The awkward age

It has taken a while, since we are both in our forties, but Stubb and I seem to have arrived at a phase in our lives in which the holidays include making appearances at work-related, pro forma festivities.  (I wrote “obligatory appearances” and then removed the “obligatory,” since that’s overstating it a little.)  After an extended-family dinner for the first night of Hanukkah at his parents’ house, Stubb went last night to a local recording studio’s holiday party, which featured a mechanical bull that guests were invited to ride (?).  Tomorrow he’s going to the annual do of a conductor who throws a nice bash and asks his guests to bring Toys for Tots contributions.  I didn’t go to the first one because I needed to take the Snork Maiden home and it really didn’t seem like a babysitter-worthy event; the second one conflicts with my cousins’ annual Hanukkah party.  (Which is a post in itself, probably, because every year they do this large white elephant gift swap for the adults and we always bring something we think is awesome and no one ever steals it, and we always go home with some weird thing we didn’t want.)

I have not, however, been deprived of work-related pro forma festivities, for this week my NLNRU chair took me, as her guest (or “wingman,” as she put it), to one of the NLNRU president’s holiday parties, a sit-down dinner for, I’m guessing, 200 people, held at the president’s house (or, if you prefer, “president’s residence”).  This is one of those houses, like–well, all I can think of right now is “the White House,” but surely there are many others, probably including a lot of other university presidents’ houses–which include actual living quarters for people, but are mostly official residences for entertaining, with many public rooms that masquerade as rooms in which people (albeit people like the Ewings of Dallas) might live, but you know no one uses them.  This one is notable for its size, the incredibly upper-crust neighborhood some distance from NLNRU in which it is located, and the acres of powder-blue carpet underfoot.  The evening was actually fun, though, and the speeches were very brief, and the food was good (except that the dessert was a sort of pumpkin chiffon thing, and I don’t like pumpkin).  My chair and I spent the cocktail hour talking to a couple of very interesting women from the business and theater programs, and at dinner we were seated with a shoulder and arm surgeon, a computer scientist, a communcations prof, and their respective guests. 

The event also made me so glad that I hadn’t dumped SA for the full-time gig at NLNRU.  I would have been hugely nervous and at risk of trying too hard.  Instead, I was having fun, and the good impressions I was trying to make were more on behalf of our program (which has been historically a bit of a red-headed stepchild at NLNRU) rather than on behalf of my future career at NLNRU.  Maybe I’ll be there for years, maybe not.  I enjoy the work, I want the money, but I am not putting all my career eggs into that particular basket, which is probably better for me all around.  

My chair, by the way, is pretty awesome, and it was fun to ride over and back with her.  She also wangled an invitation for Stubb and me to attend a big arts event she has worked on, not holiday-related but more of an awards-type thing (think Kennedy Center Honors on a smaller budget?).  That’s next week, which looks to be pretty festive/busy too.  I have plenty of grading and other SA projects to wrap up before the winter break, which begins Friday afternoon, and there are special faculty/staff breakfasts at SA on two different mornings, so there will be time, also, to pause and anticipate, appreciatively, the winter break that is now just under a week away!

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