If I were marrying today instead of over 60 years ago, there is no question that I would retain my birth name. However, attitudes were different then, and right after my marriage toward the end of my senior year at the University of Pennsylvania, I notified my various professors about my change of surname. In the first class I attended after my big day, Professor Thomas P. Haviland, whose large lecture class on the work of John Milton I was enrolled in, called the roll, as usual going in alphabetical order. I zoned out waiting for the W’s, when I was aroused from my reverie by an awareness that my fellow students were looking at me. “Olds,” said Professor Haviland. And I realized that this was the third time he had spoken the unfamiliar name. “Are you present?” he asked, looking right at me. And so I acknowledged my new identity.
Dr. Haviland had known about my marriage ahead of time. A week or two before the wedding I had dropped him this note:
“A funny thing happened in town yesterday. My fiancé and I bumped into a friend. Gordon, seeing the books under my arm and knowing I was taking your course, asked me which I was reading in preparation for my marriage: Paradise Lost or Paradise Regain’d. When I showed him the cover to The Inferno, he was what is known in radio talk as “visibly shook up.”
Dr. Haviland’s response when he handed back the note: “Just so it wasn’t The Beautiful and `Damned!”
Post a Comment