Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A New Thing?

You might remember this post from last year, in which I lamented my yearly cycle into sadness about my career. So, I'm feeling kind of sad again. While other people, I presume, are thinking of the interviews they will have, or the ones they had at MLA, of what they will do next year, I am reminded that I am only hoping for a future. I had a substantive conversation with someone today about what it means to be in academia--not just the paltry number of positions available, but also the frustrations of teaching and research. I came to a new realization of how I might be able to think of the skills I've spent umpteen years building. There actually might be other things I can do with myself. There might be jobs that I can't even name or don't even know about. There might be positions that, even now, I could apply for that I automatically assume that I can't do because I'm such a peon. It didn't help that I walked in the door at home and The Hubby bombarded me with two unexpected opportunities he has to move higher on his ladder; I felt a little deflated because I'm pitifully grappling with my imaginary chances to make a career move and here he is with concrete avenues to pursue.

But here's the thing: It's scary. I really like most of the parts of my job. I love running my own little corner of the world called my classroom. I love (about 75% of the time) the relationships with my students. I love, love, love the freedom of the summers and the flexibility to switch things up on a daily, weekly, semesterly basis. I love having the chance to talk about ideas that totally rock my world. I would like to be paid more and I'd like some sense that I don't have to beg for crumbs.

So, if I step into some other world, will I have to actually work 9-5? That seems nightmarish. Will I sit in an office all day? Also nightmarish. Will I have to work with a bunch of adults who get on my nerves? Will I even be able to do it? Will I want to, or will I be bored? Will I miss too much time with my children and run screaming back to the academy (where I will probably be thoroughly ignored)?

I'm a rules following kind of girl, so the whole idea that I can just up and do something else is nuts! But what if I could actually pull it off . . . .

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Day of Love

It's Valentine's Day.

I'm stuffy and runny and coughing and sneezing.

I'm really sad about Whitney Houston and can hardly wrap my head around her death enough to actually believe it. Today I saw a clip of her singing "Guide Me Thou Great Jehovah" which she sang when she was 11. I cried. She's gone, isn't she?

I really want to eat the chocolate covered strawberries that I got for The Hubby. I'm resisting.

It's cold.

But I'm still grateful for all the love in my life. :)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Whose Story is it Anyway?

I'm sure that most have have by now heard of the White House intern who had an affair with the President. No, that that intern. Mimi Alford, the intern who had an affair with John F. Kennedy when she was 19 years old. I've seen a number of interviews in the last few days because people are treating this story as if it is blowing the lid off of Camelot. Of course, I thought that ship had sailed a long time ago.

What interests and concerns me, though, is the side-eye approach coming from some people discussing the story. What had seemed to me to be a hint of cynicism became a full-bodied implication in Barbara Walters interview with Alford on "The View" this week. The women on the panel had already discussed the story on Hot Topics and asked why she was telling this story now. During the interview, Walters said no less than three times that "this book is going to make you a lot of money." She said it before the interview began, again after she (or someone) asked if Alford had thought of Caroline Kennedy when she wrote the book, and at least one other time later in the interview. Each time, just below the surface, I heard an accusation of exploitation.

I thought Alford showed dignity and respect in the face of a subtle effort to shame her. When Whoopi asked why she chose this moment to write the book, she answered that keeping this secret had set up a pattern in her life of silencing and secretiveness, that she felt as if she simply did what was expected of her in that moment with the President, and that this lack of agency, especially for young women, was not a good thing.

Most important for me, though, was the suggestion that she did not have the right to tell this story. That writing this book, with lots of detail no less, was an affront to Caroline Kennedy and her children and so much time had passed anyway that she should just let it go. While Alford does not say that this was an assault and acknowledges her own desire and complicity, she is also clear that this is her story that she's telling. It's not the President's story. If anyone is concerned for other people's children and family, some of that concern should go to Alford's family and that part of her that was hidden from them for years. Even if all she wanted to do was make some money from a passing encounter with a famous man, she can do that--for better or or worse. If he didn't want the story told, he should not have relied on cultural pressure to silence women for forty years. Keeping the secret doesn't erase the fact of what actually transpired. Having an affair is not cool, even if you're 19 and a virgin. But you can tell people if you want to.

There's probably something to be said here as well about the parallel conversations going on now about contraception and all of the other ways that women's bodies are up for discussion. I can't even go there now, though.

Let's just agree not to poo-poo women, okay?