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.
4 years ago