GRACEFUL. Google says it is “having or showing grace or elegance.” Who has that? Some say Cary Grant or George Clooney? OK. That’s what I’m talking about.

Now, elegance I can fake. I have linen jackets, seersucker suits and a drawer full of silk pocket hankies. I can do elegant.

As as young man in New York, I admired the way Fred Astaire moved, not just on the dance floor but in a room full of people. I knew the graceful Astaire in Beverly Hills, and when I told him that he laughed.

All brides, for example, are graceful even when they are big boned and heavy. Weddings are magical, aren’t they?

Maybe you’re a lawyer like my friend Jason Jabar, or a senator like Angus King or Richard Blumenthal. That’s graceful.

Jack Kennedy was graceful, even when he was cheating on Jackie.


Look at our president. Joe looked graceful at 60 when he was kissing every bride at every wedding, until he got elected president, then he started falling up the stairs to his plane, and off of bicycles. Few people look graceful falling off of a bike.

Richard Nixon and his court jester Gerald Ford were too feckless to master graceful.

Now, Barack Obama had it down, and he gets better at it as he ages. Watch his hands during interviews.

President Biden is 81 now, and charming in his Irish way, even now as his friends lower their eyes and voices.

Being graceful at 81 is real hard, but then going to the toilet is hard at 81.

Graceful is something I only managed when I walked down the grass to give my daughter away to her future husband.


I was a pretty good chorus boy dancer and actually graceful. Well, some girls thought so.

In those days if you were graceful or tried to be graceful, girls in the chorus thought you were gay.

Not that’s there’s anything wrong with being gay, but to stem rumors, I started walking like John Travolta. It didn’t work.

I was too short.

She hated ballroom dancing, but danced flawlessly on stage. She was the girl who got me out of dancing and into comedy, out of being a wiseguy street boy into being a gentleman in Polo hoodies, and who taught me how to use the semicolon even though she thought it pretentious.

Oh, face it: Once you reach 80, nobody is gonna come to your table and ask you to dance. No one watches people after 70 to see if they’re being “graceful” as they age.


Gene Kelly was born graceful and died that way. Gene, who mastered it, would even look graceful taking out the garbage. I saw him do that one early morning in Beverly Hills.

Look at the way he slips his arm around Leslie Caron in the moonlight by the Seine in “American in Paris.” Now that’s what I’m talking about — graceful.

Talk to your daughters about the word. It’s never too late to be graceful.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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