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In the 70s and early 80s, the BBC produced TV miniseries of most of Jane Austen's novels. They ranged from about three hours to about 5.5 hours. My mom had videotapes of Pride and Prejudice, and I believe also of Sense and Sensibility - my memory is fuzzy. So, at least for P&P, it's something I grew up watching. I know Austen is not for everyone, of course, but for me it's the literary equivalent of comfort food.

I found DVDs of the BBC miniseries at Costco this weekend, for a ridiculously low price. Five Jane Austen DVDs followed me home, indeed they did. So, yesterday while doing laundry and ironing and all the rest of the housework, I watched Mansfield Park, the longest of the five. It makes me happy.

It's not that they're beautiful people, or even especially inspired acting or directing. However, the British accents and the authentic scenery do a great deal to put across the flavor of the stories. So does the relaxed pace of the miniseries. And, of course, in five and a half hours, there had to be a few moments. When Edmund took his leave and kissed Fanny's hand, it was so good it sent shivers down my spine. Then again, I've always been a sucker for that kind of thing, when it's done properly.

There's a great deal of the old-fashioned proper British lady buried within me, at constant odds with the feminist, leaving in charge the girl who's just one of the guys. I want to have my hand kissed, I want to live in a time when everyone dances. I want to have gentlemen hold doors from me and bring me drinks at parties and generally want to do things for me. On the other hand, I won't let anyone tell me I can't do something, even if it's something I don't want to do. I can walk and sit comfortably in an ankle-length skirt, and reasonably well in one that's floor-length. Yet I can also sprawl on the floor. In fact, I can sprawl on the floor in a skirt - as long as it's not too short or too tight, that's not so hard. And while God knows, I often keep up with the worst of the crass and off-color conversations, at least some of the time I'm embarrassed by it. I'm constantly seeking a higher standard of grace and elegance. Some day, perhaps I won't disappoint myself.

I'm thinking, now, about what makes a lady in contemporary society. No conclusions as of yet.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
ourika
Aug. 30th, 2004 05:35 pm (UTC)
Would you be interested in anyone else's takes on what they think defines a "lady" in today's society, or would you prefer to sort it out without commentary?
collacentaur
Aug. 30th, 2004 05:42 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm interested in comments. I don't promise to agree, of course.
ourika
Aug. 30th, 2004 05:54 pm (UTC)
Ok, here are just some thoughts on the topic. I've never sat down and said, "This is what a lady is." However, there are some women who I would define as having a quality that I could see as being that of a lady (I'm a bit hesitant to call someone "a lady" because not everyone would be happy to have received the title!)

One person that comes to mind is someone that I met at Drew. She was an exchange student from Ukraine. Her name was Elsy? Something that began with an E. The reason I would define her as a lady is because she was graceful and composed. I would run into her eating lunch in the cafeteria in ripped jeans and a t-shirt, and she'd look as nice as she did most of the time because no matter how she dressed or looked, she'd be composed. She'd sit up straight while eating her meal, she would still be graceful about her movements, she'd sit nicely in the chair instead of sprawling all over the place. She's not the only person I know like this.

Taoist_pagan's got a friend that I would consider in the same way. I've seen her "lounge" around in sweat pants and a t-shirt after a full-day rehearsal for a dance show that she was in. She still looked good. Her hair was neatly combed, and her mannerisms were those of someone who was in control and not those of someone who was exhausted. She speaks nicely and has well controlled mannerisms. Even when she's just flopping about and running to McDonalds for some cheese sticks, she's still got style. She may have on a ripped t-shirt, but she's somehow managed to pull off wearing a scarf around her neck with it, and she doesn't look ostentatious.

Does any of this make sense? I'm trying to figure out how I'd summarize it. I'd say that someone who is graceful and has composure even under trying circumstances would at least be a part of my definition.

Granted, this definition doesn't mean that someone who has a lot of money or is titled in England or whatever is automatically a lady. I think that it takes charm and *ingrained learning* as a child to have at least some of that. Grace is not necessarily a learned skill, but I think that sometimes it can be taught.
lurse
Aug. 30th, 2004 05:53 pm (UTC)
I saw that set advertised on Amazon and I was soooo excited, I ordered P&P a week ago. I've been waiting for that to come out on DVD for a while now and I was thrilled to see it. I'd be interested in seeing the other productions at some point.

I agree that it would be nice to be able to go to those parties and know how to dance from an early age. Then I think of the possibility that had I been alive in that era, I probably would not have been from a landed family and therefore working class. Which most definately does not appeal to me : )
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )