Sunday, January 06, 2008

Victorian On Deck

I have always had an affinity for certain ages in the world and one that I love is the Victorian age. What incredible changes were wrought and yet life could have a quiet and lovely beauty harbored in complex social graces.

I wish a great many could return - simple manners and politeness. I detest what I see, now. Children treated like adults and given a selection of options in behavior which culminates in nothing but ugliness. Men who value not the whole woman but only that slimmest of graces, beauty. And even then - their estimation of beauty appears to be that she resemble a slender boy with long hair.

One can say that the restrictions of society then - particularly for women - made it an awful time but I think it forced us to be even more educated, more refined. Refined...now, that is a term that is utterly lost to the world, no?

I shall tell you a small story from my past. We had lived in Chicago when I was very young and then moved to a small town in Florida. I loved it there. But it all ended, that summery dream, and we returned to Chicago with the small inheritances we received each from our grandfather. Nothing like enough for an education but enough to make me happy, for a time.

I took my money with me to a fine restaurant in Chicago. I believe there was one near the Water Tower Place. I dressed as best I could but being only 11 or 12, I could not sally forth in much more than jeans, I'd think. Regardless, I was seated quite sweetly without any reproach. The waiter deferred to me as though I was an heiress. Beef Bourginon, I think it was. I know he made suggestions and I agreed. And I knew...internally a switch was tripped and I knew that such luxury and refinement was once second nature to me.

Of course, I left that place and stepped onto a path that led far from it. Still, I always knew the echo of that moment, the feel of it.

And that is why I so love this movie. Slow, quiet, and yet with dangers at every turn. You could not know how you might misstep and lose all. And yet, even in losing all, you still had to put a good face on it. Sometimes, putting on a good face is all one has left. Being kind, being empathetic even when pathetic. To know the refinement of the soul...

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