24 August 2007

Quelquechose Oso


Eve— Eve, Eve the golden girl; the cover girl; the girl next door; the girl on the moon.
Time has been good to Eve. Life goes where she goes. She's been profiled, covered, revealed, reported: what she eats, and what she wears, and whom she knows, and who she was, and when and where she's going. Eve. You all know all about Eve. What can there be to know that you don't know?

Addison DeWitt

Tenured Radical tagged me a zillion years ago for the 8 things meme that was circulating in the early summer. Since I feel I am such an open book, both in my personal life and online, I was left pondering what 8 things could possibly be left that you don’t already know (and have heard ad nauseam via the mechanism of the kvetch)? Some things, of course, remain too personal to write about publicly, as surprising as that may sound to regular readers of this blog. Yet, I have mined my memory to present 8 things unknown or relatively unknown about me, as per the rules of the meme. I shan’t tag anyone, however, mostly because I think at this point the meme is dead. But that is the story of Oso: a day late and a dollar short.

1: Most of the time, I think I am ugly

Rather I guess one could say sometimes I have poor self-esteem, if we wanted to get all Oprah about it. It's not like I'm cutting myself or anything like that. But I avoid looking into mirrors I “don’t know.” I use clothes and language to perform the social power I feel I lack in the corporeal. I cultivate a specific photo pose and appropriate angle to affect the wonderful lie of photography. I have an image in my head of what I look like, and to see that representation disrupted by an inadvertent candid photo or a passing glance in a plate glass window brings on a shudder and not a little nausea. Therefore, I avoid these confrontations with one particular reality, and work on the mimetic perfection of representational strategies, which is a fancy way of saying I prefer to see myself in photos than in real life, like any true star, I suppose.

2: I almost gave away my application to Prestigious Eastern University

It had come in the post, unsolicited, and sat for a while in the pile of the detritus of college apps and four-colour brochures I was inundated with my senior year in high school (“How Does Puget Sound?” is a remembered tag-line from one of those brochures). By the time the deadline approached, I had already gotten an early acceptance into Berkeley and a famous art school, and wasn’t terribly interested in writing another “deeply felt” essay. A school chum expressed interest in the application, but I never remembered to bring it to school, and at the last minute on a lark I decided to send it off. My life would have been completely different had I in fact remembered to hand the application off to my friend. Just one of those little things that happen to determine the course of the rest of your life.

3: Motherly intervention saved my academic career

After my bucolic primary school, I transferred to a local junior high that was notorious for its violence. I was a wreck every day I had to go to that school, where violence and failure were institutionalised, a one-way ticket to reform school. After I was beat up in the second month of 7th grade, my mother, the secretary, marched down to the school to seek my transfer to a calmer local junior/senior high school that was, however, outside of my residential zone. On her way into the school, she ran across some cholos who were selling raffle tickets to sponsor the burial of one of their friends, a student at the school, killed in a gang shooting and whose family was, like most of us, on the verge of financial disaster and couldn't afford the burial. She bought a few, and went in for her meeting. When the vice-principal demurred on the rate of violence at the school and refused to authorise a transfer, she tossed the raffle tickets at him and, suddenly experiencing a change of heart, he signed the form. I spent the next five and a half years in relative peace (free from most overt violence but not the contempt of my peers), being a closeted nerd and moving onto the fabulosity of Prestigious Eastern U. But for the Grace of God...or in this case, my tough-ass mother, willing to confront banal, disinterested authority.

4: Mr. Gordo and I were almost a Missed Connection

For several months, Mr. Gordo and I saw each other around the campus of Sadistic College, he a grad student in a radically different discipline and me a new faculty member teaching in the undergrad college (ergo, no conflict of interest, all you Jane Gallop watchers). I saw him in the student canteen before the start of school, wearing a sports coat, yakking away with some girl in Spanish, with his cute little Benjamin Franklin hair don’t of the time, and was mildly smitten. We would see each other en passant through the fall, once when I was with the local man I was dating for awhile in the parking lot of CVS, me thinking (perhaps ungenerously): “That’s the dude I want to be with, not this chump!” We saw each other at the bus stop, and even went so far as to wave at each other from across the street, but we never spoke. He knew the grad student couple that lived upstairs from my flat, and I queried them about him, but they didn’t pass along the interest. Finally, after Christmas holidays but before school started, I saw him bound out of the dining hall alone in a ridiculously huge Michelin Man down jacket on one of the warmer days of a generally warm winter (I was wearing a jean jacket), his shoulder-length fringe gone. I said, “So, you got a haircut…” He turned around, stunned. He had just returned from Venezuela and was depressed with North American winter. The rest, as they say, is history…

5: I slept with a woman once (Gasp!)

