Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Unanticipated problems

1. Having no one to list as my "emergency contact" who doesn't live at least one hour away.

2. Being unable to close my husband's email account, which now collects spam. I realize that by keeping it and deleting the spam, I am in some way pretending--even to myself--that he will need to use it. I clean off the desktop on his laptop for the same reason.

3. Trying to avoid the calorie-boosting snacks I bought for him as his appetite failed. They are stashed in every cupboard, every drawer, the car glove compartments.

4. Not having realized that I don't know where the car title and stock certificates are. I have most of the paperwork, but not the physical documents of his ownership.

5. Suddenly realizing that everyone who meets me from now on will assume that, given my age, I am divorced. That this fact shouldn't matter to me, but it does.

* * *

I had the amazing opportunity to hear ABDMom's jobtalk in progress. It was brilliant. Her work is both intellectually insightful and personally charged, and it reminds me about how much I loved my previous field. She generates a serenity and quiet confidence that are really lovely, and make an extraordinary change from the hyper-self-consciousness of most professional talks. Her presentation manages to be incredibly informative and "engaging" in the truest sense of the word; it draws you in, gives you a few tools, and allows you to feel a part of the inquiry, and to care about the subject (and her "subjects") the way that she does.

As I read the above, I worry that my praise is "too femme-y"; that I should be saying more about the obvious mastery she demonstrates over her subject (she does--in fact, she is so comfortable and knowledgeable that her mastery is transparent), or about her "command" of the theoretical framework (ditto), or about the intellectual value of her findings (considerable). But what stands out about her talk, to me, is the way in which those "masculinist" academic strengths are perfectly integrated into a much more nuanced and warm persona. Perhaps because I know her as a sympathetic friend, mother, and fabulous teacher, I privilege in her work the qualities I associate with those strengths.

On the other hand, why should we "apologize" for integrating the feminine into our work? Maybe it's part of what I envy about ABDMom's work; she is in a field where such strengths are understood as legitimate and powerful, while I went back to a field where they are less inherently accepted, and where the agonistic model of the job talk-as-intellectual-superiority-as-evinced-in-excessive-and-mindlessly-parroted-jargon still reigns. So I project instantly the defensiveness I feel (not, I think, untowardly) when someone associates my work with the "feminine"--as if those values were innately opposed to scholarly quality or "rigor."

So I guess what I am saying is that what impressed me most, and perhaps most unusually, about her scholarship was its seamless integration into what else I know of her. In a perfect world, all of us would be able to frame our work with such elegance and clarity, and to have its intellectual merit function to include, not to exclude.


At 1:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am really glad that you're back.

At 4:54 PM , Blogger ABDmom said...

Wow. This post made me cry. First, I cried while reading your list. Every so often I have that fleeting thought of, if soemthing happened to BH, would I know where the deed to the house is (I know it's here somewhere, but he knows exactly)? Or who would do those household chores I hate or am too short to do easily? And then I push those thoughts out of my head, because they're too terrible to think for long. I'm so sorry that you have to live through all of them--and then some. I can't even bear to think them, but you are living through this, and worse.

The second half made me cry because you are such a lovely and generous friend. Thank you for your kind words about me and my work. Knowing I have people like you who believe in me means so much. It's funny you wrote this, because I just got done posting about how lucky I am to have such nice friends.

And re: what you said about this whole femme-y thing, I have also been deliberately and proudly femme-y in my work. Like you, I think the whole masculinist bent in academia is BS. I hate how we privilege one type of discouse (always associated with men) as somehow inherently more theoretical, complex, etc. when it's not.

I have tried to work against that notion throughout my graduate career, not in an explicit way (e.g. my research topic) but in a more implicit way. I've never had anybody pick up on it, or at least express it in the way you did, so thanks. Somebody gets me! :)

At 3:48 PM , Blogger Yankee T said...

Dorcasina, this post is amazing for many reasons. First of all, the little things we don't think of...you help all of us who will, one day, have to face these dreaded details. Secondly, you are so open about yourself, and so eloquent. And all of what you said about ABDMom is so beautifully written. If I were more intelligent, I could comment that way, too.
Bless you, and your little girl, every day. And thanks for coming back from time to time. We miss you.

At 5:15 PM , Anonymous critter said...

So good to hear from you. As usual, your words bring both tears and smiles. How you have the energy to blog, with so much eloquence and insight, is astounding.

Your list is heart-breaking. It helps me to remember to be grateful for all I have. And to prepare for all that will be lost.

Prayers for you and your daughter.

At 2:07 PM , Blogger bitchphd said...

I think that #5 would be really, really hard. It would bother me, too.


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