Charmed, I'm (Not So) Sure

Want to guard against exhibiting frown lines at a social engagement? Just apply a bit of adhesive tape between your eyebrows on the days beforehand; that'll remind you. Worried about being too short-waisted, select smaller accessories and no one will even notice. Not thrilled with your posture when walking?... balance a book on your noggin while striding back and forth. And if seated, pretend there's an invisible string attached to the top of your head that's pulling you upward. Guaranteed to get the job done. Oh, and a few tips at a formal dinner: While the service staff can place their fingers on top of saucers, bowls, and dinnerware, not you; yours only go below. And don't forget: coffee cup handles sit at 3 o'clock while spoons stir from 12 to 6. And whatever you do, don't even think of making clinking sounds. Discards of bones, olive pits and tea bags must always be placed at the upper left of the plate. And never, ever announce that you're going to the restroom. Instead, say "Excuse me" and slip out. And maybe just don't come back 'cause it sounds like you're having the worst possible time ever!

And those, my friends, are just a few of the countless tips offered by charm schools--no, not of the Harry Potter's "Hogwarts" variety--so prevalent in the 50s and 60s. The ones embracing the "Stepford Wives" school of thinking. The ones ostensibly designed to teach young women social graces as a preparation for entry into society when, in reality, they were all about helping a gal snag a hubby. Luckily, for us, traditions and mores changed, the schism never more obvious than when women's lib activists began eschewing their high heels and burning their bras in protest against the pervasive sexism that had been forced upon them their entire lives. So yeah, as the Age of Aquarius dawned, charm schools kinda took a hit. With the choice of attending a sit-in followed by a protest rally and a concert in the park up against learning how to properly drink your tea with the perfect pinky extension, it quickly became apparent that these finishing schools had met their Waterloo. They were done. Kaput. Stick a fork--which must always be located to the left of the dinner plate--in 'em.

Indeed, the times changed and a new consciousness emerged. Gender inequality was suddenly front and center. All of the roll playing and carefully crafted feminine techniques designed to attract a mate kind of receded into the background in favor of, I don't know... being real? Both sexes were now forsaking the previous mind-numbing gender protocols in favor of letting it all hang out. Doin' whatever was their bag. Just makin' the scene and tryin' to be cool. Lookin' to keep on truckin'. Letting their freak flag fly. 'Cause things back then were far out... Sorry, got a bit carried away there. That 60s lingo rabbit hole, it can be a bear to get out of once you've fallen in. So, anyway, what I'm saying is things finally eased up. All of the rituals and formalities gave way to a laid-back casual style. Both women and men were no longer being judged by their appearances; it was their inner spirit that mattered.

And so, here we are a half-century later, with finishing schools now a quaint, faint reflection in our rearview mirror. Previous conventionalities of society no longer hold sway and things couldn't be better, right? I mean, you go to your local Walmart and it's a smorgasbord of fashion choices, from the off-duty crossing guard with the rather filthy double-entendre sex reference t-shirt to the octogenarian over-nourished, exercise-deprived woman wearing her great-granddaughter's flesh-colored unitard, standing in the check-out line just behind the pajama-clad teen with the defecating pet lizard atop his shoulder, amid an ensemble of shoppers all blaring their iPhone videos louder than the next, adjacent to the restaurant area where unkempt patrons in short-shorts and sleeveless shirts--regardless of the season--all seemingly sporting the same skull tattoos, noisily slurp their quart-sized soft drinks, scarfing down slice after slice of hazmat-related pizza while unsupervised, screaming youngsters run amok nearby... Ahh, progress, eh?

Yeah, you see where I'm going here, right? And no, I'm not suggesting we reinstate charm schools. I think we can all agree they're antiquated. I mean, just the name alone. Nah, we need something hipper than "charm" or "finishing" to get people to reconsider their societal faux pas. Ya know, like "Cool School", a groovy, happenin' place where a brotha' or sista' can get down without all that jive talk. Maybe get turned on to some mod threads while noshin' on some soul food and rappin' 'bout a new outta sight heavy flick without freakin' out and makin' a scene like a jive-ass turkey havin' a bad trip while hangin' out at your pad. 'Cause that's, like, a total bummer, man.