Monday, July 7, 2014

The Set of Her Shoulders

I was having a discussion with my aunt about the importance of dignity, how one carries oneself and so advertises oneself to the world. 

"Did you ever hear this story?" she asked me. 

She is but a few years Ma's junior. When she first entered Bais Yaakov, my mother was a couple of grades higher. In those days, Bais Yaakov (in Williamsburg) didn't have a uniform. 

Since it was my aunt's first day, Ma went to visit her little sister to see how she was. As soon as she entered the classroom, the roomful of girls shot to their feet, at attention. They had thought Ma (now quite bewildered) was the morah. 

I've been coming across articles of "older" women opining the current state of "youth-worship," that by turning 50 suddenly all of femalekind is rendered invisible. I can certainly attest that Ma is rarely ignored or mistreated, and if she is, that error is corrected most swiftly. I have learned from her how frosty silence paired with stately carriage will bring most transgressors to their knees.
What is her secret? In essence, it begins with self-respect and respect of others (only when that consideration is swatted aside does the cold disdain come into play). 

The first component is physical appearance. Age-appropriate, quality garments tucked, zipped, buttoned properly and a light dusting, perhaps, of makeup. But that is still not sufficient. 

It is one's bearing. As P.G. Wodehouse puts it in Not George Washington
She is not what I would describe as exactly a type of English beauty. You know the sort of beauty I mean? Queenly, statuesque, a daughter of the gods, divinely fair. Her charm is not in her features. It is in her expression.
Comportment is the true guarantor of respect, divorced from DNA given looks. I have met so many individuals who are stunning to behold, but their behavior is so childish and immature that they vanquish any shred of others' esteem.

Even those who have been bequeathed difficult features, such as, say, a rather large nose, can magically transform that awkward appendage into a majestic accessory, based on demeanor and posture alone. 

I have been consciously regulating my stance for some years; straitening my back, decorously tucking in my elbows, walking with a serene and smooth gait, tilting my chin with military precision. At a charity dinner where I was the only frum individual at the table, a frei Yid shot me a glance of approval. "You have poise," he marveled. 

Well, cookie, it doesn't just happen.   


Tovah11 said...

oh PL:

This past month has been very difficult and I haven't been writing on my blog or really doing anything.

I came home today from another long day and said I need to get some inspiration. Of course I went to you.

I loved what you said and it's so true. I think that (I remember someone else saying this) people continue to wear their hair, clothing, etc, when they were at their happiest.

As for the way you carry yourself, you're right on, though I have a long way to go.

Princess Lea said...

I am so happy to be considered inspirational! Now you have inspired me!

I still always marvel how tweaking a small change in behavior can have long bearing effects. Starting small is the way to go.