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Archive for the ‘Tantrums’ Category

So the 2013-2014 academic year has come to a close, all of my grades are submitted, and graduation on Saturday was grand.  I love graduation.  A lot of my students did decide to walk in graduation, and I am especially proud that all of *my* students who walked wore sensible shoes.

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As an aside, I have Strong Opinions about appropriate footwear for graduation ceremonies: SAVE THE STRIPPER HEELS FOR YOUR PARTY!  SAVE THEM FOR DINNER OUT! DO NOT WEAR PLATFORM STILETTOS WITH A SIX-INCH HEEL TO WALK A THOUSAND MILES THROUGH THE BOWELS OF THE ARENA, UP A LONG AISLE, UP A RAMP, ACROSS A STAGE IN FRONT OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE, AND THEN BACK DOWN A RAMP AND DOWN A LONG AISLE! THIS IS A DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN!

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AND FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY, WEAR SHOES THAT FIT YOUR FOOT!!!! YOU ARE TEMPTING FATE! THE GODS WILL GIVE YOU BLISTERS FOR YOUR HUBRIS! EVEN IF YOU MAKE IT THROUGH ALL OF THE PROCESSING, YOU WILL BE WALKING BAREFOOT TO THE CAR WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE AND YOU WILL BE HOBBLING FOR THE NEXT THREE DAYS!  (It is also the case that there is a strong inverse correlation between heel height and academic honors: smart women tend to wear sensible shoes, though there is a variable for sorority membership, apparently, that skews these results.  It is also the case that women in the humanities and hard sciences tend to be more sensible about footwear than those in other disciplines.  Yes, this is what I think about to pass the time during the reading of the names.)

As is typical, the faculty who attended are the faculty who always attend.  As much as it pisses me off that so many in my department violate the faculty handbook by never attending graduation and that they face no repercussions for this dereliction of duty, I also did say on graduation – and I do actually believe this – that they are the ones who are missing out.  Yes, graduation is long, and it’s boring, and we all have things we could be doing from 8-noon on a Saturday morning.  But you know what?  It is the one time in the year when the faculty are given a loud round of applause for the work that we do.  And it is so gratifying to see my students so proud of themselves and their families so proud!  And everybody – EVERYBODY – is happy! And it matters so much to students and their families to see faculty there cheering them on.  I do a lot of crap in this job that I resent for one reason or another: I feel nothing but positive about graduation.  It reminds me of why I do all of this in the first place.  Indeed, it’s the whole point.

So I went to graduation on Saturday, and that evening CC and I hung out and drank wine and kvetched and ate pizza.  I arrived home at around 9:30 to an email from one of my colleagues.  A colleague who didn’t go to graduation and who, as far as I am aware, has never gone to graduation.  This colleague wants to “pick my brain” as a result of The Dumbest Survey in the Whole Wide World, which was inflicted on us by an ad hoc committee from within my department.  Note: the survey results have not been distributed, so I, ostensibly, have no idea what they say.  (I have more of an idea than this person might suspect, mainly because, like Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls, my hair (although not big) is full of secrets.)

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But this colleague was on the committee.  The colleague didn’t indicate what the survey revealed, other than that it revealed “issues.”  The one thing that the colleague did reveal in the email is… wait for it… we should have another ad hoc committee to address the issues!!!!  What do I think about that?!?!

People, I can’t even.  It’s like Groundhog Day.  So you just “served” on a totally ineffectual committee that produced no results, took no action and for which you did no work, a committee that reported nothing to the department, and you want another goddamned committee?  And that committee would look suspiciously like the committee that you had two summers ago that was basically organized as the “I hate Dr. Crazy” committee?  And you want me to say that this is a reasonable, productive, good idea?  What the WHAT?

The first thing I wanted to write back was, “Fuck you.  Seriously.  Fuck you.”

I didn’t write that.

The second thing that I wanted to write was a lengthy email that listed all the reasons why this was the stupidest proposal in the whole wide world.

I didn’t write that either.

Nah, what I wrote was that it would be better to talk in person and that we should have lunch.  Basically, I felt like if I was going to spend an hour on this, I might as well have a nice lunch, at least.  And, in the “keep your enemies closer” school of collegiality (which, let’s note, is fucked up), I figured it would be good to get the whole story about what’s going on here – or as much of it as I can.  I hold out, say, 10% of hope that this lunch might aim things in a productive direction, i.e., not toward another ad hoc committee, and so for that reason I do think it’s worth my time not to just blow the whole thing off.  (What do I think would be a productive direction?  These people take on meaningful service and they use the avenues that are there through standing committees to initiate proposals that address their concerns that then we could vote on as a department.  The time for brainstorming and fact-finding is D-O-N-E.  Either put yourself out there with a plan or shut the fuck up, I say.  Also, the idea that they “can’t” do this because some people “dominate” the conversation?  It’s a red herring.  The reason some people might appear to be dominating is because they are the ones who do the fucking work!  Do the work and you have a voice!  It ain’t rocket science!) But I also intend to make it clear that I don’t want any part of all of these behind-the-scenes conversations, and that I’m busy with my own projects over the next academic year – in the summer, with research and professional development, and in the academic year, with my own teaching and real service commitments – on standing committees in the department, college, university, and profession.  Hopefully my willingness to meet will be seen as me taking their concerns seriously, even if I think their methods are bullshit.  But if not, well, I did what I could.

