Here, in honor of Valentine’s Day, is a guest blog about how Gina Barreca met her husband. A Professor of English Literature and Feminist Theory at the University of Connecticut, Dr. Barreca (www.ginabarreca.com) is a popular speaker at professional conferences the world over and author of eight books, including, most recently, “It’s Not That I’m Bitter,” and the bestselling “They Used To Call Me Snow White, But I Drifted.”
You know exactly how your father and I met. We met 22 years ago at work. I’d been teaching there for a year while he’d been on sabbatical, so we were introduced only after I’d pretty much met everybody else in the Department.
But you might not know that I actually remember the first time I saw your dad: he came into the faculty lunchroom wearing a crisp blue suit — he was still on sabbatical, living out of town, dropping by just to say “hi” after a meeting with a publisher — and the rest of the professorial yahoos teased him mercilessly.
“You just come from your First Communion?” was one remark I remember. I think it was the former Department Chair who said that.
It’s true that they all adored your dad and that they were torturing him precisely because it was a show of masculine affection, but they had a woman sitting at the table now.
Having already learned to ignore the riff-raff, I complimented your father, telling him that he looked very handsome, and his face lit up. After everybody went “OOOOooooo” as if we were all in fifth-grade, your father and I were introduced.
We didn’t see one another again for six months or so, until he moved back into town and resumed teaching. You were young teenagers then, stung by your parents’ separation and baffled by the ways your own lives were changing. The last thing you wanted was to be introduced to some new woman he was seeing. You wanted your social lives to have their appropriate space. Dealing with your father’s emerging romantic involvement did not fit into the blueprint. There wasn’t any designated spot for me.
But we figured it out. Amazing? Absolutely.
It wasn’t easy, but we all worked at it. And the very act of “trying to get it right” (and knowing there is no real “right”) is what has made us a family—and a strong, confident family—during the twenty years your father and I have been married.
You both have joyful, lasting, loving marriages of your own now and that’s a tribute to your own resilience, intelligence, and—let’s face it—sense of adventure.
You know marriage isn’t easy and that it isn’t simply based on good intentions and luck. You know that any important relationship is grounded in a willingness to understand, accept, and enjoy the other person.
You know that we love you. And now you know about the First Communion Suit. Feel free to tease him mercilessly.
XXXOOO Your Stepmother, Gina