Friday, December 13, 2013
It's All a Trap
I know that's not true, but that's the way it feels.
Conversations are quizzes. "Hey, did you read this? Read this? Read this?" Sometimes I have, but not always, so I have my stock responses.
"It's on my list," or "Hmm." Or I go on the offensive. "No, but I just finished this obscure book that you haven't read either."
And sometimes I lie.
Because it's my job to read everything, just like all my colleagues do. And otherwise I'll fail the quiz. Sip my beer, pretend to have read a book I haven't read. Smile. Always with the fucking smiling.
Conversations are debates. A debate I would win at a conference, I lose over beer and nachos. There's hand-waving, namedropping. "Oh, well, Foucault when I studied with him at Berkeley used to say . . . " There're direct attacks: "Well, obviously there's a lot you need to learn about Alpaca fur." There's even further quizzes: "Name the three kinds of Alpaca fur." "What?" I said. "Seriously?" "What are they? Surely you know." I do, when I'm not drunk, under attack, and cornered. I got them wrong. that meant I was wrong about the nature of Hamsterology. Also, Alpacas aren't even my fucking field!
And I smile and say "Oh, man, it's so good to have a conversation like this outside of work" when what I'm thinking is "I want to fucking punch you in the face right now, you smug little son of a bitch." And what I'm really, really thinking is "I don't deserve to be a professor. I'm a fraud, a failure, a liar. I'm ignorant and clumsy and possibly absolutely rubber-wall crazy." But I drink another beer. Eat another nacho. Smile.
Always with the fucking smiling.