Raising a teacup to empowerment through literature
June 13, 2017
Xandra Robinson-Burns dashed out of a car on Post Street in the middle of Japantown. The tulle of her dress bounced as she raced inside the New People shopping and entertainment building, which is home to, among other things, the Crown & Crumpet Tea Stop Cafe. It was there, in the tearoomâ€™s private party area next to a Japanese Harajuku fashion store, that Robinson-Burns would inspire us to live like heroines of great fiction.
Basically, Robinson-Burns is a motivational speaker â€” but sheâ€™s genuine and passionate and kind of nervously nerdy about her job. As a result, she was subtle yet effective in inspiring our small tea party group to root for ourselves like weâ€™re the protagonists in our own awesome novels. Cheesy as it may sound, I bought it.
â€œI sort of started reading about personal development,â€ said Robinson-Burns with a hint of Madonnaâ€™s not-quite-British accent. â€œAnd I realized that I had already learned a lot of it through literature. Itâ€™s all about finding characters you can relate to.â€
Robinson-Burns explained this as she sat at the center of a long 14-person dining table covered in floral tablecloths and confetti. An eclectic array of porcelain china hung behind her, while a pink cuckoo clock dominated the far end of the wall. A dozen of us were seated at the table, wearing name tags. Several in attendance were Robinson-Burns blog fans; others were literature die-hards, just excited for a private high-tea experience with a small group of women who were more than delighted to discuss the likes of Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling on a Sunday afternoon.
We were instructed to introduce ourselves one by one, along with our favorite conversational topic. Many in the group said they love to talk about books or travel. I said, â€œMy name is Beth and I like to talk about true crime.â€
We sat upright with our napkins on our laps. We sipped tea. We used big words. We were fabulous literary heroines on the mezzanine level of a multiuse entertainment complex in Japantown.
Robinson-Burns imports lessons from the Harry Potter series into nearly every aspect of her life. She considers herself a member of the Gryffindor House, one of the four houses at the fictional Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and she did a lot of soul-searching to come to that decision. A woman sitting across the table from Robinson-Burns announced â€œIâ€™m a Slytherinâ€ and was met with nods of approval.
Over tea sandwiches and scones, we werenâ€™t lectured on how to live our lives more purposefully. Instead, Robinson-Burns encouraged us to talk to one another, she read quotes aloud from â€œPride and Prejudice,â€ and she casually, quietly facilitated our diverse group to gently dive into deep conversations. We all left with new book recommendations, artists to check out, opinions on tea-based snacks, and two solid hours of intelligent and friendly chitchat with like-minded women.
The self-described introvert plans to continue her tea party tour. Her next one will be in Bristol, England, and sheâ€™s got a project in the works with the Kate Spade store at the Westfield San Francisco Shopping Centre, which came about while trying on a dress for our tea party. Earlier in the day, Robinson-Burns had hosted an â€œempowerment pop-upâ€ there.
â€œIâ€™ve been manifesting this for a year now,â€ she said of her blossoming business relationship with the fashion brand she loves. In addition to her tea parties and pop-ups, Robinson-Burns still writes â€œHeroine Training,â€ her mindful words of wisdom gleaned from a quarter-century spent nose-deep in the printed word.
â€œEverything under the â€˜Heroine Trainingâ€™ umbrella is about becoming aware of how to live your life more intentionally,â€ Robinson-Burns said. â€œYou learn it through whichever lens applies to you. For some people, itâ€™s theater. For some people, itâ€™s Harry Potter. And for pretty much everyone, itâ€™s a tea party.â€
Cheers to that, Hermione.
Beth Spotswoodâ€™s column appears Thursdays in Datebook. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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