Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Did Elvis Costello really write a book? Everyday?


This whole "I'm gonna write a book" thing? MUCH HARDER than I first thought. You have to be disciplined, and focused, and make time to do it: all of which makes it sound oddly like EXERCISE, and we all know how I feel about that. As far as I am concerned treadmills are just another surface on which to drape clothing.

Confession: I am a slacker about a lot of things. (But not my commitment to teach The Spawn how to use a corkscrew. My seven year old can't tie his own shoelaces, but you should see him cut the foil away on a bottle of Chard.)

My Junior year in college, I took a class called Feminism in Literature, thinking it would be a bunch of chicks sitting around discussing the latest Jackie Collins. Boy, was I wrong.

The first two tests were essay tests, and I wrote my usual quirky-innovative-insightful-bullsh!t disguised as genius-type of essays. Like an audience at a late night comedy club, I figured if I could get the professor to laugh within the first two paragraphs, that I was guaranteed a good review. Except Ms. Vandam did not have a sense of humor; it had been lost the fifth time she read "The Dam is a Dyke" on the restroom wall. So I got two D's, and while I often longed for double Ds back then-these were not the kind I wanted.

If this were a Teen Nick Movie of the week starring Hillary Duff, this is where I would of hit the books hard, and gone on to earn academic redemption. But this is a true story about Real Life, so I did what any smart, disciplined, focused and committed student in my position would do: I cheated.

My friend Liz--her last name escapes me but I know she always smelled of patrouli and got GREAT marks--took the Feminism in Literacy midterm early, and let me know what the main essay questions were on it. From there it was a matter of memorizing Ms. Vandam's lectures verbatim, and regurgitating them Word for Word into the blue test booklet.

A week later, Ms. Vandam asked me to stay after class and speak with her. I sat nervously at my desk while the rest of the students filed out of the room, composing all sorts of defenses in my mind. Ms. Vandam pulled my test booklet from the drawer of her desk and held it out to me. I could see the bright red A from two rows back. NEVER IN HER ENTIRE CAREER AS A PROFESSOR, she said, HAD SHE BEEN SO IMPRESSED WITH A STUDENT'S PROGRESS. She went on for the next fifteen minutes about my incredible insight, and mastery of the genre. Then Ms. Vandam announced that she was filming an episode for cable television on Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and that TWO sudents from the entire university were to be handpicked to participate in the panel discussion. One of those students would be ME.

They filmed the cable show at 6:30 am, which in college student time is 4:30 am. I sat in a chair that was part of an arranged circle of chairs, populated by various professors and one other student. The set was bathed in blue television lighting. The chair was warm. The erudite panel began discussing various themes. Time passed. The chair was warm. In the final fifteen minutes, Ms. Vandam threw a question to me. Silence.

Somewhere in the archives of a New Jersey cable television station exists a two second shot of me, fast asleep, with a thin line of drool hanging from the corner of my lip to my crew neck sweater.

24 comments:

kwr221 said...

thanks for the morning chuckle! :-)

Bj in Dallas said...

That Was YOU?????
\
and BTW, quit slacking on the book, we can't wait...

JenX67 said...

What an awesome story. I do love women's studies and women's lit. This so reminded me of the first semester of my college career. I was taking Intro to Political Science with "Debbie." We had to read Darkness at Noon and write a report. I didn't read it, so she just told me about it. I made an A on my paper and she made a B. We laughed about that for the next four years. But, that wasn't nearly as funny as the blue icing on her wedding cake - years later - that turned her lips blue. See how far your post carried me? Ahhhhh. Memories of slacker youth.

Jennifer said...

"A bunch of chicks sitting around discussing the latest Jackie Collins". That just might have been the funniest thing you've ever written. That was funny!

Evil Twin's Wife said...

That is hilarious. Those essay type tests always ticked me off - the grading seemed completely arbitrary (and possibly on how much the professor liked you). Maybe I just needed to pay more attention in class. LOL.

Miss Thystle said...

I bet you were LOVERLY just the same.

sheila said...

i just had a panic attack thinking back to those blue test booklets. i need a drink to calm me down...

sheila said...

and yes, i have it on good authority that Elvis Costello DID, in fact, write a book every day

Racie Lover said...

My freshman year they were still teaching English literature based on the premise that most of us could spell, conjugate a verb and knew a thing or two about diagraming sentences. Apparently not. I loved my lit class and was given all kinds of interesting assignments to be creative and VERBOSE. I actually managed to pull out an A in that class. Sadly, after some reevaluation and background checks, the faculty decided the incoming class was comprised of a bunch of morons who thought Summer was a verb so they nuked the whole program and started over with, no kidding, basic grammar and sentence structure. Now that was over 30 years ago (I know, you are saying to yourself, how is it she looks so young?) and I can only hope that our schools are paying closer attention to teaching basic grammar and spelling. It's really scary out there.

tjames said...

I would have dropped out after the 2 D's!!!

PearlsOfSomething said...

If only there were fewer (or clearer) google hits for "Mrs Dalloway, Vandam, NJ, cable"...

Jane! said...

I have never understood why feminism experts tend to be so humorless.
Maybe you should write your own story. Call it like 'The Wacky, Narcoleptic Feminist'

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog. Today is my lucky day. I can't wait to catch up on all previous posts and get to know you. Love your sense of humor!

Kr√ęg said...

When she told you that she handpicked you for a television appearance you should have said, "As a true feminist, I refuse to be objectified in such a manner!"

Lorrie Veasey said...

Kreg: I'm not a feminist--I'm a humanist/exhibitionist/ posing as a humorist.

Mrs. B. Roth said...

Most of those wacky college professor types seemed to just want me to regurgitate their own words back at them. Once I figured that out, A's were easy and common. Stupid education system. Still have no idea how to stay focused long enough to write anything of worth...

Debbie said...

So will you teach this lesson to The Spawn so he can learn from your mistakes? Never take a feminism class and really go for the caffeine early in the morning.

Spatula said...

Heh. More college stories, please!

anglophilefootballfanatic.com said...

Oh, I hated professors like that. Too intellectual to be in the real world. I don't blame you for falling asleep. That's early and certainly a boring topic. And, I don't blame you for cheating.

Bj in Dallas said...

LV!!!
I just received my box for my incredible paper clip collection and my home is slowly filling with your stuff. I love it and actually had forgotten about it, so gracias, as usual, yu da bomb.

Broke But Still Drinking said...

This is my first visit. You had me at "weekend Drunk."

Natasha said...

No way...did you ever watch it? Can you get a copy of it?? That's would be a blog treat like when teachers would come into class and say today we're going to turn the lights out and watch a movie - oh I so want to see it! Did you ever find out what question she asked you?

I vote for you to get your hands on a copy and have a "showing" here I'll bring popcorn

vinomom said...

The first comment I left I put on the wrong post. How clever of me. Ah, well.

Le @ third on the right and cold peas said...

oh dear ... now I have never done THAT ! le xoxo