I am an embarrassment

embarrassing

As much as I would love to be a Gabrielle Solis, I think I’m unfortunately more of a Susan Mayer. When you’re an embarrassment, being able to laugh at yourself is a good skill to have. So sure, I’ve never been caught naked in some bushes, but some of my awkward moments were pretty laughable too.

  • Let’s start with the heaviest of the embarrassing stories I have in store. During mandatory study time at boarding school, I was gleefully chatting with my friends and helping them with their homework. I got up from my chair a bunch of times, when a kind soul -a fellow high schooler named Juliette, can’t forget that name because it’s also my grandmother’s- came close to me and whispered: ‘Hey MPug, can I talk to you?’ I was like, yeah, sure. She asked me if I was on my period right now, and I thought it was a weird question, but I figured she wanted to borrow a tampon or something, so I answered candidly that yes, I was. And then, she said ‘You have a huge blood stain on your butt.’ YUP.

 

  • OK, no big deal but this might be the funniest story in the world. I don’t know if it’s really that ’embarrassing’ per se, but it’s along those lines. My friends and I were playing charades one night, and we kept pointing at/touching certain items at my friend’s house in order to show flag colors. So whenever we wanted to signify that someone we were miming was French for instance, we would touch something blue, something white, and something red. I noticed a red piece of cloth resting on a chair, and I made it my go-to red item. After touching it approximately 55 times, I finally picked it up to see what it was. Lo and behold, it was my friend’s dad’s UNDERWEAR. Literally his bright red briefs sitting on top of a chair. I touched my friend’s dad’s underwear like a million times that night.

 

  • One time, I had to give a speech about Normandy and D-Day for some French and Francophone festival in Delaware. I wanted to say something about the D-Day beaches, but I screwed up and accidentally said ‘the D-Day bitches’.

 

  • In the same family of embarrassment, about two weeks ago a student came to see me during my office hours. The student asked me what she had to review for the exam, and as I wanted to tell her about the review sheet I had just posted, I said that I sent them a ‘review shit’.

 

  • One time, I emailed my professor and meant to say ‘I hope you had a good week’, but I accidentally said ‘I hope you had a good weed’ AND I SENT IT.

 

  • One time, I was driving my friend home after a road trip, and for some reason I tucked my dress straps under my armpits. I got out of the car to say bye to her when we reached her place, and BOOM, the top of my dress had fallen down because I had forgotten to put my straps back on, and I was just standing there in my bra.

 

  • In undergrad, I was going to my Shakespeare class, and I was in a rush, so I grabbed what I thought was Richard III and ran to class. It was a super small class and I sat very close to the professor. When I took my book out of my bag, I realized it was Sex and the City.

 

  • Again, in undergrad, I woke up late for a lecture, so I rushed to class, and when I took off my coat I realized I was still wearing my SPAGHETTI STRAP pajama top.

 

  • When I was working as a hotel receptionist, the head chef was very classy and very handsome. I bumped into him in town one day, he shook my hand and asked me how I was doing, and I was so intimidated that I said ‘blrgghh’. He looked at me like I was an idiot and said ‘Oh. Okay.’

 

  • This is NOT my story, but this is too good not to tell. My very good friend and colleague -I mentioned him in ‘Old Friends’- once intended to text me about a fight he was having with our teaching supervisor. He wrote and sent a text that said ‘Judy is out of control’….yup, you guessed it, TO JUDY. After a full hour of panicking, his boyfriend came up with the perfect solution: he texted Judy again saying that he meant ‘Judy, THIS* is out of control’, and that they needed to talk about the situation. Judy completely believed it and went like ‘OMG you’re right, I’m sorry I snapped at you’ and BOOM, they were friends again. So, guys, you know what to do during your next textastrophe.

awkward-sweater-kiss

Baby Heartbreak

pierre-opening

A couple of weeks ago, I said here that dating stories are the best. I don’t think that was completely exact; sometimes, stories of non-dating can be even better. I don’t know if what I’m about to tell you about is good or not, but what I know for sure is that it was my first tale of rejection and that it shaped all the subsequent rejection moments in my life.

