The Technical Production

In which set, lighting, sound and costume are considered for their dramatic effects.



Food, food, food. What of the myriad of things not food that your guests and you will see and smell and hear and feel? Hoping others won’t notice nastiness is not an answer. Imagining they won’t respond to things simply because you no longer notice them is a careless approach. You can’t want their senses to be in any way blunted. Heaven forbid they forgive and ignore too many trespasses out of a well-meaning politesse. Deliberate action gives rise to real sentiment, and enforcing indifference to their senses soon they will not care at all how anything about you smells or tastes or feels or sounds. What if your courtship is successful? What will you do with someone who has turned off their sensibilities and has no inclination to re-find them until they have walked a mile from your cave of horrors? Let alone the terrible possibility that you are courting someone not in communication with their senses in the first place and so cannot be offended, and so cannot be delighted either.

Eventually in any romantic and intimate entanglement there must be so much occasion for forgiveness, you would be foolish beyond explanation to start off in the red. Which is not to say courtship should be staged in a false or extravagant manner. No no no. Humor and generosity, disingenuousness and compassionate honesty should prevail. That which has the greatest effect can be the thing which is not noticed immediately or even ever.

Reckless to ignore and neglect and leave absolutely to the whim of chance those things which speak to the senses. All the time,1 but all the more if courtship is possible.

With all that and far more in mind, apply yourself lightly but without oversight to these several areas:



Set

Which is usually to say your home in general, its furnishings, decoration, state of repair, state of cleanliness, its location in the world, its entrance, its inhabitants. Few things will escape the notice of strangers, and even unnoticed can still work their destruction. In fairness, plenty of elements will not be noted but will have their good effect or no effect at all. Very nice, but do not count on such stuff to offset even one single awful thing.

Regardless of how little you care, your surroundings will affect anyone who comes into them. Regardless of how thoroughly you neglect them, how diligent you are in refusing to express yourself through interior design and decoration, people will notice what is there and know it is what you live in. They will notice what is on the wall, even if it only nails or markings from nails from paintings long gone with a former occupant. They will notice your furniture and whether or not it is clean and comfortable because they are not accustomed to it. You have long ceased seeing that which is ugly or needs repair. Others haven’t. Perhaps you have also lost awareness of what is beautiful and worthy of appreciation. Others will notice and bring it newly to your attention.

Art will speak to your taste, to your many selves and possibly to your pretensions and ambitions. Books and magazines reveal your interests and your education, the breadth of your curiosity. Tchochkas, brick-a-brack, souvenirs, whatever is lying around might be picked up and asked about, played with and considered. The quality and size and placement of your television if you have one, your stereo, your music collection, a piano or some such large thing, the portrait of your mother, photographs of friends and family and where they are, the dining table, your home office and a thousand other things will give others very good clues about your character.

Not that you should alter or arrange your world to create an impression of something you are not. You probably couldn’t anyway unless you were a gifted set designer with astounding powers of objectivity. But you might choose to be aware of what your surroundings reveal to others, checking that it is what you would have revealed at first and then second and third and thirtieth sight, and that it is mostly true to you. There are no doubt a number of things in your home which are not: the odd inherited armchair, a painting by your cousin, a dining table you have not been able to replace quite yet. Don’t worry. You only need to keep at bay those villainous things which will undermine you falsely and without remorse.

Besides, it may not even be wise to have everything in your abode be an honest expression of yourself. More you than you. An unrelenting museum of youness. Resist the temptation to surround yourself with souvenirs of past moments. It might push you accidentally into the ranks of those living off memories. Age has nothing to do with it. There is a suffocating stillness. Nothing is experimental or expressive or offers more than recollection. Nothing has moved for a long time. Only the person who created it and who lives in it can stand it for any length of time. A poorly curated retrospective of their life. Often even they are not comfortable there. A thorough housecleaning in the company of a ruthless and tactless friend will fix you up if you are mired here.2

