Maureen Dowd c’est moi

Is RGIII the Miss Elizabeth Bennet – seen here in an 1833 engraving for Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” – of his day?

Is RGIII the Miss Elizabeth Bennet – seen here in an 1833 engraving for Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” – of his day?

I remember the moment I becameenamored of Maureen Dowd.  For along time I resisted the pull of this Iris, goddess of discord, always willing to toss in the apple of  discontent and see what happened. I can still remember her portrayal of the “Titanic” era Leonardo DiCaprio as a featherweight. Ouch. 

I know men who prefer Gail Collins, The New York Times’ other prominent female columnist. The difference between Gail and Maureen is like the difference between Jay Leno and David Letterman. Like Jay, Gail seems nicer. But nicer can be more devastating. (Right, Mitt Romney?)

And then it happened. Maureen wrote about a guy coming up to her in a bar and saying, “You’re just an embittered spinster.” And I knew. Just as Jackie was said to have made the world safe again for brunettes, Maureen has made the world safe again for embittered spinsters. Like me.

If I wasn’t already in love withher columns – who can forget the transcendence of her Al Gore addressing himself in a mirror during the 2000 presidential campaign – her Nov. 27 column clinched it. Maureen wrote about how her football-crazy family drove her to retreat with Jane Austen on the holidays. I understood. Many of my childhood Thanksgivings and Christmases were spent listening to various uncles rave about the brilliance of Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers. Despite this and despite later writing about brain surgery and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, I must confess to being ignorant still of what a down is. I hear “down” and I think “comforter.” 

My childhood football encounters, however, sound preferable to Maureen’s brothers naming her kittens after linebackers and knocking their little heads together. (Perhaps Maureen should’ve been reading Emily Brontë instead of Jane Austen.)

Anyway, segueing from that heartwarming memory of holidays past, Maureen hit her stride with her theme – how she came to football late, beguiled by RGIII, and how he’s like Lizzie Bennet and Emma, two of Jane’s greatest heroines. Just as Jane knew that “a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” (“Pride and Prejudice”) and “a single woman of good fortune is always respectable,” Maureen understands that a single woman of a certain vintage and accomplishment must be in want of a pretend boyfriend.

Like Maureen, I, too, came to football late, beguiled by a quarterback (in my case, Tim Tebow, although I think he’s more like a Henry James or Edith Wharton heroine, a naïf done in by manipulators). I’m also taken with the bewitching Colin Kaepernick. I’m still trying to figure out what literary heroine he’s like.

Colin played RGIII the Monday before Thanksgiving in the Battle of the Running Quarterbacks Who Burst Through In Their Rookie Seasons And Are Now Perceived To Be Having Sophomore Slumps. Colin came out on top. Maureen didn’t weigh in on Colin. A girl can take on only so many quarterback issues.

She wrote of RGIII: “Like every compelling and high-spirited Austen heroine, the Redskins’ erstwhile hero has some growing up to do. He has to go through the fire, dig deep and learn some lessons about character.”

That’s good advice for more than the RGIIIs of the world – particularly in this testing holiday season.


Just one quibble: At one point Maureen wrote that Elizabeth Bennet discovers that her mistakes allow her “to finally know herself.”

Splitting the infinitive? What would Jane say?