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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.



April 27, 2012   1 Comment

Bridesmaid Squabbles in New Orleans: Lessons from Enchanted April

Painting by Hon Lady Mallet

Tea:  Earl Grey

Music:  Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper


Dear Erica,

I am planning my best-friends Bachlorette party, and I’m getting more and more annoyed with one of the other bridesmaids.  I’m the Maid of Honor, and I was the one who came up with the idea of doing the Bachlorette party in New Orleans, but now she has gotten involved, and is taking over everything.  She has organized the restaurant for our big night out, decided what clubs we MUST go to, booked the hotel, without even asking for any advice from me(the bride’s best friend!).  Now, honestly, she has made good choices, but I hate that she has taken it out of my hands.  Am I being petty?  How do I handle it?

Bridesmaid in Boston

Dear Bridesmaid in Boston,

It is totally natural that this other girl’s behavior would annoy you, but the only advice I can give you would be to repeat Lotty Wilkins’ words to Rose Arbuthnot in Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim.  When the elderly and extremely opinionated Mrs. Fisher took over the housekeeping of their rented villa in Italy(a villa that Lotty and Rose had found!), Rose’s initial reaction was resentment and frustration.

But we found San Salvatore,” said Mrs. Arbuthnot, “and it is rather silly that Mrs. Fisher should behave as if it belonged only to her.”

But her friend, Lotty Wilkins, soon puts things in perspective.

“What is rather silly,” said Mrs. Wilkins with much serenity, “is to mind. I can’t see the least point in being in authority at the price of one’s liberty.”

Rather than feel petty resentments at Mrs. Fisher for taking over the houskeeping of their Italian holiday villa, Rose realizes that her friend Lotty is right.   Free of the burdens of day-to-day housekeeping, she can better enjoy her holiday, and I suggest you do the same.  Enjoy the Bachlorette party, and don’t get lost in the little nitty gritty details of the planning.  If you think this other bridesmaid is making a bad decision and the bride will have a terrible time, speak out.  And speak out loudly. Otherwise, allow this other girl to commandeer the planning of the trip, and use the free time you will have to create something special for your friend.  A scavenger hunt, a scrap book with pictures and mementos.  Focus your energy elsewhere, and try for a zen-like attitude, a la Enchanted April.  I know its probably easier to let things go when you are staying at a gorgeous Italian villa on the coast, but I have a feeling the Big Easy will wield its own sort of magic.  Just remember, if you have a wonderful time, you will help ensure that the bride also has a wonderful time!



March 9, 2012   No Comments

Jennifer Aniston & Somerset Maugham on Love Lasting Forever


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

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


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


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.



May 18, 2011   No Comments

The 19th Century Frenemy: Lucy Steele Found in Florida



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

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


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.



April 28, 2011   1 Comment