I was excited to spend some time with professor Hagen St. Croix this week, one of the main characters in Professor Daddy. He and I share a love for history (you may not know this, but I actually studied history and I’m qualified to teach history and social studies in The Netherlands), as well as a love-hate relationship with the northeast of the US. He and I had a wonderful conversation (I haven’ included all of it because we got off some some tangents about history none of you would find interesting, haha) about all kinds of things. One of Hagen’s biggest fears is that people will find him boring, but I loved talking to him.
Hagen, let’s get the hardest question out of the way first. What’s with you and that idea that you’re boring?
[laughs] Going right for the jugular, I see?
Well, can you blame me?
[grows serious] No, I can’t. It’s a legitimate question, and I wish I knew how to explain it. Before I met Baxter… I think I feared growing old. It sounds stupid, but I was past forty and single again, and it just sunk in that I could end up a lonely, old man.
Excuse me, but forty isn’t old.
No, it’s not. But at that time, it felt old to me. Like I was past my prime, on the way down. Super dramatic, I know, but I genuinely felt that way. The classic midlife crisis, I suppose. I’m by nature someone who values discipline and structure, but to others, that may come across as not being open to new experiences. The way Jake and I had ended things left me reeling, and it all reinforced this idea that I was boring and would never find someone to spend the rest of my life with. Even now, it still bothers me sometimes. I know Baxter loves history as much as I do and he’s never once complained when I go off on some passionate tangent about something historical, but sometimes, I still check with him if he really loves it, you know? That fear to become irrelevant to him, to do something that would make him lose interest in me… Let’s just say it runs deep.
It sounds like it’s almost a bit of a trauma.
You know, Baxter said the same thing, and as much as I hate to use that word since it feels too heavy, it does seem to be the case. It’s definitely something I’m really sensitive about.
Not to be rude, but when you first met Baxter, you were a bit of a dick to him.
[lets out a sigh] I was. In my defense, I was really struggling with myself at that time, still wrestling with the way Jake and I had broken up. The sense of failing him ran deep, and I wanted to prevent that from ever happening again. That’s why I initially hired someone to accompany me to the club. I didn’t want to be seen as pathetic by showing up alone, but I wasn’t risking someone rejecting me either. It seemed like the perfect solution. In hindsight, I can see how desperately I was trying to have a sense of control over my life. I felt so rudderless at that time, and I needed something to anchor me.
And then everything changed. What was it like for you to realize you wanted to be his Daddy?
Like a bolt of lightning. I felt so stupid I’d never realized it before, and at the same time so intensely grateful because it felt like I’d finally found my calling, how I fit in. My purpose in life is to take care of Baxter. That’s it. If I do nothing else in my life but make him happy, it will have been worth it. As insecure as I may be about some things, I know I’m a good Daddy to Baxter. I love that boy so much, and I don’t doubt his love for me either. When he looks up at me with those gorgeous brown eyes, my knees still go weak. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him.
How are things now that you left Massachusetts behind?
Much warmer! [laughs] God, Nora, I don’t understand how you do it, still living in the Northeast. It’s absolutely gorgeous, especially in the fall when the leafs break out in a million shades of yellow and red, but those winters… The first winter I was so utterly miserable, I thought it would never end. And of course, we had snow storms up until mid-April that year. I wanted to freaking die! I’m not used to it, and it was so overwhelming. It’s hard to explain to people who’ve lived in areas with hard winters their whole life, but I really, really struggled with it. I know I’m spoiled, coming from California, but it was so cold, so dark. And then the endless snow… My god, it was one snow storm after another, and I didn’t even know how to shovel a drive way or drive in the snow. My neighbors had to teach me to remove the snow from my driveway entirely. I’d just pushed it to the side the first two storms, but they said that was asking for trouble. I’m sure you know by now, Nora, but I hadn’t realized that the snow usually doesn’t melt until April, so wherever you put it, it will stay for months. If you don’t remove it from your driveway entirely, you will get too much on the sides and block yourself in. And once it’s frozen, it’s impossible to remove. So I bought a snow blower and everything, though I happily paid a kid in my street to do the job for me. Best fifty bucks I ever spent after each storm [laughs].
You found a new job at Woodcliffe College. How’s that working out for you?
[his eyes light up] Wonderful! God, I love teaching there. It’s a small private college, so lots of interactions with my students. And I teach military history there, which has always been my big love in history. It’s endlessly fascinating to me how mankind keeps making the same mistakes in war over and over again.
Like the fact that you can’t beat Russia in the winter. Napoleon tried it and failed, but Hitler still thought he could do it. His men froze in their summer uniforms in the bitter cold. Sure, the south of Germany and Austria have snow, but their temperatures are nothing like the Russian winter. Equipment doesn’t work there like it does everywhere else. Try starting a jeep that’s been outside in minus forty degrees. It won’t start. You have to preheat it. And that’s just one example, but there are so many more. You can’t win if you’re fighting against a guerilla-type enemy who’s defending their home turf. Vietnam taught us that, but the lesson hasn’t seemed to stick. And I could go on and on, but that’s where I’m afraid I’ll lose many of your readers.
Not me, though. You know I love this.
I know you do. Didn’t you say you were specialized in WWII history?
I am, thought specifically on the European end. It’s fascinating to me how WWII is taught so differently in the US than it is in The Netherlands. Our history focuses so much more on the European conflict and starts way, way before Pearl Harbor. The way Americans teach it, you’d almost think WWII didn’t start until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. But now I’m digressing.
We’ll have to talk more about this some other time, because that’s really interesting. Maybe I should do a comparison sometime in how WWII is being taught across the world. It would be interesting and revealing to see the differences on viewpoints and focus, I’d imagine.
Oh, I’d love that. See, you’re not boring at all!
Thank you, Nora. I love you for saying that.
But let’s get back to you. What’s the future hold for you and Baxter?
Lots of happiness, I hope. We talked about kids, but neither of us feels that this is something we want. It would make things complicated too, considering our age gap and our Daddy-boy dynamic. I’m not saying it would be impossible, but it doesn’t fit us. But Baxter’s best friend, Denise, is pregnant with her first, and she’s asked him to be godparent. He loves the idea of having a part time kid that he can spoil and then send back to their parents, as he described it. I’m down with that. Other than that, he’s found a position as a PhD researcher with a historical institute, a highly coveted position a lot of people were competing for. I couldn’t be more proud of him.