This was my first year of high school. I was only 13 -I skipped a couple of grades back in the day- and everyone around me was 15. So, naturally, I came in with a deep fear of being ostracized. The exact opposite happened: I made a ton of friends, almost instantly. I still had my friends from middle school, who were actually my roommates in the dorms -this was a boarding school-, but we were not in the same class, so I branched out and made brand new friends all on my own.

Among those friends was a guy. He was dreamy, had black hair and blue eyes, and bore a slight resemblance to Ross Geller from Friends, which was the epitome of cute for my 13-year-old self. This guy and I became friends, and soon enough, we were inseparable.

For once, I feel compelled to share his name, because it is so nondescript that it will certainly not give anything away. His name was the most normal French-guy name ever: Pierre.

So Pierre and I were friends, he sat next to me in every class, and we spent the whole school year hanging out with our squad -except no one was calling it a squad in 2003-2004. He was sweet to me in a way that no guy had been sweet to me before, and my little teenage self let herself fall for him. To illustrate that point, I will share an embarrassing piece of info with you: I wrote about all of our interactions in my diary every day. I literally had bulletpoints in my journal that said stuff like ‘In chemistry class, he sat by me and he smelled like Calvin Klein cologne.’ I was the poster child for teenage infatuation. Also, let it be known that I copied all of his texts to me in my journal. And, since the text echanges were not super romantic, I basically copied down a bunch of texts that resembled this: ‘R U going 2 the mall after gym class?’, except in French. Bottom line is, I documented everything, like a perfect little psycho.

pierre-1

That was also the moment when I found my signature move: I offered to help him with his English -10 years later, I would use the same move on my current boyfriend, but with Spanish this time. So, Pierre and I spent long hours in the study room, reviewing irregular verbs and writing small essays.

I originally only told my close friends about my crush; the ones who didn’t really know Pierre. But gossip always happens, and I don’t think I was very smooth hiding my feelings.

What I find incredible now, is that Pierre did not find out for a whole year, even though all our friends seemed to know. Maybe he knew all along but didn’t want to make it weird. I guess we’ll never find out.

Anyways, back to our timeline. After our first year of high school was over, along came summer. Although most of my friends were super thrilled about 3 whole months of doing nothing, I was simply devastated by the idea of not seeing him every day. During my first week of withdrawal from this teenage heartthrob, I refused to eat. Baby heartbreak was tying a knot in my stomach, and present-day-me can’t help but be jealous of this super convenient feature.

pierre-2

One day during the summer, I bumped into him at a Foot Locker. The interaction lasted a whopping 5 minutes, but my journal entry that night was about 15 pages long. I’m cringing right now, remembering this, but I believe I analyzed his smile over a good page and a half.

Our second year of high school started, and we were still in the same class. We basically picked up where we left off, and we began getting even closer. Except that one day, as we were hanging out in the student lounge, he announced us that he was transferring schools. The news hit me like a freight train, so I excused myself and went outside to, well, for lack of a better word, ugly-cry.

He followed me out and asked me what was wrong, and I candidly told him that I was going to miss him. He was very comforting and he hugged me. At that very moment, I put my -metaphorical- big girl pants on and decided I was going to declare my infatuation on that same day.

As we sat together in English class, I wrote him a long note explaining that I had feelings for him, and had had those feelings for a while. Looking back, I feel like this was a very mature way to handle things, instead of pining for him for a few more months. After being a little drama queen for a whole year, I was finally growing some balls ovaries.

I handed him the note, he read it, smiled, and started writing something on the piece of paper. I was over the moon, I thought ‘OMG, this is so romantic, he’s writing me back, AND he hugged me earlier, this is gonna be the best journal entry EVER!’

Except that you guys probably figured out by now -probably since you read the title of this post- that this story would not have a happy ending.

