When I was growing up, “class” was something we were taught to aspire to. Having class implied a certain level of refinement, manners and education. In my mother’s parlance, the opposite of classy was “tacky” and was exemplified by loud gum chewing, too-tight clothing and overdone makeup or jewelry. But sometimes the distinction was a matter of degree too subtle for my young mind to grasp. Jackie Kennedy’s faux pearls were classy, the huge rhinestone costume brooches (which I loved) worn by our babysitter were tacky. A slight bouffant hairdo was classy, a full-on beehive was tacky. A quiet chuckle was classy, a loud chortle, tacky. The old definitions of “class” seem ossified and elitist today, a quaint artifact from ancient times. Class has fallen out of favor.
In fact, we’ve swung to far the other way in our ME-First!, trash-talking, nothing-succeeds-like-excess, Reality TV-ized world where Bling is King, Catfights are Cool and Manners Drool, that une femme thinks it’s time for a return to the aspirational ideal of Class (or Manners or Civility or whatever you want to call it). I’m not talking about a revival of that old classist ideal I grew up with which was dependent on breeding or money and enforced through snobbery, but rather one that comes from actions and attitudes; a more democratic Class that we can all work toward and achieve. A modern interpretation of Class isn’t about having a finishing school education, the “right” clothes, or even knowing which fork to use (though I’m all in favor of basic table manners), but about integrity and doing the right thing. When I think about Class Acts, here some things that come to mind, as always in no particular order:
- Honoring your obligations. (showing up on time, following through with what you’ve promised.)
- Taking responsibility for your actions and mistakes.
- Keeping your cool under pressure.
- Graciously accepting a compliment without a qualifying statement after “thank you.”
- Giving honest and heartfelt compliments.
- Being conscious of the people around you. (Holding doors for those behind you, offering to help someone struggling with packages, not cutting right across another’s path.)
- Treating clerks, cashiers, janitors, bus drivers, waitresses, postal workers, the people on the other end of the 800# customer service line, and your annoying co-workers with courtesy and respect, and remembering that they’re people too, not just robots serving your needs. (Also, not talking on your cell phone while conducting a transaction!)
- Dressing in a way that shows respect for yourself and those around you.
- Neither hiding your intelligence nor wielding it as a club.
- Standing up for yourself without resorting to abuse.
- Delighting in others’ joys, not in their misfortunes.
- Being mindful that “there for the grace of God go I.” While I believe in personal responsibility and that choices have consequences, it helps to remember that the playing field isn’t level and that life throws curve balls at all of us; even those who make all of the “right” decisions can fall on hard times.
- Rather than complaining endlessly about circumstances, looking for solutions.
- Helping when you can: volunteer, donate.
My ever-classy readers…what would you add to this list?
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 United States License.