Some women are nice. Others are vamps.
I am nice. My cousin is a vamp.
That is flattering, but it is a little like being Princess Mary Bolkonskaya in War and Peace. She is so kind, religious, dutiful, and loving that she even comforts the French governess who makes out with her own blind date, Prince Anatole Kuragin.
And you have to drop everything to listen to people’s problems because for God’s sake you’re only reading.
I was rereading War and Peace and had just gotten to the chapter where Princess Mary, looking ridiculous in a fashionable dress and hair style contrived by her sister-in-law and the governess, first meets Prince Anatole Kuragin.
The phone rang.
I asked my cousin, “Aren’t you on your date?”
“Yes, but Kat, you have to come here. I told him all about you. ”
“He doesn’t need to know about me.
“Please, I need you. I’m already in love.”
“I’m in my pajamas.”
I realized that if she was talking about me to someone she had just met she was about to do something outrageous–something along the lines of good girl/bad girl, “compare and contrast,” right?–so I threw a sweater on over my pajamas/sweatpants and walked to the coffeehouse.
She rushed over radiantly when I came in the door. “That’s him. He’s a god.”
I stared. “That’s not the guy in the picture!”
I had an urge to comb my hair. That doesn’t come over me very often.
My friend Janet and I had gone through the match.com profiles for her and selected a date because she always chooses the wrong man.
“He has a Ph.D. in classics,” my cousin hissed.
I started laughing. “No, he doesn’t.”
“Maybe not, but he has a master’s in classics.”
“No, he doesn’t. Why am I here?”
“Because he mentioned Catullus and I don’t want to look stupid.”
I sat down at the table in my pajamas, hair uncombed. It turned out he did know Latin, and had quoted the first couple of lines of Catullus’s “You will dine well if you bring your own” poem (in English), because he wanted to take my cousin to a cheap restaurant.
We talked a little about our old school, biscuits and gravy at Bruce’s, and the Jordan River, a small stream on our campus where everybody…
He was very slightly flirtatious in a respectful way. “Are you sure you’re not my date?”
I beamed over my glasses.
He invited me to join his study group. Each month somebody gives a paper, and they all read a lot of books. What could be more fun, right?
My cousin said she didn’t want to join a study group. Wouldn’t he like to go dancing? She looked daggers at me.
So I rose from the table, laughing. “Well, I should get going. So nice to meet you.”
And it was. So polite! So sweet!
I called my friend Janet immediately, and we hope my cousin is nice to him, because if she isn’t, Janet wants to go out with him.
“God, I’m not answering my phone anymore,” I said.
And Janet agreed that might be wise.
Catullus 13. trans. by Leonard C. Smithers, 1894
You will feast well with me, my Fabullus, in a few days, if the gods favour you, provided you bring here with you a good and great feast, not forgetting a radiant girl and wine and wit and all kinds of laughter. Provided, I say, you bring them here, our charming friend, you will feast well: for your Catullus’ purse is full with cobwebs. But in return you will receive a pure love, or what is sweeter or more elegant: for I will give you an unguent which the Venuses and Cupids gave to my girl, which, when you smell it, you will entreat the gods to make you, Fabullus, all Nose!