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.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Teacher Lady's Friday Fun Corner!

Okay, so the title was a blatant rip-off of Captain Kangaroo (or was it? Now I'm thinking it wasn't "Fun Corner", it was "Picture Pages" which isn't exactly the same thing. Hmm . . . oh, well.) And it's not a corner, so much as a general space, but the title is catchy and it's my blog, so there!

Today is just a bunch of random questions and if anyone can answer them, I will . . . what is a good prize . . . I will . . . send you a lifetime supply of free condoms and "condom demonstration models"? (aka, plastic penises). No, I think the department would probably notice if that box of 100 "condom demonstration models" went missing . . . Well, maybe that's the first question someone can answer for me . . .what is a good prize here in the blogosphere?

Ready? Ready to participate in Friday Fun Corner with no payoff for you? Thought so. Okay, kiddies, strap on your thinking caps and away we go!!!! (Hint: Today's secret phrase is: Teacher Lady watches too much TV (no cable in the new place) and spends too much time in her car listening to crappy music because her CD player is broken!)


Why in the hell is Justin Timberlake famous? That song "Sexy Back" sounds like it is whined sung by a woman.


Why are the shows According to Jim and King of Queens not just on television but in syndication???? I don't need to see either of those shows ever, and certainly not 3 times a day. Plus, there's nothing that irks me more than a show based on the premise of a swarthy, sweaty, hairy "big lug with a heart of gold" married to a woman who looks like Courtney Thorne Smith. Yes, I'm talking about you, Jim Belushi! (Also, I find it interesting that Thorne tripped the spellcheck, but Belushi did not.) Way to give average Joes WAY unrealistic expectations. When women run the world, I would like to see a television show based on a married couple where the woman looks like Roseanne, pre "crazy-plastic surgery addiction" and the husband looks like Brad Pitt. Sound ridiculous and implausible? I think yes. Will we ever see that? I think no. If we ever do see that, that's when I'll say loud and proud, "We've come a loooong way, baby!!"


Why do college students (oh, boy, here we go - buckle up, campers, it's gonna be a bumpy ride!) wear pajamas as clothing? Not care if when together in large groups they look like "The Great Unwashed"? Text message in class as if no one can see them? (I've addressed this one before, but I still don't understand it) Not "clean up after themselves"?! Yesterday, in an effort to embrace a more "laid-back" spirit in the classroom (really, for my sake - not for theirs. I do NOT want to be the youngest woman in history to have a frustration-caused stroke), I observed a seasoned colleague who also teaches a section of the human sex course. Maybe because of the time of day, nearly every student was sucking down some kind of beverage - mostly coffee, but there were a few cans of Rock Star here and there. After class was over, I stayed behind to ask my friend a few questions about her teaching methods. As a stood at the front of the room and surveyed it, I felt like I was looking at a commercial sponsored by a "Save the Earth" type organization. Every aisle was (literally) littered with empty coffee cups, soda cans and empty Gatorade bottles. Believe me, I can understand leaving things behind - sometimes I think my nickname should be Forgetful Jones - but did they all forget? It was very disheartening to see. In many ways, even more disheartening than some of their papers. Which brings me to . . .


What the hell are they teaching those kids in grammar school? Middle school? High school? Believe me, I am NOT ragging on teachers. My mother is an English teacher and I can't imagine how she did her job for as long as she did. And I also get (believe me, I REALLY get) feeling like the students are so far gone that it's too late to try to help them with their writing at whatever point they're at. But still. I will try to post some examples later today.


Why does "advocate for students" seem to mean "at the expense of faculty's power and esteem?" And, are we really helping our students in the end? Our department chair has been celebrated as someone who "really cares about the students" and is "a great advocate for students." But, if every time they make a mistake, we pat them on the head, tell them it's okay, we'll fix it, give them a cookie and send them on their merry way, what are they learning? If they're not adults (which I've been told, in the past month, repeatedly that they are not, and it's our job to support the "growth process"), how is never letting them feel any consequences for their "mistakes" (legitimate) or "wrongdoings" (aka "cheating") helping them? 'Cause lemme tell ya, I will NEVER again make the "mistake" of not posting a sign on the door of a classroom even if the room change took place six months before the start of the semester. I got bitch-slapped because of something I did, and although it was bitter medicine, I had to choke it down and - to repeat myself, I will never make the same mistake again. What are we teaching these "kids" when we let them make up a midterm, final, paper, when we forgive plaigarism or cheating because they "just didn't know?" Personally, I don't think we're teaching them anything - or at least not anything good, and it scares the crap out of me.

I patiently await your brilliant, impressive answers, Internetweb people. Thank you.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Recently Added to the Endangered Species List: The Syllabus

I've blogged about the lowly syllabus here before - how mine gets longer and longer with each passing semester, how it's no longer a document of "let me show you what curriculum we will be covering," but a document of "let me make every attempt at covering my ass." But I'm starting to wonder (and yes, even though it's only Wednesday, I feel like it's been a long week, so I'm even more bitter and disillusioned than usual - if that's possible): Why am I bothering? Seriously.

After looking at another professor's syllabus this summer - I realized I was basically shooting myself in the foot when it came to managing the grading of papers. Students have to do 4 papers; in semesters past, they (surprising to nobody but me, I'm guessing) wait until the last 2 weeks and turn all 4 papers in then. And I'm stuck trying to grade approximately 200 papers the last week of class (or at least in time to meet the grades-submission deadline) when I have my own papers to be writing and my own finals to be studying for. Other professor has "mini-deadlines" and makes them all turn in paper #1 by such and such date. Ditto for paper #2 and so on and so on and they tell two friends (extra credit for you if you get that reference!) and thus, the massive flood that is their papers becomes a manageable river.

So, Monday night, I did a lot of finger-shaking and reminding. (Yes, this is why I thought I wanted to go into "higher" education. Cripes. I don't have children for about a million reasons and this is just one of them. Who wants to be a professional nag?) "Remember, your first installment of the assignment is due next week. Don't forget. Remember, remember, remember." And, if I'm not mistaken, I did the two week countdown last week as well.

The instructions for all assignments are in the syllabus. Really, they could NOT be more detailed. Short of me telling them what type of printer they should be using, I spell it out so they don't have to guess anything. I believe in clear rubrics. I think that's fair. And because I want to dispel any anxiety about what may be expected of them, I even have them TAKE TURNS reading the syllabus aloud the first night of class. It takes forever, but I consider it an investment in their success and my sanity. All spelled out. No surprises. (Aside: Another professor (and another commenter on this very blog) uses a contract - students sign a piece of paper stating they have read the syllabus and will abide by whatever it says. For some reason, I figured this wouldn't work with my students, but maybe I need to reconsider?)

Imagine my consternation when cute-frat-boy type walks up to me after class. "Yeah, uh, about this paper that's due next week?" he says in a skeptical tone, like I just sprung it on them about 5 minutes ago. "Mmm-hmm," I say, only half-listening because I am still inwardly flabbergasted by the word bank kid. "Like, uh, what are we supposed to do for them?" Since this has happened to me before I said, "Well, if you recall, everything you need to know is in the syllabus. If I explain it to you now, I might forget something important, so just look in your syllabus." He looked confused. "I don't think I have one of those things." Wasn't in class the first night? Yes, it turns out, he was. I'm pretty sure I had extra syllabi at the end of the night - did he not get one? Oh, now it turns out he did get one, he just doesn't know what he did with it. So could he, uh, have one? This is another one I love. Could I borrow a stapler? Can you lend me a paper clip? How about a syllabus? They see what I bring to class. Do they think I also have a portable office somewhere on me as well? Hold on, let me check all my body cavities. I believe there's a stapler here somewhere . . .

