Zoë Yeoman has a big heart, and that’s good thing, because she puts a lot of that heart into her work. There’s got to be plenty to go around with all of her projects and interests. After all, she is a noted actor, producer and etiquette expert!
Yeoman has a lot to say in regard to Valentine’s Day and etiquette. This is a holiday based on the romantic side of the heart, which can often override the brain. So, the stakes are high for couples OR anyone who’s trying to impress that certain someone. Of course, everyone is trying to get it right, but no one seems to really understand the rules of the game… OR if you’re single and don’t have a potential someone? There isn’t even a card category or rules that would apply to you. Just consider yourself “marked safe” from the possible financial and mental liability of this special day.
However, for those you who will be participating, Yeoman, a happily married woman of thirty years, is going to offer some guidance on how NOT to mess up the big day up entirely.
As the daughter of a military enlisted man, Zoë lived and traveled around the world and the United States, learning about each region’s preferences and spending time in various cultures abroad.
She was drawn to the theater in school and made her professional stage debut at 16 at Kings Hall in Heidelberg, Germany. She eventually landed roles in television shows like Law & Order: Special Victims’ Unit, David E. Kelley’s The Practice; Strong Medicine and The Drew Carey Show. The talented actress was recently cast in Lifetime Channel’s Made for Television movie: Holiday in Santa Fe and on AMC’s Better Call Saul.
In 2006 she founded and ran a school for etiquette; Yeoman shares: “Acting and producing was, is, and always will be a big part of my life. But teaching civility and social protocol is also something I’m drawn to. I believe my beliefs around the subject help put people at ease and offer a common sense way of feeling more confident in their own skin.”
The busy actress and producer works in an industry, which for better or worse, has created certain ideas over the years of romance and what this holiday is supposed to be about. We caught up with The OG Etiquette Queen to give us a Valentine’s Day reality check.
Zoë, why does etiquette matter when it comes to Valentine’s Day?
Oh, goodness. Whenever you’re talking about human interaction and especially affairs of the heart, you must have some rules for the road, so to speak. Those rules can help with communication issues (making sure you’re both on the same page), being able to make decisions that might make your significant other happy, in other words what they would want vs., what you may want for the day, and more.
Obviously, this is a very commercial holiday. Beyond that, as an expert on etiquette, what do you think Valentine’s Day should represent to people?
This day of celebration gives us an actual chance to show one’s love in a more romantic, old-fashioned sense. At least that’s what it means to me. The overtures that were practiced daily and many of which may have been mostly forgotten about, are on this day welcomed and almost expected. Flowers! Sexy gifts, special candle-lit dinners in front of your home fireplace, all harken back to another place and time. Think how long it’s been since you’ve made a special fuss over someone you’re in a relationship with. With all the hustle and bustle of daily life, if you said it’s been years, I’d understand. It’s also a great chance to show children how their parents love each other and DO for each other. It explains what love can and should feel (and look) like. Kids can also learn how important it is to make holiday traditions special for their spouses, loved ones and friends in the future. Seeing the flowers on the kitchen counter for their parent’s birthdays, helping to make French toast for breakfast in bed for anniversaries and of course all the special things that hopefully go along with Valentine’s Day in your home.
Do movies and/or pop culture encourage bad etiquette or behavior in regard to Valentines?
Movies, if anything tend to make fun of the confusion and possible complications that tend to come with along with love in general, Valentine’s day notwithstanding. Boy meets girl, treats girl badly, girl realizes she’s in love anyway, etc. I think movies really do show us love in a pure way and even so, complications come to mind. Take “Streetcar”, “When Harry Met Sally” “Silver Linings Playbook”, “The Power of the Dog”, “Troy”, for instance. All examples of love gone weirdly awry and beautifully so. Never was one topic more covered and again, all about communication or lack thereof.
What are some of the top etiquette blunders when it comes to Valentine’s Day?
Probably the biggest, A-#1 mistake is the example of two people NOT being on the same page about where things stand relationship-wise. In other words, one’s in love, one’s still deciding. If you’re single, make a big deal about you. Gift yourself some guilty pleasure. I have a friend who buys herself a really nice purse every year. Have to love that kind of self-care!
Are there certain types of personalities who are more likely to screw up on Valentines?
People who tend not to prepare in advance, folks who wing it; people who are self-involved. There really should be some thought put into Valentine’s Day for any loved one. Pick the right card, order flowers for delivery; make the restaurant reservation. Just a few minutes of thought to all of this can make you look like a real Casanova! You mustn’t wait until the day-of or even the week before to make reservations, for example. Try not to buy grocery store flowers unless budget doesn’t allow for any others. There are so many ways to show you care! Do you know what your significant other’s “love language” is for example? Or their favorite color?
What are some of the top etiquette tips for Valentine’s Day?
Dress appropriately for the event/occasion. Do not overspend if you’re in a new relationship–that could equate to some added pressure. Try to talk about what you’d BOTH like to do for the day. If you’re meeting parents for the first time, please knock or ring the bell. Introduce yourself, plan on being a few minutes early so you can all spend a few minutes chatting. Remember a card. Serious relationship or new, it’s something you can keep and should keep, unless the wick burns out quickly.
Interview by Eileen Shapiro