“One is more delightful for being told one is delightful.”
— Katharine Gerould, American writer
Ladies and gentlemen, please put down your smartphones. Better yet, silence them. I need your full attention: Americans and their homes are having a charm crisis.
Our collective attachment to electronics — whether to our high-definition televisions, laptops, or mobile devices — are turning us into rude, detached, self-absorbed, technology addicts who use our homes simply as charging docks. It's making us less human.
See, back in the old days, before friend was a verb, humans got together. In person. They invited other humans to their homes for tea, cocktails, dinners, parties and — gasp! — conversation.
If we're ever going to be human again, we need to get less attached to our devices and more connected to each other, says lifestyle expert Christie Matheson, whose new book, “Simply Charming” (Skyhorse Publishing, June 2012), reminds us how.
More than a charm-school primer, Matheson's book reinforces why we practice etiquette at all. “It makes others feel more comfortable.” The book underscores the importance — make that the necessity — of being nice, of giving genuine compliments, of having face time with others, and of entertaining at home with, yes, charm.
“While Facebook and other social media have brought us closer in some ways, they have distanced us in others,” Matheson said when I called her to find out how I could brush up my own languishing charm skills.
“I so get that,” I said. “Why have people over when you already know from their status updates and tweets every time they get a latte?”
“People can post comments on your wall, but none of the really good stuff happens unless you're face to face,” she said.
“Furthermore,” I said, and she had me going, “besides hiding behind their assorted screens, they also put off entertaining until after they finish some home improvement. They want to fix the driveway first or paint.”
“They don't realize that people don't care if your sofa needs replacing,” she said. “They want welcoming and inviting, not perfect and austere.”
By now we're in such violent agreement, we burst out in unison:
“They're missing the point!!”
Matheson is lobbying for a return to etiquette because she believes there's more to life than having a meaningful relationship with your handheld. I support the cause because I want to see people use their homes for more than a convenient place to plug in.
After all, home is the backdrop for your relationships, which are, finally, when you tally the score, what life is all about. And you won't have many unless you have company.