Clash of the Titans: The Tea Room tackles the Man Cave on Super Bowl Sunday

Emma Woodhouse vs. Aaron Rodgers, who will reign victorous on Super Bowl Sunday?

Super Bowl Sunday: an American ritual, perhaps exceeded in food consumption and togetherness only by Thanksgiving. A day when people gather ’round a roaring wall fixture (flatscreen TV), consume large quantities of poultry products (buffalo wings), and give thanks (for the prowess of the quarterback throwing for their team du jour). I’m not much of a football fan, but even I am compelled to take part in the festivities.

But there are more things kicking-off on Super Bowl Sunday than a football game. Super Bowl Sunday is the first Sunday of the Masterpiece Theater month-long Jane Austen marathon.

Girls, grab your tissue boxes and get ready for some Austenian happy endings.

I always envision one house on Super Bowl Sunday hosting 2 parties — a his and a hers, an upstairs and a downstairs, the tea room versus the man cave.

This year, everyone is going to Tony and Lizzy’s. Their recent renovation and Lizzy’s kitchen skills are the big draws. Tony put his year-end bonus into refurbishing the basement. A 65″ plasma hdtv, a surround sound system, 3 leather lazy-boy recliners outfitted with built-in coolers, a fully-stocked mahogany bar and beer fridge.

Upstairs the tea room vs. downstairs the chicken wings

Lizzy is a caterer who is in business with Anne, a pastry chef. Lizzy’s mini pizzas and 2-bite empanadas are legendary, and tonight, she’s one-upped herself getting a spread ready for the boys. Anne is bringing the English-tea themed baked items for the girls while Lizzy has prepared some canapes. Scones and clotted cream, petite cucumber sandwiches, and the requisite tea cakes are all arranged on the living room coffee table, in front of the second television and built in fireplace.

Downstairs, the guys are ready to go. There’s 2 die-hard Steelers fan in the pack — one has painted his face, much to his wife’s chagrin, and the other brought his lucky game-day football, which none of the Green Bay fans are allowed to touch. Two of the other guys are Jets fans and are rooting for Green Bay out of spite. The final 2 don’t watch football, they’re hockey fans, but they both annually buy-in to their respective offices’ Super Bowl pool  — they root for whatever team gets them closer to winning part of the pot.

Luckily, there are no split loyalties among the girls upstairs. This year, PBS kicks off the Complete Jane Austen with all three parts of Emma. Everyone is on team Mr. Knightly. Swoon. Armed with their well-worn high school issued editions of the classic and several boxes of tissues, the ladies are ready to go.

At the end of the night, all the women get to go home winners (there’s nothing like a happy ending) while half the male contingent goes home with broken hearts…all the men go home with heart burn — too many mini empanadas.

As for me in the real world? I tuned into the game… but skim-read the novel during the commercials. Who says you can’t have your tight ends and Mr. Knightlys too?


Who says you can't have your tight ends and Mr. Knightlys too

Give a girl an education…

“Give a girl an education, and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one but she has the means of settling well, without further expense to anybody.”

— Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

Once upon a time, we members of the fair sex could content ourselves with a surface knowledge of history, geography, romance languages, and poetry. We were amusing, nay, enchanting, if in addition to a knack for sketching, we also had a good command of the pianoforte and a hefty repertoire of sing-along ditties. A penchant for witticisms were a plus, but not requisite.

In short, dear ladies, had we lived in the age of Auntie Jane, we would have earned the esteemed and coveted epithet of “accomplished” by the age of 13. But as women of the 21st century, we know the Austen-ian accomplished just doesn’t cut it any more.

If you want to be accomplished in this day and age, you need a Pulitzer.

The T.W.I.T proudly points to her MA thesis title on Commencement day

In May 2009, I attended my second Columbia commencement ceremony. This time I was graduating with a master’s degree in Art History. For several months before starting my MA, I felt the need to apologize when I told people what I was studying as a graduate student. “I majored in Economics in college” was the footnote added to most conversations about my future academic plans. Eventually, to combat the tilted heads, puzzled stares, and “whatcha gonna do with that?” I tried self-effacing humour: “I’m going back to school to become a trophy wife.” A book about women painter-etchers of the late 19th-century wasn’t going to get me a Nobel Prize nomination, that was for certain, nor was it likely to earn me much of an income. But people found my declared T.W.I.T status (Trophy Wife in Training) both amusing and acceptable. It was fine that I wanted to write about obscure American artists, if doing so meant I would be a good adviser/cocktail party hostess to my art-collecting mogul husband.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman, in possession of a good education, must be in want of a husband.

Apparently, “settling well..without further expense to anybody” still doesn’t mean settling on my own bank account.

A week ago, I ran into Amanda, a woman who has known me since I was 14 and who thinks of me as existing in a constant state of studentdom. She asked me if I had finally graduated. Yes, I told her. A year ago, with my masters.

“Oh, no! You poor thing!” she exclaimed. “You’ll never find a husband. Half the men in the world will think you’re too smart for them and won’t want you. And the other half… well, they’re just smart enough for you.”

I told her things were only going to get rougher for me — I plan to get a doctorate.

I may not win a Nobel, but goddammit, I want a Pulitzer.

Maybe then I’ll be able to settle well on my book deal, without further expense to anybody.