Friday, December 27, 2013

What Do You Remember from Your Schooldays? Part II


"



A high school memory just came to me, inspired by this comment to my previous blog on memorization.
When I was in high school (not my favourite time), an English teacher said that everyone in my grade (nine, I think) had to write a one-page story in class right then. The best from the school would be submitted to a city-wide contest and blah blah blah.
Really? This sounded like bs to me - but I was often unhappy back then. I was not in the mood to generate a story out of nowhere.
I knew all the words to "For Emily Wherever I May Find Her" a beautiful song from Simon and Garfunkel's Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme album. so I just wrote them out as an essay, tweaking it here and there.  In longhand, it filled a page:
What a dream I had:  pressed in organdy, clothed in crinoline of smoky burgundy, softer than the rain.
I wandered empty streets, down past the shop displays.  I heard cathedral bells dripping down the alleyways, as I walked on.
And then you ran to me, your cheeks flushed with the night. We walked on frosted fields of juniper and lamplight. I held your hand.
When I awoke, I felt you warm and near. I kissed your honey hair with my grateful tears.
A week later, the teacher said I was chosen as a finalist from all the essays in the school. She wanted my permission to submit it.  Clearly whoever was screening the school's grade nine essays was a generation just enough older than me to not have been listening to Simon and Garfunkel.  I told her that I did not want my story submitted. "Thanks, Mrs. Laar," I said, "but it's personal."

I've been thinking recently of another high school memory.  The English curriculum in my grade 12 class included Greek tragedy.  We studied the elements necessary for a tragedy
  • hamartia - the fatal flaw of a tragic hero, usually hubris or pride
  • nemesis - the inevitable cosmic retribution 
  • fear and pity leading to catharsis
My essay for that unit, "Tragic Heroism in Two Films," asked whether the protagonists of Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy were tragic heroes.  Both films were released in the spring of 1969.  I likely wrote the essay that fall.

Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 1969)In my essay, I discuss the tragedy of Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman).  Rizzo was unhealthy.  His dream was to get to Florida where he could be warm.  Seeing that Rizzo is getting sicker and sicker, Joe Buck (Jon Voigt), robs and murders an old man.  He buys Greyhound tickets to Florida, but Rizzo dies in the bus on the way.  My essay says: 
"I left the film wondering whether it would have made a difference if Rizzo had made it to Florida.  Could he find happiness?  He could escape his situation, but not his wretchedness and self-pity."
Next to that paragraph, in red ink, Mrs. Wilson wrote, "No one ever makes it to Florida."

Every time I go to Florida, I think about Mrs. Wilson and wonder whether she was right.

Did anything that your high school teachers said still make you wonder?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Whither Shakespeare? Part VIII - Shakespeare By Heart?

If you know these lines:   
     "To be or not to be, that is the question." 
      "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."
     "Beware the ides of March."

then you have memorized Shakespeare.  You probably know all kinds of Shakespeare:
"Is that a dagger I see before me?"

"Now is the winter of our discontent."

Aside from being handy in Jeopardy, there are many benefits to memorizing Shakespeare - or memorizing anything.  You probably know the words to dozens and dozens of songs.  I've been to concerts where the whole audience sings every word along with the performer.  In this day of individualized playlists, singing together gives you a profound shared experience of unity and, yes, love.

In my elementary school in Montreal, the piano was in an alcove above the auditorium.  In the December days before the Christmas break, the junior classes would squeeze into the space around the piano and sing carols over and over again until we knew every word.  Even a Jewish girl like me has found it useful to know the Christmas songbook by heart.

Whatever we memorize when we are young, we tend to remember:  piano sonatas, Christmas carols, and Shakespeare soliloquies.  In grade 7, I memorized Romeo's speech to Juliet on her balcony.  ("But soft, what light through yonder window breaks.")  Even today, I remember all 24 lines. 

When people feel doomed, I pull Macbeth's speech from the memory vault:
     "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
     Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
     To the last syllable of recorded time;
     . . . It is a tale
     Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury

     Signifying nothing."

Petrucchio's speech from The Taming of the Shrew comes in handy when a couple is arguing:
     "And where two raging fires meet together,
     They do consume the thing that feeds their fury."

