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.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Just Some Stuff I've Noticed

Around town:

  • A bowling alley has an electronic sign with scrolling messages. One of the messages is: "Mmmm . . . Dippin' Dots! $3.00" What in the hell are Dippin' Dots? Wait. Don't tell me.
  • The university fitness center has a wonderful selection of classes this summer. The description of one of the yoga classes reads: "Everyone has heard of the Yoga Butt. Now, with this class you can have one!" Nope, everyone has not heard of a Yoga Butt. Thanks a lot, people! I'm all alone here. In the dark. Not knowing enough to want a Yoga Butt.
  • Sign outside fast food restaurant: "We have cheese curds!" Personally, I don't think that's anything to be proud of.

In the media:

  • I read a quote in a magazine from Jenny McCarthy's new book (hell, no, I'm not going to link to it!) that went something like this: "Most women slide easily into a life of scrubbing toilets, cooking, cleaning, domestic stuff. Not me. I had to be dragged into it kicking and screaming." I used to like Jenny McCarthy. I used to think she was cute and funny. And now? Oh, somebody is impressed with herself. And somebody doesn't think much of "most women." Most women slide easily into a life of scrubbing toilets. But Ms. McCarthy? Oh, no. She struggled with that because she is just too special. But the rest of us non-Playmates of the Year? We love that shit. No pun intended.
  • On a rerun of the BRAVO show Blowout, Jonathan Antin's sister Robin had an audition for a new Pussycat Doll. I guess the tagline for the "Dolls" is, "Inside every woman is a Pussycat Doll." Really? So that's what that is. I just thought it was gas. And now I know why my favorite jeans are tight - there are TWO of me trying to get in them. Me, and the Pussycat Doll. Diet, schmiet!

At work:

  • The Sociology Department offers a course called, "Social Problems." When a student has a scheduling conflict I love to say, "You can't take math then; it looks like you have social problems." I'm so juvenile.

On Blogger:

I can see the bullets over here in Edit post mode, but when I publish and view my blog? Nada. Can anyone please explain this? Spank you.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Happiest Day in all the Land!

And finally, because Teacher Lady and Mr. J. had been very good, and had hoped and waited for so long, their Fairy Sinkmother felt sorry for them. Even though they hadn't finished painting, while they were sleeping, she brought them the most beautiful kitchen sink they had ever seen. And they danced and cheered and the whole village came to see it and rejoice in their happiness. And the evil, ugly, awful, hateful basement utility sink was banished to the Dark Forest and was never seen or heard from again. And they lived happily ever after. The End.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Handmaid's Tale

About a week or so ago, Liberal Banana posted about the CDC's new recommendations for doctors treating women - all "women" - from their first period to their gasping-ovary-pushing-out-its-final-withered-little-egg last. It was so offensive to me for so many reasons, I couldn't post about it until now.

I will try to inhale and exhale slowly and calmly so I may continue to type. If this post turns into this: jigf[o wjotpkwr klpeklq40892eramf jl;akpe2 o94, know that I stopped typing and just started repeatedly banging my head against the keyboard.

Very selfish reason #1: As a doctoral student in the field of health education/public health, I thought that eventually, once I became Dr. Teacher Lady, I would work for a while at the CDC in some capacity. My advisors are well connected; a few of my professors have worked there. It's sort of a rite of passage - before you go off in the world to torment your very own doctoral students. Now? Not so much. I am so much more than my uterus, thank you very much.

Reason #2: This is the most backasswards recommendation I have seen in a long, long time. Here's why: So, the CDC's recommendations are for all physicians treating menstruating women to address them as "pre-pregnant." Don't clean out the litterbox (which has led some women to embrace these new treatment guidelines and all I can say is, "Hello!? Emph-ASS-is on the wrong Sy-LAB-bull.") Take your folic acid supplements. Quit smoking. (It's really bad for a fetus, you know?) Manage your chronic illnesses (aka Diabetes). Don't drink.

Now, why on earth are all women with an ovum popping out to say hello every month to be treated as "pre-pregnant?" Because the United States of America is the leader of the free world, all right. We lead the free world in unplanned pregnancies and teen pregnancies (compared to all other "developed" nations.) And, even more alarmingly, while the rates of unplanned pregnancies have decreased 20% among women living two times above the federal poverty line, rates of unplanned pregnancies have increased 29% among women living below the federal poverty line. As a friend of my mother's says, "The rich get richer and the poor get kids."

So, instead of doing things that would reduce the rates of unplanned pregnancy in the U.S., like mandating comprehensive sex education in all public schools (aside - We, the U.S. have five times (that's right - five times!) the teen pregnancy rate of countries like Finland, where comprehensive sex ed is part of the curriculum starting in kindergarten. We have three times the teen pregnancy rate of countries like France, where comprehensive sex ed is part of the curriculum starting in eighth grade. Also? Studies show that rates of sexual activity among teens in developed countries are about the same - 47-49% of high school seniors are engaging in sex - (G'head! Make yourself a little table. Play around with the YRBS! It's fun in a nerdy sort of way) it's not like the U.S. leads the world in teens doin' the nasty. We just lead the world in denying that fact), requiring insurance companies to cover birth control (especially if they cover Viagra!), and making emergency contraception available over the counter, we do this! Ladies: You are officially "pre-pregnant."

Am I the only one who sees the lunacy of this argument? "We're helpless to lower the rate of unplanned pregnancies in the U.S., so instead we'll just treat all women like they're potentially pregnant." I plan to write my dissertation on teen pregnancy and emergency contraception. Let's just say I've done a little research on the subject. I won't post the bibliography for my literature review here, but if you're interested, I'm happy to e-mail it to you. But I digress.

The point is, I feel like the CDC is acting like the proverbial dumb blonde of bad joke fame, faced with a technical task of any sort. "Oh. My. God. Like, um, what? I totally don't get it. Um, help?" We know there are strategies that work to lower the rates of unplanned pregnancies among teens and all women. And this is the best we can come up with? I'm sorry, what year is it? And what country is this again?

And also: We know that lung cancer is the number one of all cancer killers among women. Lung cancer kills more women than breast cancer. More women than cervical cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, and on and on and on. And lemme tell ya - if you've ever seen someone die of lung cancer (which, sadly, I have), you know that it's enough to make you think Jack Kavorkian was on to something. Anyway. Let's pretend I smoke. (I do not.) I would hope that my physician would encourage, cajole, and push me to quit smoking for me. And not because my physician is worried about how my smoking might affect the fetus that does not yet exist. (Or in my case, will likely never exist.) Let's worry about the people who are already here, eh?

The CDC's recent pronouncement inspired me to finally read The Handmaid's Tale. (Ironically, I saw it sitting in an empty cubicle in the advising center on Thursday. I finished it late Friday night. It's a very quick read.) If you haven't read it yet, please do so. It's terrifying on so many levels, which is also part of its genius. Margaret Atwood wrote it in 1985 and personally? I think that woman is either psychic or hiding a crystal ball somewhere, because damn. She saw the future and she was afraid. Rightly so.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Things a Husband Just Should Not Say. Ever.

Most of the time, I think Mr. J. is pretty great. I love him, I'm the luckier one, blah, blah, blah. But nobody's perfect, right? (Sorry, honey. Not even you.) I've been meaning to create this short list as a PSA to the married men who read Teacher Lady's ramblings (primarily Colorado Dale and Zygote Daddy, although I haven't seen him in a while.) Of course, I also have to say I'm sure neither one of you would ever say such things to your dear wives.


