Saturday, 31 January 2009

College Burns Night

photos by: ccgd, g.naharro, mike138

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to give the reply to the toast to the lassies at the College Burns' Night that was held this week. Robert (or Rabbie) Burns, born 250 years ago, is a Scottish, Romantic poet and lyricist and national treasure, celebrated not least for being the "Ploughman Poet" and a womaniser. You might know him from the NYE song, Auld Lang Syne, but he also wrote some cracking poems, like A Man's A Man for A' That, Tam O'Shanter and Ae Fond kiss.

At the time I wasn't feeling too inspired by the idea, but I felt obliged to accept in part because my College paid for my trip to visit my mother in hospital late last year. Plus I figured I would probably like the attention when it came to it. The aim of the reply is to present in a playful, bawdy way some of the shortcomings of men using evidence from Burns' life and one's own experiences (and in response to the equally cheeky toast to the lassies).

I put the task aside until a couple of days before, but again, I wasn't feeling especially witty. So I emailed some of my family and friends to help me out. One of my sisters pointed out how men think that simply acknowledging that they are the father counts as sufficient contribution to the marathon that is parenthood. Another brother mentioned how one of our cousins uses the promise of ocean views to attract women to his apartment (it faces Redfern).

Apart from their substantive help (much of which made it in), it was the the accompanying e-chat that sparked me up, and in the process reminded me that coming from a big family and community has its massive ups. One of my brothers was mildly irritated by another whom he called a "tool" for not "replying all" with his suggestions as he had done. Then that brother emailed me to say that he would understand if I used another brother's suggestions verbatim "as pay back for [undergrad] University" (when I regularly assisted him with his essays and exam preparation). And then, in reference to the programme of the evening, there was a whole litany of remarks about how on earth I tolerate living in such a nerdy environment. One of my friends said, "We never had anything like this at North Sydney TAFE."

In the end, the 200+person supper was grand- the Scots language address to and frenzied knifing up of the haggis by a (Scottish) senior fellow was a highlight - and the toasts went down well. There was ceilidh afterwards - Celtic group dances (four couples in squares, or bigger groups in lines or rings) to a band and caller. This (shameful, but great) activity truly does make you feel as though you could end up engaged to someone on the basis that he or she can step, turn and swivel in time to a fiddle. I ended up with a bloody lip rather than a proposal - this guy in front of me in the tightly-packed ring dance (I am not sure those words should go together...) turned his partner the wrong way, that is, backwards and into my oncoming face.

Here is the final version of my toast: (Thanks team!)

Toast to Lassies - Reply

Good evening Ladies and Gentleman and thank you for allowing me to exercise the right of reply on behalf of the Lassies.

Robert Burns knew what every woman wants at the end of a hard day - a rollicking poem, some scotchy breath and most importantly, a firm ....caber.

A [College] man, like most men, is only capable of one of these things at a time. And by far and away most often, it's a scotchy breath.

Robbie knew this and therefore was not writing the Selkirk Grace for the Earl of Selkirk, but rather for the women in the room at the time. And for women down the ages.

I tried to imagine Rabbie as a [College] student today and I must say I can barely picture it. As a more senior lady, I have noticed over the years that [College] men tend to fall somewhere on the spectrum between:

Evil Genius Nerd who wouldn’t know how to flirt if it stole the spokey dokes of his favourite bike AND

Smart but simple Jock who wouldn’t know a poem if it stood up and slapped him on the arse with an oar.

From personal experience the evil genius nerd knows poetry, but his idea of flirting consists of shoulder charging you in the breast on the way to the bar, making a noise like “DER” at your failure to kick the hacky sack, or saying something offensive about your clothes or make-up, such as “you look like you’ve been punched in the eyes.”

The smart but simple jock will have flirted before, but his idea of poetry is sitting in the Common Room in a shiny tracksuit with his legs far open without any awareness of how startlingly unattractive it is or cultivating a form of facial hair that only two or three people on the planet can pull off and these include Wolverine, and Tom Selleck.

Perpendicular...or possibly parallel to this spectrum, leaning against the wall outside the Bar having a smoke is another set of men who can effectively combine poetry and flirting, but who toss their cabers to the other end of the field.

The other reason I became a little perplexed thinking about Rabbie or Robbo as he would be known in Straya, in [College] was that I figured he would probably be the only man actually having sex in [College] besides of course the one man who we know is having sex and in great detail courtesy of his lady friend.

