Thursday, August 21, 2008

This is the Part of My Life I Call "Meeting People Who Won't Be My Friends"

Or, starting grad school, part I.

A fine tradition in many academic communities is the annual welcome party, designed to introduce new graduate students to the old ones, those folks ranging from the "young and idealistic" to the "is that my 30th birthday rapidly approaching?" We new grad students look forward to this kind of thing, hoping to make a friend or two in the sea of people in this enormous university. We don our spiffiest duds, spending time negotiating the fine line between "too dressy" and "not dressy enough" so that we might make our best first impression.

I should interject with my first lesson of my grad school career: when the host of said party tells you to bring a drink, you might want to consider something along the lines of beer or cheap wine. Not orange soda. You'll be the only one walking in with your 2 liter bottle of bright freakin' orange beverage, and you might feel, well, a little silly. Time for a paradigm shift, kiddos.

So. In order to make this a successful welcoming party, you are as nice as possible and engage all kinds of people in conversation, no matter how shady they might look. You smile, introduce yourself, and listen carefully to what they have to say. It's a given that in any social group there will be some bad eggs. Here I present lesson #2: beware of the bad eggs.

I got stuck with four bad eggs. FOUR! [Well, #4 has since redeemed himself] Avoid these kinds of bad eggs:

Bad egg #1: The Traditionalist
This young scholar has a thing for Milton, which is fine, but be very careful when trying to joke in any way with him. He doesn't like jokes, especially when they are about Milton. He'll get offended. After discussing our particular research interests, The Traditionalist said to me, "you know, I just don't like Composition Theory." Thinking, "ah ha! Time for a joke!" I said, "Oh, that's okay, I don't like Milton! We need some of each of us in this world." He looked at me with a wide-eyed, deer in the headlights expression and sputtered, "what?! Do you have some sort of crazy feminist bias against Milton?!" Crazy feminist? Did he just call me a crazy feminist? Oh, the blood begins to boil...but no! No blood boiling is allowed at such parties, because one must be on their best behavior. So I made nice with him. ["Next time, Gadget, next time..."]

Bad egg #2: The Conservative
This mature scholar has a thing for lecturing, which, you know, whatever. Do your thing, man, do your thing. However, he also has a thing against alternative methods of teaching, and began to inform me just exactly what is wrong with the work of Paulo Freire. Now, I don't mind if you disagree with one of my favorite dead people in this world, but at least have a good reason. Saying, "oh, if I lecture, Freire says that I am an oppressive monster who is taking away the humanity of my students in the interest of serving the fascist regime" does not fall under the category of productive discourse. So I just ended the conversation politely by excusing myself and saying that I had to *mumble mumble* nice talking to you *mumble mumble* See you around *mumble mumble*

Bad Egg #3: The Racist, Who Only Confirms Your Prejudice Against People from the South
And his wife, too. I discovered that I actually live quite close to this young couple from Alabama. I got really excited! We're neighbors! We can do neighborly things together! Like...borrow sugar! That kind of thing! But no. No, I will not borrow sugar from them. He asks, "so, do we live in the ghetto or something?" I tried to pick my mouth off the floor as I replied, "Um...excuse me? I'm not sure that I understand you." "Well," wifey says, "some of the houses around us look rather run down, and it's just the people who live there...I don't know. There are lots of minorities, you know what I am saying?" So I was horrified, but was still very polite and said, "you object to living where we are because of the...African American...population?" All she said was, "well, it's not what we are used to." Umm. Another instance to quickly think of a get away excuse. The poor folks. How did such a lovely white couple end up HERE? Poor dears. [And for the record, the neighborhood is not run down. I don't know where the hell these people lived before...]

Bad Egg #4: The Inebriated Creative Writing Student
Pretty self explanatory. He nearly fell on me when trying to introduce himself. This child is now one of my office mates, and we have desks right across from each other. He has since redeemed himself, so there's no urgent need for me to totally avoid him. Unless he keeps up the subtle flirting. Then we've got a problem. ("Sorry dear, but I happen to be totally in love with Teacher Poet, and you just don't compare. I'm sure her poetry is better than yours anyway...")

