I Tried the Lady Mary Diet

With New York Fashion Week playing the role as my Downton Abbey

02.25.15

If you level your bottom jaw at a 90 degree angle you’ll be amazed at how quickly that bit of winter double trouble disappears, your twin chins demoted from two to one. It not only momentarily erases any evidence of your dedication to eating the entire pizza — because who throws out a perfectly good crust? — but it straightens your back, pulls your stomach in and, as fate would have it, demonstrates proper British etiquette like in Downton Abbey.

You’ll find that the Lady Mary Diet has immediate results.

Lady Hairy

I’m no historian, but I also kind of am considering Downton spans from 1912 to 1925. And if I’ve learned anything from the Dowager Countess of Grantham other than the merit of a Victorian lace collar, it’s that a lady rarely does anything, let alone her hair, which is fantastic because I am lazy.

I also have weak arms.

This meant that for three alternating days during fashion week, I started each morning at 8 a.m. with zero calisthenics and one hell of a blowout. A raised port glass to Glamsquad here for stepping in where my useless roommate Lev would not. Lev refused to play the role of my lady’s maid, and a lady’s maid always does her lady’s hair.

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Lev pointed out that to have a “lady’s maid” would be terribly un-P.C. in 2015, to which I pointed out that words like “terribly” should only be used by a trained professional such as myself.

Lady Manners

The second and largest component of my Downton Abbey diet was the etiquette training. Ever the journalist, I signed myself up for a class with manners master Myka Meier of Beaumont Etiquette. She said my handshake was good and my hair was “lovely” but that I needed to polish my shoes.

I also close doors incorrectly.

You’re supposed to: walk in, swing the door open, swap hands behind your spine — keep facing forward — and close with the alternating hand. Never turn your back to the room. Sorry George Constanza and your dreams of a backless dress entrance.

Myka taught me how Lady Mary would have used her fork (it involves delicately placing peas on top of overturned prongs, which is impossible, which is why Lady Mary is so thin).

She taught me how to properly sit down in a chair — something that until now, I never knew I’d been doing so wrong.

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We’re a relaxed household.

And though I already knew the proper layout of silverware on a table, she told me when to use what and coached me in the fine art of mouth-rejecting a bite of something disgusting. You’re supposed to be discreet and use a napkin as opposed to shout, “GROSS!!” Who knew?

Most importantly, she taught me that, “Etiquette is all about being kind, thoughtful, gracious, empowering and positive to everyone around you.”

Hence, no shouting gross. Also hence, no cursing — something that is extremely, terribly (Suck it, Lev; Sorry, Myka!) hard for me.

Here’s where acting like Lady Mary helped me during fashion week:

– While exiting cars (I can now do so with grace).

– When air kissing: always start right cheek to left, twice if you’re British, once if you’re American, three times if you’re Swiss and nine if you’re nasty.

– While enduring crosstown traffic.

Here is where it was hard/impossible:

– Eating salad from the car on the go, which does not lend itself to proper fork-and-knife manners.

– When people weren’t ready for my second cheek kiss and so we mouth-kissed.

– When traffic made me miss a show and I had to scream “fuck.”

As with the end of all diets, one must assess how much they’ve changed. Did I lose weight? No. I hate peas — and I like the way I use my fork. But thanks to Myka’s instruction I would feel comfortable eating next to a royal person or my riding instructor (Lady Mary and I have horses in common!), who, by the way, complimented my elegant posture.

More than anything, though, channeling Lady Mary gave me the confidence to navigate the underlying hierarchy of fashion week with more ease. This I swear.

It also, as I said, proved the quickest fix for end-of-winter double chins.

Attention to all who wish to eat peas like a lady, among other things that would be good to know in the presence of more than one fork: Myka Meier is offering Man Repeller readers a modern social etiquette class. Visit her website for more info.

See more Man Repeller Diets here.

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  • Quinn Halman

    This is terribly important journalism!
    Amelia, you are the best thing that ever happened to my mornings
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-0ckmYfng-Tg/U6I_ujbQVCI/AAAAAAAA0wc/60_otW9uOv4/s1600/.3.gif

  • I need to learn how to exit doors better it seems!
    http://www.FashionSnag.com

  • Currently sitting Indian style at my desk with no shoes on. I need some serious help. Perhaps my first lesson could be someone telling me if Indian style is an offensive term. If it is, I apologize.

    Her website link isn’t working!

    • To be polite or to possess proper etiquette is entirely subjective as it depends on the cultural context. So, sitting *lotus position* means you’re doing just fine.

      • lotus position. noted. shoes are still off.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Check now!

    • Kate

      It’s criss-cross applesauce, they taught me that in kindergarten!

  • Man Repeller Diets are the best! <3

  • Amelia you make me laugh! So thankful I don’t have to put up with such Victorian prudishness in this modern age.

    • Amelia Diamond

      I am too BUT I am not going to lie, I love all this proper etiquette stuff. I would legit go to finishing school if they held night classes.

      • Ha, I could so see you doing that! In a tweed blazer, a monogrammed Exeter sweater, and riding boots no less. Diamond, this is why we love you.

  • Oh Amelia, you are terribly hilarious! Don’t forget to sit with your ankles crossed and knees together!

    • Amelia Diamond

      That’s how I sit now thanks to Myka!!

