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What I Learned in Finishing School

Apparently I’m a monster

02.28.17
Amelia Etiquette Man Repeller-89

I am really bad at eating salads. Don’t think I’m fishing for compliments when I tell you this. Whenever I eat one it’s just lettuce all over the place. On you and me and my keyboard. The situation got so bad that finally, last month, I decided to remedy it and learn to eat a salad with grace.

I took an Adult Finishing School class at The Plaza Hotel. Etiquette, I know, can seem like an antiquated concept, but I am eternally fascinated by it. I love rules, whether I follow them or not (I am so wild), because just knowing them allows you to evaluate nuanced social interactions. I also think it’s important to have a technical understanding of how to eat frisée without looking like a drunk horse, the best way to announce your restroom intentions and the most formal way to eat soup.

No worries if you don’t know this, but I already have an etiquette expert in my life named Myka Meier. She’s the founder of Beaumont Etiquette and can teach you how to be the Duchess of Cambridge if you needed to be. She once taught me how to adopt the air of Lady Mary but once the show got rid of Matthew — RIP — I gave up/forgot. Myka’s now in cahoots with The Plaza Hotel where she leads a Saturday Intensive Finishing Program (there’s a full weekend one, too, or you could take classes online). I said to Myka, “Help me. I’ve become a monster again.”

Step 1 was straight out of a movie-makeover montage at the Warren-Tricomi salon, where Edward Tricomi gave me the actual best haircut of my entire life in exactly 15 minutes, followed by a Texas blowout — those were my instructions — and a fresh face of makeup. This was me before.

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This was me after.

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The hair and makeup (I could have done my nails there, too, but I needed my hands free to text all of my boyfriends) were part of the program’s “Finishing Touch” package. If you’re going to learn how to properly eat a soft-boiled egg, you might as well go the full monty, I always say. But if you don’t want to, whatever: You leave with a goody bag of Urban Decay products because The Duchess of Cambridge wore the Naked eyeshadow palette for her wedding day. Give me a better reason.

Next came the lessons. We practiced how to not eat like a dragon and I learned that you can pick up tea sandwiches with your hands. We practiced how to sit up straight but not against the back of a chair (pretend a baseball is behind you — the way I am doing it in the feature image up top is wrong) while keeping your ankles crossed and heels facing the ground so that you can’t see dirty shoe bottoms. We went over how to spit out gross food without making it weird (discreetly into your napkin, which should be folded with the crease towards you so that you can lift the outer-facing corner and use the inside to dab around your mouth).

We went over dinnerware placement:

What-I-Learned-in-Finishing-School-Man-Repeller-Place-Setting

And how to rest your cutlery while pausing/when finished.

What-I-Learned-in-Finishing-School-Man-Repeller-Cutlery

We practiced drinking tea — NO PINKY OUT, but I think you knew that — see finger placement.

Amelia Etiquette Man Repeller-150

^ Note that the hand positing here is different from drinking coffee. (You can hook your forefinger around the cup’s elbow if it’s coffee and hold it that way.)

My favorite thing we practiced — along with all of the eating, walking, sitting, greeting, small-talking, networking, ONLINE DATING, YES, THAT IS A PART OF THE PROGRAM — WHOLE OTHER ARTICLE, and not-being-awkward-ing — was how to drink champagne. Turns out the best way is not to pretend it’s Gatorade, but rather to hold the glass from the very bottom of the flute and tilt upward. It takes a lot of practice so you get to drink a lot.

Myka explained to me that so much of etiquette is about making your guests, dining partners, restaurant staff, colleagues, dates or whomever feel more comfortable. That’s why you don’t want to slurp, make your plate messy or announce that you have to pee (just ghost from the table, get up and go). I like that mentality. Rather than using these rules to feel stuck up, snobby or stuffy, they allow you to feel comfortable in potentially uncomfortable situations — and they allow you to make others feel welcome.

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Before this class, I worried about accidentally finding myself in the presence of royalty. (One can never be too prepared.) I can name at least a hundred movies (The Prince and Me, Kate & Leopold, What a Girl Wants, The Princess Diaries 2 — plus a short plot line in Gossip Girl ) where the protagonist had NO IDEA she was meeting a prince or lord.

I now feel better about this possibility. I know that if I ran into the queen, I could eat lettuce in a way that would knock her socks off. I’ve also swapped out salad for triple-decker tea sandwiches at lunch, so there’s that, too.