As a child growing up, I noticed that when my Uncle George (ז״ל) visited my family, he might suddenly begin a Hamlet soliloquy:
     "Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I"  or
     "To be or not to be," or 
     "Oh that this too too solid flesh would melt,
      Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!" 

and recite it through to the end.  During one visit, he confessed that he had memorized all seven of Hamlet's soliloquies.  I was a university student at the time, and this achievement impressed me.  "What made you do that," I asked.
"One summer," he said, "after the war - when I was in medical school, I was invited to a cottage north of Toronto to play chess."
"You memorized these walking by the lake?" I asked.
"No," said Uncle George.  "I memorized these while playing chess."
"While playing chess?"
"My host was a very, very slow player."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Whither Shakespeare? Part VII - Were Young People Really So Rebellious in Shakespeare’s Time?

In Shakespeare, when parents choose their child’s marital partner, the child rebels – sometimes successfully, sometimes tragically.

In The Two Gentlemen of Verona, the powerful Duke of Milan wishes his daughter, Silvia, to marry the wealthy Thurio.  Silvia heads for the forest.

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hermia is commanded by her father and by Theseus, the Duke of Athens, to marry Demetrius.  She loves Lysander.  Hermia and Lysander flee to the forest.

In The Merry Wives of Windsor, Ann Page’s mother and father have each picked an inappropropriate husband for Ann.  Ann prefers her own choice, Fenton.  While everyone is gathered in forested Windsor Park to torment Falstaff, Fenton and Ann sneak away to secretly marry.

In The Merchant of Venice, Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, steals his money and runs away with the lover of her choice, leading Shylock to cry, "My daughter, my ducats."

In Cymbeline, Imogen, the daughter of the king, secretly marries her beloved, the unfortunately named, Posthumus.  The king wanted her to marry his stepson, Cloten.
In The Taming of the Shrew, Bianca and Lucentio marry secretly while her father arranges a marriage to another suitor. 
In All’s Well that Ends Well, the King of France commands his son Bertram to marry Helena.  He marries her, but vows never to consummate the marriage until she can “show me a child begotten of thy body that I am father to.”  He then joins the army and head to war.
And, as everyone knows, in Romeo and Juliet, while Juliet’s parents plan her marriage to Paris, Romeo and Juliet marry secretly in Friar Lawrence’s cell.  Everything goes badly for them, but generally in Shakespeare, the disobedient children end up with their own choice of spouse.

Is the rebellious child only a device for creating dramatic conflict or was Shakespeare reflecting a trend of his time?

Lawrence Stone in his book, The Family, Sex and Marriage In England 1500-1800 (1977) argues that, in Shakespeare’s day, when parents chose an unacceptable spouse, children would rebel.

Traditionally marriages were made by parents wanting to secure or expand their property and position in society.  Since these were not love matches, mistresses were common, mistresses were frequently included in wills, and the kings of England openly fathered numerous children outside of their official marriages.  However, the Puritan movement was gaining strength in England throughout the 16th century.  Puritans preached that marriage was a sacred bond and keeping a mistress was an offence against God.

Increasingly those of marriageable age thought, if I cannot have an extramarital lover, then I had better marry someone I love.  This challenge to parental authority was an unintended consequence of Puritanism -- and also a wonderful source of plot material for Shakespeare.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Whither Shakespeare? Part VI - To Get Hooked on Shakespeare, Where Should I Start?

After checking these blogs, a reader asked me “What play would you personally recommend to get someone hooked on Shakespeare?"

An argument broke out between my two houseguests.  One said Twelfth Night.  The other insisted The Tempest.

If you asked me how to get hooked on, say, Paul Auster novels, I would immediately say, "Start with The Brooklyn Follies or Oracle Night.  If you're intrigued, but not convinced, pick up Leviathan.  By then, if it's your thing, you're likely to be hooked and want to read them all.  Do not start with any book that begins with a man sitting alone in a room.

But Shakespeare?  How does one get hooked on Shakespeare?  It must depend on who you are.


