Thursday, July 29, 2010

Southisms part 2

Check out this awesome spider I found in my backyard! This lovely lady is a writin' spider (Supposedly if you mess up her web she will write your name in the new one, which is where the name comes from) AKA a black and yellow garden spider. There's actually two I've found so far, but this one is the bigger one- about 2 inches long. They are harmless to humans but like to kill mosquitoes, so she can definitely live here for now (every time I go out to the backyard if I don't douse myself in bug spray I get several bug bites- I'm working on pulling out all the crazy ivy back there so hopefully that'll cut down on all the bugs).

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but B and I have different last names. Apart from being a professional feminist (I've published in 2 feminist journals, so I think I can claim that title) and changing my name being against my deeply held beliefs that people shouldn't have to do things a certain way because of their gender, and the thought of changing my own name seeming super weird (like I'd be giving up my identity), I've actually begun to get some name recognition in my field -when I go to conferences people look at my name tag AND THEY KNOW WHO I AM AND HAVE READ SOME OF MY WORK!! Holy crap! So I didn't want to have to start over with that...building an academic reputation is hard enough as it is. Also, changing your name is a super huge pain in the ass, and I don't generally do things that are a pain in the ass when I don't necessarily agree with them to begin with (although having the same name might be nice, so I'm ambivalent about the whole thing). So I didn't change my last name when we got married.

In the northeast this was never an issue, but since moving down south it's like I've moved back in time 50 years..apparently no one in the south has ever heard of a married couple having 2 different names. My mortgage guy asked us if "we were *really* married" which I found incredibly rude because I had just told him we were married like 2 seconds before. Our home insurance/car insurance agent has now been informed on FOUR separate occasions that we have different last names, and yet when we needed proof of car insurance to get our drivers license yesterday she faxed over proof of insurance for "Abandoning and B Eden." B had to sweet talk the DOT into letting him get a license since they require proof of insurance, and it was technically not in his name. Luckily I brought our marriage license with us, and they were able to verify it was him by that + his birthday (which was listed on the proof of insurance).

Other southism (or maybe a "not a huge city-ism?")- when I'm walking Barkley, everyone driving by in their cars waves at us while passing! It is actually kinda annoying, cause I like walking and getting wrapped up in my head, and now I feel like I have to pay attention to all the cars that are passing to see if they wave to me, so that none of my neighbors feel like I'm slighting them.

People down here seem super nice in general. On Tuesday 3 of my new colleagues showed up to help us empty the last of our moving pods, and one brought over a bunch of freshly baked bread and muffins from the local bakery- and I'm meeting up with her again on Saturday morning to go check out the local farmer's market. We haven't really met anyone so far other than those colleagues and 2 of our neighbors. I seem to have chosen a very academic neighborhood, as at least two of our neighbors on our block are professors at the university I will be a professor at. Speaking of which, next week Monday I will officially have started my new job as an assistant professor of sociology! Monday I'm rearranging furniture and getting my computer set up in my newly-painted sage green office. Tuesday I hit the ground running, cause classes will be starting in 3 weeks and this semester I'm teaching two entirely new courses that I've never taught before- and all I have right now is a rough draft of a syllabus for each course. I like to prepare my lectures a few weeks in advance so that I'm always a few weeks ahead of my students- so I want to get at least the first 3 weeks of class prepped before classes start.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Well, I live in the South now

None of our furniture is here yet, but we made it down South a couple of days ago. Yesterday we went to target and I dug this patio out of our backyard (using a broom). The patio was about 3x bigger than it first appeared to be, so that turned out to be pretty awesome- the other 2/3rds of the patio was buried under a few inches of dirt and tons of vines (about 3 garbage bags worth of vines). I've discovered that yard work is fun and awesome, and I think it's my new favorite hobby- there's something so satisfying about making my yard look awesome, and I don't mind the work or the crazy amounts of sweat at all. After that (and after a shower) we went out to eat at this awesome hippie upscale southern pizza chain place called The Mellow Mushroom. I had the "Magical mystery tour" which had 2 kinds of mushrooms, spinach, feta, hot peppers and a pesto crust. I also had a bottemless cup of sweet tea. It was farking awesome. We also checked out the 'downtown' area of this place, which is actually a lot nicer than I thought it would be- I guess the hippie pizza place must be in the hipster neighborhood cause we walked around and there were all sorts of hipster stores.

