20 August 2008


Today I went to the college for the meeting and faculty development workshop. Riding my bike there was great: A cool breeze tossed my hair and fluttered my skirt (Yes, I rode in a skirt!) under a clear blue sky. For at least some of the time, I could imagine that I was in Tuscany or Provence.

I think guys really like to see women pumping their legs. (Why else would they look at me?) Any time I ride my bike in a skirt or a pair of shorts, at least one guy slows down and/or shouts "nice legs!" More than one has tried to get my phone number and even more intimate details.

Yes, I'm an educated, independent, career-minded woman who loves flattery from men. Or women, for that matter. Call me an egotist or reactionary, but, hey, I guess it's less narcissistic to enjoy hearing that you're beautiful than it is to tell other people that you are.

And, when I got to the college, a few of my now-colleagues, and others I bumped into, told me I looked "really good." Ah, yes, the powers of relaxation. How long before I undo all the good that visit to Mom and Dad did for me?

Well, I didn't respond to any of those comments. Inwardly, I more or less dismissed them: They were just pro forma expressions of politeness. And I was in no mood for any of them.

Actually, I didn't feel much like talking or listening to anyone once I got inside the college. It wasn't just a case of "returning-from-vacation blues." Rather, I felt sick to be there: so much so that Ruth, a tutor who's just become an adjunct faculty member, heard the grinding and groaning in my stomach.

Valerie, the department chair, introduced me as a new full-time faculty member. I wished she hadn't, especially after the polite applause in the room. Most of the other faculty members know who I am, at least a little. But having all of their eyes on me, even if for a nanosecond, was more than I could take.

At the first pause in the discussion, I bolted out of the room. Anyone who noticed might've thought I'd gone to the ladies' room or something. Which I did. But when I came back, a couple of people curled their mouths upward the way people do when they want a baby to smile. Of course, it didn't work.

Afterward, a couple of faculty members asked whether I was OK. I wasn't, and told them so. I couldn't explain why. at least not to them, without getting into a longer conversation than I wanted.

I really didn't want to talk about the kinds of treatment I got while on my previous job at the college. Although no one at that meeting had anything to do with it, some of them are definitely part of the mentality that allows such things to happen: the white liberal mindset, in other words. And every one of them still has faith in the notion that education, or at least schooling, makes people more enlightened and tolerant.

Well, after the way I was treated by so-called educated people at the college last year, I don't think I'll ever have any faith--that's exactly what you need to be part of it--in the institution of education, ever again. I don't even know how I'm going to, with a straight face, get in front of a classroom full of students and act as though any of the work they do in my class, or any other, is going to work for them.

Oh, well. I got through every day of the first forty-five years of my life on mendacity. I guess I could walk into classrooms and do it for another year. So I'll just shut myself down, the way I did in that workshop today. And say what they want to hear, and portray myself in a way that allows them to flatter themselves. People respond to illusions, not reality, anyway. Just look at who gets elected to public office.