Thursday, September 07, 2006


It was a partially professional brunch. The first thing he ever heard me say was probably, “Oooh, they have Mango Lassi.”

No one in their right minds would expect sparkling conversation from that soundbyte, but he chose to sit next to me. Asked me about my dissertation.

My passions--whether enthusiasm, anger, affection, agony, anything--lack stamina, so it’s unlikely that I droned on for too long about my writing.

At some point, I claimed to be totally awestruck by the fact that he, the son of Scandinavian missionaries, had been born in Madagascar and grew up in Fargo. Why you ask? Because they’re both places that have movies named after them.

Clearly, I’d blown any semblance of being a critical mind to contend with once I had aired that gem. Which is why, despite his satisfyingly sincere demeanor, I continue to parse and dissect his, “You really should be on NPR.”

I just *know* it was meant as an insult of some sort.



Anonymous said...

Ah, partially professional social gatherings in the academy -- pathologically, no doubt, one of my absolute favorite subjects. Here's a counternarrative for your brunch:

Your interest in mango lassi and movies was probably just an evident sign to this colleague that you recognize signs of life outside The Tower -- not a given among academics, way too many of whom do, in fact, drone on and on about their scholarship. And how could it have been an insult? Aren't 99 percent of all avid NPR listeners Lexus-driving, latte-sipping academics?

Alternatively, however, we could just supplement your own narrative with the following gem from Arnold Kling (via Greg Mankiw):

Once professors have attained high status within the academic pecking order, they sometimes lose track of the fact that there are other areas of skill and wisdom in society. They cannot understand why they should respect or even be forced to listen to the opinion of anyone who does not share their exalted status. Their contempt applies to professors at less prestigious institutions, and even more so to businessmen and other non-academics.

An insult, you say? If so, you could just channel Dan Quayle on the Murphy Brown kerfuffle and "wear his scorn like a badge of honor." Although I realize that parsing and dissecting may be more fun for a cultural studies scholar. Or at least an occupational hazard. :)

maya said...

Ah Piper, my kindest (also only) reader! Thank you :).

In my saner moments I think that it was probably a throwaway comment from someone who was socially awkward.

In my more insecure interludes, I have viewed the opinion so many times that what was originally one insult is now a monstrously, Hydra-headed multitude.

Probably serves me right, and hopefully, it’ll teach me not to be so flippant in professional company.

Anonymous said...

Serves you right for the interludes of viewing, that is -- not the alleged flippancy.

Anonymous said...