Saturday, August 15, 2009

The New Flattery

For the first time, the guy sitting next to me in the Red Horse Cafe asked "where do you teach?" instead of "where do you study?" Is this the new flattery, or am I starting to look my academic age?

To be fair, he was much older than me, taught at a noted boho New England liberal arts college for nine years and got tenure there before moving to a noted boho Manhattan college.

And if he peeked, he might have noticed that my desktop was littered with virtual post-it notes saying things like "Article due August 31," "Book review due Sept. 1" and "Get image permissions" plus the deadlines of various fellowship competitions. Does that make me seem more professional?

Maybe he was just being extremely charming. What young female scholar doesn't want to be mistaken for someone with a successful professional career? This guy was slick. Then he left to go take care of his three-year-old. It's Park Slope, after all- he probably had to walk the dog while his wife went to Yoga class.

Epilogue: the same evening I went to a comedy-improv performance with an adorable beau. The young woman sitting next to us was shocked (actually even a bit taken aback) to learn my "real" age- said I looked "MUCH younger." My students always do this and it makes me laugh because what do they know? They don't know anyone else in their 30s. Maybe it was the beau.


Emily said...

Ugh. I'm still getting asked if I'm a student at my institution. Which is almost exclusively an undergraduate institution. The weirdest of the questioners was one of the realtors involved in the house purchase. I bought a house. I promise, I'm a grown-up with a professional career.

But still. It's nice to hear about compliments ...

Merry said...

When I started going to college (still working on my MA in comparative lit) I was constantly mistaken for the teacher and always asked if I am "going back to school." Perhaps when I finish school (years from now) I might consider it flattery to look my age and no older.