So I did some further thinking about Robbo. I wondered what he would have done at the Freshers’ Fair. Certainly, despite his weakened constitution, aka man cold, he would have homed in on a few young beauties and here he had an ingenious card up his sleeve: bestowing the honour of muse.

Male artists, like Robbie, love talking about the importance of a muse, but, let’s face it once the seduction is done, the creative process actually happens at their desks leaning back on achair.

Indeed, Robbo said that he worked [Scottish accent] “in the solitary fireside of his study.”

You never hear about women and their muses, really, do you?

So basically, men don’t need a muse to do their art – some basic warmth, a chair and desk are fine. Essentially, I’ve figured out that the whole muse thing is a brilliant cover to have additional sex with young, beautiful women.

And you can just imagine the Jerry Maguire scene in the Haldane Room, the young woman, body a'trembling, saying to Robbie, you had me at [Scottish accent]:

The snowdrop and primrose.... our woodlands adorn,
and violets bath in the wet o’ the morn.

In any case, Robbo had a back-up plan: if you can’t get the beauty, go for the servant or less attractive friend.

Once the muse was selected, Robbo would have certainly bipassed the condoms on the Student Welfare desk. Much like the men of today Robbie considered contraception a woman’s issue, and in the era when the prophylactic earned its modern name, he clearly was not a fan of the animal tissue sheaths preferring instead to leave bulging bellies in his lusty wake.

If he were alive today, I’ve got to say with his enviable levels of fertility he could supplement his Arts and Humanities Research Council grants and modest royalties as a regular donor at fertility clinics.

But, be sure, [College] men, there is much to be learned from Robbo. The use of song and verse to seduce women, for instance. Despite our differences, we women are all after the same thing: a funny, sensitive, articulate man who’s great in bed.

Two hundred and fifty years ago it was our mate Robbie.

And, despite what I have said about [College] men, and about Rabbie….. we women certainly don’t want our men to be exactly the same as us.

We don’t want a man whose idea of flirting or poetry is brain dumping his daily struggles and childhood traumas to us over Facebook chat.

We want the Evil Genius Nerd and the Smart but Simple Jock. We even want the gay guys, they just don't want us. We want a man who could write the following:

Henpecked Husband by Robert Burns

Curs'd be the man, the poorest wretch in life,
The crouching vassal to a tyrant wife!
Who has no will but by her high permission,
Who has not sixpence but in her possession,
Who must to her his dear friend's secrets tell,
Who dreads a curtain lecture worse than hell.
Were such the wife had fallen to my part,
I'd break her spirit or I'd break her heart;
I'd charm her with the magic of a switch,
I'd kiss her maids, and kick the perverse bitch.

* * *

So for that we cheers the men of [College], we thank Rabbie Burns, and we give three cheers: to verse! to scotch! and to firm cabers!

To the lads!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

One Step Back, One Step Forward

photo by: Pat McDonald

A sign of my continuing battle:

About twelve people came round to mine this morning for a cheerful breakfast - mostly thanks to The Boy's level head - and while I had a lovely time, I had a sort of palsy, twitchy thingy when someone (great and well-meaning) on her way out, saying goodbye to me, then took a handful of strawberries from the plate I was taking in from the kitchen to offer everyone. There weren't many to begin with and I just felt that seeing as she was leaving she could have not taken any. It wasn't a take-away service and maybe you should stop eating at someone's house a little before you leave or at least if you do take a bit extra on your way out, then maybe you should make a token attempt at helping to clean up. I don't know. I then dispaired of my lack of a sense of abundance. Why did I care? I am, as I heard a snotty undergraduate say of DPhil students in the queue the other day, clearly a "mentaloid" and "craptacular".

A sign of my evolution:

I thought about an incident (vaguely and probably very annoyingly described in Hurty Wintry Ickiness) today. My feelings about it flared up again this week because of a fairly random comment someone made in a conversation. But I have decided to take responsibility for my part in the mess. I am starting to see that I was in it, and that I was not as noble as I would have liked to have been. So if you're reading, I am sorry.

How about you guys, my loyal readers? Any instances of your personal growth or regression?

