Saturday, April 30, 2011

Adult Pleasures X: Being Fashionably Late

Yesterday, those who cared to partake in the experience via television were treated to a royal wedding spectacle. Guests arrived at the Abbey and photographers were all too happy to indulge them by capturing their glam and fabulous-ness. The men looked dashing, and some downright scrumptious, in their morning suits, but the event went, as events do, to the women.

Each tried, it seemed from an outsider's perspective, to outdo others. But that, I am not convinced, is the ultimate reason for the ├╝ber-sense of fashion that pervaded the assemblage. To be fashionable is socially expected. Aside from the Queen and La Reina Sophia, and perhaps other seasoned royals, whose mostly unadorned attire embodied understated elegance, others treated the body as a showcase for the spectacle. And what a spectacle it was (click there to see a slideshow): from the black (lacecap hydrangea?) flower and twisted sticks on Victoria Beckham's hat, to what can only be described as a post-structural conception of a bow towering into the sky from Princess Beatrice's hat; from Miriam Gonzalez-Durante's stunning dress that evoked the artistry of the flamenco (she is Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's wife) to the dramatic canopy worn by Lord Frederick's wife Sophie Winkleman. One was not disappointed. British women do love their hats.

Which reminds me...on Christmas Day, 2005 in London, Viet's cousin Lan treated us to high tea in the Ritz Carlton's famed Palm Room. To describe the experience would be an injustice. Suffice to note that upon departure, an elderly British woman, who was just as "made-up" as any one of the royal wedding guests, caught Viet sizing up a French woman who wore what looked like a deconstructed Eiffel Tower on her head. After the woman left, the British woman winked and, like an overly affectionate grandmother, gently scolded Viet though, if I recall correctly, she also made some veiled remark about the outlandishness of French fashion.

Of course, arriving late, even fashionably late, to a wedding--any kind of wedding, not simply royal ones--is an insult.

But to any other kind of party, save perhaps for a royal one, we take pleasure in arriving late. Indeed, in some circles it is considered gauche to arrive on time.

And so the mind games begin: calculating the earliest possible moment one can arrive without being the first to arrive. Calculate incorrectly, you arrive too late and seem nonchalantly rude, as if you could not be bothered.

The garden party is another matter entirely. Plants arrive (and always bloom) on their own preferred schedule. Springtime weather fluctuations dramatically alter arrivals; one can never plan. Last year, for instance, my pale yellow bearded irises didn't begin blooming until mid-May; this year, several bulging buds about to open already appear. As I await to host a garden party for my class in 2 weeks, I begin to stress: will there be anything left of my mid- to late- spring flowers for them to see?

Yes, during spring the gardener becomes somewhat schizophrenic, as if a servant at one of those grand British country houses, moving into a frenzy when the guests do appear, either early or late, never on time.

But at a certain point in time, especially when the beds have filled after days of torrential rains punctuated by unseasonable heat, the gardener--who really is a servant in the specific sense of one who tends to others--examines the several bare spots in the garden, and realizes that winter took its annual, unforgiving toll. We count the dead, lament their losses, and turn to filling the spaces--especially when there is a garden party (for humans!) to plan.

Rose Mallow, I determined, died. I wasn't convinced that the Autumn Ferns had died, having seen the little black bulges from the crown, just above the soil line. But still, even with last week's tryst with temperatures in the 80s, nothing happened.

On Friday evening, I went outside to trim the spent daffodil and tulip stems and to gather some Boxwood clippings that evaded my cleanup after their Monday haircut. And there, nestled between the stumps of her 3 legs, were two little shoots of Rose.

With her glamorous sense of fashion, I decided her exceedingly late arrival is most welcome.

And, as if to outdo Rose, the shade garden Autumn Ferns decided to coincide their arrival just after hers. Their rose colored "gloves" and cinnamon colored stipes exude understated elegance. If Rose Mallow is Victoria Beckham, then Autumn Fern is the Queen herself.

All I can say is "welcome back."

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