I refer him to the class website where the syllabus is posted as well. "Yeah, I think I saw it the other day. Although I might have been looking at the wrong one because it says the lab fee is $10.00 a week and so far we haven't had to bring any money here." So far. But hey - he's given me an idea on how to update my wardrobe for fall: "Students, due to the extreme increases in prices of things like chalk, we are now charging $10.00 per class, per student, for 'operational costs.'" Right, I agree, it's probably not the right syllabus. But I'm fairly certain it's online. Yet, he clearly doesn't want to go online. (Maybe he doesn't know how? Maybe I just missed a "teachable moment?") "Aw, c'mon," he wheedled. "Just, like, you know, how long does it have to be and stuff and what are we supposed to write about?" I didn't answer him directly for two very good reasons: 1.) There is a long list of writing prompts in the syllabus as well as details about precisely how long each section should be and I honestly couldn't remember them all off the top of my head. And, 2.) I didn't feel like it.

I may have already blogged about this, but it's still not as bad as a colleague's student: He showed up to the midterm completely unprepared and begged her not to make him take the exam right then and there. Reason? He hadn't yet bought the textbook. They were in the main office when she was giving him the makeup exam and I witnessed the rest of the scenario. She asked him why he hadn't yet bought the book. He said he didn't think he'd need it "so soon" in the semester. She asked about the syllabus. He actually said, "Yeah, I try not to read those if I can help it." I don't know him, so I can't tell if he was being serious or sarcastic - I mean the content was sarcastic - I think - but the tone was completely serious.

So tell me: should I just get over myself and my 6 or 7 or 8 page syllabus (although, if I'm not mistaken, we are required to have one on file with the department) and explain everything a week before they need to do it? Based on the number of students who have "last minute emergency printer problems where every printer in all 43 of the university's printing labs happens to be broken or out of toner at the same time", I figure they never do anything more than a week in advance, at the absolute most. Because you know? I'm starting to feel guilty about all those trees I'm killing for no good reason.

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 25, 2006

Minnie and I Have More in Common Than I Thought

Last spring, someone wrote in one of my evals, "Can be rude and snappy when cornered." At first I was a bit hurt. After all when Inappropriate Sister says something about how she read "In the paper" (which means a scene she hallucinated in her mind - two-seat fetus ride, anyone?) that at a college in Washington, D.C., one out of every five students has AIDS, I kept my cool. It was actually another student who had clearly had enough of her and snapped, "Oh, come on. That's just ridiculous!" And I was the one who said politely, "I'm not familiar with that finding. Do you think you could bring in that article and share it with the class?" She said she would and I, because I'm an idiot said, "Do you happen to remember the name of the college?" and she just laughed and said, "It must be one of those 'nympho' colleges," I will admit that I snapped and said, "I really don't think that's an appropriate thing to say about anybody, and especially not people living with HIV/AIDS."

And believe me, last semester I'm sure there were lots of snappy (and not witty - just probably rude, as noted in my evals) retorts. And honestly? I really was hurt and vowed to make an effort to be more patient. Even with the freaks. (Yes, I know. Brimming with patience and love, aren't I?)

But tonight? Oh, the snappiness is just genetically programmed I think. Tonight we reviewed female reproductive structures - internal and external. I told the students that a large portion of the upcoming exam would be correctly labeling these structures and I expected correct spelling and appropriate "academic" terminology. In other words, writing "pee hole" next to the urethral opening ain't gonna cut it. Regardless of my warnings, most of them flub it up anyway. One of my (male) students who typically sits slouched at the back of the class and has thus far not said a word this semester raised his hand, "There's gonna be a word bank, right?"

Another one of my many, many pet peeves. (My gob, life would be SO much easier if I didn't have so many pet peeves, you know?) So, at first I tried to be polite. "Well, actually, I'm looking for a higher level of learning. Recall and not just recognition, you know?" He whined, "I can't believe that, though. I mean, there's a WHOLE LOTTA words up there. That's just too many words to learn." That's when I snapped - much like Minnie is prone to do when she is cornered. "This is not seventh grade. This is college." He whined again, "But yeah, that's just a lot to remember." I got even MORE rude and snappy, "This is college. This is considered a class for upper classmen only. I expect a lot of you, and I expect that you are capable of delivering it." That didn't go over well. Just so you know, here's the list of "too many words" I expect them to know:

Fallopian Tube

So, when I get my scathing evals about me being rude and snappy, at least I can say, "Yes, I was, and gob, I have to say, I think it was worth it!"

Labels: , ,

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Course Evals, Part Deux: Summer Session

I feel that I have had quite the epiphany over the last two weeks, and while in some ways, it's depressing as hell, in others, it's quite freeing. Ready?

I have absolutely no control over what my students write on their evals. I have no control over anything, really.

And you're thinking, "It took her 36 years to figure this out?"

Exhibit A:

I had a non-traditional student this summer who fawned over me. It actually made me very uncomfortable. She brought me an apple - which would have been cute, had she done it one time - every, single class. And I never ate them because I loathe, loathe, loathe red apples. And I'm still not a big enough, brave enough girl to say, "That's so sweet of you, really, but I'm allergic to apples." I have them do enough in class writing activities that I recognized her handwriting - very distinctive - quite well.

And the only thing she wrote on the course evaluation? Check it out:

It is not fair of Teacher Lady to include grammar, spelling, typos and that kind of thing in the criteria for grading our papers. She should grade on content only.

Two weeks ago? That would have sent me into a tizzy. Now I just shrug and say, "Oh, well. Can't please everybody."

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thank You, Gob

If you're new here, I typically don't type God - I type Gob. And as a lapsed Catholic with 8 years worth of nuns still haunting my nightmares, I feel a bit better about not really taking the name of the Lord in vain. If you're wondering why it's Gob and not God, have a read, if you'd like.

Anyway, the big news: I fell asleep last night!!!! Ta-Da!!! (I wouldn't be here this morning without the help of Advil PM, so this award's for you!) I was so proud of myself this morning, I felt like one of those toddlers who finally goes poopy on the potty and just announces it in public to any random passers-by. Look at me! I slept all night like a big girl!! I'm still so exhausted I can feel it in my bones (sleep deprivation is cumulative, it would seem, and I've run up quite the "sleep debt.") but oh my gob, I'd forgotten what it was like to fall asleep before 3:00 a.m. and stay asleep for more than an hour and a half at a time.

