Friday, March 27, 2009

Afternoon Tea and Dressing For Dinner

Dear Spinsters,

This Friday I would like to talk about luxury. There are plenty of things that can make you feel luxurious regardless of how broke you are. In these troubled times (as we are so fond of saying now) it is imperative that we never let ourselves feel stretched or destitute. Though we may have very little, materially speaking, our genteel poverty must be marked by a specifically spinsterish ability to raise ourselves above mere accidents of circumstance, hold our heads high and revel in all life's beautiful feasts, though we may have them only in smallish bites.

One of these things is afternoon tea. It can be a mug of Lipton, microwaved, but it is still a ritual. Between four and four-thirty, I make it a habit to sit down and enjoy silence, peace, and nice cup of tea. I may be sitting at a wooden table I found in someone's abandoned apartment with a table cloth from Century 21 housewares, but I have a fetching white china teacup with a blue rim, and nobody knows I get my Liptons in boxes of 100 for $3.99. (For the record, I do take the time to boil my water stove-top. Ruggles would be proud.) Sometimes a literal cup of tea isn't advisable -- for the caffeine-sensitive spinster -- but it is imperative that you have a little treat to fend of world-weariness and drudgery. Preferably with something sweet. (If you are on a diet, I am afraid I am not speaking to you in this post, for we cannot ever really be friends. If you are eating Activia and portions of something labeled "100 calories," you are the female equivalent of a douchebag, sorry.) Afternoon tea is more than a mere snack: it's what separates us from the animals, and no lady should live without it.

"Those Bond No.9 samples smell good!"

Dressing for dinner ought to occur, at least on weekend (if you are employed) just after tea. It should be a long-ish ritual, not rushed, and should demarcate the mundane (day) from the delightful (night). Without it, you've just got one long day. Not only does it prepare you to look your best, but it imparts a subtle, deliciously luxurious feeling -- there's that word again -- and sets you up quite nicely for the cocktails and dinner (and further cocktails) that I hope are making up the rest of your evening. Even if your evening wear consists of an army jacket and combat boots, always take the time to properly apply your eyeliner. Life's just too short for you to walk out of the house looking plain.

Life's also too short to feel deprived and impoverished, so always take your time and have a nice cup of tea every afternoon ... and remember that you've got the exact same stuff in your cup that Betty Windsor drinks, and drinking it from a golden chalice wouldn't make it taste any better.

Your Beloved Aunt


bookishnyc said...

GREAT post! We have to be kind to ourselves, and I'm all for maintaining standards...
By the way, I don't know what the etiquette is for this, but I've added you as a "favorite website" on my own modest blog at I figured you wouldn't mind, as it is of course meant as a compliment!

galant said...

You have hit the spot! Afternoon tea is my Very Favourite Meal. Have you treated yourself to any books on this delightful subject? Anything written by Jane Pettigrew is a must for those who are intersted in the history of tea and tea wares, and there are two books which I have on afternoon tea (with recipes,of course), on called Afternoon Tea by the aforementioned Jane Pettigrew and one, again, called Afternoon tea by Susannah Blake. Both are excellent.
Margaret Powling

Andrea Janes said...

Bookish, I'm so glad you like Spinster Aunt! I enjoyed your blog too, and I'm jealous of your view of Hellgate Bridge. Hellsgate is one of my favorite parts of the East River -- so ... hostile! I love it! (I also love Newton Creek, the most polluted body of water in the world). I've always felt sad for people who didn't read for fun. I shall have to add BookishNYC to my Mutual Admiration list, as I see you also like Muriel Spark. Thanks!

Andrea Janes said...

Galant, Thanks for the tip. I like Jane Pettigrew already. The book's on the wishlist! Right now I'm drinking my tea of out a cup that says, "Fuck Off, I'm Reading The Onion" and wondering if Jane would approve ...

galant said...

Glad you already know of Jane Pettigrew's books. I met Jane at the launch of one of her books a few years ago. The launch was at Saltram House (National Trust), near Plymouth, Devon (UK) and she has since been kind to supply live quotes for some of my articles on tea-related subjects.
Margaret Powling