So.  Bullshit committees produce bullshit surveys that produce bullshit results that don’t get distributed and then new bullshit committees are proposed.  Yeah, that’s an effective path toward solutions to very real problems.  NOT.

 

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So today, as with every Tuesday, I was back on campus less than 12 hours after I left it, because I have The Most Awful Schedule Ever for the Third Semester in a Row.  That’s not news.  And yes, most Tuesdays I end with me feeling depleted.

But I’m especially exhausted today because it was the Big Deadline for an internal grant for which I applied.  I also had a couple of other things to apply for internally – one by the end of the week and one by next Monday, so I bit the bullet and completed all three applications (which all required just slightly different information and formats, so it was a total pain in the ass) today.  Depleted doesn’t begin to cover it.

The Big Grant application I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks.  And I’m in no way certain of getting it, even though I was very diligent in formulating the application and making sure I hit all of the items on the rubric that they use to evaluate it.  (Side note: it is SO MUCH BETTER, if more time intensive, now that The Committee that Decides on Internal Grants actually explains what the application requires, what projects can be funded through this grant, and what criteria are used in evaluation.  When I first arrived 10 years ago, there was little to no concrete guidance about what the applications should include, which was… problematic.)  But anyway, even with that diligence and investment of time, why am I unsure about my prospects?  Well, first off, people in The Humanities rarely get this particular award.  I’m not sure if it’s because people don’t apply or if it’s because they don’t understand how to write grant applications or if it’s because there is a gigantic bias against research in the humanities because my colleagues across campus don’t understand it or value it.  Probably some combination of the three.

But I had an idea for the Big Grant (by big I’m just referring to the application in relation to the other stuff I applied for – it will give me personally no actual money, but if I get it then it will pay for some software/work that will buy me time, which would be grand) that I thought I could sell to people outside the humanities, which they would understand as research and not “clerical work” (which let’s note constitutes a lot of what “research” in the humanities involves but no level of explanation seems to penetrate the brains of my colleagues outside of my discipline or the brains of my administration, who value research involving labs and co-authors much more highly than they value the kind of stuff that people in single-author fields do). So I feel like I’ve got a 50/50 shot.  But if I get it, then I will totally write about it here and tell every single colleague who cares in the humanities in my institution about it, because I might have discovered the One True Way to get access to this money.  Maybe.  But it definitely ain’t a sure thing.

And then I submitted another application for professional development money from my College, which I think has a pretty good shot, depending.  Depending on what?  Depending on how many people apply.  Because I got this money last year, and I can imagine them denying me if there were first time applicants in the pool if there were more applicants than there was money.

And then I submitted an application for a course release, which I’m about 99 percent sure I will not receive, mainly because the only reason I was “allowed” to submit the request was because a colleague of mine was told by the provost to submit one, and my chair (kudos to my new chair!) wanted to be equitable and open up the opportunity to others who had expressed interest.  See, my dean has basically said to the chairs (“basically” meaning that all of this has happened not as a policy matter that is in writing but rather as an ad hoc thing he has “told” them and they’ve gone along with since 2010) that course releases for anything other than administrative purposes won’t be considered.  Because, you know, he can’t be bothered to read and to reject applications for release time for other things, I guess.  On the one hand, this is about the budget, and I get it.  On the other hand, how are you going to fight for more money in the budget if you have no clue what faculty are doing and you have no evidence that more resources are needed?  (Note: course releases are available for research in other colleges at my institution).  My dean is “stepping up” to faculty after this academic year (don’t you love that euphemism?).  I’ll let you infer how I feel about that.

So basically I invested about 20 hours of time in composing applications for institutional support for my research, support that would ultimately benefit my institution in a host of ways – student success, getting a woman in my department fully promoted, institutional reputation – and I might end up with nothing for those efforts.  But hey, you can’t get support if you don’t ask for it.  And you can’t bitch legitimately if you don’t get denied the support that you need.

All this work isn’t for nothing, even if none of it works out.  It’s prepared me for external grant applications for next year, and it’s got me started thinking in a systematic way about my THIRD book project (even though I’m not done with the second one).  This is all good.  And it’s also good to do these things because it makes me recognize the quality of my ideas and the high esteem in which my work is regarded outside of my institution, mainly because such applications require you to self-promote.

That said?  I am exceptionally pleased that I don’t need to write anything for a while that waxes poetic about how important I am.  I hate this fucking genre, though apparently I’ve gotten a hell of a lot better at doing it in the 10 years I’ve been on the tenure-track.  And I’m feeling satisfied, because even if I don’t get diddly from all of this effort, at least I know that I’ve communicated what I am doing and the value of what I am doing without apology.  I’d rather dare them to say no than anticipate rejection and fail to try.

