January 12, 2009

How to Walk Like a Lady

I was the youngest of two kids. I had a brother 3 years older than me. This meant that I looked up to him while growing up, and since I was a tomboy, I think I must have looked to him for how to do many things including how to walk. This meant I had some kind of stroll/swagger combo that didn't resemble the dainty prance of most girls. This never bothered me, in fact I figured it somehow added to my speed when running and/or ability to play sports. So I didn't care. I didn't really notice this to be a problem until after I finished college.

The hospital I was working for was throwing its annual gala to raise money, and my department head bought a table for first come first served in my department. Being fresh out of college and indoctrinated with the importance of networking, I reserved a free spot at that table. I had the perfect "standout" dress, with the personality to pull it off. I say that because it was some sort of bright orange, which is a hideous thought for a formal occasion for most people. But most people would tell you that I pulled that dress off, but they wouldn't be caught dead in it themselves.

So I really wanted to present well in the midst of this networking opportunity, but knew I had a tendency to be awkward and goofy, especially in heels. This is because I routinely ran in the parking lot with heels on. If running in heels had been an Olympic event, I'd have been world champion. Those that know me, or knew me then, will agree that I was the antithesis of a lady. My husband doesn't quite get it, although I swear I made my unlady-like side very clear to him before we married just to make sure he still wanted to marry me. Anyways I wanted to soften myself so I turned to a friend who'd been to charm school or had been properly trained in the ways of a lady and acting lady-like for a crash course in presenting myself as a lady. Just enough to fool a bunch of "important" people for one night.

We started with walking. Lesson one I believe was something to the effect of stick your boobs out. What??? My intention was not to whore it up for the night! I did not want to draw unneeded attention to my chesticular area, I wanted to downplay it as much as possible without turning into a man. But that's what I thought the dress was for. Although as I recall, the actual words may have been to "put your shoulders back." Doesn't matter, they both came to the same result. Nonetheless, this was part of lady-like etiquette, so I humored my teacher friend and went with the flow.

Lesson two had to do with leading with your hips. Again, What??? I thought your legs led you. Oh if only there had been a camera there to catch my first several attempts at leading with my hips. If I had been a weaker person, I would have given up after the laughter it caused. However I do believe I was involved in the laughter as well. The point was to not give up. I didn't have to be perfect, but I had to get to a point where I could feel and look as natural as possible.

The next step was to combine the shoulders and the hips while wearing the heels I would be wearing. It is quite likely that this resulted in the most awkward, jerky/rigid, not lady-like walk across the room ever witnessed by anyone. It took practice but I finally got to the point where it flowed ok and I knew the look and the feel that I would practice at home later.

Other lady-like things we covered included what to do with your hands while standing around talking. But I can't really remember what that was. We also covered how not to eat like a slob and other ancillary lady-like items that I needed to brush up on for my big networking opportunity. By the time the big night arrived I was an expert lady faker.

Here's the thing, while I didn't disappoint my teacher and I learned valuable lady lessons that I would take with me to this day, all my ladyness never produced a better job as a result of my networking. No one at that gala that I talked to ever got me, or offered me a job. Maybe years from now, one of them will remember that awesome orange dress worn elegantly by that smart young lady, and offer me the job of a lifetime because of that one night. Only time will tell. For now I am grateful that I can at least fake being lady-like when necessary, like in an interview, or at church, or anywhere else where acting lady-like might be considered beneficial or at least in good taste.


Christiane said...

You did pull off that dress!

Anonymous said...

my God, i thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insght at the end there, not leave it with ‘we leave it to you to decide’.

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