One of the members of the Membership Committee of the preschool coop we just joined asked us today what we do for a living. Apparently, he’s going to send out a “blurb” on us to the rest of the members so they can know who they are, and the most important thing they could possibly learn is that I am a professor of English at X College and that K. is a student (of English, through no fault of mine) at Y College. (I should state here, for the record, that I have only ever known K. socially, and that it is also no fault of mine that he persists in being a college student, and that I lament it bitterly in many ways, even though it allows me to feel like a total overachiever by comparison.) So yeah, that is what we do. That is how I pay the mortgage: by professing. In English. To college students, most of whom don’t care what I have to say about anything, especially not participial phrases or MLA format, and many of whom consider me an onerous presence in their lives, though I imagine that the degree runs from “mosquito” to “Darth Vader.” And this is the most important thing to tell the other parents of toddlers at the coop because by knowing that I profess and K. studies (or, at least, goes to class, most of the time), they will have insight into who we are.
Not to be silenced, I immediately banged out the following email:
If you’re sending everyone a blurb about us you should mention that K. is a part-time stripper and I am a double Scorpio, so they should watch the fuck out.
Naturally, my other half, who is less willing to alienate the masses than I, put the kibosh on that little missive before it got sent. And I admit it might possibly have scared the other moms and dads, most of whom seem to have fairly traditional lives along fairly conventional gender lines, off. I know it’s 2007, but we’re still living in a world where I am the only female parent in this jolly little group (with the possible exception of one-half of the lesbian couple) who works full time and where the vast majority of parents who come to play games and make snack plates for their kids are women in their thirties with college degrees, no jobs, and painted toenails. On the one hand, asserting my professional identity will immediately differentiate me from them; on the other, it’ll make it sound like I’m a snob, or an elitist, or bragging, because identifying yourself as a college prof, especially in a mass email, is tantamount to being the tragically unattractive kid at the front of the fifth grade class who always raises his hand first and always tells on everyone. And that makes me the sanctimonious little nerd in the same way it makes these women’s absent husbands, about whose lack of help with the dishes there has already been some weeping and wailing, into cardboard cutouts of their professions as well.
So I’m a little disappointed. Not because I’m shocked by the assumptions but because I expected more from this particular coop member, who is in a band. Meaning his job is to be in a band. Meaning he is one of the few and proud working musicians who’s popular enough to make a living at it but not so popular that he gets played on ClearChannel. I realize that’s a double standard; I’m making these assumptions about his unconventional attitudes based on his profession (but really, they’re equally based on the fact that he’s the only man who actually shows up at the place and that he looks kind of scruffily rock’n’roll and not all yupped out like our peers, plus he’s apparently a vegetarian, unless his two-year-old quit eating meet independently). And yes, I know about his band because he mentioned being on tour and I Googled him (I was not, however, the one who used Internet means to find out that the mother of his child, who kind of looks like a slightly younger Kim Gordon, is a a promoter who’s worked with the likes of Will Oldham. That was K.).
But anyway, in my fantasy world these people were going to be our allies. They were going to be the other people who would skew the tenor of our monthly parent meetings, potlucks, etc. toward a slightly less predictable bent. They were going to be the other family in which no one worked nine to five jobs and where skipping school was seen as probably actually a good thing, the lone holdouts of unkempt hipness in a sea of forty-dollar haircuts and carefully hipster-influenced “grownup” attire. They were going to be the ones who understood that the way we earn our meager wages doesn’t determine who we are and that the kind of reductive thinking that leads to the cocktail-party question, “And what do you do?” is anti-freedom, anti-intellect, and anti-rock’n’roll.
They’re nice people. But I guess they didn’t get the memo.