Best Get Out the Royal Chinette, Ma.

Mad Tea Party - Arthur Rackham

Mad Tea Party - Arthur Rackham

“You are a gorgeous girl, who is smart and funny and has an ass that makes me think talking to you naked is a bad idea.” – David, friend of several years and former protégé, typed in an IM via Facebook

There are two schools of thought:

1.) Save your best china for formal occasions – high holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries only.

2.) Use it anytime you feel inspired to do so.

I’ve always subscribed to the latter. Life is incredibly short, and the people who I bring into my home deserve tea served in only the finest, rich with family history. Otherwise, it sits locked up in a case, gathering dust. And of course there is a risk that I might never use it.

However, lately I don’t think this approach is serving me well. My delicate, sometimes hand-painted, sometimes featuring real gold pieces are either at risk of being clutched so tightly they crack, or handled so carelessly they chip.

I blame modern etiquette. We aren’t used to handling fine things anymore. Everything has become replaceable, or disposable. If it smashes, or scratches, we can just trek over to Ikea for an identical replacement.

I have an art deco tea cup from the twenties. It’s shaped like a fluted octagon, and features a vibrant yellow flower motif against a glossy black background. It’s jazzy, and edgy, and feminine in a very strong, bold “look at my bee’s knees” kind of way. I rarely ever use this cup. Recently, I brought it out to be admired, and filled it with the remaining vestiges of my very special, very fragrant tea from Paris. A beautiful blend called Nuit Calme. The handle broke off. Just like that. No mess, because the cup had been drained; a clean break, which I suppose can be patched with the careful application of some Elmer’s; but lesson learned.

I’m reminded of a commercial from my youth. The patriarch and matriarch of a rural clan watch stoically as their entire brood approaches for a massive family reunion. Kids, dogs, gangly teenagers, and adults of all shapes and sizes make their way towards the homestead. The patriarch drawls the sagely adivce that is the title of this post: “Best get out the Royal Chinette, Ma.”

Time, and experience, and common sense have taught them that people in their enthusiastic fumbling through life are messy, and sloppy, and often careless. By offering sturdy paper plates versus the family china you save yourself hours and hours of clean up time, and the heart break of seeing an antique soup turrine smashed beneath the drunken fist of Uncle Cletus.

I know David Suzuki wouldn’t approve, but I’ll bet he’s smashed a tea cup or two during some of his naked, “save the world” shenanigans. He just looks like the type. One minute he’s sipping jasmine tea from your great grandmother’s service that has come all the way from Aberdeen, the next he’s pouncing on top of you on your sofa, scattering your entire kit and caboodle (a Scottish term) all over the living room floor.

I’m off today to tour the city on my new bicycle, in a polka dot dress (as I told my friend James) in search of Crazee Glue. Only the kind that will secure a construction worker, by his hard hat to a steel girder will do.

Perhaps I can also find some garish plastic patio ware to serve me through the summer.




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  1. June 12, 2009 / 11:56 am

    Like I said, not as eloquently as you, you are the finest china.

  2. MTB
    June 25, 2009 / 4:39 pm

    Very insightful C, but you made me rethink lunch after the misanthropic visual of Suzuki’s lustful urgings.