Friday, August 7, 2009

Some Random Thoughts on (Non) Academic Spousing.

1. Having a spouse in the Real World is highly entertaining. Like Wise William and wife, my dear husband and I have hilarious conversations just by recounting our daily routines. Here's a typical exchange at our place:

Him: What did you do today?
Me: I sent that paper off to the journal, met with my TAs, and had my graduate seminar. And you?
Him: I morphed the armor I modelled yesterday to fit the dwarf.

2. A non-academic spouse gives you a much-needed sense of perspective. Unlike most of my colleagues (my field is pathologically incestuous), I don't get stomping-out-of-the-room mad when people don't fall into a swoon at the prospect of hearing about my research. My husband certainly doesn't.

3. One of the things I'm most proud of professionally is that even students who've earned C's and D's in my classes often stay in touch with me and are happy to see me on campus. My students know that I treat a D on an exam a reflection of their mastery of the material, not a reflection on their worth as human beings. This is in large part because I wake up every day beside a living reminder that it's actually possible to be a kind, intelligent, and hard-working person, yet have little or no aptitude or interest in my field.

1. Two words: Spousal appointment. These words make me retch. Let's face it: spousal appointments are a form of affirmative action for people whose only outstanding feature is having married another academic. I've lived apart from my husband for four years because he couldn't find work near where I was teaching. I've lost out in at least three job searches to spousal appointments whose qualifications weren't any better than mine. One of these was at a place where I was an adjunct for several years; the year of the search, everyone kept avoiding my gaze and saying "Well, the best person on paper isn't always the best one for the job. Sometimes, there are other intangible qualities." Like sleeping with someone else in the department, perhaps??

2. The gag-worthy assumption, rarely challenged, that paired-up academics must love their fields and their work more than people not married into the biz. May I propose that those of us who carry out the challenges of teaching, administration, and research with nothing but generic moral support on the home front are actually demonstrating MORE personal dedication and motivation than those who float along with the support of a live-in collaborator?

3. "Mixed" couples get no respect in academic culture. Pretty much every place I've taught or studied at has published sappy newsletter articles about various academic couples: "A Marriage of True Minds"! "Partners In Love and Work"! The subtext is that these couples' relationships share some deep spiritual and intellectual bond that mine lacks. As far as my colleagues are concerned, I'm just hanging with some dude who works in the video-game industry. Who's distracting me from my work.

It's enough to make me want to morph into a giant robot and kick some ass.