28 August 2010
Pronouns Are A Symptom
I mentioned that last week I met with the chair of an English department at a college other than the one in which I’ve been working. Well, that has led to my teaching a course there. I started it the other day, after my regular job.
I had also met with her and others in the department and college on Tuesday. She said she was impressed with my work and knew she wanted me for a class. “Just do whatever you’ve been doing,” she said.
Now, getting that class isn’t, in and of itself, a major accomplishment—at least professionally—at this point in my life. But I am happy about it because, for one thing, it adds to my income. Even more to the point, though, is that the atmosphere of the place seems so different from that of the college in which I have been working.
I’ve been around long enough to realize that there is a “honeymoon” at the beginning of every (well, at least, almost every) job. So I am not going to gush about “new beginnings” or the like. However, at this college, the people I met—faculty members, office assistants and students alike—seem happier and healthier than in my regular college.
And the department chair seems like a truly educated woman. I’m not talking only about her degrees or the schools from which she earned them. One thing I’ve noticed about people who really are educated—that is to say, able to think for themselves—is that they’re not condescending. That, I believe, is because they are secure, which is entirely the opposite of arrogant. They can learn something new and not feel threatened by it, even if it negates what they’d learned before.
That makes them more emotionally mature than those who are merely schooled. So, they don’t feel as if you’re questioning their competence or integrity when you’re simply asking for information about some issue at hand.
Seeing that, alone, was reason enough to go to this new college. If nothing else, it helped me to understand why I’ve been unhappy at my regular job. I’ve never been in any place where people get so defensive when you ask them a question.
Perhaps even more to the point, no one asked me to explain myself. As far as I know, they don’t know about my past. Some might have their suspicions, and if anyone asks, I won’t deny what I was. But I’m hoping that I now have an opportunity to be in a workplace where it won’t garner more attention than my work or how I treat people now.
As I mentioned earlier, I met the chair once, years ago. I don’t know whether she recalls that encounter. It was brief, so I would understand if she doesn’t recall. I rather hope she doesn’t, not because I think she wouldn’t have hired me if she recalled it, but rather because I simply would rather focus on the present, at least in the workplace.
When I met her all those years ago, she’d offered me a class. The following day, another college—which was a much shorter commute from where I was then living—offered me work, which I took instead. She said she understood and would have done the same thing. Perhaps she doesn’t remember that.
If she doesn’t remember that, she also may not remember the person I was in those days. Or maybe she does, and decided that he’s not relevant now, at least for her. If that’s the case, I look forward to working under such conditions.
It has to be better than being in a place where someone who’s seen me every day for the past five years insists on calling me “he” because, well, she can. She also can get away with making up things about me, as she did last year, and get me hauled into the college’s Star Chamber—I mean, Office of Compliance—to explain myself, knowing full well that even when she’s telling the most outrageous lies about me, her words are seen as more credible than mine.
I have a feeling that the chair at College #2 would not be impressed with the one who can’t get her pronouns right—but not necessarily because she can’t get her pronouns right.
Unfortunately, the one who won't get her pronouns right is now the department chair. At least I know they're not all like her, because I'm working for another-- in the present.