April 19, 2009

Etiquette – Class With the Countess

Posted in authored by John Gohde tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:26 am by John Gohde

It is no accident that LuAnn de Lesseps equates being a Countess with class, while everyone else thinks that she is just a snob. Historically, etiquette developed out of the highly formal and ritualistic court of the French monarchy. Class has always been about trying to properly fit into aristocratic society. Ergo, showing class has always been about being a snob.

Class With the Countess

There is a very amusing scene in the Marie Antoinette movie where Kirsten Dunst is standing around naked while the etiquette of French court is deciding who should dress her. Poor naked Antoinette had to wait, as every time a new person entered the room their rules of aristocratic society stated that a different person had to dress her. This is what class, manners, and etiquette is all about: Kissing up to those who you perceive are your betters. Just as obviously, it is about learning to fit into a society where people have more time on their hands than they know what to do with.

Countess Luann de Lesseps – Class With the Countess

This is America. LuAnn de Lesseps is No Countess. The Countess Luann de Lesseps never had a right to call herself a Countess in the first place. Now, that her Count has dumped her by email she is definitely not a Countess, even if in her own mind she still insists on calling herself one. Just goes to show you what low-class people will do in order to sell a book.

There is no American royalty. Back during the American Victorian Era (1850 – 1890), etiquette was about the nouveau rich kissing up to the wealthy with old money. High society has always been about people with too much time on their hands engaging in elaborate etiquette in an attempt to keep from being bored silly. The average Joe has to work for a living, and has no time for worrying about etiquette. Only people with money have time to engage in elaborate social rituals.

In modern America, movie and rock stars are now considered to be American Royalty. Does anyone every consider Britney Spears or Paris Hilton to have “class” while they flash their privates when getting out of automobiles? Yet, these modern royals have their own rules of etiquette which their equals are expected to follow.

Class With the Countess

The Countess Luann de Lesseps book on class is about trying to fit into a society that does not exist anymore in America, if it ever did. Why try to modernize the rules of Victorian America when morales about sex have completely changed? Knowing which fork you are supposed to eat with in polite society is for snobs who want to constantly point out to others that they are better than you are.



  1. Blaze said,

    I can’t agree.

    While some people do doubtlessly use rules of etiquette as a blunt instrument to abuse others, for the most part the code of manners is intended to put people at ease by outlining a set of regularized behaviors so that everyone knows what is expected of everyone in a given social situation. Of course the code evolves as society itself evolves, and while it is possible to cite any number of outdated habits and make the whole thing sound like one giant, silly list of rules, the modern concept of etiquette goes far beyond what fork to use. The etiquette considerations of the today mainly focus upon gracious manners, good taste, and consideration for the sensibilities of others. Hardly outdated notions, in my opinion.

    That being said, the extent to which Countess de Lesseps succeeds in communicating these concepts I do not know, not yet having had the pleasure of reading her book. I wonder if you have, Mr. Gohde, as you do not mention anything specific about her work in your writing. I would think that if you had actually bothered to read the tome you criticize, we would hear more about its specific shortcomings, rather than a generalized rant about the overall topic it covers.

    I look forward to a more meaningful critique of the book in question once you have read it.

  2. I have more than a cursory understanding of etiquette. Also, the female fantasy of marrying a prince that sweeps her off her feet does not compute to the male psychic.

    Plus, I have had the pleasure of seeing the Countess de Lesseps in action. While the “modern concept of etiquette goes far beyond what fork to use” there was one scene where the Countess had trapped the classmates of her daughter into learning good table manners. Looked to me like her ignorant students knew more about being polite than she did.

    Anyone claiming to be a Countess in America that knows nothing of what married life is supposed to be about is clueless about the entire subject.

    Concern about gracious manners and good taste is snobbery that originated by trying to fit into into aristocratic society. This position of mine is just plain historical fact.

    Consideration for the sensibilities of others is called ethics. The study of which readers would get a heck of a lot more out of than reading about etiquette. Also, I recommend the reading of George Washington’s Rules of Civility (110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation). A tiny booklet that shows just how quickly these silly etiquette rules can get outdated.

    If Luann wants to be a Countess than she should move to Europe. But without her Count, she is going to look just as silly there as she does here.

