Since I don’t own an invisible jet – yet – I depend upon the nation’s crooked and corrupt airlines to transport me around. Why, as consumers, have we allowed mismanagement to be rewarded in the nation's highly overpaid airline CEOs? As we seem to be historical witnesses to the collapse of capitalism as we knew it, why not demand a revolution in air travel? Every person reading this blog should write their governmental representatives now to oppose the merger of Northwest and Delta. Remember that their explanation for wanting to do so was that they hoped to reduce competition. In other words, they want to screw consumers by limiting our options.
Before I could get home, my airline stranded me overnight in the dreaded state of Texas. For a complicated set of reasons, not a single hotel room was nearby. There wasn’t even an accommodating manger. Thus, to get even a few hours of sleep, I had to spend the night trying to arrange myself in between gobs of gum stuck in the carpet. Twenty-four hours after my original arrival time, I actually made it to ABQ.
While at the conference, I did have an official duty to speak on a panel. For those of you who have never seen me serve on an academic panel in real life, here is a pretty accurate image of what that looks like:
Okay, maybe that's not totally accurate. Nobody on my panel wore a silver jumpsuit.
Outside of the panel, being on home turf didn’t change my feeling that academic conferences are always a mixed bag. I enjoy the opportunity of meeting new people, especially given that I was able to meet some scholars whose work I have long admired. It also gave me a chance to see some fellow bloggers!
Attending the conference allowed me to briefly catch sight of StinkyLulu. For the first time, I also met Tenured Radical and had a much needed drinkie. We spent some time comparing notes over blogging, the academic world, and the possibilities of a queer future. Why, you might even say that we spent the time “paling around together.” I wonder who is more implicated by that association? Only time will tell which of our political ambitions will be endangered.
Another good element of the conference was the chance to reconnect with a good friend from my former Texas university. Early this semester I was delighted to learn that he had also
We both agreed that a) leaving Texas (Yes, including Austin) was one the best things that any gay man could do for himself and b) when people at our new institutions use the phrase “hostile work environment," they have no idea what they are talking about. That is not to say that those institutions don’t have problems, because they do. Still, in seeing him again, I had the uncanny feeling that we were like the survivors of a ship wreck or maybe a zeppelin explosion. Sure, other people can recognize those things as terrible calamities; but until you spend twelve hours clinging to a headboard in icy waters or jump out a window twenty-feet high to escape a hydrogen fire, you can't truly understand the horrors of those circumstances.
Me being me, the conference also had some moments of gravitas. Given that my non-GayProf persona is mild-mannered, I often find academic gatherings a wee bit awkward. Let’s face it: professors are not renowned for their great social skills and sparkling repartee. While I am much better than I used to be, my own natural shyness makes me less than ideal for “networking” situations.
My self-doubts and insecurities can lead to some serious over-analyzing of situations. For instance, I briefly ran into a senior scholar who has always been really nice to me. In this instance, he was still friendly, but clearly in a rush. Despite a history of goodwill, I nonetheless spent considerable time agonizing over the significance of his relatively short conversation with me. Was it a sign that he didn’t like my work? Had I annoyed him in some way? Was he disappointed in NERPoD? Did my star-spangled short-shorts make him uncomfortable?
It took me a moment to snap myself out of such thinking. Just what did I expect him to do? Lavish me with praise? Say that my work had changed his life forever? Reach into his pocket and give me c-note? Pick me up and carry me around the convention center on his shoulders? While I would have appreciated any of those gestures, it’s a wee bit silly to expect them -- at least not all the time.
Given that conferences present me with a certain level of social anxiety, I am always surprised by the number of conventioneers who knock-boots. I have a hard enough time keeping up chit-chat in between sessions, how would I possibly survive anything more intimate? Mastering the protocol of conference-shagging would elude me completely. Do you exchange business cards before or after you have fully showered? Or do you simply slink away hoping that the rumors haven’t already started that you are a “conference ho?” More importantly, how do you claim condoms and lube on your expense report?
I don't think balling at a conference would be so bad if the sex was good. But what if you ended up having a lousy time in the sack? I suppose you would have no option but to "friend them" on Facebook. That means that you are going to have to look at their "status updates" on your own Facebook page as a constant reminder of the crummy sex that you had that night. "Oh great," you'll think to yourself, "He can take time to inform Facebook that he just scooped out the cat litter, but he couldn't take an extra minute in the shower to clean around his foreskin? He sure as hell better not write on my wall."
Of course, the real thing that would bother me about a conference hook-up would be that you have to see him for the next several days, if not the rest of your life. This is a pretty serious commitment for some casual spunking.
Some guy that you pick up at a bar or on-line is gone by the next morning’s coffee at the latest. In the case of hooking-up at an annual conference, you will potentially see that same trick year after year for the rest of your career. You will both get older and older. Each of you will notice how your bodies change, including your receding hairlines and expanding waistlines. It will make you both feel strange. You will quickly wonder how (or why) you ever had sex in the first place. If your night was less than mind-blowing (or anything blowing), it might ruin that conference forever. I hear some people have decided to leave academia all together rather than having to face a bum lay at the MLA.
If that sounds like too much hyperbole, you are at least guaranteed to see him over and over for the next forty-eight hours. How much obligation do you have to sit next to him if you both attend the same panel the next day? I mean, it’s one thing to get naked and sweaty together for a quick tumble; but having to sit through a ninety-minute academic discussion together? That's starting to sound like a relationship.