Rate My JIL Oct 17: Dawn of the Dead Sea Body Scrub; My Ass (and more “Assistant Professor” Jobs That Aren’t)

Who likes to rock the party? I like to rock the party. All the ladies with the babies make the babies shake their booties yeah. Here is a pair of babby shoes I knitted this week, one of three (and counting). I am excited for this babby to be shod cozily in impractical fibers (cashmere, silk, merino, organic cotton), because why the fuck not? This pair was my first, and is particularly special because I used yarn that was a gift from my husband’s cousin Lisa.

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I just got back from the mall. What? I know! As my friend Sarah has written in recent months, this “mall” I speak of is an increasingly rare phenomenon — more and more malls in the US are looking like the crime den in Gone Girl than like the St. Louis Galleria, which is where I spent more time this morning than I care to admit. The St. Louis Galleria is not technically in St. Louis; it’s in Brentwood, which holds the distinct “honor” of being The Wealthy St. Louis County Suburb That Looks Most Like Orange County. The Galleria is a few notches below South Coast Plaza (which, though not as posh as Fascist Island, ahem I mean Fashion Island, and not as hermetic as the Speculum, I mean Spectrum, boasted, for example, a Cartier store). But it still seems to be where St. Louis’s well-to-do buy a bunch of overpriced crap they don’t need.

So what in the everloving fuck was I doing enjoying the smell of commerce in the morning today — 10 in the morning, to be exact? Well, Brentwood also happens to be the location of St. Louis’s only Trader Joe’s and the location of a sports-rehab facility my sporty husband goes to for PT. So rather than undergo the existential travail of him taking two trips to Brentwood on the same day, we combined PT and grocery shopping, which meant that I had two hours to kill while my husband had his appointment. I actually got to the mall before it opened. My life is full of surreal experiences, but sitting on a bench outside the St. Louis Galleria’s Restoration Hardware, knitting a hat, has got to be one of the weirdest in awhile.

Anyway, I hadn’t been to a mall in years. Years. Literally, years, plural. And so it was a shock all around to waddle through today, en route to Macy’s to spend last Christmas’s gift cards before this Christmas rolls around (I bought a food processor, on sale — the glamour in our house, I tell you, it doesn’t quit, much like my ass, see below). It was a shock in a lot of ways: I’m not used to seeing that much commerce upon commerce upon commerce, for one, so I’ve changed — but also, the mall has changed. Because the in-person shopping experience has become kind of a rarity (I am assuming?), and because most retail workers work on some sort of commission or quota system, the level of in-mall hard-selling has skyrocketed since I was a kid. Back in the day, the only people you’d see actually milling among the mall folk trying to lure them in to their stores were the hawkers of Hickory Farms sausage samples (like seriously, was that shit not 90% nitrites and 10% salt? And also goddamned irresistible, my innards be damned?), who gave exactly zero fucks if you bought a sausage or not.

Those days are over. Today I noticed so many stores posting hawkers outside that it reminded me of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul! AND also because of the haggling (!!!! American mall haggling!), which I’ll get to in a second. Or, now, I’ll get to it now. Because that is how I found myself this morning, at 10:15, being subject to the hard sell of a Skin Care Specialist at “Tierra Soul and Spa,” whereupon I found out that despite being a “beautiful, beautiful woman,” I also have blackheads, open pores around my eyes, and the horror of all horrors, neck wrinkles. I had never once even thought about the state of my neck viz. wrinkles until they were pointed out to me today — but aghast as I was, I was still not about to part with $599.99 — SIX HUNDRED HUMAN EARTH DOLLARS — for a 2-oz bottle of lifting serum. Six hundred dollars! That is more than we used to pay in rent when we rented here! Somehow, though, I got talked into buying some skin-peeling gel for an amount of money I will not share in public (though it was considerably less than $600), and he “threw in” some facial cleanser and a dead-sea mineral body scrub that will apparently make my disgusting pregnant feet less disgusting (since I can no longer see or reach said feet, this seemed like a silly addition, but it was “free,” so who am I to complain).