In other news, I finally met our friend Hap in class on Monday night. He never responded to my long, groveling e-mail, apologizing (as I was instructed) because he couldn't find the classroom, offering my time to help him get caught up and including a syllabus in the e-mail. Because students seem not to notice attachments, I also wrote: "Attached you will find a copy of our syllabus." I don't know why I'm the least bit surprised, but he never e-mailed me back. Sometimes our university e-mail system can be a bit sketchy, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Monday evening, he didn't approach me before class or during either of our two short breaks. Before I let them go (45 minutes early), I thought to myself, "I don't know what the hell this kid looks like, and I better be prepared for the wrath of Gob tomorrow if he's not here," so I said, "Hap Happerton, I need to speak with you briefly before you go." He approached me. I was surprised - he wasn't the spawn of Satan as I had anticipated (at least, he didn't have horns or a tail that I could see). He seemed like a basic, decent, polite 19-year-old kid. "Did you get my e-mail?" I asked after introducing myself and gushing about how glad I was he was finally able to join us. "Uh, yeah, I did. Uh, thanks." I was happy. Then he said, "Hey, uh, could I get a copy of the syllabus?" Aside: I don't know why it irritates the crap out of me when students ask me this, but it does. It's usually the fourth or tenth week of class and they almost hold out their grubby little mitts and I just want to say in my snarkiest voice, "I don't carry them around with me everywhere I go." But I digress. I told him it was attached to the e-mail. He was surprised. It was? He didn't see it. Now I was alarmed because of the "attached you will find . . ." sentence. I was so sleep deprived and so shaken by the worst class ever taught that I thought maybe I didn't send it to him. "Okay," I said, "please go back and check the e-mail and if I didn't include a syllabus, let me know." He agreed. I raced back to our new place (in the pouring rain at 10:00 p.m. and I can now confess with true shame that I should NOT have been driving because I was that tired and kept drifting on to the shoulder of the freeway) and I headed straight for the computer and my "sent" folder. And sure enough, there was a syllabus attached.

Gob help me this semester. I think I'm in for one hell of a ride.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Sleep Deprivation Continues

Well, now I've proven that my body is immune to BOTH Exedrin and Tylenol PM. Last night I couldn't fall asleep (shocking) because I was just sore - the kind of generic sore that comes from hoisting boxes of Band-Aids up two flights of stairs. I figured it was the pain that was keeping me awake - 'cause you know, I haven't got time for the pain - and gulped down two of those big blue suckers. Nada. It didn't even help with the PAIN! If you're going to fail to make me pass out like the cheap date that I am, than at least do something about the pain. Bastards. Today I picked up some Tylenol PM, hoping that it would do the trick. And yet, here I am. Inexplicably wide awake, yet exhausted beyond belief.

I thought I'd regale you with the hilarious tale of how it took me 20 minutes to order a pizza on Sunday night. Since all our plates, etc., were packed away in boxes and we were still trying to dig out of the chaos, there would be no microwaving cooking of any sort. Takeout to the rescue!

Our new neighborhood is fairly posh. We are not posh. But the neighborhood is. We live in the "wannabe posh" section of the neighborhood which is fine by me. It seems that posh people don't openly admit to eating pizza, because I've only seen one pizza place and that was in a posh little mini-strip mall with one of those ultra-posh names like Soothing Meadows or Whitby's Crossings. And as I drove by it, I thought, "I should remember the name of that place." It wasn't the usual big guys - but (I think?) a smaller chain. Maybe a local chain? Who knows.

We didn't have phone or DSL service Sunday night, so I couldn't type in "pizza" and "posh wannabe place" in the Yahoo! Yellow Pages and hope to have the name of the place revealed to me. Good Lord! What in the HAIL did we do before the Internet? How did we exist? Mr. J. said, "There are Yellow Pages in the garage if you want to flip through them." Not exactly what I wanted to do - how lazy are you when your fingers don't even want to do the walking!? But they did. And now my wee fingers are all tuckered out.

First of all, who the hell is eating all this pizza? How are there approximately 80 million pizza places in a 10-mile-radius? Pages of pizza listings. And yet! Only one in this stinkhole of a town that I now live in. I called a few places. First place: The phone rang and rang and rang (OMG - I just realized! What in the HAIL did we do before cell phones? All hail the gods of modern technology. Forgive me for recently cursing you) and no one picked up. Second place: "We don't deliver there." What? The Lexus-SUV driving-soccer-moms aren't good tippers? I can't believe that. Mr. J. suggested I call information and ask about the place in our 'hood. "What's it called again?" He said he thought it was called Pizza Johnny's. I wasn't sure that was exactly it, but it was Pizza Some Guy's Name. I call Verizon 411. Name and city please. There's no listing for Pizza Johnny's. "Okay, wait! Don't go!" I begged. At this point I was starving. (Hey, maybe that's why I hallucinated). I was desperate. Then I got engaged in one of the dumbest conversations of my life. (If the Verizon operator has a blog, you can bet there's a story about the idiot who didn't know the name of the restaurant for which they wanted the phone number.)

Me: How about Pizza Tommy's?

Verizon Operator: No listing.

Me: Um, Pizza Joey's?

VO: No.

Me: Okay, could you just try Pizza Jimmy's?

VO: Sigh.

Me (Just randomly naming men's names in hopes she'll stop me): Pizza Timmy's! No, wait, um, Pizza Eddie's!

VO: No ma'am. No listing.

Poor woman. She should get promoted just for not hanging up on me.

I finally found a place one town over that 1.) Answered their phone, 2.) Was still open and 3.) Was willing to take my money. I was so proud of myself that after 20 minutes I had finally managed to order myself a pizza like a big girl until she said, "Oh - we're not doing deliveries tonight." I was completely flabbergasted and confused. "I didn't know you guys didn't deliver anymore." She said, "Oh, we do. Just not tonight." Now I thought I got it. "Oh, you don't deliver on Sundays," I said. "No, we do. Just not tonight." Mystifying! And par for the course after the week I've had.

And now, ladies and germs, I am going to try and get me some shut-eye. (So tired I just typed shut-up. Which would actually be a great thing to have. I'm gonna get me some shut up.) Please keep your fingers crossed and send me sleepy thoughts!


Monday, September 18, 2006

I Showed My Ass

When you act obnoxiously in public or do something you later regret, or just in general act like an idiot, friends of mine call that, "Showing your ass." Typically, it relates to an angry outburst at an inappropriate person in an inappropriate situation. But I think it can also mean teaching class really badly and then basically saying, "Eff it. Okay you guys, here's the deal. We moved this weekend, I haven't slept in days, and to demonstrate the severity of how my mind is not functioning, I can tell you that this morning, I showered with my glasses on - and NOT on purpose! - which I've never done in my life. So, tonight's class will be brief (and it was; I ended 45 minutes early AND gave them two 10-minute breaks), and I need you to understand that I may not make a lot of sense tonight."

I WISH I hadn't done it. But I botched up the lecture on the sex differentiation process during fetal development and a STUDENT had to stop me. She was VERY sweet and VERY polite and she said, "Um, you're telling us that it's genetic, than hormonal, then gonadal. But the book says it's genetic, gonadal, then hormonal. I guess the hormones trigger the development of the gonads?" She was right. And I was so horrified. I have taught this lesson FIVE times now (tonight was the sixth) and I have NEVER effed it up like that. And of course, what with my recent obsession with snarky course evaluations, all I saw in front of my eyes was "She was the most psychotic professor I have ever had," or "Clearly needs Ritalin - she's a total spaz." Or the one that makes my heart stop:

She doesn't know what the hell she's talking about.

