Times Writer Virginia Heffernan Made Prospective Lover Answer a Shakespeare Riddle

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Photo: Scott Wintrow/Getty Images

Times media writer Virginia Heffernan is a married mom now, but back in the early nineties, while still playing the field, she vetted potential lovers in a way you might expect from someone with a Masters in English literature from Harvard. According to a profile in Adweek, Heffernan hit it off one night at a cocktail party with Euan Rellie, a British national now known as a "social scenester":


They caught a cab. Once they were back at her apartment, as Rellie tells it, “She said, ‘Fix yourself a drink; I’m going to get into something more comfortable.’ Just like that. She left me with a decanter of scotch and reappeared wearing a see-through baby-doll thing with furry balls. It was amazing.”

Things progressed, then took a turn.

“She stops me and she says, ‘Before we go any further, I need to know something. I need to know if King Lear is a comedy or a tragedy.’”

Rellie protested: “‘You’re kidding.’”

“‘No, really, I need to know.’”

He paused, then ventured: “‘It’s obviously a tragicomedy.’”

“‘I’m going to need you to leave,’” Heffernan said, as Rellie recalls. “‘Please leave now. It’s not your fault. It’s my fault. You’re going to have to leave.’ I pulled my trousers up and walked out into the street.

Could this story of pre-sex highbrow mind games really be true? In the article, Heffernan pleads ignorance: "By now, I pretty much only remember his version because I’ve heard it so many times." But on Twitter, the lady doth protest:


Rellie, however, insists that it happened. But even more than the veracity of the story, he seems most concerned with making sure that everyone knows that he has read King Lear and fully understands it.




Sorry, that is wrong. The correct answer is whatever would have convinced Heffernan have sex with you.

The Best Media Writer at the NYT [Adweek]