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Wedding Blues: What would Jane Austen say about the common cupcake?

Vintage 40's Vogue Wedding Pattern

Tea:  Earl Grey with Milk

Music:  Antonin Dvorak: Russalka: Song to the Moon

Dear Erica,

I am planning my wedding for June, and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed.  We are paying for it ourselves, and cutting corners on the flowers, and the food, and any number of details.  I want the day to be memorable and special, but I fear that people are going to think it’s cheap(my mother-in-law has certainly implied as much).  Cupcakes just don’t cut it in her book.  Not that she’s helping out in any way of course. Any words of advice?

Engaged in England

Dear Engaged in England,

Has your mother-in-law ever tried a cupcake???  She sounds like she’s a miserable old boot, so I’d ignore anything she has to say and remind you what Jane Austen says about Emma’s wedding to Mr. Knightley.

“The wedding was very much like other weddings, where the parties have no taste for finery or parade; and Mrs. Elton, from the particulars detailed by her husband, thought it all extremely shabby, and very inferior to her own.—”Very little white satin, very few lace veils; a most pitiful business!—Selina would stare when she heard of it.”—But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.”  Emma by Jane Austen

As wedding season approaches and new brides find themselves overwhelmed by the drama of the details, it is easy to forget that the wedding should be about you, the happy couple, and really that’s about it. Try and remember why you are getting married, and ignore the whinging on the part of cheap and miserable relatives and Mrs. Elton type guests.  None of that matters.  The people who truly love you and care for you will only be thinking about your future happiness, not gossiping about the satin, lace, or God forbid, cupcakes.

Best,

Erica

April 27, 2012   1 Comment

Will Passion or Prudence win out for Nervous in New York?

sense-and-sensibility

Tea: Green Tea with Lemon

Music: Wilco: Impossible Germany

Quote:  Elinor knew that what Marianne and her mother conjectured one moment, they believed the next and that with them, to wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect. She tried to explain the real state of the case to her sister.
“I do not attempt to deny,” said she, “that I think very highly of him, that I greatly esteem, that I like him.”
Marianne here burst forth with indignation,
“Esteem him! Like him! Cold-hearted Elinor! Oh! worse than cold-hearted! Ashamed of being otherwise.” From Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen

Or for another, less erudite, perspective,
Never Regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience. Victoria Holt


Question:

Dear Erica,

I’ve been working and living in New York for the past few years and have just been accepted at business school at Stanford. Of course, now that I’m leaving New York, I finally got up the courage to flirt with my office crush, who to my complete surprise likes me back. Well, I’m tempted to date him, even though I’ll only be here for a few more months. What do you think? Is it worth it? Or am I likely to wind up more hurt?

Thanks,

Nervous in New York

My Response:

Dear Nervous in New York:

I think you should go for it, with the caveat that you need to think more like an Elinor and feel less like a Marianne if you want to avoid getting hurt. By Elinor and Marianne, I am referring to the very different Dashwood sisters in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensiblity. Elinor handles her romantic troubles with a prudence and practicality that is completely missing in her passionate and dramatic sister. In exploring her feelings for Edward Ferrars, Elinor recognizes the difficulties their union faces and does not allow herself to run away with unrealistic expectations. Marianne, on the other hand, falls passionately in love with the selfish but charming Willoughby and her impetuous choices lead her into a near breakdown when Willoughby’s true colors are revealed.

Marianne calls her sister cold hearted, but I would say she’s really just practical. If you are able to look at the relationship as a pleasant fling, and let go a little bit(never easy for a woman, but it can be done), then you are set. But if you think you might develop deeper feelings, just be aware that long-distance and long-term relationships are never easy and be practical. That being said, you are more likely to regret not taking a chance than holding back. Though not one of the classic writers, I think Gothic Romance novelist, Victoria Holt, says it best, “Never Regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.

And who knows? Maybe it will work out! Edward and Elinor managed to overcome a number of obstacles, jealous ex-lovers, no money, disapproving relations, and find themselves very happy after a number of painful separations. And even if it winds up being a right mess, you are likely to learn from your mistakes. If Marianne had not had her tragic love-affair with the dastardly Willoughby, she might never have learned to appreciate and value the loyal and thoughtful Colonel Brandon with whom she lived happily ever after. Let us know whether passion or prudence wins out!

Best,

Erica

November 26, 2011   7 Comments

Twenty and Never Been Kissed: Perplexed in Portland Wonders Why

Emma & Knightley

Emma & Knightley

Tea: Plantation Mint
Music: Frank Bridge: Sir Roger de Coverly

Quote: Emma argued, “I have none of the usual inducements of women to marry. Were I to fall in love, indeed, it would be a different thing! but I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall. And, without love, I am sure I should be a fool to change such a situation as mine. Fortune I do not want; employment I do not want; consequence I do not want.”
Harriet responded: “But still, you will be an old maid! and that’s so dreadful!”
Jane Austen’s Emma

Question:

Dear Erica,

I am slightly concerned about my younger cousin. She is twenty years old, and has yet to go out on a first date! She is very pretty and smart, and I am unsure what the problem may be. My only clue is that when asked why she said no to a potential suitor, she said she just didn’t have that “oh my god” moment of wanting to throw her arms around him and kick up her back heel. What advice do you have for someone who needs to jumpstart her love life, let go of this fictional idea of romance, and finally be kissed?!

