Sorry for the delayed posting! I was away from the interwebs today and only just remembered I owed dear Emily a visit. It’s been a while!
Hmmm, so here’s a good one…
To define differences between clothes that are notable because of their smartmess and clothes that are merely conspicuous is to define something that is very elusive. However, there are certain rules that seem to be established.
Vulgar clothes are those which, no matter what the fashion of the moment may be, are always too elaborate for the occasion; they are too exaggerated in style like last year’s no pants trend, too much for me!), or have accessories out of harmony with the dress and the wearer.
Beau Brummel’s remark that, when one attracted too much notice, he could be sure of being not well-dressed but overdressed, has for a hundred years been the comfort of the dowdy (considering Beau’s a male fashionista from the 18th century, and his style of clothing is called dandyism, I’m not sure I want to listen to him either ). It is, of course, very often true, but not invariably. A person may be stared at for any one of many reasons. A woman may be stared at because she is ill-behaved (woo who!), or because she looks like a freak of the circus (which, incidentally is a good look!) or because she is enchanting to behold.
If you are much stared at, what sort of stare do you usually meet? Is it contemptuous or curious or is it admiring (clearly she’s never been on the subway. I often confuse meaning behind the stares with all of those words plus some). If the first, change your behavior; if the second, wear more conventional clothes and make-up; if the third, you may be left as you are. But be sure of your diagnosis (I’m sure there’s a website for this).
If food is too hot, quickly take a swallow of water. On no account spit it out! If food has been taken into your mouth, no matter how you hate it, you must swallow it. It is offensive to take anything out of your mouth that hs been put in it, except dry fish bones and fruits pits (think Heathcliff). If you choke on a fish bone, leave the table quickly (sooo…you’re saying risk health for etiquette? I like!). To spit anything whatever into the corner of your napkin is too nauseating to comment on. It is horrid to see anyone spit skins on a fork or into the plate, and is excusable only if you get a bad clam or something similar into your mouth. Even then the best – because least noticeable – method is to take it from your mouth in your fingers – thumb underneath and four other fingers forming a screen over whatever it is, from lips to plate.
Peaches of other very juicy fruits are peeled and then eaten with knife and fork, but dry fruits, such as apples, may be cut and then eaten in the fingers. NEVER wipe hands that have fruit juice on them on a napkin without first using a finger bowl, because fruit juices make injurious stains (This is true, my dry cleaner just told me about “invisible” stains, or what one might call an oxymoron. Unless Emily is in on the dry cleaning prices racket).
I chose this entry because I was reminded of the time that I was dining at Korean restaurant with about 15 friends. I was sitting across the table from a friend who reached into my plate to grab a piece of shrimp (which I knew she didn’t like from the get go) and stuffed it in her mouth. A second later she spit the half chewed crustacean onto her plate and proclaimed “YUCK that was DISGUSTING”. She was, in fact, raised by wolves…but this entry reminds us that, when dining with friends, one should to keep their food opinions to themselves (and also their spit) because I have to say, there is NOTHING ruder than sharing your opinion about a meal a friend is also enjoying.
It may be this war period (war? what war? yes yes, WWII but I was being ironical), which has accustomed everyone to going with very little meat and to marked reductions in all food, or it may, of course, be merely vanity that is causing even grandparents to aspire to svelte figures (nope, that would be the media); but whatever the reason, people are putting much less food on their tables than formerly (and thank god! aren’t American’s some of the most obese people in the world dare I say galaxy?). The few very rich, still living in great houses with an imposing array of servants, sit down to three, or at most four, courses.
Under no circumstances does a modern dinner, no matter how formal consist of less than:
1. Soup or oysters or melon or clams.
2. Fish or Entree.
6. After-dinner coffee.
We’ve been watching “Emma” on PBS and I believe she might include a phrase or two here about “finding oneself in reduced circumstances”…indeed a polite way of saying “We won’t be serving any of the preceding in one sitting at our dinners, nevermind in sequence. Who do you think we are? The Woodhouses?”
THE LETTER NO WOMAN SHOULD EVER WRITE
The mails carry letters every day that are so many packages of TNT should their contents be exploded by falling into wrong hand (I swear that’s how this sentence reads – copied it straight from the book). Letters that should never have been written are put in evidence in courtrooms every day. Many cannot, in any way, be excused; but often silly girls and foolish women write things that sound quite different from what they innocently, but stupidly, intended.
Of course the best advice to young girls who feel impelled to pour out their emotions in letters to men can be put in a word, don’t! (in modern contexts, hello drunk texting, thank you!).
However, if you are a young girl – or even a not-so-young woman – and are determined to write a letter to a man (who is neither you husband or your betrothed) that contains any possibility of emotion, then at least put it away for “an overnight” in order to re-read it and make sure that you have said nothing that may “sound different” from what you intended to say. (probably her best advice yet ladies! now have another margarita…)
Remember this above all: Never write a letter to anyone – no matter who – that would embarrass you were you to see it in a newspaper above your signature. Not that this means YOU, but thousands apon thousands of women, inspired by every emotion known, have poured words on paper, but few of the many made public have had beauty. There were, as many may rememeber, a certain few letters read in a Pacific Coast divorce four not long ago, which reveled a woman’s character of unforgettable loveliness. But such characters – as well as letters – are rare (I wonder who this woman was and what she did to impress dear ol’ Ems here…a tough job indeed!)
A point to remember, then, is the written words, unless destroyed, are permanent, and that thoughts carelessly put on paper can exist for hundreds of years (Thank God for Facebook).
Here we go again…
This one is classic…
Some things should never change…