Monday, October 02, 2006

You Can Go Home Again...

Oh, my poor neglected blog! Languishing in disuse! Hast thou been forsaken?

The short answer, clearly, is yes. It was nutty bananacakes around here last week, leaf in the wind or no. Multiple meetings and necessary "conversations" (also known as knock-down drag outs about who can and can't do what) leading up to said meetings. And then, to top it all off, friends of Senor Fluff's and mine had to up and get married in a different state this weekend--all of which leads me to the title of this blog post.

These now-married friends are actually colleagues from Senor Fluff's previous institution, where he was the guy with the job and I was adjunct girl. Such is life when your partner in crime/academe gets his degree before you--you go where the job is and make the best of it. This previous institution--let's call it Old Guy College--had a very specific set of values, however, that made it particularly difficult to be adjunct girl. First off, OGC was run and largely populated by the blue blazer crowd; in fact, the doddering then-president had run a major state university prior to his tenure at OGC--sometime in the 80's. The Dean/Provost who made the majority of the meaningful decisions was (and I'm totally not making this up) a German immigrant with a glass eye. Next in line, and quickly climbing the ranks, was the Assistant Dean, who was in a long-term, long-distance relationship with a former student.

With this cast of characters at the top of the food chain at OGC, it may come as no suprise to you that the school itself saw ethnic studies as a fad, and many of the faculty refused to recognize it as a field of study. On at least one occasion, I was asked if I was, in fact, an American. Add to this the dubious distinction of being located in a rural area that was reportedly the last county in the South to desegregate its school system. And to top it off, the faculty held events like "Champagne and Schubert"--supposedly casual affairs to which men were expected to wear khakis and sportscoats (and we inevitably turned up in t-shirts). OGC bred a kind of old-school conservatism that was antithetical to my very existence. You may imagine that I was a bit surly at the prospect of my spouse being tenured at this institution, which was at least 50 miles from anywhere I might get a full-time job.

When I got a job offer from Askesis U., it felt like a big "F you" to OGC. Hah! I do have marketable skills! This is a reasonable field of study! I'm smart, and gosh darn it, people like me! When Askesis offered Senor Fluff a full-time (although not permanent) position, we agonized over the decision: what did it mean to give up a tenure-track job? Was it, as Glass Eye insisted, giving up his career? Was I sacrificing Senor Fluff's career on the altar of my own? How much did I suck as a wife for asking him to make this move?

All of these questions were back on the table as we made our way down to the wedding. We knew we'd see these same people, along with the colleagues that we'd actually enjoyed at OGC. As we drank and ate and cracked wise, people filled us in on the goings on there: who's now in charge of what, what the pertinent curricular questions are, how the administration is changing, where people are living in the teeny tiny town and what their conflicts with their neighbors are... By the time we piled back in the car on Sunday afternoon, it had somehow become clear to us both that we had never fit in at OGC, and we never would have. Even if Senor Fluff were given tenure, we'd be stuck in that town, trying desperately to fit into the culture of the institution--such a far cry from anything that was natural or comfortable for us, or recognized my work as legitimate.

In the end, to bastardize the Tom Wolfe quote, you can go home again and discover that it wasn't home to begin with. You can go "home" again and re-evaluate why you ever called it that. You can go "home" again and remember why you needed to leave in the first place.

Our thanks to J & K for providing us with the opportunity to see this chapter in our lives satisfyingly closed. Many happy returns to them both.


Blogger Tam said...

Ah yes, OGC. I remember it well. Where the computer system turned me into a man. Since my partner is a woman, there were no other choices. In teeny tiny town, when we began to fly the UN flag after September 11, our neighbors asked us what it was. They had never seen it. Where my colleagues at the high school didn't know what NPR was.

We are sad that we missed the wedding but had a lovely visit this summer. However, it wasn't home to begin with. We didn't call it that and we don't have to remember why we left.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 2:39:00 AM  

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