In typical polyform fashion, I unwittingly signed up for a 400-level and a 500-level course at PSU. Both classes--Politics of Poverty in Women's Studies and Urban and Community Health in Public Health, respectively--are small, challenging, intimate seminar settings filled with intelligent, articulate, accomplished people with alphabet soups' worth of degrees to their names. How did this happen? Well, the PSU computerized Quick Entry admissions process delightfully does not distinguish the lowly undergrad from the PhD candidate. I'm a little dismayed and a lot pleased by this egalitarian turn of things, which I highly doubt would have been possible a handful of years ago. However, compared to my classmates, I'm like a marsupial that somehow bounced into the jungle cats exhibit. "One of these things is not like the other." I'm a coconut in a basketful of avocados. I'm the dirty Cunningham in Scout's class in "To Kill A Mockingbird." Thankfully, the last 26 years of my existence lends some limited but relevant experience to this predicament.
I'm loving the work--scholarly journal articles and readings from expensive university publications, with weekly written reviews and some field work coming down the pike. But it is challenging, no mistake about it, humbling and exciting both at once. I suspect that, in the time to come, I'll come to appreciate the work it takes to get to this level of the game through more conventional paths. But I also know that I would not have had the patience, 8 years ago, to work through the cattle-call process, and I scarcely know that I have that patience even now, where my largest class is only 14 people.
Usually, I'm the guy in the room who says the first couple of starter responses after the prof asks us to talk about something and then an awkward pause ensues. Thanks to my theatre training, when I see a gap in the flow, I jump in with both feet and hope for the best, and resort to self-deprecation when I sense myself sounding silly, which is always. I think I've won some respect and affection for this, but it's tricky, because everyone else in the room has a formal mastery of established fields that I can at best only be conversant with.
To top it off, I was very surprised to see that I'm the only male in the Politics of Poverty class. Due respect to the Sisterhood: gentlemen, haven't we collectively learned by now that the loveliest, most provocative, most intelligent and captivating women are to be found in the Women's Studies dept? Dudes, systematically subverting an entire gender through outmoded power structures doesn't turn them on anymore.
Sigh. Someone has to collectively represent and apologize for his gender, and, as usual, I guess it's just my turn.