If you’ve been ousted from your job and you’re seeking revenge, start with The Tempest.
If you’re contemplating retirement, start with The Tempest.
If you’re madly in love with someone who won’t see you or doesn’t know you exist or flees from you, start with Twelfth Night, A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, or All’s Well That Ends Well.
If you hate hypocrisy, start with Measure for Measure.
If you feel controlled by your family’s beliefs and old grudges, start with Romeo and Juliet.
If you’re irrationally jealous, start with Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, or A Winter’s Tale.
Start with A Winter’s Tale anyway.
If you are worried about succession and your children’s loyalty, or ageing, or madness, start with King Lear.
If you’re wondering why victims of prejudice can’t just get over it, start with The Merchant of Venice.
If you want to see victims of prejudice further humiliated, start with The Merchant of Venice.
If your mother remarried and you have problems with your step-father, start with Hamlet.
If you want your boss’s job, start with Macbeth.
If you feel emotionally or spiritually shipwrecked, start with The Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night, or The Tempest.
If your mother is overbearing, start with King John or Coriolanus.
If you’re not in direct line to inherit the family business, but would like to be, start with Richard III.
If you’re a gender bender and want to see a scene with what was in Shakespeare's day a man playing a woman disguised as a boy who agrees to pretend to be a girl to help another man practice wooing, start with As You Like It.
If you just like cross-dressing, start with As You Like It, Two Gentlemen of Verona, or Twelfth Night.
If you'd like to take a vow of chastity and immerse yourself in study, start with Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Most of all, one gets hooked on Shakespeare's language and wisdom.  Do yourself a favour.  Get hooked on Shakespeare.


What did I leave out?  What performance or teacher or experience got you hooked on Shakespeare?


Friday, December 13, 2013

Wither Shakespeare? Part V - What Is Friendship in Julius Caesar?

1983
A grade 12 classroom in the east end of Hamilton Ontario.

I was a substitute English teacher for the day.  I expected the usual rioting, but for some reason these older high school students seemed ready to continue with the lesson their regular teacher had prepared.


They were studying Julius Caesar and the instructions were to continue reading aloud.

Act V, Scene iii:  The war between Caesarists and conspirators has gone back and forth.  Wrongly believing his army was taken, Cassius has his servant stab him.  Discovering Cassius's body, his lieutenant, Titinius, "points the sword at his heart and falls forward upon it."

Act V, Scene v:  But now it appears that the rebel forces have been defeated by Antony's army and those loyal to Caesar.  Brutus does not want to be taken alive.  We find Brutus at his camp surrounded by his most loyal friends. 


Brutus sits down with his friend Clitus and whispers in his ear.  Clitus responds:

julius-caesar-william-shakespeare-hardcover-cover-artCLITUS:  What, I, my lord? No, not for all the world.

BRUTUS:  Peace then! no words.

CLITUS:  I'll rather kill myself.


Brutus then calls to his friend Dardanius.

BRUTUS:  Hark thee, Dardanius.

Whispers

DARDANIUS:  Shall I do such a deed?

CLITUS:  O Dardanius!

DARDANIUS:  O Clitus!

CLITUS:  What ill request did Brutus make to thee?

DARDANIUS:  To kill him, Clitus. Look, he meditates.


Brutus then says openly to his dear friend Volumnius

BRUTUS:  Come hither, good Volumnius; list a word.

VOLUMNIUS:  What says my lord?

BRUTUS:  Why, this, Volumnius:
The ghost of Caesar hath appear'd to me
Two several times by night; at Sardis once,
And, this last night, here in Philippi fields:
I know my hour is come.

VOLUMNIUS:  Not so, my lord.

BRUTUS:  Nay, I am sure it is, Volumnius.
Thou seest the world, Volumnius, how it goes;
Our enemies have beat us to the pit:

It is more worthy to leap in ourselves,
Than tarry till they push us. Good Volumnius,
Thou know'st that we two went to school together:
Even for that our love of old, I prithee,
Hold thou my sword-hilts, whilst I run on it.

VOLUMNIUS:  That's not an office for a friend, my lord.

I interrupted the reader and said, "Brutus asks Clitus, Dardanius, and Volumnius to simply hold his sword while he ran against it, but they all refuse.  What's going on here?"

"Brutus wants to die," one student replied, "and his friends won't kill him."

"Cassius's servant, Pindarus, was willing to kill him, but Brutus's friends won't?"

"They're his friends.  You don't kill your friends."

"But Caesar was Brutus's best friend.  Caesar didn't want to die, and his best friend killed him.  Brutus wants to die, but his friends won't kill him.  What's Shakespeare saying about friendship?"

The students looked up from their books.

I said, "Consider these lines from Oscar Wilde's poem 'The Ballad of Reading Gaol.'"  I recited from memory:


Yet each man kills the thing he loves
  By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!
 
Some kill their love when they are young,
  And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
  Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
  The dead so soon grow cold.
 