In another scenario, one might finish their home in a fell swoop, designed and decorated specifically to express themselves through every fiber of fabric or wood or whatever. This can work to create a comfortable environment if the person who creates it is a comfortable being. Or it can make people nervous to see surroundings which are too full and apparently finished, especially if very many things match. They might jump unwittingly to the conclusion that the life is similarly complete, that there is no place for new friends or thoughts or that growth has stopped. The expression might allow change, but still reveal a character which is uncomfortable around things alien to itself. It could suggest to the casual observer that the resident is a bit controlling, has decided how the world should look and has imposed that view on their surroundings. The foreign and unfamiliar and perhaps fleeting are not welcome in the space. Everything is edited and approved by the resident monarch. Such a space will impress some and is in any case wrought with evidence of the inhabiting soul, both in the specific and in the fact of its fullness. But a visiting human might easily fear they do not match or complement the furnishings and they could feel out of place. A Cezanne still-life lost in a stiff frenzy of Louis Seize. A Mies van der Rohe chair dumped unceremoniously in Martha Stewart’s sun room.

The danger of a less fiendishly controlled environment is that something lying about might tell lies about you, might suggest to your guest that you are something you are not. The advantage is that when your truer self is slowly revealed it will be something of a surprise. A pleasant one, it is hoped. The disadvantage is that a lie might be told which is so compellingly against you that without inquiry you are designated disgusting and that is the end of that. Fortunately you are allowed to glance about your own home and judge for yourself if there are things which are both vile and inexpressive of any facet of yourself and dispose of them.3

You might also consider that it is within your power to change things you don’t like and possibly alter that thing within yourself which gave rise to it. Confucius, again. Enforced habit gives rise to real sentiment, or something like that. For example, if you find you have a bunch of Nagel portraits on your wall, and with an objective spirit you look at them and consider what they might reveal about your views and images of women as well as your taste in art, you might just take them down. Then they will not be there to speak to your guests about your psyche, and not seeing them everyday you might grow beyond them. Similarly you might also put away somewhat permanently those violent and violently exploitative comic books and your copy of Penthouse and anything worse.4 Depends what you are courting. If you have a People magazine, make sure it is not a subscription copy.

Perhaps your home was designed and furnished by a paid professional. An odd thing. If the designer was psychic and communicative, they might have furnished you better and with more honest complexity than you ever could have done yourself, plus left you with a comfortable bunch of connected rooms which do not strangle you with your own tastes and experiences. More likely, a designer lived out one of their fantasies on your dime and you now have a home which is as comfortable as a hotel parlor. Which can be good or bad, but mainly indifferent. People are affected differently by professionally decorated rooms, know they are the expression of a contracted commercial artist, and do not generally draw conclusions about you except that you had the money to employ one of them. And perhaps that you were too lazy or indiscriminate to remove the Nagel some misdirected designer placed over the commode.

Whatever. No one worth courting really cares what style your home is furnished in, and they care deeply. Whether you collect and meticulously upholster Austrian antiques or whether you whimsically slipcover stuff from the flea market—it doesn’t make a spot of difference, and it is of enormous weight and importance. Others will accept or forgive or excuse nearly anything, but they will be unfathomably and irrevocably affected. If you choose to challenge your friends and acquaintances and potential loves with the state of your home, fine. Just know that is what you are doing. If you wish to have a comfortable place where people forget time and space and stay without thought, clean your house, go outside and re-enter imagining it is the home of another. See what you see and make sure none of it bothers you.

For safety’s sake, always be aware of your guests, their humor and whether anything in your home seems to be disturbing them. Make them so welcome and so comfortable that they will tell you if a painting makes them nervous or if the television is distracting them, tease you about your magazines and ask you about your books, move lamps to better spots when needed. It might spark conversation, and it might keep people from simply not returning to your house and never knowing why.

Don’t forget to clean your bathroom and fix your bed5 and put the porch light on.



