Sunday, April 20, 2008


Two things this last week have left me feeling very exposed. I need to process this and move on, so here goes.

1. My fear was realized: students have seen me naked. Yes. I do not kid. Remember how I swim sometimes? I've been swimming a lot more this semester, which has produced some lovely new muscles and reinstated my former shoulder definition--originally the result of lots of sun salutations, they'd started to fade away in the yoga desert that is Field Town. The swimming is great; I like it more and more. I'm even okay with the fact that all of the lifeguards are students in my classes. The downside is the locker room, which is basically one not-so-large room with a row of lockers dividing it in half. In theory, one could obtain moderate privacy by ducking behind the dividing lockers; in practice, the door to the gym hallway opens off of one-half of the locker room, so you don't want to be stripping down over there. Oh no. In fact, that door is often propped open (???????). Basically, therefore, there's a narrow little gully where everyone has to get dressed.

Normally this is no problem because no one ever uses the pool except for a couple of very old people who just sort of float there while I cruise on by (yes, I'm getting a swimming ego. Please forgive). But on Thursday when I went in there after my swim I heard voices...I entered...the entire women's softball team was gathered around my locker (not deliberately, of course, but simply by virtue of being in the tiny locker gully). I don't know any of them, luckily, and I don't think that they even identified me as a faculty member. Nonetheless. I took as long as I could putting in my contacts and doing other non-naked things, then very quickly got my bathing suit half off and put on my bra. Then I sort of stood there with my swimsuit around my waist and my towel around my waist too and pretended to rearrange my clothes or something for a while. But they weren't going anywhere, these women, and the longer I waited the more ridiculous I felt. So finally I just did it--I completed the change--they weren't paying any attention to me but still, it was not where I wanted to be. Naked with a bunch of fully-clothed undergrads.* I am not a modest person, normally--I used to be an artist's model and my college dorm had co-ed open showers--but you know. Power dynamics, boundaries. Whatever. And naturally the instant I was dressed they all took off, so another 30-second wait probably would have bought me privacy. Alas.

*I just reread that--it would not have been better if they had not been fully clothed. Just to clarify.

2. More seriously, I spoke up in a meeting last week. And I said something critical. I cannot, of course, blog at all about the particulars of this meeting, but it was confidential and no records were kept of whom said what. And people were saying much more critical things than I was; I knew that the majority was behind me, and for various political reasons it was sort of important that I speak. But this was the first time I'd said anything substantive in one of these meetings, and it was scary. More scary were the multitude of congratulations on my "courage" that I have received since. You know that thing about junior faculty shutting their mouths for a while? I guess I'm not doing that anymore, and even though there weren't records made of the meeting I've obviously made an impression on everyone who was there--including, I assume, those who had an opposing position. I'm not worried about my job, exactly, but in a place this small people really talk a lot (I know so much, so much more than I should, already), and discretion isn't exactly...what You know? I don't know. My fears are nebulous and I don't think that anything bad will happen. But it seems likely that, even if the substance of my criticism doesn't get back to the higher powers, my position will be known. Which is kind of scary, 'cause I'd played it pretty close to the chest up until then.


So yeah. Nudity and academic politics. That's my world.

Actually, my world is pretty fabulous right now. The trees are just on the cusp of bursting into bloom; they've reached that cheerful puffball stage. Classes end on Wednesday and really we're not doing much of anything else in any of them. The days are lengthening. My personal life is enjoying various positive developments. A bird is attacking a squirrel outside my window. The Minister** is bringing me some organic produce. What more could I want?

**It's time some of my colleagues/friends here acquire pseudonyms: here's the first.


medieval woman said...

Despite the awkward nudity and departmental politics (and welcome to the realm I, too, am becoming initiated into) - I'm glad that you sound so happy!!!

Puffball blooms!

P.S., my word verification is "etpuamk"...

Quoth Caesar:
"et pu, amk?"
"et pu?"

Sisyphus said...

Hooray for naked faculty meetings!!!! Hooray for organic squirrel juice!!!!!

Oh wait ---- maybe I should have read that more closely...

Dr. Richard Scott Nokes said...

You'll get little sympathy from your male colleagues on the nudity issue. Since urinals often don't have dividing walls on campus, though our students have never seen us completely naked, they HAVE seen ... well, erm, you get the idea.

Belle said...

Why do they do this? Chez nous, the new wellness center opened, promising faculty/staff privacy in the locker rooms: we were going to use the rooms designated for women coaches of visiting teams! Hooray! All was lovely, until the place opened... and those locker rooms were closed and locked.

They encourage us to use the facility more. We resist because we have a very small campus and ... well, who wants to strip in front of 20 yr old dancers and athletes? They refuse to open the visiting coaches shower area. Predictable results.

Manda said...

I've got that beat. I teach high school, and one day at my local gym where I swim I not only run into a student....but she introduced me to her mom while we were all in the SHOWER room. Talk about awkward (at least for the mom and me, the girl seemed oblivious).

squadratomagico said...

Hee-hee! Sorry to giggle, but it's sort of a funny story.

And: I don't think I said a word in our faculty meetings for 18 months or so. Good for you for speaking your mind!