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Let me preface this post with the fact that I am thoroughly enjoying teaching my MA students this semester, and our (theory) seminar is going exceptionally well.  They are bright and engaged, and sure, I keep having to reprimand one of them over and over again (let’s note: it’s week 7 and I’ve been doing this since week 2) for dismissing readings out of hand because zie doesn’t understand them or disagrees with them, but I think that the student actually appreciates getting challenged.  Or if not, I’m not going to tolerate anti-intellectual bullshit responses in a graduate seminar.  (Note: Not getting it isn’t the problem, because you can not get it and come in with questions, and that’s cool.  And disagreeing is also cool, if you point to what you disagree with and explain why or pose questions that indicate your disagreement.  What’s NOT cool is saying that the material – written by a renowned theorist – is garbage just because you don’t get it or you don’t agree.  Because you know, that is a garbage response.  And when I say you are being anti-intellectual in your engagement, and your counterargument is that I shouldn’t have had to pick apart a passage in class just to show how to read it… um, I’m modeling for you the kind of deep reading you yourself need to do.  Yes, I’m “an expert” and you aren’t.  But you don’t become an expert by dismissing stuff that hurts your feelings, says the lady prof who finds Derrida almost entirely confusing, except for in rare moments of nirvana-like understanding that immediately slip away from me.)

But the thing that I want to talk about is teaching at the graduate level with a 4/4 teaching load that primarily includes teaching undergrads including courses ranging from composition for first semester freshmen, gen ed courses, core courses in the major, and upper-level undergrad courses, AS WELL AS teaching graduate students that are typically pursuing the MA for reasons that do not involve a career in academia.

Before I get into that, let me note, I don’t actually object to us having an MA program.  I would thoroughly object to us ever having a PhD program.  Here’s the thing: I do think that grad school shouldn’t become a default option for all students, and I advise my undergrads that they shouldn’t just assume they have to do a graduate degree, and I encourage them to take time off between the BA and any grad option they might think that they will pursue.  And I strenuously argue that my strongest undergrads, who really want grad school, should NOT under any circumstances have our MA program on their list of places to apply, because frankly, they need to do better for themselves if they want to excel in a career with that graduate degree.  But for high school teachers who need the MA to get a rank change and to continue in their positions, or for people doing the degree for enrichment, or for people who are place-bound and need an MA to get a promotion at work… we offer a flexible MA that will help them get where they are trying to go.  Not all grad programs need to serve a population that wants to become professors.  (Some of our grad students have gone on to respectable PhD programs, primarily in rhet comp or creative PhDs, but in general for students interested in lit our program is a dead end in terms of anything beyond adjuncting, and yes, I make that very clear to my MA students.)

But with all of THAT being said, let me talk about the thing that frustrates me about teaching grad students in the sort of institution (regional comprehensive) at which I work.

I truly and fundamentally believe that it is irresponsible for people who are not themselves actively engaged in producing research in their fields to educate students at the graduate level.  Yes, I also prefer that people who teach advanced undergrads be actively engaged in producing research in their fields, but I’m more flexible with my ideas about people teaching undergrads because, ultimately, just by virtue of having completed a PhD, one is capable of giving students a foundation for future work, however stale one’s own original scholarship has become.  A PhD teaches you, or should teach you, enough that you can prepare adequately, by keeping up with other people’s original research, to teach an undergraduate course in your field of specialization, and while it might be preferable for one to maintain a consistent research agenda of one’s own, I do think it’s possible to do an adequate – and in some cases even a superior – job with undergrads even if one isn’t publishing new stuff of one’s own.

But teaching grad students is – and should be! – another kettle of fish.  Because what you are teaching them to do is to do original research of their own, and if you don’t do it yourself, you don’t have a clear state of what is happening in academic publishing, nor do you have a clear sense of what actually is original within your field.  How can one possibly pretend to give grad students what they are paying for – and yes, most of our grad students paying customers who don’t get assistantships or any support other than student loans – if you aren’t actually a consistent researcher in your field yourself?  For those rare students who want to go on beyond the MA, how can you possibly write an effective letter of recommendation that will get the student into a decent program?

But since the history of my institution – which only came into being as a university in the 1970s and which until a few years ago was playing the role of both community college and 4-year institution – is one that was all about undergraduate education, and because grad programs came into being as a “cash cow” sort of a scheme, there is little to no support for the work that goes into doing the faculty work that really should be a prerequisite of teaching graduate students.

Now, some programs (ones that we might label “applied”) fare better across campus than others, mainly because they worked some deals related to teaching load.  (So they have 3/3 loads and the option to apply for course releases beyond that, whereas within my college we are on a 4/4 and we have basically no option to apply for course releases unless we’re working in certain administrative positions or if we are getting “paid back” for directing grad students, after the fact – which I would argue encourages people to do a shitty job of advising just so they can accrue enough “credits” to be eligible for course releases.  So there are no options for course releases related to curricular development, and none that are related to research – without grant support, and even with grant support it’s not guaranteed in the humanities.)

Basically, if you’re teaching grad students and you’re in my position, you have two options: either you phone it in with your grad courses, thus doing a disservice to those students, or you phone it in with your undergrads, giving yourself the time and space to do what you should ethically do as a teacher of grad students, which is to keep active as a researcher in your field.  Oh, I guess there is a third option, which is to eliminate any self-care and any personal life that you might hope to have.  Basically, you can “reassign” your own time by shortchanging students or by shortchanging yourself.  There is still a “cost,” but it surely ain’t to the institution’s bottom line.

