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Jewelle Takes Tea

26 Dec Posted by in • Jewelle Gomez | Comments Off on Jewelle Takes Tea
Jewelle Takes Tea

I grew up in Boston so I’ve been drinking tea since I was about 10 years old.  My great grandmother used to sip from a Brown Betty tea pot that perched on the back of the stove all day!  I love sitting down to a ‘cuppa,’ as they say in Great Britain, especially with a friend.  And I hate that ‘tea baggers’ have associated themselves with one of my favorite treats!

Last week I came to a meeting just so I could have a cuppa with my friend and fellow writer, Elana Dykewomon.  It was nothing fancy, just an hour in the SF Main Library’s café, but it made the day.  Warm drinks always feel homey anyway but making a date for tea with a friend is much more.

Sitting together Elana and I talked mostly about each other’s writing, some family stuff, some house stuff.  It wasn’t one of the urgent “I’ve got to talk to you about an issue” kinds of sit-downs.  Whatever came up was on the table, knowing we each had a limited amount of time; that’s partly what having tea is about—a special, brief moment.  Not like drinks which can go on into the evening!

In NYC I used to have drinks with folks all the time—great fun but different.  How long can you nurse a martini which is meant to be ice cold?  And if you slug it down and order another because the waiter is hovering, how much real conversation comes after martini #2?  Well it is real conversation…and I’ve had a lot of great ones…but it is different.

San Francisco is more a ‘have a cuppa’ type place for me.  And when you’re sitting together it’s a way to keep up with friends and not have to send those odd little end-of-year review letters with your holiday cards.  My first year in SF I was invited for tea and I’m using the term loosely (a little tea joke) since for some folks it is coffee and that’s also slightly different.  Mary Wings, another writer, asked me to meet her at a Muddy Waters, a coffee shop in the Mission and I was fascinated and thrilled.  A new place, a new person, some great book conversation and confirmation of the pleasure in the ritual.

When I moved west I used to have friends send me boxes of Salada Tea, because that’s what I grew up with and the tag lines with kitsch sayings remind me of having tea with my great grandmother.  But it wasn’t because you can’t find a good black tea on the Bay Area–just a little separation anxiety.

There are now tea places all over the city–my favorite being Lovejoy’s on Church St. in Noe Valley.  Lovejoy’s is like visiting your grandmother’s house in 1930…and you can buy the tea cup you’re using if you like it.

A cuppa means being with someone you care about; but it also means you’ve taken the time out of your day for yourself.  It means you’ve slowed down, you’ve pushed away from the desk or the crib or the spouse or the assembly line to catch up with yourself.  And your friend.  Too often we’re leaving ourselves and our friends behind; and cocktail parties don’t count.

I have my great grandmother’s tea cups and dishes that she used to set for holiday dinners and periodically, when I’m working at home I’ll make myself a cuppa, sipping from the delicate china.  Whenever I do I inevitably think:  where is everybody?  Everything slows down and becomes just a bit crisper and I long to see my great grandmother across the table from me.  I sometimes have the impulse to call someone to come over so we can have a cuppa and a chat at home.

We’re in a time when every personal interaction is framed by something other than personal connection—power breakfasts, dinner meetings, overtime pizza and $5 lattes to drink in the elevator.  Having tea with a friend helps me to remember to slow down as I wait for it to be the right temperature. I get to look my friend in the eye and see her smile when I’m talking.  The warmth of a cup in my hand is comforting, focusing, so I’m not doing five things at once. Now I know why the Mad Hatter favored tea parties.

Jewelle Gomez is the author of 7 books including the lesbian vampire classic novel, The Gilda Stories.  Her new play about James Baldwin will be produced in September 2011. Follow her on Twitter: VampyreVamp.  Or her website: www.jewellegomez.com

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