Vacation alter ego
So I've been back from 'vacation' for almost a week, but I'm still recovering. I've been having lots of comings-and-goings of achy pains, which I'm blaming on a variety of things. I've been doing yoga for my back, drinking lots of water, and taking various herbs and vitamin supplements, but so far nothing is consistently helping. I'm sure they'll all be gone by the time I see my doctor in February, only to return sometime in late March.
Sigh. It's good to be home.
This was a strange trip for me, because I effectively had no identity. We went to the wedding of my boyfriend's friends, with their family. I didn't know any of these people, and I didn't get the impression any of them wanted to know me, either. And I didn't have the energy to be Ms. Outgoing Girl. I'm saving that, perhaps optimistically, in case I get any job interviews.
I realized my world is usually divided into two kinds of people: my fellow scientist/academics/researchers/friends who already know what I do on one side, and on the other side, people who don't know the first thing about it but who are generally pretty impressed to be talking to a 'cancer researcher'. And both kinds are typically full of questions.
But the people at this wedding didn't know, or didn't care, and didn't ask what I do. And I had to admit, a lot of my identity is wrapped up in what I do. I found myself wishing I had the kind of job that included a uniform, or television coverage. Some kind of visible reminder that I deserve some credit, some respect. Gosh darnit. This was an interesting thing to realize: my persistent craving for feedback. It never really goes away. And it's not that I would really want to be an actress and hounded by the paparazzi, I just wish scientists were viewed as more valuable members of society.
But, even if I'm not talking science, I can list off a long reel of hobbies that usually provide interesting topics of conversation. To be perfectly honest, I didn't want to be too pretentious, so I mostly kept mum. This was, after all, a Walmart-shopping crowd, or as I euphemistically like to say, "they're pretty provincial." A couple of times I made the mistake of mentioning some of our recent travels, and was met with blank expressions and awkward silence. I really think these people don't believe other countries actually exist, much less that it is possible to actually visit them -- and find good things to eat there.
In that sense, it was useful, I think, to be reminded what the rest of this country is like: when we went out to eat, the waiters had my boyfriend taste the wine and pay the bill (where we live, things are bit more evolved than that). A long time ago we jokingly agreed that we would take turns paying when we eat out, but if they give the bill to him, he has to pay (pay for the sexism of the world, that is). So in more than one way, for this trip, I was The Girlfriend.
I hate being The Girlfriend. Hence my not rushing to be The Wife. Granted, we will be two PhDs if/when we get around to making an arrangement to be recognized by the State, but I'm sure we'll still get mail addressed to Mister and Mister's Wife. I'm just not ready to go there yet. I'd honestly like to wait until gay marriage is legal - or until we move to a country that recognizes it as legal. Canada, anyone?
So when the bride and her sister-in-law-to-be were talking about changing their names to match their husbands', I was thinking, "GET ME OUTTA HERE." They talked about pedicures and shopping in excruciating detail. (I've never had a pedicure and don't plan to ever need to pay someone to paint my toes, thank you very much, I can do it myself and no one is going to examine them with a magnifying glass, anyway.) And so on. The bride kept mentioning her ring, and her dress. She was no Bridezilla, but I was suprised she wore a veil, since the ceremony was pretty secular.
Having said that, I continue to be astounded at how many women seem to enjoy the ritual without really thinking about what it means historically: women as property. Preferably virgin property. (Her dress was ivory, btw, not white.) I found myself wondering, am I the only one who finds it supremely offensive to see people carrying on these customs? I guess I tend to be that way, since I'm atheist to the point where it makes me physically ill to sit in most churches anyway, nevermind if there is a wedding going on at the time.
Sadly, it was pretty clear that the bride is much smarter than anyone realizes, including herself. She clearly was raised to believe that being smart, especially for a girl, was 'nerdy' -- and therefore uncool.
In the middle of all this, one of my best friends called to ask me a question about some cells she's growing. Or not growing. The was the problem: she was calling to ask me to help her figure out why they seemed sick. I asked if she had seen any dark specks in the culture, so we decided it might be contamination. Et voila! I felt a little bit smarter and more useful, even if I was beginning to wonder if I shouldn't charge some kind of consulting fee for these questions. Of which there have been many since she started her job in industry.
Sigh. And the career crisis continues. Did I mention I'm up to four rejection letters?
Along those lines, I managed to mostly undo my general need for geekiness by going to brunch at a friend's house today. The conversation included quite a bit about computers and video games. I spent most of this last week alternating extreme fatigue with obsessively cleaning the house and trying to avoid going back to work. This morning I woke up and realized I'm kind of looking forward to starting some experiments again, finally. If nothing else, I'll feel like I'm earning the credit the world will never accord me.