Monday, December 04, 2006

The Bitch Is Back

This is the time of the year that I generally get a little cranky. Up to my neck in unread books, shut in by the cold weather, and needing to relax, I get ultra critical about things that usually don't bother me. Like, for example, when CNN subtitles people who I have no trouble understanding! The other day, I got irritated by the new DVD section at our Video Store! By Christmas, I'll be a real bitch.

What I do for a living is not very social. This is an isolating profession. Reading is a solitary practice, and we do it for hours a day. The things that we love to talk about most people don't love to hear about. There aren't a lot of people in my daily life who would like to talk about Mediterranean trade in the 1800s for a few hours every day. We're like Trekkies really, largely isolated by our interests. When I go to seminars, I see people who come across as misanthropic during the working week light up. They're like idea junkies, huddled in their cold, dark seminar halls and getting their fix. But, after that, it's back to their closed offices.

There are a few interests that are generally widely accepted. Sports fans can always find other sports fans, for example. Talk about sex, alcohol, sports, or physical appearance and you're likely to find someone to shoot the breeze with. But, there are no 'History Bars', and even the History Channel is usually crap. And being as fragmented and hyper-specialized as academia is these days, there's no promise that even History scholars will have any ideas about what I study.

Even worse, you end up thinking in this way that is alienating to others all the time. Instead of being pragmatic, you become critical. Instead of being cut & dry, you obsess over nuances and try to make the nuances more confusing! Academics are often lonely people. I think that's why they complain so much about the 'dumbing down' of American culture. This is always a good way to strike up a conversation with them. Is American culture really any dumber than it used to be? I think American culture just plays dumb, probably to get laid. Is it any dumber than any other culture? Honestly, I have no idea.

But, catch me in about three weeks from now, and I'm guessing that I'll have some strong opinions about it.

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