About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My Mr. Darcy

Over the past couple of weeks I have been so caught up in the PBS production of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Sure, I read Austen in high school and college English classes--or maybe I just did the Cliff Notes. None were memorable enough to make me even want to see any of the Austen films or delve deeper into her writings. PBS's Pride and Prejudice has changed all that. The film has touched my heart because it reminds me that long ago I had my own Mr. Darcy.

Fitzwilliam Darcy, played by Colin Firth, is a man in conflict. From their first meeting he admires and eventually grows to love the beautiful and intelligent Elizabeth Bennet, played by Jennifer Ehle. This regard for her increases despite his distaste for her coarse, grasping mother, silly sisters, and weak father. Elizabeth is proud, but cleared-eyed when it comes to her family's shortcomings. She sees what they are doing to diminish the family's oh so important social status in an age when rank and reputation was everything. She warns her father that he must check the behavior of her younger sisters before lasting damage is done to the family. In this concern she is wise beyond her years. Sadly, her father's failures to rein in his daughters and challenge his wife almost doom the relationship between Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet.

That relationship had a rocky beginning. Mr. Darcy was distant and proud in his interactions with Elizabeth, although he was impressed with her beauty, intelligence, and social conduct. Their exchanges were between equals. When Mr. Darcy could no longer keep quiet about his feelings and burst into the Bennet's home to propose to Elizabeth it was bad. He essentially told her that neither she nor her family was worth his attention, but he must marry her anyway. Miss Bennet, to her credit, told him to get lost and quit interfering with her family. . .

My Mr. Darcy was complicating my life over 40 years ago. I was 20 years old and a college sophomore when I met him. Like Austen's Darcy, Ed was a dark-haired, handsome man. He was no Colin Firth, but he did share some of Mr. Darcy's more maddening characteristics--distant, proud, judgmental. I, on the other hand, had a definite streak of Miss Bennet in me.

Ed and I were both English majors. He was a year ahead of me in college. We were in classes together, studied together and generally hung out for quite some time. We had great discussions and shared the same sarcastic wit. Neither of us was very easy with the whole dating ritual.

Our living arrangements complicated the relationship even more. Ed lived on campus during the week and went home every weekend--a weekend warrior--to a doting family of his mother and several sisters. I lived off campus with a young family, earning money for college expenses by being a mother's helper. I had a wonderful life, but it was hard to be a part of the college scene without staying on campus.

So, Ed and I attended classes together, helped each other write papers and eventually starting some half-hearted dating. The relationship was hard from the beginning. Both of us were shy and proud, unwilling to go out on a limb by revealing any true feelings that we had for each other. There would be weeks when we would be very distant--no calls, no after class chats. I knew that the interest was still there though. Remember how Mr. Darcy would stand by the window or sit across the room observing Elizabeth? Well, Ed did the same thing. I also worked at the circulating desk of the university library. Ed always chose to do his studying when I was working. He always sat where he could see my desk, always studying alone, taking a break when I did.

Our friends watched us in despair--we were so inept at the relationship even though it was obvious that there was a real attraction between us. This photo is from a 1965 surprise 20th birthday party arranged by my young family. My more socially adept friends, like David and Sharon, were responsible for getting Mr. Anti-social to the party. Unlike Mr Darcy, Ed even danced that night.

Unlike Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet, our relationship remained complicated, although long lasting. Ed graduated a year before me, leaving campus without promising to stay in touch. I was broken hearted but recovered. Life was good at the time. I was busy learning to be a good teacher and living on my own in Kentucky and Florida.

As happens so often, I did meet up with Ed again. We found ourselves together again in graduate English literature classes. I'd be lying if I said that this was anything but hard for me. However, by that time Ed was married--a mistake from the wedding day he said. . .but he had a daughter whom he adored. I remember that we had a cup of coffee and one of our long chats after class for old times sake, but that was it. Too little, too late.

Pride and Prejudice is a great love story with lessons for us all. Willingness to communicate, to set aside pride and act with compassion and grace brought Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet together in the end. Maybe if my Mr. Darcy and I had tried harder our story would have ended differently. . .


Kaycie said...

Um, Faye, are you 80? You look damn good for 80.

I saw your comment somewhere else about Bas Bleu. I googled it. Uh-oh, I think I'm in trouble.

Patience-please said...

No wonder you were an English major: you have the same math skills as I do!
Lovely story..


Faye said...

Good spotting Kaycie--where is Laurie the Editor when we need her?? Make that 40 years of complications NOT 60--but do I still look good???

Yes, a book lover like you would really appreciate Bas Bleu--they specialize in "small" writings--not so much of the megahits. Also really wonderful books for children.

Patience--I understand now, my Mr. Darcy just didn't go for older women!

KAREN said...

I love Pride and Prejudice (and Colin Firth...who doesn't??) but I think some things are not meant to be, and you might have driven each other mad if you'd stayed together!

Kaycie said...

Yes, Faye, you look damn good for 60!

laurie said...

that's a great and poignant story, very nicely told (and illustrated).

and i may be an editor but i'm lousy at math and probably woudln't have noticed how much you aged yourself.

(side note: i used to be addicted to the bas bleu catalog.)

Lane said...

I wondered about your age too! And yes you still look good:-)

The ending of P&P is ultimately satisfying isn't it. Sadly life can't always be so tidy. Are lost 'Mr Darcys' mistakes or just never meant to be? Who knows.

Lovely story faye and thanks. Great photos too:-)

Debs said...

I loved reading your story although I was sad that it didn't end as you maybe would have liked.

Mind you when I was 16/17 I had that sort of relationship and he went away to his famiy's estate in england...eventually we met again in our mid-twenties and ended up marrying...but then divorcing and now I can see him for the pain in the bum he is.

At least, having gone through all that I now have no romantic notions about him at all.

Randy and Kim said...

English teachers/insructors/professors were my favorite faculty members in a world where I wanted to excel - thinking I could make it in the literary world. My studies focused on Journalism and Literature, but as events and circumstances changed, I found myself in the medical field. So I envy you though your story is one of triumph and and semi-tragedy (I think you did well). We never know where our actions will take us or what would have happened if we were to take a different road. But you have a snapshot of what was and a dream of what could have been. That is a gift - knowing that these events may have never materialized whatsoever.
I might have to start looking for a book or passage that sums up portions of my life. I am afraid.... NLM

Lady Temptress said...

You have a great outlook and I agree with our own Mr. Darcy outlook. I am sad that you and your Mr. Darcy didn't work out, but there are always reasons and those experiences make us stronger in the end.