Lighting

The importance of light cannot be over estimated. So powerful and evocative that some theatrical productions will forgo sets altogether and summon their locations and moods through lighting alone and the skills of the performers. Never would a competent production neglect light, concentrating instead on the furnishings and props for a scene. To what purpose? Who will see them? Or in what glaring or insufficient or distracting light? Not that lighting necessarily needs to be elaborate and complicated. It just needs to be whatever you want it to be and not whatever it is because of the budgetary concerns and lack of imagination of some long-dead building contractor. Even the most unappealing abode, as long as it is clean and smells fine, can be made comfortable and inviting, even sultry and magic with lighting. A trick at times to execute because so many people are unaware of its power, or are uncomfortable at first glance in low or unconventional light, or think that more light is always better.6

People respond to light whether you or they are aware of it or not, whether or not you have made any effort to make that response be one of delight and contentedness. You know this because you know that in severe interrogation a light is placed directly over a table, perhaps even directly over the head of the poor creature being questioned.7 It is not there to make them comfortable nor encourage them to flirt with their interrogators. While it may be confessions you seek, they are likely of a different sort and will probably be pulled from the hesitant soul with greater ease in more kind light, be it bright or dim.

The best policy often seems to be to err towards less light rather than more, but perhaps eventually and not suddenly nor suspiciously. Lights can be lost slowly throughout an evening as they become more distracting than useful.8 Though they might not become either. Who’s to say an evening won’t end up being one of those glittery, bright affairs where light surrounds and sculpts precisely and in peculiar context the human form? Who’s to say that tonight won’t be a night to see every glint in every eye, every tweak of a half-smile? Who’s to say the light will ever go off? Who will care if the lamps stay on while you pull a loosely woven blanket over your heads and let bright light filter and bounce about you?

Back to darkness. It can work a sorcery. Once upon a time there was a room full of people standing around awkwardly with glasses in hand. Candles were lit, lights turned off and a thousand conversations sparked and flamed. Another time when a whole neighborhood dissolved into darkness at the hands of poor utility management, a small restaurant placed candles on the tables and kept cooking on leaping gas flames brought into view by surrounding darkness. Hands were taken that would have never been taken in bright light. Throughout the room voices descended perceptibly into chests, then abdomens, then finally, within minutes, settled into those spots of great resonance below the belly. There was no reason to be anywhere else that night. Another time a fractured family reunited for a single evening when a daughter refused to turn lights back on once candles had been lit on the holiday table. The chandelier stayed cold and the room warmed and was lit by things which burn more brightly than filament.

It is not only candles (and candles, as you see, are not only for lovers). Light from lamps is as varied as the people who turn them on. As seductive or as off-putting and with as little evidence as to why unless you are a trained and talented lighting engineer. And even then. I wish I had some simple and simply expressible tips or guidelines to offer you about lighting. How could I? Not only can I not know what kind of space you are lighting, I do not know your motives, your desires, nor the quirks of other characters who will be playing in your scenes. It is for you to be aware of the many elements which are being perceived, however not consciously, and to design and alter them accordingly. Nothing will work in every case.9

It is a narrow distinction between forcing people into something with which they are truly and irretrievably uncomfortable, and pushing them past a curve of discomfort which is obstructing their acceptance of new experience. Certainly one can ignore first and fast complaints. If ten minutes have passed and someone is still noticeably uncomfortable or complaining that they cannot see in the low light or flame-lit darkness, give them light. No need to return to shocking incandescence, but do something to assuage.10

Enough already with the night. In daytime light is as powerful. How light comes in through windows or is filtered through leaves, the time of day, the shadows cast, the quality and texture of the light, its warmth and where it falls, what filters it, what reflects it: all this and more combine to create light which is either inhabited or not. People will go and be where they are most comfortable. If they haven’t a choice because of space or weather restrictions, it is for you to observe and manipulate light to make your guests comfortable where they must remain. Or they will leave early. Which might be fine with you. But if you would have them remain, all you need to do, since the sun will throw what light it will, is glance about from time to time to make sure no one is struggling to keep sun from their eyes nor shivering in its absence. Pull shades, rearrange furniture, offer hats, sweaters or whatever to make them more comfortable. Then as daylight fades, light lamps as needed.11

Regardless of the source, do not ignore light. If you become proficient in this arena, feel free to adjust light, with permission, in the homes of others. It is no coincidence that there is such a myriad of light bulbs on the market. No happenstance that lighting stores abound. Small wonder people travel far and uncomfortably for glimpses of gorgeous light reflecting off exotic oceans. Why should you think that suddenly, in your living room, people would become insensitive to light? Trust that they don’t, and if they appear to, you are racking up debt.



