When Ladies Were Ladies and Men Held the Door…


I have long been a fan of the Gilded Age.

It all started when I was helping my good friend Christian move some furniture after college from his house in Cotuit down to Washington DC.

In his bookshelf was a paperback copy of The Great Gatsby and I recalled jokingly how I was supposed to have read it in high school.

Thank God for Monarch Notes!

Christian, being far more scholarly than I, said that it was a must read and let me have it and with that I got turned on to Fitzgerald and eventually to Edith Wharton and Henry James.

As embarrassing as it is to say, I found out that I am a romantic!

In my younger days I was what I would call a very impatient romantic, for lack of a better way of describing my impetuous behavior. For me, the act of courtship was high art, or at least I wanted it to be.

Lately, Kerry and I have been watching the Jane Austen series on PBS and loving every episode more and more. Ms. Austen epitomized what I am referring to regarding the interplay between men and women and the amount of lustful desire that they could froth up by being very proper.

They would all have heart attacks if they could see how we behave today!

I recently watched the movie Atonement, set just prior to World War II. Based upon the movie, it seems pretty clear to me that the War was a watershed moment concerning romance, as it seemed to change everything between men and women.

Before the War, the genteel nature of men and women was still holding on, albeit tenuously, but after the War the sexes seemed to be catapulted into a time where women were fast and men were pigs.

Immeasurable death and carnage must do that.

I do remember that the Monarch Notes for Ernest Hemmingway’s A Farewell to Arms said something about “Carpe Diem” aka “Seize The Day”, which might have signaled the beginning of the end…

After all, if you know that you might die in a few minutes, you may as well throw propriety to the wind!

It would be nice however, if something came along to help the pendulum swing the other way again.

It’s not like the end is near…

At least not that near!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for ankle length swimsuits again, but a little more modesty and politeness would certainly go a long way at rekindling a little romance between the sexes, which could only be a good thing.

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