Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Anyone Notice Anything Today?

Anyone notice that I’ve posted not once, not twice, but three times a lady? That is because I have been grading papers and It. Is. So. Painful. I have become the world’s best procrastinator. It wasn’t an easy accomplishment. It’s taken years and years of perfecting my technique, but grading these papers has really honed my skills.

I’ve only seen parts of the movie Billy Madison, but there is a scene in which the dean of something important says to Adam Sandler’s character (and I’m paraphrasing): “Something, something, something and everyone here is dumber for having listened to it. I award you zero points and may God have mercy on your soul.” And that is how I feel today. My IQ drops a point or two with every paper I read. And now I’m starting to forget the basic rules of grammar and punctuation and even worse – I’m starting to think my students might be making some sense. About a guest speaker, a male student wrote, “Dr. S was a captive speaker.” Two years ago, I would have been appalled. Now I have to pick up the phone and call my mom, “Mom, can a speaker be captive? Is there another way to use the word captive? Or do you think he just meant captivating?” There are a few I still know. For example, I know chicken pox is not chicken pocks. (I also had to look up if it was one word or two. Apparently either is acceptable.) I’m pretty sure. I think. I don’t know. Ask me tomorrow.

Here are just a few of the things that have tripped me up today. And I am very afraid. May God have mercy on my soul:

  • One student used the term “over generalize” many times in her paper. And I corrected it to, “overgeneralize.” But when I typed it up in Microsoft Word, I got the wavy red, “You’re an idiot and you can’t spell” underlines. And then I looked it up on, (Perhaps not the best source, I realize) and found it listed as overgeneralize. See, what’s so scary here is I USED to know these things. I did.
  • Another sentence: “Sex is rarely if not ever queued by our heads.” Isn’t it rarely, if ever? Is it? IS IT!?!?!?! And I think he meant “cued” by our heads and not “queued” but after a while it all just starts looking like a foreign language that I’m just starting to learn and what the hell do I know?
  • The activity was decent but lacked and grand information. Two things: Proofread your damn papers and now I’m supposed to come up with GRAND information? Can’t I just have GOOD information? Did he mean great? Does grand mean something else that I don’t know?
  • The first was one would have to obtain a mucous membrane on the body. I had to read this sentence three times. I think she meant “have” because “obtaining” a mucous membrane is a little different than just “having” one. Okay, a lot different.
  • Chicken pocks student also wrote, “Contrary, another question was , “who would you disclose if you had contacted (italics mine) chicken pocks?” Hell, I contact chicken pocks all the time and I don’t care who knows it. Why, just the other day I said, “Honey, you wouldn’t mind if I got on the horn and gave ol’ chicken pocks a shout, would you?” But more disturbing to me was the “Contrary.” Are we British? Did she mean, “In contrast,” or “On the contrary,” or even something French?
  • Tracy associates her behavior to being socially isolated in high school. Students called her “the jolly green giant” as a result of her height.” You attribute behavior to something, don’t you? Right? You don’t ASSOCIATE it, I hope (at least that’s what I wrote on his paper.) You associate with, you attribute to. And people call you the Jolly Green Giant because of your height, not as a result of your height. Or am I wrong?
  • There seemed to be an emotional void in each person, and the essential reason for sex was that this behavior provided the greatest amount of securing this void. Did he mean filling the void? Potential for temporarily obscuring the void?
I’m so depressed and I’ve lost my damn mind. I could go on for hours (unfortunately) and I will probably post (yet again) this evening. Inappropriate Brother’s paper is sitting at the bottom of the pile and I’ve been avoiding it. Like the chicken pocks.

A Little Too Much Mayhem for Me

I just read Teacher Kerri’s post and I feel so helpless. I can’t imagine how she feels on a daily basis.

I suppose we all ask ourselves this question once in a while – or maybe it’s just a sign of getting old, you know, “The good ol' days,” mentality when the good ol' days weren’t really that good, but that’s how we remember them.

But. What the hell is going on in this country? Seriously. In all my years of schooling, I don’t think I ever had anyone threaten to stab me. (At least I’m pretty sure. Maybe they talked about that behind my back.) And yes, I went to Catholic grade school for 8 years (explains a lot, doesn’t it?), and yes, I went to the whitest of the white high schools in perhaps the whitest suburb in the world so perhaps I am not comparing apples to apples (as my friends back in Corporate America liked to say. BTW? Hate that phrase.)

And, it’s migrating upward. We have a wonderful professor in our department who came from a large state school in the south. By “school,” I mean “college,” just so we’re clear. She told me she witnessed a student PUNCH a professor in the FACE because of some disagreement over a grade. A strong right hook. And, ironically, the professor had broken his arm recently so was wearing a cast. Why don’t you kick a three-legged puppy while you’re at it? Not enough to PUNCH your professor in the face, you have to punch your professor who has one functioning arm and one broken one. Call me crazy, but isn’t, say, an “F” in history not nearly as bad as “assault and battery” on your permanent, CRIMINAL record?

One of the things that jumped out at me in Kerri’s post was how much things have changed. (I know. Duh.) But let me elaborate: The thing about the student, the hairbrush and her throwing it in the trashcan? And the parents getting all riled up and now Teacher Kerri has to replace the hairbrush? I think that’s very telling. And it’s not telling us a good thing. I’m not a parent, so I’ll be interested to know what parents have to say about this. Maybe I’ll get a lot of angry posts telling me I don’t know how hard it is to teach kids to value their possessions and then a teacher flings something in the trash and that whole lesson is right out the window. We shall see.

But. I still remember the nuns (ooh, perhaps not the best example) saying, “If I have to tell you to put X away one more time, I’m going to take it away from you.” And sometimes they added, “And you’re not going to get it back, either.” I have a hunch that if, say, I had been compulsively brushing my hair in the classroom (and I’m about 99% sure (Ew! Gross!) that I did – what with the layering and flipping involved, plus I enjoyed displaying my giant comb for all the class to see) and Sister Mary Hot Flash took away my giant purple comb that read, “If You Can Read This, You’re Too Close” and threw it in the trash, well? Too damn bad for me. I can picture the conversation at home that night going like this:

Me: Mom, Sister Mary Hot Flash is, like, SO mean. She, like, totally, like took my comb away in class and like, totally embarrassed me in front of EVERYONE.

Mom: Why did you have your comb out in the middle of class?

Me: Well, because it was, like, after lunch and it was really hot and stuff and --

Mom: Is there a rule about not combing your hair in the middle of class?

Me: Well, not really a hard and fast rule, you know, more like, sort of a guideline --

Mom: Well, that’s too bad.

Me: Will you buy me another comb?

Mom: I don’t think that’s my problem.

Me: WHAT?!?!?! But that’s so, like, NOT fair!! I wasn’t even DOING anything. (And then I probably said, “I hate you,” and “This is the worst family, EVER” and "I wish I'd never been BORN!" and a whole bunch of other things that made my mom wish she had decided to just raise dogs instead of kids.)

