The day came when my little sister and I were dropped off at the mall. We entered the room, unsure of what we were doing there. Inside was a group of young ladies, roughly our age, ready to learn social graces, to put make-up on faces, the proper way to sit with your legs crossed, and how to walk with a book balanced on your head. We felt like fish out of water.
The instructor told us that at the end of the thirteen weeks there would be a fashion show in the center of the mall where we would all get the chance to perform as models. My blood literally ran cold. There was no way that I was going to get all glammed up and prance down the middle of the mall. I may have been into all kinds of activities and had a wide range of friends when I was in high school, but an aspiring beauty queen I most definitely was not.
So my sister and I devised a plan. We told a little white lie to my mother that the other girls were mean to us and we dreaded going back. She granted us a reprieve from the remaining sessions. We were safe; embarrassment averted. Fast forward several months when my father, who traveled 300 days a year in those days, was home for dinner.
He asked how the fashion show went and my mother calmly told him that my sister and I didn’t fit in and had stopped going. He nodded and nothing more was said. Knowing my father, I should have known that wouldn’t be the end of it, and it wasn’t.
For the next thirty years of my life, right up until the day he entered the gates of Heaven, whenever he would see me talking to a single man, he would run up to the unsuspecting male and interject, “Did she tell you she flunked out of charm school???”
I would quickly remind him that I did not “flunk out”, I “quit” to which he would go off on another impromptu speech about the evils of quitting and the disease that quitters have. Needless to say, he definitely got the last laugh. Years after the fact, I asked him what on earth he was thinking when he signed my little sister and me up. He told me that he thought we’d enjoy it and learn some culture.
Even though I was a tomboy, I had traveled all over the country with my father and sat in the midst of some of the greatest teachers in the world at some of the most exotic locations on earth. The last thing I figured I needed was culture. I may have been a nerd/dork/band geek with a bad perm and a chipped front tooth, but I was a reader, a leader, and loved to make people laugh. What could charm school possibly teach me?
This is still one of the mysteries of my upbringing and a clear example of how two people in the same situation can have a totally different interpretation. Remember, before you try to make someone “better”, stop to consider all the amazing things you’ve already done for them and realize that they are already charming enough!