Saturday, 24 January 2009


Every now and then I consider myself a natural anthropologist. Everything around me suddenly seems exotic, human behaviour becomes so dramatically interesting, and I seem to be able to see more clearly than usual what is going on and why. I rarely set out to put on my anthrospectacles, I just find I start commentating on my surroundings with a David Attenborough voice in my head.

On Friday, I enjoyed twenty minutes of 'thick description' magic during my lunch break. I was marching towards the revolving door to leave my Department for the local sandwich shop when I overheard these three men, I guess in their early sixties, two American and one English (or should I say British?) chuffing about how the last time they had been together had been in a pub in London in 69 where they ended up having "a fierce discussion about Vietnam." The English grey was gleeful about the fact that he had been on team Anti-Vietnam, surely bolstered by Obama's inauguration and the general feel. The shorter American began to defend his (still misunderstood!) ManChild argument, while at the same time tried to not seem bothered ("I can laugh at myself now, surely?"). He laughed at Anglo's taunts but only for two seconds and then he would frown and say, "Well, my actual argument was...". He ended up taking third person aside to tell him what he meant. "I was actually refuting just a small aspect of...". I became intrigued.

Then one of the guys made it through the revolving doors. The next one stepped slightly awkwardly into his own section which was swinging around rather quickly. Then the last guy went to hop in with his old pal, and then at the last minute realised that he would probably have to get quite close to his back, probably with some sort of gyrating motion, and even help push the glass leave with him so he decided to abort his plan and he was momentarily crushed by the uncaring wall. He pulled himself out, gathered himself, looked around and was clearly relieved that his friends hadn't seen him. He had successfully avoided a front-to-back man hug with someone he hadn't seen in forty years.

* * *
A few minutes later, on the way to the sandwich shop past the building site, a tall, ludicriously perfect, Nordic student moved effortlessly toward frowny me. His tanned, symmetrical face was displayed to full effect by a ponce headband pulling back his thick, blond hair. His clothes were new and clean - a rare spot in a town of chavs and luvvies. His gait took up more room than mine, his chin was elevated, and he was breathing through his well-shaped nostrils. As we passed, he looked down at me with an expression that was only not one of aloofness because he did in fact care that people noticed him. But there was nothing warm, or obliging in his eyes. I noticed a hint of mild contempt for me - as if I were just another piece of space junk that had fallen into his tractor beam. These affluent, insanely pretty boys scare me. They will never meet you half-way, let alone laugh freely at your jokes. Never. Ever.

* * *

In the sandwich shop, I decided to become irritated. I started to focus on the clogged queue. Everyone who goes to this place knows that the line works in a wonky circle. It starts at the door, proceeds along the back of the shop, loops around to the front counter where you order then circuits towards money man and out the door (with sandwich) again. Well, these Frenchies with their pantalons, ripped jumpers and writing on their hands, decided to just start to consider that they were in a sandwich shop and that there was a whole range of sandwich options that had been on display since they entered once they were asked for their orders. Then this red-nosed (some skin irritation thing), white-haired, chunky, bejerseyed undergraduate in front of me continued to maintain two metres between him and the next person so that I couldn't move up. Apparently, he did not sense the difference between being in the back part of the loop to the front part. They're worlds apart as far as I am concerned. Not even a competition. And then there was this guy who was wearing all different shades of brown and couldn't look at the chatty servers in the eye who reached behind my back, pulled open the fridge door to get his Coke and knocked me in the back of the head. I said, "Hey, you know I would have moved had you asked" (I was ready to pounce) and he just opened the door even more against me, grabbed his fizzy fun with his white chubby fingers, and went back to wherever he came from (probably a delta, where he could be invisible).

It was finally my turn to be served and my usual bandana guy gave me that special eye and made all these completely unfunny jokes about how he was going to forget one of my ingredients, about how he couldn't decipher whether I said "toasted" or not ("Toasted please", "Oh you want it untoasted?", "No toasted", "I am jocking with you.") So I was feeling a bit special and flashed him some teeth, but then as I shuffled along to pay my money to the till man, I became aware for the first time that this guy says the same thing to everyone, boys included, and that everyone was becoming ridiculously tongue-tied and docile with him. "No, actually, I've changed my mind", one girl squeaked, "I don't really know what I want. What do you think I should have?" I wanted to bang my head on the counter.