It's only our third class meeting, I feel like I lost TONS of credibility. And here I thought sleep deprivation only effed with your short term memory - at the beginning of the class I'm taking right before the one I teach, I handed a friend a pen. I have zero recollection of that. She handed it back to me at the end of the 3-hour class and I looked at her like she was crazy. "Why are you giving me that?" She said, quite politely, "You gave it to me." It was a generic Bic pen. "No, I didn't." Still polite she said, "Teacher Lady. Really. You did." I took the pen. I still feel like I stole it. My point? Sleep deprivation also effs with your long-term memory, too.

I made a HUGE second mistake and explained gender, gender identity and gender role completely backwards. Mixed them all up. And I had my notes right in front of me, and I felt like I was reading Latin whenever I tried to look at them, so I was just "wingin' it." After I was able to focus on my notes and realize I had taught them something wrong for the SECOND time in about, oh, 25 minutes, I showed my ass. That's when I gave my speech. And throughout the class, I just kept making mistakes (at least not you know, informational ones - more like being unable to speak basic English words, differentiating between left and right, and failing to understand a group's clever joke about the activity we did. Like literally. They had to EXPLAIN the joke to me. Normally, that's not the case.) And after each flub, I would then shake my head and mutter to myself, "You need to call it a night."

WHY did this happen during the THIRD class meeting? If this had happened in 6 weeks, at least I'd have a little credibility and they'd know I wasn't a complete idiot. And I was talking quickly and having trouble saying basic words and now all I can think is, they're going to write, "Total spaz who should not be permitted in the classroom."

And to make matters WORSE I looked even MORE like a spaz and told them (quickly) all the details of my personal life regarding said move. I even told them I think we have a ghost in our new place, which I don't even WANT to believe, but some weird things happening just make me wonder. I do not want to be THAT professor. The one who uses his "Adult Development in Education" course to talk about his divorce as "meaningful real-life examples." And if the divorce weren't bad enough, he then talks about the DETAILS of the divorce. I've had a few of those professors. And nobody likes or respects them and CERTAINLY nobody wants to be them. I am so wired, and so jittery, and so distracted and disoriented that I wouldn't be surprised if they thought I was a cocaine addict. Spazzing out in class tonight was NOT professional and ALL the professors I admire and respect would have NEVER done that. NE. VER. Not in a million years. In a nutshell, I acted like a high-strung poodle and did everything a high-strung poodle would do expect piddle on the new carpet.

Really. I showed my ass.


The Big Move or: Somebody Tell Me Why We Have So Many Freakin' Band-Aids!

Warning! Warning!! Extreme sleep deprivation has inspired this post. It may be the longest, most "ramblingest" post in history. Proceed at your own risk. Also - on public computer; spell check is not working. At this point I promise nothing in terms of spelling or grammatical accuracy. I will not be responsible if your eyes fall out of your head because my writing is so tedious.

For those of you still reading, this weekend was the big move. We're still not "done" but our first night in the new place was Saturday. I'm sitting here in my new public library because our computer is not set up, and (although we were promised it would be,) our phone isn't hooked up either.

Normally, I don't like whining about exhaustion or sleep deprivation. After all, I don't have a baby (that I know of.) I have had so many friends tell me that you think you've been tired in your life until you have an infant in your house and then you really know what tired is. As a woman who truly loves (and needs!) a solid eight hours - preferably nine - I have always empathized with tales of "EXTREME SLEEP DEPRIVATION!"

But - I don't know if it's the new place or the stress of moving, but I haven't gotten decent sleep since Thursday night. Friday night was our last night in our place and I was wide. awake. I actually didn't feel too badly about it and kept telling myself, "If it's your last night in this place, at least you're enjoying it, right?" I read The Memory Keeper's Daughter until 5:30 a.m. and then tried to go to sleep. Mr. J. got up at 5:50 a.m. and then I think I dozed off around 6:00-ish. I was awoken around 8:20 a.m. by the sound of Minnie going nuts and Mr. J. and his brother T, moving large pieces of furniture out the door. And that started the day. Remind me to tell you in another post about the bet I "won", but because of it, I spent the "big" move at a spa. Yeah, that's right, baby! Moving is for suckers!! From 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., I had a blissful hour-long massage, eyebrow wax (okay, that's not really pampering but yikes! We've talked about this and when I miss a few eyebrow waxes, I really do start to resemble Bert from Sesame Street.) And then, spa manicure and pedicure. And guess what? No one tried to sell me any stupid products! So nice.

However, all good things come to an end and I spent the rest of the day trying to clean our new place. (This was clearly poor planning on my part. I should have cleaned in the morning - duh! - and then gone to the spa in the afternoon. Duh, duh, duh! And I think my students can be idiots?) The previous tenants were evicted, they were stealing gas, and obviously? They were foul, disgusting slobs. At one point, I simply lost my mind and started swabbing down the whole place with alcohol. Anything either one of us would ever touch with any part of our bodies? Scrubbed down with an alcohol-soaked cotton pad. Light switches? Check. Every single one. Door knobs? Check. And ditto. Yet, sometimes, because my office is complete chaos, some people are actually surprised when I tell them I'm a Virgo. If you don't want to go to the link, here's the short version: ". . . sometimes as a somewhat older woman, intelligent but rather pedantic and spinsterish. The latter impression is sometimes confirmed by the Virgoan preciseness, refinement, fastidious love of cleanliness, hygiene and good order, conventionality and aristocratic attitude of reserve. They are usually observant, shrewd, critically inclined, judicious, patient, practical supporters of the status quo, and tend toward conservatism in all departments of life. On the surface they are emotionally cold, and sometimes this goes deeper, for their habit of suppressing their natural kindness may in the end cause it to atrophy . . ." Charming, yes? I'll bet you just said out loud, "Boy, that Mr. J. is one hell of a lucky guy!"

I could go on and on about what I did on Saturday night, but let us just say that in a fit of sleeplessness and anxiety, after 20 minutes of attempting sleep, at approximately 12:15 a.m., I got up, and - in my pajamas, no less - drove the half-hour to the "old place" and started packing up all the "little" crap left - cuz remember? I was excused from the "big" move. (I figured since I wasn't sleeping anyway, and couldn't do anything in our new place that wouldn't wake our new neighbors or irritate the crap out of Mr. J., and wandering aimlessly around a room full of boxes held little appeal, why the heck not accomplish something?) Hence, the question about Band-Aids and if I ever find the stupid digital camera somewhere, I will post a picture of how many boxes of Band-Aids we have. And why??? This I do not know. Because although I am extremely clumsy and have been known to accidentally (of course - like anyone would on purpose!) poke myself in the eye, I don't often use Band-Aids. And yet? We have boxes. Anti-biotic Band-Aids. Clear. Flexible. Large. Small. Even a box of Band-Aids printed with that Blues Clues dog whose name escapes me. Boxes. Who in the hell keeps buying them? I managed about 3 hours of sleep (on the floor with some yet-to-be-moved blankets and pillows) and then met a friend for breakfast. There's more, perhaps for another time, but by the end of the day, I was still wired, anxious, starving and now tripping down stairs and beginning to walk into walls. Last night, Mr. J. and I went to pick up the pizza we had ordered. The ordering a pizza process in and of itself was a whole entire post. Like an episode of The Twilight Zone.