Some love too little, some too long,
  Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
  And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
  Yet each man does not die.
At the word "die," the bell rang.  The class was still, silent, thinking. Then like a horde of Roman soldiers entering the battlefield, they grabbed their notebooks and hustled to their next class.

At lunch I ran into one of the students outside the library.  "Hi Miss.  I found it!" she said, eyes dancing.  She was carrying a volume of Oscar Wilde's poetry.

Whither Shakespeare? Part IV - I Pull a Book from the Family Library

1952-2012

By the time I was 10, my family had moved from Toronto to Montreal and finally to Hamilton, Ontario. Wherever we lived, overstuffed bookshelves covered every available wall.  One book from the family library is a leather-bound volume entitled The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.  It is in my hands now. The front cover detached from the binding years ago.  The book is held together with elastic bands.

As a child, several things thrilled me about this volume.  Opposite the title page is the "Jansen" portrait of Shakespeare.  Under the portrait is a reproduction of Shakespeare’s signature.

At the back of the book is a handy index to all of the characters in Shakespeare’s dramatic work.  Most of all, though, I loved the inscription.

“To our dear cousin, Sid,
His life is gentle, and the elements
So mix’d in him that nature might stand up
And say to all the world “This is a man!”
George + Abe  25/1/46

My uncles, George and Abe, adapted these lines from the final passages of Julius Casesar.  After hearing that Brutus was dead, Antony says, “His life was gentle." and "This was a man.”

Sid was my father.  By January 1946, Sid was living in New York City recovering from serious war injuries.  He travelled to Ottawa for my aunt’s wedding, January 20, 1946.  My mother, Mary, and her brothers met their cousin, Sid, for the first time.  It was love at first sight for my mother, although no one in the family knew this for several years.  Mary thought cousins were not allowed to marry, so she kept her feelings secret, even from Sid, who was also head over heels for her.  George and Abe seem to have been impressed with Sid as well and presented him with this book before he returned to the US.

Shakespeare was a young 52 when he died in 1616; my father, an even younger 43, when he died in 1969. Uncles George and Abe died within the last few years, both in their late 80s.  For me though, my father, my uncles, and Shakespeare will always be together within the covers of this book.

Whither Shakespeare? Part III - Whither Laertes?

June, 1960

At the end of the school year, my mother gave my brother, sister, and me autograph books.  Our friends and teachers wrote us messages and signed their names.  My mother wrote: 

“This above all- to thine own self be true, 
And it must follow, as the night the day, 
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
  - William Shakespeare. Hamlet Act I, Scene iii.

These words were part of Polonius’s farewell lecture to his son, Laertes, who was eager to leave Denmark and get back to France.

My family members were gathered at a holiday dinner recently.  I mentioned this quote.  My brother declared that our mother wrote the same words in his book.  We asked her why she chose that quotation.  She said,

“I wanted you to be true to yourselves.”

I suspect, though, that these words were commonly used by adults in young people's autograph books. At this point, my 20-year-old nephew said, "What's an autograph book?"

"It's kind of a Facebook wall that we could carry with us."

Now many years after these words were written in my autograph book, I wonder at their meaning.  Being true to one's self seems much easier to say than to do.  An academic friend wrote me with this dilemma:  He said:  "I am expected to go to the book launch cocktail of a colleague whose ideology I don't admire and whose book content I'm not interested in."

Going to the event might be advantageous in some respects, although if he is seen as endorsing an ideology he does not agree with, it could soon be a disadvantage as political power moves from one academic group to another.  In this case, being true to himself seems the only safe recourse.

Being true to ourselves gets easier as our values become clearer.  With experience, we become more aware of what we can and cannot tolerate.  We become attuned to the discomfort that accompanies being untrue to ourselves.  Eventually, we can anticipate those situations and avoid them.

Here is Polonius's advice to Laertes:

See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wither Shakespeare? Part II - A Midsummer Night's Dream

Spring, 1960

Shakespeare first entered my life when my elementary school in Montreal planned to stage a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Teachers were told to send their best and loudest readers to audition in the gym.  From my grade 2 class, I was the chosen one and was thrilled to walk right out of arithmetic class to the audition.

I read my best and loudest, but I did not make the cut.  I was heartbroken. 

My older sister won the part of a fairy.  She wore a skirt and top that looked like cobwebs spun by small spiders.  Shimmery material dangled from her arms and fluttered when she danced across the stage.