1. When your wife has just spent boatloads of cash (which is in short supply anyway, what with the world's biggest kitchen/living room/first floor remodel) on getting her hair colored, cut and highlighted you should NOT say: "I dunno. It kinda looks exactly the same to me." ESPECIALLY when your mother (God rest her soul) was a HAIRDRESSER and you spent the Saturdays of your youth in a hair salon, sweeping hair, putting towels in the dryer and running to get the old blue-haired ladies their coffee. AND you have three sisters. Honey, you should know better.

2. When your wife, who has done nothing resembling exercise, in, oh, I don't know, years, finally is terrified by a glimpse of her upper arms asks, "Honey, where are my hand weights?" you should not ask, "Why?" because you will get the stupid answer I gave you. "I don't know - I thought maybe I'd use them to build the dog a house. Because I want to do my arms video, that's why." Do not make a bad situation worse by saying, "You're going to have to do it more than once, you know." Really? I had NO idea. Here I thought I'd just do it once and then, viola! Angelina Jolie arms. Sheesh.

3. And finally: Even if your wife is a notorious spiller (aside - when I was in fifth grade, my parents got new carpet in the family room. Within the first week, I had spilled soda on it, oh, five times. Accidentally. I was then banned from having liquids in the family room for quite some time. I think I was finally allowed to have beverages with me when I was . . . in tenth grade? I can't quite remember.) , do NOT, under any circumstances, do NOT suggest - even if you just took a whole week of vacation to put in the new floor - that your wife start using a sippy cup. That's just not good politics, my friend.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Something in the Air

I've been thinking about this a lot this week, and after reading Amalah's recent post, I decided I could post about this, too.

Earlier this week, while waiting for my next unsuspecting freshman to register, I was surfing around Blogger and via a blog I can no longer find (I swear it, I can't remember the name of it and I can't find it!), I found this: The Da Vinci Dialogues, by Steve Douglass, President of Campus Crusade for Christ.

And I have to say: I just. don't. get it.

As I have mentioned, I was raised Catholic. Yes, there are inherent problems in the Catholic religion. But so what? I think there are inherent problems in every religion. As one of the commenters to Amalah's post noted, men created religion - hence, just as men are flawed, so are religions. Anyway, I write that because I feel like my opinion is that of someone who was once religious (eight years of Catholic grade school will do that to you), so I'm not a never-set-foot-in-any-church-scratching-my-head-going- "Wha?" person. That disclaimer in place:

"Wha?" I've read The Da Vinci Code and I thought it was like any great murder mystery. A beach read. Mind candy. I also toyed with the idea that it's certainly conceivable to me that Jesus was married. After all, that's what Jews did in that time and part of the world.

But hoo-dawgie, that idea has made a whole lot of people go bat-shit crazy. If you can't bring yourself to read Douglass's whole commentary (and I can't blame you), here's the gist: "To be sure, Christians are insulted and demeaned by blasphemous works of men."

Okay, well, who WROTE the Bible? I think it was . . . let's see here, oh yeah. Men!! Now, I know many people believe that the Bible was really written by God, just through men, so I'll give them that. A lot of these Campus Crusade for Christ types believe that the Bible is the real, true word of God (except the Old Testament, 'cause that's crap and it's just for Jews. Except for when you want to engage in raging homophobia and then it's also good for that - Leviticus, you know. Although why people quote Leviticus to justify their homophobia but never quote one of my favorite rules - "He who has a crushed testicle is not fit to enter the Kingdom of Heaven" - is beyond me. Let's be consistent, people! If you're so concerned about people going to hell, why not start a free crushed testicle-replacement program? It'd be a great tax write-off, I'm sure.).

Why is it so blasphemous to consider that Jesus might have been married? The Da Vinci Code isn't about the shocking revelation that Jesus was gay, or that he was a cannibal, or that he really hated fish (even though Catholics are supposed to eat fish on Fridays during Lent) or that he liked to kick Middle Eastern Jewish puppies when no one was looking. Personally, I think this Jesus Saves air freshener is way more offensive than the speculation that Jesus might have been some lucky gal's "old man."

So, for the sake of being the blasphemous heathen that I am, let's pretend Jesus was half of Mr. and Mrs. Jesus. And it's quite conceivable that (should I write it? Eight years of Catholic education are hanging over my head - I'm still a little scared!) Jesus had sex. So he did all these amazing things, but as a married man, he might have had sex with his wife and then . . . what? That debases the sacred name of Jesus? In the Catholic church, marriage is considered one of the sacraments. So, no, I guess it can't possibly be true that Jesus was married because as we all know, marriage is really, really bad.

I guess the bottom line for me is, I really don't want to get it. I think the logic might be, "It's not in the Bible so it can't be true. Anything not in the Bible and therefore, not true, shouldn't be written about because it's blasphemous and insulting." Or maybe, "Jesus came to earth to live as God's only son and as the Son of God, he didn't lower himself to the baser human pursuits like marriage, sex, and perhaps parenting." All right then, is it blasphemous if I say that I think Jesus probably had diarrhea at some point in his 33 years on earth? Didn't he come to earth to experience the pain of being a lowly human? They didn't have too many anti-biotics two thousand years ago, and I'm guessing their food preparation standards (although Kosher) probably weren't that high. Not a lot of Purell flying around Jerusalem in those days, you know? But it wasn't in the Bible so it couldn't be true? Not buyin' it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I Can't Have Everything?

The last two days in the advising center have been relatively uneventful. Just the way I like 'em. The students were really polite and sweet. I asked one student if he preferred Dan or Daniel. "Please, if you don't mind," he said apologetically, "Daniel." See? Sweet.

Except. There always has to be one. And of course, it always has to be the one who comes to my little advising station.

I should have known I was in trouble when the first thing the student said to me was, "I don't want you to enroll me here." I was worried. I don't have access to Harvard or Yale's registration system. She wanted me to enroll her at one of the branch campuses.

My school, like many - or most? - state schools has a few branch campuses. But you have to apply to them like they're a separate entity. Admission to main campus isn't like a Disney Park-Hopper pass. Typically, the branch campuses are like the junior college and then when you've proven yourself, you can come and play at the main campus with the big kids. People typically don't get admitted to the main campus with the goal of going to one of the branches eventually. That would be like going to Harvard for two years to prove yourself so eventually you could get into Yellow Springs Community College and Tech Center for Kids who Can't Read Good (sorry - couldn't resist an opportunity to quote Zoolander!) So I was confused. (What else is new, right?)

I told her I probably couldn't do that if she hadn't been admitted to the branch. "Did you apply there?" I asked. "No," she huffed. "I just thought I would get a better schedule there than I got here - this thing" she sniffed, while flicking the schedule with her fingertips, "Blows." I looked over it. I typed around in the computer. "Well, everything here is open and you're in all the classes you should have for your first semester. There's nothing before 9:00 a.m. and nothing after 4:00 p.m." I was hopeful. I thought we'd fix this big misunderstanding and there would be hugs all around.

But no. "Yeah, that's the problem. You see," she said, talking to me like I was just really stupid, "I have to work from 9 - 5, Monday through Friday." This was a new one. I was stumped. I mean, lots of hardworking citizens would love to go back to college and one of the reasons they can't (besides the ridiculous cost) is that pesky thing called a job. A J.O.B.

But I blundered on. "Did you mention it to your advisor?" I asked. "Well, yeah," she replied in a pitch perfect imitation of a Valley Girl. "Of course. And I guess it's just not going to happen here, so if you could register me for one of the branch campuses, that would be great." Well, Einstein, here's the deal: Since branch campuses have literally 1/5 the enrollment of the main campus, they have fewer offerings, not more. I kept this little nugget of info to myself, though.