There is always the chance that I am deluding myself (and an excellent chance at that), but I really think if I had broken a rule, for the most part, my parents would have sided with Sister Mary Hot Flash and all the nuns over at Our Lady of Perpetual Sentence Diagramming. You know, sort of, “Well, you broke the rule – what did you think would happen? DUH.” (Although my mother, the English teacher, would never have said “Duh,” then. Now she says it all the time. Guess where she used to teach? A giant public middle school in a very socio-economically disadvantaged area. Sorry. I digress.)

I actually just posted a “these darn kids today,” post and I’m so weirded out that I’m going to put on my cardigan, go get my Ricola and my bi-focals and sit on my lawn chair in the driveway and read Reader’s Digest until I feel better.

Shake That!

J. and I live in a cute (soon to be MUCH cuter) townhouse. Our next door neighbors are both single women - one a sweet, sad widow and one a sweet, fashion-felon type. However, the fashion felon LOVES Eminem. Loves him. I cannot express this strongly enough. Like, "maybe her fiance has some competition" loves him. In particular, she LOVES the song Shake That. I honestly don't mind Eminem - I don't own any of his stuff, but I'm not completely opposed to him. (Although morbid curiosity made me watch the Shake That video on VH1 online and I was appalled to hear the lyrics, "I get more ass than a toilet seat." Nice. Maybe I'll use that in my next class as an example of how to repel women with one easy step.)

But she listens to that song EVERY day. At very specific times. During the week, she listens to that song from approximately 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. She also listens to it from about 11:00 p.m. to 11:25 or so. Just that ONE song!! And since our walls are fairly thin, WE listen to that song over and over and over and over.

Today, she busted out Shake That around 1:30-ish and I said to J., "You know what I really want to do? I want to go over there, knock on her door, hand her a CD (any CD - I don't care - at this point I'd settle for obsessive-compulsive playing of the Ride of the Valkyries) and say, "Can we listen to something else for a while? Thanks."

J. said to let it go. Besides (he reasons), she's moving soon so we can put up with it a little bit longer. Speak for yourself, honey.

What would you do? Or what have you done? I'm interested to hear all loud neighbor stories.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Oh, for the love of gob!

This is not the wedding post Part II, as I promised a few days earlier. This is an Inappropriate Brother and Sister post with the subtitle: "Oh, Teacher Lady, will you never learn?"

So here's what I did: I had the genius idea of bringing in an interesting and unique guest speaker for Chapter 20: Sex for Sale. All about prostitution and pornography. Before the semester even started, I did some research and found that sex workers (the politically correct umbrella term for prostitutes, strippers, call girls, what-have-you) have their own professional organization. I found the local chapter (yes, we have one!) and started e-mailing the woman listed as president. She had moved out of state and hooked me up with this woman named Kiki. Former president said Kiki worked for a non-profit org that worked to prevent the spread of AIDS among prostitutes.

Kiki and I have been e-mailing for months and Tuesday was the day she was going to come and speak to my class. Ironically, Kiki calls me on Tuesday and says she is running late. Since I'll never be the world's best planner, I freaked out because I have NOTHING else planned for class. As I'm frantically paging through the instructor's manual I read, "We do not recommend inviting prostitutes or other sex workers to class. The authors of your textbook have done this while teaching Human Sexuality classes and it does not work well." I pat myself on the back, "Phew. Thank goodness Kiki is some kind of social worker or something. Crisis narrowly averted."

Well, Kiki walks into my classroom 10 minutes late, and guess what? She kicks off her presentation by saying, "That's right. I was a 'ho. A crack 'ho. I was 'hoin' and trickin' for years and years." Approximately 50 jaws fall on the floor. Then 50 heads all turn towards me, like, "Seriously? Seriously. You did NOT invite a 'crack 'ho' to our class." It's a good thing I'm no stranger to community theatre because BOY did I have a chance to practice my "serene and knowing provider of the learning experience" face. All the while I was thinking, "I am so fired. I am so fucking fired. My department chair is going to take me out into the parking lot and beat me senseless."

Let me be clear: I honestly did think it would be a good learning experience for my class. But. Although you'd never guess from reading my blog, I do try to keep my classroom environment academic and I correct my students when they use street terms instead of clinical language (I even list that rule in my syllabus.) And I swear (no pun intended) I don't use profanity in my classroom, even though I have really wanted to - especially this semester. But when one of your students asks, "Did you have kind of a defining moment when you decided you had to get out of the lifestyle?" and Kiki responds, "I was drunk for 6 days, I woke up naked next to this guy and thought 'Who the fuck are you?'" you just start thinking, "I am SO going to be on the news. And not in a good way."

It gets worse. Kiki made the mistake of saying, "I am truly blessed to be alive." Honestly, I couldn't have made it worse if I wanted to. Guess whose wee little mugs lit up like Christmas trees? Sister raises her hand almost immediately. Kiki calls on her, "We are so truly blessed to have you here. I am curious to know about how your spirituality helped you get out of the lifestyle." Then Kiki starts talking about prayer. And God. And Jesus. And as she's speaking, I keep hearing these weird sounds. Since I'm up in front of the classroom (near the vent), I can't really tell where the noise is coming from. The weird sounds continue and then I notice certain students start looking around too. Then whispering. Then rolling their eyes. Then looking at me like, "Do. Something." I keep straining my ears to hear what's going on and then finally my eyes stop and I see where the noises are coming from.

It's Inappropriate Brother and Sister and they have turned my guest speaker's gig into a good-old-fashioned tent revival. They have been saying, "Mmm-hmm." and "Yes, thank you," and "That's right, Lord." and "Thank you, Jesus." Every time Kiki says something about Narcotics Anonymous or praying or the Lord or the church, those two follow with their "Thank you, Jesus!" or "Mmm-hmm, that's right!" and "Yes, Lord, Amen!"

I was clueless. I didn't know what to do. All these options kept running through my head. What I really wanted to do was interrupt Kiki, look at IBAS and say, "Church. State." (frantically wave hands around) "SEPARATE!" I do, after all, teach at a state school, but you never would have guessed that on Tuesday. I asked questions, like, "Tell us where you grew up," - you know, distracting and diverting, and then Sister would raise her hand and ask something about our only true Lord and Savior and in the mean time, every other student was rolling their eyes and glaring at me like, "Do something already, you incompetent nitwit!"

I came home and told J. about the fiasco. Since he taught freshman (college) calculus for fun, for many years, he is usually my first (and best) source for teaching advice. For the first time since I started teaching he was out of suggestions. Well, that's not entirely true. He said, "Gosh. You might want to consider teaching a math class. We don't have these sorts of problems in calculus." No, I can't imagine that you would.

Excuse Me, but I Think I Deserve a Promotion

This is our current kitchen floor. It is primed. We are not supposed to walk on the "white parts." My request to install a wire and harness, so we can hoist ourselves throughout the house without stepping on the "white parts" has been denied. I need a promotion if I'm going to get this project request through.

