Yes, I’m in a Crabby Mood

What I miss on this blog is the mood update option, like they reportedly have on Facebook.

The first day of classes did not go as planned. First, I discovered at the worst possible moment that somebody messed up and let me down in a very big way. Then, I had to spend the entire day redoing a shitload of work to correct their mess-up. I hate it when people mess with my plans. I’m extremely well-organized in everything that concerns my work, and it annoys me when anybody interferes.

And now my beautiful, perfectly planned syllabus is a flaming mess.

And there is a book that came out tonight that I’d been waiting for since 2010, but I couldn’t read it as planned because I had to correct somebody else’s huge mess-up.

And at this moment I can’t even enjoy the book because I’m still annoyed about how the day went.

And I couldn’t work on my midpoint tenure dossier because of redoing a shitload of work.

And the professorial bathroom has not been repaired since last semester, which annoys me.

So I made reservations for a Peruvian restaurant for Saturday. The really great restaurant in St. Louis I visited last time wasn’t featured on the blog because it was romantically dark and the pictures of food didn’t come out right. Instead, I’ll try to take photos of Peruvian food.

We’ve been to the only Peruvian restaurant of Chicago, and it wasn’t good at all. We have Peruvians in the family, so I know good Peruvian food from fake Peruvian food. Now let’s see how St. Louis stacks up in this area.

P.S. One good thing, though, is that I’m not teaching freshmen this semester. And what joy it is to have normal, alive, curious, engaged students for a change. They kept asking questions and even laughing at my jokes (in Spanish). After a semester in silent classroom filled with comatose freshmen, I feel transported to heaven.

OK, I feel less crabby now that I’ve shared. Blogging helps.

Towards a Happy Personal Life: Maybe It Will Just Happen

The first step in making meaningful changes in your life involves gaining a better understanding of yourself in essential areas that impact your life. This self-knowledge can provide you with direction as you try to maximize your efforts at change. Self-knowledge can also help you be more efficient and focused — and more effective — in producing change because you’ll know precisely what you need to work on.

What I find very strange is that people have no problem working on, say, their Spanish or their writing skills. But in the realm of their personal life, they just sit there expecting things to happen magically on their own. And even the fact that nothing all too positive (or nothing at all) has happened on its own for almost a decade is not an indication to them that maybe something needs to be done.

I know quite a few people who keep whining and whining and whining about how they are lonely and miserable and everybody they meet turns out to be a jerk. Yet, do they do anything to figure out what’s wrong? Oh, no. In the realm of their personal lives, things need to happen on their own.

If a person goes to 20 job interviews but gets rejected every single time, chances are s/he will work hard on figuring out what it is that s/he is doing wrong, will work on his or her CV, try to pick up useful skills, etc. Will this hypothetical person keep going to interviews without even trying to understand why they aren’t working out? Better yet, will s/he just sit at home, waiting for an employer to find him or her through some miraculous intervention of benevolent forces?

The stupid romance novels and movies are to blame, folks. That and this horrible “everybody is special” and “love yourself the way you are” slogans. And this other one that goes something like “there is someone for every one”, or whatever. Brrrrrr.

I used to know this guy who was permanently alone and “there is someone for every one” was his favorite expression. His second favorite expression was “all women are bitches.” Of course, it was very obvious to everybody around him that had he resolved the issue making him want to denigrate women, he would not have needed to console himself with fantasies of some hypothetical woman appreciating him in spite of everything. But who needs all that hard work when you can just sit there, hoping that things will work out somehow in the end?

Language Bullies

A scholar who is not a native speaker of English was telling a story to me and to another colleague. Her English is phenomenal with maybe a tiny trace of an accent. As a non-native speaker, though, she sometimes uses expressions that sound a little quaint. This makes her speech very distinctive and enjoyable.

The colleague, however, was not appreciative of this scholar’s slightly foreign style of speaking English. He kept interrupting her with mini-lectures.

“I can see you don’t know this,” he’d say in the midst of an interesting story the scholar was trying to share, “but this expression you just used is outdated. If you’d used it in the thirties, it would make sense. Nowadays, however, the correct usage would be. . .”

The scholar is a very polite person and took these remarks in her stride.

I, however, am not. I see people who keep interrupting you to correct your language as bullies. As a language teacher, I never interrupt even my own students when they speak.

So I have invented the following formula I use to shut up language bullies.

“Oh,” I say, “I totally understand that you don’t want to hear me speak your language since I do it so poorly. So from now on, let’s speak mine instead.”

And I switch into Russian. This cures language bullies from their unhealthy linguistic hubris very fast.


A University of British Columbia student who once lived in Montreal was found stabbed and strangled with her hands tied behind her back near a Mexican beach, in a slaying local news media say may be linked to organized crime.

Ximena Osegueda, 39, a Mexican national who had become a Canadian citizen, was working on her doctorate in Hispanic studies in the town of Huatulco, about 500 kilometres southeast of Mexico City, when she went missing on Dec. 13.

Ximena was a wonderful person, people. A scholar, a thinker, a fighter. She did her BA in Hispanic Studies at Concordia University in Montreal and her MA at McGill University.

This is a horrible tragedy.