She remembers her lines to this day:

ACT II. SCENE I.

A wood near Athens

Enter a FAIRY at one door, and PUCK at another.

PUCK How now, spirit! whither wander you?



FAIRY        Over hill, over dale,
Through bush, through brier,
Over park, over pale,
Through flood, through fire,
I do wander every where,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the Fairy Queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green.

The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours;
In those freckles live their savours;
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.



Only now, I see the fairy spoke in sonnets.  I am intrigued by the meaning of "to dew her orbs."  I suppose it means to place dewdrops into her flowers. Shakespeare is the grand master of the double entendre, but the erotic elements of a midsummer forest were not the subject of the school play.

My brother also went to this school.  He was a year older and a grade higher than me.  When I was in grade 1, he was in grade 2.  His teacher’s name was Miss Shakespeare. Whenever I saw her in the halls, she would gather me in her arms as if she, herself, were some kind of fairy.

At the end of his year with Miss Shakespeare, she skipped him up to grade 4. and from then on, he was two grades ahead of me.  It was so unfair.

Whither Shakespeare? Part I - A Winter's Night Dream

December, 2013

On December 1, I saw Julie Taymor's A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn. The #4 subway took us to Brooklyn and we exited with the crowd up into the Barclay's Centre, a "landmark sports and entertainment arena, and the home of the Nets."  We reached street level, and recognized nothing.  Atlantic Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, and 4th Avenue converge at the arena and we were as lost as the lovers in the woods near Athens.

No one we asked had the slightest idea how to find 262 Ashland Place which was supposed to be a five-minute walk from the subway exit.  We could not even find a taxi to take us there.

Finally a woman in a police cruiser pointed straight ahead.  We crossed Flatbush and wandered up a side street, sad and frustrated.  After two blocks, the street we were on had transformed into Ashland, and the theatre appeared ahead.  We slid into our seats with barely a minute before the lights went down.

Shakespeare is often about transformation.  In Midsummer Night's Dream, a man acquires the head of an ass, and a queen falls in love with him.  Love is like that.

The production was mesmerizing.  We were transported to a forest of billowing sheets and pillow fights.  Love turned to hate and hate turned to love all with the sprinkling of fairy dust.  We were in the hands of a master of language and a visionary director.

We staggered out of the theatrical forest of midsummer dreams into the cold Brooklyn night, down into the crowded subway, and up onto the Manhattan streets near Grand Central Station.  We found the Perfect Pint, an Irish pub that was still serving food at midnight.

It was our last night in NewYork City.  Our hotel was overlooking the east river near the UN building.  Walking from the pub to the hotel, I realized that Shakespeare had been with me all my life - and both my earliest and most recent unions with Shakespeare concerned the same play.

I've begun to put all my tiny stories of Shakespeare together to see what they reveal.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Were You Planned? Did It Matter?


Your parents will tell you what you want to hear or tell you what they've convinced themselves to believe.  They might even be reliable witnesses to their own lives and tell you the truth.  By the time you ask, "Was I planned?" they might have even forgotten.

"When I found out you were coming," my mother told me, "I was so happy.  Three children seemed to me to be a real family."  Happy is good, but I can't remember if that's the same as being planned.

Being happy to have me is probably much more important than intending to have me.  I can't say being planned or unplanned mattered one way or the other.  Everyone adjusted.

There are five of us in my family.  I think it went like this:  unplanned, planned, unplanned, planned, unplanned.

These days, except in religious communities, it might be hard to find a family with more than three children (per parent).  The 2011 fertility rate in Canada was 1.61 children per woman; 1.89 in the USA.  Many will likely be planned.  In fact, a US study found that between 1982 and 2010, 63% of babies were intentionally conceived.

My husband was planned.

Roosevelt signing the declaration of war against Germany
Almost 75 years ago, on Krystallnacht (November 9), his father, Kurt Baecker was arrested and sent to Dachau.  At that time, the Nazis hadn't yet conceived of the Final Solution, and would deport Jews if they could find a country willing to take them.  Kurt's family managed to find a very distant relative in the USA who was willing to sign an affadavit of support.  Once in America, Kurt and Alice, his wife, desperately tried to get Alice's parents out of Vienna.

December 7, 1941
Japan bombs Pearl Harbour
Kurt and Alice realize that the US will now enter the war, and it will be impossible to get any family members out of Europe.  They decide that night to start their own family.