As we were driving to get the pizza, I looked to my left and saw a beautiful fireworks display low in the sky- red and blue and I thought, "Fireworks! I wonder what they're celebrating." I was about to tell Mr. J. to look at the fireworks when I stopped myself. There were no fireworks. And what in the hell would merit fireworks in the suburbs at 9:30 on a Sunday night on September 17th? It was a police car with its lights on. Great. So now I'm so sleep-deprived I'm hallucinating. Still not much sleep last night - 3:30 a.m. to about 8:30. Five hours might be enough for some folks, but certainly not for me. We had to be at the title place at 9:00 today to sign the papers. Mr. J. was so sympathic. "Just do your best to get dressed. It won't take very long and maybe you can come back here and get some sleep." I had to take a shower because I was so disgusting. Just a quick one - didn't wash my hair - and as I was putting on my robe, post-shower I realized with a feeling of complete and utter terror that I had just, for the first time EVER IN MY LIFE taken a shower WITH MY GLASSES ON.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Nobody Ever Said Life Was Fair

When I was growing up, I guess I said, "That's not fair!" on a regular basis. And my mother always responded, "Nobody ever said life was fair." So, whether I realized it or not at that time, fairness became even MORE important to me over the course of my life. And injustice/unfairness on any level - big or small, truly grates on me. It chafes me like sand in a wet bikini bottom.

And the last few days, what with the parent complaint and having to reach out to my student and apologize for him not finding the right room, I've spent a lot of time thinking about fairness.

I've also spent a lot of time thinking about the coordinator of my master's program - a man I adored for many, many reasons. I've thought about him more in the past two years than I have in the past ten, because now as an instructor, I realize what an unbelievably great professor he was himself. So many of the things he did in class, I remember and now think, "Oh . . . duh. I get it now!" I suppose it might be like when people become parents and then think back on their own childhoods and suddenly realize that their parents had a reason behind most of the things they did and it wasn't "just to be mean."

This professor told me once that he kept a "course journal" and after each class, he wrote about what activities he did, what articles we discussed, guest speakers he had (if any) so when he went back and planned the same class meeting for the following semester, he had a record of what worked and what did not. I've been meaning to do that myself for two years now and of course we all know . . . the road to hell, etc.,

One of the things he also did on the first day of each semester was review his "fairness" continuum. First he started by drawing a long line, almost the length of the board and wrote "Flexible" on one end and "Rigid" on the other. He said this was one way to look at how he approached things like students missing deadlines, failing to do work correctly, etc., Then he said, "However, this same continuum might be viewed another way" and he went back and crossed out "Rigid" and wrote "Fair" and crossed out "Flexible" and wrote, "Unfair" and "Plays favorites." Then he said, "I think I should let you know that I always reside around here," and he made a large "X" about six inches away from the newly written "Fair" and about six feet away from "Unfair."

And clearly, I still remember that speech, even though it was less than 5 minutes long. It just made a lot of sense. It resonated with me.

It's because of that drawing that I'm really, really struggling right now. I forced myself (well, I didn't force myself - I did what I was told to do) to send the student with the complaining father a long, detailed e-mail. I attached the syllabus, explained what he had missed - gave him my cell phone number (something I never, EVER give to students), offered him a chance to make up the quiz he missed (again - I never give makeup quizzes either), suggested we meet to discuss the lecture he had missed, offered him the extra credit opportunities he missed (my rule is, if you're not in class when I assign extra credit, that's it. Extra credit is a nice gift from your instructor - one of a few rewards for the students who actually show up) - in short, other than going to his dorm room, knocking on his door, introducing myself and handing him a basket of mini-muffins, there's not much more I could have done to make sure he felt "comfortable" with the fact that he'd missed the first two classes. And you'd better believe I carbon copied my department chair on the e-mail and of course - he was thrilled. This is EXACTLY the sort of thing we're supposed to be doing to make sure students feel this is a "student-centered" place. Word needs to get out - here at D-list University! We care. We're the caring university. Here, have a warm chocolate chip cookie, a cup of hot cocoa and a diploma not worth the paper it's printed on.

Aside: A friend of mine had a student miss the maximum "lateness deadline" and told the young chap that he could no longer turn in his paper. Two or three weeks and many lame excuses and promises of "I'll get it to you" were just too much. He went and complained to this same department chair that this evil instructor wouldn't let him turn in this assignment. Our department chair went to my friend and said, "You will let this young chap turn in his paper," and she explained what had happened and said it wasn't fair to the other students, he'd had more than enough time to turn it in and she wouldn't accept it. What she thought and the guidelines on her syllabus were meaningless. Department chair said, "I don't care. He gets to turn the paper in. We need to be patient and understanding." She had to accept the paper. It stunk, and the student got a "D" anyway.

So here's what I take away from this experience (and a few others in the not-so-distant past): For students who know how to read and tell time, and show up to both classes, and even those students who show up to the wrong classroom and building, but manage to e-mail me the next day to find out what's up - they get the "standard of care", if you will. But, a student who isn't grown-up enough, or confident enough, or whatever enough to contact his instructor himself? He gets special, red-carpet treatment.

Flashback to spring semester: the students who manage to show up to the final exam on time? They get exactly that: a final exam. For a student who shows up too late to take the final and also three hours late to the make up final? She gets three extra days to study and coffee made especially for her by the department chair.

If I were a relatively normal student, who functioned at a basic level of competence and I was privy to this information, what would be my lesson here? My lesson would be that at this school, you get special treatment when you fuck up. When you do what is expected and/or required of you? You get nothing special. Yeah, yeah, maybe there's that "sense of accomplishment" crap and the whole "knowing you're capable of managing your life like an adult" but so what? Clearly, another saying from my childhood - "the squeaky wheel gets the oil" rings true.

But you know what? It ain't fair.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

So Furious I Could Spit Or: My First Parent Encounter

Yeah, that's right, bitches. My first parent encounter. A parent. Of a college student.

Holy Schniekie, I need a new job.

This morning, Mr. J. and I were discussing our upcoming move. (This Saturday.) Apparently, the last lovely individual who lived in our soon-to-be-new home was "stealing gas." How you do that, I'm not really sure. But now our new place is in a "gas lockdown" and Mr. J. had to send all kinds of documentation to the gas bastards to show that he's not the previous resident/gas thief. Anyway, tomorrow they need someone (probably me) to be there to let them take the lock off the meter, etc., etc,. and of course, they'll be stopping by sometime between sunrise and the fifth of never and will someone please be home during those times? As Mr. J. and I were trying to figure out who could be there when, the call waiting beeped and I ignored it. It was my advisor/program coordinator.

I called her back. Just in case there is any confusion - I have two "co-advisors" and I love them both. In many ways, I don't think a gal could ask for better advisors.

Dr. K. said in her sweet, lovely voice, "Um, Teacher Lady, we had a parent call and complain about you." My heart stopped. I have been waiting for this since I started teaching sex. I have heard horror stories about parents calling about "traumatized students" which is why my syllabus is now 107 pages long and includes many warnings about "If you have a sensitive nature and are easily offended, etc,." I showed a very short clip from the movie Kinsey Monday night and I thought perhaps someone was traumatized by it. And I didn't even show the scene with the full-frontal male nudity! But no, the parent didn't call to complain about Kinsey. Get this:

Mondays, I take a class in our building, then I had 15 minutes to walk across campus to my parking lot then drive my car over to the OTHER "across campus" to show up and start teaching in a different building. The class I'm teaching was, inexplicably, and for the first time ever, offered in the physics building. Typically, it's offered in the same building where I take my classes. Makes sense, because they're all offered by the same department.

