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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hey There Li'l Bunny!

I have had some fierce Halloween costumes in my life. But one of my favorites was one of my "adult" costumes - and no, not "adult" in that sense of the word. By the way - did you know that the true purpose of Halloween is to shamelessly release your inner slut? (Or so it would seem based on some costumes I witnessed recently. Certain characters should not be translated into "slutty" - e.g., Harry Potter. If you read the books and adore the series as I somewhat ashamedly do, you know that Harry is not a cross-dresser, a drag queen or a transgendered individual awaiting gender reassignment surgery. Then again, book 7 has not yet been released so I don't know for sure).

When I was a senior in college, I was a flapper. I really loved this costume. Long black sheath dress with loads o' fringe, long (like, almost breaking my kneecaps long) pearls and - the best part: a silver sequined headband, complete with one feather.

Looking back, I realized I expected a lot from my fellow college students. And if I'm honest with myself, the average (totally intoxicated) 21 year-old male shouldn't be expected to know what a flapper is.

However. If you don't know what something or someone is, don't guess. Over the course of one Halloween evening (which, okay, was spent almost entirely in one or two bars), I had the following two "conversations":

While standing at the bar, waiting for my .85 Bud Light (ah, those were the days, eh mates?) someone snapped my sequined headband. I turned around, trying to decide if this was the day I finally let loose and punched someone to see a young man standing there. He raised his hand in the most politically incorrect gesture I have seen in a long time and said, "How, Hiawatha." Um, no. I don't think that the American Indians were known for their respect for the earth, their spirituality and their inability to resist anything sequined. Except maybe that fake Indian guy from The Village People. And he totally doesn't count.

I didn't exactly know what to say to this person, so I turned back to the bar, paid for my beer and walked away, leaving this man one squaw short.

Later that evening, I literally bumped into another guy, who smiled at me and said, "Hey there, li'l bunny!" On what planet do rabbits have only one ear and that ear happens to be made out of a feather?! And don't even get me started on what kind of rabbits might wear pearls.

But I still loved that costume.

What's your favorite Halloween costume? (Childhood costumes can be included, too).

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Monday, October 30, 2006


I've just had the crap scared out of me. Someone from my university's server has been cruising around here. Not. Good. While I may bitch about my job every stinkin' minute, I'm certainly in no mood to get Dooced.

Not sure how to handle this, but I welcome suggestions.

Please stand by.

Friday, October 27, 2006

How I Met My Husband: Part V in a Series

Once again, I will attempt to create Part 5 – dedicated largely to the lovely Desiree, who has been patiently waiting for the next installment. Will this entry be better than the one Blogger ate yesterday? Sadly, we’ll never know.

When we last left our heroine, she had just kicked the tight-fisted Blane out of her car. Then she – I mean I – spent about a month realizing that the unexamined life was not worth living and hence, it was time I um, examined it. After much scrutiny I realized: I liked my life. Quite a lot, in fact. Decent-paying job that was at least somewhat fulfilling? Check. Wonderful friends that most people would kill for? Check. Family healthy and close by? Check. Cute little apartment in great neighborhood? Check. Interesting hobbies and gratifying volunteer work? Check, check. The only thing I was missing? No, not a man. A dog. Seriously – when I looked at the state of my life, that’s the only thing I regretted. No furry little face to share my life. Sure, there were moments when being single was a bit of a bummer – like coming home to an empty apartment after a week-long business trip. But after living alone for four years, I also realized I was no longer fabulous relationship material myself. And? Living alone allowed me to ignore many of my shortcomings. If I came home from work and decided dinner was going to be a bowl of cereal, eaten while I stood over the kitchen sink, then that’s what dinner was going to be. And if I decided to leave said cereal bowl in the sink for, oh, three days, then it was just that – a cereal bowl in the sink. Add another human being to the equation and what was once just a cereal bowl becomes a sign of my laziness, my self-absorbed personality, and general lack of consideration for other people. I have enough self-loathing to deal with all by myself, thank you very much. I didn’t need another person to remind me of all the things I hadn’t even remembered - or noticed - to dislike about myself. It was official. I was probably going to be single career gal for the rest of my life and finally – after 32 years, I was honestly okay with it.

About two months after the Blane incident, my department had another mandatory fun thing – this time a lunch with – wait for it – assigned seating. Apparently, if management let us sit wherever we wanted to like grown-ups, we’d just sit with the people we already knew and liked. The point of this mandatory fun lunch was to “branch out” and get to know other people within our department. This is why people “go postal” – FYI. I found myself seated between a woman I liked but didn’t know very well, Alana, and a man Steve, who I barely knew. Alana had a long-term boyfriend and asked me how my dating life was going. Since I live to regale people with my tales of woe, transformed into tales of hilarity for their enjoyment, I told her that since the “Blane” episode, I was kind of done. Steve continued to eat his lunch quietly, probably cursing the HR person who seated him next to a couple of nutty single women in their 30s. Every so often, I’d feel a twinge of guilt for not socializing with my prescribed luncheon partners, so I’d ask Steve a perfunctory question – after all, he’d only been with the department about three or four months and since he’d just recently moved to our building I barely knew him at all.