"Okay, so, when, exactly, were you hoping to have your classes?" She rolled her eyes at me. "Not," she said (again, I knew she was dying to say "Duh!"), "Between 9 and 5." "So, before 9:00 a.m. and after 5:00 p.m.?" "Right!" she said. "But one or the other, but not both because I don't want to be driving back and forth twice a day." Hmm . . . so that means,"All of your classes before 9:00 a.m. or after 5:00 p.m. And you're going full time?" Now I got the extreme glare with extra snark. "Ye-es!" in two syllables.

If I were truly a decent human being (which I'm not - I'm not pretending I am), I would have said, "Let's go get your advisor." Instead, I kind of wanted to be the one to break the news to her: You're not going to get an undergraduate degree, going full-time (5 classes a semester!) only taking classes in the early hours of the morning or after 5:00 p.m. If she were going into a graduate program, it's conceivable - she could take classes Monday - Thursday evenings; they meet once a week from 7:15 - 10:00 p.m. (Boy, are they fun!) But a bachelor's degree? No way!

"I think there probably aren't enough classes offered before 9:00 a.m. to meet your requirements. And, while there are a fair number of classes offered after 5:00 p.m., many of the freshman classes - for example, your freshman Calculus - are only offered during the day."

She really couldn't grasp this. It was her advisor's fault. And main campus's fault. And probably mine, although she didn't say this. "Fine," she bratted, "I'll just go to the branch campus!" and she took her rotten schedule that she hated and stomped off. Is it evil that I hope I see her again when she comes through the program a second time because the branch campus couldn't accommodate her either? No - don't answer that.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Tonight I saw a commercial for a drug I had never heard of: Avodart. It showed a graying couple, smiling into the camera, and the tagline was: Avodart: For your growing problem.

Now, I figured I needed to look up this drug - I had a hunch it had something to do with erectile dysfunction, and lemme tell ya: The students? They always know about the drugs long before I do.

So, I did a little research. Check out the Avodart website and then please come back!

Seriously. Somebody with a degree in advertising did not put that picture on a website for a drug for the "growing problem" of enlarged prostate. Even that tagline is ridiculous - that's something a bunch of frat guys would write for a fake ad about prostate enlargement (and trust me, I have the career experience to back up that statement.) That guy looks like his prostate is growing while someone is taking the picture and he looks like he likes it!! Sort of, "Hmm . . . what's that sensation? It's burning, it's uncomfortable and yet, somehow, it's nice!"

Monday, May 22, 2006

And I was Worried I Wouldn't Have Anything to Blog About!

It's official. I am old. 35 is the new 82. Mr. J. says that when you start saying, "When I was that age, I would have never done that!" you're officially old. So that's me. Teacher Granny.

Today was my first day working with the incoming freshmen. I have seen the future and I am afraid.

My job is to take the schedule - advised by the advisors and "built" by the undergraduate student assistants - and enter it into the computer. Please don't ask me why there are so many steps in the process in this day and age. Look away from the clunky antiquated process and focus, people!

So, I'm at one end of the room sitting at the computer. The soon-to-be-freshmen sit in chairs along the wall and wait for me to say, "I can help whoever is next."

One of the freshmen was just adorable. Very Katie Holmes pre-crazy cute. As soon as she sat down and opened her mouth, I was scared. Who knew the Anti-Christ would come in that form?

It started innocently enough, "Hi, how has your day been?" "It's been crazy. So much to do. Plus, I'm the first person in my family to go to college." Now I opened up my stupid, fat piehole. "Wow, that can be difficult. Just make sure you get enough support from the right administrators and people on campus - they can be really helpful." Katie/Satan said, "I'm not worried. I'm the kind of person who will do whatever I need to do to get what I want. No matter what."

I didn't say anything, but my face must have shown fear because she quickly corrected herself, "I - I - I don't mean anything really bad like that, I mean, like, I always turn my papers in late and stuff and my teachers say they don't take late papers, but for me, they do."

Aah, well, that explains these cheeky little bastards I've had to deal with all year, now doesn't it?

I couldn't keep my mouth shut. "As someone who is also an instructor on this campus," I said icily, "I highly recommend you break that habit. My syllabus is clear - for every day a paper is late, you lose one letter grade." She laughed. "Yeah, yeah. That's what my teachers say, too, but they don't mean it for me. I'm always their favorite." I wanted to say, "Yeah, you're their favorite because they don't want to watch you sprout horns and a tail." Instead I said, "Let's get your schedule done, shall we?"

Earlier this morning, I had been told that all the freshmen English classes were closed. Now even the "viable alternates" were filling up. When I entered Katie the Anti-Christ's schedule, I showed her the visual representation of it. She got exasperated and bratty very quickly. "What!??!? What?! The advisor wrote down Tuesday and Thursday for my English class! Why would she change it to Monday, Wednesday, Friday? God, why would she do that!? WHY!?!? People are so stupid!" She wasn't so much fast approaching a temper tantrum as she was a postal employee incident.

I clicked around in the system. "Well, it looks like the one your advisor picked had filled up and so the student assistant chose this alternative for you. It's the same class, and it still fits in your schedule." Get this:

She sighed heavily, started erasing the entry and said, "God! This place is like the Bureau of Motor Vehicles! Nobody can do anything right. Everybody has to do the same thing ten times before they figure it out."

She had been on campus for six hours, and already had an attitude. I sat there in silence. What should I have said? "Classes fill up, you arrogant little brat and it doesn't mean people are incompetent?" Or, "Maybe, if you were a bit more organized and weren't, like, the two thousandth person to be going through this program, you'd have more choices?" Or, finally, (because I have access to their high school transcripts and test scores - oh, the illicit thrills!) "Perhaps if you weren't such a moron, you could go to an Ivy League school instead of this B-list one. But sadly, for you, you're going here and will be surrounded by incompetent morons for at least the next four years. It will be like living at the DMV. How'd ya like them apples, sis-tah?"

Her schedule rolled off the printer. "Here you go, your first schedule. Good luck and maybe I'll see you in the fall" (all the while thinking, "Hopefully my eyes won't melt out of their sockets if I do".) Then she was back to being a normal 18-year-old girl. "Now I'm off to find out where I live. Yea!!! It's going to be so much fun. I'm so excited. Wheeee!!!!" and off she went, skipping and giggling.

gob help us all.

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

You Think You Have It Bad?

I've decided to compile a list called, "Things People Just Should Not Say. Ever." I invite you to help me.

Here's the very first thing on the list. Last week I caught up with an old friend of mine. She asked how things were going on the home remodeling front. "Ugh." I said. "I no longer have a stove and refrigerator in my living room, but still no kitchen sink. We've been using the utility tub in the basement as our kitchen sink, with the top of the dryer as the drying rack. We also have (literally) no counter top, so the coffee maker and the blender for my breakfast smoothies sits on top of the dryer. The basement laundry room has been our kitchen for two months now and it is driving me insane!"

Her response, "You think you have it bad? That's nothing. My sister had to use her basement as her kitchen for a year and she has four kids! Try that!"

Um, no thanks, and can't I just be irritated with my own situation without being reminded that someone else will always have it worse? Thank you.

Why do people have to do that? "That's nothing. Listen to this!?" Oh, you couldn't sell your house and had two mortgages for three months - that's nothing! So-and-so had two mortgages for a million years and then they had to eat dog food and then her husband got cancer from eating dog food and then their dog went on a hunger strike in protest and then their toddler got a rash from the carpet fibers and the dog was so depressed he finally threw himself off a bridge and then they had no dog and no one would give them a dog because, hey, who's going to give a dog to a family that makes a dog suicidal? So it could always be worse.

Friday, May 19, 2006

And Now, a Brief Message from One of Our Sponsors!

