So many social and academic pressures exist in high school and adolescence. At East, the bar is already set high for grades and maneuvering around the social scene could pretty much be a full time job. There are so many aspects to the social life at East, and as a freshman I discovered that the best thing for me to do would be to not cause trouble. If I had read Better than Beauty: A Guide to Charm, by Helen Valentine and Alice Thompson, three years ago, I would have been much better equipped to charm everyone’s socks off.
It is a very short book that details what you can do to yourself and others to appear more charming. It was published in 1938, so some of the suggestions are absolutely antiquated. The first part, What You Do To Yourself, discusses makeup, weight, height, odor, and wardrobe. The “If you are very short” section obviously screamed at me, and it urges short women to “watch your weight. A tall woman can get away with a few added pounds, but you can’t.” Luckily, in the “No spare tires, please!” section, Valentine and Thompson offer some surefire ways to get rid of that pesky fat around your waist. The first exercise? “Our old friend, Touching the Toes.” I can’t imagine what the makers of P90X would say to that.
While I am poking fun at some of their suggestions, it is important to note that they have some really good ones. I wash my hands a lot at work which dries them out a lot. Apparently this could be detrimental to an introduction. They suggest lotion. They warn that diets can make some people more irritable than usual, so if you get hangry (angry when you’re hungry), don’t diet. They have a list of foods that are fatty and a list of foods that aren’t. They have a chart with normal body weights according to height from back when Brooklyn Decker wasn’t the standard.
The second section, What You Do To Others, courtesies are largely discussed. Valentine and Thompson tell you how to shake hands and smile properly. They coach you on your voice; is it too shrill? They can fix it. The “How to eat in public” section does not, in fact, tell you how to physically eat without looking like a slob. Instead, it tells you how to not be a rude gossip while you’re out, because that will come back to bite you. In the section, “Seriously…” the ladies discuss affairs extensively. The next section tells you how to not succumb to peer pressure by remembering that “it is never a matter of duty to drink.”
This book is so unintentionally funny, it’s hard to take it seriously sometimes. But it’s also extremely helpful in things you might not usually think about. While a lot of the lessons and tips in the book are definitely aimed toward young housewives, I wouldn’t rule it out for younger girls. Teenage girls have to deal with all sorts of crazy situations with their friends, boys, bodies, etc. Reading this book might help assuage some of the social pressures of high school. Plus, who doesn’t want to be a little more charming?
Have book suggestions for Helena? Post them in the comments or tweet @SME_Harbinger with the hashtag #bookaweekproject