My honours* supervisor’s office door happened to be open this afternoon as I walked down the corridor, so I popped my head in and said hi. We chatted for a little while today – she asked how the PhD and the teaching are going, I asked if she was teaching many classes this semester, she asked how the chooks were going, and she told me her novel will be published in a couple of months – she’ll be sending me an invitation to the launch, which is very cool. I’ll have to get her to autograph a copy of her book for me!
[Just to explain: last year, I helped her format her manuscript for submission to the publishers. I spent a whole day at her house, working on her eMac which I found strange, as I’m so used to pc/Windows and using the right-click button for just about everything! She kept me fed (Domino’s Godfather pizza!) and made me huge cups of tea as I worked, and paid me too, even though I told her I was quite happy to help her out. I had to amalgamate a pile of chapters into one big document, add page numbers and page breaks where she wanted them, format a contents page etc etc. Like all good literary computer nerds I really enjoyed doing this. Anyway, soon at last, the manuscript will become a book.]
Even though she is no longer my supervisor I still feel very bashful and nervous talking to her. I suppose our relationship has always been based on that teacher/student dynamic, and that’s how I’m used to relating to her. Obviously I’m not her student any more, and I won’t ever be her student any more (what’s more, I’m at the weird halfway position many postgraduate student academic wannabes find themselves in – I’m a student but I’m also a part-time staff member), but she’s still the person who has an office with her name on the door, sitting at her desk surrounded by piles of books and paper, and I’m the person hovering nervously at the entrance of her office, hoping I’m not disturbing her or interrupting her work.
I suppose my feelings of bashfulness and nervousness when I talk with my honours supervisor are similar to the nervousness and shyness that I sense in some of my students when they talk to me. It comes from feeling subordinate, I think. It’s also partly a ‘being in-awe of the other person’ thing. It’s funny how they use the same preface for conversations as I use with my honours supervisor, and now my PhD supervisor, “I hope I’m not disturbing you…” Yes, definitely a product of feeling subordinate.
Because I’m conscious of my students’ nervousness and bashfulness I do go out of my way to try to put them at ease. I know I can be scary and intimidating if I want (I’ve been told I sometimes have “a look of death”), but I can also be very friendly and approachable too. I let my students know I won’t tolerate any crap (especially work that hasn’t been proof-read – ooooh, scary!), but for the most part, I’m pretty sure I’m not scary at all. :) I don’t know if my honours supervisor can sense my bashfulness and nervousness, or whether she just thinks I’m a quieter and shyer person than what I’d normally be if completely at ease. I do think very carefully about what I say when I’m talking to her, and I wouldn’t swear as liberally as I do when I’m around mates. It’s not that I’m really dying to swear like crazy around her, but I suppose it bugs me that I’m so deliberately watching my language. I am so conscious of this (as this post indicates), but I can’t seem to break out of this. It’s almost like I watch myself doing this, shaking my head at myself and saying “You are so pathetic!”
Anyway, despite all these thoughts, it was nice to have that quick catch up today. As I turned to leave she said “Oh your hair is so long! I love it!” (It’s currently about waist-length – I’m trying to get it back to bum-length – it used to be long enough to floss my bum crack – theoretically, of course, hahahahaaa). You know, it’s so lovely when someone spontaneously and sincerely gives you a compliment. There’s no sucking/buttering up-type ulterior motive, nothing sexual, just an honest, impulsive expression of admiration or pleasure. Anyway, I left her office with a warm feeling and a smile on my face. Compliments are good. As I went to get lunch I almost pulled my scrunchie off my pony tail and shook my hair free. But then I came to my senses and remembered how I hate working or eating with my hair down as it just gets in the bloody way of everything – and the moment passed.
Long hair down + eating chicken laksa = curry-dipped hair… never again, yuk!
What a rambling post. Well done for reading this far. I’m not sure I would have.
*I did my honours in 2003.