Sound

Not just music, although music might be part of it. The sound of your house, the sound of a lake or an ocean or birds in the very early hours of the morning. The sounds of your neighbors or neighboring industries. Cars and buses and trains and planes. You are used to it and have long since ceased noticing, but a visiting other or others will be as pleased or as jolted as you first were. Not that you must do anything about it. Just be aware it is all new to them. Or if not utterly new, at least not forgotten.

The sound of your voice, sounds you make while preparing food, while eating, while cleaning up, while you do anything at all will be heard. The clamor of cooking can be angry or petulant and drive people away, or it can draw people from all parts of a house to be near it. In the kitchen and at the table, the noise of tools and utensils might be horrible and forbidding and excruciatingly lonely while in another time and place it is a backbeat to conversation. Who doesn’t have some memory of a nearly silent dinner at the end of something when laughter and speech were gone and all there was to be heard was the sound of steel scraping against steel and porcelain? Who doesn’t also remember joyous meals, steel clattering against steel and tapping against porcelain.

Recorded music might add to the scene or subtract. Waves of sound weave and work their way through the flesh and non-flesh of your guests, for better or for worse. It might offer a rhythm that resonates through them, setting the evening careening forward and outward and inward and everywhere it can go. Or it might instead counter and damp a rhythm trying to gather strength, undermining and poisoning what could be. In the case of a lost and hesitant crowd, it can set a pace, giving clues and cues to stage-struck guests grasping for lines.

Don’t forget you are free to commission live music for any event. If you don’t know why it would make a difference, if you think to yourself that recorded music is much superior because the musicians are better and one has more selection, you are overdue for an evening of living music. It is a stunning difference. Not always appropriate, but it is a neglected source of magic. If you do hire musicians, be sure to treat them as honored guests and not as servants.

Normally, it must be admitted, you will be negotiating recorded music. Few choose to commission live music for dinner for ten. Unfortunately for you, if you are looking for a quick guideline for choosing music, it remains ever a great mystery what music to play for a particular gathering of any number. It can be a nice idea to ask another to select the music, but you must remain arbiter of the atmosphere. People can easily choose stuff that is wrong and that even they decide moments later they don’t want to listen to. Not everyone is so bold and careless of their ego that they can easily change the music they have just chosen. Not many would even notice it is wrong. Others will put on music especially designed to challenge you or the larger group of people. “Take this,” they seem to be saying. It could be anything. In a single week in a single home, recordings of both Maria Callas and Courtney Love were put on with the same challenging agenda and with similar effect. Most people will put on music they want to hear or which they think will impress others with their sophisticated or quirky tastes without regard for what the selection will do to the nerves of the larger group nor to the rhythm of the gathering. Since you are director and producer, it is up to you to make sure the selections of others are working to good purpose. The point of letting another select the music is to coax them into choosing what will make them comfortable and maybe to give them something to do. If they use the opportunity to grind axes or chase some other anti-social agenda, you must step gently in and fix it. Experiment only with care and attention, always aware of how the music you or another has chosen is affecting the gathering. Change it without remorse if you think it is creating a mood which is not conducive to courtship and camaraderie. Turn it off when it adds nothing.

It is a minefield. What is soothing and sauce to one group is grating on another. Windham Hill artists are played and some people are happy while others are climbing the walls. Lynyrd Skynyrd is lullaby to some. It is only of the smallest importance what kind of music you prefer. When you are pursuing the affections and admiration of another, the right thing to do is what is best for them without being bad for you. Not surprisingly, this often leads to standard sorts of music. But it needn’t. There are a million other recordings which are anything but standard but which have various good effect. Better even and possibly less dangerous as you have less chance of playing music which reminds them of another time, another place, and another person entirely.

Not that you should spend any time worrying about all this any more than you should spend time worrying if your buttons are buttoned. If humor and good nature hold sway in your home, you should not have a problem with the ominous chop chop chop of mad knives nor the odd minute of horrific music. On the other hand, if an evening seems to be wandering in a rotten direction or appears mired in some squalid heap of bad moodiness, check for sound. Are you chewing with your mouth open? Is anyone making sickening or nerve-shattering noises? Is the music frantic or dissonant or overly or underly intellectual or philosophical or simply too squirrely and spineless? Are the neighbors fighting or making a more affectionate racket?12 If you cannot repair the situation, at least be sympathetic by mentioning the unmentionable. A sense of humor helps.



