08 December 2008

What Did They Notice?

Someone must have noticed. How could they not? We were sitting around a table in a conference room, and I was at one end.

And what was I doing while my fellow committee members were deciding on the fate of classes, acasemic departments, this college, the state of higher education and the epistomological ramifications of our telelogical contretemps? (What did I just say?) Was I contributing in any meaningful way? Was I dutifully taking notes? Or was I even giving moral support to my fellow committee members? (As if I could do anything moral or they would want to be supported by me!)

Well, the answers to that string of inane rhetorical questions are, working backward: no, no, no and....OK, should I tell you?

While they were debating the very structure of every student's curriculum, I was nodding off. Yes, I was fighting a valiant yet in-vain effort to keep my eyes open and head upright, much less to say anything meaningful and germane. I know I actually did doze off for a minute or two. And I think at least a couple of the other members saw, but pretended not to notice. They remind me of some former neigbors years ago upon seeing me in women's clothes for the first time.

So why was I nodding off? Well, I guess I was turning into a bear today: It's unseasonably cold, and I just want to curl up, and for my cats to curl up with me. And, let's face it, most meetings are rather boring, especially when people argue over minutiae. Maybe my volunteering for that committee wasn't such a hot idea after all. I could've been doing my required service to the department or college in some other way. I could've been planning parties, collecting money or some other such thing. But, no, I had to throw myself into what most people would regard as the most important committee in an academic department. I guess you could say I simply found another way to be egotistical. Oh well.

I could also say that my department chair nudged me into it. When someone doesn't have authority over you, it's a suggestion. But when your boss says, "I think it would be a good idea for you to...," well. that's another story.

One thing I'll never be is a policy wonk. I discovered that when I was more actively involved in advocacy for the LGBT community. I also learned just how politically inept I am: I inadvertently got myself caught in the cross-fire between people who are even more opinionated than I am.

The latter hasn't happened on this job, at least not yet. But there is another parallel between my current situation and my days of advocacy: For whatever reasons, some people wanted to give me responsibilities, interesting work that requires creativity and opportunities to interact with people who have influence. I got my current job, really, by decree; I hadn't even asked for it. But I sense now that some--including two faculty members who were at that table--resent me for it. I didn't take anything away from them, so I don't know why they feel that way. They probably think I played a card or two, while they had to slave away in PhD programs. And they most likely believe that I don't belong on that committee. Perhaps I don't, but not for the reasons they think.

And now I'm scheduled to teach a class that I proposed. I can feel the resentment, or at least disdain, of those two faculty members, as well as a few other people. They think I don't deserve to do that, just as I don't belong on my current job or have any business being on that committee.

One thing that I learned while advocating for the community, and that my experience of this college underscores, is that when people are around people who differ from themselves, it doesn't necessarily make them more open or tolerant. Rather than accepting people who've suffered and learned, they decide that someone who hasn't suffered in the same ways, and learned the same things. as they've experienced are not worthy of their consideration. Really, they're not so different from a smug, haughty young woman who puffed that I can't be a real woman because I'm not capable of conceiving children. Or Elizabeth, once my closest friend, who denied my membership in her gender because I haven't had a period or I am "too egotistical." (That, from someone who wants you to sit rapt with attention when she whines about getting hurt in the same ways, by the same sort of men, as she did 25 years ago!)

Then again, she knows what she's talking about. After all, she got her PhD in Gender Studies. Now there's an incentive to further my education, or rather, my schooling.

And I'm nodding off again. Pretend you didn't notice. Thanks! You made this girl's day (night, actually)!