Remember as you read this: all of my stories are mixed in terms of place and time, and my characters are distorted composites created as types; you do not know for sure how many universities I work for or have worked for, or from whose traits my composite characters have been built; I am a sculpted skull on a stela at Copán.
For the last six weeks or so I have been railing on this blog about “suffering bitchez,” namely poor, weak assistant professors and also some tenured women and gay men (sorry, folks, but these are the ones who act this way) who need all other women, minorities and gay men to suffer so that they can feel they are working, or something along those lines. I always feel guilty about those who suffer and those who mourn but I am convinced this particular type of suffering and mourning is merely a tactic to bring other people down. It is also discriminatory suffering because, as I have oft noted, the complaints these suffering bitchez raise are things they refuse to raise with a whiteman or a chair — they are just using up the oxygen other women and minorities would like to breathe, and so really they are exploiters, are these suffering bitchez.
It was someone else’s comment on this blog that touched it all off and that I unfairly, and also gleefully projected everything else into so that I could be liberated. And it happened in the blog space, and it was good. In real life, meanwhile, I just realized I’d been in an abusive relationship for over a year and have not realized it; I did not realize it until I saw how much better I felt when it was over.
It was with this instructor in our department, the latest hire and a poor little thing — although not really as he is someone’s protégé, which is how he got here. (I am tired of using the artificial pronoun ze, you realize; just because I say he does not mean I am talking about a real life man, you know.)
Anyway this is a person who flatters, gossips, sighs, worries, warns, and voices pessimistic views daily. I had a crisis over him early last fall when he, like all new people in this subfield, demanded to spend time at my house, go out and see the sights with me, and so on. If I were my own faculty wife I would do more of this kind of thing, but I simply cannot. I don’t have time, for one thing. I also lack the patience to give therapy to yet one more Yankee who, unemployed, has taken a job in the South, needs acculturation, and wants an ear for making tiresome remarks. And I know people and places in this area, having lived twenty years at four addresses in South Louisiana; I am willing to be a tour guide sometimes but not always.
Then this individual started a complex discouragement campaign and also a ridiculous effort to guilt trip me into hanging out with him at work. “Why are you having lunch with those people, when the restaurant is bad? I know I am invited, too, but I do not feel welcome somehow, and I am not comfortable going; I want to go to that new and improved restaurant you showed me, but do not know how to find it; why will you not dump your friends and take me there? You and I agree more about freshman teaching than you do with them, anyway, even if they are your friends.” And I would say, “We are not going to talk about freshman teaching, I am sorry,” and he would pout. This is why I say the suffering bitchez are not poor, discriminated against minorities but privileged, entitled types.
Then a few days ago he came to see me to report on certain poison pen e-mails other instructors and assistant professors are apparently sending each other and the complaints they are making about each other to the Fulls, and to tell me that they were complaining about me behind my back. And my pattern, all my life, is to take more than I should and then, when really pressed, to start fighting as if for my life. I told him to go back and talk to his gossip whores, but to leave me alone; I told him to depart from my office and when he passed the threshold, I slammed the door so hard it was heard throughout the building.
Then my students came by and I stood in the hall talking to them, next to the office I knew he was in, saying loudly and pointedly: don’t you hate it when people come to you carrying tales? And they said loudly, although not pointedly, oh yes, it is horrible. And I knew I was running a high school style make someone feel bad tactic at that moment, and I relished it because I knew this was the level at which to hit if I wanted anything to land. Sorry, suffering bitch.
Then I wrote the chair in regal style: I have spoken sharply to your friend about not wanting to hear second or third hand speculation about what other faculty members may or may not be thinking or doing … in recent years we have been able to have a far more professional atmosphere here than formerly … this is something I would like to cultivate further, and not erode … thank you in advance for your continued support of a positive work environment. That suffering bitch did not know who he was messing with at all, at all.
Now I feel so calm and liberated I can hardly believe it. I had not realized how discouraging working with that person at my heels was. I had not realized that my exhaustion with classes and students all last year, my feeling of being corralled, had to do with dealing with that sufferer. Now and only now do I understand: it was an abusive relationship.