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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

Ending an Engagement: Break Slowly or Snap Suddenly?

Promenade by Auguste Macke

Tea:  PG Tips with a splash of milk

Music:  Handel:  Alla Hornpipe, Suite in D Water Music

Dear Erica,

I’ve gotten engaged to my boyfriend of nearly five years, but after just a few short weeks, I’ve decided I can’t go through with it.  How can I end it as nicely as possibly?  Do I tell him I’m having doubts now and then later on break the news gently?  Or do I tell him right away?  I know I will hurt him, and I do care for him, but I also know I’d be miserable if I married him.  What should I do?

Distressed in Denver

Dear Distressed in Denver,

If you are certain you want to end your engagement, I advise you to do it right away.  Unfortunately, breaking off an engagement is never easy, as Helen tells her sister Margaret in Howard’s End.

“Can you break an engagement off slowly?”  Her eyes lit up.  ”What’s an engagement made of, do you suppose?  I think it’s made of some hard stuff, that may snap.  It is different to the other ties of life.  They stretch or bend.  They admit of degree.  They’re different.” Howard’s End by E.M Forster

In Howard’s End, Paul Wilcox and Helen Schlegel enter into a whirlwind engagement that they soon regret.  Once they had broken off their engagment, Paul and Helen never felt the same about each other, the spark of attraction disappeared, and an antipathy developed between their two families.  As I’m sure you are aware, your old relationship will never be the same.  However, as difficult as a broken engagement can be, it is more important to be true to yourself than to remain engaged.  If Helen and Paul had remained engaged, she would have been miserable and would not have lived the life she was meant to live. And as messy and dramatic as that life turned out to be, she was far happier being true to herself.

My only advice is that if you are sure you want to end your engagement, you should do it quickly, decisively, and with as much discretion as possible, i.e., try to keep the gossiping to a minimum.  In Howard’s End, different family members get the wrong end of the stick as letters are exchanged and gossip spreads.  As a sign of respect and affection, you must tell your fiance the news first, and avoid discussing the matter with too many people.  As hurt as he will be by your ending the engagement, he will be mortally wounded if he finds out from someone else that you are having doubts.  I wish I could give you more comforting words of advice, but just remember, that many women have found themselves in the same unfortunate situation as you, and some very remarkable heroines, and they all survived.  And you will too.

Best,

Erica

February 22, 2012   No Comments

The Steamy One Night Affair – Do you or Don’t you?

van-dongen-woman-on-a-sofa-19301

Tea: Earl Grey with a splash of Milk

Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme

Quote: “The fine flower of their intimacy was to her rather like an orchid, a bulb stuck parasitic on her tree of life, and producing, to her eyes, a rather shabby flower. She was aware only of the physical aversion. It rose up in her from her depths: and she realized how it had been eating her life away.” Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Question:

If the opportunity for the perfect, steamy, one-time affair came along, and you knew your partner wouldn’t find out, should you (1) take it because life is too short, OR (2) pass?

Best,

Torn in Temecula

My Response:

Dear Torn in Temecula,

As a hypothetical question, it is tricky because you are assuming the impossible, the perfect, steamy, one-time affair. If you are writing to me with this question, it shows that you are not the type to enter into a steamy, one-time affair lightly. Even if your partner won’t find out, you will most likely be overwhelmed with guilt, or develop impractical feelings for this new lover. Your perfect affair will seem not so perfect pretty quickly.

In romance, the imagined is often much better than the realized. Whatever you imagine this steamy, one-time affair to be, it is doubtful that it will be as good in reality as you think. I would only recommend an affair if your marriage or relationship is so unbearable that you are willing to risk losing it. Lady Chatterley’s affair with her gamekeeper would not have occurred if her husband wasn’t such a weak, selfish, and impotent snob. Their marriage was nothing more than “a shabby flower” and she felt nothing but “aversion” for him. In this case, one can understand what would drive her to embark on an affair. Especially when you have the virile and earthy Oliver Mellors residing in the nearby woods! Who can resist a “reckless devil”?

Affairs should always be the last resort. Even if you manage to turn your one time-affair into a stable relationship with your new lover, the guilt and baggage that comes with the affair is likely to haunt you -remember Anna Karenina? My advice is that unless you want your marriage or relationship to end, you should devote your energies to reminding yourself why you fell in love with your husband or lover to begin with. Unless your husband or lover is a weak, selfish, impotent snob. And then maybe you are better off with your steamy, one-time affair!

Good luck with your Decision!

Erica

January 11, 2012   4 Comments

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

Jennifer Aniston & Somerset Maugham on Love Lasting Forever

anistonmaughan

Tea: Plantation Mint

Music: Edvard Grieg: Peer Gynt Suite #2 Op 55

Quote: “We are not the same persons this year as the last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.” W. Somerset Maugham

Or for a modern day perspective:

Quote: “Whoever said that every relationship has to last for ever? That’s hoping for too much.” Jennifer Aniston

The celebrity gossip following Jennifer Aniston’s series of breakups, from John Mayer, to Vince Vaughn, and even before that Brad Pitt, begs the question: where is her happily ever after? Has she finally found it with Justin Theroux?  Or is she destined to be alone?  In considering Jennifer Aniston’s situation, I am not going to suggest that it is because she is fickle, works in the superficial world of Hollywood, or chooses the wrong men. All are possibilities mind you, but I am giving her the benefit of the doubt. Instead I would like to recognize the striking similarity in her views on the difficulty in maintaining a long term relationship with those of the writer Somerset Maugham.

Although the trials and tribulations of Hollywood royalty may seem as irrelevant to our personal romantic troubles as the characters in an old novel, we have more in common with both Hollywood stars and imaginary literary characters than we realize. In life, we are constantly evolving, growing, and ultimately changing. You are not the same person today, as you were the day before, and neither is your lover. In Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil, shallow, pretty Kitty Fane embarks on a passionate love affair with the equally shallow Charlie Townsend which goes awry when her husband walks in on them. (Ouch) After spending time in Mei Tan Fu with her estranged doctor husband, and working at the local convent, the suffering and death she witnesses changes her outlook on life. And so when she returns to Hong Kong, her feelings for Charlie Townsend undergo a great transformation as her passionate adoration turns into distaste and contempt, clearly evinced in her last words to him: “You really are the most vain and fatuous ass it’s ever been my bad luck to run across.” (Nothing like calling a man a vain and fatuous ass to put him in his place!)

Our daily experiences change us, and those of our lover and we can find ourselves worlds apart after only a few days apart. So even if we are not Jennifer Aniston, or an imaginary character in a Somerset Maugham novel, we can relate to their difficulties in maintaining a long term relationship because as Somerset Maugham writes, it is a happy chance, if we changing, continue to love a changed person.

July 22, 2011   1 Comment