My husband was born Oct. 7, 1942, exactly 10 months after the bombing of Pearl Harbour.



Sunday, October 20, 2013

What Do I Say Next? A Love Story for Shy People

This blog was inspired by my student, Mehdi, who wanted to know what to do about silences.

Location:  a meetup or party
Time:  midnight

"Let's have a conversation," he said.
"About what?" she said.
"About you.  About me."

Silence

"In a conversation, I talk, then you talk," he said.
"OK," she said.

Silence

"Is talking hard?" he said, trying hard to get it started.
"I never know what to say," she said.
"You have nice eyes," he said.

Silence

"Let's keep trying," he said.

Silence

"Is it too noisy here?" he said.
"Kinda," she said.
"Do you want to go for a walk?"
"Where?"
"Nearby, maybe a coffee shop or a bar.  Maybe along the waterfront."
"Is it safe?" she said.  "It's late."
"I have a 3rd degree black belt," he said.

Silence

"That's your cue," he said.
"Cue for what?"
"To continue the conversation."
"What's a 3rd degree black belt?" she said.
"Excellent!" he said.  "It's what I tell women when they are afraid to go for a walk."

Silence

"It's when I pull my belt tight, to the third hole."
"You're funny," she said.
"Have you ever been in danger?" he said.
"I'm always in danger," she said,
"I don't know what to say next," he said.  "I'm thinking one of these things:

a) You should protect yourself.  You should carry pepper spray and a whistle.
b) Considering the way you dress, I'm not surprised.
c) We all are.  These are dangerous times.
d) That's why I learned karate - to protect myself.
e) It's OK.  I'm here.
f) It must affect your life to feel that way.  You must feel anxious about trying new things or meeting new people."

"That last one is good," she said.  "You're right.  That's how I feel."

Silence

"Let's go for that walk," she said.
"Really?" he said.
"We can hold hands," she said.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Do You Remember the Moment You Fell in Love?

I'm talking about a moment of realization, a moment when, in the blink of an eye, the person you've been seeing morphs into the love of your life.

No, no, I've said that wrong:  You morph into someone who wants to hang on to this lovely person that is hanging on to you.

Maybe it happens to both of you at the same time.

Hank told me that while in college, he met Melissa in a gaming club. They were both shy, but they both liked video games, particularly Halo 3.  He began going over to her place once a week to play. After a while, it seemed like he was going over every night.  Games can be quite addictive -- but so can girls.  At one point in the middle of a game, Melissa said, "Are we dating?" That was the moment.

My mother told me this story:  A suitor had hoped she would marry him.  He pursued her like a businessman seeking a merger or an amalgamation.  He was eagerly hoping to close the deal.  When she turned him down, he cried.  That was the moment when she fell in love with him.  His human side emerged and she reversed her decision.

"I remember the moment that I knew Jacob was the one."  Hannah told me this at lunch today.  She said, "I remember sitting on Jacob's bed at his mom's house.  I was 17, he was 21.  He was showing me his Buddhism books.  He was open and not self-conscious at all.  It was fun and joyous because we were so present and alive.  He wasn't teaching or lecturing or barraging me with his ideas - he was sharing his deepest state of being with me."

That's all well and good for them with their innocent, unjaded youthful love.  What about people like me?  I've been around the block so many times, the city gave me my own passing lane.  I see the transition from friends to life partners mathematically: 
When the respect (r), gratitude (g), and fun (f) you experience is greater than the frustration (fn) and irritation (i) you experience, you decide that perhaps this one is a keeper:
when r+g+f > fn+i = 
That's the theory.  Here's what actually happened:

I had been seeing him for a while, but I was not worried about where it was going.  We lived in different cities and we had our own lives.  A year into the relationship, I accompanied him to Margate, Florida, to look after some of his mother's issues.  Afterwards, we took a side trip to Key West.  We left cold, snowy Canada for the warm, sunny Keys.  It was fun and kind of amazing being there.  I remember the exact corner where I was standing when I wisely connected those feelings to the fellow who had brought me there.  I remember thinking, "I should take this guy seriously."

I did.  I still do.

What about you?  Was there a moment?


Just to balance the romantic love moment with reality, an equally worthy blog could be on the topic, "Can you remember a moment when you knew it was over?"  Now created by request.  Here.