Saturday, March 26, 2005

We are not married

Republishing an old journal entry about gay marriage made me want to talk a bit about how the "dyke life" issue of queer love interacts with living on the "wrong side of the tenure tracks." As the countdown begins to the end of what is probably my last semester as an English Professor, I experience sensations of terror on a daily, hourly basis. Mostly this is not about the end of teaching. I look sadly at my perfected course materials for Queer Theory, Modern British Literature, and my great course on Thatcherism and Contemporary Brit Culture. I have stacks of file folders from graduate school, from my dissertation, from my book research, from courses in Women's Studies and Critical Theory, all to go in the trash as I make way for a new life. But this does not fill me with terror. I cruise the job listings, wait for news from law schools, and find, to my delight, that there are actually jobs on the internet for people with writing and teaching skills like mine. It strikes me that maybe I won't have to clerk at Whole Foods after all.

No, the terror comes from lack of support. Not money, but support. For example, domestic partner benefits. My relationship is not recognized by the federal government, my state government, or my domestic partner's employer. When my health insurance runs out in two months, the university she works for will not cover me, nor can I retrain at her school for reduced tuition. We cannot have a child unless she bears it, because only then will there be access to prenatal care, childbirth coverage, and health care for the baby.

Then there are less tangible issues of social support. We are not married. I live with my partner at her pleasure, and she at mine. A mere lease is our only officially shared financial responsibility. If my situation becomes too much for either of us to bear, one of us can simply leave, or kick the other out. Together almost two years, we are seen by our families as girlfriends, not spouses, or affianced, or potentially affianced. Our families are kind; they recognize that we love each other. But we are not married. If we split up, we will not have been divorced.

When I was in graduate school, it took years for my then-girlfriend and I to be recognized as a couple. At least five, I would say. Even so, nobody in either of our families blinked, or expressed worry, or offered support when we were forced to take our first jobs hundreds of miles away from each other. Initially my new department in Florida promised my partner, a director in the writing program at Grad School, a job directing composition studies. My partner quit her job, but then, just before summer, my new department rescinded its promise to her. Word was that some members of the department thought it wasn't fair to treat my girlfriend more preferentially than other faculty wives with Yale PhD's, wives who wouldn't be considered for spousal hires. And yes, it was mostly wives. Even worse, my new school had no domestic partner benefits. Unlike the "wives," she couldn't have babies or go to law school as part of my job perks. When my new department hired someone else to direct composition, my domestic partner of eight years took a one-year job a thousand miles away, and we divided up our stuff in August. I remember watching Princess Diana's funeral while sitting on a beach chair in my empty, roach-besieged apartment in Florida, waiting for the movers to arrive with my half of our things.

That was the beginning of the end of our relationship. I took a job in Big Midwestern City the next year and we moved back in together, but she left academia and eventually moved to Boston to pursue a publishing career. My new university didn't have domestic partner benefits either. We never were a couple in the eyes of my job; if you're gay, it's every man for himself.

These are the kind of things that fill me with terror. My girlfriend took me to Paris last week--a present from her to help me get through the months of uncertainty this spring. Paris was warm, full of history and culture, and unbearably straight. Boys and girls, men and women kissed each other on bridges, in church gardens, in restaurants, in the middle of the street. Sometimes they kissed each other for hours, standing or sitting in the same place. No one cared. My girlfriend and I walked through Paris, afraid even to hold hands, and were still stared at, whispered about, looked at oddly by teenagers, tourists, fellow diners. Once I heard a women say the word "lesbians" to her boyfriend, pointing us out, though more out of curiosity than anything more menacing. We were oddities. Sometimes we were "madamoiselles," though she is thirty-five and I am forty-two years old. While I liked the implication of youth, I sensed more the lack of status in the address to us as unmarried women in a sea of heterosexual couples, all trudging, as Virginia Woolf characterizes them in Orlando, side by side, bound inexorably together.

In the airport a man interrogated us sharply at the ticket counter when we went up together to get our bording passes. "Are you related?" he asked pointedly, in a voice that implied he knew the answer. "No." As if to say, I thought not.

I think maybe we are pilgrims. Like the voyagers in Watteau's "Embarcation to Cythera," we set sail as often as we can to that sunny island where a statue of Aphrodite, garlanded in flowers, presides over all the couples in the grass who have made the effort to come and see her. All of them look happy. They seem reluctant to leave. One suspects, looking at their enchanted smiles and the tender way they touch each other as they prepare to leave their paradise, that none of them are married.

