“The minutes have been read and seconded. The minutes are approved. Meeting 2356 of the Men of Austen Mutual Support Society opens again with the age old question: What do women want? In just a few weeks Valentine’s Day will be bearing down upon us, and we all shall be obliged to buy a gift for our wives and sweethearts.”
William Elliot stands. “I must remind you, Wentworth, and all you gentlemen, the acceptable term is ‘significant other.’ The term ‘wife’ is very quickly falling out of favour because of its old-fashioned connotations. And the term ‘sweetheart’ has always been trite and vaguely insulting in my opinion.” He takes his seat.
The room fills with the hubbub of male voices.
Wentworth gavels the group to order. “Elliot, I know you are bent on bringing us into the twenty-first century, and I’m sure that all the men of the fellows appreciate that, but, there is not a one of us who is under 200 years old. I think we all are the definition of ‘old-fashioned.’”
Xander/Darcy materialized before them, standing with his arms crossed. “Actually, I am ten thousand years old, though I have been human for only a few short years.”
“Yeah, yeah, Angel Boy – and you’re a real sweetheart, Freddy.” A shrill wolf whistle was drowned in the laughter.
Wentworth nodded and smiled. “Thank you, Charles Musgrove. Now let us get on with this. Time is slipping away. We will have only one other meeting before Valentine’s Day, and the topic of discussion for that meeting is…” He shuffled through papers on a clipboard. “Ah, here, ‘When Bad Actors Happen to Great Austen Heroes, or How to Maintain Your Heroic Posture in the Face of the Latest Feculent Adaptation.’” And as we are a few years out from the last batch of interpretations, we will need this to help brace us for another round. Back to the issue at hand. Are there any suggestions? Anyone care to tell what has worked in the past?” He pointed the gavel towards the front row. “And Darcy, no details. Invariably, the minutes with your amorous adventures go missing and I’ll not have such childishness on my watch.”
Fitzwilliam Darcy smiled and shrugged, while his modern counterpart, Xander/Darcy, glowered. “I have had no amorous adventures except those with my lovely wife and partner, Elizabeth. Unless there is considerable exaggeration on the part of the one telling the story, I have done nothing untoward in that area. However, since I have been privy to ten millennia of female thoughts, I probably have as good an idea as anyone here about what women want – as well as what they do not want.” He took a seat by Regency Darcy. “They do not want a gift that takes no thought on the part of their men.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam turned to laugh at him. “So, the marketing people have all missed the mark, have they? Women do not desire a card with heart-shaped box of chocolates?”
The meeting was degenerating fast, and Wentworth had heard more than once the mutterings that he was using it simply to gather ideas so that he might avoid the Valentine’s Day Massacre Deux that had taken place with Anne the previous year. He had to move fast for Anne and her sister Mary would be finished with their Pilates class in less than an hour.
He nodded to Harville. “Gentlemen, we must move along. Tim Harville, our Sergeant at Arms is passing out paper and pencils. Please write on the paper your best idea for a Valentine’s Day gift. Preferably one that has been a rousing success in the past.”
Crawford laughed rather unpleasantly. “Is that rousing in MY opinion, or in the opinion of the lady, Freddy?”
Wentworth resolved to be at the annual Men of Austen Mutual Support Society convention so that he could eliminate all possibilities of a second election to the chairmanship.
“Crawford, Valentine’s Day is all about the ladies. We know you are on the verge of arousal any hour of every day of the year.” That should keep the yob quiet, he thought. “Please pass your suggestions down front.” It’s like herding cattle.
Tim brought the papers and they were quickly sorted into categories.
“As usual, it falls into five categories. The first is candy. We know that candy given as a gift is responsible for 100% of diet failure in the month of February. There is also the ‘nut allergy’ issue with which to contend. It is vital that you know your lady.” He tossed the offending stack.
Harville bumped Wentworth’s leg as he struggled to pick up the bits of paper. “Number two is flowers. Besides the damaging ecological implications of non-indigenous rose species being grown worldwide to feed the demand for Valentine’s Day bouquets, some women just don’t like watching a vase full of living things die. And again there is the allergy issue. Know your lady.” Harville grabbed the stack before Wentworth could pitch it.
