the Mammal Chronicles: August 2006

when it comes right down to it, ya lactate or ya don't.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


So I've sent in my "letter of interest" and cv for the job on campus and waiting, waiting, waiting for a call to go in and talk to them. I'm holding off on sending the letter of interest to the position in a far-off land just in case I can say in it that I am currently "Interim Director of Related Field." I was also surfing the job listings in the Chronicle of Higher Education today, and pondering how much my job prospects would widen if I did get leadership experience in this area. At the moment, I'm mostly confined to looking at folklore jobs, and those are few and far between and hotly competitive to boot (the advantage being, of course, that if I had a folklore job I might get to actually teach folklore). I get a little too excited about job searches I think. It's all about the potential for leading a suddenly different life perhaps. Slangred talks about it in this post, and it is an inclination to daydream that I share -- though as I pointed out in a comment to her post, for me it mostly has to do with other careers.

Would I still look around and apply for other positions if I hadn't gotten so screwed on salary issues at my current post? Or if I felt as if other folks in my supposedly collaborative department were at all interested in what I had to contribute? I might here and there, but I doubt I would with quite the fervor I do now. When your university tells you straight up that the only way you'll ever make as much as faculty hired after you is to get an offer in writing from another university, they don't leave you much option but to apply elsewhere. From what I understand, even if I get the interim director position here it won't mean I'll make any more money than I am now (though apparently I would get a raise if I got the permanent directorship a couple years hence).

The other reason I want the job, however, is that I'm worn down by the grind of teaching three classes per quarter. It's hard to really give your students the attention they deserve at that pace. This job might mean I'm physically on campus more days of the week, but I'd only be teaching one class per quarter. I need a bit of variety and the ability to make that one class something spectacular.

As unsupported as I've felt here, I was surprised by how supportive my chair decided to be after initially telling me applying for this would be bad for me and bad for the department. I never know what to expect from her. But hell, I'm sure she never knows what to expect from me either.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

and now, at 40

So yesterday I turned 40. I just chatted briefly with Sporks on the phone and it occurred to me that I sound much more depressed about my life than I actually am. Perhaps I am that depressed and I just downed too much coffee to wash down the spicy Indian food and the resulting caffeine rush makes me feel that no, I'm not down on myself at all really. But I don't think I am (down on myself). I just complain alot. About (and here I go again):

  • that I have acne and age spots simultaneously (SUCH a significant symbol, no?)
  • that I never fulfilled my childhood ambitions to write the great American children's book
  • that my job doth suck

But, caffeinated truth be told, I'm in a pretty good place. I have:

  • As Sporks rightly pointed out, the perfect child. Perfect. Really. You oughtta see her.
  • The perfect husband. Also really.
  • Pretty fake nails. I got them for my birthday. And I think I can still be a hippy earth mama even though I have them.
  • A darned cute blue and pink tudor house in a historic district with brand new curtains I just made.

And I'm proud of myself:

  • I earned that house with job that doth suck. And I didn't, like my sister, clear out my mother's life savings and a nice chunk of my in-laws cash to do so.
  • Three generations have lived pretty successfully in aforementioned house. How unsual and cool is that?
  • Job that doth suck is still one that I never thought I would be chosen for (and to be perfectly honest, there are parts of it that doth not suck at all)
  • I didn't publish the children's book, but I did publish two funky little books on subjects you'd never think a publisher would be interested in

Besides which, as I craft yet another letter applying for a job that hopefully doth not suck, I'm starting to believe my own press: I'm pretty cool. I do really interesting, meaningful stuff. People should hire me.

Let's hope they do. And if they don't, I will focus more on parts of the job that doth not suck and keep doing interesting, meaningful stuff. Once in a while, I will write a letter about it and believe my own press.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Welcome to the Dumpy, Middle-Aged Woman Demographic...

In but 9 days, I will be forty. Say it with me, FOUR-TEEEE. I am practicing. I need practice. It is hard to say something when you can scarcely believe it.

It shouldn't be so hard to believe. Today, for example, I went for the first time to Curves. I purchased a one month gift certificate at a silent auction in february in hopes of motivating myself to exercise and it has taken this long for the motivation to kick in. Curves, it should be said, is clearly for the dumpy, middle-aged woman demographic. Your average Curves goer is someone intimidated by those muscular, lithe forms in Bally's ads (Note the name: not Hardbodies, but Curves). Your average Curves goer, like me, was probably the last person picked for the team in grade school.

Here's how Curves works: in 30 minutes you complete a circuit of machines twice. There's no thinking involved. We dumpy, middle-aged women like this. You do each machine for about two minutes, not long enough to really hate it, until a soothing voice over a loudspeaker tells you to "Change stations now," at which point you move one station over going clockwise (unless, like today, it's "Wacky Wednesday," in which case you go counter-clockwise. Wacky!). When you've gone through twice, you're done.

Prior to starting the circuit for the first time, I was weighed, measured, and had my body fat ratio determined. I was asked what size dress I wore and what size dress I'd like to wear. I was also asked what I weighed when I was first married. I don't imagine these are the sorts of questions I'd be asked if I went to Gold's Gym. Nope, clearly they know their market, and it is I: the dumpy, middle-aged woman on the verge of FOUR-TEEE.

The truth is though, I've always been a dumpy, middle-aged woman, even when I was in my twenties and weighed 125 pounds (in my early twenties this was attributable to metabolism, in my late twenties to diet pills. Never was it attributable to actual healthy living). Yet I've always been intimidated by the muscled, lithe bodies in Bally's ads (or whatever they were called 15 years ago). That's the mentality you stay in when you're picked last for the team in grade school. Besides, I had dumpy middle-aged woman tastes:

  • I had the small dog before Paris Hilton made them a fashion accessory and the only people that had them were little old ladies.
  • I've always had a predilection for what my friend Sporks calls "woman folklorist of a certain age" attire (also known as "storyteller of a certain age" attire). If I wasn't wearing said garb, it was either because handwoven fabric and batiks were expensive or because I was changing who I was to get a man.
  • My fantasies have always included a Recreational Vehicle.

    So now I'm merely actualizing what I've always been within. Self-actualization: isn't that what a fortieth birthday should be about?

  • Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    The Biggest Difference

    If you know me IRL, you know that I didn't decide to have a child until very shortly before I became pregnant. For years it just wasn't a priority -- I wasn't even sure if I wanted one. Often, when I came across children, they seemed, well, noisy. I was never all that great at interacting with them either. Besides which, my mother and sister always emphasized how difficult it was, so whenever I saw peers with children I would look at them in awe, wondering how they possibly could juggle it all. Once, I asked a fellow professor how she managed a busy academic life with raising kids and I was stunned when she replied, "the children are the easy part." I didn't know what to think of that.

    The funny thing is, she was right. Oh, sure, I've only been at this a year, but our life hasn't changed much. My husband and I never went out all that much anyways; we're pretty much homebodies. At most we get together with a few close friends for quiet dinner, and that we can still do with a little one (though now we notice if restaurants are well-stocked with high chairs). The biggest difference in our life that I notice?

    I smile more.

    Really. That's it -- but in a way it is huge. I still get stressed about work, but in between I find myself smiling. Not bad for someone chronically depressed since she was a child.

    So here's the thing: if you're like me and aren't quite sure if having kids is for you but just the littlest part of you think it might be, don't wait. If I'd known it was this good I would have had her much sooner.

    Of course, if I'd had her sooner, she wouldn't be her. And she is perfect.