This whole experience, once it was over, brought about an interesting lecture on “the hot-cold empathy gap” from my husband, who is currently teaching a course on “Markets and Morals” that I should apparently be sitting in on, and the suggestion that next week when I kill time at the mall, perhaps I should leave my credit cards at home. At any rate, I will let you all know if this ridiculously overpriced skin care regimen (sans, alas, the serum) does anything for my abhorrent neck wrinkles.

All right, moving on. Here is a picture from last week that demonstrates fairly accurately that for some pregnant women, the back expands in direct proportion to the front.

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I have to say, I kind of like having a huge butt. Sure, I had to go up two sizes in underwear, but it also prevents me from falling into the toilet when my husband leaves the seat up in the middle of the night. I do think the fetishization of the butt, especially the racially-tinged fetishization among white fashion types, is problematic, so I don’t want anyone to think that I am fetishizing my new posterior in this fashion (and, speaking of racism, Dear White People opens in St. Louis next week and I am beyond excited for it); I am simply making a commentary on the interesting ways in which gestating a miniature human changes individual women’s bodies. (Apparently, it has also given me “chest rosacea,” another abhorrent thing the Soul and Spa wishes I would spend $300 per ounce to alleviate.)

All right, some job ads, I guess.

This week’s sole tenure-track offering (bringing the total up to 18, in case anyone is counting) is from Texas Christian University, for 1750-present, and sounds perfectly legit. Also, you learn something new every day: TCU is “a private, secular institution,” despite the name. Although if you move to Dallas/Ft. Worth, no matter your religious affiliation, you will probably start wearing your hair bigger, so as to be closer to God, because that is the Texas way. Anyway, isn’t it fascinating that Texas Christian University is not, in fact, one of those skeevy Christian universities that makes potential faculty and students sign some sort of no-dancing honor code?

Speaking of words not meaning what I think they mean, this week’s German JIL also brings two more jobs hiring at the “rank” of Assistant Professor, but without actually being the jobs (i.e. tenure-track) that just about everyone associates with that term. One is at the University of Arizona, but I’m not going to get on their asses because they put “Non-Tenure Eligible” in big letters right up front; the other is at West Point, and it’s one of those nebulous three-year “term” positions, where it looks like it might be able to turn TT at some point, or not, who knows. I have to say, as much as I myself am not Army Strong, I would kind of love teaching at West Point. First of all it’s right near where I went to college and I love that area of the country, but second of all, the fucking discipline in those students would be incredible. Just how straight they’d sit up in their seats would be amazing! You would not get a single rolled eye or hung-over slouch from those cadets because one step out of line and some terrifying Full Metal Jacket style sergeant will come and yell in their faces for three hours. Like really, West Point would be great for the yelling culture alone, which goes perfectly with the study of German. If I hadn’t made myself straight-up unmarketable in the past two years, I’d legit consider applying. TEN-HUT!

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If You Stare Too Long into the Paris Gellar, The Paris Gellar Will Stare Back

Today my article in Slate is geared toward students (I love students! I need to gear more articles toward them. Because I love and miss them so!), and it’s about class participation, and it has so many Nietzsche jokes, and so many Gilmore Girls references, because that is how I operate these days. Here’s a taste.

Let’s say you’re so shy you simply freak out speaking in front of other students. Great news: There are ways to participate in class without actually talking in class. I know it’s tough, but screw up that courage and sidle up to the prof with a very quick substantive question, either before or after class. Preface it, if you can, with “I might not talk in class much because I’m shy, but I wondered…” Most profs are nice people (many have even overcome considerable shyness to teach!), and the wide-eyed earnestness of a timid but studious young person can melt our overworked little hearts.