After lunch we all ran for the safety of our cubicles and Steve stopped me. “Hey,” he said, “Can I see you sometime this afternoon? There’s something I want to talk to you about.” Steve wasn’t my manager, but he was one level higher than me and I figured I was going to get a mini-lecture about professionalism and what is appropriate to discuss in front of colleagues and what is just “too much information.” My face must have shown fear, because Steve said, “Oh, don’t worry – it’s nothing bad.” Then I spent the next four hours wondering what it could be, because I didn’t know the guy and really? What was there to discuss that could possibly be “good”?

I waited until after 5:00 to slink up to his office, hoping with all hope that he had already left for the day. No such luck. He was happy to see me. Too happy. “I’m very happy!” he said. Dammit. Now what? “I’ve been wondering for a while if you were single.” Oh shit. Shit, shit, shit. I’d seen all these sexual harassment videos and now it was finally happening to me. Even worse? Steve was in his 50s. And married. Was I about to become Markie Post in a Lifetime Movie of the Week? “My wife and I are good friends with this great guy. He and my wife work together and she’s been bugging me for a while to find someone here to fix him up with. I figured you were about his age but I never knew what your status was and I thought it would be rude to ask. But your story at lunch was really unfortunate and I realized that now we can set you two up!” Yippee.

As I was about to open my mouth and say, “Blind dates go against my personal mission statement and therefore I do not engage in them,” I stopped myself. I barely knew Steve, but did I want to alienate someone I might end up working really closely with? And also? What was he going to tell his wife? “Yeah, I thought we could set him up with this woman I barely know.” She wasn’t going to be into that, not if she had any sense. I figured I would just say sure and it would never pan out. “Sure,” I said. And wouldn’t you know? It panned out.

Steve practically skipped into the office the next morning. “Well,” he said excitedly, “If you’re free Saturday night, we’re all set! Suzanne and I are going to have the two of you over for drinks and appetizers and then we’ll all go out for dinner.” I smiled weakly. “Um, sure. Neato. Listen – I don’t mean to sound shallow or anything, but just out of curiosity, what does this guy even look like?” Steve stopped for a moment to consider this question and then he said brightly, “I think you’ll like him. He’s kind of tall and he has hair!” And then, as if it were all settled, he walked away, whistling.

I started to pretend that I could disrupt the time-space continuum and somehow Saturday would never come. But it did. And it happened to bring with it freezing cold temperatures and one hell of a snowstorm. That was it. Even though the storm stopped around 3, and the roads were cleared by 5, I was in no mood. I called a good friend of mine. “Listen to this,” I said and coughed convincingly. “I’b reddy sorry but I’b sig,” I said in my best stuffy-nose, scratchy-throat voice. She sighed. “Just go.” I sighed. “I don’t want to. A new episode of That’s Life is on. I have a bottle of Chianti just sitting here and all I want to do is make some spaghetti and crawl under some quilts and that is MUCH more appealing than showering and primping and driving across town in a freakin’ blizzard.” She was used to my melodrama and pointed out that it was no longer snowing. “Maybe you’ll get a free meal out of it. And if nothing else, knowing you, you’ll get a great story out of it.” That was definitely not the right thing to say. “I don’t want any more stories. I don’t need any more stories.” “If you go tonight, you can find out you don’t like him and get it over with and tell Steve you’re sorry, you tried, but he’s not your type, etc., etc., etc., Otherwise, you’ll just have it hanging over your head every day at work.” That was the right thing to say. “Fine! Fine, fine, fine. I’ll go meet this stupid idiot, okay? Then will everybody be happy?” She laughed and told me to have a good time. “As if!” I sniffed. But I decided I could do this. Shove a few appetizers in my mouth, make some stupid small talk and if the clown turned out to be mind-crushingly boring, fake a mild case of food poisoning and get the hell out of there.

As I drove across town in the cold, I followed Steve’s directions very carefully; I wasn’t really familiar with his neighborhood and dark and icy streets didn’t help matters. There weren’t many other cars out and after a while, I started noticing that I was basically following the same green pick-up truck in front of me. It turned left and then so did I. It turned right down another street. I did the same. As I navigated this residential area, I realized that the driver of the truck was male, he was alone and he was quite possibly in my age bracket. My heart stopped. I was almost positive I had been following my date.