Tequila, lime, and salt. A pachanga. A flirtation. A drunken encounter in a small, airless room. She went to Wellesley. She gave me hickies that raised some hackles the next morning: I looked like I’d been in a car accident and resuscitated by vampires! Ironically enough, she ended up later that night, or rather early morning (after we stumbled away from each other) at my house eating a huge hoagie with her robust Chicana girlfriends, also all eating huge hoagies, invited by my roommate (who did not know of our earlier encounter), while I sat on the couch with my head in a tequila spin. The whole experience was uniquely surreal, at the time. Practice makes perfect, however (head spins and fumbling away from each other, I mean).

6: I flashed the Class of 1974

The summer after my junior year at PU, when I had developed quite an alcohol habit, I crashed the reunion party for the Class of ’74 with a bunch of friends, including a boy from Columbia I had a mad crush on. We knew the student bar workers and they served us free screwdrivers all night. Shit faced. A song. A dirty dance with Columbia boy. A grind (OK, a few). A loose belt. The music ended and suddenly I was standing in the middle of a manicured lawn surrounded by people with my pants around my ankles and very visible wood tenting my briefs. These are the times when being drunk really pays off, cause you can pick your face up off the floor with little compunction. Ah, to be 20 and drunk again in the summer night (surrounded by the Class of ’74)! Not my finest moment, but memorable nonetheless. Nothing came of Columbia boy, by the way. Maybe we lacked a certain mystery (hellõ!)…

7: I slept with Big Time Power Playa Scholar

But it didn’t do a thing for my career, alas.

8: I was fired for being an incompetent secretary

My first bursary job at PU was as an assistant to the two education coordinators at the university art gallery, who at the time were both named Janet. I was 17, struggling through my first semester in college, and a mess, needless to say. PU was changing its phone system that semester, and every office had two phones, an older black model with a red push-button hold function, and a newer tan one with a series of complicated key entries for multiple functions, including hold (something like *8#3). Both lines were live, placed side by side, and both would ring at any given time (each had a unique prefix). A phone call came in for either Janet from a museum benefactor on the new phone, and I pressed the tactile hold button on the old phone as I called out to the Janets that they had a call (meaning, dear reader, that the benefactor was in fact not on hold but on a live, open line, listening in real time). Both Janets came to my desk and started bickering about who would take the call, with one Janet saying “No way, he was such a boor at the last event,” and the other Janet responding, “Well, I don’t want to talk to him either.” On and on they went, about how boring he was, as on and on the benefactor listened. Finally, they instructed me to take a message and walked away. As I turned back to the phone, I noticed my error with a small gasp and glumly told the benefactor they were not available. Oops! He was gruff but managed to remain polite. Stupidly, I immediately informed the Janets of my error and they commiserated over who would have to call him back and eat crow. I was fired shortly thereafter, on a snowy afternoon late in the semester. Initially, I took the news well, but retreated to my Selectric and cried like a baby, which was awkward only in so far as the office was an open plan set up, and my sniffling and sobbing could be heard by everyone, including both Janets, a couple of docents, and the other bursary student. I met a friend on the way home and cried all the way to the WaWa, when she turned and said to me: “Go out tonight, get drunk, and raise a toast— ‘Here’s to the Bitches!’” I didn’t do that, but I always thought it was a fine response to a freshly-fired teary-eyed 17-year old on a slushy street corner in the fall of a grey freshman year.

8 comments:

Flavia said...

I avoid looking into mirrors I "don’t know.".

I know exactly what you mean by this.

adjunct whore said...

me too me too....when it happens by accident i cringe and turn away rapidly. i love the grinding dancing wood tale. cute.

Anonymous said...

#8 was hysterical. I cried a few times while eating a WaWa dog.

Paris said...

Well #1 must be true: all the others are implicitly or explicitly about personal failings. Think it's time for you to take up an unexpected hobby that you can wax enthusiastically about when this sort of thing comes up. A rubber band ball, perhaps?

Lesboprof said...

What an awesome, revealing list! I am impressed by your openness.

Regina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Regina said...

I wonder how applying to Big Eastern University really changed the course of your life. Wouldn't you have become an academic no matter which school you went to? I know that being in the Cornell English PhD program changed my life because I was definitely on an academic path, but I hated Cornell so much I left academia and am now a musician.

momo said...

I was fired for secretarial incompetence twice, once in English and once in French. It was utterly humiliating, but a healthy clue as to why I needed to find another line of work.