In the next episode: "This is the Part of My Life I Call 'Orientation,'" a segment in several parts.


Teacher Poet said...

1) Thanks for calling me old! Since when was 30 old? Last time I checked, that was freshman year of undergrad...

2) Orange soda?! This is why I love the Usual Suspects. We don't need alcohol to have fun.

3) You should have started raving about the Jasper Fforde books to the Traditionalist and that really would have floored him. Haha. He might not find the premise ingenious so much as infuriating. Messing around w/ literature like that.

4) The conservative... *mumble mumble*

5) Hey! I'm sure there are some lovely people in the South...who recently moved from the North. ;-) I'm glad you didn't lay into me when I pointed out that some of the houses seemed unkempt. Maybe because I coupled it w/ how most of 'em were so well taken care of and how I loved the (overall) town's diversity. Or maybe you were just blinded by love. :-P

6) Haha. Yes, but what if he writes prose? Eek! I'm horrible at prose!

Lady Audley said...

I so wish we'd had orange soda at our reception. It really would have taken the edge off the mingling thing. I hate mingling. I mean, why do these people think, "Oh, yes, I read your application," is a good conversation starter? And following it up with "very impressive" does NOT improve my ability to have a normal conversation with you.

RE #3- You're lucky my dad doesn't read this... You just might not be the favorite any more ;-)

And #4? I'm *sure* you have a picture you could place strategically on your desk to discourage the flirting...

Rhetorical Twist said...

@ Teacher Poet: I wasn't implying that 30 was old, dear, just that it seems to be a recurring theme among grad students. And another thing: you weren't racist when you said some of the houses were run down ('cause yeah, they are). He was saying that they were run down AND there was a minority population, as if there's any connection there.

p.s. If he writes prose, you're done for! (no, that's a total joke. This guy's nice, but a TOTAL slacker flake. He has NO clue what the hell he's doing).

@Lady Audley:
Re: picture. I'm sure I don't know what you are talking about. I have no such picture. :-p (Plus, I am meeting with *students* in this office. I can't very well...

Re: mingling. Yeah, mingling with grad students isn't so bad, it's the professors that kill you. I've had the same thing happen to me as you described. "Oh yes, I read your application," elicits only a nod. What am I supposed to say? "Really? Cool! Whatcha think? Aren't you impressed with me? Aren't I *awesome*?" In fact, starting conversations with professors is really difficult in general. The secretaries are easy (they'll already be getting cookies). Professors? Yeah. Um. Lots of awkward pauses. Especially when you mention the book that *they* edited, but you forgot that *they* edited.

Teacher Poet said...

LA, don't listen to R Twist. She aready has three such pictures on her desk. I'm never walking those English halls again. But I'm happy to inform you that she also has three pictures of the the little dog on her desk! Maybe you should send her your dog pictures... :-)

Rhetorical Twist said...

I have pics of Lady Audley there, too! Multiple ones!

Oh, and Teacher Poet? The specific picture she was referring to was the one you sent her and caused me to go, "OH MY GOD YOU DID NOT!" :-) Remember? Haha!

Teacher Poet said...

Oh, Rhetorical Twist? I have *no idea* which photograph you could possibly be referring to.

By the by, you may want to check your mail Saturday. Your box will be packed by 3pm. Have fun with the confetti! :-)

Rhetorical Twist said...

Confetti?! You do realize that I'll have my revenge, right? (Lady Audley, this is *your* fault!)

Teacher Poet said...

Lady Audley taught me everything I know! Wait. Dr. Hambone taught me everything I know. Even how to talk. Haha, well, according to Boy Hambone. And he is so smooth with the rhetoric it's hard to argue him. :-)

But as for confetti + packages = hilarious! Yea, the Audley Family taught me everything I know! 3pm, hon. 3pm. (And I made sure not to require a signature)

Me said...

Yay for confetti!!! You guys are awesome students. You've learned well. Love ya!

Mama C. or Mama Audley. Or whatever.