Except I don't want to know what the next "level" is - after girlfriend, you get "promoted" to fiancee. After fiancee, you get "promoted" to wife. But what's next after wife? It's kind of a dead-end gig, if you ask me.

I'm not that bitter, but I sure would like this &^%$#@ project to be over! (Oh, and just so you don't feel too much pity, the new floor is SUPPOSED to be installed tomorrow. But we'll see.)

Because I Think I Have the Flu

Another meme. May post later today if I find exactly the right medication - so far, no luck. I have crazy-bad chills, a seriously debilitating headache and to top it all off, the non-fatal but near-fatally annoying nose-running-like-a-faucet thing going on. I actually canceled class today, which is a first.

To keep you entertained until I find the right pusher:

13 Things I Find Pretty Disgusting

  1. The very concept of eating at Red Lobster
  2. Rodents as pets
  3. Keg beer
  4. Courtney Love
  5. Walking barefoot in hotel rooms
  6. Hot dogs (I can eat bratwurst, but only if I force myself NOT to think about the whole bratwurst-making process. Beer helps me do this.)
  7. People making out in public
  8. Mullets
  9. Fairs – county – state – whatever. Hate ‘em. The smell alone could raise the dead. Hey – that might explain a lot of the “people” you see at a fair, though. Maybe they’re really the un-dead.
  10. Michael Douglas and Katherine Zeta-Jones, um, reproducing. (Shudder)
  11. Overflowing ashtrays
  12. Fraternity houses (if memory serves)
  13. Most airport restrooms

Now it's your turn! Come on, everybody! Join in the "it wanna makes me hurl" circle of fun.

Monday, April 24, 2006

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

No, not that time of the year. That time of the year. I’ve been holding out on you, dear readers. I have a dirty little secret. (My apologies to The All-American Rejects.) Because being a doc student and teaching fellow doesn’t exactly pay the big bucks, I have a part-time job or two. Or twelve. This time of year, my gig is wedding planner’s assistant. I have a friend, let’s call her Saint Fifi, (with the emphasis on SAINT because that’s what you need to be in order to work with brides), who is a wedding/event planner. I have known her for 8 years now, and have helped her out on a semi-regular basis for 7 of those years.

I had planned to post today on two of the weddings I worked this weekend, but I decided that first, we must engage in that age-old tradition, “The De-Bunking of the Myths.” Because with wedding planning, there are many myths. Let us debunk them now.

Myth #1: Wedding planning is exactly like that J-Lo movie, The Wedding Planner. Let me be clear: Cinderella is less of a fairy tale than The Wedding Planner. If that’s what a wedding planner did on a regular basis, I’d throw this whole school bullshit to the wind and open up my own shop.

Myth #2: Wedding planning is glamorous. Anyone who thinks this has never had to help the 90-year-old grandmother of the bride put on her pantyhose. Perhaps the darkest moment of my life. And also, my yardstick for workplace angst. No matter how crazy my life gets, or how annoying and exasperating my students can be, I stop and ask myself, “Self, is this worse than putting on someone else’s grandmother’s pantyhose?” and the answers, to this point, have been, “Nope, not even close.” The day that the answer is, “Yeah, it’s pretty much the same,” I am out of there, wherever “there” happens to be.

Myth #3: Wedding planning is fun. Like attending parties for a living. Well, I guess this one could be true, depending on who you are, and what you usually do at parties. If, for example, at parties, you might be found:

  • Putting cover-stick on a zit on the bride’s father’s forehead
  • Scuffing up other people’s new shoes outside on the sidewalk so they don’t trip down the aisle
  • Holding a sweaty, screaming 4-year-old flower girl who is hungry and needs a nap while her mother ignores you, hits on the 22-year-old groomsman and pretends you’re the babysitter
  • Fending off the advances of drunken ushers and groomsmen all the while being gracious and polite because they think that part of what you’re “paid” to do is make them seem fascinating (hmm . . . similarities between wedding planners and Heidi Fleiss . . . could be?)
  • Convincing the wasted, anorexic and extremely wealthy aunt of the bride that you’re not, in fact, the same blonde who took her coat earlier that evening (because you weren’t even there, but that’s another story) and are not refusing to give it back to her just to be rude
  • Begging drunk guests to be patient just TEN minutes longer because you cannot send a 50-person shuttle back to the hotel with 12 people on it
  • Listening politely to the mother-of-the-bride express her dissatisfaction with the color of the hand-soap dispensers in the women’s bathroom
  • Convincing the hotel manager (for the third time) that they don’t need to call 911 – the flower girl and ring bearer are just a little high-spirited and you will do your best to keep them away from the house phones (again) and you have, honestly, explained to them that dialing 911 is not a good game,

Then yes, I guess wedding planning is a lot like attending parties for a living. Begging, groveling, listening politely, standing on your feet while wearing high heels and "party clothes" and apologizing for things over which you have no control not for you? Then neither is wedding planning.
Stay Tuned for Part II.


Friday, April 21, 2006

Inspired by Jackie

Jackie is a friend. Jackie is a good friend of mine. (I do love me some Rick Springfield.) And I am worried about her. Because Jackie has been seduced by the most insidious of all mistresses - the killer employee discount! She has finally accepted the fact that she is an addict (isn't acceptance the first of the 12 Steps?) and rather than fight it, she's embracing it wholeheartedly. She has become a "Creeker." A Coldwater Creeker. All for the Holy Grail of shopping - the employee discount.

I am worried about her, because just this time last year, I was struggling with my own Million Little Pieces-esque addiction to Ann Taylor. Except at Ann Taylor we weren't called anything as cute as "Creekers" - we were called "shoe whores." And, as is the case in all addiction stories (or cautionary tales - tomato, to-mah-to), it ended badly. I did not expect it to end so badly because Teacher Lady? She has worked some retail in her over-educated life. A short list of stores whose wares I peddled:

  • The Limited: Winter break of college, sophomore year. The mall was so crappy that the heating broke on a regular basis, and we stood around in our coats, gloves and scarves. The REAL shoppers all thought we were just well-dressed homeless nutjobs when we walked up to them and said, "Hi, can I help you?"
  • Eddie Bauer: Summer between freshman and sophomore year of college. I've blocked most of this out, except for an extremely confusing incident during which an Asian couple kept asking for "polishes" and I displayed my Ugly-American ignorance with dazzling flair. They were, as it happens, looking for polo shirts.
  • Abercrombie & Fitch: After college graduation. Talk about blocking shit out. Dark chapter of my life. Overly enthusiastic store manager still haunts my nightmares with her mantra, "Okay, I really need you to like, jam on those sweaters, okay?" (My folding skillz, they were not mad.)
  • Borders Books & Music: If you ever know of anyone who says, "I thought it might be fun to pick up a part-time job. Wouldn't it be cool to work at Borders?" just bitch-slap them across the face. They'll thank you for it later. Best staff I ever worked with. Phenomenal people. Most backbreaking (literally- mammoth boxes of books are HEAVY, people!), annoying, frustrating, thankless retail job I've ever had. EVER. Perhaps, if my therapist gives me the okay, I will post about it in detail. But not until I've had my meds.
  • Williams-Sonoma: Not too bad, except for the brides and their &^%$# bridal registries. And if anyone ever thinks "retail" is equivalent to "unskilled labor," they have never tried to gift-wrap a Kitchen Aid mixer with that stupid cream-and-gold pineapple wrapping paper.

