Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The mean reds

Remember in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," when Holly says to Paul:

"You know those days when you get the mean reds?"

"The mean reds, you mean like the blues?"

"No. The blues are because you're getting fat and maybe it's been raining too long, you're just sad, that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid and you don't know what you're afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?"

Kind of. I mean, it is not exactly fear that I am feeling right now, but more like diffuse anxiety, which I suppose is a kind of fear that I will forget something or someone... The diffuseness of my anxiety could be mistaken for not knowing what it is that itches and nag.

In other words: It is the end of the semester.

What triggers the mean reds for me is not necessarily having to write exams (or even to grade them within 24 hours of their completion). It is:

* Having to hear yet another student's confession about the problems he or she has been having from the start of the semester that affected the quality of the student's performance in my class, which he or she in fact found quite interesting, also that the student is a lot more intelligent and hard-working than he or she might have given the impression of being. None of which I dispute. However, I cannot grade the goodness of intention or the greatness of potential.

* Having to say no to students asking for or requesting a range of exceptions, from submitting work from the first month of class now during finals week to whether or not they can devise an additional assignment for extra credit to rescheduling the date and time of their final exams b/c they have back-to-back exams.


Look. I know it is "right" to say no. Also, that as the professor, I have the right to say no.

The fact is that I do say no.

However. I hate being put in the position of having to say yes or no. At all.

Perhaps it is that I am uncomfortable with the "power" of being the professor who assigns the grades. (I suppose it is an occupation hazard of being a cultural anthropologist, but sometimes I cannot help but feel that this power is being exercised rather arbitrarily - I mean, we all hear the stories from students about the insane professor in another department...)

Or am I showing my gender: I like to be nice, and I have a problem with not being nice?

Or perhaps it is that I feel the efforts I already make for students seem to go unrecognized - for example, for students in ANTH 100, I post events like lectures and films that they can attend and write about for extra credit on the Web-based course calendar.

Not to mention what I had been doing up there in the front of the lecture hall during the entire rest of the semester. Which might or might not have made a difference. Blurgh.


So, I have the mean reds right now:

Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany's. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that'd make me feel like Tiffany's, then - then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name!


  1. Don't think twice...Drop the hammer.

  2. Karl says it's not about gender. Or if it is, he's with ya, sistah.

  3. On not dropping the hammer: I feel like Rex the Dinosaur in "Toy Story." Which is on constant rotation here, but that is a tale to tell another time.

    "I'm going for fearsome here, but I just don't feel it! I'm think I'm just coming off as annoying."