Those of you who read about Julie’s1 disclosure to me that she was divorcing her husband in order to be with Philip, one of our English professors, may consider me a bit of a schmuck. If so, that is because you don’t know the entire story; once you do, you’ll realize I was a Huge, Best Of Show sort of schmuck of the Incredibly Naive, So Oblivious As To Be A Danger To Self subspecies of schmuck.
One might think that my characteristic hypervigilance and high index of suspicion would protect me from such ambushes, but my failure to anticipate Julie’s plans was hardly an isolated case. The clue that led me to puzzle out, for example, that the Duke of Derm, my closest friend, was romantically involved with the Princess of Peds, another of our classmates I knew well, was the request that I to be in their wedding party. There are far too many other cases, each of which shared certain qualities:
- Each centered on one or more relationship(s)
- I was absolutely unaware of the issue until someone told me exactly what was going on
- In retrospect, there were signs and clues that should have alerted me to the situation; I noticed, in fact, many of these clues but failed to make the obvious connections.
That last point brings us back to the Julie story. There were, of course, many subtle and some not so subtle indications during that year when that woman was my obsession that something was afoot. Many of these, however, were ambiguous and could have been interpreted in any number of ways. At least one instance, however, required all my powers of unmindfulness to evade the onslaught of clues, signs, and blatant expositions of the truth.
Perhaps three or four months prior to Julie’s Leaving my husband to be with Philip announcement, I saw the two of them together in the Student Union. It was not unusual for instructors and students to meet in the Union, and Julie’s role as star student meant she was often in conversation with one teacher or another from the English Department. They motioned me to their table where we chatted. While we were talking, Philip resumed scribbling something on the inside cover of a paperback book, which he then pushed across the table to Julie, explaining that he was giving it to Julie because it was on a topic of interest to her. Again, there was nothing striking about a teacher giving a student a preview volume the publisher had sent faculty members gratis.
When Julie looked at the inscription quizzically, Philip grinned and rotated the book toward me so I could see what he had written, joking that it was a shame that neither of us had a classical education and thus couldn’t read the note he had written in Greek. Well, I certainly hadn’t had a classical education at Oklahoma Christian College or Missouri Southern College, but a bored English teacher who ended up at my high school in the Ozarks had whimsically decided to pull four of us who had thoughts of entering the ministry from Senior English and teach us Greek. While I learned Koine Greek (the Greek of the New Testament), there was enough overlap with the Attic Greek Philip had written to allow me to translate the message as something on the lines of “With all love and care.”
Philip followed my translation with a flood of stuttered explanations and rationalizations dealing with the Greeks’ multiple definitions of “love,” the feelings of two academic colleagues for one another, the cavalier usage of the term, … . All these excuses, however, were wasted on me. The notion that there might be a spark of illicit affection between Julie and Philip never intruded into my consciousness. I do recall, to my chagrin, the hope that Julie would be impressed by my knowledge of Greek.
Turns out, she was.
Still, in this case, winning her admiration probably wasn’t the optimal or most pertinent choice of focus.
What I’ve since determined about my embraced obliviousness and its implications vis-à-vis Julie await the second part of this posting.
For more information about Julie Showalter and her writings as well as instructions for finding all of the Julie’s Story posts and downloading a PDF version of all the posts comprising Julie’s Story, go to Julie Showalter FAQ.
- Julie Showalter was the fiercely intelligent, sexy, and loving woman and prize-winning author, with whom I had a outrageously wonderful 20 year marriage that ended with her death in late 1999 from cancer diagnosed the week of our wedding nearly 20 years earlier. Many posts on this blog are about her, our unlikely romance, and our life together, and still others consist of her writings. Information can be found at Julie Showalter FAQ. [↩]