Our office this week.
They tweeted about us!
Walking to lunch on Wednesday, C. (from a big deal university in the U.S.) tells me, “I hope I didn’t overwhelm you yesterday.”
The day before, we had been walking around to different book agencies as part of our [excellent] Catalan to English translation course and I started to ask her about what she studies, who she works with, and why. As part of a gripping and detailed explanation about who her new advisor was (long story short: she swapped the big name for a person who would really be in the PhD trenches with her), she explained to me about her boyfriend, who really isn’t her boyfriend, but actually her husband because he’s not American and in order for him to be able to stay in the States while she pursues said PhD, he needed papers. So they got married, telling only their parents (because they’re planning an engagement and wedding for next year). So, she told me all of that, only with more details.
Back to Wednesday. I quickly reassured her that she had NOT shared to much, that I eat that stuff up, and I really don’t function in professional spheres with strict personal boundaries. After spending the first few months of my MA trying to “be professional” when I was at school (which to me translates to no tears in the office and limited references to bodily functions), I realized that acting like that felt flat to me. I don’t do Ms. Serious very well. I like to get my job done (sometimes standing with barefeet on the floor, half standing, half sitting), but I also like to know how your date went last Friday, where you got your new shoes, if things are less awkward with so and so (or don fulano, as they say in Spanish). I like for you to talk to me about what books you’re getting from the library from what paper, but I also want to know what class is like with that new professor you have and how s/he teaches…etc. Ya know?
Back to Wednesday, I told C. that I really only flourish when walls come down and thus, not only had her comments to me not overwhelmed me, they had made me feel more wholly human and made her seem more wholly human in the process. We got to lunch (an Indian place off Còrsega with a nicely priced menú-the three course lunch deal with drinks included) and C. said, projecting to the other 8 of us at the four 2-person tables we had joined together, “So, K. and I were talking about boundaries…” She (and I) wanted to get the opinions of everybody else-what was their experience like?
What followed was a fascinating conversation about feeling feminist and still wanting to paint your nails, or advocating women in the work place which still desiring motherhood, or acknowledging the Old Serious Men (and Women) who will be inevitably replaced by us in the profession. We are the changing face of humanities; we are bright young women who are talkative and qualified and too giggly and highly inquisitive. And around that table, only first after addressing the necessity (not luxury) of a personal life, we hatched a plan to ask the organization offering us this course to publish a collection, our collection, of translated short stories. And since publications in our line of work are really the golden ticket, what we had done was take our own approach to arrive at Old Serious People’s desired outcome.
This was empowering.
As I child, I was never a proponent of same-sex education. It felt stilted and unnatural and modern people just didn’t need that. Historically, “girls’ schools” were a way to teach women manners (Obey the Man) and how to sew and to cook, while it was the man’s brain that was deemed apt for humanities, mathematics, running the world.
This week, in a group exclusively made up of women, visiting literary agents (2 of the 3 women), interacting with staff at R.L. (3 of the 4 women), I felt girl power. I felt all of the benefits of what it would be like to be educated around women. It was like a mini-session of all girls’ school. We could talk about our boyfriends (or girlfriends), and dresses, and being frustrated with Professor Important for not understanding our personal needs. We were not submitted to the sexual tension that makes women (or men, why not?) raise their voice an octave and use their cute laugh instead of their glorious cackle. We were not implicitly more attuned to male voices of authority. Rather, we were each leaders. We were given the turn to talk. We were doing things our way. Whether that makes me more a millennial or more a feminist, I’m not entirely sure, but I will say it was powerful. It made me feel normal and on track, not to mention, I immensely enjoyed it! (And, A., insert gratitude here!)
I will save for another day my thoughts on the organization of our course, the welcome we received, and the effectiveness of policies that promote the use of Catalan…three more things I wanted to talk about but need to save for another day to not write The Next American Novel here.
Go be Spice Girls.
At our yummy closing dinner at the Ateneu.
Peanut butter and jelly (I broke down and bought some!),