Saturday, April 13, 2013

bull in a china shop

I have, for some of the year (when not thrilled to death to be there, and also in a tired-haze-of-learning-+-babies-stupor) walked around in my current academic home with a vague sense of unease. I wasn't really sure what it was about, just sort of one of those things at the back of your mind or the tip of your tongue that you can't quite.... get at.  And then, the other day, it crept off the tip of my tongue and out through my Barbie band-aided fingertips onto my keyboard (man, that way of coming to cognition is so *me* in terms of life stuff.  I wish it was so *me* in terms of school stuff!). But here it is, then.  I often, when in my current workplace of academia, feel outclassed. Not an imposter in terms of intellect necessarily, although sometimes that too. But more like, I'm not classy enough. (Enough being, you know, at all). Academia feels like a pretty upper-middle class hangout. (Or maybe it's just all that middle-upper class angst by Carol Shields that I've been reading about all term long that has skewed my sense of the world surrounding me.) It's *not* the people. It's the place. It's in the walls and in the bones of Academia. Which feels proper. Reserved. Quiet. The home of the Well-Thought and the Articulate and the Distinguished.

And because my response to feeling inadequate in any way is *always* to confess, here are some of my non-classy confessions:

I'm the child of a middle class mama who married first generation immigrant/refugee papa. I'm the child of activist parents who both went back to school when their kids were young. Yup. We were broke. Then I later lived with my single-social-service-working-mama, supporting her two kids. And then with my mom and her partner, two formerly-single mama's raising four kids. 

I know how many bills they're gonna send before they cut me off. And I know that the last notice never comes to you in an innocuous looking envelope. There's some red on that envelope, y'all. And some big-assed bold text. I am well versed in the art of generally scraping by and of getting through when the scraping isn't possible. These are the skills you get to learn when you don't grow up with money, and they're good skills to have.

I got to go to private school for my last two years of high school because my house burnt down when I was fifteen, and my dad used insurance money to pay myschool tuition. There, I learned the art of passing but not necessarily the art of comfort. I can pretend to be comfortable in environments that don't come naturally to me, but they still make me really nervous. Though I reflect that passing, too, is a good skill to have.

I don't throw dinner parties or go to fancy restaurants. I don't know how to throw a dinner party. And I probably can't afford to throw one, either. And besides that, they make me nervous. I can't casual-chat. Like, I suck at it. If I'm gonna talk to someone I want to get inside of them. Not, you know, like a virus. More like, I don't know, an inquisitive heart or a rainbow-loving-unicorn, or something all disgustingly earnest like that. (I do like to play up the sarcasm, but underneath I'm really abhorrently earnest. Which is probably why I have such little patience for the earnest...).  I've got nothing against dinner parties. I'm sure, if one is good at them, they are all kinds of fun. I'm just deeply suspecting that I'm not good at them. Moreover, I'm pretty sure I'm not the kinda girl who gets invited to dinner parties. I'm more like the kinda girl you want to get drunk with and dance your ass off. And maybe make a pass at later. (Though this last bit could just be wishful thinking). Or alternatively, pour your soul out to. I'm kinda good like that. (Also - I think I might secretly aspire to be good at throwing dinner parties.)

I blurt shit out. Yep. I'm a blurter. (Though by the by, one of my favourite Carol Shields moments this year is in her book Unless, when the properly restrained Reta Winters comes to realize that "blurting is a form of bravery" (270). I rather enjoyed that bit. Properly restrained is not something I am, um, generally speaking, good at. Anyhoo...

I flirt. Like a lot. And sometimes totally by accident. That shit just comes out. And I swear like a motherfucker. Erm, I mean trucker. (That shit just comes out, too).

I'm far more comfortable in high-high heels and fishnets than I am in a pithily-worded tee and jeans with a scarf wrapped around my neck.

I'm a pretty hardcore femme. I'm also a broke-ass femme and I've perfected the art (oh yes, it's an art people) of spying barely worn shoes and hot dresses amidst racks 'o crap at second hand stores. Though I *do* love vintage and have a pretty darn good eye for it and have been known to rock the shit out of it; I never, never fool myself into thinking that sometimes 'vintage' is just a code word for Can'tAffordAnythingElse.

And my biggest fear about heading to a conference in June is not that I'll sound like a total moron (though this is also a distinct possibility), but that I will somehow be inappropriate in dress and decorum (which is an even more distinct possibility). Well - maybe not the dress part, cause I'm a good faker and I'll leave the fishnets at home. But decorum? Whole 'nother ballroom. And yes, that's my femme version of ball game ;)

Somebody once asked me how I managed to live in Edmonton with my combined love of pretty shoes and the presence of Gravity Pope. The fact of the matter is that I rarely set foot in Gravity Pope. Gravity Pope ain't for people like me. And what's more - the people who work at Gravity Pope, or Corso 32 or other  classy and expensive (and I'm sure, wonderful) places - they know I'm an imposter. They can read me from the front door. I don't walk the walk. I pick up a pair of shoes and try not to gasp when I look at the price. And then wait for whomever I happen to be with without picking up another pair (because why the hell would I torture myself like that?). Or I look at the menu and try not to gasp at a 20$ glass of wine. I stifle discomfort when the server makes me taste that sip of wine before they pour the whole glass.  But inside, my brain is shouting,
I try to think all of those things with my inner *quiet voice* while looking like my sweet, smiling self.  But I know that they know. Imposter, me.

I think wine tasters are idiots because they spit out perfectly good wine. It's true.  I do.  Idiots. Perfectly good wine, people.  That's all I have to say on this matter.

Currently, I am waiting to find out if I got a government scholarship for the next few years. I'm trying to remain positive but deeply suspect that I lost this particular coin toss.  But if I do get it, I might actually cry in the happy-crying way. Because it would mean much, much less scraping. It would mean some breathing room. Or maybe an exciting conference (where I could worry some more about my lack of decorum)?  But I also know that I'll be fine either way. I'm super scrappy that way.

I know I'm more class privileged than lots of people. Lots. (Note my use of italics, underline AND bold there, folks). But right now, I also feel like I'm taking some cultural notes. I'm trying to do like the Romans, as they say. I've just been hyper aware of late that I may not, you know, be a Roman (yet, or possibly ever). 

I'm a bull in the proverbial china shop.

I guess it's part of my blurty, scrappy, vintage charm. 

1 comment:

  1. What a great post! I know it's really easy to say, "be yourself", but it's. thought! I often feel like an imposter too. I think it's the province of the middle and lower middle class educated folks who will never be Oxford or Cambridge. It's practically painful. I hope you can find a balance somehow!