Good day! Bertram St James, at your service. As I might have mentioned before, I’m not from your time. Not by quite a bit, actually. 1812 was my year…that is, until a few days ago. (And a fine year it was, too. Excellent vintage. Turned out the best-dressed men ever seen, if I do say so myself. And I do.)
This is a drawing of me. You see how forward-thinking my fashion sense is. Always ahead of my time.
Until now. Now I fear I’m behind the times. I have just a few friendly questions, as I get my bearing in the year 2005:
1. Why do men wear so few garments? And why are they so large and shapeless? Have the Puritans taken control of government again?
2. If the Puritans are in power, why do the women wear so little? Can it be that I find myself in a land populated entirely by Puritan men, and courtesans? Or are all the women freethinkers instead?
3. How can breakfasts be so affordable, and yet duels so few? I have long thought that only the exorbitant cost of buying breakfast for oneself, one’s seconds, one’s opponent’s seconds, the doctor, and one’s heartily apologetic opponent, kept the number of duels so low. And yet this morning I discovered a public house called “Denny’s” with prices so low I feared for my life every time I inadvertantly stared aghast at yet another man wearing a badly mended tent.
4. What in heaven’s name is wrong with the tea in this century????
As ever, your faithful servant,
Bertram St James, Exquisite
Mr. St James:
So glad you stopped by again! I was afraid I might have shocked you with my untowards posting of male flesh. Thank goodness you are made of stronger stuff.
Men wear large garments so as to conceal their true intent. Women wear so few garments as to make their intent plain. I cannot speak to breakfast, I stick to two pieces of toast (warm toast, not cooled) with a spread called peanut butter. The peanut is neither a pea nor a nut. The butter is not buttery, but nutty. Go figure.
As for the tea, it is packaged in small packets for your convenience. Rather like some of the women you’ve been seeing around.
Thanks for stopping in,
Mrs. Megan Frampton
I am delighted to see you again, my dear Mrs. Frampton. No, I was not shocked by the picture you displayed — I have seen boxers who strip to advantage before. The male form is indeed beautiful, which is something I understand anew every time I pass a mirror.
You say that women wear few garments nowadays so as to make their intent plain. May I hope that that means what I think it means? What a delicious century! Convenient indeed.
B St J
Dear Mr. St. James,
How pleasant to hear from you again! However, I fear that I must caution you about certain things:
1. Dueling is now frowned upon. All must enjoy their violence vicariously. This has led to certain obscure social rituals such as “football” and “professional wrestling.”
2. It is possible to get excellent tea. Unfortunately, the water leaves something to be desired in many places, especially water that comes from the tap. This has led to many people drinking bottled water, which comes out of a tap when they are not looking, and therefore tastes much better.
3. When Mrs. Frampton said that the women were making their intent plain, you understood her correctly. However, the downside of this is that they are not always expressing their intent towards you. Be warned! Many women these days carry a modern convenience called “Mace,” the use of which can lead to one rolling on the floor trying to claw one’s own eyeballs out. As a countryman of yours once said (though somewhat after your time), “The female of the species is more deadly than the male.”
Still, once you are used to it, 2005 can be a very comfortable time. Welcome again!
Yr. obt. svt.,
Good to see you here again, Mr. St. James!
As to your questions…the tea in this century is quite good, actually. The tea at Denny’s, unfortunately, is not. They give you a small bag of tea and some lukewarm water, and with those two ingredients it is impossible to make decent tea. However, there are better places to get tea — and even tea from teabags is quite drinkable (provided the water is fresh and hot.)
Interestingly enough, I believe that nowadays men wear bulky garments for the same reason that gentlemen in your time wore many-caped greatcoats (to imitate lower-class coachmen) or belcher neckcloths — they are imitating the clothing of strong, streetwise men. But I do think it is an unfortunate trend — I think men from your period dressed much better than men from ours.
Dear Mr. St. James,
So glad you made an appearance (and what an appearance it is–perhaps you will turn the tide of men’s fashion in a better direction!)
I suspect men nowadays wear unflattering clothing because they don’t wish to appear that they are trying too hard to impress. I think it goes along with a sad decline in gallantry. I don’t know of any man who writes love poetry anymore. My own husband, who is such an excellent life partner in most ways, has not once composed even a couplet in praise of my eyes. Not even when we were courting! (The modern term is dating.)
Regarding women’s clothing, I imagine you may have landed in a warmer clime than my own in upstate New York. It has snowed the past few days and I assure you most women are quite covered up now!
As to tea, I do not understand what is wrong. One can get it hot, or iced, even laced with fruit flavors like raspberry and peach? Do you mean they didn’t have raspberry iced tea in your time?
Iced tea? Iced tea???
Excuse me, please. I think I will lie down for a bit. I feel rather faint.
B St J
I myself have had to adjust in this respect. I moved to a strange land called “California,” and discovered that when one asks for “tea” here they generally assume you want it iced–usually with some strange fruity flavor added.
And if you specify hot tea, unless you are very, very quick, they will bring it to you with lemon and no milk.
But they can’t help it. They don’t know any better!
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I think your theory about my appearance in temperate climes is true. It just turned rainy here, and now the females of the species are wearing garments just as ugly and shapeless as the males.
I have only one more question: why does everyone in this century refer to Welsh Rabbit as “notchoes”?
Bertie the Beau