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.
Golden Boy isn't necessarily rich. Lobbying is not a Sure Thing when it comes to making serious bucks.
And a happy new year!
I'm actually kind of glad to hear that he's a lobbyist. If he were an engineer then actual lives might depend on him getting stuff right.
Conversely, I'm glad that Megan is the engineer, because she obviously has mad skillz. I'm willing to bet that very few people in the world have ever put weir flow formulas in a blog post. And I'm sure that Megan is happier as an engineer than she could possibly be as a lobbyist.
So it sounds like everything kind of worked out, actually.
Sounds like he's a natural salesman, and he's got himself an appropriate job for that quality. He's among that tiny minority of people whose looks and charm are so marketable they can make a career out of it. A Ph.D. probably wouldn't help him; he doesn't sound like his, um, qualities would be put to use in a job that required one. Or that required thinking.
I can understand your irritation at the professor. I wonder if the disparate treatment was just plain old fawning, or if there's some benefit he sees to himself (like, maybe it reflects well on the program) of having a pretty boy student doing well out there.
As long as we're being petty (no judgments here!), may I ask, was the professor an unattractive and/or dorky man? Such people are ironically often the most discriminating in favor of the attractive and popular, because they crave the feeling of affiliation with such people. For the same reason, they'll go out of their way to be nasty to anyone they perceive as (like themselves) an underdog.
i had a guy like that in my program. He got charged with raping the dept student secretary. I don't think that says too much for the profs judgment.
I didn't think I was envying his salary; mine covers my lifestyle well enough. And I don't want to be a lobbyist my ownself. I'll have to look harder for what gave me a pang.
Yep. I think you're right.
He wasn't attractive, although not drastically unattractive. But beauty very clearly mattered a lot to him, no less in men. He's straight, but I think he had some sort of students-as-representations-of-himself strangeness. I'm sure he wasn't aware of that bias in himself. I think that he would utterly reject beauty as an overt standard of judgment of people and be appalled to realize how it swayed him.
I never had any sense that this guy was sleazy or creepy. I hope I didn't give that impression of him. Far as I know, he's a good person who was just a little... slick.
I know just how that feels. Bad profs make everything miserable. And fakers suck. Especially when it works for them. Glad you got out of there. It sounds soul-sucking.
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