The Psychology of Buying Pants

There might be lucky people living on this planet who actually enjoy buying pants. I haven’t met them, though, and I’m not one of them. The entire process of choosing pants, trying them on, and then paying for them puts me in a vile mood.

So I have developed a psychological mechanism of alleviating the suffering that accompanies the act of pant-buying. I usually get a pair of pants that is guaranteed to be too big for me and try them on first. After that, I emerge from the fitting room and proudly announce, “These are too big! Can I have them in a smaller size?”

The strategy usually works great. Today, however, it backfired. I wear size 14, so I grabbed a pair of pants in size 16 and happily headed towards the fitting room, imagining how glad I will be to discover the unsurprising news that they are too big for me.

Imagine my horror when I discovered that I could barely drag these size 16 pants past my knees. The humiliation I experienced was intense. Thank God in heaven I had enough presence of mind left to examine the pants carefully. When I did that, I discovered that a cruelly careless store assistant had placed size 6 pants on the size 16 hanger.

I did end up buying two very nice (and extremely cheap) pairs of pants. But the trauma that this unfortunate mistake caused me is still with me.

More on 99% vs 1%

This is from a post on Womanist Musings that addresses the #Occupy movement:

I am so damn sick and tired of Occupy Wall Street. Every so called “progressive” I know of is riding the #OWS dick like it is going out of style. Me? I can’t stand the shit. For the most part, I see most of the protests that have been inspired by Occupy Wall Street to be strictly the work of some spoiled little (previously) rich brats who can’t handle the fact that the college education that mommy and daddy paid for did not get them the high paid cushy job that they truly believe they deserve. I would be willing to bet that almost all of those who are running around with signs about being the 99% would not give a FUCK about economic injustice if they were not directly impacted by it in the present moment. And I bet in five years, most of them will be sitting in some multinational corporation’s headquarters shaking their heads and chuckling about the days when they were “radicals”. . . So, no, I will not be joining in the mindless adulation shown in progressive circles towards Occupy Wall Street. I have better things to do with my time than join up with some folks who are upset because a tiny percentage of their privilege is slipping away.

I have to tell you, people, that even though I try hard to be open-minded about the protests and hope for the best, I honestly can’t help feeling the exact same way about them. I look at the footage of the protests and I don’t see my students from low-income blue-collar and farming families among the protesters. I don’t see my minority students. I don’t see immigrants such as myself represented at the protests. What I see (and what I’m trying as hard as I can to resist seeing) is what the blogger I quoted above sees.

I remember how when I was an undergrad a super-duper progressive acquaintance tried to berate me for not participating in the WTO protests. As the only child of a high-powered trial lawyer and a famous surgeon, he simply couldn’t envision a reality of a recent immigrant who had to work 3-4 part-time jobs at any given time to have at least a small portion of what his parents provided for him freely. The saddest thing about this discussion that this passionate defender of the rights of the dispossessed grew very petulant and snarky when I pointed out that I couldn’t even imagine affording a trip to Quebec City to participate in the protests and that being away from work for several days would create extreme economic hardship for me.

“It’s people like you who can’t see past their need to be efficient corporate robots who are making the world such an unfair place,” said this guy. Of course, his rich parents made it easy for him not to need to be an efficient corporate robot, which is something he conveniently preferred to forget whenever an opportunity to berate those who actually needed to work for their living arose.

I also remember trying to explain to fellow grad students why I couldn’t risk losing my student visa by participating in an anti-patriarchy civil disobedience protest. The only way I could describe these folks after that conversation is “spoiled rich brats.”

A reader of my blog wondered why my students don’t identify with the #Occupy protesters and only see them as an inspiration for Halloween costumes. I have to ask myself, though, who are those people who can stay at a protest for many days at a time, listening to beautiful speeches and waving slogans around. These are obviously not people who know that if they don’t work today they will not eat tomorrow. These are obviously not people who have family obligations. They definitely don’t have small children, younger siblings, or sick elderly people to take care of at home. So who are these folks, and how come they have so much free time and resources to be at the protests?

I’ve heard a suggestion that the participants of the #Occupy protests are unemployed. I find this explanation to be quite offensive to the unemployed, to be honest. I’ve been living with an unemployed person for a while now, and I can tell you from first-hand experience that unemployed people work extremely hard. They work for free a lot, trying to create opportunities for employment in the future, sometimes in a pretty distant future.

Something tells me, however, that this is a reality that many of the #Occupy protesters can neither understand nor feel any solidarity with.

I’m a Soviet Engineer

There is this old joke about a Soviet engineer. “I tell my wife I’m with my mistress,” he says. “And I tell my mistress that I’m with my wife. In the meanwhile, I just hide in a corner and work on my engineering designs.”

I’m that Soviet engineer, people. I’m sitting right in the middle of Montreal’s beautiful Old Port, the weather is lovely, there are many cool places to visit, great stores and restaurants to patronize, friends to meet, and relatives to greet.

I, however, am stuck at home with my computer doing my committee work.

Should I Use Rosetta Stone to Learn Spanish?

This is a question I get asked so often both by the readers of this blog and people I meet in real life that I decided to answer it here.

In my opinion of a person who has been teaching foreign languages for over 21 years and somebody who speaks two foreign languages on a daily basis, the answer is absolutely not. I consider Rosetta Stone to be a complete waste of time and money.

I love computers as much as the next person but the sad truth of the matter is that you cannot learn a language by staring at a computer screen. Rosetta Stone’s method is gimmicky but offers very little substance. I’d understand it if people bought it to learn Ukrainian, for example, because finding a native speaker of Ukrainian in most parts of the US is very hard. You can find a Spanish-speaking buddy, however, in most regions of this country.

If you need suggestions on how to learn to speak Spanish, here is a post I wrote about this.