* * *
Outside, bitten by the wind, I was no picture of elegance. I was half-committed to eating in public (as bad as someone deciding to eat out of a bowl on the roadside), which meant I was picking at my food with my fingerless gloves. I looked up and I saw something one rarely sees in Oxford - a rather large, round bottom. They exist (in fact, they're encouraged), but they're usually harnessed by jeans or covered by swathes of coats and jumpers. A lady in the late summer of her life was strutting in front of me in a short black leather jacket cut down the middle by a brush of peroxide hair, and a thin, tight blue skirt to the knee. She wore tired, grey stockings and black ankle boots and had a backpack over her shoulder. When we passed the building site, I watched the workers expectantly (no wiping the mind clean here, I had already judged them) and, the world was in order, they alerted each other by hitting each other on the chest with the back of the hand, grunted and laughed. Then a taxi drove towards us and I could see the driver's religious paraphernalia swinging and entwining above the dash. He stopped at the crossing and as we crossed, he watched her bottom like it was a couple of trays of iced, cream cakes. Then I thought, "OK, We're done." But no, the passenger of the next car that was slowly starting to move, a more senior woman wearing a yellow canvas dress, stared as happily as if she were watching her lawn bowl travel to closest to the jack. I wanted to stop everyone from watching her travelling glutes. But instead I was just quietly relieved when she continued forward and I headed back towards the fast revolving doors.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

As if by Magic....

Someone dear to me asked me to explain my academic habits, those patterns of behaviour that help me start and then finish academic tasks.

Well, I've got to say that a PhD means that some of the old rules don't apply anymore: IT'S PRISON RULES! But I have decided to give it ago.

This morning, when I first started to think about what works or has worked for me in the past, I realised that many of these practices are tied up with how I manage my state of mind. So I am afraid that this list is bound to be a motley of the outward and inward and may or may not be very transferable.
  1. Have Pride in Tenacity over Intellect or Talent. I have noticed that many brilliant people in Oxford flounder when faced with the MPhil or DPhil. It seems to me that up until they arrived being the whiz kid in a structured environment worked perfectly for them. At a certain point though, being clever is not enough. So I think having a sense of pride in the ability to complete things without anyone holding your hand or caring if you don't is essential. Start actively admiring tenacity in yourself and in others.

  2. Create a Reason for Studying. I think it is very important to create a healthy reason for sitting on your fat arse and sending yourself blind and nutty from over-analysis. Studying out of guilt or peer pressure is fine when you're younger than 25, but after that smart people become pretty defiantly lazy without a higher purpose.

  3. Get Yourself a Mantra. I remind myself daily that I love learning, that I am lucky to be able to think and write (fairly) freely, and that it is a choice, I am choosing to study. In the American sense, I choose to own my choice to study. Actually, whenever anyone asks how one of my American pals here is going, he replies, "I am living the dream." Now I don't think this is appropriate social behaviour, but I think something like this is worth saying to oneself every day.

  4. Love a List. I have always been a fan of lists. Apart from my annual list of goals, I make a list for the week on a Sunday or Monday, and then I make a list each day. I adjust my list for the week according to how I go with my daily tasks. There is loads of good advice about there on how to make lists functional, in short how to transform goals or desires into specific actions with a specific time frame and a definite criterion for success. I am much better at structuring my list as a bunch of broad goals with a set do-able steps underneath each of them. Get a bit OCD and enjoy making everything regular and bite-sized.

  5. Get Real. Students are notoriously and perilously optimistic about how little time they need to finish a task. At some point during my undergraduate studies, I worked out roughly how long 3000 word essays took me. I believe it was about 2-3 weeks of preparatory reading (recommended and wider) while doing other Uni work and then I generally needed a day to plan the essay (when I would produce a detailed outline so I knew exactly what was going in each paragraph), a day to write it and a day to edit it. Leaving essays to the last minute is unncessarily anxiety-provoking. It's a form of self-sabotage, really, no matter how studly people who do them in one day think they are (presuming they're not liars). So I would say that blocking out a realistic amount of time in your diary is crucial, as is making sure your diary is talking to your daily/weekly lists so that you're setting the right tasks each day.

  6. Be Active. Never just read a book or an article. Type or write notes (a full summary or a few important quotes or ideas), draw a spider diagram or whatever. Write in your notebook the name of the source, the date, why the source was useful or not, and how it connects to in the rest of the literature and therefore your burgeoning argument ('cause let's face it, most essays ask for two sides and then your ingenious third way so you may as well read articles with that in mind).

