I have a confession to make.
I wasn’t going to say anything about it, especially in so public a forum as this, but it’s been eating away at me. I’ve been living with this secret weighing upon me day after day and I just don’t think I can bear it any longer. I hope none of you will think the less of me for it, but I simply cannot remain silent anymore.
I am having an affair.
A steamy, torrid, passionate affair right under the nose of the man who I am eternally bound to. I have secret trysts in the library after lectures. I leave my apartment constantly peering over my shoulder for fear that My Man won’t buy the lame excuse of “lunch with the girls” again. I creep into my armchair with my sordid companion knowing that someday my Beloved will look out from his perch on my bookshelf and see, his vision suddenly cleared. Those little “homework sessions” weren’t so innocent. The time I spent thumbing through pages was perhaps a bit too tender, too enthralled, too loving. The hours of research weren’t just for class, they were for something more, something dangerous, something that perhaps could be a huge detriment to our relationship.
I’m cheating on Shakespeare with Jane Austen.
At first it was innocent. That class reading wasn’t going to do itself. I had to spend quality time with Jane, my syllabus (Lord High Ruler of my life), demanded it. But then, somewhere midway through Northanger Abbey, it changed. No longer was I just doing class reading. No longer was I taking notes to keep myself awake. I began to enjoy her company. I was enraptured, captivated by her wit and charm. Mesmerized by the research prospects and the impact it could have on my greater sphere of work. I became a woman possessed, slave to the wiles of another author.
I deluded myself for a long time. It’s easy to do. “It’s okay to think whatever I want to think, it’s just a crush, it’s natural.” “Everyone has urges to stray, the important part is that they don’t follow them. Fidelity is achieved by action, not thought.” “It’s just one cuddle session, it doesn’t mean anything. I bet Will has them with other girls all the time.” “We’re like SISTERS, we can totally spend time together!”
I didn’t realize how serious things had become until I picked up Pride and Prejudice. I opened the novel, breathe bated. I eagerly anticipated that infamous opening line. Those words that were just so funny, so re-assuring, so much like home that I wondered why it had taken me so long to return to one of my favorite books. I prepared, primped, projected… and then… they were there. In front of me. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” I smiled and felt Her bubble up from the pages to embrace me and I fell into that embrace contented, comforted, keen.
There was no doubt about it. This was going to be a serious problem.
It’s not like you can’t love two people at once, right? Juliet herself says it, “My bounty is as boundlesse as the Sea,/My Loue as deepe, the more I giue to thee/The more I haue, for both are Infinite…” (Romeo and Juliet, 934-936). Love doesn’t run out. It’s not like I’m taking anything away from Shakespeare by loving Austen. He can’t miss me that much, there are so many other scholars still talking about him… I’m sure he’s barely noticed that I’m gone. And besides, I’ll be back. This is just for a semester… just for this one class… or maybe a year if I wind up conferencing with my paper… or maybe two or three if it gets published….
Oh god. I’m going to have to tell him. That’s all there is to it. It’s been going on too long, I’m sure he sees that something is wrong, I just hope he realizes that it’s me and not him. And that, once this is all over, I’ll be back to him. He has my intellectual attention now and forever and nobody can take his place in my heart. Not even a women who wrote such funny prose about some amazing characters and whose works offer a plethora of opportunities for…
No. Stop. I’m telling Will. And I’ll do something nice for him. Maybe pay him some homage by lecturing the kids at fight call this weekend about the bad Hamlet quartos…