The marriage thing

Thought I would re-post this from an old live journal entry, since some of my (very kind) friends liked it the first time, and because it's important to emphasize the "dyke life" part of my blog subtitle as much as, or maybe much more than, the "on the other side of the tenure tracks" part. Although they are both so related, actually. Hmm. Maybe I'll write more about that thought in my next post.

From a December, 2004 Live Journal Musing:

A few days ago my girlfriend announced to me over breakfast that she was against getting married. It wasn't that she didn't love me, or that she didn't want to be with me forever. It's just that she had already been through the humiliations of getting divorced once and she never wanted to go through it again. We could be together in a cool, Susan-Sarandon-Tim-Robbins kind of way. No marriage. No divorce.

Cool, I said. I pointed out that most people only get married for benefits anyway, like my brother and his girlfriend, who own a house together and are only getting married to share her cheaper health care. I tried to sound accomodating, agreeable. I think I wanted to BE accomodating, or in perfect agreement. Besides, we have already been lovers a year-and-half, and there is no reason to believe things won't go on pretty much as they are. But the conversation made me feel sad nevertheless.

See, my girlfriend WAS married before, for four years in her early twenties to a Mormon man. They were both virgins, married in the Temple. Accounts of their sexual life vary in her telling, which is fond but always dispassionate. Their secrets, the deep intimacies between sexual partners, are theirs alone, as they are with most lovers. She started graduate school at BYU while he finished up the degree that had been interrupted--as is customary--when he took two years off for his mission. They had a reception, a honeymoon, a house together. They had friends and took people in. When she had to go across the country for a PhD, he went with her. They loved each other. But it was time to have children. She wanted a career, and was beginning to question the church, her faith, the inevitability of her life as a Mormon wife and mother. One night, she slept with a friend from BYU, a woman. She left him. Members of the church showed up to help him move. She moved alone, on her own out into the unprincipled world.

When I held her in my arms in those first passionate days of ours together she was still with that woman, leaving her in her heart, leaving Mormonism finally and for good, but still with her. I was with someone, too. We were both tired, though. We turned to each other one night, and with substantial surprise, kissed and promptly fell out of our five-year friendship into a steamy, urgent love. I remember holding her in my car, the way lovers do who are social outsiders for some reason or another--they are too young, their parents don't approve, they are gay, they are married to other people. She wanted to promise me things in the furtive darkness then--marriage, children. Things she had wanted for so long, or thought she had wanted, but had renounced, or thought she had to renounce, because she was a lesbian. I was surprised, but thrilled. Women still can't get married most places, but I liked the compliment of being thought worthy. I hadn't imagined ever being with someone who wanted children, either. The idea was attractive. I felt suddenly serious, grown up, masculine. Her femininity filled me with the desire to be strong, to be worthy.

Fantasies are good for relationships. In those early days of the trauma of mutual breakups, of different residences, separate finances, hostile friends, guilt, sexual bonding, my shaky job situation, her shaky job situation, we comforted each other with dreams of belonging and foreverness. She enjoyed the game of what she would be wearing when we danced together at our wedding. I started planning dance lessons, outdoor venues, musical options. She came home with me to New Hampshire and decided we would be married there. I went home to meet her family in California and knew them immediately as members of my family I hadn't met until then. We spun our dreams between us and when I lost my job, we introduced a new element in the romantic narrative: a house of our own. Losing my job meant the possibility of finding a new career that would pay better, demand more from me, make possible things I couldn't have imagined us having. I could go to law school. We could build a bigger life together than i had ever imagined for myself alone.

I don't know when the narrative started to change, but it did, gradually. I think it was when same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts, and we stood together for the first time in a church in Boston singing hymns as part of the celebration. For me the celebration was matter-of-fact, neither stirring nor alienating, mirroring my lifelong indifference to the mainstream Protestantism within which I was raised, and which always felt more civic than spiritual to me growing up. But I could feel her discomfort. I heard the duty in her voice when she tried to sing the hymns, a duty that I felt turning into resentment, and then, in the quavery edges of her muted verses, the faintest stirrings of horror and despair.

