I believe in Atticus Finch.
Yes, I know. He’s a fictional character in Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. I don’t care. I believe in him anyway—even though a man I was dating recently told me that men like Atticus don’t exist, that my expectations are too high. If I don’t want to be alone, this man said, I should take a look in the mirror. Beauty is fleeting. And men are attracted to beauty, the man continued. And I better damn well get moving if I didn’t want to end up alone.
To which I replied: Atticus would *never* say that to a woman.
Atticus Finch was a man of integrity. He did the right thing by defending Tom Robinson. And he didn’t complain about it. He raised his kids without raising his voice. And he believed in things bigger than himself—one of which I think was love.
I had a chance to meet Harper Lee in January. I was covering her appearance at a high school cast party of To Kill a Mockingbird in Montgomery, Alabama. Ms. Lee didn’t want to see the play, but she did want to meet the young actors from two racially diverse schools who worked together to stage a wonderful show, complete with a gospel choir. At the cast party, Lee charmed the students, telling them how blessed she was to have lived to see these two schools come together like this. As I waited to meet her, I found myself tearing up. This was my idol—the woman who wrote one perfect book and never wrote another thing. But according to the man I’d been seeing, this is exactly the kind of woman men found unattractive. Here she was: 80 years old with short gray hair and wearing a rumpled black pant suit. Even when she was younger, Harper Lee didn’t exactly strut her stuff, which might explain why she never married and never had a domestic partner, other than her sister. What kind of man would be attracted to a reclusive bird like this, I thought. And then it hit me: Atticus Finch, the character she created. *He* would love Harper Lee. *He* would see the beauty in this woman.
Which is why the night after my last date with the man who said there are no Atticuses, I sent up a silent prayer to Atticus Finch. “I believe in you,” I prayed. “I believe you’re out there somewhere. And if I don’t find you, then maybe I’ll just try to be you.”
Maybe that’s the secret: Instead of looking for Atticus, maybe I need to try to be more like Atticus and channel those Finch qualities I so admire: integrity, kindness, and an inner grace that can provide comfort during tough times, whether it’s a criminal trial or the everyday trials of a 43-year-old single woman or an 80-year-old author who is surely sick to death of women like me asking her to give Atticus Finch our phone numbers.
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