…and then later:

So, ye veritable Ayn Rand of the seminar room: Shut it sometimes. I do not mean to say we don’t value your enthusiasm. We do. But we are not Socrates, and you are not Glaucon. The classroom is not and should not be an uninterrupted dialogue; your awkward little desky-chair is not your personal brilliance dais. So please, do both yourself and your classmates a favor and use your powers for good. For example, channel your energy into interacting with your peers and helping less-vocal students speak up. Do this by keeping it zipped even if the class has been silent for three entire minutes and your professor is humming the Larry David stare-down leitmotif. Allow the uncomfortable silence to build; let your classmates know you are not going to bail them out, even if you’re quite certain that actually, you can. This will demonstrate real leadership and engagement, rather than self-aggrandizing performance at the expense of group welfare. And that can take you a long way—I’m talking past the better grade you’ll surely be getting.

To me this is just a mild-mannered, slightly snarky take on an issue that every professor in the humanities has to deal with at one point or another (usually quite often!). Let’s see how my coterie of academic haters manages to work itself up into a frothy-mouthed tizzy over it. Bring it, fuckers — I’ll defer to the asshole brigade on peer review when push comes to shove, but when it comes to teaching, I knew what the fuck I was doing.

Gilmore Girls Relationship Rankings: UNDISPUTED

These are FACTS. Period.

Rory’s Boyfriends:

4. Logan Huntsberger. That insufferable WASP fucker and his Hermes bags and his “Ace” nickname and his incessant kissing up to Richard and Emily and his intermittent breakups and his awful, awful dad. I love Cary on The Good Wife, but I feel like Rory’s time at Yale (and in her “lost years”) was completely wasted on this chump.

3. Dean. Blurgh. And it’s not because, Richard Gilmore-style, I think he’s Not Good Enough For Her. He is. There’s just something about him that makes Rory not as interesting. He’s holding her back, but not for the classist reasons you might think. Also, to be honest, he deserves the boot for his hair alone.

2. Tristan. Yes I know they never went out, but I have a bizarre and inexplicable weakness for Chad Michael Murray and all three of his first names, and since he and Dean always had a “rivalry” of sorts, I’m going to be Team Tristan just for the fuck of it.

1. Jess. Come on. Yes, he’s a dick. Yes, he broke her heart. But that boy was sex on a stick. Who among us, at the right age, wouldn’t? Youth was made for going out with guys like Jess. He was so irresistible that he even managed to woo Alexis Bledel in real life before she fell for Pete Campbell and his no-toilet hovel (for serious; Pete Campbell lives in a hermit bungalow somewhere and doesn’t have plumbing. Which, to be honest, good for him!).

Lorelai’s Boyfriends

5. Christopher, Rory’s father. That guy just cannot stop weaseling his way back into the girls’ lives and getting their hopes up before he takes the fuck off for parts unknown again, usually to knock up yet another woman. He was no good when he impregnated Lorelai back in the day, and he’s no good now, 10 years after the show’s last good episode aired. Fuck Christopher (or don’t, especially not on Richard and Emily’s Balcony).

4. Jason, Richard’s insomniac “business associate.” That guy. Yes, in real life we would all with Chris Eigeman, we love him; he’s a non-creepy-man’s aw-shucks James Spader and he oozes weird appeal. But Jason is a YAWNER and he has too many damn rules, and he’s too rich and weird. He is simply not Stars Hollow material.

3. Alex, a guy I don’t remember at all and I am pretty sure the Gilmore Girls Wiki is just using to fuck with me. But he’s still better than Christopher and Jason.

2. Luke. I know this is going to be a controversial choice because the entire arc of the entire show’s entire billion seasons was Luke & Lorelai 4ever, but Luke was Friendzoned for a reason and should have remained that way. Honestly. He is great, great, great friend material, but as a long-term partner? You can’t be with someone that intransigent and cranky 24/7. You just can’t. Not even in Stars Hollow. I’d rather marry Mrs. Kim; at least she has some surprised up her sleeve now and then.

