Courting, Courtesy, and Culture

If you are a queen, encountering another queen for the first time, how do you behave?    Do you ignore her?  Do you bow?  Do you wait for her to speak first?  Do you take up as much space as possible, or as little as possible?  Do you make sure she knows that she should scrape and beg for any favor from you?  Or do you perhaps exchange polite formalities, only to eventually more gently indicate that she may send you tribute in the form of deference, tokens of respect and flattery, and that if she would like any of that from you, she will need to provide twice as much.  Or, what if that queen happens to be 7 years old, and you are 22?  Do you condescend and manipulate, or do you resolve to welcome her to your court, realizing she may become a lifelong ally who may defend your right to rule when you are 80?  Is this my life?  Is this your life?


Let us say that instead of all of these things, you clap your hands and greet her with praise of this glad and lucky moment in which your realm may now glory in its new royal friendship.  Perhaps you throw a banquet, or maybe just invite her to your coffee klatsch.  The benefits of this may be increased commerce, safety, education, appropriate mates (finally!) for your royal offspring, and connections to realms on her borders but beyond yours.  She may turn out to have a formidable navy, or a reputation for her ability to persuade the Mongols to buy her lace instead of slaughtering her archers.  She may have underemployed musicians that she can send to your court in exchange for access to salt.


But let us say that instead of launching into a discussion of these benefits you may afford one another, you open wide your eyes, and look at this creature before you.  In the middle of exclaiming your poem about this day of great fortune to your entourage and hers, your voice trails off as you notice the exquisite tendriled embroidery on her iridescent gown, somehow mirrored in variation by the twists and plaits and spirals within her headdress, and you gasp as you realize that her entourage is in fact arranged, person by person, in a larger version of the same motif.  Your mind wanders, as your eyes trail this shape through her hair, her clothes, and these magnificent people.  You finish up your poem, as neatly and thoughtfully as you can, because you can’t quite remember what you were going to say anymore.  In response, a pearl-encrusted group of young musicians with curious instruments swings around and offers you a suite of what must be mermaid music, so smooth, undulating, and entrancing that you find yourself waving your arms in what you hope later is a majestic manner.  You swoon, in fact.  The queen begins a song in her language, whatever that might be, and while you understand not one word, the song, the shimmering warmth in her voice, and the quality of her expression let you know that your welcome has touched her heart.


We have all had meetings like this.  You meet someone, an equal of some sort, and instead of working to find a way to find inequality and a bit of a foot in the door to some kind of dominance, or instead of finding some kind of deal for future strategic enrichment, you simply gasp and hang your mouth open at the sheer luck of meeting such an entrancing creation.


Whom have you met lately?  Who touches your heart?




About VagabondAnne

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