Costumes

Clothing should be clean and in good repair down to the tiniest and most intimate article. Unless you just came in from the garden and there is mud on your clothing. Real dirt from the surface of the earth doesn’t bother anyone as long as it is not on your hands and face, which should be washed soon after your return from the garden. Neither does paint from painting nor spots and splashes honestly acquired during the course of cooking offend. Just be sure the fabric which forms the stuff of your clothing was once of great quality, fine or substantial to the touch, and that it was fashioned into clothing with wisdom and care, or at least not with vain carelessness. Down to the tiniest and most intimate article. You decide when it is time to change your clothes, remembering that disappearing briefly to take a shower and change can be a powerful move when well executed.

Clothing as courtship. Dressing for a different kind of success. A large topic few are bold enough to address, and even then stay scholarly and useless.13 So you are on your own. Tips? Fabric should feel even more wonderful than it promised on sight. Design and construction should neither restrict movement nor recarve the form. I don’t care what Dior thinks. Chanel is on my side. It should not present the flesh or form as though on a platter, but rather cover and protect and caress and honestly and proudly reveal the body as the lover would themselves given the chance.

There is no fashion. There is only your body and its need to be clothed for whatever reason: Warmth, modesty, discretion, safety, habit, law, etc. Your body is both unlike any other body which has ever existed, attached as it is to your head and heart and all, and it is no different than all the bodies which have been clothed for thousands of years. There are no requirements, rules nor social considerations special to clothing. Your manner of dress must only follow the guidelines outlined in every other arena. It should be what is most considerate of others without being inconsiderate of yourself. Others should not have to look at you and wonder if you are comfortable. Nor should they need to avert their eyes out of discretion, respect nor aesthetic. Nor should they be compelled to stare. They should not have to make special allowances for you because you have hobbled yourself with bad footwear or narrow or fragile or insufficient clothing. They should not have to alter plans or forgo adventures because you vainly neglected to put on enough clothes to keep yourself warm or safe. They should not have to suffer your complaints nor forgive your untied self because you can’t figure out what your shirt size really is. Your clothing should not make them question your regard and respect for them by being so haphazard and thoughtless as to be an eyesore. Neither should you make yourself uncomfortable in order to please others.

Have respect for yourself and for others when you decide what to wear. Be honest when you buy clothing and ignore sizes. Imagine what the garment will look like after it has been lived in for eighteen hours straight, escaped briefly and then donned again, which is a common and sought after situation in the most enviable of courtship circumstances. Good clothing repels dirt and creases and looks better after it has been worn for awhile, the excellent fabric taking its clues from your form, rather than becoming misshapen through contact with your body and movement. It should feel strong and good against your skin, keep you warm and keep you cool and shade you from the sun and wind and rain and sleet and snow. It should flatter you and make you feel beautiful and comfortable with yourself. Again, as a good friend might do. And like that good friend, it should not require frequent maintenance nor constant attention. Unless dress is a means of expression for you, there is no need for your clothing to be interesting at first glance. Better for it to draw the eye slowly if at all. Better for it to be staid and conventional in comparison to your own brilliance. Sad always to see a lovely person in fruitless competition with their own clothes. Sad as well to see a person of brilliance dressed in drab and flimsy fashion.

It is a big, hard problem, dress, and one which has been worked on for many centuries with little success. There is so much to say about clothes and what they mean to people and how they might be interpreted. The history of fabric and the human body is only partially documented in the hundreds of fat books published about it. I am not even going to touch on Bodies.14

You are largely on your own. Broad and abstract admonitions are all I can offer. Judge articles of clothing as thoroughly and harshly as you would a potential friend before adding them to your closet, and then do what you must to acquire them. Most commonly, you may have to pay more money for a better quality thing than you are in the habit of buying and wearing. Or you may need to learn how to make clothes and then make what you need. Commission clothing if you can find a good clothing maker. You will almost certainly have to find a way to transcend your current conceptions of what clothing should look and feel like. You might have to feel strange in something for a few hours or days. It is not so easy as the magazines would suggest to dress yourself well. And much easier in the end.

