The British are obsessed with class. Apparently. We do spend a lot of time discussing whether our society still has class divides… but that’s not really a discussion for now.
What I’ve been thinking about lately is what it means to be classy. This is for two main reasons. One: general self-doubt about getting older with dignity. Where’s the line between having fun and being mature? Two: Downton Abbey. Sometimes Lady Mary is so un-classy it hurts. I recently re-watched the first and second seasons in preparation for the third (which is awesome, by the way) and it seems that Mary and Edith are trying to outdo each other with their behaviour unbefitting to ladies.
I’m far from the epitome of class – see above re: finding the balance. But I have made some observations during my ponderings and most definitely could do with some more advice myself - so answers on a postcard, please. Or in the comments below. Either is fine.
Modern-day classy behaviour #1 – Rise above it
Long gone are the school days where every little comment your friends/acquaintances made were discussed at length to see if they could possibly have negative undertones. These days, the most classy of my acquaintance let even quite obvious public slights pass them by. Most people who try to make you feel bad do so for a reaction.
NB: Letting is go is not the same as being a pushover – being classy means knowing when and where to risk making a scene.
Modern-day classy behaviour #2 – Be happy for others’ successes
No matter how down you are about your job, smile and congratulate your friend on his promotion. No matter how fat you feel, congratulate someone who’s achieved a weight loss goal. When your sister gets engaged the week after you break up with your partner, tell her how happy you are for her. Saying nice things can never make you feel worse about yourself – and it makes others think you’re awesome.
Modern-day classy behaviour #3 – Take responsibility
Being classy is based in treating others properly. If you know you can’t make a dinner party, give the host as much notice as possible. If you accidentally ate your housemate’s cheese, and they are flipping out at the critical cooking moment, admit it. Straight away.
On the subject of responsibility, take responsibility for your life. I am a big fan of having a good whinge, and always happy to listen to others’ woes. Until I realise they are complaining about the same issues again and again without taking responsibility for changing their situation. It could be complaining about your job for years without applying for a new one; or it could be complaining about the government when you’ve never bothered to vote. I say that classy means taking action when you feel strongly about something.
Modern-day classy behaviour #4 – Don’t be a snob
I recently did a spell of work in a pub, and was reminded about the odd effect of money on dining behaviour. This is not universal, but believe me there is a trend.
The higher social class the diner/drinker seemed to be, the less chance there was of them cleaning up mess. The more money they spent, the less chance of a tip. The more well-spoken, the ruder they were to staff. Guys, that’s not cool. How people behave in a restaurant is such a good indicator of their true class – so be humble.
Modern-day classy behaviour #5 - Have self-respect
This isn’t exactly something you can get by waving a magic wand, but class – and classy behaviours – feed in and out of self-respect. The more you teach yourself how to react in a mature way to whatever comes along, the more you will feel good about yourself. And that’s kind of the point.