“The third most popular suggestion is dinner out. You are already too late to make reservations at a truly fine restaurant. I suppose there will still be seating available at Denny’s or, worse yet, McDonald’s.” Wentworth flicked the papers to the floor before Harville could snatch them away. “Be aware of any product recalls or issues the lady may have with the corporate policies of each restaurant. Concerning the lower tier eateries, while my lady would NOT be satisfied, yours may be. As always, know your lady.”
Wentworth was shocked when the entire membership of MAMSS joined with him in repeating, “Know your lady.”
The assembled group looked like innocent little lambs as he scanned the room, looking for the perpetrators. All the faces were pleasantly passive.
Time was ticking by. “We come to the fourth category.” He held tight to the small stack of papers as he waved them. “This group of gentlemen feels that lingerie is a good gift for the ladies.” He glanced back at Harville. It was lingerie which had sauced him the previous year, and it had been at Harville’s suggestion. Wentworth sometimes felt that Tim was trying to sabotage him. He grabbed the next set of papers.
“The fifth category is…I think it time to dispense with the ‘Miscellaneous’ category. I shall not mention two of the suggestions as they are vulgar and perverse. Fine leather should never be employed in that fashion.” He looked particularly at Wickham and General Tilney. Men of the Army were always unbridled and too free with their salacious suggestions. “The third is the most ridiculous of them all: a monkey.”
Wentworth watched the laughing crowd. Either they were all in on it, or— Christopher Brandon seemed subdued. Would that he could escape these melancholy types. “Brandon, you have something to say?”
He opened his mouth to speak and then closed it. Then he stood and said, “I saw…many ladies in…India…where the air is filled with spices…who kept them…monkeys I mean…as pets. I just thought…”
“I see it is a serious suggestion, Brandon. Well done. A monkey is a living thing, gentlemen; act accordingly. And as always, know your lady.” He ignored the chorus this time, as well as the catcalls which accompanied it.
“In my humble opinion, this is on the whole the most dangerous of gifts possible. One must always—”
“Know your lady,” they chorused, laughing raucously.
Wentworth smiled. “—must always know her favourite color, cut, and preferred cloth. We also know from bitter experience that a woman’s weight can fluctuate five to ten pounds in a year so beware. Furthermore—”
William Elliot stood. “Wentworth, may I?”
His wife’s cousin would not be put off. “Go ahead, Elliot.”
“I agree with the Captain that a gift of lingerie is dangerous. We all remember his black eye that lasted well into March.” The crowd burst into applause. “However, gentlemen, I do think that the Captain HAS stumbled onto the perfect solution. Well, partly anyway. Color, cut, and CLARITY is our clue.” He pick up his hat and cane and started for the door. “Diamonds, gentlemen. I will repeat, diamonds.” He bowed and left the room.
Darcy, the angel among them, had remained unsmiling through the proceedings. “Women do not want things so much as they want to know that we are thinking of them. My love has expressed a wish in the past to swim with dolphins. I intend to make that happen on Valentine’s Day. Whatever she wants, she will have. This meeting has taken enough of my time.” He morphed into angelic form and flew through the ceiling of the room.
In the rustling of air that follows the rush of angel wings, the rest of the slips of paper wafted through the slight breeze, and Harville just let them fall.
As they walked home, Wentworth said to Harville, “So, were there any suggestions worth using?”
“Nah, there never are.”
“What are you getting for Mrs Harville this year?”
“She wants a juicer.”
“A juicer. I see lots of juice in my future.”
“Why not just buy wine?”
“Why not indeed, Freddy. Why not indeed.”
To the Readers, we thank you for the time you graciously give us when you read this blog and out books. We will endeavour to always know our readers.
On this holiday of love, we remind you to know the one you love and give them the best gift possible, kindness and compassion. ~The ladies of JSI ! Valentine’s Day, 2013