Today we bought a "Chofa" (chaise lounge/sofa- basically like a 3 person sofa with the third person having a chaise lounge- it's not going to get delivered for 8 weeks, but I think it will look awesome- we are getting it in a sage green microfiber thing that we know the kitties don't like to scratch), met with a contractor about filling in the sink hole in our backyard and fixing the broken pipe that caused the sinkhole, went to target again and got a whole bunch of stuff for the house including a bunch of stuff for the yard and a desk for B, went shoe shopping (I threw out a lot of my busted up shoes when I moved- I keep comfy shoes way past when I should, and several of them had holes in the soles so when it rained my feet got soaked), went grocery shopping, spent about 2 hours raking out the path to the back patio that I cleared out yesterday, seeding the path with grass seed (most of it used to be covered by overgrown bushes/vines/yard waste so no grass was growing- but now the bushes are like 1/3rd their previous sizes due to the awesome landscaping people who came last week), bagged up all the yard waste from yesterday and today (6 garbage bags worth) and then chilled out in the jacuzzi for awhile.

Tomorrow I think I'm going to take it a little bit easier, since the moving pods arrive on Monday and that's going to be a crapload of least we don't have to move in as much furniture as we moved out of our apartment, cause that would suck. Moving our old scratched up crappy couch to the curb required super human feats of strength from both me and B and took about half an hour to get out the door. This picture is from right around when it got totally stuck and I briefly gave up and paused to take a picture. During this picture B is trapped outside the apartment in the hallway (and trapped in the hallway, cause the door to the outside was blocked by that couch too.) Right after this picture came the super human strength part.

We also got rid of tons of Ikea furniture (come to think of it, we got rid of nearly all my old ikea furniture except my desk and bookcases- got rid of a coffee table, tv stand, bed, dresser and B's desk, all from ikea). Now that we have a new desk for B and a couch we are all set on furniture for a while, although we will get a new coffee table after we get the couch delivered and see how much space it takes up/how big a table we want. Eventually we will prolly get a new bedroom set too. Oh and a tv stand, and tons of outdoor furniture (we have a backyard and a side deck and a front porch, and I want places to sit in all those places!) and a grill, and definitely need a lawn mower within the next week or so cause the grass ain't getting any shorter...ahh moving/home ownership, you bleed the money right out of me...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I am so smart! S-M-R-T!

Intelligence is a tricky thing. Some might say I have it. They would probably determine this based on evidence such as my ivy league doctorate. And if enough people give you admiration and respect for being a smart person, you might actually start to believe it. But I didn't always think of myself as a "smart" person. In fact, I spent many many years thinking I was stupider than most other people around me. Mostly because I can't speak Hebrew.

I'm bad at languages. I'm pretty good at some other stuff- I'm great at math, and I always did really well in english class too. In fact, I did pretty well in all my "secular" classes in school. But from a very early age, knowing the hebrew language matters a LOT in Jewish school, and I was never good at it.

I don't remember all of elementary school, but I remember spending a lot of time in the "resource room" AKA the special ed room. I got put there because I was bad at Hebrew, and was therefore doing terribly in my jewish studies classes. So I spent pretty much all of elementary school thinking of myself as belonging in the resource room classes, and therefore as a not-too-smart person.

In 7th grade my parents switched us to a different school cause the first school tried to argue that my little brother was autistic, and my parents decided they didn't like that. In the new school I got put in the 'stupid' track again after horribly failing a chumash exam [This was not the lowest of the 3 regular tracks, but a completely separate track that had a class size a third of the size of the other tracks and met in a special classroom area]. I still did fairly well in my secular classes, but being in the 'slow' track for half the day made me think of myself as a stupid person.

