Sunday, February 14, 2010

February 19

I am writing this on the Friday of the fourth week of the spring semester. Things have now settled into something of a routine, including being a TA. And as I promised two weeks ago, I’ll describe what it’s like.

So far, it’s not hard, but it is time consuming. The class I am a TA for is Briggs’s introductory international relations course. The lecture sections, which Briggs conducts and I attend, are on Tuesdays from 9 to 11. There are over 100 students enrolled in the class. Most attended the first lecture when I passed out the syllabus, but not all. Several asked me for an extra copy of the syllabus to take to a friend who was somehow unable to come to class. Attendance was down to only 40 or so subsequently. I was amazed that it dropped so dramatically. Briggs, though, didn’t seem to be concerned, saying that this was normal. They’d all be back, he said, for the midterm and final (both of which will be held in class). In addition to these exams, students must write a 5-10 page critical review of a book chosen from a list Briggs provided on the syllabus.

When Briggs went over the syllabus with me before the beginning of the semester, I said that requiring only three assignments from the students seemed a little light. He reminded me, though, that not only would there be a lot of students in the class, but that I would be doing all the grading. “Are you sure you want me to assign anything else?” he asked. I quickly got the point.

My discussion section meets Tuesdays from 2 to 3. Twenty or so students came to it the first week, but only five or six—-including Shivvy--have been showing up since then. I had originally thought that I would have to keep the session going for the entire hour, and I tried to do so the first time. Shivvy told me, though, that I should just answer whatever questions students had, and then end the session when they didn’t have any more. Good advice.

One thing I haven’t quite gotten used to is students showing up late to my session, and more than this, leaving early. Of course, I’d seen this occurring in virtually every class I’ve ever taken both at Cal State Barstow as well as here and never thought anything of it. When it happened in my discussion section, though, I was annoyed. I asked Briggs if this didn’t annoy him, but he just laughed and said, “You’ll get used to it.”

I then have my office hours on Tuesdays from 3 to 5. Absolutely nobody has come to see me yet—-except Shivvy, who has come back with me to my office after every session so far. She really doesn’t count, though, because she only wants to talk about personal matters and not the course material. I’ve told her each time that this embarrasses me. And each time she responds, “Am I keeping any other student from talking to you? I’ll wait outside if I am.” But she’s never had to do so yet.

I gave her back her blue scrunchy when she came to my office last week. “I was wondering where this got to,” she commented. “Are you sure you don’t want to keep it?”

I really did, but said that she should. “Afraid you’re new girlfriend will see it?” she asked accusingly. This led to yet another annoying inquisition about who this woman could be.

This past week she told me that she’d been having lots of fun going out with her friends—-male as well as female. I ignored the implication, and said I was looking forward to going out again at the end of the semester.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” she responded. “Maybe I’ll have a new boyfriend by then.”

Oh, Shivvy!

When she finally leaves, I spend the rest of my office hours reading for the courses I am taking—-but also wishing she was still here with me.

Our grad student office feels a lot emptier this semester with both Danielle and Doug gone. Since nobody is admitted to start the program in the spring term, it won’t be until the fall that we will get any new office mates.

The office also feels emptier because Craig, Lisa, and I—-the three new TA’s-—all have our office hours on different days. Lisa holds hers on Wednesday afternoons. Craig holds his on Mondays from 11 to 1—-just after Asquith’s morning undergrad class for which Craig is a TA and before Asquith’s graduate methodology class (which all three of us are in) which begins at two o’clock.

I see Craig in the office on Monday before Asquith’s afternoon class. He’s usually eating his lunch at his desk and so we chat. Once, though, Asquith himself brought a sandwich in and ate it at Craig’s desk. Asquith, I have to admit, makes me a little uncomfortable. What surprises me, though, is that he seems to make Craig uncomfortable too. Like me with regard to Shivvy, Craig obviously has scruples with regard to Asquith.

Still, I’m positive now that Craig is gay. After Shivvy had left my office this past week and I was sitting in there alone until five o’clock, I noticed that my pen had run out of ink. Nobody else was there, so I decided to just check the other desks for one. While I was looking in Craig’s desk, I found a sheet of paper with a little poem written on it:

You said it was a game,
but you couldn’t keep it tame.
You said it was an act,
but he wants to make it fact.
You said it was a joke,
but now he wants his poke!
The time is near, I hope
when you’ll stop playing the dope.
The time is near, I say
when you can laugh it all away.
The time is near, I foresee
when you’ll come “out” with me!
Love, love,
Love, love,
Love, love,

It’s obvious to me what it all means: this Lee is Craig’s actual lover boy. Craig, though, doesn’t want Asquith to find out about him. Lee is playing along for now, but he’s clearly becoming petulant about it all.

