Just Don't Call Me Dr. Bitches

I have a tough time holding back my feelings of rage whenever a student addresses me as “Ms. Vague.”  Even worse are the times when they call me “Miss” or “Mrs.”  It’s not just because I have a doctorate and want to be acknowledged accordingly and it’s not just because “Ms.,” “Miss,” and “Mrs.” sound like a divorcée, a debutante, and a woman married to one of my male relatives, respectively.  In my opinion, knowing how to address your college instructors/professors is about knowing where you are.

Let me explain.  When I started college back before the earth’s crust cooled, when I had to walk to campus every day uphill both ways, I knew immediately to call all my professors “Dr. So-and-so.” I’m not sure how I got the message, but it was immediate and it was total.  No one was immune from being called “Dr.,” not even the art and creative writing professors who, with their MFAs, actually should have been called “Mr.” or “Ms.” (I did eventually figure that out and address them correctly, it was just that at first I felt somehow wrong not calling them “Dr.”) In my mind, their title differentiated them from my high school teachers. I was entering a new and different world and this form of address was an integral part of it.

I don’t think I ever thought of it consciously back then as a way to show respect, but I certainly see it that way now.  I occasionally feel silly or vain for caring about this — like, who am I to be so full of myself? Who am I to demand that my students acknowledge my degree? Why should they care? But then I remember that, in fact, they really SHOULD care.  My education is directly relevant to their education.  The time I spent earning that degree makes me a better teacher.  It does.  I’m in no way arguing that it makes me a better teacher than my colleagues who have earned their MAs or MFAs and who go by Mr. and Ms., but I do believe that my having completed my PhD makes me a better teacher than I would be if I had stopped earlier with an MA.

The letters behind my name are important to me. I had to go through a lot to earn them and I’m proud of that. I don’t think it’s silly or vain to care, especially because addressing faculty by their proper titles is the common convention at every university in the United States. It is just what’s done, period.

But I still wonder why so many students fail to get the message that I received so clearly when I started college — somehow I just picked up on the fact that everyone was called “Dr.” I don’t remember if someone told me that directly (Maybe in orientation? Maybe my dad, a PhD himself, told me?) or if I just echoed what I heard other people saying.  I mean, it’s not really the students’ fault if no one tells them this, right? Which is why I tell them.  I introduce myself as Dr. Vague on the first day; I put it at the top of my syllabus and at the bottom of every email. They know — or they should. But some of them still like to call me “Ms.”

I suspect that this is something that happens to women more often than men.  None of my male colleagues have ever really complained about being erroneously addressed as “Mr.,” and, in fact, more than one older male colleague has been guilty of calling me “Miss” in front of my students.  Being called “Miss” by older male colleagues and “Mrs.” by younger male students makes me think that these forms of address reveal something about the gender-based assumptions being made.  Older men see younger women as children while younger men see older women as someone’s wife. Pardon me while I go vomit. It’s true, though, that the way we speak is a clear outward sign of the value system(s) underpinning our beliefs.  In this case, it is ever clearer to me that I live in a place where career women are an anomaly. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to take my freakish, unmarried, degree-having self elsewhere.  Until then, call me Doctor, bitches!