In middle school though I got some hints that I wasn't as stupid as I thought of myself. In 7th grade I took an IQ test, and the test showed that I had a 146 IQ, and my parents decided to send me and my brother (whose IQ was a few points higher than that) to a "genius" (non-jewish) camp in our neighborhood for the summer between 7th and 8th grade. The camp had academic type classes in the morning and sports in the afternoon So I spent a summer hanging out with geeky genius people and thinking of myself as pretty smart. That was nice. :)

So around 8th grade I started feeling really good about my intelligence level. Then I went to high school and again got stuck in all the lowest tracks for hebrew classes. I think I was the only person in my grade who was in the lowest track for hebrew studies and the highest track for secular studies, and for 2 years they arranged the schedule so that the higher and lower secular tracks were on completely different schedules- for those 2 years I just took all my classes at the lower track level.

Then we took the PSATs and I got a 1520, and tied for the highest score in the school. I was a semi-finalist for a merit scholarship and the principle started bragging about my PSAT score to parents of potential students and announced my score to everyone during the morning assembly after davening.

And then I nearly flunked out of high school because I failed three (hebrew studies) finals in my senior year. My school refused to give me a diploma until I retook 3 finals the summer after I was supposed to graduate.

By the time I got to college I no longer thought of myself as being of below average intelligence, but I didn't really think of myself as anything special. But I found that once I was able to CHOOSE the classes I wanted to take, and especially once I discovered sociology, that studying for class was actually enjoyable. I started to really like school. And because college was actually challenging (unlike high school, which was mostly boring) I started to study/work really hard, because I wasn't sure I could skate by the way I dd in most of my secular courses in high school. And then my first semester, once I had started putting in a serious effort, I shocked myself by getting straight As in all my classes and landing on the deans list.

After that, it's like my opinion of myself completely changed, and it because a self fulfilling prophecy. I got straight As throughout all of college, entered the college honors program, applied to grad school and got into 8 out of 9 schools I applied to (everywhere but Harvard, those bastards, although even there I made the short list). I really shone in college.

My parents seemed very surprised when I got into all those grad schools. I guess after all those years of me being in the stupid track, they didn't realize that I might be good at some stuff too. In fact my dad outright said to my face when I got into grad school "I thought your brother was the smart one." (He never failed all his hebrew classes the way I did).

Of course in grad school I was back to being 'average' again, since grad school is full of brilliant people and it's impossible to out-brilliant them all.

So now what? Well now I'm about to become a professor, and every once in a while I get the sinking feeling in my stomach that no, I can't really do this. I'm not really a smart person- I was in the freaking resource room for goodness sakes, I can't teach college students, let alone GRAD students!! I have some ideas that I think are innovative when it comes to teaching the grad class I'm going to be teaching this fall- but what if my ideas are not innovative and they're just STUPID and I'm just too STUPID to realize it?? There is actually a name for these feelings- it's called imposter syndrome and it's especially common among women in academia. Knowing what is it doesn't make my occasional panicky feeling any less panicky though.

I wonder how different my life would have been if being bad at languages only affected one thing- a language class. Would I have thought of myself as a smart person my entire life, and how would that have affected my self esteem, and my friendships? Cause I gotta tell you- thinking you are an idiot and being in the lowest track for everything does a number on you, and I do think that some of the social problems I had as a kid were due to extremely low self esteem on my part.

By social problems I mean I really had no friends until 7th grade, and then my only friend was another person in the "stupid" class until 9th grade when I began to come out of my shell a little more (weirdly enough, that friend made aliyah and is extremely religious now). And I think a large part of that was due to thinking of myself as a stupid person in a culture and family that valued education and intelligence highly, and therefore feeling bad about myself, and that no one would want to be friends with me, which became a self fulfilling prophecy of its own- at least for a while.

