Tuesday, December 24, 2013

In which the author gives a lady advice upon marriage

Retrieved from NYTimes, Social Qs, 12/22/13
My boyfriend and I have been living together for three years, and I am hoping he will ask me to marry him over the holidays. If he does not, I will probably break up with him in January. Is there any way I can raise the subject to see which way he is leaning?
Anonymous, Boston

Dear Anonymous,
No, unfortunately for you, there is no acceptable way in which you can “raise the subject” with your proclaimed suitor to discover his matrimonial timetable. If he is indeed your suitor, it would be highly unrefined on your part---not to mention a mark of ill-breeding---as it would upon the part of any honest lady---to bring up the subject of marriage to the gentleman in any such forward manner as you seem to suggest. I’m afraid the gentlemen will need the wherewithal to come to the resolution himself.
If I may draw some general inferences from your boyfriend’s personality, though I risk being too severe, it is likely that your boyfriend is but a sort of a repressed libertine, to use a word a modern audience may understand. Indeed, what is your boyfriend if not an illustration of the difference between promise and performance, between profession and reality, as this tendency affects all mankind? But whether there is design and studied deceit in his workings or a true though sapless resolution to conform to society’s rules I presume not to judge.  
Yet to be charitable to your boyfriend, I will assume him to be an honest gentleman. And, like Signor Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, your boyfriend may simply be unaware of his own own wish to marry you, who is truly his Beatrice. And of course Benedick’s and Beatrice’s  marriage was ultimately brought about through a cunning scheme performed by their friends. Your problem thus could be resolved with a sly appeal to the help of your mutual friends, who themselves may be dependent upon to drop certain hints concerning your matrimonial holiday wishes into your boyfriend’s ears.
Meanwhile, when in his company, you are to strain to be your most charming and womanly. In other words, you should humor his whims, laugh at his jests, ignore his follies, and praise his virtues all out of proportion. If you can behave in such obliging manner, he is very likely to propose to you at first opportunity. And I am sure all gentlemen will agree that  holidays offer great opportunities for making propositions. ‘Tis the season for propositions indeed. But if after you have tried everything, and he still fails to  utter the proposition, for whatever reason, during the holidays, and if you still feel the way you do now, you should certainly leave him, and then perhaps start considering spiritual alternatives to a life of earthly matrimony.   

Monday, December 9, 2013

Containing description of a merry toasting ceremony

Dear Reader---

I offer for your pleasure and instruction the following memoranda pertaining to what occurred upon another recent gathering of my MeetUp group, known as the Amateur Shakespeare Society, of which I am the founder and current supreme figure of authority. You must forgive, if you find the following account to be less than fully cohesive; for it was scribbled from pure memory, dear reader, like a spontaneous overflow of recollections, with small interference from that mental faculty known as judgment.

We had all assembled in the living room, and dispersed thereabout in small conversation circles. In one such conversation nook, Mr. Byrd and Miss Farquhar were disporting upon the virtues and the flaws of those works of fiction called comedies of romance against those called heroic romances. Mr. Byrd made a solid argument, saying the former exhibits life in its true state, diversified only by accidents that daily happen in the world, and influenced by passions and qualities which are really to be found in conversing with mankind; whereas the latter requires the help of wonder to keep up the curiosity of the reader and where every transaction and sentiment is so remote from all that passes among men that the reader is in very little danger of making any application to himself. When Byrd finished the argument, Miss Farquhar struck him with a haughty look in her eyes.

“Well-a-day,” spoke Mr. Byrd.  “I take it you enjoy stories in which twelve-year old wizards from the suburbs battle evil giant reptiles, and where professors metamorphose into werewolves, or where zombies snatch away ladies from their nuptial rites.” In response, Miss Farquhar snapped her fingers across the face of Mr.Byrd and impudently turned her back to him.

