Monday, October 20, 2008

An Academic Affair

Over the past few days GayProf returned to his equivalent of Paradise Island, known in Patriarch’s World as the Land of Enchantment. By good fortune, an academic conference happened to be in my birth city, giving the perfect excuse for my return. Such visits always makes me feel a little wistful. Why did I think leaving such a great place was a good idea? It seems like so long ago that I was chosen to bring our philosophy of peace, love, and better living through turquoise to the rest of the world.

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 escaped found liberation run screaming into the night departed Texas for a much happier location in the urban west.

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.


Mel said...

I did the conference shag thing once, years ago. What can I say? It was in New Orleans.

Anyway, it was fun at the time, and I haven't run into him in years. The only other colleague I've ever slept with (not at a conference) is still a dear friend and attended my wedding last summer.

Maybe you were just leaning forward too much, but it really looked in that second photo like your tits were starting to sag a bit. Is it time to look into a corset?

Olaf said...

I've never been able to hook up at a conference (which is fine because I'm boyfriended) but it always seems a little predatory. I've seen profs go after grad students like nobody's business. Surely that's not what it takes to get a tenure track job? Or if it is, I have to start going to the gym again.

Nonetheless, I'm so totally wearing a tiara the next time I present.

Olaf said...

P.S. I'm glad you're back.

adjunct whore said...

i remember distinctly when i was first told that "i'm really interested in your work" was code for "i really want to fuck you"--i was surprised, being the dorky person that i am.

it seems appealing and yet not for all of the reasons you point out.

i really appreciate your discussion of the shy paranoia that conferences bring out--i missed that one this year--and instead am going to two others that i have never attended before. and thus, i have no peeps. i'm a little scared and wondering who on earth will drink with me!!! i wish i could recruit you.

pacalaga said...

Another reason I'm glad I have no reason to go to conferences or trade shows.
Missed you.
PS - I had the same thought as Mel, re: corset.

GayProf said...

Mel: Sleeping with colleagues outside of conferences is a whole different matter.

As for "my" sagging bust line, I think that the picture is a bit distorted.

Olaf: Tiaras really do add something extra to any presentation.

Adjunct Whore:"i'm really interested in your work" was code for "i really want to fuck you"

Wait -- I say that all the time! For me, it usually means, "I can't think of anything specific to say about your otherwise boring work." Now I am left with the dreaded feeling that people have been thinking that I was hitting on them.

Pacalaga: Regarding the corset, cut "me" some slack. You try running around for sixty years at the speed of light while wearing a glorified Playboy-bunny costume and see how perky you are.

brian said...

Thanks so much for providing the title of my next magnus opus " Confessions of a Conference Ho"
Don't worry, I'll credit you.

Anonymous said...

" do you claim condoms and lube on your expense report? That's what your per diem is for! ;-)

It sounds like it still provided you a good time to be away from MFT. I hope there was some fun had.

Glad to see you blogging again!

Vienna said...

or that, either fuck me or stop boring me. one wonders, as i did when i was first told this, what the code is for "your work is really good"--

Sisyphus said...

How _does_ that top stay on?

Now I will be wondering that all evening...

PS I so miss the land of enchantment! Maybe not the people, who were by and large crazy, but the place itself was so amazing.

Doug said...

If I understand you correctly, you attended a conference, hooked up with a guy, had lousy sex, felt uncomfortable for the rest of the conference, and regret the entire encounter.

Or, you're using reverse psychology to throw us off the trail and you've met Prince Charming who enjoys being tied up with your golden lasso and being forced to tell naughty truths, and you are moving in with him next week.

Am I in the ballpark?

Homer said...

Earlier this year I attended a conference in ABQ for 5 agonizing days. My hotel completely, utterly sucked and the conference hotel next door was just as bad. The only good thing was that the actor Gerard Butler was filming a movie there and I got to admire his biceps up close.

GayProf said...

Brian:"Confessions of a Conference Ho"

Nice work if you can get it, I suppose.

AFOD: Per diem? In this economy? Ha!

Vienna: You changed names on me and left me confused.

I think the code is, "Your work is really good."

Sisyphus: They sewed her into that top.

Doug: No sex, lousy or otherwise, was had by GayProf. Truly I do find conferences the least sexy atmosphere possible.

Perhaps, though, what you could read into this post is that I am really just filled with sour grapes over never having been propositioned during a conference.

Homer: Sorry to hear that ABQ left you unmoved. I would gladly stay in a crummy hotel to admire Gerard Butler's biceps.

tornwordo said...

Wow, shagging, balling and spunking all in the same post. You nasty boy.

The kitty litter foreskin line cracked me up.

I hope this is your way of saying that you scored.

GayProf said...

Torn:It's interesting that so many people are reading this as a confessional of me having conference sex. In truth, it really is as it claims to be: A statement about my own awkwardness at such gatherings that would forever prevent such hook ups.

The_Myth said...

It's interesting that so many people are reading this as a confessional of me having conference sex.

Or it's simple projection resulting from sloppy reading.

kevin said...

I didn't get the impression you had hooked up with anyone. I'm just so glad I never have to go to things like this. Being socially retarded and monophobic, I would forever spend my time there worrying about having to eat alone after having spent a week in advance stressing out over it.

prof bw said...

the things that go through your mind darling . . .

If there is an image of storm quietly calling upon the heavens to illuminate her points that would be my accurate picture at my panel.

I'm sorry to have missed you there. It would have been nice to spend some time with someone else who has childhood memories of ABQ. :D

Paris said...

A few years back I had a conference hook-up with someone who I will be dealing with for the rest of my academic career. Sex was ok and we've remained friendly, but contemplation of the potential horrors if it had been less amicable has put me right off conference sex.

Please stop with the Texas rants though! I am applying for a job in that state and would like to pretend that it might be ok.

David said...

I've never attended a conference. At least one that lasted more than an afternoon. I quite fancy the idea of earning a rep as a conference "ho."

GayProf said...

Myth: Or maybe they just think that I am more interesting than I really am.

Kevin: I would forever spend my time there worrying about having to eat alone after having spent a week in advance stressing out over it.

That totally sums up my experiences.

Prof BW: That means we were likely in ABQ at the same time our youth. Perhaps we even crossed paths. . .

Paris: You can make TexAss work for you. If you have any other option, though, I would really encourage you to take it.

David: One doesn't need a conference to be a ho.

prof bw said...

couldn't have, there would have been a day when you saw me running around with my lasso (yes I had one) and humming the theme song all tho my parents did do there best to keep me from doing that outside of the backyard.

prof bw said...

couldn't have, there would have been a day when you saw me running around with my lasso (yes I had one) and humming the theme song; all tho, my parents did do their best to keep me from doing that outside of the backyard.

Greg said...

No, no...I didn't get the impression you hooked up at the conference...but it's pretty clear you gave the idea some thought!!

I love the whole Facebook bit...ha ha...

Jonathan said...

I will look forward to conferences ... not for the sex, but for the many presentations by Wonder Woman lookalikes.

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