And that brings me to my "I've hit bottom" job - Ann. The AT. The "no more wooden hangers!" gig. I should have known that it would end badly when I got reprimanded the first week for "stealing" wooden hangers. "What?" you say. Yes, it's true. And it goes a little something like this:

Anyone who has ever shopped at the Ann knows that the clothes displayed on the "sales floor" are on wooden hangers. When you buy the clothes, the shoe whore behind the counter swaps out the wooden hanger and gives you a crappy plastic one. Or she should. My first day on the floor was a crazy-busy Saturday. I was ringing. I was wrapping. I was running back and forth to the "wardrobing rooms." And then I went home and passed out on the floor. Two days later, the assistant manager (a very, VERY small woman, I might add. Literally. Like 5'0" and 89 pounds soaking wet) showed me a receipt and a wooden hanger. "Did you do this?" she asked me, much in the same tone one might ask a dog about a damning yellow puddle on the floor. "What?" Even though I could have cracked her in half like a twig, I was scared. "This client just returned a dress you sold her on Saturday. You sold it to her WITH THE WOODEN HANGER!!!!" This last part was delivered in a sound-barrier breaking shriek. I was now soiling-my-drawers scared, but tried to be calm. "I'm sorry. I won't do it again." Her rage was not assuaged. "This is very serious. VERY serious. The manager could get fired for this. She could be accused of stealing wooden hangers!"

It is unfortunate that I am a smart-ass. And sometimes I just do not have patience for minutiae and shit. I engage my mouth before my brain a lot of the time (see recent Inappropriate Sister post if you need more proof of that). I said, "Let me get this straight. Ann Taylor will fire an award-winning manager because one of her new sales associates accidentally gave away a wooden hanger?" Her mouth was set in a tight, straight line and she said, "Yes. It's the same as stealing." And then I was really awful. I said, "Interesting. I'm not sure I want to work for a company that makes such rash, bad business decisions." Oh, and then how the tune was changed! "Well, it's not necessarily a big deal if it happens just ONE time. I don't think they'd fire her for THAT!" Uh-huh. That's what I thought.

So, in closing, I will just say to my dear friend Jackie: Good luck, girl and keep your mitts off those damn wooden hangers!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

My Mom Spent a Boatload of Money at the Vet

And all I got were these stupid muscle relaxers.

On top of everything else, the Biting Wonderdog has become the Limping . . . Limperdog? Last week, after a night of restful snoozin' in her crate, she emerged with her tail wagging high and her right hind leg curled up, paw not touching the floor. After a week of watching her run quickly and impressively on 3 legs, I decided I was just a bad dog owner if I let this continue merely because I thought it was a great party trick.

Yesterday, I got her an emergency appointment at the vet. Biting Wonderdog, it would seem, has stretched her ACL (who knew?) and is now on the dog version of "bed rest" AND a nice drug cocktail of muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories.

Does it say anything at all about how upset I was last night over Inappropriate Sister that I was contemplating trying out the dog muscle relaxers? After all, they seemed to work wonders for BWD. Look at her, wearing that crappy faded curtain without a care in the world!

Note: We do not live in a wooden shack. We are not rednecks (not that there's anything wrong with that.) We have gutted our living room and kitchen. New floor is to be delivered next week (please, gob) and I will FINALLY have a refrigerator NOT in the living room, but on the front porch where it belongs.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Inappropriate Sister Strikes Back

Okay friends. Not sure whether to laugh or cry, but I have been chastised by Inappropriate Sister and now am feeling EXTREMELY guilty. But not so guilty that I don't want someone to say, "We still love you, Teacher Lady! Anyone in your situation would have done the same thing."

I suppose we (Sister and I) have been building up to this. Two weeks ago, I had the class do what I thought was a harmless group activity. We reviewed the chapter on sexual dysfunction. I assigned each group a "dysfunction" and had them create an advertisement for one of the treatments for the various dysfunction. One of the students asked me if they could be "cheesy" in the creation of their ads and I told them they could be cheesy or silly, but not raunchy or vulgar. The purpose was to focus on how various companies might "spin" treatments for sexual dysfunctions and take advantage of people who were already feeling low. Sister took over for her small group (I ran out of time, so the groups really only had a few minutes to create their ad); as I walked around the classroom, checking in with each of the groups, I noticed that she was the only one creating the poster; the rest of her group was sitting in their desks, kind of looking at each other like, "This woman's crazy - let's just let her do her thing." So, when it was time for each group to share their advertisement, she was laughing so hard she could barely speak. Her advertisement said something like, "Pee-pee not got the power?" and showed a woman (drawn to resemble a porn star, by the way) straddling a banana. This didn't even make sense because their particular dysfunction was erectile dysfunction and I guess they decided to do an ad for penile implants. I have extremely little patience for the sissy-noodle-who-who-dingle language and I guess it showed. I said, "I'm sorry. Is there anwhere in that chapter in the text book that it says 'pee-pee?' She is laughing hysterically and says, "But I'm EMBARRASSED!" You're embarrassed to say "penis" but not to draw a picture of a woman straddling a banana and say the word "pee-pee" in front of 49 of your peers?

Okay. Whatever. Then, I get an e-mail from her this morning asking if she can turn a paper in late or if I can possibly print it out for her because two of the computer labs she's been to this morning both seem to be incapable of printing her paper. First of all, there are about 20 printing labs on our campus. Second, I find it hard to believe that in two of these 20-some labs on campus there isn't a working printer. But fine. It's typical for her. As Roseanne Roseanna-Danna would say, "It's always something."

Today was a lesson that was kind of all over the place - I'll admit it. We are wrapping up STIs and one of the students asked me about the rates of AIDS in the U.S. I botched the answer (which I will go back and correct) and Sister raises her hand and says, "I just heard that in colleges around Washington D.C., the rates of HIV infection are one person in 20." I didn't even have to say anything. Before I got out my, "I'm not familiar with that statistic, but that doesn't mean it's not true, although it sounds a bit extreme," one of my male students said, "That's ridiculous. That sounds way too high if you ask me." Perhaps I should have chastised him for not being respectful, because that may have set the tone for this whole thing. I just said, "My math isn't the best, but isn't 1 out of 20 about 5%? It does sound a little high, but I didn't see the article." Then she says, "It must be one of those nympho colleges." Right. Very technical term. Nympho. So I tried to turn it around and said, "Ah, yes. Nympho. That's the spirit and an excellent segue to our next chapter, Atypical Sexual Behavior."

