>Happy March 1st everyone! And happy first day of Spring Break for me! Of course, I’ve got plenty on my plate to get down over break, including the draft of an article, but not having to *go* to work in other ways is still a break.
In the meantime, I’ve declared today a day without agendas — I’m just going to do what I feel like doing. And right now, I feel like doing a version of the Leap Day meme I saw at What Now?, even though Leap Day was yesterday. (I know, I’m so *crazy*! I’m a radical!) The point of the meme is to look at each Leap Day you’ve lived through as a snapshot of your life at the moment. So here’s what Dr. Virago was up to over the years:
Feb. 29, 2004 — I was in my second semester here at Rust Belt U., teaching 3 classes at a time for the first time, having only ever taught 2 classes at once the previous semester and the last quarter of my post-doc lecturing gig. So I was struggling a bit. It didn’t help that two of the classes perplexed and puzzled me in terms of what I was supposed to be doing with them. (The third was Chaucer — that one I’d done in my lecturer gig, so I was good to go.) One of the classes was a literature class for non-majors, except that it wasn’t called “X for non-majors,” so I didn’t know that it was really geared for non-majors and thought it was more a gateway kind of course. And I hadn’t realized or been told how not quite ready the students were for the kind of gateway course I’d taught before and was adapting for this class. The other class was the first iteration of Middle English. My very first year my otherwise lovely colleagues threw me into the OE-ME sequence, both of which are cross-listed with linguistics and taken by linguistics majors, even though I’m neither an Anglo-Saxonist nor a linguist. OE was actually a little easier — well, there was trouble with a couple of students, but that’s another story — because there are OE textbooks out there that go systematically through the process of learning the language so that you can then start translating. But with ME I had no idea where to start. I’d taken an ME class in grad school, but as a grad school class full of medievalists, we were digging into numerous texts that we’d read already as literature and talking about them in more linguistic terms. Clearly I couldn’t do that with a class full of non-medievalist undergrads and MA students. And while A Book of Middle English is a fine anthology for such a class, it doesn’t have a very detailed introduction to the phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon of ME. So I made the mistake of getting Horobin and Smith’s An Introduction to Middle English, which is a great book in many ways, but seriously went over the heads of a number of the students in my class, and also, frankly, was too technical for *me*. (Although I have to say, I’ve learned to love teaching the Middle English Open Syllable Lengthening.) Luckily for me I had a fun and patient group of students who seemed willing to put up with the fact that I had a learning curve, too.
Feb. 29, 2000 – I was living in LaLa Land, the city of my grad program, and working as a research assistant for one of the academic centers on campus, which meant that I really was only working 20 hours a week at most for the first time in my grad school employment career. That meant I was also actually getting time in on dissertation research and writing. I *also* had the time to train for my very first marathon, which was only a few days away at this point. My goal was to finish under 4 hours, but weather conditions slowed me down — it rained an inch an hour and I’ve never been so blistered and chafed in my life — and I finished in 4:05. Still, that put me in the top 400 women finishers (in a race that had about 20,000 participants total), and so I got my name in the paper the next day, in the sports section. How cool is that? Meanwhile, I lived in a neighborhood I’ll call the Aspiring Mile because it was full of “aspiring types” — mostly in the entertainment industry, but also a number of grad students — and my immediate neighbors in my Spanish courtyard apartment building included a costume assistant, a buyer for a high-end department store, a screenwriter, two actors who did a lot of commercial work and ran commercial acting classes in their living room, a musician and his art gallery manager girlfriend, and an actress who would eventually make her name playing the foul-mouthed whore with a heart of gold on this show.
Feb. 29, 1996 – I was in my second year of graduate school, juggling course work and teaching for the first time. I think this was the quarter that I lucked out and got assigned to the Shakespeare for non-majors course instead of composition. I’d teach composition one more time, but that was it, and to this day I have an irrational fear of composition because of my lack of experience with it. I wasn’t yet living in the building described above, but was instead living in West LaLa Land, closer to campus, because I’d move there from NYC and didn’t have a car. I would actually manage to live for 5 years in LaLa Land without a car. But I did have a roommate. She was a good roommate in many ways — responsible, quiet, and generally a good person — but she had strange neuroses and had an oddly small and provincial life for someone who had chosen to go to college in the big city and stay there afterwards. I did not get her at all. And I didn’t really want to be best friends with, but she really wanted to be best friends with me. And she didn’t get that when I was reading or writing, I really didn’t want to be regaled with 30 minute long stories about how she thought maybe the guy she’d been hopelessly in love with for a year maybe showed the tiniest glimmer of noticing her. So when the lease came up that summer I found a one bedroom in the Aspiring Mile, where the rents were cheap because the landlords didn’t ever actually repair anything. Oh, and one thing you might have noticed in these entries on my grad school years: no mention of a romantic interest. That’s right. While I did much dating in my years in LaLa Land nothing ever developed into anything steady. Actually, the most stable quasi-romantic relationship I had over the years (unless you count the ways in which I often played “substitute girlfriend” for my charming friend C. when he was between girlfriends and needed female company — by which I mean just company) was the weird shows-up-once-every-6-to-18-months dalliance I had with that famous director guy I’ve sometimes coyly mentioned here. Somehow that seems appropriate for LaLa Land.
