Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Etiquette and Tea Time for Men

The Brighton, England, Swim Club enjoyed an "Aquatic Tea Party" in the 1880s. They were much more accustomed to tea drinking than the young gents in San Francisco 30 years later. It's doubtful anyone would see them bobbing and sipping tea in the San Francisco Bay in 1913.
Tea Hour in the Hotels ~ 
A Fashionable Function 
for Men in 1913

"Lemon or cream?" "Must I take it?" JLJ "Certainly. No young man can afford to be ignorant of the correct thing in tea nowadays." "That's why you lured me into this den of insipidity, then?" "Of course' but tea is not insipid, although it may be insidious. It shows that you have been unspeakably dull and behind the times that you don't take kindly to tea. Why, if you stay in San Francisco a few weeks you will gravitate to the tearoom without compulsion." 

"If that's the case, I'm precious glad that my vacation's up tomorrow. I'd be ashamed to have the fellows know that I'd been caught in a mess like this." "Hello, there's Binks! I'd never have expected to see him here." "Another proof of your ignorance of the fascinations of the tea hour. Oh, how nice! 'Binks'—Mr. Billington—is coming over here." The big college athlete, the hero of thousands, balanced his big body in a gilded chair. "Yes, thank you, tea for mine. No trimmings, just tea." The girl beamed upon him and called the attention of the other young man to this. There's proof that tea drinking is a manly pastime; whereupon the youth dutifully asked for a second cup.

Every table in the gray tearoom of the big hotel was taken. Young people whose holidays were about to end predominated, and chatter about the dances of the last fortnight and the call of the various schools and colleges to which they were about to return floated on the air and passed from table to table, for there were so many of the same set in the place that it seemed like a social affair rather than a gathering in a public dining room. 

                                           
"Tea? No, thank you; I will have a highball, if you don't mind," is the formula of many men who are willing enough to go to the tea room for a pleasant hour, but draw the line at succumbing to the gentle stimulus of the tea cup. 

Not every one in the big tearooms drinks tea. Some keen observer has said of men that they have to be very fashionable, indeed, to take their afternoon teas if they liked it. American men have been slowly led into participation in this habit, which they long regarded as exotic and therefore to be considered with suspicion. Even men who liked the taste of tea at home were shy of exhibiting the weakness in public places. 

Slowly but surely the influence of women, who hailed the tea hour not only as a pleasant one for themselves, but as a time when they might win men to additional relaxation, has had its effect. The number of men who are willing to seek the tea room not only for the sake of its social pleasures, but because they want to be refreshed by a cup of tea, is constantly increasing. 

However, there are still those uncaught by the lure of tea, even when prepared à la Russe, or otherwise doctored to virilize it by the addition of spice or liquors. "Tea? No, thank you; I will have a highball, if you don't mind," is the formula of many men who are willing enough to go to the tea room for a pleasant hour, but draw the line at succumbing to the gentle stimulus of the tea cup. 
Sickening sweet pastries? These look really good. I wonder what Binks was having...
"I wouldn't mind the tea so much if it wasn't for that sickening sweet pastry that you are supposed to eat with it," objected one man. "How about toasted muffins or thin slices of bread and butter?" "Oh, they are even more degenerate. I couldn't be seen eating them outside the privacy of my own house. I haven't yet quite gotten over the feeling that tea is a nice lady like drink and that I make concession enough in sitting by while some pretty girl makes eyes at me over her cup while I take my man's drink or smoke my cigarette. A girl looks as pretty as a man does foolish drinking tea in a beflowered tearoom, in my opinion." Those are terribly old fashioned sentiments. 
Looks like this young man has decided on bread with his tea! "While the winning of the men is a triumphant achievement, the tearoom remains sacred to many demonstrations of the peculiarly feminine."

The line between tea drinkers and those who partake of other beverages is not marked solely by sex. As more men come to drinking tea so many a woman prefers a more stimulating drink than that which comes out of a teapot, and may be seen sharing a bottle of champagne with a man or partaking of a cocktail or a highball. This passes without comment, but upon the still infrequent appearance of a girl who has lighted her cigarette in the tearoom the gaze and criticism turned upon her have given expression to the conservatism that still prevails in the tearoom, informal as it is in many ways. 

While the winning of the men is a triumphant achievement, the tearoom remains sacred to many demonstrations of the peculiarly feminine. It is a most convenient and delightful hour for dropping in from a shopping tour or to talk over arrangements for entertainments and all sorts of social and personal affairs. Above all, however, it offers excellent vantage ground for showing and observing the latest fashions at close range and with abundant leisure. 

"Don't you love the music here ?" one sweet young girl inquired of another. "No, indeed; I come here to talk, not to enter into competition with a foreign orchestra." "Well, I don't think the music is loud enough for that; I find that it is just enough to protect me from being overheard; also it gives one an excuse for leaning closer together when one is conversing with a friend." In the big hotels of the large cities the rooms devoted to the service of tea are seldom empty during the late afternoon, yet in all the pleasant throng there are few who pursue tea as do their English cousins because they can not do without it. For most of them the teapot is still the emblem of a pleasant hour and causerie. - News From San Francisco, 1913


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