SheToo — Protection from Predators

I have a good friend, who for privacy reasons I will, in this article, call Walter. He is quite famous, and one day, some years ago, I attended a gala dinner on his behalf. There was a fairly large crowd present, and he sat at a table on a raised platform, together with the hosts. Next to him was a girl. Everyone was burning to know: who is she? Curiosity filled the room.

After dinner was over Walt came down from the platform, together with the girl, and walked over to me. “Okay, Fred, I know you want to know. This is Marie, and we are going to be married. She is my fiancée.” I was delighted. Marie was a beautiful, elegant young lady, and in the brief conversation I had with her, I could tell that she was very smart and well-educated—in fact it turned out she was the opinion page editor of a national newspaper.

Of course the other guests soon surrounded the pair — everyone wanted to get to know her. I waited on the sidelines. When this phase was over and the two were preparing to leave, they came over to bid me goodbye. “Before you go,” I said to Marie, “can I tell you a little story? Just a personal episode from my life?” She was a bit taken aback: a personal story, out of the blue, from a stranger — what could the reason for that be? She stood there, together with Walt, and this is the story I told:

Ten years ago I was at a big event in Holland. I was walking down a corridor, when I saw a young girl, perhaps sixteen or seventeen, being badgered by a very persistent young man (whom I knew). She was saying “No, no!” and he was saying “Why not?” I walked past them, and then turned and went back. “Listen,” I said to her, “Vincent is now available for the interview.” (Vincent, another pseudonym, was a celebrity, the most famous person at the event). “We will be in the press room, but leaving shortly. So if you want to get the interview done, you should come along with me now.” The girl was completely baffled, but followed me. And the badgering friend gave me a look of unadulterated hatred.

When we reached the press room the girl said to me: “I do not understand? What interview? I have never spoken to Vincent. Maybe you are mistaking me?” I explained to her: “It was just a way to get you out of the clutches of that guy. He’s a well-known predator.” She still looked baffled, and we (Vincent and I) left.

The next day I was in the press room and she came up to me, gave me a kiss and said: “You are a good man, Frederic!” She had worked it out.

So what was the point of my story, told to a person I had just met? Walt looked at me with some curiosity, because he knew I was not just rambling. And Marie cleared it up. With a smile on her face she said: “Yes, Fred, it was me. But I was nineteen at the time.” I had kind of recognized her, and found out for sure in this convoluted fashion. And I gained a friend for life.

I have met Marie on a number of occasions, and she is the kindest, most affectionate person I know. Also one of the most interesting. On one occasion I ran into her carrying some classical sheet music. I asked her why, and she said: “Because I love music.” — “Me too,” I said. “Really? What kind of music?” I told her that for almost half my life it was Bach, with a bit of the Classics: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven. “But as I got older I grew fond of the Romantics: Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Chopin, Mendelssohn…” — “What do you love from Schubert?” — “Oh, his instrumental pieces, of course, but especially his Lieder.” — “Like which ones, Frederic?” — “Well, Winterreise, for example…” — “Which song? Name one.” — “All of them, starting with ‘Gute Nacht’…” — “Sing it,” she said. And I actually did start to sing softly. After the first verse I stopped, and Marie said: “Ah, you cannot go on, you don’t know the rest?” Yes I do, I told her, but there is a journalist I know walking by, and if he sees me singing to Walter’s wife… I would be so dead! When he was safely gone I went on. She even forced me to sing “the beautiful part where it switches from minor to major.” And when I did this she was finally convinced: “Yes, you really know and love music, Frederic!” And I know: she does too.

Marie is very kind and affectionate, as I believe I have said, but also critical about people who simply assert things. She cannot be fooled, you have to be genuine.

Incidentally the song Marie forced me to sing was one that I heard performed in Hamburg by the greatest Lieder singer of all time, Dietrich Fischer Dieskau. You can listen to this recording — the switch from minor to major comes at 3 min 55", but you must listen to at least half a minute before that to really appreciate the beauty. And if you have the inclination to hear the entire Winterreise, one of the best-known song cycles, there are plenty of recordings on YouTube.

Written by

Frederic Alois Friedel, born in 1945, science journalist, co-founder of ChessBase, studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford.

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