Da da, da da da DA! Ladies and germs, I give you: The new blog design!

A brief commercial:

The new design? She is by the fabulous Bookworm - also known as Julie - Ms. Hathaway if you're nasty.

As we say in the record business (okay, I'm not in the record business, but I've always wanted to say that), "She's a freakin' genius."

I had a blast working with her - who else wouldn't blink at my request to have drawings of birth control (note the dots aren't just dots - they're DIAPHRAGMS!) or speculums as the background pattern? Yes, Ms. Bookworm.

Anyway, she was a blast to work with and I love my new look. I hope you like it, too.

I Look Forward to Reading Your Blog This Week

This post is a little bit about my husband, J., - wait, no, he’s really more of a Mr. J., - a little bit about me (just in case you still have, you know, questions) and a little bit about what happened to him on Tuesday. And just a little bit country and a little bit rock'n'roll.

First: In case I haven’t already mentioned it, Mr. J. and I are, from the innocent bystander’s perspective, complete opposites. Literally. We have semi-scientific proof. If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, you will be shocked and amazed to learn that me, Teacher Lady, an ENFP is married to Mr. J., an ISTJ. Opposites. Complete and total.

More or less, that means that:

He is introverted
I am extroverted (and then some.)
He is organized
I am a disaster
He is disciplined
I am lazy
He used to teach college-level Calculus
I can spell college-level Calculus
He prefers to have a clean house
I prefer to have a house

And there’s more, so much more! Oh, the Myers-Briggs, you cannot capture the complexity that is Teacher Lady and Mr. J.!

He is polite and formal.
I will tell people we are incapable of having children because he has an undescended testicle and my cervical mucus is hostile to his sperm.
He is a leader and manager in the workplace.
I am someone who can barely manage myself in the workplace, therefore I have no desire to manage anyone else.
He is always early or on time.
I am rarely on time – usually I am late.
He is a runner. He will run at 5:00 a.m. in the pitch dark of a December blizzard.
I will go for long walks on gorgeous spring nights if you can pry me off the couch and if you promise me lots of food, alcohol and shoe-shopping afterward.
He eats about 8 or 9 foods- all of them healthy.
I eat all foods – none of them healthy.
I saw him have a Bud Light on our anniversary in February.
I had two beers last night to celebrate the final episode of Will & Grace.
He is one of six siblings.
I am one of two siblings.
His parents got divorced when he was 3.
My parents separated when I was 20, and then got back together! (And are still together – married 37 years this September.)
His mother was a hair dresser.
My mother was an English teacher.
He balances his checkbook to the penny. Twice a month.
I don’t balance my checkbook, ever.
I went to Catholic grade school and a public university.
He went to public grade school and a Catholic university.
I blog.
He reads my blog.

Tuesday, he came home from work and said, “You’re not going to believe what happened to me today at work.” Since Mr. J. is a negative “zero” on the “spaz spectrum,” I figured he was probably right. I come home from work and say, “You’re not going to BELIEVE what happened to ME at school today!” and he’ll say, “So-and-so did her presentation and she sneezed and fell down,” and I’ll have to say, “Yeah, you’re right. Never mind.” But when he says "You won't believe this," you know you’re in for a good story. I settled in for a fabulous tale. I was not disappointed.

“So, at around 3:00, I went into the men’s room. I’m standing at the urinal and I hear this weird sound. I listen and I listen and I realize: Two students are in the stall having sex. Actually, they were finishing right as I was standing there.”

I’m not doing a good job of telling his story. But really, the punch line of this long, rambling post? After Mr. J. finishes the story he says, “I look forward to reading about it in your blog this week.” So honey, this one’s for you! Love ya!

EDITED TO ADD: If you all feel so inclined, please take the Myers-Briggs Inventory and let me know your "type." All the better to tailor my posts to you, lovely Internetweb friends!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Not to Worry!

Although I am not teaching until June, I have a part-time job helping out with the incoming freshmen and their orientation and scheduling program. No doubt this will provide lots of blog fodder.

How do I know this? Weirdly (to me, anyway), I did a very similar job eleven years ago as part of my practicum requirements for my master's degree. I worked the summer as an academic advisor/scheduling assistant for the freshman orientation program at another college. I should have guessed those eleven years ago that college was just a four-year all-expenses paid (by parents and student loans) vacation. My job was to help the freshmen hammer out their very first college semester schedule. I had strict instructions to let no soon-to-be-freshman walk away without a schedule. Another important piece of information - this college was the opposite of a commuter campus. Nowhere within hours to commute from. These kids were very traditional 18-year-old freshman students. So, it's not like I was trying to help 34-year-old single moms with full-time jobs juggle their first college semester. (You'll see why this tidbit of info is important in a minute). And also? This was back in the day of ye-olde-fashioned scheduling. Without computers. And with people standing in long lines. And big ledgers. I don't know how we did it. Anywho, the day I realized higher education in America meant very little to those who were participating in it? It went like this:

Me: Hello. Welcome to Moron U! Do you have your potential schedule ready?
Recent high school graduate: Yeah, I know what I wanna take.
Me: Okay, great. Let's see here . . . Hmm . . . oh, I'm sorry. That section of Public Speaking 101 is closed already. But - great news! Here's another section that's open and it fits in your schedule perfectly.
Me: What?
Me: Why not?
RHSG: I don't want to take any night classes. My mom doesn't want me walking around campus alone at night.
Me: I can certainly understand that. However, the campus has a wonderful security department and if you call this free number, they'll walk you wherever you need to go, any hour, day or night!
Me: All, um, all right, then. Oh! Even better! There is one more section open - it meets from 9:55 - 11:00 in the morning.
Me: Why not?
RHSG: I'm not taking any classes before 11:00 a.m. My sister said morning classes are for losers.
Me: Ah, yes, well, I see. However, it is near the end of the summer, which means 3,500 freshmen have already registered and there just aren't that many entry level courses left. Beggars can't be choosers, kind of, you know? But when you're a senior? Oh, just wait. Life will be fabulous.
Me: (All the while feeling the hairy eyeballs of 200 freshmen waiting in line to register for their classes) Oh thank you sweet Lord! Here is a section of the same class, it fits in your schedule and it meets from 4:55 - 6:00 p.m.
Me: What's the problem with this one?
RHSG: I'm not taking any classes after 4:00 p.m.
Me: Well, I hate to tell you, but that's kind of unrealistic given your other scheduling, um, constraints.
Me: Remind me to buy you a Thesaurus before you go, okay?
Me: Wait. I have it. Perfect. Noon - 2:00 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
Me: Aw, Christ hangin' off the cross. Why the hell not?!?
RHSG: I'm not taking any Friday classes.
Me: Okay, let's forget about Public Speaking for the moment. You need to take your liberal arts requirements. Here's one I recommend to a lot of the freshmen. There are sections open and it fits within your scheduling constraints. It's called Great Books.
RHSG: There's not a lot of reading required, is there?
Me: Well, since it's not called Great Comic Books or Great Television Shows, I'm guessing that yes, there will be some reading involved.
RHSG: I don't want anything that has a lot of reading.
Me: Will you excuse me for one moment? I'm going to kill myself, but before I do, I'll send another advisor out to help you finish your schedule.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Until June

The semester is over and I will not have tales of angst and stupidity to share with you until I start teaching summer session in June.

To tide you over until then:

In addition to getting blown off by Inappropriate Sister on Friday, I was also blown off by the author of the two worst sentences ever written. She wanted to meet with me at 9:00 a.m. on Friday to discuss her papers. Unlike Inappropriate Sister, she at least called me at 9:30 a.m. to tell me she had a scheduling conflict.