In the section of the chapter on voyeurism, I mentioned an article I saw in March's Glamour magazine about "video voyeurism" and how many college women are engaging in drunken exploits they'd never engage in while sober, only later to find those same exploits posted all over the Internet. Then I was getting very serious and mom-preachy (something I try to avoid in class) and talked about the textbook's paragraphs about hidden video cameras taping people dressing, bathing, having sex, etc., While I do my best not to spread rumors in my classroom, I have heard from a fellow student - who conducts research outside the residence halls from the hours of 10:00 p.m. - 3:00 a.m. - that there is a campus "pornography ring" that involves male students video taping their sex partners (without partners' knowledge) and then passing the videos around to "share." Sister raises her hand and asks, "This isn't exactly about that, but have you heard of how people stick gerbils up their butts?" I am serious. I could not make this up if I tried. My face was blank for about 1o seconds. I stuttered and stammered and then finally said, "Yes." and just glared at her. "Well, is that the same thing as the fetish thing you were talking about earlier?" I snapped, "No, that would be bestiality, but good question. Thanks." I admit it - I was irritated and fed up with her and it came through. Then we moved on and she asked me a question about her paper after class and I thought we were good.

Oh, no. I just got home and check it out:

ok , that's great , i will be doing aid work in biluxi from thurs.-sun.
so i won't be in class, and thats great that you have my paper
ill leave it how it is.

oh and when i ask a question , i apologize if it sounds like
im trying to be funny, i really just don't kno how to word things
and it comes out wrong, but i would appriciate it if you could be
a little nicer towrds me when that happens in class, like you are after class.
no biggie, thanks.

I feel so much guilt. My bitchiness got the best of me. I lost my patience in front of the class and I let them see it. You know those stupid old deodorant commercials, "Never let them see you sweat?" I let her see me sweat. Bad. Bad teacher lady. Bad, bad, bad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Groundhog's Day of Papers

Because I am both an idiot and a glutton for punishment, I let my students rewrite and resubmit (within 1 week) their papers if they earn a C- or below. I am seriously rethinking this policy for next semester.

Thursday, the writer of the two worst sentences ever written said to me after class, "You said in my paper, I had a lot of run-on sentences." I replied, "Yes, that's true. You did." Her reply: "So, what do you want me to do, like, fix 'em or something?" No, just retype it and give me the exact same piece of crap you gave me last time. Instead, ever the professional, I said, "That's really up to you. If you want to rewrite and resubmit your paper for a better grade, then yes, you should probably rewrite those run-on sentences."

Now this policy has really come back to bite me in the ass. A student rewrote her paper and turned it in to me with "changes." Except, I don't ask the students to staple the new paper to the original, so I have no idea exactly how bad the original was. In this particular case, I honestly don't think she made a single change, because some sentences are so bad, they just stick with you like a bad scene from any movie with Jeanne Tripplehorn.

Check these babies out:
  • "She knew something was wrong so she called for help, and at the end of this section of the film, it just showed her knelling in a huge pile of blood."
Okay, last time I checked? Blood does not "pile" up. Then again, I don't work in an ER, so what the hell do I know. I do know that I distinctly remember crossing off "pile" and writing "pool" the first time I read this miserable excuse for a paper. "Knelling" also seems eerily familiar.
  • Coming in second place for "eerily familiar" we have: "He came and requested to receive his money before the abortion was done, and she wearingly agreed."

Because these nitwits are seriously affecting the quality of my own writing, spelling and grammar, I actually looked up "wearingly" because I thought perhaps this was a word with which I was not familiar. And you know what? Our friends over at ask oh-so-politely, "Did you mean veeringly?" and I thought, hell, yeah, I meant veeringly! I'm going to drive veeringly right off a bridge if I have to read another one of these damn papers!

And, in a category that may be called misplaced modifiers (again - I don't know these things anymore; my IQ plummets precipitously with each paper I grade), I give you: "One of the women Claire asked was an Avon Lady named Louise; she said that the only place she was familiar with women going to was a yellow house a few blocks away supposedly performed abortions." I couldn't help myself. I circled the last half of the sentence and wrote: "Houses cannot perform abortions." Now I don't even know if my comment was correct.

J. came downstairs minutes later to find me prone on the couch, staring at the TV (which happened to be off. For once.) "What's wrong?" he asked. "I just finished grading papers." "How many?" I sighed. "Four." He was no longer emanating empathy. "Just four?" I sighed again. "Believe me. I'm fucking exhausted."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Is it Summer Yet?

Or: Who will come visit me in jail?

Because I am THIS close to seriously injuring my students.

Today was not a good day. For starters, I had to read these two sentences. In one paper. I have crowned these two sentences: The most poorly written sentences, EVER:

Feeling guilty about the event as well as being poor in the fact that her parent-in-laws owned and funded the house that she lived in as well as paid her bills, Claire came to the realization that having a baby would not be a good ideal financially-wise as well as the fact of how disappointing it would be to the family to find out that she had sex with her deceased husband’s brother and harbored a child by him.

In viewing this video it made me realize that the issue of abortion is a two-edge sword type situation: one who is pro-life would argue that abortionist try to play gob, but on the other end of the spectrum it can be argued that it says primarily in the Bible that god gives us choices, So a lot of the arguments made for and against abortion are religiously filled more so than morally (in my opinion.)

Okay, first things first. A good friend of mine, who happens to be an excellent writer and in fact should have her own blog (hint, hint!) said that people should not be allowed to use words they don't quite understand. Agreed. And then some. The last time I checked, pregnant women do not harbor fetuses. People harbor fugitives. And maybe secret grudges.

Next: I am beginning to wonder if any middle schools in the U.S. teach about run-on sentences because never in my life have I seen so many run-on sentences as the number of run-on sentences I have seen in the past semester which reminds me of this thing I saw on Oprah the other day called "Schools in Crisis" which brings me back to my point about run-on sentences that I think schools are no longer teaching about and also I have concerns that my brain cells die a painful, shrieking death with every run-on sentence that I read and my own writing just gets worse and worse and worse and worse. (I really hope you realize this last sentence was a parody.)

On to worst sentence ever written Part Deux: Who, exactly, is gob? Is this who Tom Cruise worships? That would explain a lot. Also, I like how the student capitalized the Bible - she seems to know that much. But even when gob transforms into god, still no capitalization there. Maybe gob and god are brothers who, for reasons unknown to us humans, don't like their names capitalized?