Even when I started making friends, it was only with other people who were on the low end of the social scale of the jewish community- the OTDers, the "yeshiva rebels," the kids with behavioral problems, the kids with mental illnesses, the kids who actually did have learning disabilities, the kids who had been kicked out of NCSY, the kids who didn't dress the way everyone else did. We made up a large mishmash of social misfits, and that's where I felt most comfortable. Now don't get me wrong, I am friends with these people to this day, and I love them to death, and as we grow older it becomes more and more apparent they are the most creative, interesting, awesome people around and I am thrilled that I ended up in this crowd. Many of them are now doing fantastically well for themselves, and I'm not the only one from that crowd with an ivy league PhD in an unusual subject.

But I wonder how things would have been if I had gone to public school instead of Jewish school, and hadn't been branded as 'special ed' would I have hung out with a different kind of crowd or would I still have been one of the 'freaks?' Would I have ended up being one of those people who got married right after high school and never had a career? Would I have dared to do something as different as becoming a Sociology professor? Would I have even gone OTD- as it was my association with this particular crowd that first opened up that possibility as being a possibility?


Reading over this post, I wonder how much of my failure in regards to Hebrew language/Jewish studies courses has to do with the fact that I have absolutely no interest in the subject matter. And if thinking I'm "Bad" at languages is a remnant of those years. Cause when I'm interested in something, I will study the hell out of it, and spend hours looking up stuff online, and (in one case) get a freakin phd in the topic. If I cared about jewish studies I probably would have actually studied once in a while, in which case I might not have ended up in the highest track, but might not have been in the lowest track either. But because I had no interest in the topic, I didn't even bother- most of the reason I was failing all my jewish studies courses was from not handing in assignments and not studying for exams.

In fact, due to the juxtaposition of my publicly announced PSAT scores + being in the lowest track in school, my high school yearbook says that my future career will be a "counselor for underachievers." I sure showed them. :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

a NJ Yankee in the south

We have arrived! We close on the house tomorrow morning! We have a walkthrough tomorrow morning right before the closing..was supposed to be tonight, but the previous owners "haven't quite moved their stuff out yet." Well they better finish in time for the closing, cause we are staying there tomorrow night! We have a bottle of champagne left over from my doctorate, and it is here with us waiting for the closing tomorrow. Then on Thursday we go back north, finish packing, and a week from Friday we come down for good!

Things about this state that are different from the north (so far):
1. All the sandwiches from room service come with mayonnaise on them
2. The ground all seems to be red clay. It's turning Barkley's feet funny colors since it just rained...
3. Steak and Shake! B's favorite fast food place from the midwest is also in the south! (but not in the northeast) Speaking of which, we're about to go to Steak and Shake for dinner and drive by the house on the way...not sure about my internet access over the next few days, the cable guy is scheduled to come by the new house tomorrow afternoon, but not sure how reliable they will be.

Wish us luck! Next time I blog we will be homeowners!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

letting go

When I was a kid, my parents kinda treated me like a prison guard would. During most times, when I was behaving myself, we barely interacted at all. But when they caught me breaking one of the millions of rules...then there was drama, fighting, being grounded for months at a time.

When I was 15 my parents caught me breaking the rule of "no boyfriend before you are ready to get married," one of the myriad rules that I think they thought I would take for granted, but that I didn't. See, my parents grew up yeshivish, so they took a lot of things for granted, like dating for tachlis. Then they moved to a more modern orthodox community. For a while, when I was very young, they were more liberal and truly *modern* orthodox- my mom didn't cover her hair, and she and I wore pants. Then when I was around 10-14 years old, my parents gradually became more religious again, as did most of the town I grew up in. The town gradually became more yeshivish, and now is a mix of right wing modern orthodox and black hatters. My mom stopped wearing pants and started covering her hair, and all my pairs of pants mysteriously disappeared.

Meanwhile, I didn't know all these community rules that my parents took for granted from their childhood, and I frequently got punished for breaking rules I wasn't really clear on. Like the first night I went out with friends on a saturday night, my dad came driving up in a fury at 10pm because I had "stayed out too late." Only no one had ever told me I had a curfew, or what time it was. Not dating boys before I was 'ready to get married' was another one of these unspoken rules that I broke.