Why do students do this!? At least once a semester I have a student blow me off who also calls me (at least half an hour after they were supposed to show up) to tell me, "I'm going to be late," or "I can't make it after all." Do they think I'm incapable of telling time? Or do they think that college instructors sit around next to our fireplaces, smoking our pipes, wearing our tweedy jackets with elbow patches, passing the time discussing Proust and therefore have no concept of time at all? If you're half an hour late and you're calling me to tell me you're late, I think it's safe to say I'm already in the know.

So worst author ever says, "I guess I'll have to stop by later this afternoon." Well, I have more than one or two jobs. Right now I have four. I told her it would not be possible for me to meet with her that afternoon. She was irritated. "Well, I need to meet with you today, because I'm graduating tomorrow (boy, and I thought I had a problem with procrastination!) and my family is coming in from Texas and I need to resolve this today." The rest of the conversation went like this:

Me: Is it something we could discuss now, over the phone?
WAE: Well, it's about my papers.
Me: Yes, I noticed you didn't take the opportunity to rewrite those two papers.
WAE: Well, I decided to write five reactionary reviews instead of four.
Me: Okay. Why would you do this?
WAE: I thought that instead of rewriting that one, I would write five and you could grade five and then just give me the four best grades.
Me: Hmm. Interesting. And no.
WAE: But why? They're already written.
Me: Well, since it's the last day of the semester, I don't really think it's fair. After all, I didn't offer the rest of the class the opportunity to write five papers instead of four.
WAE: (Clearly mad at ME! At ME!!!!) Sighs exasperatedly. I'm not asking for the points for all five papers (I can tell she'd love to add "duh!" to the end of this sentence.) All I'm saying is that I wrote five and you get to choose the best four. (What a treat for me! How can I be such an ungrateful bitch?!)
Me: Well, I do appreciate a sense of enterprise, but the answer is still no. Also, I have 50 finals to grade and about 25 reaction papers since your fellow students like to wait until the very last minute, so why don't you tell me which of the five you'd like me to grade.
WAE: (Heavy sigh). I guess the one about the rape counselor.
Me: Excellent! Well, congratulations to you and good luck!
WAE: Yeah. Click. (Hangs up!)

Oh, how I wish I could be a fly on the wall when this student gets her first "real job." Can you imagine the conversations with her future employers!?

  • I thought you could pay me $50,000 a year for doing nothing for around 25 hours a week; or,
  • I know everybody else comes in around 8:00 or 8:30, but I thought I'd come in at ten, noon or 1:00 p.m. - You get to choose which one, though, so you're still the boss! or,
  • When should I take my vacation, do you think? All of June, all of July, all of August or all three? Also, I'm open to taking off November-January. Your choice.
  • I decided to pay local, state or federal taxes. Just let me know which of those works best for you, okay? I'm a real team player that way.


Remember the Groundhog's Day of papers? The SAME student turned in the SAME paper for a THIRD time with the SAME mistakes!!! The pile of blood, the "knelling" and the "wearingly" were still there! And I know (now that I have my trusty blog) that I addressed these mistakes at least once (probably twice.) What does "rewrite and resubmit" mean to you? Apparently to my students, it means print out a new cover page with the word "rewrite" typed on it and you're set. Boy, these kids think I'm just dumber than a box of rocks. Maybe it is time to return to my brunette roots (pun intended).

And finally, the semester wouldn't be complete without quotes from some papers. These aren't hilarious misspellings - these are just basically poorly constructed sentences that make no sense. The final three sentences are (of course), courtesy of Inappropriate Sister. Enjoy!

The Bible’s writings on relationships would be a very influential piece of reading as well as becoming a confident person.

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.

The movie seemed to touch on another side of discrimination by hinting towards women’s contributions in the workplace often being overlooked because, (like in Anchor Man) the real news in found and reported by men, and women should report on the puppy fashion show at the mall.

But Kiki’s response was telling, because she is part of the symptoms of this societies ills towards our minority population, (that has made the U.S. a lucrative nation with 200 years of free labor), yet still receives the worst stigmas, and institutional racism that goes unnoticed because Affirmative Action and Welfare and one black Victoria Secret model has tricked us.

It is proven that people are more fulfilled when they are laying down their life to help then when they are self-obsessed; kind of like the Patch Adams theory.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A System Broken

The semester is over. Finally. 99.9% of grades are posted. (One student e-mailed me a paper - which they are not supposed to do and she sent it in .wps format. (Huh? Wha?) Hubby is slaving away, trying to help me open the damn thing.) I can now explain what happened with Inappropriate Sister "missing" the final and (sort of) missing the make-up final.

I have a policy for all exams: I will accept latecomers (one word? Two word hyphenate? Anyone?) until the first person finishes his or her exam and leaves the room. Then, if I am feeling kind, I will reschedule a make-up exam that will be hellishly more difficult than the regular exam. So don't be late. That simple. This is in my syllabus. I remind students of this the class meeting before every exam.

Guess who strolled in 35 minutes after the final exam started? Yes, Inappropriate Sister. Somehow I just knew this was going to happen. I knew it. After I brought Kiki to class, I was greatly elevated in her eyes, but I just knew we hadn't finished our head-butting festival. Right before the final, I looked around the room and noticed her absence. I asked her brother, "Brother, where is Sister?" He was perplexed. "I dunno. She's on her way. She was with me in the parking lot across the street a minute ago." Whatever. Can't keep track of your relatives for two minutes while crossing the street? That's for their family to work out.

She literally strolled in 35 minutes late. No tears, no panic, no "tragedy struck and that's why I'm late." Just smiling, "I'm here now." Hooray. Let's have a ticker-tape parade. I was not happy. "Sister. Half the class has finished the exam. You are officially 'Too. Late.'" I'm sure you can guess what she said. Because it wasn't her reality, it couldn't possibly be true: "I didn't see anyone leave." I was pissed. And I didn't handle it well. "Here," I said, "Are a stack of finished exams. What more proof do you need?" Now she was pissy right back, "I didn't say I didn't believe you. I just said I didn't see anyone leave." What-fucking-ever. Tomato, To-mah-to.

So, I go through the hassle of trying to schedule a make-up exam. We agree on Friday at 9:00 a.m.

And here, my friends, is where the system breaks down. This is WHY I offer make-up exams and second chances and third chances. But let me back up.

J. used to teach part-time at another local university. Freshman Calculus. For fun. gob bless him. When I first embarked on this ridiculous endeavor called grad school + teaching fellowship, he said, "You will have students challenge you but as long as you have a good department chair, you'll be fine."

But the thing is, ladies and gentlemen, I don't have a good department chair. I don't even have a good department stool. (Ha, ha! With the rage comes the potty humor.)

I can't blame him (the stool) entirely. I know some (or half or all) of the onus is on me for being too spineless to stand up to him, so the system is broken all the way down.

What the hell am I talking about? Here is an example:

After the cheating incident, I spoke with some of my more experienced colleagues. Each of them shared with me example after example of a student cheating and the department chair siding with the student. For example, one of my colleagues said she was reading a paper when about three paragraphs in, she read, "We here at Planned Parenthood blah, blah, blah," and she thought, "Wait a minute. This kid doesn't work at Planned Parenthood," and she paid a visit to their website. Lo and behold, this student's paper, lifted entirely from a Planned Parenthood Fact Sheet. She gave him an "F" on the assignment (which happened to be an extra credit reaction paper to an off-campus speaker) and threatened to take him to Judicial Affairs. He complained to our department chair, who said, "It's just an extra credit paper. Give him a break." The same student was busted for blatantly cheating on the final and did get an "F" in the class, but that's another story, I guess.

