how to sit with ladylike poise, class, and elegance

Everybody knows I live an absolutely prim and proper life. For that reason I insist on spreading my copious knowledge to quality ladies everywhere! Here I demonstrate the “Duchess Slant” and the “Cambridge Cross”:

The Duchess Slant and the Cambridge Cross, attributed to Kate Middleton and Diana Spencer respectively, prevent your knickers from showing while seated, particularly in front of a camera [1]. We wouldn’t want the press to snap a photograph of the royal panties now would we?

Duchess Slant

English royals prove well practiced [2]:

Legs join at the knees and ankles (not crossing), and then tilt to one side. Heels touch the floor. Hands gently rest in the lap, ideally with one folded over the other [3]. Good posture—with back not touching the chair [4]—finalizes the position.

On my side of the Atlantic, I tend add a pronounced head tilt because I think it’s cute; compare to Ms. Middleton’s very slight tilt in the picture above.

Cambridge Cross

Again with the English royals [4]:

As the name implies, ankles gently cross when performing the Cambridge Cross, but otherwise one follows the Duchess Slant technique.

Why Bother?

Besides protecting modesty, these positions also slim and lengthen leg appearance [3].

I learned to sit properly from a modeling school’s video. Unfortunately I do not know which one so I cannot cite it. The video argued that given two equally qualified candidates for a photo shoot, the one that sits better will most likely get the job.

We can expand this idea to cover any job interview, and to cover career growth in general. Carrying oneself with class and poise, including how you sit, takes you places.

What About Crossing at the Knee?

The talking heads of etiquette have not sorted out amongst themselves whether crossing at the knee, while keeping angles together, proves appropriate for a lady of class [3]. But Ms. Spencer performs this position very elegantly:

Word to the wise: Prevent your petticoat from getting between your angles as demonstrated here:

The medical community continually debates the potential health hazards of sitting with legs crosses at the knee, but the jury is out [5].

How Not to Sit

Above I emphasized that one can only properly cross legs at the knee whilst keeping angles together, as demonstrated in the last two pictures. For contrast, this image [6] shows a less elegant form which ladies must avoid:

References

  1. https://www.popsugar.com/celebrity/What-Duchess-Slant-44944499
  2. https://people.com/royals/meghan-markle-duchess-slant-kate-middleton/
  3. https://www.vogue.com.au/culture/features/what-is-the-duchess-slant-and-does-it-really-matter-in-2018/news-story/e205f9b71548f9e9a004e15c6c573ba8
  4. https://brightside.me/wonder-people/12-exclusive-rules-from-the-duchess-of-cambridge-372910/
  5. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20151013-is-crossing-your-legs-bad-for-you
  6. http://faze.ca/is-sitting-with-your-legs-crossed-bad-for-you/

 

declaring myself an arbiter of proper ladylike behavior

Today I officially declared myself an arbiter of proper ladylike behavior. Issued the announcement via Twitter and Facebook:

Obviously I’m not a perfect lady myself, having immediately mocked the whole concept by using foul language in the second sentence of the announcement tweet.

But this speaks to a fundamental issue: A proper lady will not take herself too seriously! A proper lady knows that “ladylike behavior” is an abstraction and a ruse, yet chooses to employ it anyway. It’s a means to an end, and, for those that wish to participate, one of many pathways an individual may take toward creating a more civil and empowered society (if taken within proper context).

For a transgender lady such as myself, and perhaps for all ladies, ladylike behavior exercises empowerment. It provides an assertion of identity against a world that devalues the feminine. Deep in my transgender femme brain (and I’m only speaking for myself here), becoming a woman is never enough. I need to blossom into a lady. A “proper” lady. This liberates, not oppresses!

The best thing about this process is that I get to define “proper” and define “lady”. I’m creating something that works for me within the current time and place. Certainly I draw on a multitude of others’ etiquette manuals, blog posts, and how-to videos. I tap the Kama Sutra and the Bible for ideas. But the tiara stops with me—I’m the ultimate arbiter of my intent.

However, I plan to actively influence culture with my process and conclusions. Therefore I will add my voice to the growing worldwide call for promotion of civil, polite, feminine, demure (when appropriate), and of course, “ladylike” behavior by (interested) women of all ages. Will never treat my contribution as mandate, as many fabulous women will find no interest in it. This is perfectly fine.

My perspective proves unique in that no one taught me proper ladylike behavior growing up. The result is that I still “man-spread” and chug my beer when I lose mindfulness. As a work in progress recreating my own social construction from the ground up, I assimilate ladylike behavior as a foreigner learning a new language from scratch. This is beautiful and absurd. And it means all assumptions fell off the table.

So in my derivation of ladylike behavior for this social reconstruction I’m learning a lot about it, and intend to share my findings from a position only a transgender lady can offer.

Let’s get started!

