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I went to Charm School

I was in Loblaws with GC a few days ago and I bought two tins of coffee. We each balanced a can on our head and walked down the aisle towards the check-outs.

“Did you ever balance books on your head as a kid?” he asked.

“Only when I was in Charm School,” I replied.

“You went to CHARM SCHOOL??” he asked incredulously.

(A little too incredulously if you ask me.)

When I was in the eighth grade, they started a once-a-week Charm School at my little rural village school. The teacher was a volunteer, a former French model who thought she could make young ladies out of a rag-tag collection of farmers’ daughters.

We practiced walking with books on our heads. We steamed our faces and learned to use nail files. We were given useful tips like “Your knees are good friends, keep them together.” The teacher had us smile with our mouths open and again with our mouths closed, and then she proclaimed which type of smile looked best on each of us, which was how we were to smile from now on.

On Charm School graduation day we hosted a tea party in the school gym and invited all the ladies in the village. We served tea out of ornate silver services, along with little cookies and sandwiches. We had a fashion show and walked like French models. Some us us smiled with our mouths open, and some of us smiled with our mouths closed. We kept our knees together. We spoke demurely. We were charming.

Over time, most of it faded from memory and certainly from practice. I can’t even remember which way I’m supposed to smile anymore. But I can still walk with a coffee can on my head.

10 comments to I went to Charm School

  • Bonnie

    too funny! I remember taking that class but it was “modelling”, I think, the year before. I guess once she figured out she would never make a model out of the country bumpkins she might have better luck with charm!
    I think her name was “Mimi”.

  • Gillian

    Royal Military College in Kingston (& that whole system) is often known as Charm School in colloquial terms.

  • grace

    My farm community had a choir; all the kids from all the families in our village of 45 or 50. Twelve people lived at my house. . . Anyway, we most often did our gigs with the self-named Insane Asylum Band: patients of my Dad’s who loved to get out on a day pass to entertain. These are some of the happiest memories. All of us singing and dancing and laughing as if we were all in our right minds ;-)Walking with a coffee can on your head would be fun too!

  • lisa in toronto

    I was starting to worry that this highly-regarded skill would prevent you from receiving some re-training courses under the conservatives!
    thanks for the post

  • I had the same class! It was part of a summer effort to keep “young minds busy and off drugs” back in the 70’s. I can still remember how to correctly sit in the chair and to walk and yes, I can balance a book on my head. However, that I blame on marching band where I learned to stand up straight.

  • XUP

    I think “your knees are good friends; keep them together” is an excellent motto for all young and old ladies. I think you should get GC to take some photos of you smiling with your mouth open and closed and then you can post one of each to your blog and take a poll to see which way is better.

  • I had a fourth-grade teacher who was (to my mind, overly) concerned with Proper Posture. She had all of us circling the classroom, balancing books on our heads, on a regular basis. And woe unto any child caught slouching at his/her desk…

  • i’m starting to think maybe my school(s) were bringing up geishas.
    We did walking with books on our heads, crossing legs, sitting straight, 90 degree elbows for questions, occasional Latin classes, arts, languages, singing, music, dance, theatre, posture, speaking mannerisms, and most importantly: dining etiquette class!

    it’s no wonder I don’t really know where I end and 10 years of strict schooling begins.

  • Bonnie! I think you’re right – her name was Mimi! (Is it any wonder we’re still so damned charming all these years later?)

  • Hey there, I’m a long-time lurker and also was too shy to create a comment.