Sure enough, we both drove slowly down Steve’s street. I was looking carefully for Steve’s address but Green Truck Guy seemed to know where he was going. He pulled to a stop right in front of . . . Steve’s house. I decided this was my escape. I would sit in my car until Green Truck Guy got out and if I didn’t like the looks of him, I was going to drive away. As clever as I thought I was, Green Truck Guy apparently had the same plan. He sat in his truck. I sat in my little car. He turned his truck off, but continued to stay exactly where he was. I did not turn my car off. Apparently, we had the blind date stand-off going on here. I believe it is now an Olympic event. Seconds ticked by, then minutes. I started getting irritated. “I’ll be damned if I get out of my car before that clown gets out of his,” I fumed. After all, this is my escape plan!! Finally, after what seemed like forever (but probably wasn’t more than 2 minutes), Green Truck Guy got out and started crossing the street toward Steve’s house. He was okay. I could probably tolerate a few hours with this guy. No visible jewelry. No acid washed denim. No big black boots accompanied by a swagger. I’d only recently “walked” a marathon. Surely I could tolerate this clown for a few hours without puking.

I got out of the car and pretended I’d only just pulled up. Green Truck Guy had just rung the doorbell and was waiting for someone to let him in. I crossed the street, walked up next to him and put on my best “pretend blind date smile.” “Hi,” I said. “I’m Teacher Lady.” He smiled. “I thought you might be. I’m Mr. J.”


Thursday, October 26, 2006


I just spent an hour (literally) composing Part V in a Series (How I met My Husband) dedicated to the lovely Desiree and her patience, and it is gone. Blogger Beta is the devil incarnate and now I am going to vomit.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Because It's Monday and Because I'm Inherently Lazy

I often e-mail the glorious creators of Rate Your Students and today, they posted one of my rants. Now my vitriol is infecting the Internet like Ebola Zaire. Woo-hoo for me and my bitterness! (By the way, in case you don't know, Bitter is the New Black. I'm not just angry for my health. I'm angry because it's in fashion.)

EDITED TO ADD: If you do go visit Rate Your Students and read my rant and you happen to be a K-12 teacher, please do not think I have no respect for you and your extremely difficult job. My mother just retired from 30 years of teaching in a very rough, urban middle school. She is the real mad grammarian and yet, her formidable skills were not enough to help these kids who had (on a good day) a third grade reading level. My rant was really more about the students and the national (it would seem) effort to make "everybody feel better." And much of it was based on the book I keep raving about - Generation Me. Perhaps I am back-pedaling a bit, yes, but again - as the daughter of a dedicated K-12 educator, I couldn't sleep at night if you all thought I was pointing the finger at you. I was pointing it at, um, gob. Yes, that's right! Gob.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

I'll Take "Things That Mystify Me" for $400, Alex

I ran into one of my students yesterday. She appears to be a quiet, unassuming type. Or - at least she's never participated in class, so she's quiet in my experiences with her.

However, clearly she had a bee in her bonnet because she marched right up to me and said, "I just wanted you to know that I thought the video you showed in class on Monday was pornographic. I was really offended." Believe it or not, I realize that as a "sex educator" my definition of what's appropriate is probably quite different than the average bird's. Hence, any time I have a guest speaker or screen a video, I tell students that they are permitted to leave at any time if the subject matter or the way in which it is presented makes them uncomfortable. I will not penalize them if they choose to exercise this option. My goal is to make them think, not to make them miserable (although considering how much they bitch in my course evals about how I expect "too much work" you'd never know it).

But my student (let's call her Misty) didn't leave during the class, so I was confused. The following conversation ensued:

me: Which part offended you, Misty? Was it the footage of different couples kissing?

Misty: No, that didn't bother me.

me: Was it the brief frontal nudity of the prehistoric male and female human ancestors?

Misty: No, I don't even remember that.

me: Well, I . . .

Misty: It was the footage of the uterus. I thought it was completely over the top and uncalled for.

me: You mean the little camera that was exploring the inside of a human uterus?

Misty: Yes. That was unnecessary.

For once in my life, I had my wits about me enough to ask a logical question.

me: Was it the fact that it was a uterus, or would you have been offended by footage of the inside of any human organ, like the stomach, a lung, the intestines?

Misty: No, I guess I would have been offended by footage of any organ.

me: Okay, well, um, thank you for your honesty. I will certainly take that under advisement.