  3. Blaze said,

    So I was right. You have not read the book. Okay. Thanks for your time.

  4. NEWSFLASH: This post was not a review of the book. My post points out the connection between etiquette and fitting into aristocratic society, which has never existed in America. The very word “class” refers to the class that one is born into in aristocratic society.

    The notion that the upper-class have more “class” than lower-class people is snobbery at its best.

    The challenge of doing an actual book review is interesting. And, would allow me to write, yet a third post on the same topic. My preliminary research indicates that it would provide yet another opportunity to criticize Luann.

  5. LuAnn is my inspiration!

    SueAnn deLesstaste aka the Classless Commoner

  6. Lexi lebaron said,

    Please allow me to join this discussion by saying; speaking as someone who has had the (I wish I could say pleasure) of reading the “countesses” book on etiquette I can say the book is mostly a pompous telling of her personal experiences and reads much more like an autobiography rather than a book which is meant to educate people on proper etiquette.

    Allow me also to say that the word etiquette as it is defined on Dictionary.com says that etiquette is known as “conventional requirements as to social behavior; proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion” (Dictionary.com).

    Dictionary.com also states that “Etiquette implies observance of the formal requirements governing behavior in polite society. Etiquette refers to conventional forms and usages: the rules of etiquette. Etiquette suggests dignity and a sense of what is becoming or appropriate for a person of good breeding” (Dictionary.com).

    With that said I’ll also paraphrase the Countess Luann DeLesseps when she says that she doesn’t care that she’s divorced from the count she is still going to call herself the countess. As the definition clearly states etiquette is what is becoming or appropriate for a person of GOOD breeding. I think that the definition speaks for itself. One needs to be born into royalty in order for one to be truly, rightfully able to claim such a title not withstanding the fact that royalty in the United States is as useful as the FBI in Europe.

    It was stated by another poster that “the code of manners is intended to put people at ease by outlining a set of regularized behaviors so that everyone knows what is expected of everyone in a given social situation”. I would also respectfully say that this is in direct contradiction to the simple definiton of ettiqute which states that ettiquette is a set of rules one should abide in social situations defitting their station. Ettiqette in the way in which the “countess” tries to portray it by portraying herself to others placeing people beneath her as if because she were a countess she is better than most people she meets which I think is ridiculous nothaving been born to the title.

    The honest truth is that although as a woman I think her situation is regretable in itself without mentioning the fact that her personal life was blasted on television broadening the embarassing factor of the whole situation for her but I think that karmically she got exacttly what was coming to her.

    Luann DeLesseps is the Fourth wife of the Count and I am sure that her predecessors would also say what she has said which is that after a time of their lives with the count they too feel the right to continue calling themselves countess.

    I also doubt if Luann is the right person to be teaching anyone the rules of proper ettiqutte when she herself being on television has commited unconsious acts which wouldn’t be befitting to a woman of her claimed station. On the show she is seen atempting to teach her daugter peroper table ettiquette while chewing her own food with her trap fully open. I think if one is going to berate another or others on the way that they behave claiming social superiority one should better conduct oneself when one is on camera for the whole world to see. Also everyone is entitled to their opinionand feelings but I would say that if one is looking for role models for insporation try drawing inspiration from someone who has done something more meaningful with their lives than just marry a man of good standing and being a model in their youth.

    I will finally say that as also mentioned above by another poster consideration for sensibilities of others is more ethics than etiquette considering that most people who boast proper etiquette are anything but considerate to the sensibilities of others. I am also in agreement that if Luann wants to be a countess she is definitely on the wrong continent.

    As mentioned by the husband of Ramona Singer another housewife on the show “the Countess is Count-less” serves her right for being such a snob and thinking she is better than everyone else. A little humility is exactly what she should have learned from this divorce because now that she is still trying to keep the air of royalty is making her look seriously pathetic and sad. I am aware that this was a post commenting on her book but all mentioned ties into the book topic.

    It was not my intention to offend anyone with this post. Freedom of speech after all is preached but then after frowned upon.

  7. bitchplease said,

    For someone that considers herself an expert in class, someone should teach CXuntess Luann how a female should sit properly; you do NOT cross your legs, you cross your ankels!

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