~ Wednesday, September 06, 2006 ~
First day of the semester today, and the first class was Ethics with Professor Panache. I walked into class at 4:15 on the dot, and everyone else was already assembled around the table. I guess everyone but me believes in being early. His greeting was, "What? You again? It's like a breath of stale air. Well, go on, introduce yourself." God I love that guy.
After class he said he had something for me, a paper he wrote that I'd asked to read at the end of last semester but that he'd never gotten to me. He invited me back to his office, and I figured that would be as good a time as any to ask him to be my advisor. I followed after him all awkward and middle schooley, fueled by the fervor of having just announced my resignation from the stupid shoe store job and ready to rededicate myself to pure scholarship in ethics.
It took me a couple tries to ask him, but he knew what was coming and prodded it out of me...which, come to think of it, is exactly the sort of thing that makes me want him as my advisor. By the time I finally got it out, we had reached his office, and he offered me a chair. He sat in one himself, with his back to his desk. Then he said there was something he wanted me to see.
He took a deep breath and said that there's a possibility that a new program might be beginning sometime in the near future, perhaps, maybe, at CUNY: it'd be an ad-hoc Ph.D. program something like Stanford's design-your-own-major-o-matic. He swiveled back around to his desk and plucked a crisp letter off his piles of business, swiveled back around to me, and dropped it into my lap. (I told you he's Professor Panache!!!) He let me marvel at the delicate lines printed on its creamy woven paper. It was a letter from the university president, addressed to him and three other professors asking them to meet with him to help develop this program. Wow, I thought. And he was hesitant about telling me about it, he said, because it's so tentative, but he knows that I'd be interested in hearing about it because of my situation.
I told him how exciting it was to hear, because I'd just been looking at U.Penn's website a couple of days ago and thinking how much I wish CUNY's program could have the cache that U. Penn's does, with all their specialised classes and the ring of official impressiveness that the title, "Masters of Bioethics", can bring. It's a good bit shinier than CUNY's "Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies, and oh by the way bioethics was my subdivision, over there in the small print".
"You had the chance to go to U. Penn?" he asked. "Why didn't you?"
I immediately regretted saying anything, and muttered something about how I wanted to leave Philadelphia (true) and also how I wasn't sure I could afford it (technically true), and then besides, U. Penn was mostly focused on research (so I'd heard), while here at CUNY was Madame Firefly doing clinical ethics, which is just what I want to do.
"So why don't you ask Madame Firefly to be your advisor?" he asked.
I like you better, and I think you like me and get me and I feel like you have time for me and are rooting for me in a way that I don't think she is, I thought to my hands. "I...I like the way you think." Smile?
"I guarantee you, Madame Firefly thinks the same way I do," he said.
"Do you really think so? I mean...well, I suppose you wouldn't say so if you didn't think so. It's only that..."
Really, it was the sweetest rejection I've ever received, what he told me next. "Now listen to me," he said. "Consider asking Madame Firefly, and I'll tell you why." He looked me dead in the eye. "I'm very serious about this. She's younger, and she's going to be around longer."
Aww, gee, Professor. He's in his seventies, maybe. Not exactly about to roll over and go stiff.
"However," he said, "if you ask her and she doesn't think it's a good idea because she's only doing the teaching part-time [the other part of her time she spends being a real live clinical ethicist at the hospital where she also teaches], then I'll understand, and I'll do it." It was nice of him to give me a shred of hope to cling to, wasn't it? Then he took up the paper he'd promised and wrote "To Miriam/From Professor Panache" on it. Even when he's rejecting me, he's sweet.
I think I'm going to make him my unofficial mentor even if he's not my official one. It's not just that he's always acted as if he has the time for me. It's also that he picks on me in class no matter what I say, and the effect is that it makes me feel like it's okay to be wrong, as long as I take risks. He intimidates me and inspires me in just the right sort of combination. I like his jokes, I love how he knows everything, and I feel like he has The Answers in the way that Socrates (the real one--that's not a blogname) did, or perhaps didn't, but that Madame Firefly either doesn't have them or doesn't relish having them the way he does. I know that she was his student, and must therefore know everything he saw fit to teach her, but I've never felt like her heart was open to seeing me the way his is.
So now I have yet another reason why I'm highly motivated to finish my thesis soon, whatever it turns out to be about: I have to finish it while Professor Panache is still around.
At least we'll always have classes. :/
~ prattled by Miriam at 1:01 a.m. [+]
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