I was not offended and honestly? I don't care. I will probably continue to show that video because I think it includes some amazing footage of both internal and external human anatomy. But here's where Misty's comment belongs in the "Things That Mystify Me" category:

I get that I am not my students' generation. There are many differences between my generation and theirs. For example:
  • MTV came out when I was in 8th grade. We never had cable in our house so I really never saw it unless I was at a friend's house. The only way I saw music videos with any regularity was if I managed to stay up late enough to watch Friday Night Videos.
  • In contrast, most of my students were born after 1984. (Or 1985? When did MTV come out, exactly?) They have never known a world without MTV.
  • AIDS wasn't even "discovered" until 1981 and then the CDC called it "gay cancer" or GRID - Gay Related Immune Deficiency.
  • All of my students were born after 1981 - they have never known a world without AIDS.
  • Magazines like Stuff, Maxim and FHM appeared on the scene some time after I was out of graduate school. These same magazines (which are basically soft-core porn, if you ask me - and I know, because I had a year subscription to Maxim to see what the hell my male students were talking about) must have been required reading throughout junior high and high school for my male students.
  • The Calvin Klein commercial that featured Brooke Shields created such a firestorm of controversy, I thought it must have been because she appeared nude (although I had never actually seen the commercial - I was 10 when it first aired.)
  • In contrast, I have seen ads in Vogue magazine (one for Dolce and Gabbana stands out in my mind) that could only be called soft-core porn. In fact, if you're not actively trying to determine what the ad is for, you would probably think it was an advertisement for a brothel in Vegas.
  • When I was in college, I heard that maybe some fraternities forced their pledges to watch "really gross films" that were "really raunchy." I had never seen one, but I had an idea of what they might include.
  • Today, most of my students know who Jenna Jameson - the porn star(!) - is, and not just because she has a best seller on The New York Times list and an E! True Hollywood story.
  • Playboy is back - as are all things bunny and even I have been sucked into the exploits of "Hef" and his "girls" at the Playboy Mansion.
  • By the time I was 12, I had heard of Playboy, but I don't think I had heard of Hugh Hefner, and I know I didn't know what the hell was going on at the Mansion. Now all kids have to do is turn on E! Sunday nights and viola! They, too, can be privy to the goings-on in the life of an 80-year-old man and his harem three girlfriends.
  • Don't even get me started on Fergie and "the Peas." Lordy, have you seen the London Bridge video in which Fergie "performs" at a "gentlemen's club"?

My point is, I assumed - perhaps erroneously - that my students have been exposed to so much more "raunch" than I ever was growing up that it would take a lot to offend them.

And lo and behold, it does - actual footage of the inside of a human organ. Now that's offensive.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Nothing Means More to Me

I may have mentioned my obsession with a so-bad-it's-good show called The Girls Next Door. In my own defense (and yes, clearly I feel defensive about being obsessed with this show, as I should - it's that stupid), I remember meeting a doctoral candidate (years ago, when I was but a wee undergrad) who professed an undying love for Cosmo magazine. I was shocked - not because I didn't read Cosmo (really! No self-respecting sorority gal would be caught dead without her Bedside Astrologer) but because she was so respectable. And smart. And educated. And articulate. And such a feminist - what the hell was she doing reading Cosmo? She must have noticed the confused/horrified look on my face because she said, "It's nice to have in the room - so for a few waking moments I know that I'm not the dumbest person in the world."

And now I understand completely. One might think that pursuing a Ph.D program makes one feel intelligent. It does not. Here is why: You realize how much you don't know about your particular "area of specialization." You realize how much you don't know about a whole lot of things. You realize that there are many people (and some much younger than you!) who have published articles in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals, and presented at national conferences, and you're still trying to figure out why you got a parking ticket yesterday. You can't say a bloody thing without some obnoxious such-and-such saying, "I'm not familiar with that particular study. Can you cite the source, please?" and you're dying to respond, "Oh, eff off. I just said that Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte might be the best drink ever. It's my opinion, you self-important jackass." But alas, this person is your professor, so you cannot.

All my excuses, caveats and disclaimers in place, I have to say: The Girls Next Door makes me feel like I could perform brain surgery in my kitchen with a bread knife and some Saran Wrap and do a damn good job. Granted, I know there is much to be said for creative editing, but gob those girls are dumb.

In summary, I give you the best freakin' quote ever, said by the woman who single-handedly makes me feel smarter than any graduate class ever has, Kendra:

"Nothing means more to me than shakin' my ass, and that's what Halloween is all about."

Personally? I can now die happy.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Teacher Lady's Greatest Hits Compilation

Okay, not really a compilation so much as a reference to this post that folks seemed to find both entertaining and educational. How often do you come across such edu-tainment? Not very often, I say!!

This semester, my students did not disappoint. In fact, I think we have some entries that are even more clever than semesters past. And note: I am not mocking my students. (Really, I swear!) After all, if they knew all this stuff, they wouldn't be taking my class.

And now, I give you . . .

Teacher Lady's 10 Favorite Misspellings of the Male and Female Reproductive Structures!

10. Skin. Written next to the drawing of the scrotum. Well, yes, in a manner of speaking, I suppose you could call it skin. Sadly, although tempted, I couldn't bring myself to give this fellow even partial credit.

9. Testicale. The Italian version of testicle. Must be said with a slight Bronx accent. Yo! I'm'a gonna kick ya in your testica-LE!!!

