Don’t Be Paranoid, I Am Avoiding You

To the person who asked yesterday me if I am avoiding you,

Yes, I am. Sure I instant-messaged you back and said I’m totally not, but I was totally lying. I am avoiding you. So stop wondering and feel free of paranoia!

‘Why,’ you ask?

I am certainly willing to explain.

Every time we’re together, you discuss academia. And not in a dry, abstract, ideational way that I might find appealing because it would permit me to pontificate. You bring up who is up for what job, and how some so-and-so did on some interview; who is going to get tenure; who doesn’t stand a chance; blah blah. I do not care for these subjects. Not that I feel *above* them, at all. Rather, I find them too emotionally engaging. They drain me. They make me feel low, dirty, jealous and down-right scuzzy. Academic gossip brings out the worst traits in a person.

I don’t mind discussing certain extraordinarily entertaining incidents, such as the time when a feminist Philosopher of practical action tried to poke one of my best friend’s eyes out with a pen over an ethical dispute. I always relish the opportunity to mock a certain, droning, leathery skin Romanticist and his reaction to being interrupted mid-pontification (it’s a lot like how I’m sure he reacts when interrupted mid-coitus). I’m happy to project how a certain blow-hard might apply “Thing Theory” to the following video:

I am also pleased to vituperate against baristas anytime (a bitchy barista carded me the other day to check ID against my credit card. It was obscene).

Unfortunately, I cannot facilitate the masochistic competition amongst peers implicit in the discussion of the job market or any particular person’s career prospects (even if he or she is a moron or an asshole). This sort of conversation appeals to our lower instincts. It distracts us, dulls our faculties and leaves all participants feeling emotionally wasted.

I still like you, and I’m sure we’ll hang out in the future. But I have to set conversational boundaries and enforce them.

I hope you can understand.



4 Responses to “Don’t Be Paranoid, I Am Avoiding You”

  1. Luches Says:

    Oh good, I was afraid that you were going to end up saying that you don’t care rather than the truth, that it’s hard to know how to care in a way that doesn’t suck all the good defenses, joy, and intellectual optimism out of you. The problem with most academic gossip is that it makes the whole enterprise feel like status and ambition and dissolves the bracketing that makes it possible to focus on sustaining a thought. But it’s not like ambition and distinction are the *real* either.I just returned from a computer science convention. People were so intellectual and so solidaristic with each other, it was amazing to see the complete lack of expressed or atmospheric ressentiment. No eye poking. Lots of drinking, though.

  2. darknessatnoon Says:

    “I just returned from a computer science convention. People were so intellectual and so solidaristic with each other, it was amazing to see the complete lack of expressed or atmospheric ressentiment. No eye poking. Lots of drinking, though.”That’s a marked contrast to something like the MLA, which feels like the hotels are pumping nerve gas through the vents.

  3. Patrick O'Connor Says:

    I myself am frequently terrified of Things.At my first MLA Convention, I was burbling on in a hotel suite about a panel I had just attended (it might have been the one featuring Reinaldo Arenas, who was talking about humor but looked very sick and would indeed commit suicide during the next year), when one of my grad school classmates looked at me and said, “We have a word for you. You’re an MLA Nerd. The Smithsonian Museum [the MLA was in Washington that year] is full of MLA Nerds who don’t even take their name tags off when they go to look at the paintings.”Like the people who buy Playboy to read the articles, I go to the MLA to listen to the talks. Now that the heyday of queer theory has been over for almost a decade, of course, fewer and fewer of the talks are any good. But I figure, At least I got to hear Reinaldo Arenas. Who knows whom I might hear at the next MLA I drag myself to?Provided of course I am not ambushed by Things…

  4. darknessatnoon Says:

    “Like the people who buy Playboy to read the articles…”If you said that you were buying Playboy for the articles, I would believe you. :)I am more afraid of STUFF than mere Things. Someone on the bus yesterday bumped a cello into me, and given my association with a certain cellist, daggers shot from my eyes. The STUFF was pouring out of my sub-conscious! I’m glad you find the idea of “Thing Theory” applied to that PSA as entertaining as I do.

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