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December 17, 2016


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On being a bit evasive about one's qualifications: I do that too, a bit, but it has less to do with wanting to fit in (I don't care about that much) or even with wanting to be sensitive to others (I tend to be insensitive, actually).

On my part, it comes from having a family member who signs personal emails "Firstname M. Lastname, Ph.D.," and who introduces himself as "Dr." to everybody from restaurant hostesses (whom he supposes will give him better tables) to the babysitter to his kids' friends. (Along with other ridiculous habits like jingling the keys to his Porsche.) It's embarrassing to watch. I'll shrivel up and die before I display neediness like that in public. So I am very cautious about using an academic title -- aside from the occasional joking around with friends, I only ever deploy it if I am in a context where it is professionally relevant. Which is almost never, since I am not working in this stage of my life.

I wonder how she got to this place? She honestly sounds like someone who was spoiling for a fight with you. I know you said you had been friendly before, but I wonder if she felt the same all that time. In any case, I feel like this was way more on her and her emotional regulation. The way she went off on you is just not a good way to handle a dispute.

Humility and fear of humiliation are two separate things. Hiding your degree and work sounds more like the latter. You know that having a PH.D. And working as a professor aren't trump cards, so why act as though they are? You have certain gifts and the opportunities to actualize a career and those aren't shameful things, just like the person who excels at being kind and personable may make a terrific cashier.

I come from a working class town and from a poor family. I live in NYC, went to a 7 sisters school, work in a field I like and am married to a guy who has his Ph.D. If it comes up, I speak factually about any of those topics. i get it from both sides--the Commissioner of my agency wanted to know about my family when he was hiring, so I had to touch on the fact that my father left our family and my mom is a seamstress. I'm not ashamed of either side of this coin and think it's important to speak to both audiences about those experiences. What about the kids who may need to see a woman in academia or a mother or father who is thinking about going back to work? Hiding your light keeps others in the dark a bit.

"This was one of several moments when I wondered if I had slipped into an alternate universe, because in my real life I am super-cautious about how I present myself."

Recently, I was trying to explain to a coworker that this is a thing I find unusually hard about socio-political conversations these days. And maybe it's just me, but I feel like it's getting harder. Intellectualism is part of what seems hard to translate, for sure. I find myself just croggled sometimes -- not just by differing opinions themselves, but at the gap between what we think we're saying and what other people hear us saying, and probably vice versa.

There have been moments in this and other areas in which I find myself saying, "Wait, wait, wait. THAT'S what you think I believe? That's what you think I think about YOU?" Because I'm just not always sure where it's coming from. I find myself wanting to say, "I surely never said THAT. All I said was THIS. I don't think This about you at all. How can you think That about me?"

How did we get to a place where it's so hard to hear each other?

That part scares me almost as much as anything else. I think it's because words are failing me, or I'm failing them. When you're a word-nerd who does words for a living (putting them out, but also taking them in), who loves the power and clarity of the right word...it's really unnerving to feel so utterly at a loss for them.

"Bartholomew Cubbins-level tinfoil hattery"--such a perfect image! You are not alone in this particular struggle...nor any of the others you've been posting about lately!

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