December 21, 2005

Office party

badgerbag: messy, surly, full of books: office party: "you should have seen me trying to be a Faculty Wife at U of Dorkago! It was Not Pretty! Though I did okay in Tuscon only because of the kindness and wonderfulness of J. Kessler and his wife Eva. "



Badger had that to say at the end of a long, rather entertaining ramble on the recent office party she attended. This caused me to pause my giggling for a moment and think about the faculty wife things I did in my past life. Like Badger, I had a mixed bag of experiences.

In my first official "faculty wife" position, I loved it. There was a group of other faculty wives about the same age, in roughly the same life stage, and they were glad to show the newcomer the ropes. I often talk about the grad school town, it was hip, not urban but not small-town, great bus system, a farmer's market that rocks. The faculty wife town was purposefully unhip, a delightful mishmash of people, very crunchy, granola, and it welcomed me. The faculty wives were mostly faculty MOMS. We had a passel of little kids. We coffee klatsched, we commiserated over no money, ambitious husbands, long periods of married-single-mothering, preschools and potty teaching. We reassured each other that the husbands who were out of town often were not having affairs.(though we all knew this was probably not an effective reassurance or worthwhile voodoo to make it true) We fetched groceries for each other, cooked with each other, decorated and cleaned our homes together. We had a book club. We had highly entertwined, comfortable, faculty wife socializing. More than that we were friends. Does Christy know that I still think about her coming and folding mountains of laundry with me (because I was desperate to get it done before the faculty husband got home from a business trip, but I had had the flu, my preschooler and infant had had the flu, so there was a serious amount of laundry and making him angry just wasnt done)? I fit in or at least felt like I did. In that faculty wife town, I had non-faculty wife friends as well. It was a town where you could be a little odd and awkward but loved.

Then we moved to a different place. The dept was higher powered. The pay was better. Faculty wives swept in to make the new pregnant with her third feel welcomed. All the obligatory gestures were made. But...it was different. I had babies and they had big kids or adult children. I wasn't a shopper, a tennis player, or a leave the children with the babysitter sort. I tried to be the new, more specific sort of faculty wife, but it was like trying to fit in with the cool kids in school while having a pocket protector.

So, then I lost points fast. Intense mom was not cool if I wasn't going to be intense about putting my child in the right school. Intense mom wasn't cool if it meant I was taking my children with me to the party or not going. Intense mom was not cool for worrying over the wisdom of fireworks held by small children, swimming pools where no one seemed to be attending to children, or how to balance the luck of having very priviliged, very beautiful, very bright children with the fact that the rest of the world is just as valuable.

No faculty wife-moms to feel comfortable to lean on, no one a local call away who understood the life of being a single but married up and coming star faculty wife and mother of wee children, at least no one who understood it the way we did in that place our children's fathers were so desperate to escape. Not pretty. Not pretty at all. I moved with the confidence that I had the faculty wife thing down. I moved with the confidence that I could make new mommy friends with faculty wives. That was all lots of confidence that was lost when I found out that I was the weird kid who picked my nose and had a pocket protector. Yeah, I can shrug and say I didn't care. I did and do, even now. I just couldn't change enough to leave my kids with a sitter so that I could go and sit and say the right things, drink the right wine, and fuss over what the caterer was doing this year after I bought the right clothes.

But I am still ever so grateful for those first faculty wives who showed me their ropes, treated me as an equal and as a friend even while our husbands plotted against each other. True kindness and wonderfulness was there indeed; not just the obligatory gestures expected of faculty wives.

Not a faculty wife now...but I seem to do well welcoming newcomers at work, showing them the ropes, (but ever-conscious that I could be too intense) I think of those that did the same for me, especially this time of year.

1 comment:

~ nellenelle said...

Hey, that was a nice rant, Tarrant... and flashing back ot a previous topic, pictures Denise as a faculty wife, and that world would never be the same again.