8. Pubic Tube. Surprisingly, this is a first. No student has ever written "pubic tube" next to the urethra. And I'm starting to wonder why, because similar to the "skin" answer, it is kind of true, although not technically correct. Example: I highly doubt a urologist refers to the male urethra as the "pubic tube" unless he's that doctor on the Simpsons.

7. Mons Vesprin. This is for a woman who (truly) is in too much pain to have sex. A brilliant combination of Mons Veneris and aspirin.

6. Vas Deferens. Spelled correctly, but written next to the anus. Dude, you're NEVER going to get your wife pregnant that way.

5. Fliopein. The student was hungry. Although he wrote Fliopein next to the Fallopian tube, he was really thinking about a newly invented type of cuisine - a combination of Filopino food and Shrimp Lo Mein. Delicious!

4. Fermenen. This was actually said by Chevy Chase in the movie Fletch. You know, he was Dr. Fermenenen Rosen-Rosen. What did the student actually mean? Since she wrote it in the middle of the drawing, I honestly have no idea. But it is my favorite new word. Vaguely scientific, but still fun to say!

3. Equdus: Written next to the epididymis. I believe this student is a veterinary science major and she was actually referring to a part of a horse's reproductive anatomy. That happens sometimes.

2. Paradeneum: Written next to the perineum. Doctor to laboring mother: Don't worry, around here we don't call it an episiotomy - we call it a paradeneum. You know, like a little parade for your vagina!

1. And my all-time favorite is . . . Labidora Majora. Written next to the labia majora. Sort of like the external reproductive structures on a female Labrador Retriever.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'll Take "Things That Mystify Me" for $200, Alex

I may have mentioned that I have been advised - by more than one person - to "lower my expectations of my students" for my own sanity if nothing else. Although it only took me two years to figure it out, I decided I could do it. And now, believe it or not, I am relatively less flabbergasted day-to-day.

Two years ago? I expected that about 95% of college students would be decent writers, with great writers and horrible writers filling out the tail-ends of the bell curve. Today? I expect that about 45-48 out of 50 students will be fairly incapable of writing a decent, comprehensible paragraph and there will be between 2-5 truly exceptional writers. On these students' papers, I always tell them that the next time they go home they should go visit their high school English teacher and give him/her a big hug. And maybe a bottle of vino. And I am also much calmed by the (very late) realization that if these students can't write, it is honestly not their fault.

Two years ago? I thought that unless some kind of freak accident or unexpected kidnapping was involved, no student would miss an exam. After all, one hundred years ago, when I was a young college gal, you just. didn't. miss. exams. Today? I anticipate at least 2 students will miss every exam, and some will even blow me off or miss the make-up exam. And I will have to accommodate them. And their excuses? Although some will be fairly riveting sagas, like the aunt killed in the freak "scubba diving accident," some are just lame - like, "I got a tattoo last night and I guess it made me feel sick so that's why I missed the midterm."

But. Call me bitchy and mentally unstable crazy, but I still expect students to staple their papers. And yes, believe me, it's in my syllabus. Hell, I even won a contest (although "winning" the Space Cadet contest because you're surrounded by the spaciest people is a dubious win, indeed) on Moobs' site because of my "stapler story."

And yet, here I am again, with another stapler story, and still completely mystified by the apparent stapler shortage that is plaguing our campus.

Yesterday, I returned papers. One student failed to 1.) use a cover sheet, and 2.) staple his paper. Instant deduction of 10 points (5 for each transgression - something about carrying around papers with raggedy-ass rolled-down corners just bugs me). However. This is the new me. This is the Teacher Lady with the appropriately low expectations. So when Skippy came to pick up his paper from the massive pile, I took him aside and said softly, "You know, Skippy, I'm sorry to say, you lost some major points for some really simple things." And honestly? I was hoping for a good story - not just for blog fodder but so I could be appropriately understanding. Tell me something interesting and we can perhaps work something out. You know, the dog really ate your homework. But alas, it was not to be. Here is how the rest of my conversation with Skippy went.

Skippy: Yeah, I knew that would happen.

Me: W-What?

Skippy: I saw the requirement on the syllabus.

Me: I - I don't understand. Did something happen to you? (Note: I have to say that I said this in the most kind, understanding tone of voice I have. And I think it was convincing because people used to tell me that with my penchant for dramatics, I could definitely have a career in the theater.)

Skippy: I just - couldn't find a stapler - anywhere!

And here, ladies and gents is where I was truly mystified. And (dammit!) it did NOT occur to me to ask him where he was looking for a stapler. But he truly appeared to be legitimately vexed, like he couldn't find an address on a street after he had driven up and down it for half an hour.

Me: (Thinking he honestly didn't know, and it wasn't his fault, because who knows? Maybe his family was too poor to own staplers, or maybe his mom always bought them for him and he never realized there was no such thing as the Stapler Fairy) You know, they have them at Target, really cheap! (In case cost was an issue).