We have talked a lot about gay marriage since then. Sometimes we talk about her marriage, the disappointing wedding night, the attempt to build a relationship between strangers, the kindness that can be between even two people who have nothing in common. She used to speak of these things often; now she is slowly burying them again. This is probably inevitable. She still looks for gay and lesbian couples in the Times Sunday Styles section of the paper, hoping to find that the paper has finally picked one for its "featured couple." They never do. Sometimes when we talk about these things I remember my friends Jim and Lisa from graduate school, their beautiful wedding where the rabbi exhorted us all to support them, support their love together, help them be strong and loving in the face of the world's temptations and disappointments. I remember he said a marriage should be like a tent that shelters but is open on all sides, as the huppa is open, to all who seek their love and friendship. I wondered then what it would be like to stand up with my lover and be supported, but we were not supported, and she is gone now these many years. I wonder now what it would be like to stand up with my lover and be supported, have those words said for us, look into the faces of friends and family who wish us well.

I think you can be together in a Susan-Sarandon-Tim-Robbins kind of way for a long time, forever even. Haven't gay people always done this anyway? I like that they choose each other every day. I like that so many people wish them well even though they have never been legally married. I like that they hold out for love, for outsiderness, for freedom and flexibility. I like that they eschew a certain kind of heterosexual privilege, even though they mostly get it anyway. I like that there are models out there of lovers who make something strong together without the state's blessing, models that help all of us who want to be in a couple imagine something strong and healthy that can be made with another person. I imagine them holding up their own tent without the blessing of a rabbi, or a JP. Their hair is always tousled and they look casual and fabulous together.

But I also imagine a wedding that is ours, a honeymoon we go on together, bringing our disparate friends and family together at a big party for us, for love, for believing in dreams and living in dreams that nourish us whether or not they come true. I imagine the celebration of happiness, of daring to hope in a public way that love can last. I imagine my father and aunt and my parents' friends who live nearby and who I grew up with shyly, awkwardly wishing me well, understanding that while I have made my life mean something on my terms, my meaning also resonates in ways they can recognize with the responsibilities and choices they have shouldered and made. I imagine a reception in the horse field at my childhood home, and I picture myself tripping across the gravel road a few short yards to my mother's grave nearby to bring her a glass of champagne. I imagine shedding a few tears that my mother and my lover never met. I imagine in this moment remembering the loves I have had, the life I have lived until now. I imagine feeling suddenly happy for even the heartbreaks and setbacks that have brought me to this place in my life, this milestone, this happiness. I can see the blue twilight, the white tent with light and music spilling out into the August night, the flushed faces of partygoers enjoying the open bar. I look around at my family and feel supremely old, and as young as someone still in high school. I look down at my lover, and she is laughing in my arms, and we are dancing to a song that suddenly seems perfect, both wishing that this night could last forever.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Paris is really the straightest place I've ever been, and that includes growing up in rural New Hampshire. It's still pretty though. Notre Dame is a giant beast, maybe alien, maybe dead, whose vast carcass broods over one side of the city. One night walking by we saw the waxing moon shining through long thin gargoyles on the towers of the church. We found a Canadian bar that serves Molsons and burgers. Some churches are small and dark and holy, mostly because the Virgin hangs out there, and she gets lots of candles. Other churches are big and official and not so special. Notre Dame and the Pantheon, both so beautiful, manage to coexist in this city of contradictions, one so long and dark and medieval, one so tall and rational and full of light.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Prof. Dirty Lesbian

Just in case you're wondering whether or not a climate of intolerance is alive and well on our campuses, I have two gems to report today live from my University. The first is graffiti scrawled on a picture on my door of George Bush. The picture was given to me by a student. Below the picture is a close-up of the ring on his finger, which is a picture of the ring from the Lord of the Rings. Underneath the ring is the slogan, "Frodo has Failed." You may have seen this circulating on the internet last year. I believe it is supposed to be funny. This weekend someone drew a halo on Bush and scrawled the words "Prof. Dirty Lesbian" underneath his picture. I'm not sure whether or not this means Bush is indeed a professional dirty lesbian, or whether some Republican out there is objecting to my hygiene. But I would like to ask, is this much different from a swastika?

Second, a senior faculty member in the Gender and Women's Studies program here asked a graduate student getting advice about a Queer Theory orals reading list, "How do you expect to get a job?"

That's all for today. More hilarity will surely follow!!!!

Sunday, March 13, 2005


What does it mean to be really alive? Not living in the motions of liveness, but really, really alive? An op-ed piece in the NYT today bemoaned the end of analogy as a section on the SAT, and the demise of logical analogy generally in U. S. thought. And it got me thinking that it's not as if other kinds of thought are alive and well right now, either. The world is full of deadwood--the kind academia defines as resting on one's laurels, or promise of laurels, someone who gets paid to be an intellectual but who has decided for one reason or another to stop working. Academics are pretty generous about deadwood; to them, this means you have stopped publishing. But it's possible to publish and still be deadwood, to produce the appearance of thinking but never say anything really challenging or new. At its most benign and ridiculous, deadness produces a Baby Jane Hudson show on the beach, an obvious caricature of an outmoded greatness posing as itself. At its worst, deadness sadistically terrorizes the colleagues who are its captive audience, desperately extracting protestations of its continued relevance via the academic equivalent of a baked rat entree--non-renewal, reappointment, hiring, promotion, letters of recommendation, salary increases, or dissertation sign-offs.