That was just one paper. THEN we had class. The end of the semester is nearing, and students are officially panicking. I may have mentioned at least once or twice that my students have to write FOUR reaction/review papers about speakers or videos. Since the beginning of the semester, I have given them the following "reaction opportunities":

  • Clips from the movie Kinsey (a must-see, AND Liam Neeson was robbed by the Academy if you ask me)
  • The first vignette in the HBO home movie If These Walls Could Talk
  • American Experience: The Pill (a PBS documentary)
  • a lengthy clip from And the Band Played On
  • a video I borrowed from the university called Labor of Love, that shows - you guessed it - a real birth
  • A very old Dateline episode about the case of John-Joan and Jade Cox - individuals with "gender issues" (to say the least)
  • I had a panel of gay, bisexual and transgender students speak to the class about their coming-out stories
  • I had Dr. L. (who inspired the "White Witch" paper written by Inappropriate Sister) come speak about birth control
  • I had my advisor come do a fantabulous presentation about sexually transmitted infections
  • I had another colleague come do a presentation on the human sexual response cycle
  • I have also shown a few CNN news clips about various topics - female circumcision, sexual dysfunction, all really upbeat, fun stuff like that.

And at the end of class today, I had half a dozen students crowding around me, wanting to know if I had planned at least FOUR speakers/videos beween now and the end of the semester because they hadn't done any of their reaction papers yet. The class meets EXACTLY four more times. I have scheduled the last class as a review for the final. One of the students (male) was borderline indignant with me!!! "Well, what am I supposed to DO if there aren't four more speakers or videos?" Since saying, "I dunno. Bite me, I guess," didn't seem very professional, I went with the standard answer I use when I don't know what to say, "Let me think about it."

And guess who was one of the other ones in line whining about not having completed enough reaction papers? Inappropriate brother. Who also asked me, "Do you have a grade book you carry with you?" Why, yes. Yes, I do. My whole life is nothing but you and this class and personally, I never leave home without it. Our university has an online grading system, which I use as my only gradebook. Cuts down on paper AND students can check it regularly so there should be no unpleasant "end of semester surprises." Well, I got quite the unpleasant surprise when Inappropriate Brother told me today (after he woke up from his hour-long nap) that he had not been able to access the online gradebook for quite some time now and didn't know how he was doing in the class. This is not good news. Inappropriate Brother, as it happens, is borderline FAILING my class. He is hovering in the D- range (which is what happens when you choose to use the Bible as your textbook in my class, instead of the actual, how should I put it? TEXTBOOK!) which might as well be an "F." I have been suffering under the delusion that he has been aware of this and alas, no. I expect that when he does finally figure out how to break that crack web of security that surrounds the university website and looks at his grade, I will be on the receiving end of a torrent of badly written, poorly-spelled e-mails explaining why he needs to not fail my class. I will keep you posted.

And last, but not least: A little lesson for anyone in school: Speaking for all college instructors everywhere, I can say with some confidence that if you want your instructor to make some kind of special exception for you, it is in your best interest to not ASK for that exception in front of the entire class. Because you have put your instructor on the spot, and the answer will be "no." And also? College is supposed to be hard, you whiny little fuckers and it's not my problem. Female student says at the end of class today: "I have THREE finals on the same day as this one, so I need to take this final another day." Well, you know what? I NEED to not have cystic acne all over my face right now. I also NEED three months off from paying my bills.

I'm not sure when or how this happened, but apparently, college is the new Club Med. Just ask, and you shall receive. Don't study. Don't go to class. Don't stand for a stressful finals week. You deserve MORE. You're paying (or your parents are) for this education, so you should be treated like you're on a four-year vacation. Somethin' got ya troubled? Just complain! We'll fix it. The last thing we want is for you to have to strain your brain cells. That would be bad.

I managed to refrain from such a sarcastic outburst and said something about the department chair being pretty clear on not giving alternate finals. That is true, but I was still flabbergasted. I have 50 students in that class. I imagine that means there could be 49 other students who would rather take my final at a more convenient time. You take a final. You don't schedule it like a tee-time. But I was even more taken aback by her reaction: It was the same reaction I've seen people have in stores when the sales associate doesn't understand the return policy. She was pissed. At me. And clearly thought I was really quite the idiot. She spoke to me slowly and clearly like I was just a little bit on the slow side: "But. What. Am. I. Supposed. To. Do? (Long pause coupled with evil stare). I have another final right. before. this. one. (Now extra-evil hexing-stare). There is a chance I'll be LATE for your final." I told her that was fine, and then I got the hell out of that classroom as soon as I could, looking over my shoulder all the way back to my office. I'm scared.

