Sunday, January 5, 2014

Our Way of Life

Cheers, Sweeties, and Happy New Year to you all!  As the insanity of the holiday season winds down, many of us may find ourselves taking time for quiet reflection.  Perhaps we’re making resolutions, setting goals, and listing intentions that will make every self-help guru out there proud – and wealthy.  Let’s face it, we’ve so many ‘coaches’, ‘spiritual leaders’, and ‘success trainers’ out there that determining what’s best for us can be downright daunting. We’ve spent unspeakable amounts of money on books, courses, and seminars, and I wonder just how effective the deluge of self-help information out there actually is.   I’ve been guilty of the ‘you can do it!’ overload, so much so that when I go back and reread some of these musings I fall ill.  It’s not that I don’t buy it anymore – I do – but we’re so overrun these days with it that I’m officially over trying to contribute to it. 
Yet that does not mean I’m not seeking ways in which to improve myself.  As a matter of fact, I’ve discovered the one helpful guide that truly resonates with me. 
Joan Crawford’s My Way of Life.
I ask that you put aside any preconceived Mommie Dearest notions.  There are too many accounts out there contradicting the allegations made by Miss Crawford’s eldest daughter, Christina.  I won’t go into all the details here, for you’re quite capable of conducting your own research.  Although the film Mommie Dearest remains one of my campy guilty pleasures, I don’t believe for one minute she abused her children.  (Side note:  it is my sincerest hope that someday I, too, shall be in a position in which I must chop down rose bushes with an ax while wearing a full-length gown in the dead of night). 
Old Hollywood is a hobby of mine, and my studies over the years reveal that Miss Crawford was strict, disciplined, and extremely dedicated to success.  I admire those traits.  She was beautiful and stylish, which are always additional pluses in my book.  After reading My Way of Life and Googling Joan Crawford until I gave myself a headache, we might go so far to say that she was certifiably insane – another admirable trait, in my opinion.
I received this book from my sister, who so gets me and, well, my way of life.  Out-of-print for years, I’m sure she had to jump through myriad hoops in order to get her lovely hands on it.  I spent the whole of my Christmas vacation devouring it, and am compelled to share with you, gentle reader, a few of the highlights and advice Miss Crawford offers in order to ‘maintain your best, intelligent, enterprising, seductive self at all times’.
At the time of the book’s publication, Miss Crawford’s film career had all but vanished.  Aside from a few scant appearances on television, her primary role in 1971 was that of Goodwill Ambassador for Pepsi Cola. Her late husband, Alfred Steele, was president and CEO of the soft-drink company, and following his death, Miss Crawford took it upon herself to remain a vital voice within Pepsi.  She regales My Way of Life readers with stories of being busy…very busy…so much so that each and every day was a whirlwind of phone calls, meetings, appearances, and travel.  Yet in spite of her terribly full calendar, she still managed to look and feel fantastic.  How did she do it?  Read on….
Life in General
I’ve persuaded myself that I hate things that are bad for me-fattening foods, late nights, loud and aggressive people top the list.  I’m with you, Joan, and my intention for 2014 is to avoid all of the above.
We all have our problems, but I don’t inflict mine on my friends. Preach it, Sister.
I abhor dropper-inners.  Even my own children wouldn’t think of dropping in without calling to see if I’m busy.  I don’t like dropper-inners, either, and I’ll take it a step further by telling you that I don’t like phone messages or texts simply stating call me.  Give me a reason to do so, and I just might (I think I may have out-Crawford Joan on this one).
Miss Crawford walked down the aisle four times, so obviously we should look to her as an expert on the subject.  She spoke lovingly of each of her husbands in the book, and that’s a good example for all of us to follow during any sort of break up.  Why waste energy playing the blame game? 
She advises us gals to take an active interest in our husbands’ careers.  I do that, but after having been called everything from Yoko Ono to Lucy Ricardo, I’ve backed off…..a little.  I say follow JC’s lead, but understand your audience.  Mr. Newman is no Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and vice-versa.
You may say to yourself, I’m not Joan Crawford.  I can’t afford trainloads of caviar.  I don’t think I need to elablorate on this, but I will tell you that it was a favorite line bandied about the Newman House during our holiday hosting preparations.  It replaced our usual Do you want our guests to ring in the New Year constipated? line.
Home Décor
Be prepared to spend a sinful amount of money and go through an awful lot of trial and error until your home is absolutely perfect and a true, tasteful reflection of you.  Miss Crawford muses about early decorating mistakes before hiring a team of professionals, and shared a story about a wall-paper so busy that ‘Judy Garland fainted and had to be carried out of the house’.  As an amateur Judy Garland historian, I think I can safely say it wasn’t the wall paper that caused Judy to pass out.
Most of Miss Crawford’s travels required no less than fifteen suitcases.  By the time you have your German maid, Mamacita, place tissue paper in each sleeve, the old ‘roll it’ method simply won’t work here.  Factor in your matching hats, gloves, and shoes, and it should be no surprise when your house-man, Mr. Grant, must make numerous suitcase-laden trips to a waiting limousine parked out front by the tennis court.
Looking the Part
Miss Crawford’s secret for beautiful skin and hair can be summed up in one word:  mayonnaise.  But not just any old mayonnaise – one she made herself to insure that no harsh chemicals were used.  I like it!  In order to maintain one’s figure, she recommends several While Doing Something Else Exercises:  knee bends while scraping carrots, arm flexes while on the phone, etc.  Good tips, but the one I like the most proves tricky to do while you’re doing something else.  It requires you to sit on the floor and walk your buttocks across it.  I tried it, and definitely felt the burn in my core region.  I was also pleasantly surprised to discover a nice sheen on my tile floors afterward, so, yes, I suppose this counts as a two-for-one deal.
A Touch of Magic
The final, all-too-brief chapter discusses what I think should be the most important aspect of anyone’s way of life:
Charm isn’t something you can turn on like a tap with a pretty little-girl simper.  Charm is an ease with people – all kinds of people.  It’s wanting to be a giver.  Responding, communicating, having a genuine interest in people.  Try to make it a part of your way of life.
I shall, Miss Crawford, and thank you.