In the summer of 2009, my family packed up the silverware and crystal, made a bunch of tea sandwiches, and headed to the Dunsmuir House in Oakland, California, for the Art Deco Society’s annual Gatsby Picnic. Thousands of people turn out in their Roaring Twenties attire to pay homage to the glamorous Gatsby era, and though I’m a huge fan of all historical costumed events—what up, Renaissance Faire!—I’ve fallen hard for the Jazz Age.
Wouldn’t life be grand if I lived during the 1920s? I can’t think of a time more enchanting, more adventurous, or more beautiful. Literature reached its zenith: P.G. Wodehouse, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Evelyn Waugh, and Gertrude Stein. The rich dressed in black tie for dinner. Women’s rights were picking up steam via the suffragette movement—and those crazy flapper girls. Who wouldn’t love to use that zippy prewar slang—“Pip pip!” “What ho!” “Now you’re on the trolley!”—sans irony? I’m also obsessed with the Charleston, that quintessentially jazzy dance. My boyfriend and I even practice it on the weekends—true story.
Of course, I have to qualify my circumstances. In my fantasy, I’m a fabulously wealthy English debutante, summering in St. Tropez, wintering in London—and I’m best friends with Virginia Woolf and her brilliant Bloomsbury Group. We engage in witty, Noël Coward–esque banter over a glass of late-night port at the Ritz while Cole Porter standards play on the gramophone. Or maybe it’s late morning and a subtly sardonic butler à la Jeeves and Wooster, in a crisp white bow tie and long tails, serves me a proper English high tea, complete with black-currant scones, clotted Devonshire cream, cucumber, and smoked-salmon sandwiches arranged gently on multitiered trays of Wedgwood china. Hey, Jeeves, don’t forget the whole-leaf English breakfast tea from Fortnum & Mason!
But here I am, in another place, another time. We’ve come a long way in the twenty-first century, but my heart belongs to the romantic Twenties—dash it all.
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