Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dodge the Sirens

"I'm reading The Iliad for the second time," he said proudly. His tone seemed to imply wonder on my behalf. Except for one little glitch . . .

In elementary school the students would receive the state-issue reader, which usually had a Greek myth tucked in somewhere that I would read on the sly, hidden from my teachers, since Hellenism and Judaism have long been historic enemies. But I figured it could be no worse than any other fairy tale, and I found them fascinating as well as morally instructive. 

My parents were quite entertained whenever I could pull a polysyllabic name out of the air, and encouraged this fixation. On a family trip they purchased The Odyssey for me at a used-book store. I was ten or so, and slogged through; I eventually re-tackled the Homeric classics at an older age, when a college class helpfully broke it down. 

Meaning, I was excited to have stumbled upon a mutually interesting topic with a date! He's re-reading it, right, so we can go into detail! 

"I love Homer! Doesn't that scene kill you, when Priam goes to Achilles to beg for the return of Hector's body?"
He nodded politely. 

"I also find the Greek perception of prophecy as compared to the Jewish to be so odd, y'know?" 

I enthusiastically continued with my hypothesis, and being a little on the dim side it took me a while to realize he wasn't jumping eagerly into this discourse, which was obviously one-sided. There was also a touch of panic in his eyes. 

"Then when Agamemnon and Cassandra . . ." I slowly braked to a halt. Relief crept into his irises. 

Oh, I see.  

That's why I don't claim to be knowledgeable about anything that I'm not on a date, unless it has been already been definitively proved he doesn't know it, either. 

Well, this awkward moment could have been completely avoided.


Daniel Saunders said...

I find the idea of lying or grossly exaggerating on a date counter-productive. If the point is to find a partner for whom I am suited, why pretend to be something I'm not and risk spending the rest of my life maintaining the pretence? Better to be honest and find someone who wants the real me.

Sporadic Intelligence said...


What an ultracrepidarian! (I knew the word before Freakonomics wrote about it!...basically a shorter way of saying someone who talks about things they don't know)


Sarah said...

That sounds like something my sister would say. There should be a club for all the frum Iliad enthusiasts out there :)
I sometimes monologue as well, but generally about Hamlet (the play; the character is clearly disturbed in numerous ways) or any science or international politics. If I'm not familiar with a topic, I don't talk much about it, either.

FrumGeek said...

I've read the Illiad a couple of times. I enjoyed it enough, but it doesn't mean I could discuss it in detail. Its a hard thing to get through. Like I have peices of classical music I really enjoy, but I can't discuss that in detail either.

Princess Lea said...

DS: Isn't it? Aren't we here to be our (somewhat) honest selves? Although, my theory was that he was sure I wasn't well-read enough for him, and that totally blew up in his face.

SI: That word rocks. I have to work that into casual conversation, somehow.

Sarah: I totally monologue. You should hear me blather on about the Shoftim. Then the guy is all, "What's happening?" when I'm trying to get him to join in.

Ah, "Hamlet." My go-to is "Much Ado About Nothing"; the reposts between Benedict and Beatrice are a hoot and a half.

The trick is, if one wants to impress with a field of unfamiliar expertise, to lightly touch upon it and move off quickly. "I've skimmed 'The Iliad,' but was never able to read it in the depth I would like."

FG: It is hard to get through, but then if I don't really know enough about anything I wouldn't bring it up. Or, he could have amended the original statement like, "I'm trying to read 'The Iliad' for the second time, but man, is it dense." That shows an interest in the classics, perseverance, but not claiming expertise.