There are some disparate elements in this post which I would like to make parallel to each other at some point, and develop.
I stopped by a department store briefly the other day, a beautiful day upon which I was not in the best of humors, just to pick up stockings. The clerks were very kind and I thought: they are indoors all day on this beautiful day, and I am not, and I must learn to appreciate more acutely my great luck in not working retail.
After all these years my mother still does not believe I would be able to land work even as a greeter at Wal*Mart. The other day when she said it in those words, I realized that it was a neurotic theme. Most recently I had thought it was just something abusive she said to make sure my pain levels were high enough.
Before that I thought she was was merely unfamiliar with the world of work; I tried to reason with her in those days. Even earlier, I believed her to have accurately perceived incompetence in me that I was too incompetent to see. Now I realize her sentence is just a kind of reflex.
It does explain a great deal, though, the repetition of this sentence, starting early on. I would be on the streets soon, I must find a man willing to support me, I would probably not be valuable enough to get a desirable situation, but I would surely get some situation. Hearing these things again and again made me fragile.
I was always told I would not like to be a professor because I would have to live in snow and write and publish. And being interested in one’s own work was considered terribly naive; alternatively, it was evidence that one’s work was not good. But I was always interested, and affecting disinterest was difficult. As I have said before, what I actually do not like about being a professor is the condescension and passive aggression one suffers.
The reason I do not discuss these things in real life is that my interlocutors rarely take me seriously; they assume I am just irritated today. This is of course part of the infantilization. And I was always taught that if you could just take a little more pain, just a little more, be brave and good, you might finally be exonerated.
I do not believe that was true then and I do not believe it is true now.