I'm gonna be embarassed that I showed you how petty and jealous I can be.
I ran into Bill and Rosalie at Trader Joe’s today. Bill!! Bill went to my small grad school program a couple years ahead of me. I liked Bill right away when I met him; I liked him even better when he gave me my first TA job. I felt pretty embattled in grad school and Bill has a quiet accepting presence. With no mutual build-up of the friendship or anything, I just decided that Bill and I were friends. I took to going to his office hours every two or three weeks; if he didn’t have students, I’d talk to him for fifty minutes straight. He didn't say much, until he’d ask me a really good question and set me off for another twenty minutes. I didn’t think much of it until I told Yet Another Chris about hanging out in Bill’s office hours and Yet Another Chris asked me if Bill liked that. I hadn’t considered that. I’d never given him a choice in the matter. Bill and I still get lunch occasionally, and mutual friends reassure me that he says nice things about me, so I suppose he didn’t mind.
Bill told me that this other guy from our program lives in town and is A Fancy Lobbyist. This other guy was the Golden Boy in our program and I never understood why. He was good at saying the buzzwords. But ultimately, I think it was because he’s tall and pretty, which is a crap reason for someone to be the darling of a grad school program*. But the same professor that would berate me during class presentations, saying that I didn’t belong in his program and couldn’t grasp the concepts, had a huge hard-on for this guy. He let the Golden Boy teach classes and fawned over his answers and excused him from the program pre-reqs.
That didn’t work out in Golden Boy’s favor. I took Econ 204, the class that derives the basics of micro-econ, with Golden Boy and Yet Another Chris. That class was hard, and at about the second midterm I realized that Golden Boy simply didn’t have the math to do it. I wouldn’t have cared, except that he tried to hide it. We’d be studying, and gradually I realized that he wasn’t doing the problems when I was and he wasn’t checking my work and he wasn’t really confirming that the Lagrangian multiplier is the shadow price. He was just agreeing with whatever I said, which is not helpful. Once I understood that, I helped him when I could and trusted Yet Another Chris instead. I cannot imagine that he passed that class.
I’m already embarrassed that I’ve given Golden Boy an hour of my thought today; it is ridiculous and petty to care about his success. We’ve both done well, and our potential for success in grad school wasn’t zero sum. For that matter, we did about the same in grad school, both leaving before quals. (I wonder if he got the masters. Hmmm.) But a couple things bother me. On his Fancy Lobbyist Profile, it says that he finished the coursework for a Ph.D. in our program. I don’t think that’s true, unless he made up the econ class somehow, and I never heard that he did. But people know that “finished the coursework for a Ph.D.” means “dropped out of grad school”, right? What really gets me is that I am positive that if Golden Boy decided he wanted to finish that Ph.D., the mean professor would engineer his re-acceptance and help him do a dissertation. I am equally sure that they would shut me out if I tried the same thing. That part sucks.
*My belief that this was the reason was reinforced the following year. When the seven-year ex and I broke up, I dropped thirty-five pounds in two or three months. As I got thinner, that professor liked my answers better and better. Towards my fighting weight, I could say nothing wrong in class, which I respected very little after his previous contempt for anything I said.