Yuck! I have to admit that I wish I hadn’t found this. All I can say is that I hope this Lee person is not a student in the class Craig is a TA for. If he is, Craig will be in big trouble if and when Lee decides to “out” the relationship, as he clearly wants to do.

[I’d better delete this passage with the poem and my commentary before letting anybody see my diary. I, of course, am not at all homophobic, but there may be some privacy issues here. On the other hand, my leaving the poem in might be doing this Lee a favor: his poem certainly isn’t going to be published anywhere else. What doggerel!]

Michael, of course, isn’t a TA this semester, but is back on fellowship. I haven’t seen all that much of him. He says that he doesn’t want to be here when the three of us who are TA’s have our office hours because he really needs to concentrate not just on his classes but also on studying for the comprehensive exams this summer.

Occasionally, though, we do run into each other. And he still always seems to know more than the rest of us grad students about what is going on. When I saw him this past week, for instance, he told me that the social science subcommittee of the college promotion and tenure committee was evenly split on Trizenko’s tenure application, and that the full committee voted against him. “That’s it for him this year!” Michael gloated. I felt sad when I heard this. Well, maybe he’ll get it next year.

I wonder how Danielle is doing. I’d like to call her up; maybe she could give me some advice on being a TA. I have no idea where she is now, though. And I’m afraid she wouldn’t want to talk to me anyway. It’s very sad that friendship sometimes has to be sacrificed for the sake of principle.

Friday, February 5, 2010

February 5

There is one advantage, it seems, to not being in a relationship with Shivvy any more: I have Friday evenings free to make entries into this diary. It is an advantage, however, I wish I could have foregone.

Shivvy and I did meet for an early dinner last Saturday. I realized after agreeing to do this that it would probably be considered ethically compromising, but I at least refused to drink any alcohol with her. Shivvy, though, insisted on ordering a bottle of wine, and drank it all down herself.

We repeated the same arguments that we had each made previously. When she realized that I couldn’t be moved from my principled position, she said some very ugly things to me. At first, she accused me of being “Briggs’s little faggot boy.” I kept my cool, though, and told her that her statement was both homophobic and untrue. Furthermore, she of all people was familiar with my heterosexual preferences, as I had demonstrated them repeatedly on her last semester and even the weekend before the start of spring classes. And as far as Briggs was concerned, I pointed out, he too had demonstrated his heterosexual preferences with Doug’s wife, Angie.

“Why is it okay,” she asked me, “for Briggs to fuck Angie but not for you to fuck me?”

The more she drank, the cruder she became. I remembered that when we went out last semester and I was drinking too that this would excite me. Now, though, I just felt embarrassed at the prospect that she might be overheard.

I reminded her that while she was now my student, Angie was not a student at all, and therefore her relationship with Briggs wasn’t covered by the university’s code of conduct.

“What about her being married to someone who was his student?” she asked.

That, I told her, was irrelevant.

“You’re sick!” she replied, shaking her head. She was obviously inebriated. Suddenly, though, she straightened up.

“You’ve found some other girl, haven’t you?” she asked accusingly. “All this `professional code of conduct’ crap is just bullshit, isn’t it?”

After pointing out that ‘crap’ and ‘bullshit’ were the same and that the university’s prohibitions against sexual misconduct were neither, I told her that, no, I wasn’t seeing anybody else.

“You are!” she said angrily. “I know it! Nobody normal would end a relationship for the bogus reasons you’re giving me.”

I tried to explain that I wasn’t ending the relationship, but just putting it on hold, but she would not be deterred from this line of thinking.

“Who is she?” she demanded. “You hooked up with someone during the January intersession when I was in Barbados, didn’t you?” She then started asking me if it was any of the various girls she knew had stayed on campus during January.

I tried to reassure her that there had been nobody else, but she wouldn’t buy it. “You can tell me if something happened,” she said reassuringly. “I would understand. Having a little fling during the January intersession is kind of a tradition at Charles. I had one myself in Barbados. It happens.”

I didn’t say anything, but my face must have revealed the anger and hurt that I felt. Shivvy just smiled and said, “So, you do care after all? Look, Jonathan: January is over and we can get back to normal. You don’t have to feel guilty. I don’t.”

I couldn’t tell if she was telling the truth or just trying to make me jealous. I told her it was time to go move her stuff out of my apartment. I rounded up the check and paid it. She didn’t offer to split it, and I was too embarrassed to ask her to (which was unprofessional of us both, I realize).

