I first learned the word ‘sophisticated’ reading a Baby-Sitters Club book. Stacey, the club treasurer, is from New York and is often described as sophisticated with her fashionable clothes and ability to talk to boys.
I’d never heard the word sophisticated out loud, and in my head I pronounced it ‘sop-hiss-ticated’. It was a good word to learn, because that’s how I felt reading ‘Mary Anne Saves the Day’ – a chapter book – all by myself. Sophisticated. Bloody sophisticated.
Some years later I learned that you pronounce the ‘ph’ as ‘f‘. By then I looked down on the BSC books as easy reading trash. I’d also developed my own ideas about what true sophistication is.
When I was in the middle-years of high school I read poetry, wandered in nature and was particularly emotional on windy days. There were times when I felt a little bit special, a little bit sophisticated even. Here are some things that triggered it.
During an arts festival in my home town, I went to a performance where someone recited Shakespeare sonnets while some other people played in a wind quintet. People had come from Melbourne to hear this performance. It was bananas boring, but I felt like I was in very good company.
My home town was only two hours from the city so we would sometimes go on school excursions to Melbourne. We went to plays, classical concerts and the museum. Even as teenagers we got excited around escalators and the plush padded walls of the Arts Centre. The most sophisticated event of all was a trip to La Mama Theatre to see an arty play about people being upset with each other. After the performance, there was a Q and A with the actors and they served French press (not instant!) coffee for FREE. I could not sleep that night for thinking about how magnificent life could be. Having a lot of caffeine late in the evening had nothing to do with it.
My family embraced semi-sundried tomatoes in the early 1990s. We had these little flavour-bombs with cheese, sandwiches and pasta. Cafes paired semi-sundried tomatoes with focaccia with an almost unbreakable bond. It was unclear if they tasted better than a normal tomato, but they certainly tasted more and classier.
Suns and moons watch
When my old watch broke I knew exactly what design I wanted to replace it: a suns and moon watch. These watches included a picture of a sun and a picture of a moon with stars. The pictures rotated depending on whether it was day or night. It would have been great if I’d been trapped in a basement or underground cave system.
The watch complimented my suns and moons doona cover and suns and moon wind chimes. When I looked around my room at all my suns and moons gear, I thought of Galileo, the beauty of the universe and being clever.
I asked for a candle snuffer for my 15th birthday. My mum thought it was weird, but she got me one. The only candle I needed to extinguish was in my midnight-blue oil burner (with a suns and moons motif). I was very happy with my gift. After an evening reading Wild Swans under my suns and moons doona, I would smugly snuff out the tea-light candle, feeling the satisfyingly heavy snuffer-weight in my hand. Sure, I could have simply blown out the candle, but I was, by then, someone who knew how to pronounce sophisticated, and I knew how to live.
There are still things that trigger a sense of sophistication. For example, I got my partner a very fancy coffee subscription for his birthday this year. Each month we get a 100g tin of very nice coffee beans. After we drink the coffee – and claim that it definitely tastes better than the normal beans – I line the little coffee tins up on the kitchen window sill. It looks bloody sophisticated.