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  You & A Guest

November 18, 1999

You &...
SWELL authors
Ilene Rosenzweig and Cynthia Rowley

Who says retro means The Rules? Rosenzweig (NYT style editor) and Rowley (funky couture maven, who designed the pink leather pants BG's wearing here) write: "Swell is the place where spirit and style meet ... [It's] about gallantry and chivalry, and raiding from the other side all those magnanimous traits of manhood that make old black-and-white movies so sexy. Why can't a girl be the sport who shows up with flowers on the first date? Not that she's afraid to show her feminine side and write love letters while wearing her maribou slippers..."

Not your great-aunt's etiquette primer, not your Martha's hostessing treatise, this Girl's Guide to the Good Life is positively cute enough to wear.

And what's in Swell for you guys? "This ingenious (very funny) manifesto is extremely dangerous! Women who heed just half of the wisdom revealed in these pages will be forced to beat away truckloads of men hopelessly enslaved by their every breath and gesture. Swell, hell ?this stuff is devastating!" ?so trills Bill Zehma, author of The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin'.


• How can you earn the Pretty Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval? • Chivalry: not dead? Co-ed? Discuss. • What's the swell way to fix Last Night's Big Mistake? • What's the international hand signal for "This round's on me!" • How can Swells help others ("the invisible girl staring into her Clamato at a noisy brunch") feel/be the same? • Ilene was "Best Maid" at Cynthia's wedding: how did Ilene — a childhood regular at the Russian Tea Room — and Cynthia — whose idea of a big treat was a "store-bought" cookie — become such swell friends? • Now can BG get free Rowley goodies?

MizzPost asks, "My parents have always insisted that I am "never too much of a Lady not to be a Gentleman." That really means that one must behave courteously and thoughtfully to everyone, with no gender-snobbery and a good dose of flair. I have found through experience, however, that many men and quite a few women do not appreciate someone holding the door open for them or offering to hang up their coats. Why would anyone resent good behavior?"

Ilene and Cynthia: Always a stumper. But why do people argue when you give them a compliment? They may think you're somehow mocking them or threatening their idea of the gender power structure. Insecurities! Calcified attitudes! Stiffs! They shouldn't stop you from being your own swell self. Dole out the good manners as you are wont and let the chips fall where they may. But swell manners mean staying loose even when facing down a stiff. So, if you're in an elevator and, after making the international hand signal for "after you," the guy standing closer to the door replies, "no, after you," don't answer back, "but I insist" and get into some slapstick stand off. You got places to go. Just smile, chirp "thanks!" and show 'em how it's done.

John286 asks, "Swell's a word that takes us back in time. That said, how does it apply to internet interactions? How can we all be"

Ilene and Cynthia: What do you mean? This is like the Wizard of Oz; the answer's right in your own cyber backyard! What about this swell cyberscene? Well, Breakup Girl is such a swell doll, she invites the Bust Girls and now the Swell Girls onto her site, helping us out, introducing us to her pallies -- so we can all meet and talk about fun ideas!

P.S. The Internet's also pretty swell for finding cheap plane tix to exotic destinations, having the supermarket deliver your last-minute dessert party, and sending animated greeting cards to your online grandparents...

Florio asks, "Cynthia, I am an aspiring fashion designer in high school. Do you have any tips about the business? What are the best schools?"

Cynthia: It depends if you're more interested in the artistic side or the business and technical sides. If you're more into the artistic side, then I'm partial to my alma maters, the Art Institute of Chicago and RISDY. If you're into the technical stuff, then FIT and Parsons are best. My advice is do an internship and expect to work really, really hard for a really, really long time before seing the glamorous side of it all.

LuvMuffin asks, "I read your book and loved all the ideas for stirring up the love in your muffin, but what do I do when it's always on my shoulders? How can I inspire him to take the time to plan these fun, spur-of-the-moment, ahem...swell activities on his own? I feel like a hired event/party planner. I want him to play Julie McCoy for a while."

Ilene and Cynthia: Why don't you try suggesting the Saturday Night Surprise series, where you alternate coming up with surprise dates for each other. One weekend you take him to Great Adventure, and the next weekend it's his turn; he has to come up with something. The main thing is to make sure to tell him what a GREAT time it was and how INGENIUS his idea was, even if it was just a dinner at the same old Italian restaurant you go to all the time. He probably needs more confidence that he can be creative, so be sure to be encouraging. In time, who knows what Love Boat adventures he'll have in store!

NateyBoy asks, "Swell is retro but, unlike other recent retro books (the Rules...), not backwards. Did you find it difficult to move forward -- 90s style -- while still paying homage to "the way things were" (taking the good and leaving the bad)?"

Ilene and Cynthia: It was sort of like shopping at a vintage clothing store. The junk doesn't even catch your eye. But some things are so classic or crazy that they still work today and get even better once you mix 'em up with all your other other new stuff at home.

Breakup Girl and Breakup Girl Friday ask, "We sported pink leather Cynthia Rowley pants and a pink cotton Cynthia Rowley sundress respectively to a recent breast cancer awareness benefit (hence the pink). We two swell gals want to know: how can we score Cynthia as our personal stylist?"

Cynthia: You don't need me, just be yourself and buy a lot of my clothes ... just kidding!

BG and BGF: Well, OK, Cynthia. But if you ever need us to "roadtest" anything for you, do let us know...

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