Letters to Strangers: Così Fan Tutte

That is, perhaps, why my new job may just end up saving me. For the first time, I am bound by contract to interact with other people… in droves. And while people are still not my primary choice of company, they are no longer last on the list either. Armed with self-deprecation, I think I can deflect any particularly pointed judgments thrown my way. My pathological fear of people is amplified a thousand-fold as a teacher, especially when I recall how my friends and I used to mock our own teachers. Setting them apart, as a different species – flawed, formidable and frivolous – infuriatingly peppered with the presumption that they were capable of ‘teaching’ us anything. So I hope that laughing my way through two hours and overt obsequiousness will keep my students from hating me.

University campuses provide an odd moratorium on both life and reality. Places where learning is contagious and there is no warranty on the watershed of ideas. 
 And then, there is also the charm of being on a campus again. University campuses provide an odd moratorium on both life and reality. Places where learning is contagious and there is no warranty on the watershed of ideas. I wish I could tell my students that this is the only time in life that they will get to do this: have big ideas and not have them belittled; think big thoughts and believe them to be big enough; make friends and keep them. I have recently taken to walking around campus after wrapping up my classes with my headphones plugged in and listening to the closing act of Swan Lake. Now that is November at its best, coupled with the occasional chili prawns from the cafeteria soaked in just the right consistency of unpalatable grease; grading that unicorn-ian brilliant essay plopped onto a cushion in my office; toes basking in my Uggs with fingers wrapped around a hot cup of coffee.

That is how I stumbled upon Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, K588 the day before yesterday. The Italian opera buffa literally means ‘Thus Do They All’ (or The School for Lovers) with the latter libretto penned by Lorenzo Da Ponte. Technically, the title means ‘Thus Do All Women” and the music strives to capture the duality of women, as sung by men who could never comprehend them. I’ve been listening to it on loop, and while my mind has trouble agreeing with the intonation of all the silly things women are meant to symbolize, my heart cannot help but melt at Mozart’s rendering. Especially given the fact that Mozart fell far below the standards of what anyone would consider a gentleman. It is almost as though a Lost Boy, perhaps even Pan himself, composed a song for a girl and lacked the courage to play it. I can relate, especially, because I am finally meeting and mingling with women and ironically, not loathing the experience. As someone who has generally found it difficult to cultivate friendships with my own sex, it is a relief to scratch some very brittle surfaces and discover kindred souls struggling with the same emotional see-saws.  I have been trying to incorporate these people in my life on a semi-regular basis, and it has proven to be a formidable but fruitful task. This is perhaps the best of any worlds I have ever experienced. I hesitate to call it this, but it is almost a state of grace: aloneness… with options.

While I am enjoying the company immensely, I know myself well enough to know that I will never enjoy it enough to submerse myself in it completely. I have and always will be one of those ‘periphery-friends’. You know, the ones people remember as an afterthought: “Whatever happened to her? Where is she these days?”

I will never be someone’s somebody because I can’t reciprocate that need. That isn’t to say I don’t ever feel such a need; it’s an appealing thought. The theory of having ‘your person’ in the world, pro-choice, at your beck and call to complete your sentences, thoughts and blanks. My failing lies in a fatuous self-love cloaked (or cloaking, have never been able to really figure out which) as self-loathing. I’ve always lived on the romantic table scraps of being that girl who is hard to forget but even harder to remember.


Maria Amir is Features Editor for the magazine.