Anyone who knows anything about art history knows that "academic" painting is synonymous with safe, staid, bourgeois notions of the proper themes and techniques for art. Nineteenth-century french painting is full of very good academic paintings--and brilliant and innovative works that never made it into academic shows. The Orsay museum in Paris, divided as it is into great paintings on both sides of the divide, testifies to the inability of institutionalized creativity to accurately distinguish greatness.

English departments--bastions of institutionalized creativity--are full of "Sixth Sense" scholars, the kind who don't know they're dead because they continue to get invitations to do keynote addresses so they can say the same thing they've been saying for the last ten or twenty years. It is difficult in such anti-intellectual times as these to critique what looks to be intellectual exchange, even when it becomes glaringly obvious that no such exchange is really going on. The rise of the pre-fab conference in post- 9/11 times is a testament to this, its star-studded showcase characterized less by an open call for papers than by a rigidly hierarchical display of yesterday's lineups. The demise of queer theory owes at least as much to these faux forums, where big-name professors are carefully selected by big-name universities to provide the illusion of vibrant intellectual community. These conferences are mainly for the students and professors of said institutions, paid for by them and advertised to almost nobody. These forums are depressingly similar: academic "stars" deliver formulaic talks to awestruck audiences. Audiences some to see the stars, and crane their necks every time somebody opens the door to a conference room. I used to be in those audiences, looking around.

A friend of mine who is one of these "stars" tells me she has lost faith in academia. I believe she believes she has lost some faith, and feels solidarity with the women and queers and disabled Marxists who are getting denied tenure for making the old white guys feel uncomfortable. I think she is feeling the institutional belt tightening around her neck, cutting off her words. I had lunch with my Marxist friend today. She is still angry about what happened to her. She is right to be angry, but I couldn't help thinking as I was listening to her how much better it is to be away from people who not only control your job, but also want to control your thoughts, to make you control your thoughts, to wear down your capacity for resistance by making you help them produce their Potemkin villages of so-called free intellectual exchange. As my father used to say, "You'll eat it and you'll LIKE it." It's bad enough to eat it, but why in the world must we LIKE it?

Just before our ex-provost left our school for a presidency elsewhere (where she has since resigned), she hired a celebrated provocateur to come in as Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences. I spoke with her one day at a new faculty reception. The conversation lasted maybe a half-hour, but it made me feel important. She was extremely proud of herself. She couldn't believe how clever she had been to hire him. She went to a Seven Sisters school. We talked about that too. She was extremely proud of that. I went to a Seven Sisters school. She made me think I belonged in her world because I was sortof like her. I really liked that. I decided I liked her.

By the time Famous Dean actually arrived at here she was long gone. But the land mines she had planted with his hire were live ones. I remember the newspaper sunday magazine did a survey of area professors to see what they thought about the Famous Dean hire. They interviewed people from the top-tier private schools in the city. There were no faculty from my school in the piece. It's as if there were no faculty to ask, or they weren't worth asking. I wrote to the newspaper to say this. They published my letter. A colleague of mine came up to me and said he heard I had written a letter about not liking Famous Dean. I told him I hadn't said anything about not liking him. What I didn't like was the newspaper. I didn't know Famous Dean. I had no reason to care about him one way or another.

What a difference a couple of years makes. Dean came to campus and immediately started to lure stars to come to here by offering them large--some might say, overly large--salaries. He hired friends. I remember one friend delivered a job talk rife with scorn for identity politics. His talk quoted Faulkner, and the many quotes he cited seemed unusually fond of the "N" word. Undeterred by the presence of several faculty of color, who in their dumbfounded disbelief were more respectful than they should have been, he said the whole word. A lot. As if Faulkner's use of it at the height of Jim Crow somehow justified its ventriloquism, over and over.

Say a racial or sexist slur over and over. Listen to it. Listen to the message it sends. It says, you are never safe. It says, you don't belong in my world unless you leave your identity behind you. It says, the price of the ticket is my price, will always be, my price.

