It’s time to stay classy, Queenstown

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I have never been the poster girl for classy behaviour, but a few weeks ago I decided it was time to try harder.
It started with the purchase of red lipstick.

Scoff if you must, but that little tube of ‘Captivate’ has changed my life. 

I immediately felt classier. And, in an instant, I began behaving more like the lady my wee mum always hoped I’d turn in to. 

But, obviously, it takes more than a tube of lipstick. 

I used to think class was about the house you live in, the car you drive, the clothes you wear, the disposable income so many of us dream of having and the social set you belong to. 

But I’ve realised it’s not about any of those things. 

Class is wholly and solely determined by the choices you make and the actions you take.

And, maybe, as much as anything else it’s about the way you treat other people. 

In the Queenstown District Court recently Jenny McNee’s character witnesses spoke of her honesty, integrity, compassion and kindness. 

She was well-dressed, well-spoken and – clearly – highly regarded. 

Yet, in November last year, Jenny McNee had a bad night. 

She took some prescription painkillers for a bad hip and then attended a social function and had a few wines. 

The combination, her husband said in court, was a “bad mix”. 

A bad mix that ended with McNee, a policewoman, hurling racial abuse at a Queenstown Taxis driver. 

Despite her denial, Judge Tom Couch found her guilty of offensive language. 

Those who know McNee would, I’m sure, describe her as a “classy lady”. 

But even classy ladies have their moments. 

Generally speaking, those moments occur after one too many glasses of social lubricant, in the hours of darkness, when the consequences of your actions don’t seem as serious as they do in the harsh light of day. 

Then – to borrow a quote from author Dan Miles – you wake up with a mouth like a leper’s armpit. 

When the mere thought of sunshine hurts your eyes, you can feel your pulse in your brain and you know that last tequila and the mince and cheese pie from the two-four didn’t become friends in your stomach, there’s a moment of reflection. 

And then, sometimes, there’s the moment of horror. 

Your stomach drops, you start sweating and you realise your class left with the (aptly named) Brain Eraser. 

In court Judge Couch said McNee hadn’t intentionally lied about what happened – rather she had “come to believe is true what she wants to be true”. 

It wasn’t an uncommon phenomenon, he said. 

I’m quietly confident at some point most of us have been there – we’ve convinced ourselves we either didn’t do it, or we were entitled to do it, or there was actually nothing wrong with what we did. 

Because the alternative is to admit, actually, our behaviour was anything but classy and an apology is in order. 

For McNee – despite attempted apologies – her choices and actions landed her in a court room, with the hearing making national and international headlines. 

It has to be said, she had a massive and very public fall from grace and has, unfortunately, become the poster woman for inappropriate behaviour … but maybe we can all learn from her. 

Many think, as a police officer, McNee should hold herself to a higher standard. 

But what if we all held ourselves to that higher standard and decided, regardless of the number of wines we’ve knocked back (or otherwise – I, for one, don’t need booze to make bad decisions), to just have some class? 

If you need an example look no further than reality queen Kim Kardashian. 

Let’s be honest, if she can go from being known solely for a sex tape to being described by jeweller Lorraine Schwartz as “eloquent and elegant” and gracing the cover of Vogue, surely there’s hope for us all – with or without red lipstick.