Ladylike behavior involves many “musts”. I now issue my first:

“A proper lady never wears flip-flops in public, except at the beach, the pool, or the public shower.”

Proudly developed this “rule” myself; read it in no style guide or etiquette post.

The world is ours, ladies!

Update 27 April 2018

Received the following perspective-enhancing reply to my Facebook announcement:

Just reminds me to follow what I first admonished above:  “A proper lady will not take herself too seriously!”. Also illustrates how “expertise” lies in the eye of the beholder.

ten ways to deliver class (part #1)

“Class” strategically combines humility with knowing you stand a cut above the masses.

And now we begin writing about class.

“Class” is:

  1. Knowing when to lead and performing it gracefully.
  2. Knowing when to follow and performing it gracefully.
  3. Returning your shopping cart to the requested place.
  4. Realizing the full humanity in those who serve you (e.g., at a restaurant, etc.).
  5. Sitting up straight.
  6. Using proper grammar.
  7. Admitting and apologizing for your mistakes, and immediately working to remedy them.
  8. Dressing appropriately for an occasion.
  9. Driving politely.
  10. Counting your blessings.

More to come in future editions of this series!

poise, leadership, and mindfulness

I think a lot about poise: How to cultivate it, how to maintain it, what it means. I also think (and write) much about leadership. Concluded that the two overlap substantially. Further concluded that mindfulness forms the glue that holds them together.

Please permit me to elaborate:

Recently I developed my own description of poise for a witty Twitter and Facebook posting. Here is what I came up with:

Poise is an interesting mix of following tradition and inventing novelty. An interesting mix of following and breaking society’s rules.

This does not define poise, but it illuminates my vision of its practice. We follow tradition with etiquette designed to lubricate social interactions, but invent new ways of accomplishing (presumably noble) goals together as needed. We follow society’s “Golden Rule” but work to transcend society’s moral lassitude.

Realized that this describes a good leader.

Realized that this also describes the woman I want to become.

I have always been a natural leader. Not a natural executive or manager, just charismatic. Cut my teeth in leadership development as teenager organizing rock bands, an environment rich in people-skill development opportunities because you have to deal with creative conflict, egos, and drug addictions. (Compare to performing in a youth orchestra, where adults tell you what to play and how to play it, and the biggest conflicts are resolved by the same adults).

When your bassist is high and your guitarist demands the spotlight, you quickly learn to remain poise lest the whole endeavor falls apart.

But other than that I’ve never thought much about poise (until recently). I wore t-shirts and jeans exclusively, cursed like a punk rocker, and didn’t give a damn about etiquette. My best redeeming features were deep kindness and compassion. For better and worse, I moved forward in life by fully leveraging the “sexy rebel straight guy” ethos.

Likewise, I never thought much of cultivating leadership skills until recently. I just “winged it” when I needed to lead something. Also led culturally by inventing and promoting intellectual output, whether new music compositions or new ways of designing nucleotide sequences.

What changed? I decided to become a “lady”. (Please note that I used the word “lady” instead of “woman” here—they form very different concepts). This led to my search for feminine poise. This also led to a complete reevaluation of my workplace skills: I realized that my talent lies with people and technology, not just technology. Many a transgender woman reports this shift—I think the reason emerges from a combination of cultural expectation and consuming large doses of estrogen. Whatever the cause, I emerged ready to lead and/or facilitate in a formal manner.

But that’s my story. Lets get back to the intersection of poise and leadership, and throw in a discussion of mindfulness, because that might prove more useful to the world than my navel-gazing:

Leaders gain the confidence of their followers through poise. During the last presidential debates, Hillary Clinton made a conscious choice to maintain her presence and delivery rather than stop to confront Donald Trump for hovering in her space. While either decision would have been appropriate, she believed the best way to win voter confidence was through the action she felt showed the most self-control, the most poise.

Any loss of poise, though really often just a result of human frailty, knocks down a leader. Consider Donald Trump’s approval rating at this moment. The man can’t sustain a solid presence and has reaped the fruits of it.

Compare to Jesus, whom the Pharisees always tried to trap in some legal black hole. He (reportedly) always held it together with them, delivering nothing less than wit and wisdom. Jesus also provides a model of when it is appropriate for a leader to lose their cool: We consider his anger at the money-changers in the temple justified.

And here is the first place mindfulness comes in. I bet Jesus held complete in-the-now presence of mind while overturning those tables.

Poise requires mindfulness to execute, and leadership requires poise as I’ve demonstrated above, so the three concepts interact. In my example of Hillary Clinton’s debate decision above, she mindfully delivered the content while evaluating the circumstance. To manage this her mind could be nowhere else.

Similarly, in my work toward developing stereotypical feminine poise, my mindfulness skill strengthened as I learned to live my regular life while monitoring how I walk, sit, stand, talk, etc.

So my formula for leadership development from here on out involves mindfulness practice.