Black Women's Improvement Project (BWIP)

Fight the urge to pick your hood-boogers: Why EVERY Black Girl Should Go to Charm School

I have decided to register my almost-thirteen-year-old daughter into cotillion. If you’re like, coo-who? Click here. And don’t feel bad if you, like me, managed to get through your life up until this point not knowing what it was.

My husband went to cotillion. He hated it. When he found out I was determined to register EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY CHILDREN, he began to conspire with my almost-teenager to get her to hate it too.

Fellow BB&W member, Sharee Gardner, 42, took cotillion at 15. SHE doesn’t look tortured at all!

"It was a lot fun. We were taught how to sit properly, posture and the proper way to behave in the company of a gentleman! We were also given makeup tips. We had to do this corny dance type thing with our excorts as we were "presented."

So…that’s proof enough that I’m on God’s side of this arguement. Plus, why would he begrudge this experience for the kiddies? During the quibble over class vs. no class, reminded him about a conversation we had when we were dating and a senior in college. I told him in passing that I was going to a networking event and then I would swing by his place afterward for some hard-core heavy petting.

“You think you’ll be hungry when you get here?” he asked.

“Don’t think so. The invite says they’ll be serving WHORES DE VOORES.”

“Oh; okay. Wait and minute. They’ll be serving what?”

“Whores de voores. Drinks, and WHORES DE VOORES. It says it right here.”

He giggles. “Honey, do you mean, hors d’oeuvres?” [pronounced properly]

I looked at the card. Yep. Hors d’oeuvres. And with that, I IMMEDIATELY ordered every Emily Post book I could find on Amazon.

Could you imagine what it might have been like, had I gone to that highbrow networking event mispronouncing hors d’oeuvres? “Yes Mr. Big ‘Ole VP, I plan to start a career in public relations. Lovely party. Just love these WHORES DE VOORES!”

And lets not talk about the panic attack I had the first time he took me to a fancy-schmancy restaurant for a five course meal. It was like Goldilocks and the Three Bears: This fork is too small, this fork is too big, this fork is juuuuuusssst right.

So to avoid the stress and mortal humiliation, all of my children will learn how to start a polite conversation, table manners (aka please close your trap while you chew; I don’t like the sight of pulverized green beans), formal place settings, writing and giving a toast, ballroom dancing, and properly pronouncing hors d’oeuvres.

Yasmin Anderson Smith, an image consultant who specializes in teaching etiquette programs to teens, says that young black girls especially need to understand and navigate social mores. “There’s a stereotyping of black girls as loud and pushy. It is important to rise above this. They need to be able to function in the world because we live in a relationship economy,” says Anderson-Smith.

Anderson-Smith is Founder and Director of “Every Girl Can,” a girls youth image/etiquette after school and summer program.

And don’t be fooled– cotillion is not just for the rich. My town has a program through Parks & Rec for $98 a session. What’s one hundred bucks to heighten the chances that my kids won’t be living in my house until they’re 39 and chewing green beans with their mouths wide open?

Manners, etiquette, and cotillion is like the super-secret handshake, and if you don’t know how to do it, you won’t know why you never get invited to the company cocktail parties or why you should never EVER order the spaghetti.

It’s also like karate. You may not ever have to use it but it comes in handy in a dark alley or a room full of Ivy League hoity-toities who will try to “test” you in oh-so-subtle ways to see if you “belong.”

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