Archive | September, 2011

My First Day of Grad School

19 Sep

Alternate titles for this post: The Good, the Grad, and the Ugly, Grad Santa, Breaking Grad

I walk up four flights of stairs to get to my first graduate literature class. It’s a renaissance literature class–the “eat your vegetables” section of graduate literary study. On top of that, it’s a renaissance poetry class–the “eat your vegetables and also now there’s also someone screaming into your ear and slapping the food off of your fork” section of graduate literary study.

The room is small–smaller than any of the classrooms I inhabited as an undergrad. Centralized in the room is a collection of small tables, pushed together to create one, rectangular unit. We all sit in swivel back desk chairs. I look at the lovely desk chairs–they are nicer than any desk chair I’ve ever had (Desk chair #1: Bought at Office Depot for $30. Desk Chair #2: Found in house I moved into, structurally unsound, literally snapped in half after two months. Desk Chair #3: Stolen from ex-roommate, seat portion cuts me off at mid-thigh and makes my legs fall asleep if I sit in it too long.).

My professor is in his late fifties or early sixties, with a tomato-shaped head and eyes that seem–although stored next to a brain that he invested tens of thousands of dollars in–uncomfortable and approval-seeking. I make a mental note to bully the professor into giving me a ride home after class. I try to find his nipples through his shirt so I can practice Purple Nurple trajectory. Always envision your successes before they happen. See the hand, sweaty from note taking. See the nipple, barely visible through the canary yellow button up. See the contact. See the thumb and pointer finger move in seamless harmony, clamping down on the nipple, compressing it. Zoom up to the face of a broken down, frightened man. Cut to his attacker, who can be seen–in slow motion–mouthing his address and nodding.

“Okay, first off, my name is Dr. Scheffler. I’ve studied in Chicago, Iowa, and Cambridge.”

“Looks like we got a cool guy on our hands,” I whisper to the girl next to me. She looks over and does not respond. I take off my sunglasses and flip my collar down.

“This semester we will be talking about the renaissance poet Edmund Spenser. Has anyone here ever read any Spenser?” he asks. No one raises their hand. This silence is met with laughter by all, including Dr. Scheffler. “That’s okay. I didn’t think young people spent a lot of time reading renaissance poetry in their free time anyway.” More chuckles. Funny guy. I’m the funny guy. He’s the good looking one. That’s our deal. Except I’m also the good looking one. He’s the one with the nipples.

Except I have nipples.

This is difficult.

[Editor’s Note: I’m pretty sure you used that joke before. The ‘but I’m also the good looking one’ one. You may want to delete that.]

[Kyle’s Note: I’m currently working on my MA in Literature. Sorry, man. I don’t have time.]

[Editor’s Note: It took you so much longer to type that response to me than it would have for you to delete that joke. Just delete it.]

[Kyle’s Note: Busy.]

[Editor’s Note: See above.]

[Kyle’s Note: Biz.]

[Editor’s Note: ‘Biz’? What are you talking about?]

[Kyle’s Note: Too busy to write it out.]

[Editor’s Note: You’re too busy to type out “busy”? That’s ludicrous. You just typed the word “busy” to tell me that you were too busy to type “busy.”]

[Kyle’s Note: B]

[Editor’s Note: …]

My professor goes on. “We’re going to spend a lot of time talking about the Bible in here as well, and some history. It’s a little difficult to read–the text, that is–because they used different type sets in renaissance presses.”

“Often printing solely in ‘Wingdings.'” I add.

“Uh,” he looks at me and then checks his notes. “No. That’s not the case.”

I “hm” in acceptance.

“Anyway, we’ll first be covering some of Spenser’s personal history. He had only one wife: Elizabeth Boyle.”

“She’s that old?!” I ask. I’m sitting on the opposite end of the rectangle from the professor.

“Who is that old?” he asks.

“Elizabeth Boyle. Did anybody see that clip?” Crickets. “That clip of her singing that song from Le  Mis.” Somebody out of my line of sight says “Oh my god” quietly, maybe to themselves, but I hear it, and it hurts my feelings.

“Are you talking about Susan Boyle?” a kittenish girl on the end of my side of the rectangle says.

“Yes!” I point at her and we lock eyes.

“Okay, that’s not the same person–they just have the same last name.”

“Elizabeth Boyle’s daughter, then.”

“Her daughter? Elizabeth Boyle was alive over four-hundred years ago.”

“Susan Boyle’s pretty old,” I say.

“Not that old,” my professor responds.

“Well, you’re the one who went to Cambridge,” I say, sighing. “I hope you got a good education at England’s number one community college.” I smirk and look at the girl next to me again. She doesn’t smile back. This infuriates me. “I’m never using one of your jokes ever again,” I say to her, then face forward, sullen. She begins to make a defense, but the professor raises a hand to silence her.

“Let’s just move on,” He paused. “Now, much of Spenser’s early work deals partly with the King’s Great Matter. Does anybody know what that was? Does anybody know what the Great Matter was?”

“I don’t know, what’s the Great Matter with you?” I ask, leaning forward in my seat. Somebody to my left laughs and that’s all the encouragement I need for at least four more jokes. I sit back before having a chance to register the professor’s reaction.

“He wanted a male heir, but all he was getting was females. One of these female heirs was…?” He pauses, waiting for student response.

“Anne Bolyn,” a male graduate student softly replies. The professor doesn’t quite make out what he says.”

“What was that?” the professor asks. “What did you say?”

“He said ‘Weenie Juggler,'” I respond.

“No I did not!” the graduate student responds, in a tone that all but guarantees me that he was beat up a lot as a child.

I shrug.

“I said ‘Anne Bolyn.'”

“Exactly right,” the professor says. “And please, sir,” he addresses me, “keep your comments to yourself.”

I nod, knowing I cannot possibly be expected to do this. Later, we study a passage from the book of Mark.

“When you see ‘the abomination that–‘”

“Did you say the Obama-nation?” I ask, leaning so far over the table that I almost fall down.

“The abomination?”

“The Obama Nation.”


“Obama Nation.”

“Leave this classroom,” my professor says.

I leave, and wait outside the room to get my ride home.

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