Towards a Happy Personal Life: A Step-by-Step Guide Out of Loneliness

I believe that in order to repair one’s personal life, it is first necessary to find out where the problem lies. Some people are lonely because they never meet anybody they like. Others meet plenty of people who interest them but their feelings are always unrequited. There are those who don’t have these issues but can never get past the second date, those who get abandoned right after they first have sex with a new partner, those who have many short-term relationships but can never translate them into long-term ones, those who keep getting cheated on, those who keep cheating, and so on. All of these folks have completely different issues and should look for completely different solutions. Lumping them all together under the umbrella label of “lonely” is not productive.

So here is the algorithm of how to define where your specific problem lies:

1. Do you meet people who attract you on a regular basis? If yes, move on to question 2. If no, ask yourself the following questions:

Is it possible you are depressed? Do you have serious health issues? Is your sexual drive OK? Are you taking any medication that depresses sex drive? Have you experienced some serious trauma (physical or psychological) recently? Are you a victim of sexual violence? Was there any form of sexual abuse in your childhood? 

These are all very serious issues that need to be addressed, confronted and resolved before you can expect to proceed any further.

2. Do the people you find attractive normally find you attractive, too? If yes, move on to question 3 (that will appear in the next post in the series). If no, consider the following:

A tendency towards unrequited feelings means you have a severe reluctance or fear of being in a relationship. Only you know where that comes from. I had this issue for a while and, in my case, it was a terror that any form of a mutual interest would lead me into a very serious long-term relationship I wasn’t ready for. This is why I kept choosing “impossible men.” They posed no danger for me. If your situation is at all similar to mine, giving yourself a permission to have many short-term flings in rapid succession really helps.

Just remember: this isn’t bad luck or coincidence. This also doesn’t mean that you are unattractive and nobody ever wants you. All that this string of unrequited episodes means is that you are choosing people who will not want you on purpose. There are tons of folks who are attracted to you right now but you are not seeing them. You are fulfilling your need for rejection. And only you can know why you have this need. The moment you figure out why you do this, you will immediately discover all of those people who do find you very attractive.

And we all still remember that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be single, right? These posts are aimed only at those who don’t want to be single and are interested in exploring how they could improve their dating lives.

I will continue the algorithm in the following posts in the series.

Quote of the Week

The real danger is that the departments of English are to become service departments, functioning in the name of commerce. Across the board, those subdisciplines which have moved in during literature’s waning hegemony (technical writing, cultural studies, composition/rhetoric, linguistics/TESOL) can all easily be articulated as pure service functions to the educational factory’s imperative to get people ready to work.

Creative writing’s sad responsibility in this eventuality then would be to administer the last rites of the imagination to children damaged beyond redemption on their way to the great maw of America, Inc.

Curtis White, Monstrous Possibility (1998).

Cool, huh? On the one hand, one can’t deny that the attempts to commercialize the Humanities have done incalculable damage to the system of higher education. On the other hand, though, you can practically hear White gnashing his teeth at the idea that all those proles who see having a job as a sine qua non of their existence dare to invade his ivory tower. Unless you have a trust fund that makes work a choice rather than a necessity on a par with breathing, White has no use for you.

This quote brings to mind all of those folks in my grad school for rich kids who kept telling me that the need to graduate and find a job as soon as possible meant I could never be a real scholar. Precisely because I remember only too well the political allegiances of the people who claimed one couldn’t develop intellectually without a trip to Europe at least once a year, I was not at all surprised to discover that Curtis White is a Marxist. Nobody despises the working people quite as much as Marxists.

Towards a Happy Personal Life: Learning to Be Happy on Your Own

Let’s now continue the fascinating discussion started by blogger Miriam:

Similarly, people are expected to be “happy on their own” before they can be dateable. That’s preposterous. If you’re 100% happy being single, why would you need a serious partner in the first place?

As we discussed in the previous post in this series, wanting “a serious partner” is in itself deeply problematic. Wanting to have a serious partnership with your boyfriend James or your girlfriend Lisa is, I believe, the only healthy approach. Nobody can be expected to be “a” partner for you. A desire for a partnership or a relationship should not come before a desire for an actual human being. If it does, you are not ready for a relationship. At least, not for a healthy one. You can, of course, find another seeker of “a serious partner” and get involved with them. I can guarantee, though, that within a very short time you will drive each other nuts with endless demands, nagging, sulks, fights, etc.

Now, let’s address the issue of whether you should learn to be happy on your own before becoming ready to date. In my opinion, yes, absolutely. Looking for a person to solve your psychological issues and fill a vacuum in your life is wrong. If you do that, it means you are planning to use a person before you’ve even met them. Another person can never solve your issues and fill your vacuum. No matter how much they give you, it will never be enough.

Recently, I quoted a post by a young woman who met a man of her dreams. They were very obviously made for each other. However, she had severe emotional issues she tried to resolve through him. As we can all guess, they are not together any more. Using one’s partner as an emotional crutch, a psychotherapist, a parental figure, or a wet-nurse is never a good idea.

I maintain that the best-case scenario is one where you are having a great time being single, then fall in love with a person, and have an even better time being partnered with them. A moment comes in one’s life when you say to yourself, “I have so much, why not share it with someone?” And from there a healthy relationship will grow. If, however, you say, “My existence is so incomplete. Let me get what’s missing out of another person (whom I’ve never even met but whose role in my life is already defined by my unfulfilled needs)”, I can’t see happiness ensuing as a result.