I know the post said it was 10 pm when I posted last night, but it was really midnight, so I had to sleep. And Spousal Unit was getting grumpy that I was keeping him awake with the computer clicking in bed. Anyway, here are the rest of my answers to New Kid’s great questions:
2. How did you and Spousal Unit meet/get together?
(Sappy love story alert…) SU and I met, get this, in line at registration our first semester at college freshman year. We had been at college all of ten minutes, I think. The funny part is that I don’t remember him from that meeting, I remember his roommate. (oops!) The next day, though, we saw each other at the dining hall (small campus), and had a meal together, and I invited him back to my room to show off my newly nested dorm space. That meeting I do remember. We hung out for a few weeks, and then hooked up.
It was great — but (cue dramatic music) I had also been hooking up with this Other Guy. (Hey, can you blame me? For the first time in my semi-adult life, I wasn’t a social pariah! Boys liked me! It was very heady and exciting). A few days into this circus, however, I realized that my social training as the feminist oddball had just not prepared me for boy juggling on top of the coursework highwire. I freaked out and decided that I might actually need to acknowledge that I was in college for academic as well as social reasons. So, I told the Other Guy I just wanted to be friends because I needed to focus on my classes. He yelled, and ranted, and raved and told me that was the oldest excuse ever, and that I was so awful and manipulative…and the whole time I’m thinking, “Woah, dude. One mediocre makeout session does not a lifelong commitment make!” He certainly made it a lot easier for me by being such an asshole.
That done, I moved on to Spousal Unit. I admit I was feeling a bit reluctant, but I was a fair-minded individual, and thought I should really follow through and tell Spousal Unit that I had to spend more time with Bio 101 and Intro to Poli-Sci than with him. So, I hauled out the trusty old “lets just be friends ’cause I have to work” speech. There was a long silent pause and I mentally braced myself for the inevitable outburst. Instead, SU looked really thoughtful for a minute, then said. “That’s great, I could use a best friend.” Woah. I was completely blown away. (And, hello — We have a winner! Give the boy a prize! It was a pretty darned mature and smart response from a guy just barely out of high school.)
That whole friend thing lasted another couple of weeks before I realized I had totally fallen for him. (Turns out, it was the exact same moment he had decided he was done waiting around for me. But, a little bit of snogging quickly changed his mind. He was an 18 year-old dude, after all.) It was October of 1989. We’ve been together ever since and are fast approaching the point where we will have been together half our lives. We still have a funny picture of us together at a fancy college party in December of ’89 where we look all shiny and new, with sweet little round baby-fat faces.
3. What do you like most and least about teaching?
I think what Iike most about teaching is the one-on-one with the students, when they come into my office completely confused and stuck and unhappy and leave feeling better about themselves and about their work. Last spring, a student came into my office and was totally overwhelmed by the concept of communism. I gave her the brief, 5 minute history of Marxist/communist thought and she asked a few questions, which I did my best to answer, and then she stood up to go. On her way out the door, she turned to me and said, “I’ve never, ever understood that stuff before today. Thank you.” I almost cried. It is moments like that that make it all worthwhile.
What I like least about teaching has to be the fear and groveling. The fear that I’m doing it all wrong, the fear that I feel every time I get up in front of the classroom, the fear that they can see right through me to how little I actually really know about what I’m teaching them, the fear that I’ll never be good enough or feel relaxed about it. I could also live without the groveling. Once I had a student tell me that he “deserved an A on this midterm. In fact, I studied so hard for this midterm I deserve an A for the whole course and an A in a whole other course.” My response? Well, kid, you may have “deserved” and A, but you EARNED a C+.
4. Where does “stewgad” come from, anyway? (My apologies if you talked
about this on your blog and I missed it!)
I did blog about this – but really really briefly in my very first post, way back when only my Mom and Spousal Unit were reading my blog, it’s no wonder you missed it. The name doesn’t have obvious meaning, so it is a good question.
My parents deliberately gave me first and middle names that could have many, many nicknames, in case I didn’t like my name as assigned. But, never, ever in my life have I had a nickname (much like Scrivener, I think). A number of people have tried, but it just hasn’t worked. (The closest I get to a nickname is “Ho-ney….” when Spousal Unit is really, really mad at me. I think he thinks that the term of endearment will soften the blow of his anger.) Cleis calls me nickname teflon. They just don’t stick. When I started the blog, I sat around for a long time trying to come up with something witty, clever, interesting, classical, historical, meaningful as a nickname/pseudonym. Nothing seemed to fit or work. Teflon. So, I thought about the name of the blog – its name came from something my brother once said, after I had described one of my experiences while trying to get the degree. He said, “they should call the Ph.D. Pretty Hard, Dammit.” Since that was a great acronym, I decided maybe I’d try to find a clever acronym for my nickname. I couldn’t come up with one. Again, Teflon. So, I decided I’d think about what I was trying to do with it, and who I was trying to be — and I came up with this sentence: Struggling Toward Finishing With Grace and Dignity. I thought this pretty much summed up the whole of who I was as an ABD and how I wanted to do this thing. But it needed a vowel. Substitute Ending for Finishing and you get — S.T.E.W.G.A.D. Totally lame, but it was the best I could do at the time. Now, I kind of like it. Because I stew a lot about stuff. And I’m frequently gadding about in the wilds of academia. But, there it is – my lame self-imposed nickname.
5. (This is a horrible job interview kind of question, but…) Where do you want to be in your life 10 years from now?
That’s an easy one — Tenured!!! I would love to stay in the job I just got, in the town I live in, and be tenured. I’d like my dissertation to be a book. I’d like it to be done, and to feel done and out of my life so that I can move on to something new. I’d also like kidlets – if that’s in the cards for us.
Thanks, New Kid for some great questions and the chance to wax poetic about history and Spousal Unit! Anybody still reading this far down gets a prize, and five free questions of their own to blog about if they want them. Just let me know!