That moment when you meet “The One”…. just as your professional life is taking off in the opposite direction.
His secretary was named Merrily.
When I first saw her, I was stunned because she was stunning. Light brown hair surrounding a perfect face. If I try to describe it I will not do her justice.
I was confronted by one of life’s challenges: either I would ask her for a date or I would brand myself a coward for life. She accepted.
How could she not? My parents had given me their tickets to the final performance by Maria Callas at the Metropolitan Opera.
Merrily’s apartment was a few blocks from where I was living in the Law School dorm on Washington Square. We fell in love and spent every moment together when I wasn’t studying for finals or the bar exam, and she wasn’t working or studying for her finals.
Merrily’s father had been a physician before he died. Her mother was a devoted Catholic, the brother of an Archbishop. Her mother disapproved of Merrily’s Greenwich Village lifestyle. She thought Merrily should have been a member of a religious community of women living under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; like her sister. So Merrily got no financial help from her mother and supported herself by working as Professor Bloustein’s secretary at the Law School. This arrangement had the added benefit that she could attend NYU as an undergraduate for little or no tuition.
Merrily was not only beautiful and smart, she was resourceful and independent. And sexy.
I was not a hard working law student but I could pay attention in class, take good notes and read enough of our assignments to place in the top 25% of my class when I graduated from NYU, one of the best law schools in the country. Through the placement office I was accepted for a clerkship with a judge on the Supreme Court of Idaho. This was not as impressive as a clerkship in the U.S. Supreme Court or one of the Federal Courts, but it was enough to provide entry to a prestigious legal career in Idaho where I would be in frequent contact with judges, lawyers, educators and business executives; playing at their golf clubs and visiting their hunting lodges. In fact, the judge who had accepted me suggested that I bring my hunting rifles and fishing gear with me to Boise. (I had neither.)
The alternative to remaining in Idaho when my clerkship ended would have been to return to New York City and get a job with a White Shoe Wall Street law firm where I would work eleven hour days for several years before moving on to the United States Attorney’s Office as an Assistant US Attorney trying important criminal and securities fraud cases. With that trial experience, and friendly relationships with the federal judges in Manhattan and Westchester, I could move back to a large law firm and become a partner. If partnership was not possible, I would leave the law firm to work for one of its corporate clients in the office of General Counsel. I might even become General Counsel to a major corporation. I would be on track for a career law students dream about.
However … I was in love with Merrily and taking the first step towards that legal career would mean living in Idaho for at least a year, maybe two or three, while clerking for the judge.
Merrily would be living in New York City where beautiful women don’t sit around waiting for their boyfriends to return from extended assignments in far-off places.
I would have lost her. The choice was; Merrily or a nearly certain life of prestige and financial rewards.
I wrote to the judge and told him that I was withdrawing my application — after it had been accepted and I had accepted the acceptance — using some lame excuse about, “soon-to-be drafted into the Army.” This was 1965, I was 24 years old, and the draft was scooping up every man-boy under 26 for the Vietnam War. The judge wrote a furious letter to the Law School’s placement office saying that he had already told the other applicants that the clerkship job was filled. He said that he would never have anything to do with the NYU Law School. Needless to say, I was no longer welcome in the placement office if I ever needed their help again.
I chose Merrily.
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Photo: Samantha Marx/Flickr