The gripping tale of a young spinster aunt’s feminist epiphany
The year is 1983. I’m in year 5 of a four-year liberal arts program. Portents abound to suggest that my contributions to Western civilization will be few, if any, and destined for the realm of the ideal rather than the practical. By which I mean, I disdain to do much but lounge around the ancient ivy-smothered quad and smoke pot.
Then one day for no particular reason I elect to attend one of my classes. It’s a distribution requirement course, Psychology of Sleep and Dreaming. The class is almost entirely populated by male undergraduates because the professor is a 30-ish sylph with long blonde hair whose most frequent turn of phrase is “nocturnal penile tumescence.” She is absolutely in earnest about the Psychology of Sleep and Dreaming, and seems sadly unaware that her students’ apparent enthusiasm is merely adolescent prurience.
On this particular day the professor interrupts a lecture describing the apparatus used to measure male boners, and excuses herself for a few minutes. When she returns the dudes snigger and mutter and scratch their balls at twice their normal rate. I wonder about this briefly, then go back to staring blankly out the window. After class, returning to the quad to smoke more pot, the male students are atwitter with titillated delight.
“That was so decent!”
“I can’t believe she did that!”
“Yowsa yowsa yowsa!”‘
My enquiries into the origin of all this excitement produce the intelligence that our professor had been wearing pantyhose at the beginning of class, but that this suggestive appurtenance had been entirely absent from her person upon her return. Inferred entirely from the results of unflagging male pantyhose surveillance is the hypothesis that the instructor is such a sexed-up wanton slut that she can’t refrain from dashing out mid-lecture to hump something.
I glance back into the classroom. The professor is framed Vermeerishly in the ancient Gothic doorway, motionless at her desk in a beam of sunlit dust, staring pointedly out the window.
I quit school again soon after this episode, and find myself working as a barback in a nearby campus beer & burger hangout. The Psychology of Sleep and Dreaming professor is there, too, moonlighting as a waitress. We do not acknowledge our prior teacher-pupil relationship, either because I’d shown up at her class so infrequently that she doesn’t recognize me, or because it’s embarrassing, this banal shift in our mutual fortunes.
I’m behind the bar, washing beer glasses on the electric BarMaid (TM) during a busy dinner shift. An altercation has broken out. Some jerk is dissatisfied with the level of servility the professor has expressed while providing him with his $3 hamburger.
The disagreement escalates. The manager is called. The jerk vituperates. He grabs the professor’s arm and proclaims, “This thing couldn’t waitress her way out of a paper bag!”
The professor wrenches her arm away and turns on him with a venomous majesty.
“I,” she snarls, “am not a thing.”
Whereupon my mind is blown, and there does stir in my nascent obstreperal lobe the first faint vibrations of humanity.