1. Mr. Medina. Yes, I am Team Max, forever. Perhaps I am partial because he is an educator. Perhaps I am partial because of all the guys he has the sincerest affection for Rory (and that INCLUDES Rory’s dumb dad), and he knew Rory first and cared for Rory first before he even met her mom. Perhaps I am partial because he is patient and kind and not boastful or whatever the Bible says about love that people always read at their weddings. The only — and I mean only — reason shit went south with Lorelai and Max is that he was introduced in the first season and making their relationship stable for the other six would have been BOE-RING, so the writers had to give us fucking Jason, and a heaping dose of Christopher’s bullcrap, and of course Luke upon Luke upon Luke. It’s like when Walter White refused the awesome scientist job because his friend offered it out of cancer pity. That’s when I stopped watching Breaking Bad, because I was like, “That is a stupid plot point invented only to perpetuate the show; it doesn’t work in any other way.” And at the time it didn’t; it was just stupid, stupid, stupid. In conclusion, if I were still single, I would be available for Mr. Medina.

Buy My Grad School Crap!

I have finally, finally gotten off my ass to re-activate Smartypants Clearinghouse, my Amazon store where I am selling off the most grad-schooly of my grad school books (plus a few randos that I now have digital and would never have a use for on paper again). My book-fetishist days ended somewhere around the 18th move of my twenties, and I have been slowly (sometimes VERY slowly) offloading these relics ever since. Does the fact that I read almost exclusively digitally now make me an anti-intellectual? I believe it was Pierre Badiou who said, “I don’t give a fuck what you think — please buy my books!”

All of the books are listed at rock-bottom prices; I mostly just want them out of my house. Many are inscribed with my name and the year I bought them (which makes them even cheaper; a relic from my book-fetishist days; “I’ll keep this FOREVER!” Eh, no I won’t). Some are even “inscribed” with what I am sure are very illuminating notes from grad school (cough cough, which makes them EVEN cheaper).

Anyway, know that when this shelf gets cleared out, its highly intellectual contents will likely be replaced by puke rags and binkies and breast-pumping accoutrements, because I am a lady-woman and once we become babby factories, brain no work so good no more. (I am kidding; I have meant to get rid of these pompous-ass books for years.)

Be warned, also, that my customer service skills aren’t that great. I mean, they’re OKAY, but let’s just say that I won’t be making a second career (fifth career?) in retail anytime soon.

Welcome to Germany in 2033, Me

OH MY GOD 2033. What. How can that even be a year that exists. I just died a little bit.

Anyway, provided that it actually exists, 2033 will be the year that (hopefully) SchuBabby goes off to college. Public universities will have been abolished by then, and tuition at the Tostitos TacoBell Bud Lite Lime-A-Rita Water Park, Unpaid Pro Football Team and Content-Module Based Learning Outcomes Factory will be $900,000 per year. But, don’t worry, we have a plan. We were iffy on asking our daughter to learn German, but now it’s non-negotiable, because that little fucker is going to college in Germany for free. We actually did the math today, and if SchuBabby were SchuFrosh today, it would actually be cheaper for us to move to Germany on my work-at-home salary alone, have the kid live with us (German-style) and send her to a German university for 4 years than it would be for us to send her to either of the American universities we attended, much less the public flagships that are allegedly in our “price range.”

Anyway, here’s my latest for Slate‘s BrowBeat on why shipping your kid off to Deutschland may (OR MAY NOT) be the last great “American” college bargain.

A taste:

First of all, the concept of “campus life” differs widely between our two countries. German universities consist almost entirely of classroom buildings and libraries—no palatial gyms with rock walls and water parks; no team sports facilities (unless you count the fencing fraternities I will never understand); no billion-dollar student unions with flat-screen TVs and first-run movie theaters. And forget the resort-style dormitories. What few dorms exist are minimalistic, to put it kindly—but that’s largely irrelevant anyway, as many German students still live at home with their parents, or in independent apartment shares, none of which foster the kind of insular, summer-camp-esque experience Americans associate closely with college life (and its hefty price tag). It’s quite common for German students simply to commute in for class, then leave.

And yes, anyone who feels like they can/should explain fencing fraternities to me, do it. I’ve been scratching my Kopf about those things for damn near 20 years at this point.