I suppose one might argue that I’ve split the difference between the three: my grad students are in some ways getting a phoned-in course, in that I am not teaching the most cutting-edge syllabus I could be teaching, because it’s necessary for me to repeat what I teach in that course in order not to have the additional prep.  And yet, it’s true that I have a reputation of being more rigorous than many other teachers in my program, in terms of the way that I respond to writing and in terms of the amount of work I assign and guide them through.  And then I phone it in with my undergrads in that I’ve basically had to stop developing undergrad curriculum, and I teach the same texts over and over, in order to make room in my life for the grad class.  And then finally I phone it in with my personal life in that I can’t actually focus on it, and the only personal life I have depends on the people in it accepting that I’m kind of an asshole.  All of this leads to me doing lots of things adequately and to doing nothing really exceptionally well.  Which then leads to shitty morale, and weight gain, and me writing internal grant applications that are filled with bitchy venom (because that really encourages people to give you money).

Sure, I suppose I could “refuse” to teach in the grad program (as some of my colleagues have done) though that would not help our program, and though that wouldn’t solve any of these problems.  (Let’s note: these are not the reasons my colleagues have refused to teach in the grad program.  There reasons have tended to be about refusing to teach night courses.)  I’ve tried to refuse teaching some of my service courses and I’ve been told NO.  I could agree not to teach upper-level courses in my specialization to undergrads, but, fuck you, you will not take away the thing that I am best at and that I enjoy the most and that really serves the greatest number of our students the best.  Basically, right now, I have no power to change my situation.  The most I’ve been able to achieve is to get myself a consistent two-year rotation of courses that includes ELEVEN different courses over that two years.  And my lack of power has to do with lack of institutional support.

I’ve been investing a lot of extra effort in applying for available money, both from external agencies and from within, in order to support not teaching in the summer and in order to support doing the kind of work that I should be doing as a scholar who teaches at the graduate level, and who teaches undergraduates who aim to be scholars themselves.  And I’ve cut way back on service, because service might make me a “good girl” in the institution, but that shit won’t get me fully promoted and ultimately, I’ve discovered that being a “good girl” with service just gets more service loaded onto me.  And I’ve cut back on the self-shaming about all of what I should be doing better because, honestly, if I had the institutional support I needed, I would be doing a much better job, so if I’m not doing “good better best, never let it rest, until your good is better, and your better is best” that is because my institution doesn’t actually give a shit if I’m doing the best that I can do, and it’s not about me doing a bad job.

But, at least from my perspective, it’s important to acknowledge that shitty grad programs, and shitty professing, have everything to do with institutional directives and structures.  You can’t get something for nothing.  You can’t expect excellence if you don’t fund excellence.  And, sure, that’s the fault of the voting citizenry, and the state legislature, and it’s the fault of institutional culture, and it’s the fault of a lot of different things.  But honestly?  It’s not my fucking fault.

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Let me go on the record and declare the Summer of 2013 as the Most Fucked Up Summer Since 1999.  I noted this a week or two ago in a conversation with Medusa (who weathered the Summer of 1999 with me), and she responded, “What?  Were we dealing with lunatics with God complexes and cowards with anxiety disorders in 1999?”  In fact, yes we were.  But that is neither here nor there.  The point is, I haven’t felt so at loose ends and so colossally fucked up since that summer, lo, 14 years ago.  And let’s note that the fucked-up-ness of that summer pushed me into a terrible 3-year-long live-in relationship with a guy who was So Fucking Wrong For Me, just because I was in such need for stability.

So what is wrong, as this summer of 2013 draws to a close?

I’m heartbroken, my book project is stalled,  I am not speaking to one of my “best” friends, A., the bookstore lost (or just failed to place?) the book orders that I went out of my way to give them IN APRIL for my fall courses and didn’t alert me to the problem until this week, I got my first speeding ticket in my life (after 22 years of driving, and speeding, so probably I was due, and I most certainly deserved it), and I’m about to turn 39 (which isn’t a surprise or anything, and isn’t exactly bad in itself, but with all of the other things that are WRONG, let’s just say that I’m feeling like perhaps I am DOOMED to have a fucked up life, and I will never get my shit together, and I will never find a way to be satisfied and happy).  Oh, and my person who cuts my hair overwaxed my eyebrows so they are way too thin and seem like they would be appropriate to 1999, and I have a balance on my credit card for the first time since I dug myself out of credit card debt (and yet, I keep spending), and I fell off the wagon on diet and exercise and so have gained back the weight I lost on WW a couple of years ago, all of my friends who were supposed to visit me this summer bailed, and I am sure there is more, but frankly, I can’t be bothered to list anymore because it’s all just too depressing.

In an attempt to present a silver lining to you, I will note that my hair is looking great these days, for it has finally grown into a passable bob after a year and a half of growing it out from the VERY short pixie cut, and my living room is no longer the dirty-looking green-cream-color-that-makes-everybody-look-bad that it has been since I moved in, and I finally got a bench for a blank space of wall, and in a month I will have a new sectional-sofa to replace my actually dirty and worn out sofa that I’ve had for 9 years, and I did the Great Book Migration so my downstairs is no longer the Sad Place of too many disorganized books.  And yes, I have good friends, and I will be an auntie to HS BFF’s coming baby.  But you know what?  Other than the friends and tiny human news, all of this is kind of superficial shit, whereas much of the bad shit is actually bad.

At any rate, to get to the title of this post.  My mom came this weekend, and she helped me paint the living room.  I am entirely grateful for her help with that, and I’m grateful for the fact that she helped me mop my floors, and I’m grateful just for the time I got to spend with her.  And for the fact that she bought me the bench. But.

