With Apologies and Smirks to 15-Year-Old Me

Oh, I wish I had a time machine. Yes, I’d kill Hitler, but then, the next thing I would do would be to go back and surprise my high-school-sophomore self.

First of all she’d be like OH MY GOD YOU GOT SO FAT, and I’d be like I’M PREGNANT, BITCH, and she’d be like DON’T CALL ME A BITCH, BITCH, THAT’S SEXIST, and I’d be like NICE TEVAS.

Then I would show her this article that I wrote about how I want her to attend an extra year of high school, and she’d break down into sobs and wonder why I hate her (and thus me, or I guess ex-me) so much. But then I’d tell her that someday very soon boys will actually start to notice her, and yes, she will someday grow boobs (although she will have to get knocked up to do so, and I will point at mine).

Anyway, in my continuing quest to convince the people of America that we should be more like Germans, this is an article about the potential virtues of an optional 13th grade (along with the actual virtues of an actual one being pilot-programmed in my home state of Oregon as we speak). A taste:

Don’t kill me, angst-ridden high schoolers—or parents eager to get them out of the house—but it’s worth considering making the 13th grade standard, not just for students on the vocational, technical, or community college track, but for the four-year-college-bounds as well. The fact is, many American students enter college woefully unprepared. But as our friends overseas demonstrate, the answer may be to prolong secondary education for everyone, or at least make that an option.

For you Oregonians of a Certain Age out there, the piece also contains a long-awaited national-media dig at the infamous Measure 5, otherwise known as the reason my good friend’s Rorbert Gilmore of a son (seriously, she won’t mind if I tell the entire Internet that he was taking 11th grade math as a 12-year-old 8th grader…will she?) isn’t allowed to take an extra math or science class even though he wants to (???) because they simply don’t have enough free seats for his butt in the school from which I mercifully graduated after four interminable years (JK, it wasn’t a bad place, just ugly).

Oh, I guess also 15-year-old me would be like WAIT YOU ARE AN ACTUAL JOURNALIST? And I’d be like SORT OF and then she’d be like WAIT, WHAT THE FUCK IS THE INTERNET?

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You Can Call Angela Merkel Whatever You Want–Just Call When You Said You Would

Today in Slate, I delight in recent events in Milan, where Vladimir Putin was late to a meeting with Angela Merkel so she fucking bailed on him, because Angela Merkel is a goddamned baller.

Last week, when pocket-sized despot and notorious tiger-misplacer Vladimir Putin was late to a meeting with Merkel in Milan, she straight-up bailed on him, because Angela Merkel, not unlike the immaculate Berlin-to-Frankfurt InterCity Express, operates on a tight schedule.

The piece then digresses into a fun brief lesson on the wonders of German Pünktlickheit, including what the Deutsche Bahn fleet will be doing this Sunday at 3 a.m. (You’ll NEVER BELIEVE WHAT IT IS, so CLICK HERE! Ha.)

You Won’t Believe What Happened Next

Academics are funny. Granted, not always in the “have a sense of humor” way, but in the “it makes me laugh ruefully when they say things” way. Over the past few weeks, I have disconnected myself from every major social network in existence: I deactivated (though did not delete) my Facebook page; I continue to ignore LinkedIn completely; just a few days ago, I surrendered my Twitter password to my husband (to use only for supervised intervals of link-posting when an article comes out), after getting into yet another Twirmish with a stranger, about pedestrian and bicycle rights, which went nowhere and had the sole effect of causing me to lose my cool in public, which I do on Twitter goddamned near every time I go on there, hence the new ban (I can’t delete my account outright for “branding” reasons; it is extraordinarily stupid but I need to be able to demonstrate that I have some 6000-ish followers so that strangers will pay me to write things). Anyway, yes, so there I was on Sunday fighting with some rando about why traffic lights are bicycle-and-walkie-averse.

This, granted, is an issue I think about a lot in St. Louis, as I get damn near run down by a motorist every day in my neighborhood, where apparently there are a lot of white people in expensive cars in a very big hurry back to West County, after eating whatever staggeringly mediocre and overpriced meal they managed to procure in this “restaurant destination” neighborhood. (There is good food to be had in St. Louis, friends, but with minor exceptions I won’t name because I don’t want to get banned from the places I do go, very little of it is to be had in the upscale eateries of the Central West End. What is to be had, however, are County people in to experience the “city life” most like the County they possibly can.)

