Jonathan Bellman

How you know when it’s gone too far:

You’ve agreed to do your two Romantic Pianism lectures, as you always do, for the 8:00 AM Music History class. The first one was Friday; it went fine. There followed an atypical weekend, chock-full of atypical activities (library research Saturday afternoon, two different concerts, Purim…). Then you and wife both oversleep on Monday. Not terminally; not really a problem. You get wife and son out the door, since you teach late—hey, no problem!—then do the shower, bag lunch, blog, dishes.

Anyway, so you realize at about 9:30 AM, just getting ready to ascend the central stairway, that you have TITANICALLY screwed up.

* * *

After the grovelling has been taken care of, the rest of the day is spent tiptoeing through activities to make sure something worse doesn’t happen. Plans for a compensatory evening lecture are underway. I’m remembering the grading I didn’t do, the exams I have to get ready…

I don’t remember activities and plans being this diffuse, or having to keep this many balls in the air. This actually scared the hell out of me. I do periodically—very occasionally—like to complete projects, as with a recent book proposal and article, and I guess it takes its toll on the everyday. I do also need to practice a bit, for my sanity, as after the lovely recital last Friday night and shop-talk with the pianist following.

What makes it worse is that everyone is being understanding. “Oh, come on. Hey, you’re Dr. Bellman! I mean…” “Just glad to know EVERYONE is fallible…” “I was just sorry to miss your lecture; why don’t you come back Wednesday? I really wanted to hear about Chopin…”

This is just killing me. I am the most intolerant, crabbed, and cussed old bastard regarding that kind of thing when students do it. Yes, it’s the biter bit, justice served, and I am being taught a lesson as firmly and gently and lovingly as the villain in any moralizing children’s book. Everyone is acting just the way I should act when people present human foibles in my presence. People around me are gently teaching me Important Lessons. True, true, true.

And I simply want to impale myself on something, for the shame of it.

About jonathanbellman

Professor of Music History and Literature and Head of Academic Studies in Music at the University of Northern Colorado. Author, *The _Style Hongrois_ in the Music of Western Europe* (Northeastern University Press, 1993), *A Short Guide to Writing About Music* (2e, Longman, 2008), *Chopin's Polish Ballade: Op. 38 as Narrative of National Martyrdom* (Oxford University Press, 2010), Editor, *The Exotic in Western Music* (Northeastern University Press, 1998), author of bunches of articles and reviews and so on. Likes to play the piano, the mandolin, and even guitar sometimes. A. M. and Jo Winchester Distinguished Scholar at UNC, 2011.
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