13 November 2008


It's really odd sometimes to see what people notice, or don't notice. And what those same people say, and how it differs from what you had assumed.

Today was full of lessons in what I've just mentioned. I went to work a 13-hour day on three hours' sleep. Also, I haven't shaved since Saturday because I went for electrolysis treatments yesterday and the day before, and I think I'm going again tomorrow. You need to have a couple day's growth so the technician can not only find the hairs that need treatment, but also so she has something to grasp with her tweezers when she is ready to pull the hair out after zapping the follicle. And, because my hairs are deep and my skin is sensitive, I have a couple of small bruises on my neck.

Yet I can't remember another day when as many people told me I looked pretty--or even was pretty!--as paid me such compliments today. I heard them from students, colleagues, other employees of the college and people on the street.

It may have had to do with what I was wearing. It included one of my favorite tops, which is knitted in fabrics in shades of taupe, light coacao, gold, light magenta, pink and even a hint of lilac, all laced with a hint of glitter. Over it I wore a light brown cardigan with a knitted border, and from my waist draped a darkish tan courduroy skirt that ended at my knees and, from a distance, looks like suede or velvet. And I wore a pair of slingback, pointy-toed shoes woven from strands of olive, light brown, lilac and gold leather.

I've worn this ensemble a couple of times before and heard a lot of compliments. So, of course, I feel confident in wearing it. Still, I wasn't prepared for what I heard today.

And on top of those compliments, I heard others about my writing, teaching, deskside manner and on the way I carry myself. Even a librarian who conducted a session for the freshmen I have at ten o'clock in the morning and knows me only in passing, said I am an "exceptional" and "talented" person.

I have to admit that for a moment, a voice in me said, "It's all a setup." Of course, I wondered how that could be, for people who, as far as I knew, had no connection with each other were saying kind things to me. Just before I left the college, I commented on this to another professor in my department.

"Well, you know, they're telling you the truth..."


"Believe it. You should see yourself these days. You're incandescent. You're charismatic..."

"Sometimes I feel like I can't even talk straight."

"We all feel that way sometimes. Especially those of us who pay so much attention to language."


"Stop it. Take everything in and enjoy it."

I was thinking of last night, at the department's open house. A few faculty members and students read works on the theme of social justice. I chose two monologues from The Spoon River Anthology: "Butch Weldy" and "Mabel Osborne." As I started "Butch," I stumbled and took a quick glance at the book. Then, as best as I could, I spoke it and "Mabel" as if I were each of those people and simply talking to my audience.

And what were the reactions? Compliments, all of them--especially to "Butch." It's the more visceral of the two monologues, so maybe it's easier to convey. But whenever I apologized for my early miscue, the response I heard were some variation of "Forget that. You did a great job."

When I first read "Butch"--in my teen years, if I remember correctly--I imposed my own anger (which I felt over just about everything) on the sense of grief, pain and injustice the monologue conveyed. Although I understand the sources of the unfairness much better than I did in those days, I somehow less angry about it. Rather, while reading "Butch"--and "Mabel" --again, I felt a lot of empathy for, rather than mere identity with, them. And, as best I could, I conveyed their stories from that sense.

I guess I don't have to be perfect after all! ;-) And maybe it takes a woman to be "Butch."

OK. I hope you noticed everything about this posting except that last sentence.