Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me

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There was one year in London, back in 2007, when the press was buzzing about a new book by Lucia van der Post – Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me. As a lifestyle book junkie, I rushed to pick up a copy the day it was released (plus, I wanted one of the autographed versions) and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. When you spend four years in the UK, you naturally adapt to your surroundings over time. You pick up certain mannerisms, speaking inflections, etc. I found this book the other day, buried under a pile of tax forms and magazines that I should have tidied up weeks ago, and I realized something: since moving to New York, I’ve become a bit less… for lack of a better term… “refined”. I’m not saying that that women in NYC aren’t stylish and sophisticated (if anything, this place has more women who fit that profile than most other places in the country) but as a whole, etiquette-related standards seem to have fallen. It’s kind of hard not to notice these things when you hear “GO F*CK YOURSELF” on a daily basis or witness fist fights over someone stealing another person’s cab. Honestly, I find most of those situations to be absolutely hilarious. But I like to flip through this book from time to time to remind myself not to make a habit of vulgarity or an unfiltered lifestyle – at least, not entirely.

Some of my favorite passages include tips on gift giving, keeping your home manicured and welcoming, easy ideas for three-course meals (Lean Cuisines are so… “single white female”…), grooming, and how to properly deal with unfavorable situations. It reminds me that even the simplest things in life should be enjoyable (ex: bedsheets with a high thread count), and Lucia’s writing alone is enough to make me relax after a busy day dealing with anxiety-ridden people. Here is the last passage of the book:

A Few Things I Wish I’d Known Long Ago

  • I wish I’d known how wonderful it was to be twenty, thirty, forty…
  • You can’t please all of the people all of the time.
  • Don’t be too afraid of making an enemy – sometimes courage and honesty require it.
  • Never take offense – only small people take offense.
  • If it doesn’t fit in the shop, it’s not going to fit when you get it home.
  • The things you worry about are almost never the things that happen.
  • Never have anything to do with men who carry little purses.
  • It’s better to clean and tidy less and read more.
  • Never go out with a man who doesn’t make you laugh.
  • You can’t change most people. Don’t expect them to give what they are unable to give.
  • Don’t do anything grudgingly. If you’re going to do it, however much you hate it, you might as well do it well.
  • Never be mean with tips. It always leaves one feeling lousy.
  • You can’t have too many sexy shoes.
  • Sexiness is nothing to do with being size 8 or looking like Sienna Miller.
  • It’s never worth saving things for best. Use the things you love every day.
  • It’s always worth reading – and learning – poetry.
  • A great haircut is worth any number of new dresses.
  • Never buy anything because “It’s bound to come in useful”.
  • Never buy anything that you don’t love or that isn’t absolutely right.
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