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How might we introduce more elegance and style into our daily lives in 2016 and beyond?

An old ad for Ballantine Beer.  I have only witnessed beer consumption this glamorous once, or maybe twice in my life.  Nothing against the beverage itself, and I enjoy the occasional glass with a good brat and saurkraut, but usually, occasions that include beer do not resemble anything close to this idealized scene from 1954.

How might we easily and effortlessly introduce more elegance and style into our daily lives in 2016 and beyond?  Here are just a few brief suggestions:

1) Instead of sitting around the house in sweat pants, cargo pants, or pajama bottoms most of the time, how about adding a few pairs of corduroy jeans for the winter and a few pairs of khakis (long, or short depending on the season) for the warmer months?  It's not going to kill us to look a bit nicer even when we are behind closed doors.  Let's keep up appearances even if only for ourselves.

2) I'll bang the ol' drum again since this is clearly such a challenge for so many in the 21st century.  Table manners, table manners, table manners!  I was reminded of this point when we joined a colleague of my wife's (along with that person's immediate family) for lunch on New Year's Eve.  The invitation was very gracious, yes.  But, um, it was not a comfortable experience sitting across from and next to the people involved considering that everyone but the husband behaved as though he, or she was at a trough in a barnyard.  Yuck!  At the barest minimum, a) chew with your moth closed and don't smack your lips, b) don't talk with your mouth full, c) keep your napkin in your lap and your elbows off the table, d) sit up without hunching over your plate, and e) sit still without tapping/bouncing your foot if you are an adult, or swinging your legs if you happen to be a child, and don't drift into some else's space while at the table.  

How can ANYONE argue with these basic points?  Yet people take issue with the idea of manners (around the table and in daily life) all of the time if, or when one is foolish enough to raise the issue.  I understand that it is not polite to tell someone directly that he, or she is rude, but jeeze Louise!  How can people achieve high levels of graduate education (and enjoy an essentially upper middle class income and lifestyle), read widely, travel around the world, live other places, rub elbows with all kinds of other interesting people in their work, and ostensibly teach culture to young, undergraduate minds without acquiring at least a veneer of sophistication themselves beyond their particular, rather narrow field of expertise?  Basic manners are part of that sophistication like it, or not.  Clearly, a terminal degree doth not a charming personality (or, indeed, family) make!  As has been pointed out here before (by a reader), the poorest people can, sometimes, be the most polite, interesting, and charming.  By the same token, the most privileged and moneyed can, likewise, be the most crass and boorish in their behaviors.

3) Keep your living space picked up, put things away when you finish with them, and stop decorating your abode like some kind of hyper-masculine, overgrown college kid on his own for the first time.  In other words, lose the teenager's room/ dorm room/ first apartment/ man cave aesthetic forthwith and pack up. . .  no, GET RID of the unframed posters taped to your walls along with the miniature NFL helmet collection, and other assorted college and professional sports tschotschkes.  It's high time to cultivate a bit more sophistication where your interior decorating is concerned Bubba.  I suggest starting with the Masculine Interiors website.

4) Stop drinking from the bottle, can, or red plastic Solo cup and. . .  ask for a glass.  Simple.

There.  Now, that didn't hurt, did it?

-- Heinz-Ulrich


  1. Happy New Year to you, too (delayed response to your Dec. 30 wishes)!

    Re #3: We were taught to always "pull your own weight around the house" whether there's a cook or maid(s) on the premises or not, because it's the responsible and fair thing to do, plus "it builds character" (which I had a penny for every time I heard That one...).

    Don't know if you're familiar with this blog & book:
    The particular post I linked starts a discussion in the opposite direction in the comments, particularly concerning the, well, if not abrogation of responsibility by parents then certainly the neglect thereof, of raising children to be responsible adults. Nevertheless, this post does address in part the responsibility of dressing appropriately and living responsibly in general, as does his book.

    Which brings me to this idea (again): I do hope you'll consider writing a book someday, which should be fairly easy to begin by your gleaning much pertinent information from your blog posts.

    Best wishes to you & yours for a happy and prosperous year--and your readers, too!

  2. Thank you, and Happy 2016 Glenda! I will have a look at the blog you mention. It sounds interesting. Yes, there is a vague book idea behind all of this, although I must admit I am a bit stumped as to how I might pitch such an idea to a relevant publisher were I to assemble a (reasonably) coherent manuscript. Any suggestions?

    Best Regards for the New Year,


  3. English Comp instructors would be doing a great service to humanity by making your articles on civility required reading for college students in the hope that they might grow up to be civilized human beings.

  4. Heinz-Ulrich, I have three suggestions, plus a little something extra.

    First, go to this link (I have no affiliation to any of the below),

    enter your email address (you can always unsubscribe afterward if you want to), and you will be sent a free guide to publishing an ebook, which is the best I've ever seen, beautiful and elegantly done, leaves no question unanswered as far as I've seen, an excellent place to start. You can always put your book into hard-cover/paperback format later.

    If you want to have a lot of hands-on help from start to finish, you can try "Book in A Box", founded by Tucker Max (I heard him on a podcast by Jayson Gaignard of Mastermind Talks). Here's a link that explains in detail what they do:

    Last, but certainly not least--in fact you may even want to start here--is the definitive post on how to get your book published, either by a publishing house or self-publishing. Tim Ferriss, of The 4-Hour Books fame, has been through it all in publishing: used a publisher to publish his first book, decided to self-publish a subsequent book so his books were banned by Barnes & Noble, self-published anyway to the tune of millions of books sold much to the chagrin of B&N. He has answers, boy does he have answers:

    Tim's podcasts, by the way, are, in my opinion, the best podcasts available for information on how to live your best life. My second-favorite podcasts are Dan Carlin's Hard-Core History. One of my favorite blogs for information on how to live a more meaningful life is Brain-Pickings.

    Hope this is helpful to you. My best to you & yours, as always,

  5. What a delight to read about manners, culture, and grace in this world of lost civility. Thank you, Heniz-Ulrich.

  6. We try. Goodness knows, we try. Sometimes the feeling of being out of step with so much of broader society these days wears on me though. Wouldn't it just be easier to be crass too? Um. . . Nah!

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich von B.


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All opinions are welcome here. Even those that differ from mine. But let's keep it clean and civil, please.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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