Learn more about The Plaza Finishing Program here. Follow Myka Meier of Beaumont Etiquette on Twitter and Instagram. Follow The Plaza Hotel @ThePlazaHotel and Warren Tricomi Salon @WarrenTricomi on Instagram. Photos by Krista Anna Lewis, illustrations by Maria Jia Ling Pitt. 

Get more Humor ?
  • Jasmin Aujla

    I haven’t actually read the story yet but these pictures of you are mesmerizing!!!

    • Amelia Diamond

      Jasmin I miss you! Come back!

      • Amelia Diamond

        *Edit guys, Jasmin is back I just didn’t see her

        • Jasmin Aujla

          still miss you tho

  • ReadER451

    YOU LOOK LIKE KATE MIDDELTON. YOU ARE A PRINCESS.

    • Amelia Diamond

      SO ARE YOU!

    • Alexandra Queiroz

      Exactly! At first glance, I thought it was her!

    • ihaveacooch

      this is what i came here to say. that blowout is killer.

  • Mary

    YOUR HAIR!

    • Amelia Diamond

      it typed the article

  • Fran

    This is amazing, I love etiquette also. My mom was very insistent about me & my sisters learning protocol while growing up and now I’m so, so thankful for it when I find myself at a fancy place and know what every piece of cutlery and glass is for

    • Amelia Diamond

      Right??!!

  • Alison

    This was a super insightful article, and you look AMAZING!

    • Amelia Diamond

      <3 !!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Senka

    I’d love to take the class my self, and wonder if there’s anything similar in my part of the world cause it sounds like an awesome, and totally romcom worthy way of overcoming ones innate awkwardness. Blowout is a bonus.
    Also, Amelia you look positively stunning!!

    • Amelia Diamond

      Hahah it’s very romcom worthy!

  • Abigail Larson

    YOU ARE A VISION AND A HALF.

    • Amelia Diamond

      SO ARE YOU

  • Bonnie Goodwin Sargeant

    I have been dying to go to this program! The tip that I rely on most, taught to me by my mother’s friends, make a b with your left hand and d with your right using your thumb and pointer fingers. The B is for bread and the D is for drink. So you always know your bread plate and water glass. Life saver for moments when everyone is just waiting for someone to go first lol. PS your hair rivals Kate’s!

    • Amelia Diamond

      Yes or: B – M – W (bread, meal, water) ! You should do this program it was seriously so fun and there’s a lower-priced option for $75 too!

  • The before and after photos really took my breath away. This was just what I needed to start my Tuesday

    • Amelia Diamond

      this is the nicest comment section on the planet. i look like the before today!

  • if connie britton saw you after that blowout, she would feel threatened.

    • Amelia Diamond

      if connie britton saw me ever I would pass out of happiness

  • Like everybody here is saying, you look amazing in these photos!

    • Amelia Diamond

      guys this is the best way to start a day you have no idea thank you

  • Yvonne Dunlevie

    IMPORTANT MORNING LESSON RE: CHAMPAGNE — > “Turns out the best way is not to pretend it’s Gatorade”

  • Cristina

    Oh Lord. I just had major flashbacks to middle school, when I went to private school and actually took a 6 week etiquette course. I can’t remember much about social graces (hello bbq bacon cheeseburgers) but thankfully, I remember the whole dinner set up and which fork to use when. That comes in really handy when eating said cheeseburgers lol!

  • Halfway through reading this I blacked out and was brought back to the first time I ordered minestrone soup—I pronounced it mine-strone (like how you’d pronounce the name of an underground workplace plus the word “stone” with an r). It was at Olive Garden because of course it was and it haunts me to this day idk if I’m instinctively capable of proper etiquette.

    • Amelia Diamond

      haahha

  • Alexandra Queiroz

    Amelia, you look amazing! And the text is awesome, love it! I wanna go to finishing school right now.

    • Amelia Diamond

      do it do it!

      • Alexandra Queiroz

        Yes, I’ll try the lessons online. Amelia, at first I thought it was Kate Middleton at the picture – but you actually look better, your hair is invincible!

  • You mean I can’t put my pinky finger to the moon ? Disappointment.

    • Amelia Diamond

      well you 100% can if you need to !

  • Veronica Wilkins

    When I imagine a Texas blowout looks like, it is precisely that photo of you sitting right proper.

    • Amelia Diamond

      no one has ever said anything nicer to me ever

    • gwendomouse

      That’s it, I’m moving to Texas.

  • You are such a treat, Amelia Diamond. Classy AF.

