Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Finding Your Onee-San

What is an ‘onee-san’ you ask?  Well, as those with a fondness for Japan in one regard or another can tell you, the term literally means ‘older sister’ with additional respectful connotations attached via the formal ‘-san’ suffix.  The term is notable in that it can be applied to someone who is not necessarily one’s biological sister, and it crops up throughout Japanese culture, from freshman addressing seniors in highschool to being the term for an apprentice geisha’s mentor.  It is in this last form that we are most interested in the word, because, my dears, the next step to become a lady is to find a real lady who will help you achieve your goal.

How do you identify your onee-san?  Simple.  Look for the woman you admire most in the world.  Now at this point some you may be thinking of your mothers, and while everyone’s mother is (usually) the walking definition of ‘the greatest woman ever’, it’s best not to make her your onee-san.  Why?  Because she’s too invested in you and your relationship with her is already one of mother and daughter.  Your onee-san must be able to speak candidly to you, and she should connect with you on a more personal level than the one afforded by the maternal bond.  Remember, you are looking for pseudo-older sister, and unless your mother is of a very different sort, (I’m looking at you, Gillian Darmody and Atia of the Julii) she’s not the one to fill this role. 
Instead, seek out that non-maternal older woman of fabulous style and powerful personality (aunt, friend, actual older sibling), and respectfully inform them of your admiration for them.  Then ask if they’d be willing to help you.  The odds are pretty damned good that unless the potential onee-san is a bitch of spectacular proportions, the response will be a yes.  I can think of very few people who would not like to know that they are admired and looked up to, and, in tandem, very few people who would balk at helping someone improve themselves.  We all crave a trusted mentor, and on some level we all want to mentor someone else, or at least that has always been my experience. 

And what happens if you cannot find an onee-san at all?  Do not despair, my dears, for you still have two more options.  Option the first:  Find an onii-san (big brother).  Whether he’s elbow deep in engine grease or the original sassy gay friend, a man is more than able to help a woman along her path to becoming a lady.  The dynamic inevitably will be different (and if he’s the engine grease type he’s most likely not the one to go shopping for cocktail dresses with), but an onii-san can teach as much as an onee-san.  Indeed, some lucky ladies out there might have the good fortune to have one of each gender, for an extra balanced perspective. 
And if there’s absolutely no one there to help you out?  Well then it’s time to hit the books and the movies again.  In my earliest stages of becoming a lady, when I still had little real understanding of just what it was I wanted, I taught myself through observing and researching.  As per example, I figured out how to put my hair up and keep it immaculate and sleek from watching Memoirs of a Geisha, and handy information can come from any number of sources.  (Other influences for me were Paradise Kiss, which inspired me to make my own clothes, and Atlantis the Lost Empire, which sparked my interest in dead languages). 

Now, once you have an onee-san, you may wonder how to use her advice.  A simple place to start is always just getting together for a chat.  Outline your interests more clearly and ask your onee-san for her opinion on them.  She may approve, she may disapprove, but if you’ve chosen well (and the choosing of your onee-san, my dears, is on your own heads) your onee-san will definitely help you in some way, either by pointing you in the right direct or by getting things straightened out for you to progress towards your goal.  Regardless, you have only one job at this point:  Listen to your onee-san, and learn from her example. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Defining Your Ideal Ladies