Anyway, about a month before classes started, I called our lovely department assistant and asked if she couldn't switch my classroom to be in our building, because really? I wasn't going to make it across campus - twice - in 15 minutes. She is a true saint and managed to get me in our building.

However, if you printed off your schedule, say, when you registered back in February and never checked again to see if anything (i.e., the ROOM) had changed, you would be quite lost. Literally. Now, personally, I always go into the student database and double-check the time and classroom on the first day of classes, because I know lots of things can change right up until the very last minute. I guess not everyone knows that. And yet. The university doesn't even mail out printed, detailed schedules anymore. It's all electronic, baby.

So, apparently, one of my Baby Einsteins went to class on the first night and he went to the original classroom in the physics building. I guess there were 5 other students there who were equally lost. They waited 15 minutes and then all left. Three of them e-mailed me to say they went to the physics building but didn't know where I was, so could I please e-mail them the syllabus and tell them what they missed. I did e-mail them the syllabus and I was happy to tell them what they missed.

Monday night (no class on Labor Day), approximately 6 students came up to me and told me THEY were the ones who had been waiting in the other building, what did they miss, etc., etc., I apologized for any confusion and said that I had changed the classroom back in the beginning of August. One female student said, "But I checked online that morning, and it said our class would be in the physics building." I thought that was odd, because 32 out of 38 students managed to make it to the correct building, and the database is a universal record - it's not different for every student who views it.

I found out what was happening. A student, we'll call him Hap - short for Hapless - has missed BOTH class meetings. He called his father and told him that he was so confused and now so far behind that he would probably have to drop my class. May I say? This student made no effort to contact me or the department to find out WHERE the class actually was. (And, if you can read, the correct information is on the university website. But again, you have to be able to read - i.e., know what section number you're registered for and know WHEN you're taking the class, because another instructor is also teaching Sexuality Monday nights in the physics building, but at a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TIME!!! However, her section is listed first and in order to see my section, you do have to scroll down a bit, so I can understand the difficulty that entails.) What a can-do spirit, by the way. Apparently, by dropping my class, he would have gone below full-time status and would no longer be eligible for student health insurance. His father - let's call him Mr. Hapless - did NOT want to put his son back on his health insurance and apparently, this was the real issue. So while the son can't manage to call or e-mail me or the department to find out where the class meets, the father was able to call our department, scream at the receptionist and then scream at our department chair. My advisor's boss - remember? The one who supports students NO MATTER WHAT. Yeah, that guy. Anyway, I guess the father of Hap went on and on about, "What the hell kind of professor changes a room and doesn't even notify the students and why am I paying for this education when my kid can't even find it and now he's so far behind that he'll have to drop the class and WHAT is wrong with you people? And I know it's not just him because there were DOZENS of students waiting at this other building." And of course, Dr. Spineless apologized profusely and said he'd get right to the bottom of it and then got my advisor and she called me and here we are.

And I thought today's blog post was going to be about the Designated Mess missing class on Monday and - of course, missing the first quiz.

EDITED TO ADD: May I present an e-mail from my department chair: (And just when I thought I was too young to have a stroke!)

Teacher Lady-Thanks for your response relative to Hapless. What you did and your explanations all make sense although from his record etc I can see how he would be anxious about the situation.I would like for you to make contact with him and assure him thath e has not missed too much and can catch up. Thanks for your assistance. Dr. Department Chair who loves students and hates faculty.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I Don't Need You to Like, Carry Me Around and Stuff

There is a scene in the movie Sleepless in Seattle when Gaby Hoffman's character Jessica purchases a plane ticket for the character Jonah (Tom Hanks' character's 8-year-old son) and she says, "Do you want me to put into the computer that you're 12, so they don't like, try to carry you around and stuff?" And that line always reminds me of incoming college freshmen.

Twelve years ago, I started working as a graduate assistant for the department of freshmen orientation. (Although I think the term "freshmen" has been determined to be politically incorrect. I believe the politically correct term is "first year student." But I'm too lazy to type that out so on MY blog, "freshmen" it is.) The freshmen orientation semester-long course is required for graduation. Then (and now) I thought it seemed like a pretty good idea. You see, student retention then (and now) was ridiculously low. And all kinds of Very Important Research shows a strong link between good freshmen orientation programs and high(er) retention. However. Telling an 18-year-old that she or he "needs" to do anything does not go over well. Because, remember? When you're 18, you know everything and you REALLY don't need people to like, carry you around and stuff.

The director of the orientation program was kind enough to let me work for her during the summer (because being an unemployed graduate student - surprisingly - doesn't pay very well) and every summer, the phones ring off the hook. Incoming freshmen (and ironically, their parents) would call in by the hundreds, telling us why they didn't need to complete the orientation requirement. Typically, it had to do with their tremendous level of maturity and knowledge. A wee sampling of those calls:

Me: Orientation Department. May I help you?

Incoming-soon-to-be-pregnant freshman female: Yeah, like, um, hi? My boyfriend has gone to Moron U. for two years now, and I've been up visiting him every weekend since I was a sophomore in high school (at this point, blood starts pouring out of my mouth - I have literally bitten through my tongue because I successfully prevented myself from saying, "If your parents aren't DYING to be grandparents, they're not very smart") so I don't need to take the orientation class because, I like, know where everything is and stuff.

Me: I see. So then, you're familiar with our 18-floor-library.

FF: Well, I like, know where it is and stuff. After all, it is the tallest building on campus. I can see it from boyfriend's apartment.

Me: Uh-huh. So then you know how to find everything you need, because the orientation course includes a major component on using the library.

FF: Um, ye-ah. Like, who doesn't know how to use a card catalogue.

Me: That's interesting, because the library uses multiple databases for journal articles; I don't think a card catalogue has been seen for a quite some time now.

FF: Well, like I can find magazines and stuff.

Me: Also interesting, because my hunch is most of your professors won't find magazine articles acceptable scholarly sources.

FF: I'm sure I can figure it out.

Me: Okay, what about, say, applying for freshman forgiveness. Could you do that?

FF: Oh yeah. That's like, where your roommate kills herself and you automatically get a 4.0, right?

Me: Again, interesting, but not exactly.

FF: Look. I really, really don't need to take orientation, okay? Like, do you need my mom to call or something?

Me: No, I think that would actually have the opposite of the intended effect. You're probably going to have to take the course, regardless of how long you've been coming here.

FF: That's SO lame. That's going to be, like, a total waste of my time. I TOLD you, I'm not one of THOSE freshmen who like, needs a tour and stuff. I KNOW where everything is.

Me: Well then, maybe you can assist your orientation instructors. Maybe you can, like, be their assistant and stuff? You can help all THOSE freshmen - maybe you can, like, carry them around and stuff.

FF: Do you get more credit hours for that?

Me: Yeah, I don't think so.


On a completely different note, you know you're REALLY old when you see a 10-year-old boy riding his bicycle down the street while TALKING ON HIS CELL PHONE!!!!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Course Evals

If you've never taught, you cannot possibly understand the power and pain that is the end-of-semester course evaluation. And if you're thinking, "Pish! Tosh! Come on, Teacher Lady - I have gotten performance evaluations from the boss from the depths of hell for decades now, so I get it," you would be just a tad wrong.

