Friday, May 9, 2008

Full (OF IT) Professor

I'm going to have a lot of fun with this post today. I hope I can honor my husband's significant achievement without becoming too irreverent.

My dear huband is now a full professor. He isn't half full or partially full or associate full or assistant full, he is a totally FULL PROFESSOR. This means he is full to the brim, fully loaded, full of vast stores of information about human rights and international relations that the average joe will never know. This means he can speak in another language at academic gatherings with other people who are equally FULL, and where I just smile and look cute when his colleagues ask me what I got my Phd in.

"I got my PHd in human reproduction," I'd tell them. "My specialty is conceiving on the first try with a sub specialty in always being overdue during the most sweltering summers and with a sub-sub specialty on gaining enormous amounts of weight with a sub-sub-sub specialty on being incredibly hormonal and irritable during the whole thing."

Before I got smart I used to tell them about my lowly bacehelor's degree, because I wanted them to know I could do something other than get pregnant multiple times. I wanted them to know that my brains worked as well as my ovaries. Or that they were at least in the running.

But then I realized that to these academicians, a bachelor's degree is akin to graduating from kindergarten. So now I just smile and talk about the family, and they pretend to care a little, and then they go back to speaking their unique language with those who can understand them.

They call it "talking shop." I call it "pontificating." At these gatherings, academics are totally FULL of many obnoxious words. When they talk about their specialty, their voices change. They become loud and forceful, and they use words that you can't even find on because they are so specialized to their own specialty within the specialized specialty within the discipline.

"What language is he speaking?" I whispered to Darren at one of these gatherings.

Pedagogcial epistomology," he responded.

"Fascinating," I nodded.


"OK, I think I'd like to go back to our hotel room and watch Sesame Street if that's OK with you."

I've learned to tune Darren out when he starts using this academic tone, but I'm good at tuning out his other tones too. I especially like to tune out the tone he uses when he's angry that the kids have left their stuff all over the house. Or the tone he uses when I thinks I should be doing something other than reading the paper and sipping tea. Or the tone he uses when he is reviewing our finances. Actually I can't hear this tone because I'm usually half way to Target by the time he assesses the damage. When I get back, he's usually cooled down.

The official letter he received from the university president said, "Congratulations on this significant accomplishment. We appreciate your devoted service and trust that you will continue to develop not only your capacities as a teacher and scholar but also your contributions to the mission of the university."

But what I really wanted to know was how much of a raise he was going to get. The letter didn't mention that important detail. Did this mean I could get my new countertops, or that things would stay about the same? I flashed forward 30 years or so, and imagined myself with the Comet and a sponge, scrubbing those pesky stains off the white formica countertops. I had totally white hair and the skin on the back of my arm shook as I scrubbed in my granny apron.

"Been scrubbing these countertops since 1998 now, Darren," I'd say. "Now it's 2038."

"It's good for you, dear," he replies. "Good exercise."

"Got burcitis in my shoulder from scrubbing these counters."

"Counterops are a lot of money."

"So's burcitis. Countertops would have been much cheaper in 2008."

"It doesn't matter now. We're nearly dead anyway."

"Guess so." scrub scrub scrub.

OK, that was irreverent. But I just couldn't resist.

In all seriousness, I am so glad I married someone with such an incredible ability to accomplish. I am very proud of him. Congratulations on being making it to FULL.

What's the next hurdle? Spilling over?


Marshall and Alison said...

I LOVE to read your writing. The day after Mother's Day I would just like to say that your degree in reproduction and life management is much more impressive than a PHD. I want to see those professors spend one day in your shoes. I love you! You are great. And you will get new countertops. (keep repeating)

Suey said...

Congrats to Darren... I think...

Mark G said...

Ellen, don't sell yourself and your intelligence short. Who cares what they think? I think you might want to be a little bit more proud and less flip. Full professor is a big freakin' deal! I say congratulations.

BTW, you weren't quite able "honor [your] husband's significant achievement without becoming too irreverent." You actually may have dishonored it. Give him a break!