Thursday, January 10, 2013

Letters Never Sent, Part 1

An Open Letter to Empty Nest Emily: 

As the new semester begins, I feel compelled to write to you about your recent admonitions that we, the faculty, bear the responsibility of attending all campus events possible as a way to show our “student and faculty support."    

Emily, you are caught in that undetermined parental period in which both your children are gone but neither one of them has married or brought you a grandchild.  Thus you have thrown your enormous unchanneled energies into attending every meaningless campus occasion you can latch upon.  I feel for you, and it’s heartening to see someone redirect themselves instead of just lying there in a heap, which is my personal aim in life once most of my time is my own. 

What I cannot sympathize with is your implied accusation that anyone who doesn’t attend those events is somehow falling down on the job.  My nest is not empty yet, and I like to be home in the evenings.  Besides, if I’m going to attend any meaningless campus event these days it will be a meaningless campus event that features my child somehow.  And believe me I will hate that as well. 

My daughter only has two lines in the “spring play.”  Fart and you’ll miss her.  Despite my daughter’s extremely brief stint onstage, the total running time of that particular play is going to be approximately 2,745 hours.  At least that’s what it was last year. And, despite the fact that it’s the “spring play,” it’s held in a freezing auditorium in an underfunded public school, with hard chairs that were obviously transported from some soviet bloc country in 1972. And all the bathrooms in the building smell of pee. The halls smell of pee.  But even though my daughter used my uterus as a toilet for nine months, and had to be cut out of me with a big knife, I feel like I should be there.  Blood is blood.    

However what possible reason could I have to attend the gallery opening of one of our “faculty artists”?  The last “faculty artist” that preened his way through his show is one step up from a paint by number picture of poker-playing dogs.  Besides, no one on this campus gives a holy fuck about my work.  Not one person has ever asked me anything about my publications, my conference papers, etc.  Now, I don’t blame people for not caring.  But don’t expect me to go all gaga over their shit.  Or over the endless rounds of theater major productions of “this” and “that” and “the other thing.”

So, my dear Emily, you have my blessing to float towards every campus event that strikes your fancy.  But don’t cluck your tongue at me when I prefer to stay at home on the couch with my kid and watch Fringe.  Unless the latest theater production takes place in an alternate universe, y’all can fuck off.    


  1. Stella, hold your ground. I bet that many of your colleagues will vote with their feet as well. Some of them will have both kids and parents to take care of.

    We have an Emily in our department. A few semesters ago, her passion was clickers. She organized a task force to test them in classrooms. Three untenured mothers of young children (not me) joined this task force in the mistaken belief that it would serve as a low-demand committee membership. Committee proxy, yes; low-demand, no. Emily finally was in charge of something, so she called for meeting after meeting, which the untenured moms had trouble scheduling at a mutually kid-commitment-free hour. Then Emily bitched and moaned about their "lack of commitment to the project."

    To. Fracking. Clickers.

  2. Funniest thing I've read this year!!! And Emily is just sad. Very sad.

    "But even though my daughter used my uterus as a toilet for nine months..." should be on t-shirts.

  3. The T-shirts need an attractive picture of the big knife.

    Every few years we get a new chair. It generally takes about a year before we have the new chair trained to do everything humanly possible by email. We all feel that one department meeting per term is acceptable, but more than that is out of line. The secret is to pick a chair who has a lot of other projects on the go, and doesn't want to be at the meeting either.