Anyway, my point is (I have a point?) that before I straight ghosted from all online discussions of yours truly (one of the world’s most boring subjects, if you ask me), I noticed a bunch of academics accusing me, as they have for the past eight or nine months, of writing “clickbait” rather than well-thought-out arguments (hagiographies?) of academia, or “academe,” the term assholes use. (“Academician” is basically a litmus test word; anyone who uses it instead of “academic” can go fuck themselves forever.)

You know, “clickbait,” like an article on peer review I wrote several months ago that got a total of maybe 1,500 FB shares last I checked, which means it was read exclusively by the very academics who took it way the fuck too seriously. Sometimes I do write unintentional “clickbait,” like last week’s article on college in Germany, which (quite unexpectedly) went into the six figures. (That has also resulted in several messages a day from randos around the world, who are like PLEASE TELL ME HOW DO I APPLY FOR FREE SCHOOL IN GERMANY NOW SEND ME ALL INFORMATIONS AND TELL ME HOW TO DO IT, which prompts little more than a head shake.)

It always surprises me when something I write goes viral (now that I’m more or less off Twitter, it will be less traumatic when it usually does happen — the Stranger Twitter Sucker Punch is something I would not wish on anyone), and while I most certainly want people to read what I write, my primary goal is to share something I find important, and about which I have more than an average amount of knowledge to share. If I wanted to write actual clickbait, assholes, I sure as shit could. Are you kidding? If all I wanted was clicks, I’d pitch and write the following this week alone to the Daily Mail:

Mothers Who Don’t Breastfeed Should Go To Jail
If there’s one thing I know being seven months pregnant and having read at least three books by midwives and doulas (as well as the Internet, hello), it’s that making milk in one’s boobs is a “superpower,” everyone who does it deserves abject worship, and anyone who doesn’t is basically a child abuser, no matter what their life circumstances are. Cancer? Like that wasn’t caused by poor nutrition in the first place. Have to go to work five days after you give birth, because you’re a server at TGI Friday’s and they’ll fire you otherwise? That’s your fault for not caring enough about your offspring to be a rich, stay-at-home attachment parent. Formula feeding isn’t just worthy of constant, withering judgment — it should be a crime. (You see how easy this is to do if I wanted to do it?)

Half-Asian Kids Are Just Smarter And Better
My niece Milly is simply the smartest and best kid in the world. I mean, she is really cute, and also she knew how to write (OK fine, scribble) on a chalk board and erase what she wrote at 13 months. Since my niece is abjectly the best kid in the whole world and I am certainly not biased in thinking this, and since my niece’s mother is Vietnamese and her father is not, it follows that just like Amy Chua says, half-Asian kids are simply the best. My own child will have to spend her entire life coming to terms with not being half-Asian. (Really, this takes no time and zero effort, and other than making me feel dirty, barely requires a passing brain-glance.)

I Killed My Neighbors’ Dogs, And I’d Do It Again
All right, this is just wishful thinking; I’d never harm a dog. But my next-door neighbors are really irresponsible dog owners; they basically leave their multiple slavering Farfel-from-Seinfeld-style beasts (who get along neither with each other nor with the various and sundry varmints who haunt our block) unattended in the backyard for hours on end. If we live here long enough for our kid to be easily woken by the riotous cacophony of multiple Cujo-cries, those fuckers had better look forward to a cyanide steak, because THIS mama bear has her priorities straight, amirite? (OK, this one details a criminal act, so it might walk the line…)

Here’s How to Make Your Own Drugs
Just kidding, I don’t know how to make my own drugs. And if I did, do you think I’d share this knowledge with you? No, I wouldn’t, because then I couldn’t sell you drugs.

So listen, if I wanted to write clickbait, I would. I write about the least-clickbaity subject matter in the universe: Higher education. It is the literal opposite of “clickbait.” The fact that some academics view anything that isn’t a 10,000 word peer-reviewed treatise as junk (even though most of said treatises are never read by anyone) might be worth examining someday — but not in an article, alas, as it wouldn’t get any readers. Schwing! (Sorry, I lived on the edge and put some honey on my unsweetened soy yogurt this morning, so now I’m all hopped up. I guess I DO know how to make my own drugs!)

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!

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.