Up at my place, she saw that I had already packed up her stuff in a cardboard boxes I had found. I even borrowed the same dolly that I had used to help Angie move out with. “My God! You really want me out of here!” said Shivvy when she saw what I had done.

She went and sat on my bed, but I just loaded her stuff on the dolly and asked her to help me with the door. We went down the elevator and then the relatively short distance to her dorm in silence. Entering her room, her roommate just glared at me; Shivvy had obviously told her what was going on. I was about to leave, but Shivvy asked me to help set up her unpack, which I did. She then came with me back to the elevator in her building. As we waited for it to arrive, she said, “You’re lying to me, Jonathan. Nobody in his right mind would be so cowardly as to dump me because some university code of conduct said he should. You’ve got a new girlfriend, I just know it. And when I find out who it is, I’m going to have a few words with her.”

I tried to reassure her that there was nobody else, and that we’d be back together in May if she wanted. As the elevator door finally opened, she said, “Don’t count on it!” and walked away.

Rereading the last entry and this one so far, I realize that I have only described my personal life and not what future biographers and intellectual historians will undoubtedly consider far more interesting: the classes I am taking this semester. It’s just that I have been so upset by what has happened with Shivvy. And I want whoever reads this to know that sometimes even I allow my emotional life to come before my intellectual life.

It is time, though, to say something about the latter. I am taking international political economy with Briggs, which meets Mondays from 9 to 11. I am also taking the second half of Asquith’s required political science methodology class. Just like last semester, it meets Mondays from 2 to 4. These two are open just for grad students. My third class is on the politics of American foreign policy making with Prof. Stavros, the chair of the department. Like the class with Trizenko last term, it is open to both undergrads and grad students. And as luck would have it, Shivvy is also in this class, which meets Wednesdays from 9 to 11.

I had a hard time deciding what to take for my fourth class. I had originally hoped to take one over at M.I.T. The only one that fit into my schedule and which I was even somewhat interested in, though, was one on quantitative political analysis. I went to the first class, and that was enough for me. These people at M.I.T. really are heavy-duty number crunchers! I probably could have done it if I’d really concentrated, but what with being a TA for the first time and the hassle of having to commute to and from the class on the T, I decided I didn’t need the aggravation this semester. Besides, since M.I.T. is less prestigious than Harvard but its classes are harder, what would be the point of taking one there?

I then decided to try DeKlerk’s feminist IR theory class. I quickly discovered, though, that I was the only male in the class, and that I was not exactly welcome. The first lecture consisted of DeKlerk showing us a bunch of slides of paintings or photographs from different times and countries, but all of women—all of whom looked quite pleased with themselves—breast feeding their babies. The point of it all seemed to be to show how men have tricked women into breast-feeding down through the ages by portraying it in these paintings and photographs as a pleasant process, which DeKlerk assured us, it is not. One woman in the class who had breast fed her baby disagreed with her strongly, saying that she had enjoyed it. The class talked about this issue, as well as about the clothes that the various women portrayed in the slides were wearing for some time.

Finally, I raised my hand and asked, “What does all this have to do with international relations?”

DeKlerk and the other students became indignant. “Up to now, it has been males who have decided what constitutes international relations,” she said disdainfully. “But feminists do not have to limit themselves to such patriarchic visions.

“And surely it’s obvious,” she added, “that since men get women to breast feed their offspring in all countries, it is an international phenomenon and thus is a part of international relations—whether the patriarchy wants to admit it or not.” The women in the class all nodded knowingly at this and, like DeKlerk, all laughed through their noses at my ignorance.

As to class assignments, students were allowed to choose from several options. One was for those who had been in Briggs’s IR theory class last semester to write about how alienated they had felt in it. Lisa Dudwick squealed with delight at the possibility of writing such a paper. I decided then and there that this class was not for me. Lisa, by the way, had cut her long hair short in the same style as Prof. DeKlerk’s, and has also taken to laughing through her nose like her.

I finally ended up in Prof. Wang’s Chinese politics class, which meets Thursdays from 2 to 4. Like Trizenko’s class on Russia last semester, the class is not theoretical at all but just descriptive. Still, it looks interesting.

I’m getting a little tired now, so next time I’ll describe what it’s like to be a TA.

[Reminder: I found one of Shivvy’s scrunchies that I apparently overlooked when I packed her stuff up for her. I must remember to take it with me and give it back to her. It’s a blue one, which is appropriate because that’s how finding it made me feel.]