Skippy said nothing, just looked at me and shook his head and then walked away sadly, like there were truly no staplers in the world and he didn't want to be the one to burst my bubble.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Correction: I Love Other Grad Students

Today something happened that made me feel SO vindicated and happy that I then became unhappy because I realized only a truly hateful person would be happy about it. And then I felt bad that I actually didn't care that much about being a truly hateful person because I was just so damn happy.

My class with the most self-absorbed person in the universe was today. As it turns out, the class I'm teaching ends earlier than I thought so I am able to switch my schedule around for Her Royal Pain in My Ass. As soon as I walked in the classroom it was the first thing she asked me. Then she said, "Phew. Thanks."

But guess what? Another doctoral student walked in and said, "Um, Fouffy, I teach a class at that time." And Fouffy was clearly alarmed. Nothing was going to deter her from the world's best schedule - not no how, not nobody (reference, anyone?). Of course immediately Fouffy suggested the other doctoral student - let's call her Suzi - contact the program coordinator and so that Suzi could teach a different section of the same class. I mean, come on! Now she's not just running our lives, but she's affecting the schedule of an entire department??!! Suzi replied, "Fouffy, I'm really sorry, but I'm actually the only person who teaches that class this semester - there's no one I can switch sections with." And immediately, Fouffy was on the case, ticking off names of professors who might be willing to teach Suzi's class. Dr. Petite One? No, that's not her area of specialization. Dr. Full-Time? No, she's already teaching 5 sections. Dr. . . um, what about, Dr. and all you could hear was the sound of straws, slipping out of Fouffy's hands as Suzi looked legitimately concerned about a solution for this "problem."

And lo and behold, one of the few enigmas in our program, one of those "strong silent types," opened his mouth. We all stared at him in shock because we weren't completely convinced he did speak. And he said (just typing it makes me quiver with joy!): "No. I'm not changing my schedule again for selfish reasons."

Fouffy was stumped. I get the feeling people don't usually say no to her. I also get the feeling people don't tell her that she needs to stop demanding special treatment because she is, after all, just another human being like the rest of us schmucks. "What do you mean, selfish reasons?" she asked, completely taken aback.

Now, I thought Strong Silent Guy was calling her selfish, which was enough to make me just narrowly miss piddling myself with vindictive glee (and urine - that also comes out, too). SSG said, "You know, I drive almost an hour and a half to come here" - which, by the way, is exactly how far Fouffy has to drive - "and this semester, I tried to be a nice guy and I rearranged my schedule even though it meant me coming out here three days a week instead of two. But it's really starting to get to me, and I just can't drive out here three days a week next semester, so sorry - call me selfish - but I'm not switching my schedule around."

And then our professor walked in and started class but let me just tell you - it was the BEST! FREAKING! CLASS! EVER!!! I don't know what the hell we talked about and I have no idea what happened, but damn, was it a good afternoon!


Monday, October 09, 2006

Trouble on the Horizon

Today is the first midterm. I feel nauseous. Who knew instructors had test anxiety?

I have been teaching long enough to have a sense of when the shit is probably going to hit the fan. Remember this chap? I realize it's a little early in the season to be airing a rerun, but I can't remember if I updated about him.

Nutshell: Didn't approach me at all when he finally showed up to class; I had to make an announcement asking him to see me. Never responded to my dissertation-length e-mail apologizing for MY thoughtlessness and groveling for him to forgive me and begging for him to let me help him get caught up on anything he missed. Also offered make-up opportunity for quiz he missed as well as extra credit.

As it turns out, he only read the e-mail "really quick," didn't see the syllabus attached - oh yeah, I did blog about this - sorry - he of the "Are you sure there was a syllabus attached?" and me of the, "I'm pretty sure because I wrote 'Attached you will find our syllabus;'" and he never took me up on the offer of a make-up quiz, although he did e-mail me about getting extra credit for some race. (He had the date wrong; I explained everything and never heard back from him. But that's typical. Apparently, electronic mentoring/support, etc., does not warrant a "thank you" - or so it would seem.)

Well, my dears, he showed up late last week which means he missed the quiz and then he LEFT during the break which means he missed an extra credit opportunity.

I am crossing my fingers, legs and ovaries praying that he does fairly well on the midterm. Because you know as well as I do that nothing shakes things up like a parent calling and complaining, and if his father is going to call when his kid can't find the room, imagine the fury that will be unleashed on me and every innocent bystander if Hap manages to fail the first exam. Where can I get my hands on a Haz-Mat suit, do you suppose?


Friday, October 06, 2006

Why I Hate Other Grad Students: The Rant Continues

I guess when you're bitching about other grad students, you never really run out of material.

And I suppose that when you're teetering on the brink of insanity, some days things will irritate the hell out of you more than others.

