What little I know about how to entertain, I learned from my dear friend Janice. She has always, for me, exemplified Castiglione Cool.
“I have discovered a universal rule which seems to apply more than any other in all human actions or words: namely, to . . . practice in all things a certain nonchalance which conceals all artistry and makes whatever one says or does seem uncontrived and effortless. I am sure that grace springs especially from this, since everyone knows how difficult it is to accomplish some unusual feat perfectly, and so facility in such things excites the greatest wonder; whereas, in contrast, to . . . make bones over it, shows an extreme lack of grace and causes everything, whatever it’s worth, to be discounted. So we can truthfully say that true art is what does not seem to be art.” —Baldassare Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier (1528)
The graceless Martha Stewarts of this world really want you to know how long it took them to prepare this flawless five-course meal, how long it took them to knit this blanket for you, how much time they spent on that sweater. When they greet you at the door during the holidays, they’re sweaty, covered with flour, visibly exhausted, and pissed off. They may or may not be tired, but that’s besides the point; we’re dealing, after all, with a melodramatic affectation. They look tired because they want you to know—beyond a shadow of a doubt—how much time and effort they put into this meal, goddammit!
By contrast, the graceful hosts Baldassare Castiglione celebrates in The Book of the Courtier (1528) suffuse everything they do with sprezzatura (nonchalance). Truth be told, they spent just as much time on the holiday meal as the Martha Stewarts of this world. But they’ve no intention of rubbing your face in that fact.
What little I know about how to entertain, I learned from my dear friend Janice. She has always, for me, exemplified Castiglione Cool. Anyone who’s been to one of her amazing dinner parties can attest to this. When Janice greets you at the door, she’s always calm and charming, casually sipping a glass of red wine, and looking fabulous.
—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2015)
Originally published at Committing Sociology. Reprinted with permission.
Photo courtesy of author.