Friday, November 02, 2007

Femininity, Mortality, and Domesticity

It's a typical Friday night. Friday nights are usually stay-in nights, mainly because I'm old and tired after the workweek. But also because I teach on Saturday mornings. This week, it was a student who reminded me that, well, not everyone thinks like I do. (Shocker.)

One of my female students, presumably around 20 to 22 years old, hasn't shown up to class in three weeks. On top of that, she hasn't turned in an assignment for that long. This irritates me. I mean, in my book, you better damn well have been hit by a truck.

So, she emails me, and I'm expecting that something horrible has happened...or that she just dropped my class without letting me know. Much to my surprise, she relays this story about how her presumably "wonderful boyfriend" cheated on her - for a second time this year. The first time, it tore her apart, leaving her unable to finish the semester. She took him back, and when he did it again, she feels even more vulnerable and hurt. Boo. Friggin. Hoo.

Huh. Where do I start with this one?

I had to take a step back, draw a deep breath, and not respond immediately to the email, mainly for fear of being fired. I mean, what I really wanted to say was, "Are you f*cking KIDDING me? Go read some Camille Paglia, then douse your brain with some Bitch magazine articles that will just solidify the fact that you'll never make as much as a man - no matter HOW hard you work - because women like YOU exist and keep other intelligent women from ever making real strides forward. THEN, last but certainly not least, dump that worthless MORON of a so-called boyfriend. Yesterday. You idiot.

I didn't say that. I really, really wanted to, but I didn't.

Instead, I was the ultimate professional. That "take the high road" chick that my grandma would be proud of (all the while agreeing with the former paragraph about what an idiot she is.) The ultimate professional with a little twist, of course. I told her that I could not make exceptions assignment or grade-wise, and that if she couldn't keep up with my class, then I could only help her so much. If she can't handle the work load, then she should just drop to avoid failing. I refuse to give special treatment to students - especially when they don't try. Then, I addressed her personally. I told her that she's an intelligent young woman, full of potential. She should never, EVER shape her own successes around that of a man. It's beneath her, and it will prevent her from ever being the woman she is meant to be. All that pseudo rah rah "I am woman, hear me roar" stuff. You know.

She wrote me back within the hour, and instead of being irritated that I am probably going to fail her miserably, she thanked me for my words and for taking the time to actually impart some personal wisdom (um, alright). I think she meant it. I think I struck a nerve. And, for that, maybe this crappy semester will have some semblance of a redeeming glint of hope.

To top off the week, I found out a few days ago that one of my friends is dying of liver cancer. He's 35 years old, and I saw him a mere 6 weeks ago. He was fine and healthy and smiling. He was talking about starting a new job, excited about the newness of it all. So, when I heard the news, it completely freaked me out. The mortality of it. He has four kids, for chrissake, one of whom is only a year old. In the blink of an eye, the doctors told him he had just months to live - maybe 4 to 6, at the most. At any moment, that could be me.

It's like Russian roulette. You just never know. I told myself to keep stepping outside the box...keep asking questions. Keep being true to myself, and keep LIVING. Tonight, I made a casserole. That's stepping WAY outside the box. Tomorrow, I'll write a chapter of a budding novel. And, the next day? The sky's the limit.

Carpe diem and all that crap.