He gave me the note back, and among other things, he had written something along the lines of ‘aww that’s so sweet! I also feel something for you; I like you like a little sister!’

*insert shattering glass sound here*

All of this to say, this wasn’t exactly the worst rejection story of all time. After all, the guy was sweet enough not to ignore me, we were friends for a little while, and I feel sorta proud of myself for having the guts to tell a guy about my feelings, even though I was a little 14-year-old drama queen. It was sad, but I just remember being relieved: I had finally gotten rid of my ‘secret’.

I recently saw on Facebook that Pierre is in a relationship with a girl I went to elementary school with -small world-, and that they just had a baby. It made me feel happy for them, and it also made me feel really old. This guy had to deal with my teenage infatuation about 12 years ago, and now he’s a dad.

Oh, and another useless piece of trivia. I don’t know WHY I remember this, but the day I got rejected by Pierre was also the day the world learned about Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s divorce. So, it was a bad day for a lot of us. Go figure.

Betty

betty-beautiful

I’m just gonna come out and say it: I LOVE Ugly Betty. It’s my feel-good show, and it certainly is NOT a guilty pleasure, because there is nothing guilty about it at all. I feel like it’s one of those very underrated TV shows that no one really gave enough credit to, because the premise sounds pretty silly (yes, Jane the Virgin, I’m looking at you). I mean, you hear there’s a show about an ‘ugly’ girl who is propulsed into an assistant job at a fashion magazine and you scream ‘CLICHÉ’ at the top of your lungs. But believe me, this show is not a cliché; it makes fun of the clichés.

  • First of all, the title character is SO much more than just an ‘ugly girl with a big heart’. Betty is not a trope, she is a fully-formed, complex character who does not apologize for who she is. I have talked about how Jane’s virginity does not define her, despite being the title of the show. Well, same goes for Betty: the title puts it out there and kind of gets it over with. Alright, we know she’s not magazine-pretty, now let’s move on. Betty *knows* that she does not have the style that people expect her to have, and she *knows* she looks slightly unconventional. But does she care? Nope. Within a couple of episodes, and by the time she has shown up at work in her butterfly costume for Halloween, you realize that Betty does not indulge in shame or embarrassment. She has better things to do with her time, like being a kick-ass assistant and attempting to shatter the glass ceiling, for instance. Then, it’s important to point out that, despite her unconventional looks, Betty is NOT a loser in the love department. She has several boyfriends throughout the series, and she even has 2 men fighting over her at some point. Betty is not a walking ‘ugly girl with a heart of gold’ stereotype, and she is not a perfect person deep inside. Yes, she can be too nice, and she always has her loved ones’ backs, BUT she is also occasionally envious -she takes pleasure in her older sister’s misery at times- and an opportunist -she does not hesitate to betray Daniel for her dad to be able to stay in the US (although I agree that someone’s immigration status is more important than a lot of petty issues that Daniel has). There’s a lot of moments when Betty is the perfect friend, daughter, sister, aunt, assistant. But there are also moments when she lets herself be selfish, and that’s okay.

 

  • There is a tremendous amount of character development in this show. Betty, of course, grows up a lot over the 4 seasons. Let’s not forget she was only 23 in Season 1! But there’s also Daniel, originally a pretty flat character, destined to be a playboy who got his job through nepotism. Sure, even towards the end, Daniel is not a model of selflessness, but you can see how much he cares about his family, and about Betty.
daniel-meadeWhat a wonderful career path.

