I started to write an email to my professor, Dominique, just now… about the PhD program. Thank god I caught myself. She’s french and she’s brilliant and she’s delightful. I mean, I f’inv love this woman.
Here’s what I noticed, today, about myself.
I go to her BEFORE class, at 4pm, and what I really want is a connection with her. I want to be SPECIAL.
Yes, I want her advice, direction, what books should I read, what should I spend limited time on… But, as I settle into the seat across the desk from her and I notice I’m dancing with her a dance I used to dance with my father (who was also, let’s face it, a stranger to me). I’m trying to make her believe I’m special and important to pay attention to, and to invest in.
I tell her about my publications. I tell her about the high points, my accomplishments. I spin it just so, I do tell her how old I am, I leave some feeling of vulnerability – talking about the career change, my age, the debts I have to pay off, and how that precludes a PhD. I mention none of the lows – none of the real failures. I leave some mystery around what the fuck I’ve been up to for 17 years.
Before 10 minutes are past she is making comments about how she thinks I have the profile of a PhD student, and how she doesn’t think I’m too old, and I can tell she’s entertaining ideas of having me get on board there as a PhD student, and, honestly,
SUBJECT IS DRAWN TO APPROVING OLDER PRIMATE.
This is the dynamic I would have with my father – wanting him to think I have the profile of whatever “desirable.” Because, he would never know me, he would only have short impressions of me, and predictions about my future. And based on that, he would or would not favor me when he was around. Nothing was about reality with him. It was all about whether you could do a 15 minute dance. So,
SUBJECT IS ADEPT AT WINNING FAVOR DURING 15 MINUTE DANCE
I observe that part of who I am is a person who lapses – without MEANING to, without WANTING to – into hand waving and glossing over, for the sake of winning a momentary favor. It’s not good for me because afterwards I inevitably fear the let down, the reality check. I really must struggle to know how much truth to tell, and when. How to win people over with promise, without, in effect, conning them.
I want to be able to walk into this woman’s office and be able to win her favor, make her like me, and want to advise and help me, and guide me… but I don’t want to slip into figuring out immediately what she wants me to be and then right away telling her what she wants to hear, and, for example, going home and writing her an email about how I’m interested in the PhD program…. because I’m NOT.
Al I want is a damn job. Some advice. A little insight and a little help. I’m almost 38. I haven’t got 4 pennies to scratch together. I eat rice and beans. I have a mountain of debt. I need WORK. And much as I’d like to tap dance and make you love me as if I were your very own 9 year old child, that’s not what’s going on here. I need to stay grounded in reality. 20 months ago