“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself” and so begins her day of planning a party. The rest of the novel follows that one day and weaves between Mrs. Dalloway’s ideas and actions suited for traditional women’s domesticity and for independent feminist ideals. Even just in that sentence she is both fulfilling her role as a wife and mother by creating a social atmosphere in her domestic sphere, while also refusing to rely on her servants or anyone else to accomplish her goal.
I thought a lot about this line today while picking up party supplies for S’s birthday tomorrow evening. I have never been much of a party planner. I will greedily grab random decorations from all corners of a store, haphazardly place it together and hope for the best. My aesthetic is far from Pintrest-worthy and the colors I have chosen often clash. For a cheese platter I picked up brie, goat cheese and the first blue cheese I saw. I almost forgot the crackers.
I grew up at an all-girls school and in a home with a mom who had a full time job. So in my priorities, party planning fell way below school, family, grades, friends or even athletics. I never grew up practicing for domesticity. It wouldn’t have suited me and for that I am very grateful that my energies were not spent slaving over dishes and laundry and sewing and the like.
Reading about Mrs. Dalloway’s almost spiritual relationship with her flower arrangements and Mrs. Ramsay’s impeccable, harmonious dinner party makes me think that maybe I should have spent some more time honing some party planning skills.
I have come to realize that in college I tend to forget the days I have spent with my nose buried so deep in a book that when I come back up for air the sun has set and my room has darkened. The tests I ace fill me with pride, but only momentarily before I shift my attention back to the next paper I have to revise, the next email I have to send, the next book I have to read.
I, however, have been lucky enough to share some memories with my friends that will stay with me for a long time. There are days where we are all happy, joyous, smiling and talking about the mundane to the philosophical and I take a step back and everything has come together and I am filled with a sort of feeling that makes me laugh too loud and occasionally tear up and I feel almost tipsy on company and companionship and belonging.
And if party planning – if setting up candles like Mrs. Ramsay or running all of the errands like Mrs. Dalloway – creates the space which invite these sublime moments to fill them, then perhaps I should start practicing.
I’ll start tomorrow in my black velvet dress with only three cheeses on the cheese plate and light blue and royal purple streamers wrapped around the room. It’s no passage out of a Woolf novel, but it’s a start. And isn’t that the point of being a twentyteen?