There is another grad student who is, how shall I say, my nemesis. She may not even know she is my nemesis, but hoo-dawgie! Is she ever.

Disclaimer: I believe in the concept of the Johari Window. I understand that the very things that annoy me most about this woman may be things that I loathe in myself. But gob, I really, REALLY hope that is not the case in my situation. Because then I would be completely horrified and have to lock myself in the basement and never leave the house.

Let's call this woman Fouffy. Trust me, it suits her. The first time I ever met her, she was complaining about how she thought our graduate program should not offer classes on Mondays because she worked at another university (an hour and a half away, as she reminds us every freakin' minute). You see, her department has a monthly meeting Monday afternoons and she is just so critical to her department that she couldn't miss the meeting. And it wasn't fair that she had to miss class just because our department picked the completely, utterly and totally inconvenient time of Monday afternoon to offer graduate classes. Oh - and I forgot to mention: This woman is nearly 50 years old.

Here I've been bitching about how these crazy college kids think the world revolves around them, and when will they learn it doesn't and apparently the answer is: Never.

Because last week, she asked if it would be convenient for me if we rescheduled one of our classes for next semester - Could we not meet at the time posted in the schedule, but meet at another time that was much more convenient for her? (Do NOT get me started on how one of our professors caters to this complete and utter nonsensical crap!) I told her that I believed I would be teaching one of my classes at that time, and thus, I would prefer if we could meet at the time the class was actually listed in the online course schedule book for spring semester. Yeah, I know - I'm crazy like that.

This woman is completely shameless! She actually asked me, "Well, isn't there any way you could teach another section at a different time? I mean, who's in charge of how the classes are assigned?" It is, of course, the program coordinator. She pushed on, "She would probably understand - can you ask her to assign you to teach at another time? It would really help me out a lot, because, you know, of family."

Yes, I'm probably premenstrual, and yes, I know it's a full moon, and yes, for the millionth time, I'm not known for my patience, BUT! Are you fucking kidding me with this?!?!?!!?!? How does anyone have the cajones to ask something like that? And add the sad little, "Well, because you know, of family." Because otherwise, I might have said no, but I wouldn't dare refuse her request because of family. I don't have a kid (as she does) but I do have a husband and a little ankle-biting yapper dog, so that means what? I deserve to spend less time with my family than she does with hers? Her family is more important than mine? I should have to change my schedule around so I have to come to campus one additional day per week so she can come to campus fewer days per week? I have a commute now, too. Granted, it's not an hour and a half, but hell! We have another woman in our program who drives TWO freakin' hours to get to our campus and guess what? She has never, ever, once asked anyone to change anything for her on account of her "commute and family time." I guess the woman who is a reasonable adult actually grasps the concept that it was her choice to drive two hours to class and it's not anybody else's responsibility to make her life easier.

People truly amaze me. And yet I have to wonder: Why am I still shocked and amazed? I should know better by now.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Have We Come a Long Way, Baby?

I have been accused of being a "bra-burning feminist," which to me is hilarious - I would NEVER burn a perfectly good bra! They are WAY too expensive to do something so wasteful. On a similar note, a few months ago, I ran into someone (a male) I had not seen in a long time. He asked, "What's your new last name?" and I told him it was the same; I had never changed it. He actually said(!), "Oh, so you're one of those. I'm surprised you haven't cut all your hair really short. Do you not shave your legs, either?" And I couldn't believe that people still thought that about women who didn't take their husbands' last names.

To be honest, I've never been quite sure what the word "feminist" means, exactly. I think it was Gloria Steinem who said something along the lines of, "A feminist is any woman who distinguishes herself from a doormat." And some people (women and men) might find it a great insult to dish out when they think the situation warrants it, but if someone calls me a "feminist," I will always take it as a compliment (unless they're the same people who think "feminists" also want to kill your husbands and eat your babies).

My point is, perhaps I have on my "feminist-colored glasses" but two very small, very insignificant events over the past week have concerned me. Don't worry - I'm not about to start a bra bonfire - I'm just concerned enough to scratch my head and wonder about the world in which my students live.

Exhibit A: My advisor now has a student I had in class last spring. She told me he came marching into class last week, no backpack - nothing, sat down at a desk, turned to the female student next to him and "asked" for some paper and something to write with, which she immediately handed over. Apparently, this was not just a random female student - I guess this little set-up has been going on since the semester began. He shows up empty-handed; she gives him his school supplies. He is also engaged, so I know this female student is not his girlfriend (as if that was the unspoken responsibility of girlfriends, but maybe I could make sense of that a little more.)