  7. Get into your Flow. I have worked out which tasks suit me on which days of the week, and in which moods: one day of planning, administration or reading, four days of the week for hideously intense writing and then one day for reflecting, blue skies solutioneering etc.

  8. Start Being a Bit Freaky. Start cutting up your life into time for work, play, lover/friends/pets, exercise and leisure. Start becoming comfortable with going for a walk every weekday at 4pm, seeing a movie every single Saturday night and turning down parties because you have a book to read. But having said that, if you want to go out and/or you've scheduled in play time, I have found that the worst thing to do is to change your mind. Stick to your decisions. Whenever I opted for staying at home when it was clearly time to play (either because I'd pencilled it in or because I was getting resentful), I would end up in a tracksuit staring at my pile of notes, being rude to loved-ones and watching budget movies. I would then be stuck in regret spiral for at least a day. It's far more productive to go out, flick your hair around, get some attention and love from real people (not Hegel), and then get up and do a few hours work the next day.

I hope this helps.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Oi coxing, keep your grubby hands off my Ch'i!

I have just returned from a morning on the Isis, coxing. It was mild. The sky was white spray-painted pink. The trees along the banks were bare and still, but the moss and grass were gently glowing - there is something child-friendly about the winter now. There was only one other boat out on the river, now dark green. We were joined by chubby geese plonking in from the banks.

I feel more like my cloudless, pre-write-up self today. I recognised the difference when one of the crew members complained to the coach half way through the outing that my calls were not aggressive enough to push their stroke. I cared enough to get a little more race-crazy in the second half, but I felt detached, like I was watching myself, and barely a trace of shame. Oh, appropriate detachment, you truly are lovely! Please stay.

Even when rower-woman apologised to me at the bike racks (it is bad form to criticise a cox in front of the crew, something about needing to maintain his or her veneer as top dog so that other crew members don't decide not to listen just as their heads are being knocked off by a short bridge) and even when another crew member said to me on the ride back to College "How bullshit was that comment?", I just didn't engage and it didn't require any vein-swelling suppression either. I have considered that my body is trying to help me out, to save my pep, my vim, my Ch'i, so to speak, for the battle with Little Bastard (although, probably relatedly, we've agreed on a few issues lately. We're not quite meeting for Christmas in the trenches, but we're OK).

It's fascinating to me to observe how strikingly the morale of the rowers diminishes by any drag of the boat, or indeed any sense that there is not enough power or a steady rhythm. These seem like big things that should be alarming, but they're made up of very small things that each person in the boat can work on. When the boat just doesn't feel right (like rowing through cement or as if it's sitting on a rolling pin), and then, god forbid, the cox hesitates or makes an incorrect call, most rowers tend to become terribly gloomy or snippy and very quickly. This then dominoes creating more devastation among all but the very few (Zen rowers, they're called). Then once focus is regained (usually by one short, sharp call) and there's a spot of long, strong gliding, the boat lifts, spirits lift, and the cox is the hero once more.

Yes, ladies and gents, it's a fickle, sometimes cruel world, this coxing business. You can be spat at (rather than "out" - they're desperate to keep coxes) quicker than you can say "Next stroke, stern six to three quarter slide. Go."

I wouldn't want to suggest that rowing is a microcosm or anything so ridiculous, but it certainly dramatises a form of mania. My emotional state, however, is drawing a clear, straight line on the top end of the spirits graph. It's been a good few days.

Plus Kate luvvy Winslet has finally bagged a Golden Globe and, as Oprah says, she has real boobs that do what real boobs do.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Mitigating Factors for Sentencing

In case something happens, here are some signs of my write-up emotional state:

  1. I watched a full series of 30 Rock back-to-back in bed on Saturday morning. It's so precious to me (along with my Frankie Boyle DVD, which is under my pillow).
  2. I now sing in the shower (a first) and one of my repeats is "I Want to Know What Love is."
  3. I think of my boyfriend as someone who feeds and pats me.
  4. I cried my eyes out at the end of the latest BBC version of The Diary of Anne Frank and started banging on about human suffering, Gaza and The Congo, and then how my thesis is perhaps one big waste of time and energy.
  5. Like many of my friends here, I have begun to consider whether my research is lightweight and uninteresting and whether I should have done something else. "Is there enough time to change?" we ask - before deciding that it is better to set lower expectations for our chosen topics.
  6. I have started to succumb to frantic bursts of web trawling for post-doc opportunities and for any funding bodies who would be up for supporting various interdisciplinary pop research ideas of mine. Anyone know of any?
  7. I have resumed chewing my hair or not so much chewing as clamping a section in my mouth. It's gross.
  8. I am becoming mildly annoyed by various trends and themes in blogland: vitriolic criticisms on the current use of grammar, pimping out your kids and spouses, blog experiments like polyamorous relationships or making eco sexy.
  9. I have a pile of chocolate gold coin wrappings in front of me, folded, twisted and torn, touching an empty Ribena carton, which is near my cold sore ointment. Usually, one can find clever pistacchio nut shell sculptures of various human body parts, surrounded by multiple half-empty mugs of peppermint tea.
  10. I just had a tantrum about how bad this blogpost is. I have no confidence in anything I do anymore.
photographs: Shapeshift and rachel a.k.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Dr Moi

I am back in Oxford. I have successfully commenced my new work timetable that I devised while I was away as part of my self-imposed Get Real Challenge. In the likely case that you are more sophisticated than me and missed that allusion, Dr Phil put sad people on Get Real Challenges in the early noughties.

I don't like Dr Phil. I haven't watched him or Opes in ages. Actually, I don't watch much TV at all. I no longer have a TV. I watch Stephen Fry shows on BBC iPlayer, and sometimes I watch Strictly Come Dancing, that is until I recognise that it's the jingle in between each segment that is making me feel mildly anxious. I was into The Wire for a bit, now it's 30 Rock.

I have recently read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and The Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg. I was a bit late on The Kite Runner train - all the hype made me think it might be of the same texture as the Da Vinci Code: vomity. But it wasn't at all. It was epic, gripping and sentimental (if a little heavy-handed at times). I felt a little emotionally manipulated at the end, but I went with it, snot bubbles and all.

The Little Virtues is more my thing: eleven essays, part memoir, part fiction. It's imbued with (post-WW2) moralising and nostalgia, a wonderful self-deprecating wit and perfect, often prickly observations (especially about the English, which made me feel like her friend).

Here is some preaching:

And the story of human relationships never ceases for us; because little by little they become all too easy for us, all too natural and spontaneous - so spontaneous and so undemanding that there is no richness, discovery or choice about them; they are just habit and complacency, a kind of intoxicated naturalness. We believe that we can always return to that secret moment of ours, that we can draw on the right words; but it isn't true that we can always go back there, often our return there is false; we make our eyes glow with a false light, we pretend to be warm and caring towards our neighbour and we are in fact once more shrunken and hunchen up in the icy darkness of our heart. Human relationships had to be rediscovered and reinvented every day. We have to remember constantly that every kind of meeting with our neighbour is a human action and so it is always good or evil, true or deceitful, kindness or a sin (Human Relationships).

And some funny:

The English rarely show surprise. If it happens that someone faints in the street, everything is provided for. In a few seconds a chair is found for him, a glass of water, a uniformed nurse (England: Eulogy and Lament).

I am trying to widen my range of extra-curricular material to include some more current affairs coverage. I realised again when I was hanging out with my brother who asked me for my opinion on multiple public issues just how very insulated and self-obsessed one (has to) become during the last phases of write-up (and maybe even during the whole damned thing, at least in Oxford). I read about the strife in Gaza and the current financial crisis, and I try to get my head around some of the range of issues, but as soon as I am finished, I simply click on another webpage or go back to the Old Bastard and my thoughts. I connect certain themes together, but I don't feel nearly as passionate or even concerned about the people or places involved as I would normally. I don't like that really.

But charity starts in the home (right internet?) and I had the rather unusual experience today of having two man pals seek my advice about Love. I have experienced emotional males before, just not two in one day and both in such self-conscious, advisor-advisee situations. One of them was gushy and needed assurance that his sentiments would be reciprocated, the other was teary and overwhelmed about possibly giving up an old relationship for a new one. I have noticed that at the beginning of every term here, there are heightened feelings; intense fearfulness about losing and gaining - people, things, achievements, careers, and places. I listened, validated, shared and made suggestions where appropriate, as I would with my lady friends.

I really do give out a lot of energy when people ask me for advice. I wish the Old Bastard were a real person stretched on a couch, simply listening to my wise words and appreciating my charm. He's not like that.