From just about the moment that she showed up, it was an exercise in her pointing out my flaws.  Let me give you an overview: my clothes aren’t flattering or age-appropriate, I have a zit on my face, my eyebrows look weird, I’m a terrible housekeeper (although my house is just about in the same state as hers is), why isn’t my book written?, I love my cats too much and I will never have a relationship because of my cat-love, I shouldn’t be in contact with The Dude but I also shouldn’t be fraternizing with online dating people who are “weird”, the mop that she made me buy three years ago, because the mop I had was BAD, is BAD, I am a terrible hostess (even though she refused to allow me to plan fun things for us to do), I make her do stuff for me (which I don’t) and then I want her to get out “as soon as the work is done” (which isn’t true), when I tell her that I want us to just spend time together, she says what she wants to do is to reorganize my whole house in the way that she wants to do it, and when I express an opinion I am ungrateful, even though I thanked her profusely for everything she did, and even thought it is MY FUCKING HOUSE and my opinion is what matters!

The bad news is that after three days of this, I finally had a major meltdown (precipitated by the MOP) in which I cried and yelled at her, and she decided to leave early.  The good news, I suppose, is that at least she is no longer badgering me and making me feel like shit.  Though, of course, I totally feel like shit because she left.  Which she knew I would.  Because I told her it made me feel bad.  Additionally, she was all, “I’m just not going to come visit you anymore.”  Which, what the fuck?  I want her to come visit.  I don’t want her to show up and treat me like shit!  The point isn’t that she can’t visit!  The point is that I am an adult and that I expect her to treat me with just a tiny teensy bit of respect!  And to stop fucking pointing out every fucking thing that is wrong with me and my life!

We have been having a version of this fight since I was about 14 years old.  I’m tired of it.  And, frankly, the only reprieve I’ve had from this fight was when I lived with that terrible boyfriend from 2000-2003 (one of the few bright spots in that relationship, honestly).  It’s like because I am not partnered or a mother I don’t get to be a grown-up for her.  And it’s fucking bullshit.

Look, I know I’m not perfect, and I know that my house could be cleaner and I could weigh less and my yard could be more pristine and my book could be written and my life could be less fucked up.  But, that’s just it: I know all of that.  I really don’t need her to point it out.  I need her to fucking accept me as I am and stop trying to fucking fix me.  Because the fact of the matter is, I am pretty sure I’m never going to measure up to her ideal of what I should be.  And part of the reason I’m sure of that is because I never have.

And so, I am about 16 years old right now, emotionally.  And I hate my mom (even though of course I love her), and my life fucking sucks (not only because I think so but because she has asserted that it does).

Note to all y’all bloggy readers who are mothers of daughters: when they get to be 38-going on 39-years old?  And when they tell you to stop riding them like they are fucking teenagers?  Listen before they burst into tears.  Listen before it becomes a big THING.  Because you know what?  They will be grown ass women then, and this sort of drama sucks balls.  And your daughters really want to spend time with you.  They just hate it when you act like motherfucking assholes.

In other silver lining on the big dark angry cloud news, the Man-Kitty snores beside me looking very kittenish.  Which, of course, means I love him so much that I will die alone.

Jesus.

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A Pet Peeve

I already bitched about this on Facebook today, but I would like to bitch about it to a wider audience.

Let’s say that you are inviting a bunch of people to a party (not a wedding, not some sort of exclusive event meant for an intimate circle – just a run-of-the-mill party), and you are fine with those being invited bringing a guest.  And let’s say it’s a group-style invitation, so the invitation is not personally addressed to each and every person on the guest list, but rather to all the people being invited.  Here are your options:

A.  Say nothing.  Since everybody is a grown-up (and since those on the guest list have socialized together at similar events frequently, and this has always been the case), it’s fair to assume people will feel free to bring a person along.  I mean, this isn’t a grade-school birthday party, nor is it a middle-school sleep-over.  It’s not a dinner party. When aren’t you allowed to bring a guest to an adult-style event like this?

B. Spouses are welcome!

C. Spouses/Partners are welcome!

D. Feel free to bring a guest!

Ok, so A is probably lazy, and probably Miss Manners wouldn’t approve.  (I’ll admit that I don’t hate A, though, as an option, since the kind of entertaining I do is usually very specific – like a dinner party, so everybody is very clear about who exactly is invited – or very general – like an open house, where it’s clear anybody and everybody, even a random hobo from down the road, could attend.)

D is grand.  “Guest” is neutral and inclusive, and while, sure, people who have spouses/partners might choose to invite them, they aren’t obligated to do so – indeed, they might bring another person along, since you know, people who are married or partnered do have relationships with people other than their spouses/partners – and people without spouses/partners won’t feel like they aren’t “allowed” to bring a guest, you know, because they don’t happen to be in a long-term, serious, committed, sanctioned-by-the-invitation relationship.  Also, “feel free to bring a guest” indicates you can only bring one person, so things wouldn’t get all crazy out of control with the number of people, should that be a concern (though again, we are adults, and who would bring 10 people to somebody’s party?).  While I suppose some weirdo might interpret “guest” to mean “I’ll bring my unruly toddler!” (when the event won’t be kid-friendly) or “I’ll bring my dog!”  or “I’ll bring a criminal!” I am going to go out on a limb and say that when you send out the invite, you have a pretty big clue if you know people like that, and you can contact them individually if you don’t want that to happen.

