Thursday, April 1, 2010

Beautiful Graceful Thing...

Thumbing through old MTC scrapbooks, I found handouts from a class I barely remember taking -- dedicated to the “Refinement and Beautification of Sister Missionaries”. It was known as “Belle Sorelle” which translated “Beautiful Sister” and was pronounced with the short “e” sound at the end of the second word. Since none of us were familiar with Italian pronunciation nuances and partly because of its ridiculous nature, we called it “Belly Sorelly”

The name stuck.

For nearly every sister involved, it was a reprieve from the exhausting gospel study grind and repetitive Italian memorization exercises the Elders continued to follow in our absence. Since we were all familiar with tweezing protocol for eyebrows and proper blending techniques of foundational make up, it was mostly review. The difficulty was managing a straight face when instructed to rub mayonnaise deep into our scalps, leaving on the natural alternative to commercial hair conditioner for a twenty minute treatment.

Under refined tutelage we learned whether our faces resembled inverted triangles or pears, which shampoo ingredient introduced supplementary protein blends onto the hair shaft and what qualified as a French braid. My personal favorite was the expanded beauty session known as the "Poise Workshop".

After all these years, the complexity of proper handling of hands, walking and ascending stairs escapes my aging memory. Fortunately, archived documents provide the answers.

From the “Poise Workshop”

What to do with your hands...

While Standing: "Let your upper inner wrists lay gently on your front hip bones, slightly off center of your body. You can lightly lace finger tips, thumbs together or place palms together. You can place the back of one hand in the palm of the other, fingers cupped. If you must fold your arms, do so lightly with your thumbs tucked under each arm and finger tips showing. Then stand tall and don't let your back slump."

How to Walk…

The ideal walk is not really walking, it is more like floating. Keep your weight in the middle of your body. Don’t let it shift from foot to foot. One shouldn’t be able to tell by looking at your head which foot is stepping down. Watch your arms. Let them move moderately, but not propel you. Practice daily – and remember -- don’t walk…float.

Ascending Stairs…

You can float up and down stairs as any princess if you remember – “It’s all in the knees.” Never watch the stairs. Pause as you begin to take the first step. Keep your feet on a slight angle. Keep your knees bent and to get the floating feeling... practice walking around the room with your knees bent. Never grasp the hand rail to pull yourself up. If you do these things you will be graceful and it is truly a wonderful thing.

Stunned at the magnitude of education contained in the Poise Workshop none of us imagined there could be more. But, alas there was…Clothing Care, Laundry Tips, Mood Identity, Skin Analysis, Figure Balancing, Foot Fungus Identification, Food Measurement and finally…What to do if we suspected we had toxic shock syndrome.

The refinement obtained by the Elders, on the other hand, remained unclear. Surely they must have been reminded to withhold bodily noises in the presence of investigators, close their mouths while chewing and refrain from lighting anything on fire. Perhaps lengthy instruction in these and other areas would have exceeded retention ability and demonstrations of eyebrow tweezing make up application and hair braiding certainly would not have been appropriate use of their time.

In the end… we left the MTC as Christian Soldiers fortified by white bibles, Book of Mormons, Flipcharts and brand new two sided emery boards. As sisters we were prepared to teach… and preach… and work like missionaries did, with beautification training handouts serving as constant reminder of our graceful potential.

Long Live Belle Sorelle!

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