Friday, April 07, 2006

13 Things I'm Embarrassed About

Or: Things people who see me everyday probably don't know, but I'm telling all of my Internetweb friends so please don't tell anyone else. 'Cause seriously? Some of this shit is just appalling. (By the way, Stefanie actually did this last week and I thought it was a brilliant topic for a Thursday 13 meme. Don't forget to do YOUR 13 things you're embarrassed about so I won't be alone with my shame.)
  1. I watch television all the damn time.
  2. I don't really understand exactly how politics works - House, Senate, Judicial Branch, Executive branch, checks and balances, all that - I get it. But ask me to explain the concept of popular vote vs. what are those other things called? See, exactly. But I did volunteer for the Kerry campaign in the fall of 2004, so I know enough to be dangerous.
  3. My car is so filthy on the inside (dog hair, mostly, but still! Disgusting) that I live in fear that someone will ask me for a ride home in a blizzard and I'll say no, because they're better off walking through a blizzard than sitting in my car.
  4. My husband handles all of our finances. Can I just say, I NEVER thought this would be me. In my first marriage, I handled all the finances. I was the one with "financial savvy" (did you hear that sound? That's the sound of husband #2 laughing so hard, he just fell off his chair.) Now I'm like a housewife in the 1950s. I don't know how much we make, exactly. I don't know what we paid or didn't pay in taxes in 2005. I don't know what our mortgage payment is, or how much our monthly maintenance fee is or what we pay for electricity. I'm like one of those commercials for a "Women and finance" workshop, where there's a young-ish widow saying, "Steven handled all those things. Now he's gone and I'm in big trouble. I wish I had paid attention to these things when he was around."
  5. I really, really, really love crappy candy. Sophisticated my palate is not. Godiva chocolate? Forget it. I will take a bag of Chicks-Ducks-and-Bunnies-shaped SweetTarts any day. I am a grown woman who has been known to walk into one of those little candy store places and ask, "Where are your sour apple belts, please?"
  6. The Lion King makes me cry every time I watch it. When Mufasa dies? And little lion cub Simba is saying, "C'mon, Dad, we have to go home," I cry. Not just misty-eyed, dabbing at my face daintily with a handerchief. Oh, no. Blubbering, tears/snots rolling down my face. Every time. Hell, I'm choked up right now just typing it.
  7. On that same note, I am a Disney-phile. And I should know better. I have read about Disney. About their scandalous marketing techniques, about how everything is a merchandising opportunity and how their cheap crap is made by 3-year-olds in sweatshops in Malaysia and how Jeb Bush lives in Disney World's pocket and how the images of "princesses" ruin young girls' body images and ambition and still. I even forced myself to read an expose about Disney (called The Mouse Betrayed, if you must know). If someone said, "What's your ideal vacation destination?" before my sophisticated adult self got a hold of itself and replied, "Well, if it's spring, Monaco, but in the winter, we really love Santiago, Chile" I would blurt out "Disneyworld!"
  8. I'm really impatient and bossy. If you're a regular Teacher Lady reader, you've probably figured this out already. I like to attribute my bossiness to the fact that I'm the oldest (which makes me a big believer in "birth order theory"), but I honestly think I was just born that way. It makes my real-life, flesh-and-blood friends all the more precious. Thank you, Schietto Sister, for putting up with me and my innate bossiness.
  9. I can't do any "cocktail party tricks." I can't wiggle my ears, or tie a marischino cherry stem in a knot with my tongue. I can't pull a quarter out from behind your ear. Hell, I don't even know any card tricks. I don't know any good jokes, either. I'm a bad guest, which brings me to . . .
  10. I really can't cook. This is different from claiming I can't just so I don't have to. I have ruined rice. I once tried to make a pasta sauce that called for ONE clove of garlic. Guess what I did? I threw in a WHOLE bulb of garlic. In a blender. At least that's one lesson I learned that seems to have stuck with me. If it can be burned or scorched or otherwise ruined, I will ruin it. If I manage not to ruin the food, I will injure myself. My personal favorite story? Trying to make a Tiramisu (don't ask me who I was trying to impress - I can't remember, but we all know damn well it was some guy), I opened the cupboard to get something and the roll of Saran Wrap (in box) fell and that jagged metal strip hit me on the skin between my fingers. You know something about that skin between the base of your index and middle fingers? It bleeds. A lot. At least now I keep all my "Wraps" - Saran, Reynolds, what have you - in a drawer where they cannot come flying out unannounced and attack me. Oh - and did I mention a Tiramisu requires separating eggs? After ruining too many eggs to count, I got in my car and drove the eggs to a friend's house so SHE could separate them for me. God, I owe her a phone call. That's a true friend.
  11. Inexplicably, I love really expensive cooking stuff. I worked at Williams-Sonoma for TWO Christmas seasons. My pots and pans are All-Clad stainless. I have a KitchenAid blender and my large cooking utensils are all Calphalon. I even own a mezzaluna. All the better to poison you with, my dear.
  12. I will never attend a high school reunion. Never. Not ever. And don't say, "Oh, you'll see - things happen - you'll change your mind," because that's what people say when I tell them J. and I aren't having any kids and THEY get the speech about the undescended testicle. So let's just say I consider high school one giant undescended testicle and leave it at that.
  13. I name my cars. And J.'s cars, too. I don't know why. The first car I had right out of college was a cute little white Nissan Sentra. She was Miss Mappy and I loved her. Then I had Serena the silver Celica. I met J. and he drove a green Ford pick-up truck that I immediately named Otis (I think I waited until we were engaged to tell him this). Then Otis got old, J. bought a silver (practical) Mazda Protege and I named it Ralphie. One day I said to J., "I sure miss Otis." J. must have had enough of my ridiculousness for one day and said curtly, "Otis is dead. Ralphie killed him," and I almost cried. Now J. has a Merlot colored Saab that I named Viktor. And J. pretends not to know this about me anymore.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Thirteen Thursday!

It's a meme! (Don't ask me what that means, because I don't know.) If you're reading this, you've been "tagged," and you must complete the following "Thursday 13." Since I'm irritable (what else is new), today's meme is, "13 Things that Irritate the Crap out of Me."

13. Snow. I flung open the curtains yesterday to see . . . snow. I even did one of those cartoon character things where I shook my head, rubbed my eyes and blinked 3 times to be sure I wasn't hallucinating, and no. Snow. In April. There should be NO SNOW during anytime on the calendar that is officially considered "spring."

12. Ma'am. Yesterday, a 15 year-old cashier at the grocery store called me ma'am. When did that happen and what did I do to deserve it?

11. "Lose 10 pounds in one month" magazine teasers. Since it's spring, I've seen, oh, at least a dozen articles about losing weight without even trying. Guess what nearly every article suggests (besides the obvious "tricks" like working out, etc.,)? Switching from whole milk to 2%, 1% or even skim. Here's a question: Is ANYONE (besides children under the age of 2) drinking whole milk? Do you know any women who sit down at the dinner table and say, "I can't wait to drink me this refreshing cool glass of WHOLE MILK?" I do not. That is not a "weight-loss trick." That is false advertising.

10. 18-22 year olds. Today, a female student wrote in a paper about the movie Kissing Jessica Stein, "This movie was a typical romantic comedy about a middle-aged woman looking for love." Huh? What? I've seen that movie a few times, and I think Jessica MIGHT be 30 at the very most. Since when is 30 middle-aged? Isn't "30 the new 20?"

9. People who don't use their turn signals. Is it THAT difficult? Is the effort required to raise one hand, grasp your turn signal, and push it one direction or the other THAT taxing? If so, perhaps you don't have the physical strength driving requires and you should just go home and drink some whole milk until you feel better.

8. Grammatical errors in newspapers. In our Sunday newspaper (which is considered the newspaper of a "major city," by the way,) there was an interview of a "local celebrity." One of the questions was: "What is the first song your singing on Karaoke night?" Good grief, people! Aren't you supposed to be journalists? Don't you have more training, than, say, one of my college seniors? You are setting a BAD example. Bad, bad, bad. For shame.

7. People who make mistakes and then try to convince you that their mistake is actually in your best interest. Exhibit A: J. and I just spent TWO THOUSAND dollars on new kitchen cabinets. We are not extravagant and our kitchen is really, really tiny. Cabinets just happen to be that expensive. I did not know this. Monday morning, J. took the day off work, I was home, and after two weeks of living with a refrigerator in my living room, I couldn't wait to have a kitchen back. And lo and behold, the company, they did not send us our beautiful natural maple cabinets. They sent us "Toffee" colored cabinets. I called the place immediately and tried to calmly and oh-so-politely express my dismay. "Garth" (his real name - I kid you not) did the following:
  • Blame the factory. "We did all the paperwork correctly. They just packed it wrong at the factory."
  • Sighed heavily and acted put upon by my request to FIX the mistake in some way.
  • Acted exasperated because "They do this ALL the time." Why, you poor fellow.
  • Told me that we were actually "better off" and would like this color better because after a year or two, the natural maple cabinets would fade or change color and eventually not even be the color we wanted, so really we were in luck and should thank our stars that this happened. Funny he didn't mention the fading thing when we picked out that color (and he was standing right there!)

6. That "Beep" song by the Pussycat Dolls. Since when are bleeped-out expletives music? "I don't give a BLEEP! if you're looking at my BLEEP!" My, what musical genius that must have taken.

5. Customer service representatives who sigh heavily and roll their eyes at me when I try to tell them how to spell J.'s last name. J. has the same last name as someone who is fairly famous. J. and I share a Hollywood Video card which is in J.'s last name. The other night, I didn't have my card and the 20 year old behind the counter said he could just look up our account with a last name. "The last name is Cruz. C-r-u" 20-year-old interrupts: "I know how to spell Cruise," he says contemptuously. Sigh. Eye roll. A 10 minute conversation ensues while I try to explain why our account really IS in their computer, if he would just let me spell my husband's last name correctly.

