A few weeks ago, Kristin and I were out at Borders. She was looking for books about macroeconmics, and I was looking for interesting cookbooks on the bargain books rack when I ran across Class with the Countess: How to Live with Elegance and Flair, by Countess LuAnn de Lesseps of "The Real Housewives of New York".
For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it's part of the "rich women catfighting" reality television genre, and Countess LuAnn is known for such elegant, classy gestures as:
-haggling with a street vendor for several minutes over the price of a lightup plastic necklace
-participating with fellow castmember Jill in a classic "Mean Girls" three-way phone calling attack against costar Bethenny
-making fun of costar Ramona's bulging eyes to her face on a cast reunion show
-asking her former housekeeper to come over and cook her a meal under the guise of friendship
-gossiping about the behavior of costars Alex and Simon's children on camera, then lying about it when confronted and blaming Jill
-loudly correcting Bethenny for introducing her incorrectly to her limo driver, in front of the limo driver, by forgetting to include Countess LuAnn's title
Clearly, Countess LuAnn has a lot to teach the world about classily living with elegance and flair, and when I noticed that her book was on clearance for a dollar I decided to take a chance on self-improvement and the opportunity to learn to live just like Countess LuAnn.
Here are the top ten things I learned from reading this book:
1) How to Walk in Jimmy Choos. Thank you, Countess LuAnn, for targetting your book toward the common people and the troubles that we face in our daily lives. Without this section, I wouldn't have learned such helpful things as "practice walking in your shoes at home" and "glide, ladies, glide", just like Victor Melling said in "Miss Congeniality".
2) Satin pillows will help you avoid bed head and facial wrinkles. No scientific source is cited here, so we'll just have to take LuAnn's word for it. Nothing is said about my pillows, which are made of... cotton? I guess? so the message that I'm taking away here is that I should either have satin pillows or no pillows at all.
3) You shouldn't wear leggings, but sometimes you should. I found this bit of advice confusing, rather than classy or elegant. Countess LuAnn states that you should avoid wearing leggings "unless your legs are well toned and shapely", but then later says that I can wear a tunic over leggings "to camouflage figure flaws". Is that unless the figure flaws are in my legs? Because I thought I wasn't supposed to wear leggings unless my legs are shapely, but now if my legs are flawed I can wear the leggings as long as I cover them with a tunic? Which is it? And how does Countess LuAnn feel about jeggings? Do they fall under the confusing Rule of Leggings, or are they a separate category with their own rules?
4) How to Address an Aristocrat in Order of Importance. Again, in a nod to the common people, Countess LuAnn provides a chart that starts with "King/Queen" and ends with "Knight or Baronet", providing information that we among the hoi polloi can't help but incorporate into our daily lives. Next time I run into the Marquess of Western Knoxville, I'll be able to address his Lordship appropriately.
5) "Men essentially want to please you." What men? Where? How can I meet them? 95% of my experience with men suggests that they want you to please them, but if Countess LuAnn knows some other kind of man then I really, really want to know where those men live and how fast I can move there.
6) Racism is horrible because it is unattractive, not because it is inherently wrong. According to Countess LuAnn, "expressing prejudice about race, religion, nationality, or politics is unattractive". Nevermind the dehumanizing consequences of bigotry; all you need to worry about is that it will make you less pretty. Also, expressing prejudice about sexual orientation is apparently totally ok.
7) Your response to an invitation should mirror the language of the invitation itself. For example, "Count and Countess de Lesseps accept with pleasure your kind invitation to the marriage of your daughter on Saturday, the Thirteenth of July, at Two in the Afternoon, and they will both have The Chicken". To all my friends over the years whose wedding invitations I have responded to by checking the "will attend" box on your RSVP card, I apologize for my classlessness.
8) Your kids need cell phones so that you can talk to them inside your own home. As Countess LuAnn explains: "Yelling up and down the stairs can drive me crazy, so we've taken to calling each other on our cell phones". Next time I'm home and my mom yells up the stairs that dinner is ready, I'll be sure to yell back, "You have my phone number!" so that she'll understand what kind of behavior is acceptable.
9) As a guest, you should never complain to your host about anything. They have opened their home to you and offered their hospitality, and you should be gracious and thankful. On the other hand, if there's a hot guy at the party that interests you more than the host, feel free to badmouth the host as your opening line. Countess LuAnn illustrates this with the story of how she sat by the host, playing hard to get, and then when she managed to corner the guy she liked and he asked where she'd been, Countess LuAnn answered, "I've been upstairs, being molested by our host." Maybe she thought that she didn't have to be a gracious, thankful guest since she told that story in the romance chapter rather than the one on the hostess/guest relationship.
10) Europeans love naked people. As Countess LuAnn explains: "I don't think people flirt enough. People are far more flirtatious in Europe, but nudity is more accepted there." Is she saying that people in Europe flirt by taking off their clothes? Is that why study abroad programs are so popular?
In closing, I look forward to using these helpful tips to live a more elegant, sophisticated life.
Just as soon as I stop laughing at the hypocrisy and cluelessness of Countess LuAnn writing this book to begin with.