Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What's Wrong with Housewives from Nantucket?

Well, now I'm feeling guilty for writing off all house wives from Nantucket. Grr. I'm afraid I've already let my intellectual snobbery shine through, which was probably my real reason for not wanting to join a book club or online discussion forum in the first place. I've had the misfortune to develop a slight sense of superiority regarding literature, which means I tend to have a problem listening to the opinions of those who haven't necessarily received a solid background in the classics. There are exceptions to this rule, of course; you can't hate everyone who didn't study literature, but if someone with a GED crows that she "just loves Shakespeare--Romeo and Juliet was so good," I'm always hard-pressed not to roll my eyes in an incredibly obnoxious manner.

The problem with snobbery, though, of which I'm sure we all are aware, is that when one is hyper-aware of a hierarchy and is constantly looking down one's nose at those below him or her, there is always the niggling knowledge that there are those who are above, as well. This is probably why I was in complete awe of some of my professors at UCLA; they're geniuses in their field, and I definitely felt like they were out of my league on an intellectual level. (This belief was encouraged by the publish-or-perish disinterest the professors took in their undergraduate students. We were a way for them to acquire funding for their research, lecture was a way for them to listen to themselves talk for an hour and a half, and office hours were a requirement of the university, not a personal choice.)

So, upon seeing my favorite professors in the hall, I practically genuflected in passing and was incredibly flattered if they looked like they even knew who I was... and the one or two who might know my name made my week. I didn't attend office hours because I was convinced that I couldn't possibly have anything to say that they hadn't already heard a million times, and I therefore have no letters of recommendation from any teacher, which will make it difficult if not impossible to get into grad school any time soon. I've therefore made my place on the hierarchy semi-permanent; I won't be moving up any time soon, ensuring that there will always be those whom I feel are qualified to despise me for my ignorance.

When I once mentioned my penchant for arrogance to an acquaintance, a comparative literature grad student from Germany, he responded, "I've discovered that if you look at the deepest, darkest part of yourself and acknowledge and embrace your weaknesses, you'll never feel superior to anyone." He was quoting someone--Freud? I've forgotten by now--and I lay awake that night, unable to sleep. What if my greatest weakness is my leaning towards being an academic asshole? Acknowledging that fact doesn't make anyone else appear any smarter in my eyes, it just reinforces my own superiority and inevitable inferiority complex.

(In my defense, I attended a community college and took many online literature courses which were serving as liberal arts G.E.s for the majority of the students taking them. They were no more interested in reading and writing than I am in physics, so the discussion threads fell apart almost immediately. I would go on-line, post my mini-essay of brilliance, take a few half-hearted stabs at other people's poorly stated opinions, and log off, thereby ensuring myself an A and a heart full of gratitude on the part of the professor for actually pretending to have a discussion. This instilled in me a general impatience for those who posted paragraphs of fluffy nonsense merely for the sake of posting something, as well as a sense of being--if not the smartest one in the school--at least the smartest one in the class.

I suppose this whole soul-bearing process is a way of trying to apologize to those whom I so easily dismissed in my first post, and I must admit that taking part in an on-line discussion where everyone is actively interested in the topic and wants to take part in a debate would be infintely better than the half-assed threads I was forced to endure for a year.)

Well, shit, I'm practically guilting myself into joining an online book club just to prove I'm not as small-minded as I've made myself feel.

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