‘Twas the Night Before: Chapter 5: Tom and Noella, Part Four
Well, Tom Douten may be the most likeable LaJenkinsian hero ever, but he’s a total ass here.
It’s time for Tom and Noella’s first fight!
They go to a Bulls game and meet a pal of Tom’s, a sportswriter for the Tribune named Bart. The Chicago Educational Association gives out calculators at the game as the freebie.
Seriously, calculators??? I admit I haven’t been to a ton of professional sporting events, but don’t they usually give out towels or spongy We’re #1 hands or pompoms or something?
But hey, it serves the very important purpose of making Bart and Tom talk about education!
“A two-dollar calculator more than makes up for the education I got.” [said Tom]
“I learned more from my editors and colleagues than I ever did in class,” Bart said.
“Course you didn’t spend a whole lot of time in class!” Tom said.
“Probably the best thing that ever happened to me. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”
“The problem with my teachers,” Tom said, “was that they could neither do nor teach!”
Noella is standing RIGHT THERE. So this is pretty shitty of Tom.
Noella said, “I owe a lot to my teachers. Maybe I was just lucky”
“You were sure!” Tom said. “Course if I’d had a prof like you–”
“You’d probably have flunked out.”
And for a brief shiny moment, I am totally on Noella’s side. YOU GO GIRL.
Suddenly Jenkins tells us how Tom feels.
He was humiliated…
Yeah, I bet. He kinda deserves to be. But you know what’s weird? Jenkins didn’t use his Authorial Omniscience to tell us how Noella was feeling while the two men were disparaging her entire profession.
Then again, I’m not sure I want to know, given the words that next come out of Noella’s mouth. To me, there are two hot issues here:
1. Tom is biased against an entire profession. That’s pretty rude no matter what that profession is. As a girlfriend, I would worry about such a person’s ability to judge people as individuals.
2. Tom is biased against his girlfriend’s profession in particular. Again, as a girlfriend, I would worry about this: if he doesn’t respect what I have devoted my life to, how can he respect me?
When Bart leaves and Tom and Noella begin to fight in earnest, this is one of Noella’s first points:
“If your friend was the writer you are, Tom, would he have devoted his whole life to sportswriting?”
Um, wha? So, Noella, your response to someone disparaging your profession is to disparage his? Yeah, what a low-class gig, sportswriter for the CHICAGO TRIBUNE.
And isn’t Noella a JOURNALISM PROFESSOR? Does she tell her students that they’re lousy writers if they end up covering sports for major newspapers?
This is what I mean. Noella isn’t upset because Tom dissed educators. She’s upset because some lowly sportswriter disparaged educators.
But oh, there’s more. Because Tom doesn’t Get It yet:
“You’d have a lot more impact if you’d do what you teach.”
“My writing is a hobby? Is that what you’re saying?”
“I’m saying you should be a writer instead of a prof.”
“You said yourself my writing was only facile.”
OH MY GAWD YOU DUMB CHICK HE ALSO SAID THAT “FACILE” IS, IN HIS VIEW, A VERY HIGH COMPLIMENT
It’s actually kinda fascinating that Tom uses facile as a compliment. It is a word with multiple meanings. At least one is a negative meaning (lacking depth or sincerity) and at least one is a positive meaning (quick, poised, easy-to-understand). Tom has complimented her writing TWICE using this word, each time specifying that he means it in the best possible sense. So basically, Noella’s just being intentionally obtuse here.
Noella then makes the issue one of confidence: that Tom has confidence in his writing, and not everyone has that. Which, okay, part of a teacher’s job is to impart confidence in students, but again, this is NOT THE HOT ISSUE.
Tom seems to think that when Noella cites a lack of confidence, she is talking about herself. So he brings up her supportive family. Noella snaps:
“Don’t make me tell you every detail of what appears an idyllic upbringing. You don’t have a monopoly on pain.”
That’s true, but how is Tom supposed to know that about Noella IF SHE DOESN’T TELL HIM???
(Jenkins tells us that Noella’s father was a brooding professor of history who was unaffectionate towards his daughter. Which is all well and good, but again, TOM DOESN’T KNOW THAT.)
But fear not, Noella has Tom trained well…
Tom felt like an idiot. He couldn’t find the words to apologize. He shook his head and tried to communicate with his eyes.
“I love you too,” she said. “And you’re not going to scare me off.”
He leaned toward her, and she pecked him on the cheek.
Thus, they make up.
GEEZ, I hate that whole “you won’t scare me off” thing. It just smacks of game-playing. People don’t say what they really mean, they say things in order to mess with your head.
Oh, and let’s bear something in mind: TOM HAS NOT YET SAID THAT HE LOVES NOELLA. At this point, they have been dating for about six weeks. So it is awfully presumptuous and manipulative of Noella to “know” that Tom is saying “I love you” with his eyes.
And I hate that lean-in-for-the-cheek-peck, too. It is so cowed and submissive.
So, to sum up: Tom started it, but Noella came out worse in The First Fight.
Next up: Meet the Families!
p.s. It occurs to me that I have to step up the pace a bit to get this done before Wintermas ends. So expect the posts to come quicker for the next couple of weeks!