I have story after story after story like this: Student fucks up. Instructor puts foot down. Student whines to department chair. All is forgiven. Instructor looks like bad guy; students fails to learn lesson of accountability for actions and department chair is benevolent hero.

Friday morning, after waiting for an hour and a half for Inappropriate Sister, I tracked down my advisor. She's been doing this for 30+ years and is very practical and no-nonsense. Her response? An hour and a half is an hour and twenty minutes too long. She's pushed you all semester and this is bullshit. You have other things to do. But before you go, just check in with the department chair so he knows what you're going to do. Then follow up the whole thing with an e-mail so you have some documentation.

I met with the department chair and he said, "I completely support your decision, of course. But, might I recommend for the sake of peace, just leaving the final exam here with our department secretary. She can administer it to her if she ever shows up." What did I say to the man who holds my career in his hands? I asked, "You really think I should still give her the opportunity to take the exam, even though she is going on two hours late and didn't e-mail or call?" He said, "Well, things happen. Now if she doesn't show up today, but does show up Monday, then I definitely wouldn't let her take the exam at that point." Wow. Way to put your foot down.

I left. After giving the exam to the department secretary. I was torn between hoping she'd show up and hoping she wouldn't. I also had my own school work (take-home final, etc.,) to do so I tried my best not to think about it.

Yesterday I spoke to the department secretary. Here's the skinny:

Sister showed up at noon. Three hours late. She asked the secretary if she could have a few minutes to look over her notes before she took the exam. Secretary said yes. Sister went out in the hallway and read her notes for an hour. Came in at 1:00 pm. to take the exam. Said she couldn't take it until she went and got some coffee. Apparently, we were out. My department chair showed up to save the day. He made her some coffee!!! She got a 72 on the exam. I picked up the exam today. She had written across the top, "Thank you for your grace."

Grace, my ass.

This makes me want to quit. Or cry. Or both.

Also, please don't blast me for being a spineless wuss. At least not today. Can I have a make-up blasting on Friday?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Motherhood Musings a Day Late

I am child-free. I am not childless and I believe there is a distinct difference.

I have also been known to leave the house on Mother's Day. For the past 3 years, while out and about, getting my coffee, a newspaper, crack, what have you, people say to me, "Happy Mother's Day!" and it perplexes me. Not all women in their thirties who happen to be sporting a wedding band are mothers.

As I may have mentioned, I have worked some retail in my teacher-y life, so I understand the whole "automated response" phenomenon all too well. Customer says, "Where are your scarves?" and you say, "Certainly! Enjoy your day and thank you for shopping at Ann Taylor." Retail really messes with your synapses. I would come home from a long day at Ann and when the phone rang, I would pick it up and say, "Thank you for calling Ann Taylor, how may I help you?" My poor mother. She could never understand how she kept calling Ann Taylor by mistake.

So I get that people who work with the public probably see dozens of mothers out that day and just add the "Happy Mother's Day" thing to their standard greeting.

But Schietto Sister and I were chatting about this a while ago and she pointed out that women who had recently miscarried or were struggling with infertility might find this really upsetting. And I agree, which is why I meant to post this yesterday, sort of as a PSA . . . but, the road to hell and all that. So, next year, be careful not to blurt it out randomly to any woman who appears to be of childbearing age.


Last week, a fellow doctoral student said something to me about my kids and I was very confused. "Kids?" I said. "I don't have kids. That I know of." He's a super great guy and has a killer Irish accent, so he can get away with a lot. He was shocked, "Aw, really? I had you pegged a dead-ringer for a mom."

I'm not insulted. I'm just confused. What does this mean? Could it have something to do with my completely-wasted-on-me-child-bearing hips? Do I look that tired and frazzled? It was finals week! Everybody looks really tired and frazzled - it doesn't mean we're all mothers. I also try really hard to not have a soccer mom haircut. (No offense to soccer moms, I just don't want to be one. Or look like one.) I don't wear mom jeans!! I DON'T! I don't drive a mini-van, either. And believe me, he didn't mistake me for a mom because of my patient, loving and maternal demeanor. I'm mystified.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Like You Care: Random Stuff about Me

Because I'm playing around with Blogger and can't figure out how to put this on its own separate page (yeah, I know - I shouldn't even be allowed to have a computer. Sorry.)

  1. My master’s degree is in a field completely unrelated to my doctoral studies.
  2. I judge people unfairly when I see them use “your” and “you’re” interchangeably.
  3. Teaching college students is not what I thought it would be.
  4. I love teaching.
  5. And I absolutely hate it.
  6. It depends on the day. And the student.
  7. I am extremely disappointed in the American education system today.
  8. I am on my second marriage.
  9. I got a divorce when I was 28.
  10. My first husband was an abusive drunk; I guess you could say I am a survivor of domestic violence (although he only choked me once. And only kicked down a locked door I was hiding behind once. And only shoved me so hard I fell and ripped my favorite jeans (the real travesty) once.)
  11. When I was in that marriage, I dabbled with an eating disorder.
  12. Because of that, the following foods literally make me gag: corn tortillas, Fiber One cereal, soy milk, yogurt mixed with uncooked oatmeal.
  13. I got married to my first husband in Lake Tahoe.
  14. Six months later I had a reception in my hometown.
  15. I had a different wedding dress for each event.
  16. Both of those days were miserable for me – in the top ten of “worst days of my life.”
  17. I should have known.
  18. I was only married for 14 months.
  19. Sometimes I’m amazed I got out alive.
  20. I believe that a handful of wonderfully supportive and patient people (including Schietto Sister) saved me from that marriage.
  21. I truly adored my first mother-in-law.
  22. Now I don’t have a mother-in-law.
  23. Sometimes women say to me, “Your husband’s mother is deceased? God, you are SO lucky!”
  24. My current husband is the smartest person I know.
  25. He always says, “I’m not that smart” when I tell him this.
  26. He has many nicknames for me.
  27. My favorite is “Sassy Sad-Pants” and no, it’s not sexual.
  28. My wedding to my second husband was a “surprise wedding” – our guests thought they were attending a black tie engagement party.
  29. That wedding dress was a red satin gown.
  30. That wedding day was the happiest day of my life.
  31. For Better or For Worse was my favorite comic strip growing up.
  32. When I was in sixth grade, I bought my dad a jar of Planter’s peanuts and a pack of grape Bubble Yum for Christmas. I hope he’s forgiven me.
  33. My grandmother died when I was 15. I still think of it as the worst thing that’s ever happened to me and the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through.
  34. Twenty years later, I still miss her terribly.
  35. My natural hair color is dark brown.
  36. I have been blonde for the past 7 years.
  37. I have empirical evidence: Blondes do have more fun.
  38. Even though my husband has a vasectomy, I stayed on the Pill for years because I was terrified of an unplanned pregnancy.
  39. I am staunchly Pro-Choice, but I honestly don’t know if I could ever have an abortion.
  40. I don’t want to know if I could ever have an abortion.
  41. I lived in Hawaii but never visited Pearl Harbor.
  42. I didn’t start drinking coffee regularly until I was 27 and then became almost immediately addicted.
  43. I don’t really understand hot tea (unless it has alcohol and that’s for medicinal purposes, really.)
  44. I love board games. LOVE. Them.
  45. I really want to have “Board game parties” but no one seems that interested.
  46. My family members will no longer play Balderdash with me because I am an obnoxious winner.
  47. I once kicked the Balderdash board off the coffee table when I lost to a friend of mine.
  48. I was really drunk when I did that and he has since forgiven me.
  49. Both of my pinky fingers are crooked.
  50. I think plucking your eyebrows hurts much worse than getting them waxed.
  51. I have a freckle on my right earlobe that makes people say, “Oh, your right ear is double-pierced.”
  52. They don’t believe me when I say, “No, it’s not.”
  53. I’ve had more people look really closely at my right ear lobe than should be legally allowed.
  54. I have all of my wisdom teeth because I had my “twelve-year molars” removed to make room for them.
  55. I think I was born into the wrong religion.
  56. I was raised Catholic, but I really believe there was a cosmic mistake and I was supposed to have been born into a big Jewish family.
  57. Although I do hate blintzes and gefilte fish makes me really nervous, so maybe it’s all worked out for the best.
  58. I know all the words to the Dreidl song.
  59. I like to say, “Oy Vey Gevalt.”
  60. I work part-time as a wedding planner's assistant.
  61. The first time I saw a Ketubah signing I thought it was so beautiful I blubbered like a three year old.
  62. I was working that wedding and the family members thought I was really, really weird.
  63. I took a quiz called “How Jewish are You” and my result was “Incredibly Jewish!”
  64. I was one of two kids to do a “very special reading” at my First Communion.
  65. I remember getting dressed for my First Communion and telling my dad very somberly, “This is the most important day of my life.”
  66. I had a crown and a veil to go with my First Communion dress and I loved it.
  67. I wore it around the house for years afterward.
  68. I was a very weird little kid.
  69. I did have a nose job when I was 16.
  70. I hated high school so much that if you said to me, “Here’s five million dollars to go back to high school,” I would say, “Not even for ten.”
  71. I was a cheerleader in high school.
  72. In our high school that really meant nothing.
  73. I told my husband if we got cable television, I would gain 30 pounds.
  74. I’m half-way there.
  75. I can never remember how to spell commitment, knowledgeable or judgmental.
  76. When I was growing up, I was completely jealous of kids who had nicknames, and tried to give myself a nickname.
  77. Much like George Costanza's "T-Bone" experience, it didn't work.
  78. Now that I'm an adult, I find that most people close to me don't call me by my name - they call me by a nickname (not one that I created, of course!)
  79. I hated my first name growing up, so I tried to get people to call me by my middle name, "Marie."
  80. Yes - I already told you that I was born and raised Catholic - see #56.
  81. I also thought people should call me Marie because I loved Marie Osmond and thought she was beautiful.
  82. This didn't catch on, either.
  83. I've never been able to put on eyeliner in a way that didn't make me look completely ridiculous.
  84. I have way too many shoes.
  85. After it rains and the sidewalk is covered with worms, I can make myself really nauseous if I go outside and look at the worms.
  86. The first time I ever went to the OB/GYN, I jumped up after she left the room, fainted, hit my chin on the sink on the way down and woke up naked and bleeding from the face to find the doctor peering over me. She said, "What are you doing down there?"
  87. I think that's the dumbest question anyone has ever asked me.
  88. I love to scrapbook, but I don't really take pictures, so I end up making scrapbooks of other people's pictures.
  89. I don't really have "100 things about me."


