Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tenure-Track Tales, Part The Third

Another faculty committee I got elected to, that first year, was the Faculty Council. It met once a month for lunch in the President's Dining Room--a dimly-lit, dark-paneled space with the feel of a basement rec room-- to discuss the agenda for the upcoming faculty meeting.

The Faculty Council never did much in the way of business, but the lunches were good, the President was a genuinely good man, and the meetings gave the dominant males of the faculty the opportunity to blow off steam without the danger of anything ever coming to a vote.

Yet again, I was the only woman on the committee. At the first meeting, I stood alone while we waited for the President to arrive, watching my colleagues smoke their pipes and top each other's tales of student ineptitude.

At last the President came in and we all sat down. Pleasantries were exchanged. The food was served. The chatter died down and an expectant silence filled the room. The gravy was congealing on the chicken breasts but nobody made a move. What was going on?

Then the President cleared his throat. “Dr. Cobb,” he said, turning to me. I gave an involuntary start. Was he going to ask me to say the blessing? Was he going to ask me to leave the room? “Dr. Cobb, would you kindly pick up your fork?” I stared at him blankly, but did as he asked. “Ah, now,” he said with a smile, “we can all have lunch.”

8 comments :

  1. mrb, a lot of what went on in those days you just had to laugh at.

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  2. I've never heard about this tradition -- men couldn't eat until a woman picked up her fork? Or did I miss something?

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  3. Dona, technically, at a dinner party, everybody waits until the hostess picks up her fork. What threw me was that, as an XX chromosome bearer, I was automatically considered the hostess, even in a committee meeting.

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  4. Oh, wow. I didn't know that about the hostess having to pick up her fork first. Intersting that you were considered the hostess, but I guess it makes sense -- or at least it did back then to those men.

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  5. Dona, at that same meeting, I was invited to cut the cake. (I declined.)

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  6. Well, it was Maryland in 1975, a border state to the Old Confederacy. I assume they thought they were being gentlemen and minding their manners as their mothers taught them.

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  7. mrb, that's right. I really don't (and didn't) hold this kind of thing against those guys. But it did make me feel strange.

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