Perplexed in Portland

Response:

Dear Perplexed in Portland,

Your cousin sounds an awful lot like Emma Woodhouse. Jane Austen’s classic heroine is entirely comfortable with her life, surrounded by her father, her governess, and her friend Mr. Knightley, and she does not feel the urge to marry, even though it is customary among her friends. After muddling through a series of romantic misunderstandings, Emma matures and comes to understand her true feelings, and by the end of the novel, we see her happily married to her old friend Mr. Knightley.

If your cousin is longing to be in a relationship, I would advise her to beware of having an unrealistic expectation of love. As I have repeatedly emphasized on Teatime with Erica, a relationship is not all roses and romance(See Princes and Pomp and Should you Settle for Something Less than Perfect). Your cousin’s desire to find an “oh my god moment suggests that she may be immature and not ready for a meaningful adult relationship. It may be easier for her to dream of romantic heroes who will make her swoon, than to navigate the difficulties inherent in a real relationship.

On the other hand, it is possible that like Emma Woodhouse, she is happy in her situation and does not need or want a boyfriend. In our society, there is too much emphasis on dating in high school and youthful infatuations are often dressed up as love affairs. While some young women are ready at fifteen to be married and have babies, other women might not feel comfortable dating until they are in their twenties. Not every one is a Juliet, madly in love and barely fourteen. Your cousin sounds like a late developer(a number of my favorite heroines were the same: Polly Shaw of An Old Fashioned Girl, as well as Margaret Hale of North and South). Don’t worry though! Like Emma and Margaret and Polly, your cousin will eventually be ready, and then she will find her own Mr. Knightley.

Best,

Erica

May 18, 2011   No Comments

The 19th Century Frenemy: Lucy Steele Found in Florida

Erte

Erte

Tea:  Acai Blueberry White Tea
Music:  Arcangelo Corelli: Concerto Grosso No. 10


Quote:
Elinor was sorry to see them.  Their presence always gave her pain, and she hardly knew how to make a very gracious return to the overpowering delight of Lucy in finding her STILL in town.
“I should have been quite disappointed if I had not found you here STILL,” said she repeatedly, with a strong emphasis on the word.  ”But I was almost sure you would not leave London yet awhile; though you TOLD me, you know, at Barton, that you should not stay above a MONTH.  And now to be sure you will be in no hurry to be gone.  I am amazingly glad you did not keep to YOUR WORD.”
Elinor perfectly understood her, and was forced to use all her self-command to make it appear that she did NOT.
Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensiblity

Question:

Dear Erica,

I am a Freshman at FIU and I’m beginning to be suspicious of my roommate(let’s call her Nikki).  She doesn’t have that many female friends, but she has always been really sweet to me.  However, I started dating a guy six months ago, and Nikki always manages to flirt with him when we go out.  I thought I was just being crazy, but the other night, I noticed she sent him a text message about the new FIU basketball coach.  My boyfriend is obsessed with college basketball.  Not a big deal, but Nikki told me she thinks sports are totally boring.  What do you think?  Am I crazy or should I be concerned?

Frazzled in Florida

Dear Frazzled in Florida,

Talk about warning signs.  She sounds like the ultimate Frenemy.  Texting your boyfriend about the coach when she has told you she doesn’t like sports?  I think we have a modern day Lucy Steele on our hands.  Jane Austen’s novels are rife with frenemies, but none is more despicable than the inimitable Lucy Steele.  In Austen’s Sense and Sensiblity, Lucy epitomizes the 19th century Frenemy who repeatedly declares her immense affection for Elinor, while staking her claim on Elinor’s beau, the guileless Edward Ferrars.  Elinor has too much sense not to see through the shallow machinations of Lucy, and cleverly maintains her distance, ultimately winning Edwards affections.

It’s possible you are being unreasonably jealous, and a text message is not a cause for concern. However, the fact that Nikki doesn’t have many female friends should be a major warning sign.  Women can be judgmental, and cruel.  But if a woman doesn’t have any female friends, there is usually a reason.  And the sweeter she is to you, the more you should be concerned.  Lucy was never more manipulative than when she was offering her sweetest endearments to Elinor Dashwood.  Trust your instincts. If she is telling you that you are her dearest friend, but looking longingly at your boyfriend, remember Lucy Steele and keep your distance.

Best,

Erica

April 28, 2011   1 Comment