Does the title of this blog post make you cringe? It kind of does make me cringe. I recoil a bit. I mean ... you know the type, right?
She's that middle-aged housewife near the front of the room who doesn't seem to realize that the professor and all of the students would really really like to move on now. Her "questions" make it sound like she should have gotten a few volunteer jobs over the years - or gone for a walk or something. Maybe she should just invite the prof to lunch if she wants that kind of conversation. That middle-aged housewife student is a pain in the butt, and everyone knows it.
She sits in my head and taunts me every time I think about returning to school. I see her oddly too-young clothes mixed with her oddly too-old shoes (the ones that fasten with velcro), and I see the back of her head and the fact that it's obvious that she does her own color (but the cut's strictly mall-salon). I wonder what she saw when she looked in the mirror or if she ever listens to herself, and I feel solidarity with the students. And then she turns around and she's got my face. I do not like that woman.
And it's bad enough that she's there at all. Or that she's embarrassing herself so thoroughly. But what really gets to me is that when she turns around, and she's me after all, she has the annoying nerve to ask me, "Why are YOU here?"
Because I want a real degree, I bluster. Because my first degree was an exercise in uselessness. It wasn't even accredited. For four years I worked like stink, kept my head down, and tried not to be very noticed in that parallel universe called school. For four years I wore pantyhose in the sweaty gulf heat and made sure I didn't talk to boys in unchaperoned areas. For four years I didn't have the sense to transfer out of that place. I want a real degree now - the one I should've gotten then.
She doesn't even see to hear me. She's turning back to the prof now, and she's about to raise her hand. Oh, lord help us all. She's going to pose another question.
Wait. You don't understand. Listen. It's not just the degree.
She stops and looks at me again. Can the twit even hear me?
I really really want this. I want to go back to school worse than I've wanted anything in a long time. I want the subject matter. I want the grades. I want the challenge. The intellectual challenge.
She passes me a reading list. She's such a bitch! What an annoying woman! This is the recommended reading list for people who take this course! It's the list of stuff you should've read before you even get this far. She thinks she's so smart.
And she starts to turn back to the front again.
Why am I wasting my time talking to her?
I can't stop myself.
I know if I tell her the truth, she'll disappear, and all the students will look like real people, and the reality of what I'm proposing to do will be my context instead of this frustrating ongoing conversation with a woman who pretends to be deaf to my voice.
All right, fine.
Here's the deal, lady. No, no. Don't turn away from me. I'm going to return to school as soon as I can afford to. I'm going to do this because I want to, and I'm going to do this because my old degree isn't worth the paper it's printed on. I said, pay attention. Look me in the eye. Those other reasons are true. But they're not the real reason. The real reason is because the second half of my life is starting, and I want the second half of my life to be deeper and broader and higher and more full. I want to build on the foundation and base I've built. I want to write and to have things to write about. I want to learn and stretch and become something with greater powers of ... of ...
I almost did it. She started to fade there for awhile, but I can't think of the word. At least I shut her up for today. One of these days, though, I'm going to break through, and she's going to vanish. In her place will be online courses, and community college courses, and "prior learning" credits, and classes in the context of other adults who want what I want. Other adults who are at Marylhurst (I think that's where I'll find them, anyway) and in the same department, and discussing the ideas with various degrees of usefulness and uselessness, and that badly dressed chatty cathy in the second row will be permanently erased.