken, New York, on Long Island. See

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