On Not Being Accomplished

By Alison June 8, 2021 No Comments 3 Min Read

In the olden days when ladies were ladies and Love Island didn’t exist, great store was set by the need for women of  a certain class to be “accomplished”, not just in manners, etiquette and deportment, but in all manner of arts, crafts and domestic achievement.

A proper lady knew how to behave in social situations, knew which fork to use at the table, could darn a sock should the servants be out of action with smallpox, would churn out a passable tune or two on the piano forte, and could if required, take to the hills and come back with a watercolour to be proud of…

These things mattered as much as the ability to put two and two together and thus manage the household accounts, and indeed comment intelligently on the Great Boar war, without getting carried away, and offering anything as vulgar as an opinion…

(**Note to self: Vulgar is a wonderful word! Use it more often…**)

While perusing around the wealth of Victoriana sites on the net, it struck me that I am not even remotely accomplished. In almost anything. I can’t even knit. True I can do a fair few things, fairly well. But only well enough to get by and only, if the truth be told, because I have to.

Am I alone? Or has the hectic whirl of modern day living  made the possibility of being “accomplished” plainly laughable? Do we no longer have the time to take what we would now consider “hobbies” and become more than passably good at them? Or is it that we are so possessed by the need to make enough money to survive, that when we do, oh joy of joys, turn out be good at something, we immediately seek ways from which to make a profit from it?

What if we taught ourselves to embroider scrumptious little tray-clothes just for the hell of it? Learnt to speak French so we could survive when our dream of living in Provence eventually comes true. What if we taught ourselves everything there is to know about wine and became something of a connoisseur? What if we made a dedicated effort to know more about a subject that makes our hearts clatter? Or learnt the art of whisking up the perfect omelette?

It strikes me that much as we love our houses, our babbas, and our lovely little lives- it isn’t enough. Not because our heads aren’t already chocka block with the stuff and nonsense of our busy days, but in spite of it. Because of it. Because without embracing the opportunity to educate ourselves on a daily basis we do ourselves an injustice, and deprive ourselves of the chance to be more than who we are: to be the women we know we could be.

I can’t knit, embroider, sew a sock monkey,  speak French, cook well, talk intelligently about the state of the nation, keep us out of debt, make a perfect little cupcake, deliver a heart-warming speech, choose between a burgundy and a merlot , or even conduct myself entirely properly in any given social situation (I get the giggles. Even at funerals).

Or maybe I can. Becoming accomplished is impossible without the will to try.

Something makes your heart sing. What is it?

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