Monday, January 7, 2008

5 things I learned from Marjorie Hills

In the spirit of New Year's, I've devoted a week of posts to reinvention, end-of-year examination, and methods of achieving goals. And I can't think of a better way to start than with one of my favorite books. "Live Alone and Like It", by Marjorie Hillis can't come with a high enough recommend. It is a stern, yet witty treatise on the human existence (especially from a female perspective) and though the content is dated, the wisdom is eternal. It should be essential reading for every female teen through tween on the planet.

Marjorie Hills has the uncanny knack of finding the trick of how to suffer through yourself from day to day by using a grain of salt and a touch of humor. Her grandest lesson being, we can be our own best friends if, when you are alone, you treat yourself like a guest. Here are five other life changing pieces of advice from her:
  1. On Loneliness and Ennui:
    If you are bored and lonely, blame it on your own lack of initiative. If you are interesting, you'll have plenty of friends and if you're not, you won't, unless you're very, very rich. Anyone who pities herself for more than a month on end is a "weak sister" and likely to become a public nuisance besides. The role of a martyr may be appealing to the player, but a terrible bore to everyone else.

  2. On Being Interesting and Making Friends:
    Being interesting does not depend on income, but on cultivation. Being well read and well informed, learning to listen and how to draw people out, taking the trouble to refine one's taste and develop one's ideas about painting, plays or politics and is the duty of any sensible, intelligent human being who wishes to have a social life.

  3. On Loving Yourself:
    Don't economize on flowers and beware of the dispiriting effects of snacks on one morale. It takes a genius to make an impression in run-down heels and an unbecoming hat. You need good clothes and grooming. Our vote is for a little pampering--as much, in fact, as can be squeezed out of your schedule and your budget. Really smart clothes can cost as little a dowdy ones and it is not the ladies with the uncrowded schedules and large budgets who look the best. Go in for cosmetics in a serious way. A few good strokes with a hair brush, a bit of cuticle oil and a lotion on the hands, cleansing cream and whatever other cream does the most for your face, are just as important as brushing your teeth. A glass of sherry and an extremely special dinner can be served on a night when you are tired and alone. Bath slats, toilet water and a trim little cotton frock that flatters you can be worn on the morning when you are feeling violently domestic.

  4. On Self Sufficiency:
    Never, never, never let yourself feel that anybody ought to do anything for you. Once you become a duty, you also become a nuisance. Be surprised and pleased at gifts, invitations and other attentions.

  5. On Loving Your Surroundings:
    It is a good idea to give some extra-special attention to your surroundings. The place you live should reflect your personality-- and it will, whether you want it to or not. It will give you away to everyone who comes in, and it will influence your moods and your morale. But after all, it should be comfortable according to you needs and peculiarities. This is your house and it is the one place in the world where you can have things exactly.
A while ago, upon reading my Amazon wish-list my sister wanted to know why I wanted to read a book with such a title about "living alone". "Is there trouble in you marriage?" she inquired.

"Everyone dies alone," Captain Malcolm Reynolds of FireFly once said and the sentiment of that statement is true in the converse. Everyone one lives alone, because at the end of the day (until we evolve into telepathic beings) we think for ourselves, we hope to please ourselves and we try to make something of ourselves. No matter how hard we try to live for others, our lives are seen most acutely through our own lens and weighed most delicately by our own scales. Whatever you do, don’t let yourself become a burden to yourself and try to inject a little gaiety into our weary world.

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