Exhibit B: Today, I was with my freshmen orientation class. I have to incessantly say to myself during this class, "13th grade, 13th grade, they think this is the 13th grade" in order to muster up enough patience to get me through the hour and a half without killing myself or anyone else. Since the start of the semester, two of the most attractive students - who, I'm guessing based on demeanor and attitude - were DEFINITELY at the top of their high school food chains have sort of ignored every other student. They sit way in the back and Sporto constantly whispers to Princess, while she flips her long, perfect blonde hair around with her perfectly painted acrylic nails on the end of her perfectly "Mystic-tanned" hand and giggles at everything he says. Princess wears more makeup (although very skillfully applied) than I wore on my wedding day. I don't think Princess is his girlfriend; I'm guessing she has a hot football star boyfriend back at home, but I'll be damned if Sporto isn't VISIBLY determined to get into her pants by the end of the semester. Am I painting the picture?

I was so sick of their constant whispering that while the other instructor was teaching, I went to the back of the class and sat right next to them. (I was hoping my presence would sabotage Sporto's mission and get them to shut up for at least. one. class). They both stared at me, horrified and disgusted that I would invade their private little giggle nest. "I needed to sit near the window. I'm really warm today," I said. Then I watched Princess pull a small sheet of paper out of her backpack and hand it to Sporto. "Ah, it happens at last - she's handing over her phone number," I thought to myself. But no - she said to Sport, "Now don't forget to put your name on it." And he did. Then he turned to me and said, "Here's my verification that I went to my advising appointment last week." Then he turned to Princess and said, "Hey, thanks for hanging on to that for me. I would have lost it in about 5 minutes." And then he smiled his mega-watt smile and she blushed and giggled.

I realize a few things. I realize (feminist glasses removed or slightly lowered):

  • I could be looking for some sort of major "feminist" meaning, when perhaps there is none.
  • Sporto might have asked his (male) roommate to hold on to his little advising sheet and when his roommate told him to "get bent," he figured Princess would help him out instead.
  • This might just be the age group - the stage they (particularly the young women) are at in their lives. And the women are still very, very concerned about guys thinking they're the "really cool girl," in their orientation class. And they're terrified of being called a bitch, or worse. I get it. I've been there.
  • I can't make some great pronouncement based on two very small interactions (one of which I didn't even witness myself).
  • Sporto could have one of those doting moms and he truly can't manage his life by himself and rather than figure it out, when he got to campus 5 weeks ago, he just happened to find another person (who happens to be a woman) to take over the role.
  • Sporto could also be extremely organized and just used the "hang on to this for me" ruse as an excuse to interact more with Princess.
  • Insert your own, "Teacher Lady, you're CRAZY" here.

But (feminist glasses back on) - aren't these young women acting in some ways like, I don't know? Administrative assistants? Mothers? Whether these young men are just lazy, clueless, helpless or all of the above, why did they choose women to step into these roles? Or perhaps the women volunteered - I don't know. But my hunch is that the second time Johnny Student turned to the male seated next to him and said, "Dude, can you hook me up with some paper and a pen?" that "Dude" would have told him to go to hell. Or the nearest Office Max. And Sporto would not have dreamed of asking a guy to hang on to his little slip of paper so he didn't lose it. I'm guessing.

So, I'm curious - although I realize I may be "pole vaulting over mouse turds" as an old boss liked to say when we got obsessed with minuatae, what do you think? No big deal? Or sign of the "Backlash" Susan Faludi warned us about 15+ years ago? Or something in between?


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Real-Life Fairy Tale - Well, for the Most Part

Once upon a time, there was a Teacher Lady who went to buy some beer.

She got carded. And then she died because her head exploded with the joy of being mistaken for someone under the age of 27.

And she lived happily ever after in heaven, even while the people at the grocery store were still scraping bits of her head off the ceiling (not really a fairy tale if there's not just a touch of gore, you know?).

The End.


Levity and Brevity

While grading a paper today, I read this sentence:

The man had an undecided testicle.

I was dying to write, "So, the testicle didn't know whether it was going to 'hang out' or 'stay in'?"

I am proud to say, I managed to restrain myself.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

A Very Bad Blogger

About 5-6 weeks ago, I predicted that this would be the semester that kicked my ass from here to the moon. And lo, it would seem, I was quite right. Perhaps there is a spot waiting for me on the Psychic Friends Network.

The term of mid 'tis upon us and Teacher Lady has been a very bad blogger.

I'm not typing this to elicit a deluge of supportive comments - "Oh, TL, that's okay, we love you anyway, blah, blah, blah, ad nauseum." I just wanted to let you all know that there are many fabulous blogs out there, written by lovely people and I haven't been reading them. Believe me, it's not because I think my blog is the only thing that merits my attention and your blogs are so much chopped liver. I miss my daily rounds and all of you. I'm just so consumed by school right now that I post as a way to relieve stress and angst (it does help a tad), publish the little sucker and then get back to The Worst Semester There Ever Was. I hope to catch up with all of you during winter break.

Until then, don't hate me because I'm beautiful crazy.

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