Sunday, October 30, 2016
Better Than Their Betters
The title of my post comes from one of my favorite films, Mrs. Miniver. I never paid much attention to the line until it came to mind this weekend. Mrs. Miniver, played by Greer Garson, nearly misses her train home from London because she runs back to the milliner's to buy a costly and frivolous hat she fell in love with earlier in the day. In the train car with her is Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty), the town's wealthiest resident with the longest most ancestral history to her name.
Now, Mrs. Miniver is quite lovely but to Lady Beldon she is merely middle class and so, Lady Beldon has a mini-rant on women "running to and fro", buying up expensive and impractical "bits and bobs", and acting "better than their betters". By "betters", Lady Beldon's meaning is crystal clear: she means herself.
It's laughable really, because most of us have never lived under a true caste system which was apparently still evident in rural England before the war. But wars are equal opportunity tragedies, as Lady Beldon soon discovers.
One of my favorite days of the year occurs on this weekend - I travel by train to Boston for an antiquarian book and paper show. My friend and I have dinner afterwards at our favorite hotel restaurant and then take a long walk in the fall sunshine down tree-lined boulevards dotted with sparkling shops. I usually try to pick up a few Christmas gifts, especially if I find something unusual. But I also like to visit a particular lingerie shop to see what's new and finger a few pretty things.
I don't have to buy to be inspired. I so enjoy looking at the way things are put together - the new colors and styles. I always walk away from this day wondering if I should take more risks with my wardrobe and pondering more creative possibilities is always fun. What was not fun was when I entered the lingerie shop that I was so excited to visit, I was first ignored and then insulted. Perhaps if I were wearing a shiny black down jacket cinched at the waist with $500 sleek black riding boots along with designer hair and handbag, I would have been treated better. It doesn't matter what was said or done but I did feel diminished in my new forest green sweater coat and attractive black suede loafers. And that's just silly...
A friend told me today that she simply doesn't frequent stores where she is made to feel less than. I may adopt her approach. But for now, I took the time to write an email to the shop's manager who was not there when I was. And I've already received a kind and apologetic response with a warm welcome to return and meet with her personally.
Now that's better...