But let us not be swept up in this tide of rudeness. This book (in addition to being a fun excuse to tell some of my favorite fashion-world stories) is a call to arms, a manifesto for kindness, generosity, and integrity. I hope you will join me in trying to make society a friendlier, more polite, and less aggressive place.
Of course, it's not like I am perfect. I've made many mistakes, and I continue to slip up now and then in my effort to behave well. And you'll hear all about it!
And yet I always atone for my errors, and there are certain fundamental social protocols I've come to hold dear: I don't believe in texting while dining, sending one-word e-mails in lieu of formal thank-you cards, wearing shorts to the theater, or settling for any of the modern trends that favor comfort over politeness, ease over style.
Being a good friend to other people, being glamorous and attractive, being a success are no accidents. Having a rich career and home life are the result of a great deal of hard work.
But that doesn't mean the work isn't fun.
In this book, I will share my thoughts on what constitutes a life well lived. These rules are what I've always tried to impart to my students and have tried to follow in my own career and social life. In writing these chapters, I've tried to think of you, the readers, as beloved students who have come to me during office hours to ask advice, talk over a dilemma, or just hang out.
Good manners lead to better relationships, more career success, and less personal stress. Manners are a relief, not a terrible obligation. It's my belief that etiquette isn't cold and formal; it's warm and flexible. I am very concerned with manners, but I am not a robot. Manners are simply about asking yourself, What's the right thing to do?
I deeply believe that if we all have this simple question in our minds, we will do right by one another. We won't always succeed . . . As you will learn from this book, in the course of trying to do the right thing, I have let a closet full of unopened gifts pile up in my apartment, overextended myself to the point where I almost had a nervous breakdown, and even put a dear old lady in the hospital!
But I've learned from every mistake, and I'm eager for you to learn from them, too. In that spirit, I will be offering my thoughts on manners, reminiscing about my own experiences adhering or failing to measure up to them, and telling what I hope are entertaining stories—not too many scandalous ones, but I do have a few doozies . . .
So please, pull up a chair and let's start our chat!