Despite what this scene might suggest, Daniel does not stand in Betty’s way and he is rooting for her more and more as the seasons go by. Throughout the whole show, I appreciated how Betty and Daniel were portrayed as genuine friends, without any possible ambiguity (not because Daniel is out of Betty’s league, but because there is no MUTUAL attraction). It would have been too easy to write the two characters into a nonsensical affair: the ugly girl becomes pretty, and BAM, the hot guy suddenly is interested in her. The very last episode of the show suggests that *SPOILER ALERT* Daniel has been having feelings for her, and it is implied that they do go on a date. So, did they decide to end the show on a cliché note? I personally don’t think so. First of all, the power dynamics have changed: Betty is now the boss, and Daniel is interviewing to be HER assistant. Betty is no longer the braces-clad, poncho-wearing awkward girl of the first season, BUT her transformation was progressive and subtle, and it wasn’t a makeover. It was more like maturation, and Betty still looks like Betty. Daniel is interested in her because he has evolved, and she has evolved. He is no longer the looks-obsessed brat he used to be, and Betty is no longer the naive kid she used to be. They are two adults who are best friends, and who *might* turn into something more, but off-camera.

 

  • Family is a huge component of this show. Betty has an adorable dad, Ignacio, a hilarious and hot sister, Hilda, and an awesome nephew, Justin. They are a tight family -for about 2 seasons, they all live under the same roof in Queens-, but they are also not picture-perfect. Their relationship feels real, because they get on each other’s nerves, and yet they always support each other. It always warms my heart when a good-intentioned Ignacio plans a very tacky coming out party for Justin after they all find out he has a boyfriend. It’s not the right move, it’s over-the-top, it’s not his place to choose the moment when his grandson comes out, but you know it comes from a place of love.

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Betty’s family is not the only interesting one in the show, either. The Meades have had their share of drama, but at the end of the day, they also have each other’s backs. Claire Meade, Daniel’s mom, is my personal favorite, because she is played by the amazing Judith Light, whom I have loved dearly since Who’s the Boss. But Rebecca Romijn also gets a special mention as Daniel’s sister Alexis. Alexis, a transgender woman, fakes her death in order to undergo her transition, and comes back as the woman that she is, without her family knowing at first. The plot is very telenovela-esque -do you sense a pattern in my interests?-, but it also hides very heartfelt messages. Let’s not forget that the show was made in 2006, and the way that it tackles transgender identity is not *really* dated, for something that was written 10 years ago. We see Alexis’ dad struggle with accepting his daughter as a woman, but Alexis is never made fun of, or misgendered by the main characters. We get a glimpse of Alexis’ body image issues that are related to her transition and her dating life, and when a guy in a bar calls her a freak, Wilhelmina punches him in the face, clearly antagonizing him. Transgender identity is not the focus of the show, but it is treated as a legitimate, complex topic instead of making a joke out of it.

 

  • Speaking of Wilhelmina, she is a wonderful character. This show has a lot of wonderful characters, but it is almost impossible to NOT mention her. Vanessa Williams is always perfection, and it looks like Wilhelmina is the role she was born to play.

wilhelmina

She might be the villain for most of the show, TECHNICALLY. Yes, she is a scheming bitch, and all she wants is to take Daniel down. But much like Petra on Jane the Virgin, she is a loveable villain. She’s strong, she’s funny, she’s driven, and she might be selfish, but she also sees the potential in other people. She never underestimates Betty, and she pretty much embodies female empowerment.

willie-slater

Let’s end on this gif, shall we?

 

The Matchmaker

kevin

I am what you may call an office gossip/wannabe-matchmaker. I have a coworker, let’s call him Tom, who is in desperate need of a girlfriend, and we are all super eager to find someone to fix him up with. I know, I know, we should mind our own business. Actually, my past experiences as a failed matchmaker should have taught me to mind my own business, but I guess I never learn.

There’s one particular experience that takes the cake. Picture this: about 5 years ago -almost exactly-, a fresh-faced MPug was living her first few months in the great U.S. of A. I had just found myself a pretty tight group of friends: a Spanish girl, a Spanish guy (my roommate), a Russian girl (let’s call her Natasha), and a Turkish guy (let’s call him Omar). The 5 of us were a happy little family, and we found solace in the fact of being all foreigners. We understood each other and helped one another overcome the difficulties of being in a new country.

Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

One beautiful September night, we all went out for drinks and some dancing. I had noticed some sort of chemistry between Natasha and Omar, and my roommate and I were determined to give them a little nudge. So, in the middle of the night, we left them alone in the bar. Okay, I have to admit it was a very immature way to deal with things, but we were young.

The next morning, Natasha calls me and invites me over for coffee and gossip. She tells me that Omar walked her home and they talked outside her apartment until 5am. She tells me all this with stars in her eyes, and adds that she really likes this guy. I go home and, as I was filling my roommate in, Omar texts me. He asks if I want to go to dinner that night, just us. I’m like YAY, this is my purpose in life, I get to talk to Natasha about Omar, and now I’m going to talk to Omar about Natasha, and as soon as I’m done playing matchmaker, they will live happily ever after and I will be their maid of honor AND their best man, omg omg omg. They might even name their first-born MPug.

andy

Yeah. Except that since you are not an idiot like me, you already know this is not how the cookie crumbles.

So, I show up to dinner. I’m SO focused on getting my 2 friends into a committed relationship that I ignore all the signs. I ignore the fact that Omar takes me to the best restaurant in town. I ignore the fact that he picks up the check. I ignore the drinks after dinner. I ignore the ‘I’ll walk you home’ initiative. I basically act like a naive little bitch.

So, he walks me home, and what do you know, before I could see it coming, he KISSES ME. I’m so dumbfounded that I don’t even stop him. I really should have, because he starts biting my lip pretty hard. So hard in fact, that when I walk back upstairs, my roommate asks me if I fell on the ground and busted my lip. Not only do I have a fat lip that would last a couple of days, but I also have an awkward situation on my hands. Instead of being a successful matchmaker, I have become a homewrecker. I have to mourn the idea of being their best man of honor. I can kiss godmother-of-all-their-kids goodbye. So long, little Russian-Turkish kid named MPug. But most importantly, I have to say something to Natasha.

I ask my roommate and my friend Elena for advice. They tell me to come clean asap, and without any sugarcoating. So, I ask Natasha if she wants to grab dinner the next day. I break the news to her, and she takes it in a very weird way. She is obviously upset, but won’t tell me that she is. As a defense mechanism, she refuses to acknowledge that she did, in fact, really like him, and that she is disappointed. Instead, she urges me to date him. But I really don’t want to date him, for a lot of reasons.

bad-kissThis is one of the reasons.

She assures me that she is not upset, but I know better. In fact, she stops speaking to me for a full month. Things got better eventually and we became friends again; but it was definitely the most awkward friendship moment ever.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: kids, be careful when playing matchmaker. You may wind up with a fat lip and a heavy heart.

 

Fun facts (2)

I know this is a lazy way to write an article, but a few things are battling each other in my brain and I can’t seem to find a point of focus, so here’s a bunch of thoughts that could be deemed as fun facts.

  • Today in my Women and World Literature class, my professor asked us a question that not many people have been asking me lately: she wanted to know what our favorite book was. When you are a literature student, reading becomes your job, and everyone assumes that your favorite book is the one you are working on, which is not always true. Well, for a while, it was true for me. When I was studying American literature in France, my Masters thesis was on Accordion Crimes, by Annie Proulx -the woman who wrote Brokeback Mountain. I hadn’t talked about this book in a long time, so I got all excited when telling my professor and my classmates about it. It’s a novel, but it reads like a bunch of short stories. The link between all the different tales of immigrants in the USA throughout the 20th century is, as the title suggests it, an accordion.
acc-crimesFor what it’s worth, I really recommend it.
  • I realized something about my dad today. I text him almost every day, and he ALWAYS texts back the same thing. For some reason, when I got his text this morning, I scrolled up and realized he might as well have copied and pasted his text from yesterday, or from the day before, because they were completely identical.
philOh, Dad.
  • People have a lot more fun/weird stories when they are not in a relationship, because dating stories are the best. But when you’re in a serious relationship, it’s *kinda* bad taste to bring up your past dates in order to entertain people at parties. So I’m just gonna throw a couple of them out there for you guys: I used to date a guy who refused to eat anything before 5pm, for a very mysterious reason. I once caught another guy scratching his balls WITH A FORK. Another one, after we broke up, asked me to proofread his new girlfriend’s thesis for mistakes (you guessed it, it was the same guy who emailed me right after his wedding). Alright, enough for today, but I’m just saying, dating stories are the best.
soul_funk.pngActually, Samantha’s stories are the best.
  • When I was 10 years old, my dream was to be a writer. I proceeded to write a short story about a girl who drifted away in the the ocean on a floating device, and in an unexpected plot twist, her schoolteacher rescued her and revealed he was her long-lost father. I guess I’ve always had a knack for telenovelas -although my own stories were pretty bad.
Rogelio-jane-the-virgin-39001463-500-240.gifThis is one hell of a cliffhanger.

