My girlfriend adores Jane Austen. From head to toe she is a pure Janeite. I mean this in a rather literal sense, as Austen’s signature handwriting decorates her left wrist and shoulder. Around the time I was lucky enough to meet her, I was studying Austen’s “Emma” in a university literary theory course. I still remember some of our first conversations, and seeing her eyes light up when we talked about Mr. Knightley’s witty remarks and Emma’s general nastiness towards Harriet. Together, after a busy academic schedule, we would find a comfy spot to sit on campus; I would sip a black coffee and she would drink a French vanilla. Conversations would drift from Austen to other authors. Those conversations would then drift to us talking about our lives. We laughed, we conversed, we bonded, and I grew closer to her than I’ve ever felt I could with anyone. Deciding that she would make me a Janeite too, we went on a date to the Black Cat used bookstore. She gave me a copy of “Pride and Prejudice”, carefully noting all her favourite scenes. The copy stayed with me, resting on my bedside table, with me promising to read it when the school year was complete. Faster than I would have liked, our days of sitting in the campus library during snowstorms ended. Unfortunately, the two of us were forced into a long distance relationship – but there was no way we could stop talking and seeing each other.
Our first long distance phone call consisted of her telling me about new Austen fan books she purchased, and me trying to recite the first names of the Bennett sisters. I can still only name four of the five, but she’s the super fan not me! (Elizabeth, Jane, Lydia, and Kitty – not too bad, right, Gaby?). She wrote me letters and folded them in regency style, desperately tried to explain Mr. Darcy’s appeal through Skype calls, and shared her passion with me. When we were able to meet, we lied in bed through the late hours of the night, flipping through my taped, highlighted, and ink marked book, reciting our favourite parts. Each trip back home, the book came back with me, and so did new memories that we had formed together.
As I write this now, she is preparing to go to England to study Austen on a university loan. Our long distance relationship will be even farther, but I’m still happy for her because I know she’s pursuing one of her dreams. As much as I want to be with her, I would never want to drag her away from her passions, because they are what make her so unique. And so if I was asked how Jane Austen has impacted my life, I would say this:
Jane Austen has allowed me spend truly quality time with my girlfriend. The moments we’ve shared talking about her books will never fade from memory. No matter the distance between the two of us, those conversations stay etched in my mind just like my girlfriend’s tattoos. Every time I feel a bit sad, I think of all those days spent in the library with her and all the good times we had. Austen was – and still is – something that we talk about often. If I could meet her, I would personally thank her for discussions she’s given my girlfriend and I. While I enjoyed reading “Emma” and “Pride and Prejudice”, but it’s the moments I’ve spent sharing those stories with my girlfriend that make Jane Austen’s name unforgettable. I know that my girlfriend adores Jane Austen, but I know that no matter how much she adores her, she could never love Austen more than I love her.