Prevention and Maintenance

Maintenance and Prevention, aka “Please Take My Money.”
MacBook.  I spent the entire morning sitting around waiting for the FedEx man to bring me my magical delivery – my MacBook was on its way back from being repaired.  I couldn’t believe how fast they had gotten it done.  After warning me the repairs would take longer than 7 days, they were sending it back a mere 5 days later.  Apparently, however, Apple saved time by not entering my apartment number into the address form, so there was a whole to-do with the FedEx people having to call me to find out where I live and then taking an extra two hours to bring me my dang package.  The happy part, though, is that now I have my baby back and it is as good as new! Except better than new, actually, because when it was new it was empty and now it is (still) filled with all my precious, uncorrupted data. Two hundred ninety-four smackeroos.
H1N1. I soent the afternoon at the flu shot clinic waiting to be sprayed in the nostril with the live vaccine. Since I have never had a flu vaccine before (really!), they made me wait around for 10 minutes afterward to make sure that if I went into anaphilactic shock I would be near someone with an epi-pen. It was all very anti-climactic, luckily.  And it was free.
Car Door. Remember that one time when it snowed here in New Wye and it was all pristine and glorious and beautiful (but, weirdly, not actually that cold)? And my car door froze shut and when I tried to open it I ripped the handle off? That was eleven months ago and I just today got it fixed. One hundred and twenty-five smackeroos, my friends.  It’s not good not to know your own strength.
Dog. The dog had to go get his yearly vaccinations today (it was Vaccine Day for the Vague Family). One hundred and thirty smackeroos there.
Another Dog. On the walk back home from the vet, little Eegs and I were followed by a big Alaskan husky-type dog. I think he wanted to play with Egon, but the little dude was having none of it. I noticed a leash dangling from the dog’s neck and I even thought I could hear someone in the distance yelling “Marty! Marrrrr-teeee!” [SIDEBAR: who names a dog Marty? Everyone knows proper dog names are, for example, Egon.] I decided to be a good neighbor, so I scooped up my dog under one arm and gathered up the big husky’s leash and started walking him around the neighborhood looking for his owner.  Turned out to be a nice girl from the apartments next to mine, who was a bit teary-eyed and very grateful.  I hate that I am such a softy for dogs, because her reaction on seeing her dog had me almost start crying! Sheesh! Glad I found her, though.
Car Again. When I picked up my car from the body shop, the man in charge informed me that my interior door handle was about to break off, too (funny, no snow storm involved there, just wear and tear) and he thought it could “go at any time,” so he had already ordered me a new one. How nice! Only twelve smackeroos for that repair, for some reason. Oh, and when I went to the grocery store later, sure enough the door handle broke off.  Now I have to roll down the window and reach through to open the door from outside to let myself out of the car. Good thing I have power windows, which makes this so easy. You know, when the car is RUNNING. Jesus H.
Grading Papers. After finally being done with all this shite, I spent the remainder of the evening until 15 minutes ago grading freshman papers.  Life is fine, I tell you.
Mix CDs. YES, friends, MIX CDs ARE HAPPENING FOR 2009! I have yet to figure out what to put on it, but if you want a copy, get to emailing me! Even if I might already have your address, please send it to zemblangrammar at gmail dot com so I don’t have to sift through last year’s list to find it.  More on this later!

MacBook.  I spent the entire morning sitting around waiting for the FedEx man to bring me my magical delivery – my MacBook was on its way back from being repaired.  I couldn’t believe how fast they had gotten it done.  After warning me the repairs would take longer than 7 days, they were sending it back a mere 5 days later.  Apparently, however, Apple saved time by not entering my apartment number into the address form, so there was a whole to-do with the FedEx people having to call me to find out where I live and then taking an extra two hours to bring me my dang package.  The happy part, though, is that now I have my baby back and it is as good as new! Except better than new, actually, because when it was new it was empty and now it is (still) filled with all my precious, uncorrupted data. Two hundred ninety-four smackeroos.

H1N1. I spent the afternoon at the flu shot clinic waiting to be sprayed in the nostril with the live vaccine. Since I have never had a flu vaccine before (really!), they made me wait around for 10 minutes afterward to make sure that if I went into anaphylactic shock I would be near someone with an epi-pen. It was all very anti-climactic, luckily.  And it was free.

Car Door. Remember that one time when it snowed here in New Wye and it was all pristine and glorious and beautiful (but, weirdly, not actually that cold)? And my car door froze shut and when I tried to open it I ripped the handle off? That was eleven months ago and I just today got it fixed. One hundred twenty-five smackeroos, my friends.  It’s not good not to know your own strength.

Dog. The dog had to go get his yearly vaccinations today (it was Vaccine Day for the Vague Family). One hundred and thirty smackeroos there.

Another Dog. On the walk back home from the vet, little Eegs and I were followed by a big Alaskan husky-type dog. I think he wanted to play with Egon, but the little dude was having none of it. I noticed a leash dangling from the dog’s neck and I even thought I could hear someone in the distance yelling “Marty! Marrrrr-teeee!” [SIDEBAR: who names a dog “Marty”? Everyone knows proper dog names are, for example, “Egon.”] I decided to be a good neighbor, so I scooped up my dog under one arm and gathered up the big husky’s leash and started walking him around the neighborhood looking for his owner.  Turned out to be a nice girl from the apartments next to mine, who was a bit teary-eyed and very grateful.  I hate that I am such a softy for dogs, because her reaction on seeing her dog had me almost start crying! Sheesh! Glad I found her, though.

