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Thursday, Jul. 15, 2004 - 8:19 p.m.

I just finished writing a batch of emails to my old coworkers at the university. None of them know I have a new job, because I wasn't actively teaching this summer, just stumbling in occasionally to check my mailbox and use the color printer. I've faded out of there in the last few weeks, but I realized today that I have boxes of books and student papers to move out of my old office before the new teaching assistants show up at the end of July. So I have made my official announcements. And it has made me unexpectedly sad.

I like the people at my new job just fine. One of them, a pale and skinny college sophomore, might even understand irony a little; he understands Japanese, which is pretty good. But I'm having that shock I get whenever I withdraw from academia, that realization that I have not been thinking the way most of the rest of the country thinks.

I thought I'd be immune to it this time. I've been at an SEC school in South Carolina, teaching at a campus on which I have not seen one single demonstration in three years. Not one. On a campus. Ninety percent of my students have been conservative Christians. I have friends who might vote for President Bush. I bought some books at a chain bookstore last weekend.

But just today I heard three separate conversations about the differences between women and men. One concerned how women like to shop and men don't, another how men care about sports and women don't. The third was even more banal than those, so mindless I have forgotten what it was. (Mimi Smartypants tells of similar woes; July is Gender Dichotomy Month!) These are the kinds of observations my archnemesis makes in her weekly column in the local newspaper. And what makes them so irritating is not that they're wrong, but that they're numbingly uncritical. How does it contribute to a conversation to observe that women spend their weekends shopping while men watch football? Have fifty-eight years of Dave Barry columns not yet established that? The tenure committee finds your scholarship wholly unoriginal, Professor Rubberhead.

Also, I had to politely ask the temp at the desk next to mine to please stop singing 'America the Beautiful' and various R&B songs to himself for the remainder of the afternoon because, though I can usually tune him out, today I was having a very hard time doing so -- probably because he was also listing out loud, for nobody in particular, the names of all the Supreme Court justices of whose politics he approved. "Antonin Scalia," he announced. "William Rehnquist, that's my main man. Clarence Thomas....Ooooh baby, gonna make it work for you all night, all night, girl."

So, all of you with full-time, normal-hour jobs -- when do you get anything done? When do you, say, go to the bank? Get any exercise? Play your guitars? I haven't figured it out just yet. Mostly I work and sleep.

Somehow, though, I found time to read Dracula over the last few days. And now I'm reading some essays by Sarah Vowell. So I think things are going pretty well.

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