Despite how much I loved her I only pretended to read Proust

My introduction to the world of ‘serious’ dating involved me taking up with an ‘intellectual’ manqué.  She’d searched high and low to find a dude who could match her in wit, wisdom, and snobbery. And then she found me.

I don’t know if, at the age of 18, if I matched her in any of the above qualities and traits, but I was determined to give it the old college try. She was worth it. She was not only smart, but she was infinitely attractive in appearance, dressed in a cool, often eccentric manner years before the sartorial whimsy of hippiedom appeared on the scene, and she was very avant-garde in her attitudes about human sexuality. Her at-home garb often consisted of a muumuu and literally nothing else.

But, she also bandied around terms like baroque and existential. I, who didn’t then know my Sartre from cole slaw was faced with a challenge that could only call me up to the mark if I wished to explore all that which was concealed by the muumuu. I not only had to talk the talk, I also had to perform. Well, in one regard that was not difficult, but in another it meant I had to come up to her intellectual mark. And she had high standards.

Theretofore I had, as a teenage boy in the 1960s, mainly concerned myself rock-and-roll and the hit parade chart (not John Coltrane or Charlie Parker – “Who they? Did you dig the new Dion and the Belmonts platter?”). cars, whether or not the waterfall hairdo was acceptable still, and what’s with this ivy-league shit and those Beach Boys guys?

Prior to our (I shall keep her nameless) relationship (which last two years as steadies) I’d harbored a massive crush on another young lady. I fancied she was the love of my life and I fully believed that if she and I were to link up it would be a love story that would last down the ages. I was terribly romantic at the time. Actually I still am. She was cute as a bug’s ear, was adorably curvaceous, was a cheerleader and though I wasn’t perceptive enough to recognize it at the time, had ‘Future Housewife of Canada’ written all over her. Anyway, that relationship (which wasn’t except in my fervid imaginings) was for naught. And I had somebody better.

As time passed I worked diligently to meet her mark, and she never once saw through the fact that I had to undergo some major changes in terms of interests. Fortunately, I was already an avid reader and got to the point I could actually wow her with some of the stuff I knew. I also pretended to have read Proust and Joyce’s Ulysses  (I figured I was safe there because I didn’t believe she’d read them either.)I also made an attempt to write a novel for her at the time. She was to be the love interest. My early writing aspirations were for naught and it was really awful stuff, but she thought it was wonderful. I mean, we were 19 and 18 by this point, so you can’t expect too much.

And, in our time together we became a bit insufferable and spent much time mocking those friends who did not meet our exalted standards of intellectuality. We were filled with the most bitchy disdain. We also did the trendy stuff of the day, like embracing folk singers and went to concerts featuring Josh White, the Limelighters and Belafonte. We hung out in coffee houses and I actually read On the Road and Dharma Bums. We had fantasies of a loft in NYC, London or Paris, or all three of them at different times in our fruitful and productive lives.

But hey, we were young and very unformed. I met somebody else and fell for her and she didn’t go around dissing people she felt were her inferiors and, you know, I found that kind of refreshing.

And my gorgeous and very smart inamorata – she went and married a jock.

Go figure. Youth truly is wasted on the young.

(By the way, the events of this tale took place quite a few years after 1955)

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6 responses to “Despite how much I loved her I only pretended to read Proust

  1. I have trouble imagining you as a snooty intellectual.

    And who the hell knew bugs had cute ears (and in my opinion, no snooty intellectual would ever use that expression).

  2. And who the hell would want to read Proust…old fart supreme!
    Joyce is something else, though.

    • I still haven’t read Proust and have no intention of ever so doing. As for Joyce, love much of his stuff and, of course, the smutty Molly Bloom bits in Ulysses.

  3. My husband always says that everyone who says they have read “Ulysses” is lying. He’s no snob, just an avid reader of everything and he pronounced it unreadable. I dated a Duke law student for a short time and we had dinner with his friends one night – a couple who were also Duke graduate students. When the girl found out I was not only not a Duke student, but had done only one year at a state university, she went out of her way to make me feel like a yokel. What a bitch. (I dealt with it by posing provocatively all night and being super girly as I was much better looking than she was.)

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