I adore my erudite editor Esther. Aside from being my boss, I consider Esther a dear friend. I love her for giving me free rein on the films I choose to review, and then I simply cannot wait to have a good old gossip about what hot topics to write about from an etiquette point of view. Much hilarity ensued this week when that age-old classic ‘Class’ reared its head. We both found it incredibly easy, and fun, to provide examples of when it was sorely lacking in the world around us; sadly, real-life examples of classy behaviour were not as easy to find.
Style and class often get confused. In my humble opinion, there is a world of difference. To me, style is when someone has elegance or a particular taste regarding dress sense or home furnishing. Class is altogether different. How someone behaves will show you just how classy they are. Or not. A common misconception is that money will buy either or both. I have been on this funny old planet long enough to realise that simply is not true.
Us actors can move in interesting circles. Over the years, not always in the name of research, I might add, I have found myself in some enlightening company. I have attended glamorous parties with the great and the good, and on more than one occasion have been known to mingle with the hoi polloi. People watching, or people judging as my friend Helen likes to call it, is one of my favourite hobbies. Observing how people behave fascinates me. And this is where class comes in.
I have witnessed some of the most appalling behaviour by people who quite frankly ought to have known better. Impeccably dressed and well-educated people coming from ‘good stock’ have been rude, arrogant and downright mean in front of my very eyes. Not so classy. Even though they may have been stylish, I grant you. On the contrary, I have witnessed people without a bean to their name behave with grace and dignity in the face of outrageous rudeness. Their true class shining through. Both the UK and Malta are such class obsessed countries, placing much emphasis on wealth and status. I could not give two hoots what your background is, or how much loot you have in your bank account. Exude classy behaviour and I will be your friend, every time. You see, it is just such an attractive quality.
We only need to look at my all-time favourite film to prove this. Richard Gere’s character Edward in ‘Pretty Woman’ fell for the street-walking Vivian purely because she was one classy chick. Edward was richer than Cresus with a wealthy set of friends and colleagues, stylish to the hilt, yet all sadly lacking in class; belittling Vivian because of her background at every opportunity. Yet Vivian’s behaviour was flawless. She holds her head high and behaves with style, grace and dignity throughout. She may come from humble beginnings, and find herself walking the streets to pay the rent, but her behaviour towards others is infused with kindness, loyalty and generosity. Some of the classiest traits in my book.
Call me old fashioned, but I see good manners sorely lacking nearly everywhere I look today. And in my eyes, that is all class is. Two dear lady friends of mine informed me the other day that what they believe to be chivalry is often misconstrued as misogyny; gentlemen holding a door open for them or standing at the table when leaving to powder their nose, that sort of thing. So sad. The young folk of today see so few examples of true class around them that I fear for the next generation of young pups coming through. We watch and learn all the time. Or we ought to. The difficulty is that real class does not shout from the rooftops like style so often does. We can see style coming a mile off, but class is a stealthy being. It lays in wait, rearing its head at moments often gone unnoticed. Again, that is what makes it so attractive. Style can take a tremendous amount of effort and can be achieved by most. Class on the other hand, sadly, you either have, or you don’t. And no amount of money or style is going to convince me otherwise.