You could see why I would be confused...we lived in a mixed community of modern and less modern MO jews, and while I was friends with many of the more modern folks, who COULD do things like date and stay out past 10pm, my parents wanted me to follow a stricter set of rules- but never directly communicated that to me, because we never really talked and had normal conversations with each other. Something I only recently realized, having hung out with B's family and actually having normal conversations with them...that kind of talk just never happens with me and my parents- we just never sat around and chatted with each other the way B and his parents do.

So my parents once again took on their position as prison guard, and grounded me for 4 months. No tv, no computer, no phone no going out with friends, no going out at all- only going to school and going home and sitting in my room. Only I didn't know it was for 4 months, as far as I knew it was indefinite- cause that's what my dad basically said at the beginning, when he found out about my secret boyfriend, and he didn't relent on this until 4 months had passed.

During these 4 months I tried to kill myself once by eating a bunch of pills (I didn't take enough and just ended up falling asleep for 2 days) and I also started cutting shapes into the back of my hands with safety pins. My parents never even noticed.

Looking back, I see a pattern of mild neglect except in times of crisis. When we were kids, my brother was always getting in trouble at school, and there was always some kind of drama going on with him, so he was always getting lots of attention. My other brother had drama when his school said he might be autistic and my parents sent him to like 20 different specialists to prove to themselves that he wasn't (I think if this had happened 10 years later he might have been diagnosed as on the spectrum). While I guess my parents figured I could fend for myself since I wasn't getting in trouble. Mostly I was just an extra pair of hands to help out with chores- which my brothers were never asked to help with for some reason probably related to gender expectations.

It's probably why I read so many books as a child..I just spent a lot of my childhood alone, until i made some friends in high school. Whenever I did have friends, my parents seemed to take a hostile stance towards them, and had the attitude that my friends were bad influences leading me to be less religious. I hardly ever had people over at my house as a result.

As I got a little older I noticed when I could get attention from anyone in my family- which was when I was arguing with them. Arguments got attention. Throughout my college years my parents forced me to come home every shabbas, otherwise they would stop paying my tuition- they wanted to make sure I was keeping shabbas, and they never gave me any kind of financial help without some kind of religious string attached to it. So I would come home- at that point I was completely OTD and my parents knew it- and we would spend shabbas meals arguing. Arguing about religion mostly. For the first time, I felt like I actually had a relationship with my dad- cause we actually had conversations with each other, involving arguing about religion. My mom took all the arguing about religion very personally and whatever small relationship we had fell apart at that point.

Is it any wonder that I am now an intensely argumentative person? Me and B argue pretty frequently- not in a bad way, but we're both very argumentative, and very opinionated, and we have like these little debates about things all the time, and sometimes they get heated. We probably have several arguments every week. How much is that due to my parents teaching me that the only way to have a relationship with someone close to you is via arguing? I don't want to be like that...

I think back on stuff like this and wonder how much this has affected my life now. Yes, being argumentative has actually helped my career, but on a personal level being super argumentative is not very advantageous- I can definitely look back and see some past relationships that ended because I was just too argumentative all the time. Meanwhile, stuff like this makes me even more worried about the possibility of having kids, cause I'm sure my parents didn't think they were doing anything wrong, and yet I turned out all argumentative because of how they interacted with what things am I going to do unconsciously that will fuck with my future kids? I read Tikunolam's tips on not fucking up your kids, and there are so many bad behaviors she points towards that I would never even have thought of...and that my parents always did to me.

I try not to be too angry at my parents for how they treated me throughout my life, but it's hard. I know the anger only really affects me (they don't even know about it) but this blog exists because the past still affects me, and I feel angry about it nearly every single day. How do I stop that?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Radio Silence

Since B met my parents on my graduation day/1 year wedding anniversary (May 17th) I haven't heard a word or email or phone call from either of them. Not that this is unusual, as that's pretty much the way it's been since I got engaged to B- only hear from them every few months or so (usually when someone dies).

Also, in 10 days this will be our backyard! And Barkley's daytime home! :)