  • Harling Ross

    You don’t see a nose and a mouth fitting gracefully into a champagne glass like that every day. My compliments to your parents’ DNA.

  • Molly D

    I can never take a “STUNNING” comment on a picture seriously, but I mean it here. STUNNING.

    • Amelia Diamond

      omg MOLLY D YOU ARE

  • Shanbonbon Bajojo

    Love the after, but really digging your before

    • Amelia Diamond

      who doesn’t love a water buffalo!

  • Natalie

    Been fascinated by etiquette ever since my OG etiquette guide. It also included the ol’ spitting food into the napkin trick which I have used TOO many times.

    https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51F8ra9KrpL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

    • Amelia Diamond

      ME TOO ACTUALLY

      • Kay Ann

        Yes BUT I wear to Kabbalah monster, OOPS! taught us that knife at 7 and fork at 5 meant “Dessert please.” I’ve been doing it wrong my whole life and always figured it was waiters who were unaware of American Girls social convention!

  • gwendomouse

    I saw the picture at the top and honestly thought it was Carla Bruni. If that’s what a blowout does to people, I want one.

    • Amelia Diamond

      I’m going to marry all of you if you’ll have me

  • ashley

    you are officially wayyyy beyond Connie Britton status on the hair. you are off the chart, you are the whole chart

  • Haley Nahman

    You look like a mid-century first lady which I hope you’ll take as a high compliment

    • Amelia Diamond

      there is no better compliment!

  • tmm16

    All of these pics should be on your Bumble profile, Amelia. All of them. If you have one, and if you don’t, make one just cause of these PICS.

    • Amelia Diamond

      hahahah O I HAVE ONE

  • mollie blackwood

    Kate Middleton body double!

  • Lilli

    WHAT THE HELL. Is that you Kate Middleton?

    • Amelia Diamond

      you guys are inflating my ego today and i’m ABOUT IT

  • Christel Michelle

    “…how to drink champagne. Turns out the best way is not to pretend it’s Gatorade, but rather to hold the glass from the very bottom of the flute and tilt upward. It takes a lot of practice so you get to drink a lot.” Actually loling, thank you for this, Amelia. Oh and if you haven’t gotten tired of hearing it, these pics are soooooo g👀d!

    • Amelia Diamond

      how’d you do that good thing???/

      • Christel Michelle

        I replaced the oo’s with the eyeballs emoji! I do it all the time lol

  • Your hair color is amazing! Stealing it. I’ve been on the hunt for ways to change up my hair and yours is exactly what I need to get out of a slump

  • Olivia

    I cannot lie I 110% showed my hairstylist a photo of your hair for ~inspo~ when I go to get it done next time because it is just! so! good!

  • Nadine Farag

    AMELIA!!!!!! YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS (in + out, btw).

  • Grace B

    AMEEEE-LIA!! (um, did you ever see The Aristocats!?) you look stunning.

  • Maggie Lanham

    I am ALSO SO TERRIBLE AT EATING SALAD. I’ve “learned” to just open my mouth as wide as possible and hope whatever is on my fork makes it into the vacuum. I *guess* etiquette school could teach me a few things but it’s nice to have some commiseration!

  • Eric D.

    Well of course your mom and I think you’re the prettiest girl ever, but I don’t think I’ve EVER seen you looking more beautiful!!! And you’re more than ready to dine at Buckingham Palace!!! xoxox

  • Andy

    amelia! has this already been addressed: you are kate middleton!

  • Miss J

    Etiquette courses should be obligatory, like they were in some European countries back in the day. You look AMAZING! A lot older, but amazing.

  • Jessica

    so how DOES one eat the salad?

    • A Local Honey

      Never cut your lettuce. If a piece of lettuce is too large to fit into your mouth, don’t put it in your mouth. Which results in wasted lettuce, but them’s the breaks. Amelia can surely add more hot tips!

  • Caro A

    I thought the first was of Kate Middleton and was like, wow, manrepeller has crazy privileges these days! Beauty!
    **i hope that you think she is pretty, I do. I hate it when someone tells me I look like someone and then I see what they look like and I’m like…”the fuck?!!”

  • Rebekah

    Amelia.
    #prettywinter2017 has been GOOD TO YOU.

  • I thought the top pic was Princess Kate until I saw the second one of you!

  • Mary Demere

    Kate and Leopold, What a Girl Wants 😂😂😂. Love this!

  • DarthVadersCats

    Amelia you could write about dental hygiene and I would be highly amused + utterly engrossed.

  • Ann Selvage

    I want this magical 15 min haircut.