What She Wants

Etiquette for Social Climbers

Here’s how to move among the league of the Truly Rich.
ILLUSTRATOR Mikke Gallardo

Let me tell you a secret: The circles of society are more like a pyramid. Few on top, many below. While you can never topple the creatures closest to the sun, you can try to wiggle your way onward and, maybe, climb a few rungs up. 

Mind your manners.
I can’t overstate this enough. Manners grease the flow of the society, making all transactions pleasant, from a sit-down dinner at a grand soiree to the everyday encounter in the elevator. Politeness is what to remember above all. Do it even if it’s trying or, most especially when it’s trying. No one wants a brute in her company. If you can’t muster a stone-faced hello, I suggest sitting at another table or walking the other way.

Be punctual.
Time is one thing money can't buy, so the Truly Rich value it above all else. They are never too early nor late to cause inconvenience. As if by magic, they appear right on the dot (they're probably hiding behind a potted plant—I do this), and so should you. “But, Manila traffic!” you protest. Leave an hour before your appointments. There’s really no excuse.

Know, know, know.
Polite society knows that you should try not to talk about politics (yes, it is difficult these days!), religion, money, and medical matters (we can see your new chin—it’s great). But deep into the night, after the duck breast with apple cider glaze has been consumed, these things fall out of the mouths of the elders and we have no recourse but to respond. When Genius Glasses asks what you think about Hot Topic and your response is Mouth Agape Followed By Wheezing Sound, you might as well drown yourself in the sweet potato soup. You are required to know what is happening around you (not gossip—though I love that, too), and have an opinion about it. On what to say: The trick is to always be pleasant even if it hurts.


Never talk about money.
I must highlight money, because the desire to move heavenward leads to the temptation of announcing what you have. Zip your lip. This includes staying mum about the things money can buy: that $10,000-per-night Regent Seven Seas cruise to the Western Mediterranean, the innards of your newly acquired 1960s Jaguar E-Type, the pretty Breguet Secret de La Reine that you’ve weaseled out of the hubby. We don’t want to hear about it. Actually, we do but we feel sad after, because discussing money so promiscuously makes anyone uncomfortable or dirty or both. I need a shower.

Be private.
I can't discuss this matter. Also, don’t look at my engagement ring. Shoo.

Dress well.
Or immaculately. Note: Not in fashion but with style, so please take off that jacket covered from collar to hem with embroidered kitsch. If your occupation doesn’t require visual sizzle, then put on a navy sport coat made of natural fibers and blessed with impeccable fit. I once was seated beside someone wearing a head-to-toe red suit. I felt like I was conversing with a trendy tomato. Dressing well means dressing in a manner that doesn’t call attention, and yet is memorable. Like a mystery.

Choose a pursuit.
Grandpa Scrooge would roll in his grave if he hears you say, “I just want to chill over the weekend.” Don't think work (spreadsheets at home is gauche), but improvementa two-day quest to build skills. To max out your Truly Rich cred, pick up something from the school of the obscure like pointillism, the harp, or flower pressing. This solves that quandary of what interesting thing to say when the Truly Rich ask, “What did you do on the weekend?” Me? I watched The Crown while embroidering a quilt.

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C.C. Coo
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