  • Kelsey Moody

    Amelia, you and Emma Stone are on the same page…or at least Ms Stone is on the “lace collar diet”, which I feel would be Mary approved

    • Amelia Diamond

      I loved this dress on her but I wish she did up the collar like at the show!! It looks sloppy undone 🙁 I LOVE HER SO MUCH THOUGH EMMA I TAKE IT BACK YOU DO WHATEVER YOU WANT

  • Allie Fasanella

    Thank you for doing this hard-hitting piece. Lady Mary is my jam. She’s so mean to Edith, it cracks me up. I don’t think I would want to go back to those days forever, but the dresses sure were gorgeous. Have you guys seen this? I adore Michelle Dockery. She just seems like a great hang.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HntureQsfB8

    • Amelia Diamond

      i could watch this all day

      • Allie Fasanella

        Right?! I want like a Michelle Dockery sound machine to put me to bed at night. Let’s just pretend that’s not creepy

  • parkzark

    British, Continental European and American etiquette. There’s three different kinds?!!?! I fear I shall ne’er be refined.

    • Amelia Diamond

      yes but if you know british you’re good everywhere!

  • This takes me back to my high school days, when we had an etiquette course we had to pass in order to graduate. The only good part was eating cheesecake when the day’s lesson literally was “how to properly eat cheesecake.” The past is the past, and life has taught me the only way to eat cheesecake is late at night in pajamas.

    • Amelia Diamond

      how do you properly eat cheesecake ?!

      • oh it’s a whole thing with forks, getting crust, and how to insert in your mouth, depending on whether you’re in america or europe. forks are a big thing

  • Catbird

    Wait. Where does one ride in New York in the winter??

    • Amelia Diamond

      Sorry if this is TMI and you were merely remarking on how insane it would be to ride in NY in the winter. BUT YOU OPENED PANDORA’S BOX.

      I ride near Bedford. Believe me, it is still freezing. (Our barn leaves for FL end of Jan for a big horse show so I don’t actually ride from Feb – March except to compete twice.) HOWEVER: If you live in the city and are interested in riding, check out Riverdale Stables (you can take the 1 train and they are getting a new h/j trainer) or Bergan County Equestrian Center which is in NJ but SUPER close to the city and you can take a bus there across the GW bridge. Sorry! Bye!

      • you’re practically inspiring me to actually go do this now.

  • Lisa

    Brb, practicing how to enter my room.

  • Andrea Raymer

    I am disappointed that I never had to earn proper etiquette. I just pretend I did by doing an impression of Lady Mary whenever I need to feel proper. I also model my posh voice after her. Whenever I am feeling to working class I wear fancy pajamas and a dressing gown and lounge around my apartment, talking to myself in my posh voice saying “oh gosh” and “good heavens” over and over again.

    • Amelia Diamond

      I need to use “good heavens” more for sure

      • Andrea Raymer

        Usually for that one I use a Dowager Countess when she sits in a rotating desk chair for the first time voice.

  • i will now never need to lose this extra weight. i’ll just sit up straight and make sure my head/neck is forever at a 90° angle. this looks totally normal, btw.

    • Amelia Diamond

      yea it’s super casual

  • Chelsea

    I went to college in Texas, and some professors hosted an etiquette dinner for about 50 of us. Don’t remember much from it, except for them telling us to NEVER eat grape or cherry tomatoes at a social function because your fork will stab them and they WILL squirt tomato juice on your neighbor. Of course I never follow this because I’m a manners monster.

    • Amelia Diamond

      cherry tomatoes are the devil!

  • I really wonder when I watch Downton how they must have been so very uppity and stiff back in day

    • Amelia Diamond

      it was just what they were used to! before season 5 started i went to this thing where the man who coaches them behind the scenes on their manners spoke, and it was fascinating.

  • Maria

    I would love to attend one of those classes of Myka!

    • Amelia Diamond

      do it, it is seriously so fun.

  • Amelia, I always laugh reading your posts. My coworkers most think i’m retarted by how hard I laughed with the “gross!!” part. Thank you for that. Love your writing!

    xx
    Helô

  • My favorite TV show! Great post!

    http://www.bonaupetite.com

  • Jaybird

    Ooooh, dangerous territory with the peas on the back of the fork. That is very controversial. I was raised to do it, but my hubby was treated like a pariah by his European relatives for this manouver. I think the best solution is summed up in the poem:
    I eat my peas with honey
    I’ve done so all my life.
    It may taste kind of funny
    But it keeps them on my knife.

    • Amelia Diamond

      I love this.

  • bp

    Is it acceptable that all I can say while smiling after reading your post is that this was really funny? Am lazily laying Lady Mary style on my sofa, and lethargic from Friday night satiation (a plate of thai noodles and a candy bar are kinda knocking me out tonight- very “un Lady Mary” of me).

  • Elizabeth

    This is fantastic!

  • Rocío

    Hahaha! I loooove this!

    – rocionaval.blogspot.com x

  • sawyerspeaks

    I am a man, and this article did not repel me. Thank you.

  • Is there a scientist out there that can calculate the calorie-burning effects of Lady Mary’s posture? I feel like she’s burning a marathon of calories!

  • beccamu

    Amelia! Lovely article, terribly well-written. A small inquiry, where do you take riding lessons?