Friday, May 12, 2006

Six Degrees of Guilt and Weirdness

Public health final complete. Heinous in many ways, but in the past. Perhaps I will discuss later. Perhaps not. Really not interesting to any normal person. Summary: At one point in the two-and-a-half-hour multiple choice, short answer/essay exam, Dr. T. Left the room. All seven of us put down our (no kidding!) TWENTY page exams and looked at each other. Sarah looked at me and mouthed: What. The. FUCK?! Exactly.

Now on with the show! Yesterday I got my roots done. Hooray! Small children cheered! A parade was thrown. It was time.

Pierre, my stylist opened his own salon two weeks ago. He was cute and proud, prancing around, giving me the grand tour. Look at this. And this! And THIS! I really don't know much about the super-expensive and mighty shiny and sharp hair clippers that can also clip off your ear and make you hemorrhage, but Pierre was excited so I tried to enjoy the very detailed tour. Look! Pierre has a new beautiful, shiny leather appointment book! Look whose name is in the appointment book!!!

Today, on a very special Teacher Lady:

A name that looks much the same as inappropriate brother and sister's last name. I felt light-headed and nauseous. I asked, "Pierre, Mrs. Sister is one of your clients?" Why, yes, yes, she is.

Me: She wouldn't happen to have, say, two kids of college-going age, would she?

P: Yeah, I think she does.

Me: Uh-huh. Male and female (thinking no, no, no, NO!)

P: Yeah! The daughter is adorable. Blonde hair, big blue eyes.

Me: (More to myself than him.) This can't be. This can't be. It's not the same (now I'm starting to rock back and forth in an effort to get to my happy place.)

P: They haven't lived here very long. They moved from out of state.

Me: I. think. they're. my. students.

P: I know where you're going with this.

Me: You couldn't possibly.

P: Be nice.

Me: NICE?!?!?!?!!? Nice?!!!? If we're talking about the same people here, I have got to ask: What, exactly, is wrong with them? HER in particular?

P: (Looking all serious and not the least bit snarky, which is very, VERY out of character for him) You need to cut her some slack.

Me: Mouth opens and closes - no sound comes out.

P: I'm not saying give her an "A" if she doesn't deserve it, but they've been through a lot. Her especially.

Me: Was she molested or something?

P: Well, not by her father. Just - I can't- just - never mind. Just give her a break, okay.

Guilt. This explains a lot. Maybe she and her brother weren't snuggling up in an inappropriate way; maybe he was just being protective of her. Maybe she's not all hopped up on Jesus fumes, intent on announcing her virginity to the world on a weekly basis - maybe she feels like she must tell herself this because her therapist told her this. Maybe she writes really weird papers because she was completely traumatized by that visit because of previous abuse. (And I think some of you thought that might be the case.)

And this whole time, I've been both repulsed and fascinated by her. You know what this means, don't you? From now on, I have to start being universally patient. And nice. To all of my students, no matter how much of a giant PITA they might be. Because why? Because you just never know. Stupid valuable lesson. Dammit.

EDITED TO ADD: It is now 11:52 a.m. Inappropriate Sister was scheduled to take her make-up final at 9:00 a.m. I waited for an hour. And a half. She did not call; she did not e-mail. Because I have other shit to do (like update this blog, for example), I left. The saga continues. And the guilt? Now, not so much. Thank gob I no longer live an hour away, or I'd be all, "Someone get me a gun."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I Give Up

Do other doc students just stop caring, do you think? I keep coming up with new ways to procrastinate. I have my public health final in less than 24 hours and I no longer care. Instead, I Googled my two best friends from seventh grade. They were both awesome artists and completely hilarious and they let me hang around with them because everybody needs a gawking fan, even when you're 12.

Guess where they are? No, not prison. M #1 is a professor at a small college in the midwest. Her website tells me she was just awarded tenure. Her CV includes the list of articles she has published, and it is long. M #2 is a doctoral candidate (meaning she has finished all her coursework and is probably finishing her dissertation as we speak.) She was interviewed for something and she spoke eloquently about the grueling (yet tremendously rewarding) experience that is her doctoral program. She also spent a year or so in Africa, studying African art. Publishing papers and going to Africa. My, how far they have come from our Sister Mary Hot Flash at Our Lady of Perpetual Sentence Diagramming days. And what am I doing? Googling them.

Today, I administered my Human Sexuality final and Inappropriate Sister missed it. Of course she did. No good reason. Just thought she had more time than she did. Why not go out in a sputter of apathy and below-average effort? She graduates on Saturday. Her degree is not worth the paper on which it is printed. Her parents should ask for their money back.

So, I have decided to copy her. Finals week ends now.