I, too, have gotten big important corporate America performance evals (or annual reviews, or objective appraisals or whatever stupid phrase your company uses for "Mock you and criticize you and tear out your soul.") And it ain't the same.

Corporate America performance appraisals have a few major differences. One, you typically (although not always) have the chance to ask questions. So when your boss reads to you, "Now, Mr. Smith over in Accounting says, 'Teacher Lady is effective but tends to drool while speaking,'" you can say to your boss, "Um, what? I don't quite understand. Can Mr. Smith cite a specific time when I was drooling?" and your boss can get Mr. Smith on the speaker phone and he can say, "What? Drooling!?? No! I didn't say that - I said dueling!" And you can heave a sigh of relief and only later wonder in the middle of the night when you can't sleep, "Dueling? Is that better than drooling? Gob, I hope so. What did he even mean by that? Is this because I thought his wife was his daughter?" And two, (typically) you know who said what about you. If Mary, in Inside Sales, who is also the world's most heinous shrew and happens to hate your guts wrote, "Teacher Lady needs to learn to delegate better," you can just think to yourself, "Mary in Inside Sales is the world's most heinous shrew, and she happens to hate my guts, so that makes sense. I'm not going to get all bent out of shape about her opinion." And perhaps, you gossip about Mary more than usual for the next week or so and then you forget all about it until you are passed over for a promotion because Mary said you can't delegate well.

Course (code for "instructor") evaluations lack both of these components. When you get your spring semester course evaluations (as I did last week), you don't have the ability to ask the person what something means. For example: "My quizzes were too academic? What . . . does that mean, exactly? Because I kind of thought we were, you know, in an academy of higher learning. You were expecting, what maybe? A pornographic cartoon and instructions to circle the 'pee-pee'?" Or, another one that mystified me: "This course was too much work." Ah, yes. The insult that has bedeviled college instructors for centuries . . . too much work. I wonder if Calculus and Chemistry instructors have to deal with that same criticism. Because the assumption is that a human sexuality class is going to be all porn and Jell-O shots?

And of course - since the evaluations are anonymous, you cannot defend or explain yourself. One student wrote, "Quizzes should not be at the beginning of class. It would be much more fair if quizzes were at the end of the class." Well, I suppose that's true. Because if I said to you, "Kids, one and one is two. Now, take out a piece of paper and a pencil. Here's a short quiz: How much is one and one?" I'm guessing that might be the world's easiest fairest quiz. But, see, the method to my all-out-kooky-madness was that the weekly quizzes would check for reading, THEN all you dedicated students who DID your reading would both a.) get perfect scores on your quizzes, and then b.) be able to participate in an intelligent discussion of the material. But I guess I'm just nuts like that.

One student wrote (here's where the concept of anonymity is shattered, because I've got a pretty good idea of who wrote this one), "Teacher Lady teaches this class like we're all a bunch of drunken, horny sleazes. She must acknowledge the sacred aspects of sex." This is where I'd love to ask for clarification from our friend Inappropriate Sister ('cause - c'mon - if it wasn't her, someone did a DAMN good impression of her): WHAT exactly did I do, teach or say to imply that I think college students are all a bunch of drunken, horny sleazes? Could it be how much I discussed sexually transmitted infections? I didn't mean to imply that all students have them - it's just, you know, there is a chapter called (wait for it): Sexually Transmitted Infections. Was it maybe how I discussed a variety of methods of birth control and their success/failure rates, as well as benefits and costs? Could it be that your instructor thinks you are all just a big bunch of sluts who are out trying to NOT get pregnant every night? Could be, or it could be that there is a chapter called, (dramatic pause) Contraception!!!

On a lighter note, one student (I'm guessing male) wrote, "All the guest speakers were great, but next time, try to get a REAL, TRUE hustler like Hugh Hefner." Okay, pal. I'll get right on that. Thanks for the suggestion.

Friday, September 01, 2006

How I Met My Husband: Part IV in a Series

Otherwise entitled: The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back, or Why Do People So Enjoy the Tales of My Misery?

Okay, as promised a while ago, here is the story of Senor Cheap Bastard.

I got to know one of our consultants (back in my Corporate America days) fairly well. We were sitting in one of those mandatory "team building fun" meetings and I was bemoaning the state of my love life: non-existent. (Note to HR types - this is what happens at mandatory team building fun activities - everyone ignores your request to build a house out of shampoo and twigs and they talk about their sex lives instead.) Her name was Anneleise and she was educated, smart, funny, successful (after all, she owned her own consulting firm) and I felt like she "got" me. She said, "I know the perfect guy for you. He happens to be one of my best friends and you two would really hit it off. Do you want me to set something up for all of us to get together for drinks?" Drinks? I can do drinks. Groovy, I said.

So we met. His name was Blane. He told me he was recently promoted to a management position at the giant (seriously - the bank that ate Manhattan giant) bank where he worked. He had an MBA. (I am a sucker for advanced degrees. Shallow and stupid, I know, but there you have it.) I briefly wondered whether he was gay when he told me his apartment was decorated in a "Southwestern motif," but Anneleise assured me he wasn't gay - just well-read and cultured. It should tell you something about how badly my dating life was going when I was just so happy that he: 1.) Had a job, 2.) Wasn't gay, 3.) Didn't live with his parents, 4.) Had a car, and 5.) appeared to shower on a daily basis. We arranged to meet for dinner. He suggested a place downtown - I had never been there, although I had heard of it.

So, Saturday night, in the middle of a snowstorm in December, I drove to this restaurant to find . . . nothing. The parking lot was empty, the building was dark and abandoned. The place had closed some time ago. So, Mr. MBA gets an "F" for his research skills. But that's okay. He found me driving around in a blizzard (in circles) and apologized. We ate somewhere else and then he suggested a comedy club. Off we went. There was a big line. I got to the ticket window first. The woman behind the window said, "How many?" and Mr. MBA was conveniently staring off into space. "How much are the tickets?" I asked. "Thirty dollars each," she said. I gulped. Sixty bucks. Sixty bucks I hadn't exactly budgeted for. Mr. MBA was inspecting his cuticles. I cringed and felt like a cheap bastard myself. "Um," I said quietly and with much humiliation, "One." I took my ticket and moved forward. Mr. MBA was then completely alert. He stepped right up to the window. "One, please," he said confidently. Okay, I'm a modern woman. This should not be a big deal, I reminded myself. But I should have paid attention. Because it was a sign of things to come.

We made plans for a second date. This time, I chose the restaurant - a place I knew still existed. When the check came, he reached for it and so I excused myself to go to the loo. When I came back to our table, he looked like he was going to vomit. "Um," he said as he continued to turn various shades of green, "I gave her my credit card and she said they only take cash or checks. All I have is two dollars." Modern woman to the rescue! "That's okay," I said, "I have cash." So I picked up dinner. Then we went to Starbucks to hang out on the squashy couches and discuss Important Topics. He went up to the counter and ordered himself some latte thing and asked me what I wanted. I also got a latte thing. The barista asked, "Is this separate or together?" Mr. MBA pointed at me and said, "It's on her. She's the one with all the money tonight." And I stood there open-mouthed for a moment. I recovered and then bought us our lattes. The shock wore off as we discussed many Important Things and I decided that he must have been so embarrassed by the dinner incident that he figured "letting" me pay for our lattes was just the polite thing to do. Or something.

