This past Saturday morning, Miss M and I prettied up a bit and proceeded to our local tea shop with my mother and aunt. There we ordered pots of tea (a berry tissane for Miss M), delicate cucumber sandwiches, thin slices of rich pound cake, and scones piped with whipped cream topped with apricot and raspberry preserves. Everything was exquisite: bite-sized and delicious. There was an absolutely tremendous baby shower underway--I've never seen so many gifts, positively heaps of them--and the little girls wore beautiful dresses, patent leather shoes, and outsized hair bows. Like eight year-old Miss M, they were wide-eyed with the wonder of being allowed to eat scones AND cake AND cookies, and they were all on their best behavior in hopes of prolonging the fantastical experience.
Although welcoming of all, it struck me that a tea shop is an intensely feminine place. It's telling that this tea shop doesn't even have a men's room--only a ladies' room and a unisex bathroom (both nicely decorated, I might add). There were very few men at the shop's tables. Our table noticed with amusement the stray men who would wander in, then become so unsettled with the tea shop's overriding femininity that they beat a hasty retreat. As it turns out, tea shops historically were a favorite meeting place of suffragists. Could there be a more perfectly civilized place for women to gather and plot the course of women and the vote? I really don't think so.
After tea, we proceeded to Southern Market, where every woman in Knoxville was handing over the contents of her wallet. The Southern Market is a labyrinth of little shops heavy on monograms, throw pillows, and embroidered towels. Miss M, a girly-girl of the highest order, loves the decorative aspect of the place and can spend hours perusing the wares until she finds a little something worth her pocket money. Did I mention the Southern Market was filled with women? Other than a plainly bewildered elderly gentleman carrying his wife's toy terrier, there didn't seem to be a man in the place.
I don't know of many public spots that are exclusively a woman's domain. But tea shops and interior decorating stores come darn close to it. Vive la femme!