I remember that afternoon at the office water cooler. Two of my co-workers were discussing their summer reading lists. I jumped in to the conversation by admitting I couldn’t remember the last time I had read a book and I was curious if they had any recommendations.
When I was growing up, if I didn’t have a Barbie in my hand, I had a book. Yes, I was that kid. It started with an encyclopedia of dinosaurs followed by the Babysitters’ Club, Sweet Valley High, and Michael Crichton. As an adult, I never saw much appeal in self help, non-fiction, and the other trendy titles I usually saw my demographic reading. In fact, I question whether or not they were only pretending to read; intending for some other adult to notice and start a conversation that would make them feel like a better person for reading whatever it was that they were pretending to read.
My co-workers suggested a book I had heard of many times before, but had never actually read: Pride and Prejudice.
“How have you NEVER read that?” they questioned. They were giggling and talking about their favorite parts without giving away the story. I didn’t like being judged unfavorably by them and grabbed a copy before my rail commute home. I was a work-zombie and all zombies conform. I wanted to be able to participate in the water cooler conversations, not be the grumpy old woman shouting for quiet in the office.
I read the first paragraph three or four times. The language was a tough pill to swallow. It was obviously written at a time before we started using words like LOL to express what Jane Austen might have described with the word follies. After the second paragraph and then the third, I made progress and adjusted to the language.
Just as my rail commute was coming to an end, I met a man who changed my life. As though I was in that room when Mr. Bingley and his party arrived, my heart fluttered at the mention of Mr. Darcy. There wasn’t a lengthy description or an illustration, but he had an attitude I was inevitably attracted to. After all, we always want what we can’t have.
I was thinking about Mr. Darcy all evening, and wondered when I might have the opportunity to meet him again. I tucked myself into bed early and continued reading. It was getting late and time for a bookmark (like the kind of bookmark you put between pages) when I read one of the most incredible things ever written.
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
“I love you too!” I wanted to declare my own love for Mr. Darcy in return, or at least scream like I had for New Kids on the Block all those years ago (I think today girls are screaming for Beiber, but I’m not really sure what that is).
Within a day I had finished Pride and Prejudice. My love for Mr. Darcy motivated me to find and make time. I always hated that lonely feeling of closing the back cover of a book and returning to reality. I hated leaving my Darcy.
I did what everyone does these days with good books, and looked for film versions. But even Colin FIrth couldn’t replace my Mr. Darcy. My Mr. Darcy is super human and for me alone. No mortal actor could portray him.
I can’t remember the last time a book had such a lasting impact on me. It might be silly of me, but I absolutely am in love with Mr. Darcy or at least the idea of him.
I thought I was loosing my mind when I started to notice similarities between my husband and Mr. Darcy as I attempted to make him real. I was always proud to announce to my husband when he reminded me of Mr. Darcy.
But then I realized I was wrong. I understood how and why I could fall in love with a character who wasn’t real.
My husband wasn’t like Mr. Darcy, Mr. Darcy was like my husband.
I hadn’t fallen in love with a name and a character in a book, I had fallen in love with a real man long before I ever met Fitzwilliam Darcy.