Mamas & Papas

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I realize that I have talked about my boyfriend’s parents a bunch, but I rarely mentioned my own. Now thankfully, they are not as *cool* as Amy Poehler in Mean Girls, but I must say, I have pretty cool parents. I mean, my dad rides a motorcycle, so if he’s not cool, I don’t know who is.

As you know, I am an only child, so I was quite close to my parents growing up. Not necessarily because we had a ton in common, but more by default: after all, there was no one else to talk to in my house.

The heart of the matter is, I don’t have a lot of things in common with my parents at all. I’m not saying I don’t resemble them personality-wise, because I do, but our interests are very different. Although over the years, I managed to bond with both of them on a deeper level by finding common hobbies or topics of conversation, I used to feel slightly out of place in my family when I was a kid/teenager.

Reading was a huge part of my childhood, and it obviously is a huge part of my adult life as wel -really, it’s my job-, but my parents don’t really read. I have no idea where this passion of mine came from, because we were not the kind of house with a huge bookshelf. The biggest bookshelf at home was mine. When I started to talk about literature at home, my parents were mostly like ‘ummmm what?’. My dad mostly reads motorcycle magazines, and my mom picks up the occasional novel, but they are mostly what one might call ‘low literature’, i.e. what you find in train stations.

50shadesofgreyAnd no, I’m not referring to this one, you little pervs.

Now hold up for a second. I am not saying that my parents are not cultured. They are simply not literature people, and their jobs don’t have anything to do with academia at all. They also don’t speak any other languages than French, and they don’t have a real interest in traveling. For the longest time, they just didn’t understand why I was spending so much time in college, and they were simply devastated when I decided to study abroad. Of course, part of it was because they would miss me, but I’m convinced half of the issue was that they didn’t see the point of my life. Sure, they celebrated my first Masters with me gleefully, but halfway through the second one, I could sense they were losing interest.

But then, things shifted. After starting my third Masters, I myself started to doubt my decisions. One day, I had a heart-to-heart with my mom, and I told her I wasn’t sure I made the right career decision (we all have our moments of doubt, especially when neck-deep in research papers, amirite?). Instead of being her usual self and guilt-tripping me, she got real with me and asked: ‘What else would you like to do? Do you think any other type of career would make you happy? Don’t you think you’re made for this?’ This was what I needed to hear. I knew she was skeptical of my career path at first, so it made it all the more valuable when she told me I should toughen up and realize that the career I chose was right, albeit difficult at times. My dad is just not as vocal, but I can tell that he gets more and more on board as the result gets closer (the result being getting my PhD *at last*).