I didn't worry, though, because I figured the department would object to someone who thought it was provocative to say the "N" word so many times in a forum. Friend airily dismissed objections. His arrogance during the question-and-answer session and at later social gatherings clearly implied that anyone who disagreed with him was simply too stupid to get his point. Many people found this insensitive and disturbing. I found it disturbing. This was not intellectual exchange. This was provocation and hostility masquerading as intellectual rigor. It was nasty. It felt really, really nasty.

When faculty objected to this hire, this climate, at a meeting that Famous Dean attended, Famous Dean pulled off the gloves and flexed his iron fists. He said we had to eat it. He said that if my department refused to endorse the hire he wanted, he didn't know what more he could guarantee for said department. But the best part was, he said we had to LIKE it. He said that if we voted to bring Friend and co. here, we had to be supportive of them. I couldn't help admiring his unabashed blackshirt tactics. He was a fascist, to be sure, but an honest fascist. The baseball bat was on the table. And the senior faculty, for the most part, crumbled and scattered like leaves in a winter wind.

Last fall the AAUW told us all--surprise--that sexism was rampant in the universities. Now the right wants to eliminate even the pretense of liberal thought that masquerades as politics in academic discourse. I say, let 'em take over. Let the rich Republicans (and Democrats) come in and work for no money and teach kids from bad high schools how to care about reading. I'm all for it.

The snow is melting. It's time for this dyke to get the hell out of this conference room, this paper-mache village, this one-horse town. Somewhere out there, people are starting to wake up, maybe.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Empty Hallway

The hall is empty now. Two doors down used to be the office of my friend, the one-armed Marxist. She was awesome. She used to sit in there and do union stuff. Her walls were covered with red and black soviet-type posters. Her book shelves were full of continental theorists I'd always meant to read. She tried to organize a faculty union here. She was always writing emails to other Marxists. She'd knock on my door and sort of hum my name in a musical question. Or I'd go knock on her door and say, I know you're in there! And she'd open it and let me in. At first her door was always open. Later, she just closed it all the time, and only let her friends in.

When she left she gave me a bunch of her books. They're still taking up one whole chair in my office. I haven't figured out exactly what to do with them.

These days I usually forget what it felt like when she lived on my hallway. Most people close their doors now. A few bedraggled undergraduates sit outside some offices, their faces yellow and lost-looking in the flourescent light. Famous Dean used to walk up and down the corridor in a black t-shirt last semester, looking dazed. He moved his office to the end of the hall when he retired as the Dean. He had it carpeted. Twice. He didn't it like the first time. He has upholstered chairs in there too. I wonder what it must be like to have money to burn like that. I have a rug from Ikea that cost 19 dollars. It is black with white circles. I wish he would pay to have paper towels in the bathrooms. For getting off the chalk dust. That would feel luxurious.

I haven't seen much of him this term. Last semester, though he really did seem, well, out of water. His element. Almost vulnerable. He walked up and down those empty hallways like he had lost something. His face was yellow under the lights. I've served on orals committees with him and we've never spoken to each other. He turned me down for tenure. I must have walked by him many times. He has a steady small gait, and a fixed gaze.

One day he said hello to me. Startled, I said hello back, and stumbled to the safety of my office.

It was very odd.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

After The Call

Sometimes I think about The Call. Mine came from a man in his fifties who once began his advice to a friend of mine, also in her fifties, with the phrase: "If you were my daughter . . ." The man came after I took the job. I took this job because of that woman, actually. I thought she was cool because she wore a watch on her prosthetic arm, right about where the wrist would be. I thought she was tenured because she had gray hair and lots of authority, and she was smart. She was a Marxist. I taught Queer Theory. We talked about British Modernism, labor politics, sexuality. She was just down the hall from me. They fired her the year before they fired me.

We both knew it was coming. We knew our days were numbered when the Men came, the Big Men from ivy schools. They smelled money. Our university was poor, the city campus of a state system notoriously loathe to spend anything on urban education. Our students are poor. Our buildings are concrete Eastern Bloc. Big hires are always cheaper than building dorms and classrooms for putting a place on the map, and our provost knew it. She landed a big fish. He hired his friends. They sprawled out with their big paychecks and their Chronicle articles and the wives who used to be their graduate students. They poopooed identity politics. They drove out the African American scholars. Anyone who could leave left. But my friend and I were stuck there. We couldn't land other jobs. There weren't any jobs. We were old. We wanted to stay in our city. We were toast.

We're still friends though.

