A colleague I follow on Twitter commented yesterday that she found this article about Alice Waters eye-roll-inducing. I have to agree. My impulse is not to eye-roll, but to cringe, to feel embarrassed for this man that he felt such unadulterated admiration, that he didn’t know it was one of Alice Waters’ “moves” when she made him “the Egg,” and, moreover, that he wrote about the whole thing. But I had to ask myself why. I don’t really have anything against Alice Waters. This dude is just a fan, just someone talking about what he loves.
But I have a deeply ingrained aversion to being a fan of anyone. I have no heros. I like books, not their authors. I like songs, not bands. I love a number of people very much and there are scores of others I am grateful to for making the world a better place, but I would be hard-pressed to tell you five people who I admire. To some extent, this is a product of my logical soul, which finds a little bit of fault and beauty in everything. But it is also a defensive maneuver: my first-born, Leo sense of self-importence combined with a childhood so devoid of pop-culture I felt the need to hate my friend’s New Kids On the Block tube socks because I didn’t understand them.
I never fully realized these things about myself until I met Jeff and saw that, as ambitious and driven as he is, there is a deep well reserved in his heart for things that truly deserve his full admiration. There’s also a lot of space for the things he hates. He will express these feelings honestly, impulsively and without any regard for what might be out of fashion or politicly insensitive. And if someone is better than him, ego never stops him from admitting it.
His habit for speaking passionately about all his favorite things is one of the reasons I fell in love with him. But if Jeff loves you, you will never read about it in the New York Times. You probably won’t see it on Facebook. He can be as private as he is passionate and, unlike this piece by Alice Waters’ biggest fan, Jeff’s praise never has an undercurrent of self-promotion. If you are lucky enough to be his student – as I have been many times in many ways – he will skillfully draw you into the details of a movie plot or the song-saving perfection of a particular cymbal crash, generously unfolding its beauty and a rare piece of himself in the process.
I admire Jeff for this, and even after eight years of marriage I am still actively grateful that I am one of the things he decided to love.
So, Honey, this is my anniversary card to you. I know you might cringe because it is public, but I’ve told stories about you for years – your calamities and misadventures, your mixed record with the salvation of small animals (for the curious, birds tend to fare better than mice). Though all of my stories are born of love, I thought you deserved a public declaration that I understand the best parts of you, too. And I know you will recognize in my words that which gives you the deepest peace: I know you to the very corners of your soul where the lint collects from new socks, and I love you anyway. Always have, always will. I’m your biggest fan. Happy anniversary.