C is the wrong answer.  It’s slightly preferable to B in terms of political correctness, in that we don’t live in the neck of the woods where all people can legally marry and in that not all people believe in marriage as an institution or whatever, but let’s also note that not a single person who will attend this event – gay or straight – requires this politically correct courtesy.  B is not more inclusive: it’s disingenuous.

B is, I would hope obviously, the wrong answer.  Unless of course everybody invited has a spouse, in which case, what sort of people only socialize with married people?  Seriously: do some people just refuse to socialize with all single people, all divorced people, all widowed people?  SERIOUSLY?

So, dear readers, if you are throwing a party, please just say that people can invite “a guest.”  That is totally the way to make everybody comfortable, and it will get you your desired result.

***

What is perhaps ironic and hilarious about my righteous indignation about this issue and invitation at this particular moment is that I actually am bringing a “plus one” to this event, something I have not done in the historical record of my life.  But he is not my spouse and he is not my partner!  Don’t fence me in!  It’s just a miracle that neither of us has broken up with the other yet!  It’s been 7 months, people! That’s like an eternity!  And it could end any minute!  ANY MINUTE!

I mean, it probably won’t, but let’s not count our chickens before they hatch.  And both of us are skittish about the future, and we don’t need any undue pressure!

But with that being said, you might be wondering why I’m bringing The Dude, given my thoughts about this matter.  Honestly, I didn’t intend to bring him.  I invited him in the first place because the person/people for whom this party is being thrown said they would like for him to be there. And the way I invited him was in a text, basically just saying, “FYI, this event is coming up, and CC would like if you’re there, but I made no promises.  Remind me we should talk about it.”  I’d have been fine if he weren’t into it.  I expected him to ask questions. But then he was all, without discussing it, in a text, “Oh, I’m fine with going to that!”

With that response, I couldn’t resist taking him at his word, mainly because I know if I told him more about it he would beg off (because it’s kind of a work thing).  And he probably does need to go to an event with these people at least once, and this is probably the only way I’ll get him to such an event (he is firmly against work things, but what he doesn’t understand is that in the life of an academic, work things are more like family/friend things, and not like the company Christmas party).  And it won’t kill him, and it will entertain me to see how he handles my colleagues.  And I will get to leave earlier if it’s lame than I would get to leave if he didn’t come with.  Note: if this weren’t for CC and CCM (CC’s Man), I would not even have invited him, given our previous conversations about his aversion to “work socializing.”  I’m not an asshole who wants to force The Dude into going to events that I don’t even want to attend.  And he does like CC and CCM, and I know he wants to celebrate their upcoming marriage (which is what this party is for).

The other, secondary, reason why I sort of want for him to come to this is that beyond meeting CC and CCM and my parents, The Dude has not met my people or spent time with them.  Now, part of that is the logistics of the fact that my best friends span the nation – indeed, the globe – and my family lives four hours away.  As time passes with us, sure, he’s going to meet more of the people, but it’s also the case that I don’t live in my hometown, and that makes a difference to how all this works.

In contrast, I’m apparently now a permanent fixture at his parents’ house (we’ve had dinner there 3 of the 4 past Sundays), I’ve met and spent time with his whole family, I’ve met and spent time with his close friends…. Look, I like that I know his people.  I like that they like me!  I like that I like them! But you know what?  If this is going to go forward, he needs to understand that in some ways, though probably not the most important ones, my colleagues are my “local people.”  And just like I am going to go over his parents’ for a cook-out on the Fourth, and hang out with them and him and his brother and sister-in-law and his nephew and nieces, and just like I’m going to go over to his grandma’s the Sunday after for breakfast and to watch Wimbledon, he is going to go to a party with my colleagues, every now and again.  (1. It’s strange introducing a person to academic culture. 2. It’s strange being incorporated into somebody else’s family, after having avoided that for the 22 years I’ve been actively dating – seriously, I’ve never allowed this to happen, even when I was in high school.)

So how will The Dude handle being thrown into the deep end of a “Department Party”?  Honestly, I think he’ll be great, but I also think he’ll be slightly pissed off at me for not giving him more of a heads up.  But you know what?  It’s time.  And I do promise I won’t make him go to these things every time they happen (which is at most two or three time a year), and I feel like that’s a pretty good deal, when I apparently go to his parents’ for dinner every Sunday.

***

But at the end of the day, I was pissed about the “spouse/partner” sort of invitation when I didn’t have a boyfriend – manfriend? – and I am still pissed about it now.  I feel slightly better after the passive-aggressive rsvp I sent to the invitation, but not much.  At the end of the day, just as I said at the end of my last post, “But you know what?  SCREW that.  I am a person.  And I have my own fucking agenda.”  And GOD is it annoying to me when people don’t treat me like a person in my own right – and that’s exactly why the whole “bring a spouse or partner” thing bothers me so much.  And I think it would bother me even if I were spoused or partnered.  BECAUSE I WOULD STILL BE A PERSON IN MY OWN RIGHT IF THAT WERE THE CASE.

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So, as Chair of the Committee of My Life, I have made the executive decision to table two agenda items until 2014.  I do recognize that according to Robert’s Rules Of Order there should be a vote in order to ratify such a decision, but the Committee of My Life does not adhere to Robert’s Rules Of Order.

