Thursday, April 10, 2008


All right, just because you've all been on tenterhooks since my last post, here's the skinny on my diss advisor (Herein known as Z.) and his visit.

First things first: I worked myself up into a tizzy for nothing. By the time I had met him at the airport and gotten him squared away in the car to drive to him to his lodgings, I remembered that I had always wanted to get a chance to hang out with him, because he's so fun to talk to. I checked him in, chatted awhile, and then promptly went home and spent 2 hours writing the introduction for his lecture. This, of course, guaranteed that I spent the next day---all 13 hours of it---hanging out with him in serious sleep deprivation mode. C'est la vie.

Z. had everything to say about his own projects, about mine, about the students and colleagues that he met, advice about my upcoming tenure bid, about the ways to negotiate the tense relations with some of my colleagues. With reference to the latter, in fact, he told me a couple of hair-raising stories about his own experiences at my alma mater in his days as a junior faculty member. Words to the wise: academia never changes. Same insults, different mouths.

But here's the big moment, and the one that I've been turning around and around in my mind since he left yesterday: he thanked the College and the department and me for inviting him, and then proceeded to call me "the single most brilliant graduate student he'd ever worked with." Holy of the holiest of craps, my friends. My friend Hz, who was sitting next to me, insists that I didn't move for the next 20 minutes. That might be because all of the blood in my body rushed to my feet. I felt a bit faint, for sure.

So, what to do in the face of that kind of compliment? I've been trying to come to terms with it in some authentic way. Let's face it: I'm charming and can rub a few brain cells together, but the "most brilliant"? Hardly. At the same time, I don't want to entirely discard the comment---not just because it feels awesome, but also because Z's not an idiot or a liar. He does indeed think that I've got something going on, even if it's hyperbolic.

This is the story I'm telling myself now, and it's the best I can do to make sense of the situation. What I see now that I didn't see when I was a graduate student is this: Z and I have interlocking neuroses, which enable us to think that the other hung the moon. The first match looks like this: I met Z at a time when he was persona non grata in my department (truly, I had to hunt him down). I think the fact that I chose him, in opposition to the movers and shakers, was deeply gratifying to him. On my end, that meant that he was invested in helping me more fully realize what I wanted to do, as opposed to guiding me into a project that fit his own schema perfectly. The second match is more personal, and probably sicker in a way that embarrasses me to articulate. Z. has, as I often say, a passel of daughters. In fact, when he was working with me, he had a college-aged daughter who was quite rebellious. She couldn't have been much younger than me, really (maybe 7 years?). And as for me, let's face it: I've got father issues. In ways that have only recently come to light for me. And I'll spare y'all the dramaz. But unconditional positive regard from man 20 years my elder? Oh, it made my heart sing.

The latter dynamic was ridiculously clear when he was here. From the "let's sit down, you're wearing heels" to the moment leaving the restaurant when he first asked me if I had my coat, and then helped me on with it---it's such a dad move.

So, while I'm riding the high of his comment (and let's face it, I'm going to put that quote on as many things as I can. I might tattoo it on my arm, in fact), I'm also aware of the ways in which mentoring relations are deeply invested by all of the various psychic wounds we bring to our work. I'm lucky that it's such a positive spin on all of mine, and I hope that it's the same for Z.

I'm off to read papers til I puke. And try to strategically avoid re-creating any bizarre childhood dramas with my own students.

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Blogger Sisyphus said...

That is so awesome! I'm glad, because you do indeed rock. Take the compliment! Take it and run, I say!

Thursday, April 10, 2008 2:48:00 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

OK, I'm going to limit myself here in order to limit revealing crucial details about ahem, your real identity, but I will say 2 things 1)I don't doubt that that comment is literally true and 2) the fact that you are calling him Z here makes me laugh and laugh and laugh.

If you got any good gossip about the dear alma mater I want to hear it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008 4:40:00 PM  
Blogger Frenchie Foo said...

KFluff- This reveals to me that Z must, in fact, be brilliant himself because a) he recognizes that you are and b) he is not intimidated by that. No offense, but you were undoubtedly the kind of grad. student that convinced moi I could never teach grad. students! I hope you are still reveling in the joie that is the post-Z visit/compliment.

Friday, April 11, 2008 4:06:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

Oh, pshaw, you three! It's so kind of you to say, but really, you're talking to the girl who barely knows her ass from her elbow! Stop, 'afore I get all big-headed and stuff!

I am indeed still reveling, Ms. F, as Z. sent me a follow up email yesterday reiterating said comment. Sheeeesh. To follow Sisyphus's advice, I'd very much like to take it and run, But I think I have to stop thinking about it. My students don't care what he says about me, if I don't get their shit graded.

As for gossip, Ash, I wish I had some. It's not juicy, what I got. it's more like "oh, I should have guessed that those people hated those other people. Why didn't I see that?" And, of course, you know the crazy Americanist? Well, the quote of the night was "Yup, she's crazier than ever. I've had to leave meetings with her because she's so crazy." That's the extent of it. Sigh. Maybe I can keep working on him? But no tales of hot tubs or illicit affairs or anything. Or, not anything we didn't already know.

Friday, April 11, 2008 4:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that is a fabulous compliment from Z, congrats!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 10:01:00 PM  

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