Sunday, September 17, 2006

Dr. Jerk, Part Deux

Last night my school sponsored an open-bar social event at a local club. Good to know my student activity fee is well-spent, although since I'm on painkillers I could only have one drink.

It was nice hanging out with my classmates in a more relaxed setting. We compared notes about whom we like, whom we respect, and whom we can't stand, with interesting overlaps. (I was happy to hear, from more than one person, that I really do appear to be significantly younger than I am. And that one of the other people in the class is close to my age.)

But the high point of the night was talking to another Dr. Jerk victim, a third-year student (TYS).

TYS confirmed our impression that Dr. Jerk is egomaniacal and tyrannical. Apparently a few years ago Dr. Jerk was forced to go on early sabbatical because he was prone to telling students in his classes that they were "stupid." So now we've got the kinder, gentler Dr. Jerk.

Unfortunately, one thing everyone agrees with is that Dr. Jerk doesn't like being challenged or questioned. His word is law, and we are not to disagree. Even more unfortunately, I've already disagreed publicly with him.

I can't help it. At my undergraduate institution and in my master's program, I was encouraged to question what the professors presented as truth and fact. And rewarded for it; if you taught them something they didn't know, they were appreciative. But TYS told me that Dr. Jerk downgrades those who challenge his authority. That made my heart stop cold.

The last thing I want to to get bad grades from someone teaching not one but two of my foundational courses. Even the professors I hated in my master's program didn't penalize me for annoying them by asking questions or having a different opinion.

So one of my classmates started encouraging me to suck up, as a means of damage control. She said that sometimes smart, confident women have to play the game in order to get what they want -- even if it goes against every grain of their being.

And she's right. Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People includes this dictum: Begin with the end in mind. My end is a good internship and my doctorate. To get that, I'll apparently have to suck up to this prof. She reminded me that it was his limitation, not mine, dictating this somewhat underhanded maneuver, and that once I have my doctorate, I'll have more status and won't need to kiss up as much.

At first I was at a total loss. I'm not an obsequious person. I'm not good at kissing ass; I don't think I've ever tried to do it. But for this course, I'll have to be.

That probably means doing a term paper on something he's interested in, not what I'm interested in, and citing a lot of his journal articles. I'll also try to schedule office hours with him and ask for information in his specialty but not challenge any of it. It probably won't be too bad. There are aspects of his area of specialization that I do find somewhat interesting. My fear is that he's going to notice I've gone from being an uppity disagreeable sort to a suck-up, peg me as a hypocrite, and will hate me all the more instead of being flattered. But it's worth a try. I'll be quiet in class for a few weeks, then ask him for some information about his research area. And listen intently, and not challenge his authority.

TYS also advised me to wear low-cut tops. Because apparently Dr. Jerk prefers female students to male students.

Well, that's one thing I do have confidence in. Since I've gained all this weight, the only area of my body that I'm really happy about is my rack. It's quite spectacular these days. So if I have to wear tight sweaters every week, I will. Whatever it takes.

I do have to say, though, that I felt very self-conscious about my weight. Most of my twentysomething classmates are twiggy little things, lithe and delicate. Among them, I felt like one of the tutu-wearing hippos in Fantasia. And I felt like the men were glancing at me and past me, not seeing me as an attractive woman.

So maybe the tight sweaters are a bad idea. Maybe I should stick to sucking up.

Another interesting element of the night was the forthrightness with which TYS disclosed his ADHD diagnosis. We had asked him what he wished he'd done differently in his first year, and he explained that he wished he'd been more organized, describing that since he had ADHD, organization and time management were among his issues.

I really wonder how many of my fellow students are diagnosed with bipolar or clinical depression. It would surprise me if I were the only one. But it's much too soon to be talking about it; I don't tell people whom I don't know well and trust.

I do hope that ultimately I'll make some real friends among my classmates, and that I'll be able to tell them about my diagnosis.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. Good luck with the butt-kissing. I've never been good at that, for good or ill. I hope he eats it up like most arrogant jerks do; maybe he'll just assume you saw the error of your ways and have come around to his way of thinking.

  2. I learned in college to say whatever the professor wants to here and it served me good. I even had a professor who was in the papers for failing students who disagreed with her.