“Pardon me, my friends,” said Mr. Slepovitch, directing his words to everyone in the room. Seizing thus our attention, he invited us to raise our bumpers in toast to yours truly, the author of this blog. No doubt, Slepovitch was feeling all the advantages of liquor upon the constitution. “Ladies and gentleman,” he said. “May I have the pleasure to lead this toast, as we express our deepest love and admiration for our own Mr. Richardson, our honorable Toastmaster, and greatest living writer. A health, a ringing health, unto the king of all our hearts to-day!” And so everyone took thimblefuls of wine together in my honor. Miss Carrington and Miss Shanka munched on some croutons which had been dipped in wine. In truth, I was no more delighted than everyone else to hear fitting compliments paid a deserving writer.---And even were I not myself that writer, I’d  commend my genius just the same.

“I thank you, Mr. Slepovitch, you are a mighty fine toaster,” quoth I, “Yet you ought to drink my Clarissa, not to me.” I was in highly jubilant spirits.  I have no doubt but that I availed myself of the biggest draught of them all.

Now the company had fallen into a spirited conversation upon the benefits of human society. Mr. Byrd said that, among other advantages, in society we find a world so adjusted that not only bread but riches may be obtained without great abilities, or arduous performance. Mr. Slepovitch expressed his admiration for living amidst the conveniences of a town, saying that one cannot be but satisfied to see that as nothing is useless but because it is in improper hands, what is thrown away by one is gathered up by another, and the refuse of part of mankind furnishes a subordinate class with the materials necessary to their support.

“O Slepovitch, you and Byrd are a fine pair of rhetorician,” quoth I, who overheard their learned talk, “but enough talk, what say ye, my friends? What say we fall to some dancing?”

“Indeed, why must we always talk? Words, words, words,”---said Miss Farquhar---“Dancing will be so delightful”----said Miss Shanka “”---“How I long to dance again,”---said Mr. Brockden---“Truly, nothing is greater than going to a ball,”---said Miss Carrington---“O to have first dance with any of the ladies here, ‘twould be a great honor---said Mr. Brockden---“”Twould be an even greater honor for me”---said Mr.Chatterjee---“No, ‘twould be the biggest honor for me”---said Mr. Lishmago, etc. etc. 

“Now tell me, Slepovitch,” quoth I. “as I am dying to know, what sort of dancer are you? Were your Russian ancestors, like the sprightly grasshoppers in the field, not fine dancers themselves? I’faith, you have such lusty legs and thighs, man. Now let me see you caper. Come on, give me a Scotch jig.”

“Ha, if it please you, Mr.Richardson,” said Slepovitch. So after taking a hearty sip from his goblet, and as Miss Carrington played the piano, and as the merry gentlemen shouted “Higher! Higher!” he cut a lovely Scotch jig in the middle of the room to everyone’s apparent satisfaction. When the sprightly number was completed, I proposed that Slepovitch dance something in a slower mode, such as a stately measure; which he kindly obliged, and was accompanied on the piano, as ever, by the delightful Miss Carrington. When the measure was completed, I bade that Slepovitch and Byrd now burst forth into a cineque-pace. They gladly obliged me by doing the galliard together, leaping into the air, and madly wiggling their feet, to our utmost delight, prompting much applause. Yet Slepovitch soon became so exhausted and so short of breath, his legs giving way, that he collapsed on the floor---the spectacle being too shocking for some of the ladies.---Yet the men quickly hoisted him up, and he was promptly revived with the aid of smelling salts. With his humors thus restored, he was as radiant as a lantern. Still, I knew exactly what needed to be done. In less than twenty minutes, I dispatched nine separate taxi rides to carry my friends safely to their respective homes.

Later that evening, ere going to bed, I had made a note in my octavo, scribbling thus: “Slep.’s deplorable dancing: reminds Beatrice, Much Ado about Nothing, “Wooing, wedding, and repenting, is as a Scotch jig, a measure, and a cinque pace: the first suit is hot and hasty, like a Scotch jig, and full as fantastical; the wedding, mannerly-modest, as a measure, full of state and ancientry; and then comes repentance and, with his bad legs, falls into the cinque pace faster and faster, till he sink into his grave.”