[as ever, just keep scrolling down for all the latest EZLN translations]
I’ve decided to take the evening off from distressing topics and sordid realities. There are always more than enough of those around, and, given the current state of world and personal affairs, there are never enough reminders of their opposite.
So a few words on courting this evening.
Not flirting, which is an entirely distinct, ever delightful, pastime. And courting is different than being courted, of course, and we shall discuss that at another time.
Tokens figure prominently in the process of wooing. Tokens of esteem, of affection, of love. They are gestures meant to speak words unspoken. And to evoke similarly unspoken words.
But wooing is art, not science, and its realm is the heart, not the marketplace. There are classic tokens – archetypes, platonic ideals of gesture - that have been with us forever, and for good reason. But, like so much of late, their true content has been displaced, robbed of meaning, become commodity.
And one of the many consequences has become that suitors [and those being wooed] have forgotten the purpose of gesture, relegating them to thoughtless, easy purchase. One more item on their shopping list for the quickie mart or catalogue or mall.
So how does one turn, say, flowers and books and unmentionables back into tokens worthy of giver and recipient?
There are canons, of course, and history, but so much easier to have a few Hints.
Flowers. Never, ever, ever, under any under circumstances other than funereal [and then only when you can’t be present in person to strew blossoms], even think of purchasing an “arrangement.” Stiff little blooms stuck into icky green blocks by a stranger say nothing other than “I think I’m supposed to do this, but I don’t have an idea in hell why…”
So what is a boy supposed to do? Fresh cut flowers, preferably from one of those markets where you can purchase the stems individually out of bins. Worst case, but acceptable, a florist where you can buy them out of the cooler, picking and choosing carefully. Considering milady’s favorite colors and such, noting scent and shape. As you do milady.
Another option, from a garden or field or roadside. I had a lovely lover once who kept me enchanted all through one Spring with armfuls of blooms culled from a public garden in a large city [though I’m not recommending that course, given the possible penal consequences].
As for method of delivery, my favorite is to have them left by a door, the bell rung, and the swain disappear. Just as I still do myself for friends and neighbours on MayDay, one of the many lovely traditions of that, my favorite day of the year. Don’t forget to leave a note, even if it’s just your name.
As for books, again, if you are courting and not, say, sending your nephew in Amsterdam something for his birthday, do not log on to amazon.com or run out to your local Barnes & Noble. One is required to haunt dusty old used book shops in interesting parts of any city. To pour over the stacks and think, soulfully, of your beloved. What does she love, what might she love? Nor is this the time to introduce her to your own passion for, say, trainspotting or Beowulf or Warhol. It is the time to think deeply of her.
And, if you have no clue, find a poet you love. And if you don’t have one, then find one. This is the process, the dance, the reason love leads to flowers and words and heart.
As for lingerie, there is the always bedeviling issue of…size. I must add, though, that you should probably not be contemplating the purchase of such items if you do not already have at least some general idea of your beloved’s form. Again – please – forgo large shops and chain stores. A treasure of luxuries can be had in vintage shops. Fetching little wraps, satin bed jackets whipped with lace, all manner of indulgences for a euro or quid or whatever or two. Trust me.
Of course it’s a dying art, like so many others. But I do think, truly, that once you are doing this, both you and your beloved will both know why you are doing it. Once upon a time, “suitor tasks” were understood and celebrated by all parties. These are the baby steps.