Third date: He planned it. An art exhibit and dinner. At this point, I knew what was up, so I paid for the art exhibit tickets for both of us. We had a very nice dinner. He ordered a glass of wine, so I followed suit. He got dessert, so I did, too. He ordered an after-dessert Irish coffee and so did I. Then, some deeply-wired, hypocritical anti-feminist monster reared her carefully coiffed head and when the check came . . . I just sat there. I did nothing. Talk about the elephant in the room. We sat there for oh, 20 minutes while the check started to grow moss. Finally he picked it up, opened it and then sighed heavily and rolled his eyes in exasperation. Now I was uncomfortable and embarrassed. I felt badly. I shouldn't have gotten that flourless chocolate torte. I could have just had a taste of his. I didn't need that Irish Coffee. I'm Irish, but that doesn't make it mandatory. "Do you, um, want me to get the tip?" I asked timidly. "Yeah," he said, "That would help a lot." Okay . . . so I got the tip. That's fine.

The fourth (and final) date: I had just gotten back from Orlando, where I had "walked" my first (and as it turns out, only) marathon at Disney World. Mr. Blane with the MBA wanted to take me out to celebrate my amazing accomplishment - that being, I finished the marathon and I didn't die. Both very impressive, I think. We were going to see a movie and then, dinner. I still remember it vividly. It was Friday. We were to meet at 6:00 for the 6:15 movie. He didn't work on Fridays (a clue to something I didn't even learn until later) and I did work on Fridays. I had a client call me at 5:14 and a half (of course) and I managed to placate him within 20 minutes, grab my stuff and run out the door, RACE (literally - amazing I didn't get a ticket or kill someone) downtown to the movie theatre, RUN through the (pay) parking lot, up the stairs to the lobby, managing to be only two minutes late to find . . . nothing. He wasn't there. I was fine with this. Gave me a few minutes to catch my breath, calm down, wipe the sweat from my brow, etc.,

Twenty minutes later, still no sign of him and now I was worried. After all, he was coming from the comfort of his Southwestern-motif apartment; it's not like he could have had a "work emergency." I was frantically calling him, trying to figure out what to do. Buy the movie tickets for both of us? Me? Neither of us? Wait outside? Go home? I had no clue. At 6:30, just when I was accepting the fact that he had either been killed or was standing me up, I saw him running up the steps, looking completely frantic, red-faced and out of breath. "Are you okay?" I asked. He was clearly in a foul mood. "Effing stupid freakin' traffic!" he growled. I was confused. We were both coming from the same general direction of town. "Was there an accident I just missed?" I wondered. He ignored my question. "Let's get tickets," he said. "Maybe we just missed the previews." We walked up to the ticket window. He gestured for me to step up to the window. "How many?" the woman asked. "Um," I said, looking at him in confusion. Once again, he was lost in the fascinating world of his cuticles. "Two," I said, thinking that this was supposed to be a "celebration" of my accomplishment and . . . how, exactly does me buying him a movie ticket translate into a celebration for me? I thought perhaps some sugar would make things better. "I'm starving," I said. "I could really use some Sour Patch Kids." He just looked at me like I told him I had to go potty. "Okay," he said, now gesturing toward the candy counter. Clearly, I was buying my own celebratory Sour Patch Kids.

We sat down in the theatre and he continued to huff and puff and make "irritated" noises. I loathe talking during movies, but the theatre was basically empty. "Is something wrong?" I asked him. "I'm just really stressed - I can't believe how long it took me to get here." I bit my tongue. I was dying to say, "Well, hopefully me paying for your ticket will help you relax a little," but instead I said, "Did you get called into work or something?" He did not get called into work. I asked him how he spent his day. Sitting at the corner Starbucks, drinking lattes and enjoying his new James Patterson novel. Wow. Sounds stressful. No wonder he was half an hour late.

After the movie, I said to him, "How do you want to get to the restaurant? It's not too cold - we could walk the six or so blocks." He shook his head. "Yeah, but then at the end of the night, I'll have to drive you back to your car and that will be a pain. Why don't you just drive us over to the restaurant." Not so much a question as a command. Now I was confused. "What? Isn't your car in the movie theatre garage?" He laughed. "Hell, no. I didn't want to pay for parking twice tonight. I'm on the other side of town where parking is free."

Wait a minute. In super-slow motion this was all starting to make sense. The frantic, red-faced huffing and puffing wasn't because of traffic - the bastard had RUN about fourteen blocks because had he paid for parking he would have been on time . . . but no. It was more important to not pay the SIX-effing-DOLLARS than to be on time!!!!

"So, Blane, wait a minute. I've already paid for parking once, and you want me to drive us over to the restaurant, where I'll have to pay for parking again. So it's okay for ME to pay for parking twice?" He just looked at me like I might be the dumbest person ever. "Well, yeah. Come on, let's go. I've been looking forward to sushi all week." We walked together to the parking garage while I was in mute shock. Finally I said, "So, it's all about you, is it, Blane?" My bitchy tone apparently was lost on him. "Yep," he said, sounding a little too gleeful for me. "Me, me, me! And speaking of me, guess whose birthday is three weeks from tonight?" My mouth dropped open. "Yours?" I said incredulously. "That's right, so you'll have plenty of time to shop! Ha, ha, ha."

We got in the car. I was silent. We left the parking lot and I handed the attendant six bucks. He did not offer to pay. We drove over to Restaurant Row. Six blocks of trendy restaurants and parking lots. $12 parking. $20 parking. $10 parking. The six dollar lot was just as far as the movie theatre - we could have walked and I would have saved those damn six dollars. I just kept driving in circles. I couldn't bring myself to pay for parking and I just KNEW - I KNEW that I would end up paying for dinner and I honestly thought that if I had to do that, I would lose it. In the sushi restaurant. I would start screaming and/or crying and that was not something I wanted to do. We drove past the parking lot (again) across the street from the sushi place. "Oh, look!" Blane said excitedly. "There's one spot left - only $16 to park."

That was it. I lost it. I pulled over, tires screeching, into the adjacent parking lot. He looked at me. "No," he said, "You don't want to park here. That other lot is closer." I just glared at him. "This date," I said, and paused mightily, "Is over." He looked stunned. Now it was his turn for his mouth to drop open. "What?!" Clearly, I had shocked the hell out of him. "What? Why?" I'm not sure my answer even made sense. "You seriously think that it's okay for me to pay for parking twice tonight when you won't even pay for it once?!?" He looked both relieved and mystified. "That's what this is about?" he asked. "Oh, come on. I was just kidding." I highly doubted that. "You need to get out of my car. I'm tired and I'm broke and I want to go home." He looked completely flabbergasted and then sputtered, "Yeah, well, it was nice seein' ya!" and slammed the door.

I found out later from a co-worker whose spouse worked at the same bank that he was NOT in management. He was an "account manager" in the credit card department of the bank. That is code for "customer service representative." He answered the phone when people called to ask a question or complain about their credit card statement. I'm guessing he was looking for a woman to take care of him financially and decided that I fit the bill. And I guess I sort of did, for one month.