1.  Moving in with The Dude

This has lingered as a Discussion Item for weeks, and interminable discussions are, at the end of the day, unproductive.  Would certain things be easier if we just decided and did it?  Certainly.  Just as certain decisions about General Education made life easier, even though they made no one, least of all me, the “spokesmodel of the New Gen Ed,” happy.  But, at the end of the day, The Dude put this item on the agenda, and he has pursued it, at turns with enthusiasm and at turns pointing out all the ways in which The Plan Will Not Work (much in the way of Crazy Colleagues during the Gen Ed Revision Process), and then somehow I get put in the position of being the one who introduced the item (which I didn’t) and of being the one who is “pushing” the process (which I’m not).  Having been put in a similar position in my work with my university’s curriculum, as Chair of the Committee of My Life, I Just Say No.  We will revisit this idea in the new year.  In the meantime, I will happily work on my book and stop giving this any additional mental energy for the time being.  As far as I can tell, all is well with The Dude in the present tense.  He is great, I love him, he loves me, blah blah blah.  But for whatever reason, he is totally irrational on this topic.  So you know what? Let’s not have it be a topic.  Because he is driving me crazy.  (Example: just as soon as I told him we were done talking about it until the new year on penalty of breaking up, and he celebrated that pronouncement, he then brought up something about getting married.  SERIOUSLY? What am I supposed to DO with him?  He makes NO SENSE.  And let’s note, all of this conversation happened while I was at his parents’ house with him.  GOD.)

2. Applying for Promotion to Full Professor

In some ways, I do think that I should apply.  But I have some reasons for not doing it this fall.  1) Our Faculty Senate just voted on new guidelines, which stipulate a “recommended” time in Associate Rank, which I’ve not yet met, before going up for full, and I’m pretty sure that certain of my colleagues will use that as the “reason” for not recommending my promotion, you know, just to make sure I know my place; 2) Our dean (who holds a grudge against me for writing an impassioned email objecting to his claim that “some people just work more than others” when I had asked for support for a terrible service responsibility that became more terrible because of a mandate from the State – indeed, my request for support was “unprofessional” and my explanation that I couldn’t do this job plus teach four courses and do research without support was an “ultimatum,” because, you know, good girls just take more and more shit and like it) has announced that this year will be his last, and I think my application will fare better without him evaluating it; 3) I am confident that the book manuscript will be out and circulating by the Spring, which I think it should be before I apply, plus I’ll have a couple of articles and some other stuff that will enhance my application by then, if all goes as it should.  In other words, yes, I’m chomping at the bit to apply, but the best use of my time right now is not in compiling that application.  And a bonus is that by not applying I should be eligible for some associate professor development money that I wouldn’t be eligible for if I applied for promotion.  So.  As with the Moving in with The Dude, it makes more sense to bide my time than to rush into an inauspicious arrangement, just in the service of having an arrangement, if that makes sense.

Now.  With those two items pulled from the agenda.  I can focus on my book.  Which I really want to focus on, because it is awesome, and also I can bask in the fact that as a thinker people are apparently recognizing me, for whatever reason.  As a result of my recent conference I’ve gotten some emails – one especially awesome, from an especially awesome person, reiterating that she thinks that what I wrote in my book about Underappreciated Author is amongst the best stuff she’s read in the past five years about him, and another from a grad student who took up my invitation to correspond because what he is thinking about will be usefully influenced by stuff I’ve done.  Look, I don’t think I’m anything fancy at all: but it is nice to be thought to be fancy by others, and it’s nice to think that my ideas have an impact on other people’s ideas.

In addition, now that I don’t have to think about those two items above, I can just do my thing.  I will go see HS BFF at the end of July, I will go to A’s wedding in October, I will go to MLA just after the new year and present at an actual special session for the first time (as opposed to presenting at a guaranteed allied panel), I will go celebrate Naomi’s 40th bday with a vacation in January, I will go to a slew of conferences after, all in awesome locales.  I have a plan for the next 12 months or so, and that plan is awesome.  And nothing in that plan is about cleaning out closets for The Dude, and nothing in that plan has to do with postponing ideas in order to apply for promotion.  And you know what?  That is AWESOME.

You know what?  I hate nothing more than being cast in the role of being somebody’s “old lady” who is a “nag” and who is “pressuring” them to do something that they don’t want to do.  Unless we are talking about me being cast in the role of the “bad girl” who is “spoiled” and who doesn’t “do her time” to “prove” that she is “worthy.”  You know what?  I’m nobody’s old lady, and I’m nobody’s bad girl.  I am a person.  And I am a capable and reasonable person.  And I’d rather just tell everybody to fuck themselves than to try to fit into their rubrics for who I’m supposed to be, personally or professionally.

So yeah, with an attitude like that, I might die alone.  And, with an attitude like that, I might not have a job if I didn’t already have tenure.  But you know what?  SCREW that.  I am a person.  And I have my own fucking agenda.

 

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So, this is basically a nothing post, since I’ve been too busy in the past couple of weeks to have an idea that is unrelated to scholarship.  I head off to a conference in a few days, so that has me preoccupied, plus I’ve had friend-related things going on – with friends near, far, and soon-to-be-far – plus I have a fucking boyfriend, which seemed awfully great when that whole thing blindsided me in November, but, in a surprising turn of events, it turns out that I hate having a boyfriend in the summertime, when in theory I should have time to have one.

