To Love or To Be Loved?

Marina Tsvetayeva, my favorite Modernist poet, used to ask everybody she knew this question, “Do you prefer to love or to be loved?”

The answer “Both” was always rejected by her as conventional and boring. The answer “To be loved” she greeted with contempt. Only if one said “To love” did the poet reward that person with a handful of her silver rings. Tsvetayeva was poor to the point of near starvation, mostly because she didn’t understand the value of material objects and got rid of them the moment she got them.

I would have gotten a bunch of the poet’s rings for sure because my answer is also “To love.” Of course, it is very important to me that N loves me. However, when I met him, I was already 31 and I had been loved a lot. To be loved was not a very novel feeling. Besides, when you are loved by somebody you don’t love, the only feeling that produces is anger and envy at not being capable of feeling anything of the kind.

But, oh, how much I wanted to love! It was a dream of mine to experience this feeling. Nobody was good enough, though. Even the best people I met all had some small defect here and there. It is impossible to love somebody imperfect, somebody whose every gesture is not absolutely ideal. This is why I still perceive as a miracle this opportunity to love somebody fully and completely.

Email Strike

I have a mountain of emails and Facebook messages in need of an urgent answer. But I feel hugely unwilling to take care of them today. Instead, I want to stay in bed with my books, Kindle games, and blog comments.

Dear everybody, please wait until tomorrow. I promise I will start writing back then. Today I’m on an email strike.

Office Flirtation

How do you know that your office flirtation has gone too far? When people who come by the office on business are made to feel so uncomfortable that they prefer to leave without having resolved the issue that brought them to the office.

I’m no prude, believe me, but I’m in a hurry, and it’s very annoying to see people exhibit their flirtation instead of helping me fill out the paperwork.

P.S. This is getting seriously disturbing. I have a feeling that if I weren’t here bothering them, they would start undressing. I don’t want to stand in the way of anybody’s sexual fulfillment, so maybe I should just leave.

P.P.S. Seriously, why can’t this all be done after I get my papers back and just clear out of here? The room is very small, I have nowhere much to stare other than my phone. This is especially unnerving because I happen to know the husband of one of the participants.

Who Undermines Women?

Reader Benoni writes:

I’d imagine if people were so concerned with making you stay within the boundaries of your gender role, they’d be praising your decision to have a child and also encourage you to give up your career, or something.

I believe, however, that the desire to undermine women works on a subconscious level. With the kind of life I lead, I don’t encounter freaks who believe in “traditional roles.” People are simply bothered on a deep, existential level by women having lives, and can’t verbalize what bothers them. So they erupt in anger.

A few years ago, I was kicked off a blog after leaving a single comment there. The blog’s author claimed that female scholars can’t do research because “research is effectively gendered male.” I commented, in the most polite manner I’m capable of, that everybody at my department was extremely encouraging of my research, kept telling me to concentrate on it, and praising me for every achievement. Where was this huge, hostile apparatus that was supposed to prevent me from doing research? I asked. Why wasn’t I seeing it? The author got very angry, accused me of being a man, and I had to leave. This is how I discovered that the apparatus in question was not located in the Dean’s office. It was located among scholars themselves.

The blog’s author was a female scholar who claimed to be a feminist. Obviously, she has no conscious wish to make women give up their careers. Still, she works extremely hard to persuade female scholars that we will all fail, the world is against us, and scholarship is just not our thing. By the way, I have never heard the ideas she expresses with the persistence of a crazed parakeet voiced by any male chauvinist. Ever.

I never looked at her blog since then because her efforts to scare women into abandoning all hope of having thriving academic careers are too disturbing.

People who consciously and directly promote “traditional gender roles” (the inverted commas are here to remind everybody that said “tradition” is completely spurious) are not very dangerous. They are not that smart and have zero hope of achieving anything. The real danger comes from those who pay lip service to feminism and equality but who work hard to subvert the goals they claim to be supporting.

Last One, I Promise

I don’t want to write obsessively about this, so I promise this will be the last post for a while on the subject of people hating pregnant women. Still, I really want to share this.

There is a student I mentor who is the nicest, quietest, politest, gentlest creature in the universe. Let’s call her Jessica.

Jessica is one of the most brilliant students I’ve ever had but she is very shy and rarely speaks in class. This week, she had to be supervised in her teaching by a colleague who was in her last days of pregnancy. The colleague went into labor earlier than expected, and couldn’t make it to supervise Jessica. So Jessica wrote an extremely pissy email to the Chair, starting with the words, “I want to express my anger and disappointment.”

In all the years that I’ve known Jessica I would have never suspected her capable of this kind of annoyance for absolutely no reason. A year and a half ago, I also had to miss this type of supervision for a far less respectable reason than going into labor, and everything was fine. We simply rescheduled it.

One would think that when a hugely pregnant professor doesn’t show up for a fairly unimportant meeting, an appropriate reaction (from a female student, by the way) would be to express concern and wonder if everything is OK with the professor health-wise. However, this ultra-peaceful, quiet student erupted in “anger and disappointment,” emotions that I had no idea she was even capable of experiencing in a professional setting.

Somebody needs to study this phenomenon.