Feb. 29, 1992 — I was not quite a year out of college, living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with Virgo Sis, and working as a legal assistant in a small midtown law firm. I liked most of the lawyers I worked for (except for the weirdly socially inept one with the ridiculous come-over than he spent all day smoothly back into place), but the office manager of the firm made my life a living hell, even though she really wasn’t my supervisor. Somewhere in my collection of junk I have a notebook with a list of the injustices she enacted against me, most of which also prevented me from working efficiently, which I was compiling to bring to the partners to get them to get her off my back. But then her husband got seriously ill and she had no extra energy to torment me. In the meantime, I realized that I didn’t want to be lawyer — despite clearly having a knack for documenting evidence! — because so many of the lawyers in the firm, especially the associates, were pretty darn miserable. So I started exploring other careers and eventually when back to school, as you know.
Feb. 29, 1988 — I was a freshman in college at a university that was my first choice and which lived up to all of my expectations of it. I was in the big city and taking as many chances as I could when I wasn’t enthusiastically studying to hop on the subway and just explore, usually by myself. I did have friends, of course, but I also relished the independence a city with public transportation gives you. And it made me feel so grown up! Meanwhile, I’d already suffered heartbreak at the hands of a suave sophomore named JJ who I’d started to refer to as the Anti-Elvis (there was this song that said Michael J. Fox was the Anti-Elvis and JJ kind of looked like a taller MJF). My best friend was a Latino guy from New Jersey who had a TV-sitcom-level hopeless crush on an Indian woman from a different, posher town in New Jersey. I hung out with poets and musicians and filmmakers and thought how cool and cosmopolitan my life now was in contrast to my suburban Kansas upbringing. Oh, and I’d joined the archery team because it sounded like fun and was a real varsity sport. (Yes, I even have the varsity letter to prove it.) Because of that — and also because of an art history class in which the prof. abused the phrase “vis-a-vis” constantly — I met The Pastry Pirate and became fast friends with her.
Feb. 29, 1984 — I was just shy of my 15th birthday and in my first year of high school. I went to a small, private, Catholic girls’ school, for which I am grateful in many ways. Although the misogynist side of individual uptight Catholics drove me nuts — like the vice principal who told one of my friends that she should quite her job as a traditional Greek dancer at a Greek restaurant because it was unseemly, and if she didn’t, and she became pregnant, it would be her own fault (wtf?!) — the school’s main focus was on rigorous academics across the arts and sciences, which suited me just fine. And the absence of boys was such a tremendous relief. I watch all these movies about cliques and bullies and mean girls in high school and I think a) to what extent is this realism or exaggerated satire? and b) if it is realism, damn I was lucky to have gone to a girls’ school! Because even there, the girls who might have been the mean girls had no incentive to be. There’s not a whole lot of point to posturing and parading yourself, and marking yourself as superior to others, if there’s no mating ritual going on. (That’s not to say some of our classmates weren’t lesbians, but in a Catholic school that was all on the DL.) About the only competition there seemed to be was who had the cutest clothes (when we had civvies days), but since we wore uniforms most of the time, that was also toned down.
Feb. 29, 1980 – Let’s see, I would have been nearly 11, so that means I was in 5th grade, right? Ugh, fifth grade. Um. OK, I really can’t remember much about 5th grade itself. But I do remember later this year, when I was in 6th grade, when John Lennon was shot. I wasn’t yet as obsessed with the Beatles as I would be a couple of years later, but I had a huge crush on a boy I’d know all through grade school and *he* was obsessed with the Beatles (hence why I did start to get interested in them). In 6th grade we were in the same homeroom and other classes, and since our names came near each other alphabetically, we were seated next to each other. In one teacher’s classroom, this put us in the far back corner, and we spent a lot of time goofing off together back there, since we were both smart kids who always finished our work quickly. Alas, my growing romantic fondness for him went unrequited, and I’d become so stalker-like in my obsession that he ended up *hating* me. He’s now happily married, with children, and getting a divinity degree in sacred music — having converted to the Anglican church — and he’s been a music director in a number of Anglican churches (all this I know because of the interwebs), so I hope he’s found forgiveness for my crazy adolescent ways, despite the fact that I’m now clearly a cyber-stalker! 🙂 (Hey, I read a review of a Broadway play that mentioned a performer with the same name, and though maybe it was him — he had been interested in musical theater once — and so I googled him.)
Feb. 29, 1976 — Er, this is getting hard. Let’s see, I was about to turn 7, so I was in 1st grade. Ooh, wait, I remember something about first grade. I was the last kid in the class to learn how to spell my whole name, first and last, without having a little name plate thingy on my desk. Yeah, I know, not exactly an auspicious sign for a future English prof., but my name has a *lot* of letters in it and some complicated consonant sequences and clusters. Had a kid named Pryzbylski not been in the grade behind me, maybe I wouldn’t have been the last.
Feb. 29, 1972 — OK, I was only just about to turn 3, so I don’t remember a thing. But I can tell you I was growing up in a mid-century ranch house in what are now “close in” suburbs of Cowtown, but then were the edge of growth. In fact, less than a mile away was a small ranch with long-horn cattle and a saddle club next to that. I lived all my life in that house until I was 18 and went away to college, and my dad still lives there now. Not much has changed. Indeed, the carpeting currently in my old bedroom is the same carpeting that was put in when my sisters redecorated the room when they had it when they were in high school, about the time I was born. Ew!! But when I was 3 the carpeting and upholstery, etc., were all newer and less germ-filled. But the house was a little crowded since my siblings were teenagers and there were only three bedrooms: one for my parents, one for my sisters, and one for my brother. At 3 I think I was still sleeping in a crib in my parents’ room. At about 5 or 6, I think, they moved me into a big bed in my brother’s room, since he was away at college. But when he was home that meant he had to share his space with his baby sister. Poor guy. Then finally Ms. V. moved out of her room when she got married — Virgo Sis having already moved out — and it became mine.
That was kind of fun! And now the world has nutshell biography of Dr. Virago. Gosh, lucky you! 🙂