Only wear things you feel like wearing. Always be able to walk a mile in your own shoes. Don’t wear anything sheerly for decoration.15 Don’t make too great of a first impression. Don’t wear anything of extreme value outside of ceremonies. Don’t wear anything which is brighter, more attractive or more interesting than you are. Don’t wear anything of lesser quality than yourself. Don’t ever wear anything a little bit of olive oil will ruin.







You would be extremely foolish to ignore all aspects of the technical production, and equally foolish to slave away at them. In theater a good rule of thumb, which hardly anyone follows, is this: To the degree you execute anything at all, execute it well and to a degree commensurate with or complementary to the execution of all the other aspects. For example, it might be unwise to appear at the door in Lacroix formal wear when your home is decorated in early garage sale, your lighting cruel and inconsiderate, and the menu barbecue. On the other hand, you might impress just the right person with your extremely sharp and purist priorities. What do I know? If your home is clean and comfortable though second-hand, if you could find it in your heart to adjust your lighting scheme so your guests do not feel as though they have been caught on a B-movie set, and if the barbecue is good at being whatever it is, the Lacroix might be very very appropriate, charming in its unlikelihood, its elaborate and exotic aspect set off delightfully by the simplicity of its context; the simplicity of context made still more delightfully disingenuous in contrast to your elaborate costume.16

Similarly you might perfectly light a very casually furnished home. Complementary because exquisite lighting can show off a mediocre interior to its best effect, even improving it. You might play music or serve food that transcends all the visual elements of your home. Your art collection might surpass by orders of magnitude your neighborhood, your wardrobe and your menu.

Be reasonable, be sane. Ignore what others think of you and be conscious of how your surroundings are making them feel. Again and again and again, you needn’t change things just because others don’t like them. Nor should you refuse to change things just because others don’t like them. Both choices are reactive and hold rare success. Whatever it is you decide to do, or do without deciding, it will have its effect. You might as well have it be the one you desire.






FOOTNOTES


1 Oh yes, all the time. It is a matter of some debate, but I’ve no idea why. Even plants prefer their certain amount of sunlight, breeze and gentle noise; dying when it is all too wrong. How much more responsive to scene the unbearably sentient, shoe-footed being?

2 I recently heard another suggestion: One evening when you have nothing better to do, dress up like a snooty interior designer (perhaps employing a tablecloth as a cape) and go through your house in character, pointing out everything that is dreadful, dreary and simply must go. This is from the Girls who wrote Free Advice. They recommend that you then open a beer and forget about the whole thing. I would suggest instead that you return to your original self and think about what the designer told you. My guess is that you could probably follow every word of advice from your fictional character and not go too wrong.

3 For those of you who slept through Logic 101, this implies that things which are vile but also expressive of something about you can be left lying about if you like, as well as all those things which are not you but also not vile. For most people, the latter category includes most things.

4 This is not entirely about pornography and things erotic. You probably also don’t want to leave out the personals column with various ads circled in red.

5 And don’t display pictures of anyone in your bedroom. Others will wonder whom you are looking at. As an aside because I really don’t want to discuss your bedroom here. Just make sure it is clean and otherwise follows the guidelines for the rest of the house. You do reveal your regard for yourself by the way you treat yourself when no one is around. Your bedroom holds many clues to this reclusive being. Just so you know. We can talk about it later.

6 I am not prepared to browse about the psychological profile of someone who cannot stand to be in a low-lit place. By which I do not mean suspiciously dark. Easier for me to explain Blanche Dubois who doesn’t want to see or be seen too clearly than someone who must see and be seen. Or to the degree I can explain it, find it lamentable.

