The conference in Atlanta, true to my pessimistic prediction, sucked. It was all aimed at academic librarians. And all of the presenters were academics.
Now, I loves me some professors. If not for them the academic humor genre wouldn’t exist.
If you have not read Portuguese Irregular Verbs, by Alexander McCall Smith, then you must. You must. You must. It is the funniest book ever. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. It doesn’t matter if you think 44 Scotland Ave is slow paced or if you think the Sunday Philosophy Club books are dull. You must read Portuguese Irregular Verbs. You will thank me, preferably with cash
PIV is, arguably, funnier academic humor than Lucky Jim. PIV is, without argument, shorter than Lucky Jim. It is a novella. Stop making excuses. Go read it.
Back to professors. They are funny people, funny in a good way. They’re great for conversation. I have no bias against professors. Why, some of my best friends are professors.
But those profs still trying to achieve tenure are forced to go to conferences and present sessions. Sometimes they happen to be passionate about their presentations. (Who wouldn’t get off on digital archiving?) But sometimes you can tell they’re just trying to beef up their CVs. And even if they are passionate about using wikis in a staff environment, it’s nearly impossible to turn that into a 45 minute talk. It’s ten minutes of pertinent info and half an hour of fluff.
So I’m sorry to report that the conference was a waste of my time and your tax dollars, but let me relay the best bit of news, something that made it all worth it:
We got free hoodies. They say “Think Digital.”
Okay, that’s neat, but not something to get super excited about. Here is the super exciting bit:
When I walked up to the table, the lady glanced at me and said “Smalls and mediums are over there.”
I have entered the land of mediumness.
I’ve been wearing Large and XL for years. (I’ve always been pissed at XL. It’s not just large, it’s extraordinarily large. Fuck you, too.)
My ample gazongas mean that I have to wear shirts with a loose cut under the shoulders. My ample gazongas cause me no small amount of back pain and elicit unwelcome sexual comments from strangers. My ample gazongas get in the way when I’m trying to do a shoulder stand in yoga. We’re talking nipples in nostrils.
But despite my bountiful bosom, the person at the conference figured me for a small or medium. It’s because I’ve lost weight in other areas.
I’ve been dieting and exercising. (Don’t think yoga counts as exercise? Try holding an inverted triangle thingy for a minute, and see if you don’t get a little sweaty.) I’ve never been a thin person. I was chunky as a kid and I’ve fluctuated between acceptable and fluffy during adulthood. But these days I am the lightest I’ve been since middle school somewhere.
I’ve never thought of myself as an attractive person. (Personality-wise, sure, but our parents lied to us when we were young: People don’t actually care how nice or compassionate or smart you are. They care what you look like.)
I’m being facetious, you know. My favorite t-shirt, which unfortunately I can’t wear anywhere, says Fuck Your Fascist Beauty Standards. I despise the cult of thin. What’s important is that you’re happy with what you look like, and bollocks to anybody who gets hung up on appearance. At least, that’s the ideal attitude, but we can’t help caring what other people think. It sucks.
Do you know a woman who’s happy with her body? Some of us actively hate ourselves. Some of us are only moderately dissatisfied. But I’m hard pressed to think of any women I know who are actively happy with their looks.
Doesn’t matter if the woman is physically attractive or not. That’s irrelevant. Society has wired us to be dissatisfied with ourselves, regardless of what we actually look like.
Like I was saying, I’ve never thought of myself as attractive. (Still don’t, for the record. Thanks, Society.) Acne ruined my face starting in fourth grade and didn’t let up until assaulted with powerful drugs in high school. As an adult, even in my less pudgy phases, I’ve been sort of plain looking. Those rare times when someone would compliment my appearance, I figured they were A) trying to be nice or B) aesthetically challenged.
But now I’m a bit slimmer, which accentuates the gazongas even more, and I have spiky purple hair. I’m hearing more positive comments these days.
Unfortunately, the great majority of those positive comments come from ookey old men.
Listen up, gents, and ladies too: Don’t hit on the librarian when she’s at the desk. I will bend over backward to give you excellent reference and reading service. When you’re at the counter, I am your intellectual slave. I will be extraordinarily pleasant to you, even if you’re a big jerk.
Do. Not. Abuse. That. Relationship.
Want to compliment my hair? Groovy. It rocks, I totally agree. (Teen girl started our reference interview today with “Oh my God I love your hair.”)
Like my fishnets? Feel free to tell me so.
But me? My body? Verboten, kids, verboten.
I’m sure there are some dispassionate folks out there who want to innocently compliment an attractive person. “You look beautiful,” they might say, in the same way they say “Klimt’s Adele is beautiful.” (And they would be so right.)
But even with the most innocent intentions, the compliment is going to be perverted in the transmission. Women deal with unwanted physical attention from age 12 or so. It is almost always sexual in nature.
You say: “You look nice, though I’m a gay male and I can’t get an erection.”
She hears: “You are an object and I intend to sleep with you.”
Though they might not intend it, men can’t compliment women without sending sexual subtexts. It’s not fair. I’m sorry. But we can’t help inferring lust, because 99 times out of 100 it’s there.
It’s nice to be physically complimented in certain situations. If my friends or coworkers want to tell me I’m hot, that’s awesome. (They may be aesthetically challenged, but it’s awesome.) If I’m in a bar by myself and someone tells me I look attractive, that’s acceptable because it’s a bar and you go there for the purpose of finding potential dates, though this scenario is purely hypothetical because I do not go to bars by myself. Too many creeps.
I can’t speak for all women, but as for myself, I do NOT want to be told by a perfect stranger that I look good.
And whyever not?
Because it reduces me to a physical (and in all likelihood sexual) object. It bypasses brains and personality and skips straight into “maybe she’ll sleep with me” territory. That sort of presumption is intimate, and I do not appreciate casual intimacy from strangers. Even if the stranger is Jo
hnny Depp, I don’t want to be reduced to a sexual figure. I don’t want to think about sex with someone I don’t know. Sex for me (and for most women) is emotional; thinking about sex without an emotional and personal context is distasteful.
Okay, I lied, Johnny Depp can do what he wants with me. The rest of you folks need to refrain from commenting about my body, at least until you’ve learned my name. Maybe then we can talk. But you’re buying at the bar, I’m warning you.