My parents have always been affectionate. I remember being in college and discussing parent-child relationships with my friend Fanny, who had trouble connecting with her dad. She pointed out that my dad, although pretty quiet in real life, is a softie when it comes to me and doesn’t hesitate to write me heartfelt letters for special occasions, like my birthday for instance. When I got my third Masters a few months ago, I received a very touching letter from both my parents, stating how proud they are of me and my accomplishments. Sometimes I feel bad for them; all their friends get to parade wedding pictures and grandbabies around as a token of their parental success. All I give my parents for gloating are diplomas, and let’s face it, diplomas aren’t as cute as babies. But once in a while, I’m reminded of how proud they are of their daughter: it could be through a letter, or through the fact that all my graduation pictures are displayed in their living room. They’re pretty ugly pictures -I look like I’m wearing a garbage bag in all of them- and they feature people I’m no longer friends with, but I like the sentiment.

tumblr_nn6mrqkenz1rm2uk7o1_500Proud parents: such a cute annoyance.

Arm Candy

arm-candy

Last Friday, I had my own version of Leslie Knope’s banquet: my department’s yearly reception. I usually keep my private life and my personal life separate; with the exception of my advisor, my professors had never met my boyfriend. I talk about him, occasionally, but never much more. Last year, I had gone to that reception solo, because the BF had just started a new job and could not ask for a few hours off to drive to me and be my plus-one. The fact that he lives 3.5 hours away definitely contributes to the compartmentalization of my life.

But this year, I feel much more comfortable at work, and for some reason, I felt like it was time to come to the reception with my significant other. So, I made a bold move and RSVPed for 2. He took the day off and came to me the night before. The head of the department was hosting, so I was feeling extra pressure. Not that I don’t trust him in public; you will recall that he comes from a very fortunate socio-economic background and is very comfortable with any kind of official party. No, what was stressing me out is that the academic world is very incestuous, and it is very rare when a significant other is not in the same ‘industry’. So sure, my boyfriend has just started an MBA program, so he is technically a grad student as well. But business and literature are two worlds apart, and his job couldn’t be any further away from our department’s interests. I guess on some level, I was afraid he might not find anything to talk about with anyone.

What difference would it have made? It’s not like I need validation for my relationship; we have been together over 3 years and I am more than sure about him and about us. I suppose I just wanted my professors to like him, simple as that.

My boyfriend is very likeable. I don’t know why I was worried.

The other thing about him, and it’s a thing I often forget, because he is a lot more than this to me, is that he is EXTREMELY handsome.

When he walked into the room with me, I was later told by a friend that my supervisor let out a very inspired ‘Daaaaaamn’. Also, one of my coworkers made a point of telling me how handsome my man was -that was uncomfortable, albeit flattering.

Or was it? I should probably have been offended. When this coworker said ‘Wow MPug, you didn’t tell me he was so handsome…Well done!’, I could have thought ‘Oh great, she thinks I’m not hot enough to land a sexy man like that’. And I mean, on some level that’s what went through my head. But if we’re being honest here, he DOES look strikingly good, and I don’t exactly look like Sofia Vergara -except for the boobs. So, I quietly accepted the fact that he was my arm candy for the night.

Like I said though, he is a LOT more than a pretty face. All night long, he talked to my professors, my professors’ significant others, my coworkers, and wowed everyone. He was effortlessly charming, and I felt terrible for slightly doubting his abilities.

The best part is, he said a lot of extremely positive things about me to my professors and friends. He apparently said that I was a wonderful woman and that he owes me his present success, because he couldn’t have done it without me. He said repeatedly that he was proud of me.

The best part, really, is that I didn’t even tell him to say that.

damn-it-feels-good

 

The bitch is back

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(Don’t you just love the Spanish translation?)

I’ve been awful at keeping up with the Kardashians lately. (No really, I haven’t watched the show in WEEKS. What is happening to my life?) Ever since my semester started, which was already 2 whole weeks ago, I haven’t had time to myself. I barely responded to non-professional emails, let alone open WordPress. But I’m trying.

The end of the summer is always a sad time for me, because as a grad student, summers are kind of my salvation. It’s the one time in the year when I can look at normal people with normal jobs and taunt them for having such a sucky life, while I am lounging all day every day, writing and reading on my own terms. The rest of the year however, is the time for normal people to make fun of me for my terrible life choices.