No, seriously.  It’s easier to go out with him when my time is so structured during the semester, because the things that structure my time then are easy to transition out of.  It’s easy to compress grading.  It’s easy to bring a novel I have to read for class over to his house.  It’s not easy to compress writing, and it’s not easy to do my scholarly work while also attending to another human being.

Oh, I love him and he’s great and whatever, but seriously?  Making time for him has caused a severe uptick in my stress levels about accomplishing things this summer.  Because, you see, I am used to being able to be a workaholic in the summer.  You know, with weekend visits from friends and family thrown in for good measure, but how I’ve handled my professional life in the summer, oh, forever, is that I work like a maniac and then have fun when I have visitors or when I travel.  Only now there is this “person” who expects to see me on the weekends – EVERY WEEKEND – even on HOLIDAY weekends, like Memorial Day Weekend, which is some awesome thing for him who doesn’t have a whole summer stretching in front of him, but which historically for me has been a great time to get a lot of writing done while all of the generica [grad school term coined by my grad school BFF Medusa for guys who wear dockers and work at dumb office jobs] of the world are busy cooking out, and while in the abstract I am totally on board with that, in practice, dude, it’s cramping my workaholic style.

And that makes me cranky.

And it also makes me cranky that he thinks I’m having “fun” when I go to the pool to read, when I’m reading shit for work.  Even though I know that I’m unreasonable because pool>cubicle in terms of fun, and, of course, I am ostensibly “picking” what I read while I lie in the sun and take breaks for swimming.

But for serious, people: you will the majority of the time find me with a stack of journal articles or a theoretical tome or a novel I HAVE to read at the pool (which, an aside: please all of you go read Adam Thirwell’s first novel Politics, and probably everything else he’s ever written, though I haven’t actually done that yet, so I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure, as is Granta, that he’s a genius), as opposed to with some fucking pornographic best-seller.  My pool time is serious business, and I want people – i.e., The Dude- to recognize that the pool is my office.  An office with SAHMs, kids, teenagers, and senior citizens, but my office nevertheless. Which of course he can’t because I’m being an unreasonable asshole, given the fact that he’s trapped in a cubicle.

Honestly, though, I’m feeling pretty good right now, precisely because, taking practical factors into account, I begged off seeing The Dude tonight in favor of doing tons of work, even though in theory I’d have loved to have seen him, and even though we’d had plans all week long for me to see him both today and tomorrow.  (Now we’re just seeing each other tomorrow.) Honestly, I just am having a hard time negotiating the time commitment that he seems to require (which, let’s note, is very small, as boyfriend time commitments go, which is probably why things have been good).

If it weren’t totally crazy, and if I wouldn’t hate it (as I know I would), I would really like it for us to break up this summer and to get back together on August 12, when I’m back under academic contract.  Not because I want either of us to go out with other people or because my feelings for him are in any way in question – indeed, the feelings grow and grow, annoyingly: just because I’d really like to be dating my book right now.  And the fact that he lives 40 minutes away from me means that I can’t just take him for granted and work on my book all the time, expecting him to just show up periodically when I’m feeling uninspired.  No, because of where we live, we need to have “quality time” in the dating.  And I’m tired of dating him and of all the effort that takes, when I want to date my work, and to put my effort in there, which I know isn’t what you’re supposed to say, but seriously: I just want to be able to procrastinate without feeling guilty, and I want to be able to procrastinate without the consequence of not getting my work done because I am obligated to make time for somebody else!

Don’t get it twisted: I totally understand the irony of the fact that I am bitching about being in a relationship when that’s exactly what I want and have wanted; I totally understand the irony of the fact that my bitching originates with a desire to do more fucking work, even though my whole point with continuing trying to do the dating thing was to stop being a fucking workaholic!

And let’s note: The Dude is totally supportive of my work!  The problem is me, and me alone!  Well, except for that in my fantasy version of my life he wouldn’t just be supportive of my work he would totally sacrifice himself on the altar of my work, because, you know, I’d rather be doing that right now.  And then he’d stop sacrificing himself on the altar of my work, and not be resentful, the moment that I didn’t want it.  Because I’m a Giant and Unreasonable Bitch who can’t sustain a reciprocal relationship with another adult human being, and who expects people to read her mind and to coddle her, even when, especially when, her demands are entirely unreasonable.  So in that way, the problem is also him.  Ha!

Look, I was an only child until I was 20.  And I’m a Leo.  And, apparently, my Enneagram personality type also indicates (according to CF, I haven’t done the weird pop-psych research on this) that while I am the most fun person ever, I’m also entirely unreasonable, in search of what I think is fun.  And in numerology my main number is THREE, the CHILD!  Thank goodness The Dude is a Middle Child and an Aries (though I’ve not investigated the other fake personality things for him).

So anyway, all is good.  You probably won’t hear back from me until like June 12 or 14, because I shall be busy with my conference, nursing my jet-lag, and nursing my motherfucking relationship (I say that to be funny – I really do think things are grand).  But let this be a lesson to all of y’all who are desperately alone academics and whining about your desperate aloneness: you get much more work done, even when you’re not getting anything done, when you don’t have a significant other to consider.  And sometimes, what you really want is to work.  Be careful what you wish for 🙂

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