But seriously. I have at least one more year of coursework and gob only knows how long it will take me to write a damn dissertation, and I just wonder if I can make it. I'm awfully tired for only two years in.

Also, this has nothing to do with that, but I think I'm in love with the new Starbucks' Green Tea Latte. It is so delicious.

Perhaps I am sleep deprived? Does sleep deprivation cause incessant watching of crappy television and feelings of overall hopelessness? Anyone?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Under Pressure!

Yesterday, when I should have been grading papers or writing papers or studying for what promises to be a grueling final, I was driving to a party - to work, not to play. As I was speeding along the interstate, within ten minutes on the SAME radio station, I heard both Pressure by Billy Joel and Under Pressure by David Bowie and someone else (Freddy Mercury, maybe?) and I thought that yes, gob is definitely trying to tell me something. (BTW - are song titles italicized, underlined, put in quotes, what?)

But, a job in education + a complete kitchen overhaul + a dog with ACL issues + a recent development called "Check Engine light" = Extra-super-broke. So, the weddings and the parties, I take 'em as they come, regardless of my finals week schedule.

Brokeness also translates to no disposable income for hair or eyebrows. Our friends Bert & Ernie (courtesy of Media Bistro, thank you!) are here today to show you what my eyebrows look like (check out Bert, not Ernie.) This is what happens when you are "under pressure" and broke and haven't been to the eyebrow waxing lady since, well, you can't quite remember when.

But I'm sure you don't read this blog because you don't get enough bitching and moaning in your own lives. I know why you read this blog. You read this blog for these (please insert your own witty comments and snarky asides - I have to save my brain power for finals week!)
  • All you need to contract a sexually transmitted infection is a mucus mem-brain.
  • Human sexuality has many different faucets.
  • The most frightening part of Tracey's story is that she was rapped during one of her one-night-stands.
  • In 1998, after seeing her boyfriend cheat on her, Jennifer had her first one nightstand.
  • It was a one night stand that lasted for ten minuets.
  • She would get their phone numbers at random places like gas stations, excreta.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Cheater, Cheater, um, Pumpkin Eater?

Just in case reading papers about Opera and captive speakers isn't aggravating enough, I have something else to torment me: Cheaters.

Once in a while, Time magazine and other rags run a story or two about "cheating and the Ivory tower." Before I became Teacher Lady, I would read these articles and think, "Yeah, right." Or, on perhaps a more open-minded day, "Well, that's only at hard-core Ivy League schools where the competition is so intense that students are driven to extremes."

One of the reasons I was so skeptical is because I never cheated in college. I do not write this to let you all know how scrupulous I am. Please. I never cheated in college for baser reasons: I have bad luck and I knew I would get caught. I was too lazy to actually figure out a great cheating scam. And I also figured that in the time it would take me to come up with a genius cheating plan, I could actually just study. Or not. I don't remember exactly - I was drunk for most of those four years.

Speaking of great scams, now that I think about it, there were quite a few kids who cheated back in the olden days. A woman in my sorority ran a virtual (no, not virtual like virtual reality - this was back in the day of the typewriter, the abacus and the rickshaw) "term-paper factory." It was her part-time job. Her "clients" were mostly guys from the fraternity house across the street. She even had a "pay scale" - $20 for a "C" paper, $35 for a "B" paper and $50 for an "A" paper. How she knew in advance what she needed to do to earn each grade, I never figured out. But it seemed to work.

In today's technology era, the crazy college kids don't need my sorority sister's factory. They have the Internet and they're set. Although some of their cheating isn't so high tech. I give you Exhibit A:

My first semester teaching, finals week: I'm in my office at the ungodly hour of 7:30 a.m., copying the final exam and one of my students comes bursting in, huffing and puffing, "Megan is down there and she's written all the answers on her desk and she's covering it with her water bottle!" So I go downstairs (the final is at 7:45 a.m.) and sure enough, there is Megan - one of my best students (and now I wonder why she was one of my best students) sitting at her desk, with a HUGE clear plastic bottle of water on top of her desk. "Megan," I say sweetly, "I'm going to need you to do me a favor and come sit over here," and her face just drained of all color. She looked like she was going to vomit. "Okay," she stammered. Then, with much fuss and rearranging books and backpacks and papers, she changed desks. On the former desk was the evidence - lots and lots of smeary pencil writing, now illegible. How she managed that little magic trick, I'll never know, but if I hadn't been so pissed off, I would have been mighty impressed.

And here we go again: I have a reactionary paper that is clearly "lifted." It is a reaction to the movie And the Band Played On. I just got around to grading it this Monday. This same student has previously submitted papers that read like they were written by a monkey with a crayon. This particular paper reads like it was written by someone with an MPH from Harvard. He writes about retroviruses and lentiviruses (by the way, from what I can recall, lentiviruses are NOT mentioned in And the Band Played On.) He expounds on AIDS conspiracy theories. He illustrates what happens when viruses "jump species." This information isn't found in our textbook and he cites no sources. Like he invented the AIDS conspiracy theories.

I was mad. Let me rephrase that. I was livid. J. does not understand why I get so incensed when students cheat. He's very The Four Agreements, all "Take nothing personally." That makes good sense. But I am not that sensible. I take it very personally. And it has nothing to do with academic integrity and all that. It pisses me off royally because I interpret it as, "You must think I'm really, really stupid. Just dumber-than-a-box-of-rocks stupid." Or, maybe, they think they're just that clever.

I wrote him some choice words on his paper and planned to speak with him after class on Tuesday, but he didn't show up. Now what? I won't see them again until the final. There are a number of disciplinary actions I may take against him, but they seem rather pointless, considering past evidence (in Part II, to follow.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

When Bad Things Happen to Bad People

Karma is a bitch. This is what I get for making fun of my students all semester long.

The university uses this "online learning software" for all kinds of good stuff, including posting grades. Because of my past life, I've actually used 3 other types of online learning software and this one happens to be the worst. By far. Anyway, yesterday, I have two frantic e-mails from two different students telling me their grades aren't quite right. No, they're not being whiny brats groveling for an "A" - their grades aren't right at all. Something has gone wrong with the software (J. says a database is corrupted somewhere) and now I have 50 students with 13 quizzes, 2 exams, 4 reactionary reviews and more extra credit than they deserve whose grades are scrambled.

The person who is responsible for this software has told me there is "nothing she can do," while J. has been my knight in shining armor and told me she's full of it. We'll go get those old tapes from when they backed up their server and he'll go in and kick some fellow-tech-geek ass if he has to! Gotta love that man!

I have my own paper due, a presentation and two finals. And MOUNTAINS of their papers to grade because they all waited until the last damn minute to do all four of their papers. And let's not forget an 8-hour-gig at a wedding on Saturday. I will not be sleeping much in the next week and a half.

My post was going to be more of my favorite mistakes from their papers, but I figured gob was angry enough.

Oh, but when have I ever really worried about the wrath of gob? Here are just a few of my recent faves:

The AIDS patient was suffering from a bad disease called Chaos. (The AIDS patient was actually suffering from Kaposi's Sarcoma - KS for short; if the student had cracked open his textbook, he would have known this.)

In class on Tuesday, we watched an episode of Opera about sex addicts. I guess I am impressed - clearly she doesn't watch a lot of television.

Having unprotected sex is like playing roussin roulette. Again, I am impressed. This student doesn't spend a lot of time playing online games or visiting casinos. Although I could also argue that she's clearly never opened a geography or history textbook either.

Dr. S. told us that sexually transmitted infections known no racial or ethnic boundaries; they are an equal opportunity fender. I couldn't decide if the student thought Dr. S. was saying "fender" or if this was a typo. Or worse.

Jennifer clearly suffered from low self of steam. The winner.