Part of the first stage of becoming a lady is locating those ladies who one looks up to.  These women may be real or fictional, and as such one may or may not know them.  Regardless, they should embody the traits that one desires to possess in one’s day to day life as a lady.  Also, kindly note that these women need not be ones with ‘spotless records’ as it were.  As the saying goes, ‘well behaved women rarely make history’.  Sometimes to get the job done a lady must take off her velvet gloves to reveal the iron hands they cover, and there’s nothing wrong with a lady who knows how to have a really grand (and sometimes raucous) time.  
As one arranges the list of one’s idols, take note of the traits that begins to appear.  What does it say about you?  What kind of woman do you get from the conglomeration of all these other women’s personal quirks and attributes?  What does she value?  How does she present herself?  What are her goals, and are these in fact your goals?  And finally, how might you make these traits and goals manifest in your own life?  
Kindly note, however, that even as you build off these women you must make sure to not become completely absorbed in actually pretending to be them wholesale.  This is unproductive on two levels, the first being that you’re attempting to subsume and destroy your own personality in the name of becoming another person, which will not work unless you have some serious mental problems, and the second, related reason of that just being way too creepy, if you’ll pardon my vernacular.  Remember, by identifying your goals through your idols you are seeking to understand yourself and give yourself a boost of both confidence and determination, not crawl into the skin of someone else.
I also keep various inspiring quotes with pics of
my ideal ladies
Now, with your ideal ladies identified, I strongly suggest you get some photos of them and post them in a significant place where you will see them on a regular basis.  By doing this you are providing yourself with a constant reminder of what you are striving for.  For myself, I have my ladies’ images near my mirror (they include, amongst others, Joan Holloway, Irene Adler, Lisbeth Salander, Integra Fairbanks Wingate Hellsing, Bridget von Hammersmark, and Atia of the Julii), where I can look while I’m doing my beauty work or experimenting with a new outfit.  Other options might be to post them over a desk, in a diary, or decoupaged onto a jewelry/makeup box.  Wherever you put the images of your favorite ladies, make sure you are sure to see them every day.  After all, it is under their watchful gaze that you will seek to become a lady, and their images will serve as a reminder of the sort of woman you seek to become. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What does it mean to be a lady?

Lady: La-dy [ley-dee] noun, plural -dies,
Yours truly, dressing the part
of my definition of a lady
1.        A woman who is refined, polite, and well-spoken
2.       A woman of high social and economic class
3.       Any woman; female

That, my good readers, is the dictionary entry for what it means to be a lady.  It seems almost banal, with such bare bones explanations.  For our purposes, however, such a skeletal foundation is ideal, as it allows a woman to flesh out her own understanding of what it means to be a lady, and in this day and age that definition is very, very broad indeed.  So, to help would-be ladies along, I and several friends have opted to create this blog, to provide advice, information, and tips on what it means to be a lady. And, while we’re at it, note the last definition of a lady:  ‘any woman’.  When it comes down to brass tacks, any woman can be a lady.  It’s not a matter of money or breeding, but one of intellect and fortitude, as well as a willingness to improve upon one’s natural interests and inherent personality.   

From the first, however, I feel it cannot be stressed enough is that each person must find their own definition of what it is to be a lady.  There are many roads to the same destination, each with its own benefits and troubles.  Generally, however, these roads have similar signage, which is why this blog can exist – whether haughty or humble, every lady must experience certain successes and disasters, and learn how to navigate similar potholes in their thoroughfare. 
At the very start of this path, however, is a very simple crossroads with an equally simple signpost that reads as follows:  Who are you?  And like something from Alice in Wonderland, this sign has the potential to point in every which way if you are not sure of your answer.  Now, to use myself as an example, I look at that sign and see ‘I am a would-be aristocrat’.  I want the absolute top of the line in life, but I’m also delighted to go casual when the occasion calls.  I am supremely confident in myself, and even when I’m not I pretend to be and pretending makes it so.  I can be haughty and snobbish on occasion, but I am indelibly loyal to those who befriend and love me. 
These are all just minor facets of a much larger picture, one that would require several encyclopedias to fully discuss, but it outlines some of the main points:  I know who I am, I know what I want, I know my own worth, and I know who I care about.  Understanding these things is the most important element of becoming a lady, the foundation upon which you can build the rest of your attitude and appearance.  And make sure your foundation in strong, my apprentice ladies – if it isn’t, no amount of Home Ec skills, witty retorts, expensive clothes, or martial arts will make you the capable woman you long to be.  That starts in the heart and in the head, and to act without them is to be only half there – a philosophical zombie, all flash and appearance with nothing going on inside.
I hope you enjoy this blog and visit us again soon.  New articles – hopefully from an ever-growing bevy of writers – will be debuting in the near future.