Okay - must go to class now. I'm sure when I return, I will be able to come up with a few more things that irritate the crap out of me - and now I've given YOU one - people who don't finish their blog entries!


4. Katie Couric. Not nearly as clever as she thinks she is. Not nearly as cute, either.

3. My students' papers. Normally, they make me laugh. In fact, just yesterday, this one made me laugh, but today, it irritated the crap out of me. I was dying to write, "Do you even READ your paper before you turn it in?" The sentence in question: "Katherine McCormack, herself tested on rats, could not prescribe the Pill to women because she was not a doctor." What?!? I'm sorry, what? How is one "tested on rats?" This paper was a response to that video about the creation of the birth control pill. While I am not 100% familiar with every intimate detail about the invention of the pill, I can say with some certainty that at no time were women "tested on rats."

2. Other doctoral students. In fact, the whole effing life of a doctoral student in general. Yesterday, a fellow student asked me about my opinion on the CDC's current statement about HPV. Can I just not HAVE an opinion about the CDC's current statement about HPV?? Sometimes the minutiae is just so ridiculous. That and the fact that I'm supposed to know everything about everything. I think Human Sexuality is just a little broad for that. I cannot be an expert on theories of sexual orientation, sexual behavior, the media in sexuality, sexually transmitted infections, the human sexual response cycle, pregnancy, labor and delivery, birth control, sexual disorders and dysfunctions, sex therapy, rape and sexual assault, sex work (new politically correct term for prostitutes, strippers, escorts, massage parlor workers, etc.), atypical sexual behavior, the history of pornography and obscenity laws AND the freakin' CDC's opinion on all of the above. Whine, whine, whine. Sorry - got carried away there. Such is the life of a doc student, I suppose.

1. And the number one thing that is irritating the crap out of me? One word: Perimenopause. Not fair. 'Nuff said.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Now I Ain't No Hollaback Girl

Or wait. Am I?

Warning: Today's post will be serious.

You've been warned. I found this website yesterday. And it made me kick myself for not thinking of a more altruistic purpose for my blog. But I suppose I can right wrongs by linking to it here. It goes with the whole theme of my week.

Although the theme of my week was supposed to be "spring break" (I can't even say it inside my head without adding "Woo-Hoo!"), I didn't feel very "spring break-y." Perhaps it had to do with my choice of reading material (not just my students' papers - I should be used to that level of depression by now.) I read a book that I actually bought quite some time ago, but let it sit on my road-to-hell-paving bookshelf until this week. "It's spring break," I thought to myself. "I don't have to read journal articles, or textbooks, or self-congratulatory e-mail missives from my professors. I can read whatever I want." So guess what I read? Transforming a Rape Culture. Boy, talk about rockin' good times! Teacher Lady, she knows how to get her party on!

Folks, talk about depressing (I can hear the "duhs" from all over cyberspace) - it is a collection of essays and articles about violence against women in all sorts of environments. I read an article about Tailhook. Another article about rape and fraternities. About how young boys are socialized into our rape culture. About the "commodification of women." (And just in case you don't find this book depressing enough - read Ordeal by Linda Lovelace - yes, that Linda Lovelace, aka "Deepthroat." - not the Watergate informant, just an FYI.) And while I'm glad I read the book, it was just exhausting. It was exhausting to think about all the ways in which women are not still fully "at the table." And, to quote one of my students, "Not that I'm a big feminist or anything, but I still think violence against women is wrong." (Sorry - another aside/rant - why, in this day and age, do even 18 year old girls/women feel compelled to preface a statement about women and rape (or women and violence or women and abuse or women and pornography, the list is endless) with, "Not that I'm a big feminist or anything." What does that mean? Why is that such a horrible label? Why can't we say, "Women in this country and in this world are raped and abused and used and victimized and bought and sold and paid for, and you know what? It SUCKS." Period. End of story. No excuses, no, "Not that there's anything wrong with that, but personally I don't like it." Phew. Sorry. But I digress.

Back to the hollaback site. I don't live in NYC. But apparently, it's not easy for a woman to traverse the five Burroughs on a regular basis without encountering some idiot doing or saying something lewd, crude, rude or all of the above. The Hollaback site suggests that women "hollaback" by taking pictures of these idiots with their camera phones and posting said idiots on the site, along with story of idiot's offensive behavior. I love this idea. But at the same time, I have to wonder, WHAT is wrong with these men? Don't get me wrong - I'm sure women hoot, holler, gesture lewdly and proposition men as they go about their business. But my hunch is that by and large, it's men who do this to women. In 2006. In America. The greatest country in the world. Supposedly.

While I was reading the site, I found myself thinking, "This doesn't really happen to me," and then I remembered: I was wrong. It had happened to me. On more than one occasion (but a few stand out more than others), in fact. For example:

I was 19 years old, home for the summer after my first year of college and I was driving across the state, by myself (for the first time) to take a job at an amusement park (that job is worthy of 27 posts in and of itself, but that's for another time). I vividly remember being at a confusing juncture in a major city - one of those setups where 3 freeways merge into one for one or two treacherous miles - everyone is flying by, merging and weaving like crazy, and if you don't pay attention to the very poorly organized highway signs, one minute, you're on your way to the Land of Fun and the next minute, off you go to Secaucus - if you manage to not get yourself killed in the process. I was trying desperately to figure out which lane was mine and heard someone beeping - not in a leaning on the horn kind of angry beeping, but a frantic, almost helpful, beep-be-beep-beep-BEEP! kind of way. Sort of a "look out!" warning, if you will. I looked to the left, thinking I was getting ready to hit someone and wanted to see who I was going to hit before I met my maker, and there was a man driving alongside me (the frantic beeper) looking at me, giving me the universal sign (tongue included, thank you very much for the nausea!) for oral sex. I almost crashed my car. The reason for the frantic beeping? Clearly, he wanted me to see his little show before HE had to merge off the freeway onto another one. So I saw 5 seconds of his lewd little sign language and then he accelerated and sped off into his unfortunate little suburb. And I was: sickened. shocked. scared (I almost crashed my car, for chrissakes!). perturbed. upset. annoyed. freaked out. mystified. And did I mention sickened? What was the urgency? (Besides the fact that he was exiting the highway?) What would have happened if his whole little display went unnoticed? Would that have ruined his day? Because I sure would have hated for THAT to have happened. How awful for him. What a bummer.

Why do men do this? I know I don't have a lot of male readers, (maybe none, after this) and I certainly don't want to put Colorado on the spot, but can someone please, please, please explain this phenomenon to me? Because I have a feeling that even though I don't live in NYC, I'm not the only non-NYC-dwelling woman this has happened to. Or happens to. And you know what? It's freaking exhausting. It's exhausting to think about, to try to understand, to wonder about, and to experience. I want an answer so I can be done with this particular issue. That's not too much to ask, is it? Thanks. I didn't think so.