Car Again. When I picked up my car from the body shop, the man in charge informed me that my interior door handle was about to break off, too (funny, no snow storm involved there, just wear and tear) and he thought it could “go at any time,” so he had already ordered me a new one. How nice! Only twelve smackeroos for that repair, for some reason. Oh, and when I went to the grocery store later, sure enough the door handle broke off.  Now I have to roll down the window and reach through to open the door from outside to let myself out of the car. Good thing I have power windows, which makes this so easy. You know, when the car is RUNNING. Jesus H.

Grading Papers. After finally being done with all this shite, I spent the remainder of the evening until 15 minutes ago grading freshman papers.  Life is fine, I tell you.

Oh, but wait! Here’s a FUN ONE:

Mix CDs. YES, friends, MIX CDs ARE HAPPENING FOR 2009! I have yet to figure out what to put on it, but if you want a copy, get to emailing me! Even if I might already have your address, please send it to zemblangrammar at gmail dot com so I don’t have to sift through last year’s list to find it.  More on this later!

P.S. Someone please stop me from saying “smackeroos.” What planet am I on tonight? Must be all the grading-necessitated caffeine.

A Question and a Fact

Question: Would you email your English professor without using proper capitalization, punctuation, or spelling? Would you write “Dear Dr. Lastname,” “Dr. Lastname,” “Mrs. Lastname,” “Miss Firstname,” or simply “hey”? What would you do?

Fact: The worst part of applying for jobs is the fantasizing.  What would it be like if I lived there? Which courses would I teach? I think I’ll just do a little quick google image search to eye the landscape, or look at the map to see how far away they are from the nearest Ikea.  Is there a Trader Joe’s in their town? How often does it snow? What’s the rent like? Oh, now I have gone too far. Fact.

Strangely Free of Bitching

I am still alive and have survived the first week of school, in case any of you were worried (unlikely). After a summer of teaching five days a week, it’s both a blessed relief and a little bit confusing to go back to a two-day-a-week schedule.  To ward off feelings of uselessness, I have scheduled myself for office hours and research time on two additional days, which is what I am doing right now. As you can see, I am using that research time quite productively!
Here is where I would traditionally insert some lengthy, profanity-laced complaint about the weather here in New Wye, but it has been strangely lovely for the past few days. Warm, no rain, little humidity.  My bike ride into campus this morning was downright idyllic.  I have no idea what’s going on here but I am too busy knocking on wood to do any complaining.
This week I am watching a documentary with one class and teaching a poem I have pretty much memorized by now with the other class, so it’s kind of like I don’t even have any work to do yet.  This is fine by me, see, because I am almost finished with reading Infinite Jest (remember when I started that … BACK IN APRIL?) and I’m sure when I get done with it, maybe tonight, I will have to engage in some serious Thinking and Reflection About It All.  What an effing brilliant book, I must say.
And now, however, I have another hour to waste here in the office before I head to yoga class.  Tell me, how is your job going?

I am still alive and have survived the first week of school, in case any of you were worried (unlikely). After a summer of teaching five days a week, it’s both a blessed relief and a little bit confusing to go back to a two-day-a-week schedule.  To ward off feelings of uselessness, I have scheduled myself for office hours and research time on two additional days, which is what I am doing right now. As you can see, I am using that research time quite productively!

Here is where I would traditionally insert some lengthy, profanity-laced complaint about the weather here in New Wye, but it has been strangely lovely for the past few days. Warm, no rain, little humidity.  My bike ride into campus this morning was downright idyllic.  I have no idea what’s going on here but I am too busy knocking on wood to do any complaining.

This week I am watching a documentary with one class and teaching a poem I have pretty much memorized by now with the other class, so it’s kind of like I don’t even have any work to do yet.  This is fine by me, see, because I am almost finished with reading Infinite Jest (finally! I started that thing back in April!) and I’m sure when I get done with it, maybe tonight, I will have to engage in some serious Thinking and Reflection About It All.  What an effing brilliant book, I must say.

And now, however, I have another hour to waste here in the office before I head to yoga class.  Yes, life is hard sometimes. Tell me, though, how is your job going?