I was having coffee with a friend earlier today, and we were -as always- bitching about the grad life. So sure, ONE DAY our amazing salary will make up for all these years of misery (or will it?), but as of now, the reality of things is pretty stressful. The hardest part of the ‘job’ is probably the juggling. Teaching, writing, reading, thinking about projects, applying for grants, going to conferences, PUBLISHING (jk, I haven’t published. But I should.), getting professors to like you… Just writing this right now gives me a rash. So we all agree that the juggling is horribly stressful. But something else is bothering me right now: I have to come up with a very precise dissertation topic, all the while having zero self-confidence. I have been a grad student since 2009 (yup, I know, MOVE ON, right?), and for all this time, I have been hiding behind other people’s words and theories, but now I have to be assertive and talk about my own point of view. Obviously, I have a bad case of impostor syndrome, and I am constantly under the impression that my opinions don’t matter because I am simply an insignificant piece of shit. And that is sugarcoating it.

Anyways, I’ve been battling with myself in the past couple of weeks, reading more and more theory on my future topic, building my knowledge of it and getting more comfortable with it. Today, I had a meeting with my advisor, a professor who is barely older than me but is already on a tenure track. Our relationship has improved over the past few months and I thought I was more comfortable with him, as well as with my topic, so I went in with a false sense of confidence that I thought would be enough. Lo and behold, the person I wanted to appear to be in front of him completely disappeared and I became this meek, silent little thing who could not articulate an adequate definition of a concept I have been reading about for months. All I could do was stutter my way to a semi-decent sentence and nod along to everything he said.

So, I was telling my friend about my pathetic meeting, and she was very comforting and encouraging. The truth is, she and I are very similar in that sense; objectively, we have interesting things to say, and we realize that sometimes, in the privacy of our own office. But when we are facing an academic who intimidates us, the semi-confident grad student in us morphs into a puddle of sweat and tears. Maybe it’s the curse of the aspiring academic, maybe it’s our French formation. It is well known in the academic world that French professors are typically very stern and tough, and take pleasure in undermining their poor grad students. I told you guys about my miserable defense back in 2011, and how I cried as soon as I exited the room. Well, my experience is not an isolated instance.

My friend and I came to the conclusion that being a grad student is a unique experience. When I talk about my school-rooted anxiety with my non-academic friends, or my boyfriend, they are alarmed by the state of stress that we are all under. Sure, the stakes don’t seem high; none of us are going to single-handedly change the world, and we are not moving huge amounts of money around. But it’s a very raw, personal and emotional process. It involves YOU and your intellectual capacities, which is something that can easily crush your confidence.

Let me end on a positive note, just to show you that evolution is possible, even if it materializes in very small forms. I told you about my inability to say no, right? Well, right before the semester started, life threw us a curveball. My department was under a lot of stress because one of my coworkers hadn’t given any news and hadn’t shown up to the pre-semester meetings. We were very worried that he might not show up to the first day of class, because frankly, he had given us no sign that he would. So, the night before our first day, my supervisor emailed me asking if I would mind covering for his classes all semester, in the event that he might not show up. I tortured myself for a few minutes, but I realized that saying yes would mean spreading myself too thin, and saying goodbye to the somewhat comfortable research plan I had prepared with my advisor. It would mean having less time to do the job that I am expected to do. It would mean reproducing the failure of my first year. So, I said no. I offered an alternative: sharing the course with a colleague, but I specifically said that I could NOT cover the whole class by myself. I was terrified, of course. Stepping up in such a situation would have scored me mad points with the department, but it would probably mean that I would disappoint them afterwards.

My supervisor was relieved when I said no. She told me that she was glad I could put my own work first, and said that this is a valuable skill in the life we chose. Spreading oneself too thin is a real problem, and I’m glad I could see it coming. Because a year ago, I probably would have felt pressured to say yes, despite my instincts. Ultimately, the guy showed up, and the problem ceased to exist. But I’m happy I stood up for myself.