7 A configuration strangely and sadly similar to that of many kitchen tables.

8 Perhaps you understand, and so you should skip this footnote for it is long and remedial. But perhaps you are blind to the effect of distracting lighting. Perhaps it never even occurs to you to alter the lighting in your home. For my part, I do not remember to adjust the temperature. I implore you to take note. For the brightest and most common example, once dinner is served, the kitchen light might be turned off. Even when there is a closed door, the bright kitchen light glaring around the edges distracts and makes imaginative minds wonder what might still be going on in there. (Ironically, since in my experience it is much more likely that something interesting is going on in a darkened kitchen.) Certainly when there is no barrier, the lights in the kitchen should be turned off. If you remain in the kitchen for the meal, the lights over the stove and sink, if possible, are wisely extinguished, attention brought to the table or wherever you are now about to dine and converse and otherwise attend to anything but sinks and stoves. Really, I do not like to talk about such fussy detail. Only you can know which lights in your home should be on or off at any one moment. Perhaps you can think of it instead as economical and considerate of energy to turn off most of the lights in areas where you are not. Leave on low, small lights where people may have to walk so their experience of your home is never scary, dangerous, or frustrating. Some small, but in any case not harsh amount of light in hallways or rooms that must be negotiated. A nightlight or candle in the bathroom for particularly raucous events so no one is forced into a cruelly lit encounter with their own face or thighs. Kindness and care of others. Thinking of things they wouldn’t have thought of for themselves. Never obsequious, and never at your own expense, as all that you offer others is equally lovely for you. Further a gift to yourself as the pleasure of others, their happiness, can only be paradise for you. Please let me know if you need to know more about this. Or ask friends for advice on the matter. As usual, take of advice as you would a plate of bon bons, which is to say don’t gobble it up all at once. Consider and appreciate all that is offered, then politely ingest what is right for you. Taking it all in over the course of time, if that is what you need.

9 Like that’s big news. But I will offer a rule of thumb suggesting that pools of light combining to create more or less even light throughout a room, whether it is brightly or darkly lit, will in most cases give a good effect. As opposed to a single source of light. This, by the way, is how stages are lit. Many lights combining to create an atmosphere, reducing shadows, suffusing the stage with an amount of light rather than lighting a particular thing, although great care is taken to assure that particular things are indeed lit. People with excellent collections of art have the glorious option of lighting the works themselves which in turn light the room with richly reflected light and color. A simple solution, if you don’t count the difficulty of choosing art worth lighting or the cost and complexity involved in lighting art well.

10 Preferably something which is not back-tracking, i.e. do not simply turn lights back on which have been turned off. This is such sticky stuff. I want to add that while you try to encourage another to accept a new way of being, I encourage you to learn a new way of lighting so that others are comfortable. If you can’t figure out a way to make a fussy other happy with some haste, compromise for the moment your own comfort and figure out a better solution later in your own time. Rearrange your lamps, acquire better ones and dispose of bad ones. But perhaps the lamplight is not at fault but rather everything it touches. Is your home so dark or dingy that any source of light is swallowed whole by the first thing it touches? So bare and spare that light beams bounce endlessly, never finding a resting spot? Fix it.

11 Please don’t do anything sudden and without warning. It is a horrible sensation to be suddenly thrown into relative bright or darkness without having been forewarned. At least for me.

12 In which case there is little to do besides dissolving the embarrassed discomfort of modest guests through humor, letting them know that they are not alone in their chagrin, apologizing for the awkwardly thin walls, and possibly suggesting that you should all adjourn to another room, even if it ends up being the Lanai Room down the street.

13 For insight and humor into the topic, read Femininity by Susan Brownmiller. Concerning primarily women but men might want to know what women fight when they fight with themselves and will be able to extrapolate easily from her very personal account to explore on their own the equally silly and time-consuming dictates of Masculinity. She is not so creative sometimes in finding solutions to the hard problems, but solutions are elusive and perhaps will prove to be individual.

14 Although, as you might surmise, the same, oft-repeated guidelines for behavior hold which, typically speaking, lead to those lovely, healthy bodies very appropriate to courtship activities.

15 I did not say never wear jewelry. I did not say never wear all colors at one time. Just that if you do, there had better be some other reason to be wearing that item besides decoration. Jewelry can have meaning, it can complement you, or it can create a particular sort of effect unavailable without the flash of metal or the glint of polished stone. Colorful clothing might also be something wonderful to wear and make you feel as though you are wrapped in the arms of a great love. It might capture attention at first sight as long as it is still more wonderful upon closer examination. I did not say you should dress to look like a field mouse.

16 Conversely, cotton pajamas have been worn to formal events with great élan. This last is an extremely hard trick, however, and should only be attempted by a very advanced student of clothing courtship, or a sincerely naive one.

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