21 December 2009

That Prof Didn't Have To Stand an Egg On End This Semester

Today is officially the first day of winter. The solstice came at 12:47 pm, our time. I didn't try to stand an egg on its end, so I don't know whether you really can do that on the day of a solstice? Or is that on the day of an equinox? And if I got an egg to stand on its end, how would that affect my life? Or would it?

Why would I try such a thing, anyway?

OK, so that was a bit of a digression. But can you start with a digression?

Anyway...I've been finishing up the semester. I don't know how I'll see this semester if I think about it in the future. In one sense, I can't imagine how I won't think about it: After all, it is my first in my new life. On the other hand, not much particularly noteworthy (for me, anyway) has happened. I worked; I did the best I could by my students and colleagues. A few students loved me; a few hated me; lots more saw me, if they thought about me, as just another prof--or as that prof.

What does it mean to be that prof? For one thing, lots of students stop me in the hallway to ask what I'm teaching next semester. Now that my courses for next semester have filled up, some students are asking how they can get into my classes. I guess there are more masochists in this world--or at least in the college in which I teach--than I ever imagined! ;-)

To be fair, I can understand why someone would think of me as that prof. For better or worse, I am one-of -a- kind in a number of different ways. For one, I'm tall and blonde (well, sort of) in a college in which 80 percent of the students are black, 10 percent are Asian and most of the rest are Latino/as. Plus, I'm bigger-boned than the average female of any race. And I'm the only faculty member named Justine. (If they're not calling me that prof, they're calling me Professor Justine--which I like.) And, of course, most of the school knows my story by now--or one part of it, anyway.

Hey, I'm even more of a minority than people who can make eggs stand on end! Or, for that matter, people who can touch the tips of their noses with their tongues (something I can do, by the way).

But I was that prof even before this semester. So, in that sense, this semester wasn't remarkable.

Maybe we can drag Marlo Thomas out of retirement to play me in a new series--That Prof. She's a few years older than I am, but that's all right. Plus, the fact that she's not much of an actress doesn't particularly trouble me. I mean, after all, outside of the college in which I teach, my circle of friends and my family, how many people have any idea of what I'm like? So they won't know whether or not she's portraying me accurately.

I think now of what one of the Medicis--Lorenzo, I think--said when people told him that a portrait (painted, if I recall correctly, by Botticelli) didn't resemble him. In essence, he said that 100 years after he died, nobody would remember what he looked like. But they would still have his portrait which, he correctly predicted, would be seen as a great work of art.

Now, of course, that's not to compare Marlo Thomas with Botticelli or any Medici--or any of them with me, for that matter. But imagine what someone could do with an idea like That Prof. If Meryl Streep had a lobotomy, she'd still be a better actress than Marlo Thomas. So, for that matter, would Helen Mirren or Simone Signoret. But, really, would you want to see any of them playing a middle-aged transsexual professor? Especially if said middle-aged transsexual prof is me? Streep, Mirren and Signoret can all play weighty roles. But none of them can do comedy. Well, I've never seen Mirren or Signoret do comedy, and the one time I saw Meryl Streep doing it--in She Devil--she didn't look right. Then again, opposite her, Roseanne Barr was playing a "serious" role. Whose idea was that?

And, let's face it, whether or not it was her intention, Marlo Thomas was funny. Maybe I'm the only one who thinks that way. Or maybe my view is skewed because That Girl ran about the time I was entering puberty. Her voice changed pitches more often during one segment of that show than mine did during my entire puberty. And she seemed to have as little control over it as I did over my voice changes.

I don't think anyone's going to make a series like that. So for now, if you want to see that prof, you have to come to the college in which I teach. And you'll find out that I'm just like all the others. Really.

OK, so believing that is a bit of a stretch. But save for the fact that I returned from surgery, and didn't have the physical stamina I normally have, this has been a fairly unremarkable semester. That's probably a good thing.


Dr. Jillian T. Weiss said...

An interesting post. I'm glad to hear things are going well. Where do you teach? I've been teaching at my college 6 years now, and also had a very good experience. Always interested to meet new colleagues.

Justine Valinotti said...

Hi Jillian,

Hi! I'd be happy to correspond with you and to exchange notes. I'm very curious about your experiences. Thanks for reading!