It's Sunday. Sundays can be a drag because there is pressure to do something with the rest of your weekend, when really all you want to do is sit in the sun next to the plants and read, or maybe check email, or shop for stuff you won't ever bid on on eBay. My girlfriend is all showered and lipsticked, ready to go to lunch with friends from work. She sweeps through in a breeze of perfume and complains about the dust in the corners of the room. I'm still in my pajamas, sitting by the plants with my computer. I wish she would go. If she's going to leave me alone all Sunday I wish she would just go. But I wish she would just stay here with me.

My job is ending pretty soon. I should point out,however, that this has been going on for about a year and a half now, ever since I first got The Call. I've been getting fired for a year and a half now. Of course the story starts before that. I'm kind of a temporal anomaly, profession-wise, as the Trekkies might say. Not that I would know (I only read the sexy slash fic).

See, my life hasn't really changed. That's the wierd part. You get The Call but then you go on the same as you are, the same as you have been for years and years. You still give papers and go on the job market and work on your book. You still have to grade stuff and read for class. Sometimes you have hope, and other days are just angry.

Friends give you advice. Academic friends tell you to keep trying--keep writing, keep applying for jobs, keep thinking of yourself as an academic. Non-academic friends look at you like you are crazy and might be secretly cutting yourself when you do this, and seem satisfied only when you declare that you now want to Make Money. Neither group is very helpful, really, because they can't bear to think about the places you are beginning to navigate. That's because the dream is gone, and there isn't a good replacement yet. And when the dream is gone, life gets really interesting.

The Call is when the phone rings on the day the entire department is voting on you, and you know they're not going to vote for you but you still hope they will. You think maybe you'll get a vote of confidence. It's a lot like the Thin Envelope, which is when you apply to elite schools and you know you aren't going to get in, because they never have taken you, but you hope anyway. And then the Thin Envelope comes and you stare at it, because you know somewhere in it is the word unfortunately.

A variation of Thin Envelope is when the university press nixes your manuscript proposal. This envelope contains unfortunately, too. And sometimes, regret.

Then there's the Phone Call that Doesn't Come. Imagine snow all around on the ground, and the sounds of shopping. The Call that Doesn't Come is the inverse of The Call, because it doesn't happen. It's when you apply for a job, and they ask for more stuff, and you send it, and you wait in December for an interview. And the first week passes, and they haven't made up their minds yet. And the second week passes, and they are making the calls this week. Then the third week comes, and they aren't going to call you, but maybe they are way behind and making a last-minute push. Stories you have heard of Christmas Eve interviews sit in the back of your mind. And then it is Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas.

No, it's much better to fall back on the substance and weight of The Call. The Call happens, you see. It has a moment, a presence. It's no Jamesian Beast, waiting to never spring. The Call has its histories, it's contexts. It has its versions and inversions. Academic life consists of these. So when you get The Call, no matter whether the news is good or bad, you've gotten it so many times before, it feels familiar. You've been training for it for years. It makes a certain sense that all these many calls, envelopes, not-calls later you get, finally, The Call. After this, if the news is good, you'll never experience it in quite the same way again. You will know who you are. They'll tell you you were right to think of yourself that way. And to prove that you're right, they'll give you administrative duties so you don't have time to read and write anymore. It's the best.

Or they'll tell you you were wrong. You are not a professor. Not here. And it is a speech act, indeed. You aren't. People in the hallway will avoid your eyes. Friends will stop coming by your office hours. Graduate students will no longer try to suck your ass at parties. You know all you need is another job, but it is painfully obvious to everyone that you haven't been tenured at a crappy school. Nobody is going to hire your big old white forty-two-year-old public university dyke ass. You have two years to figure out what to do with your life. Ready?

So maybe you start drinking every night. Maybe you try therapy, but find that the therapists your insurance takes, the ones trying to keep incest survivors and battered wives and transgendered teenagers from offing themselves, are truly disinterested in your professional ups and downs. Maybe you realize your girlfriend really does love you, or else why would she put up with this?

You study for the LSAT. You don't do so well. You get waitlisted at law schools. Your life will be waiting, again. Waiting for some version of The Call.

You finally get the email saying you got the book contract that once would have tenured you or helped you get another job. You laugh. Ha! A strange, private, completely untranslateable victory. Like winning a game of solitaire. You wait. You are still waiting.

I was in bed when The Call came. It seemed like the best way to spend the afternoon, at the time. It still felt like summer. The air smelled like summer.

After The Call I just lay there, with the phone in my hand. My girlfriend burst into tears and sobbed loudly next to me. I remember it started to get dark but I just lay there.