Thursday, May 1, 2008

why i don't talk about my dissertation at parties (anymore)

despite the fact that i will one day revel in being referred to as "dr. jacks" (without the "almost"), i shy away from the label of expert. we could chat about why this may be (not knowing of what i speak, making things up, blatant lies;), but suffice to say that i try follow in the footsteps of the most unpretentious woman i know, my supervisor. plus, pretentious people, in general, give me the shits so there is no reason to be one of them. and, most of the time, when i tell people i am a graduate student, and a phd student at that, they invariably (no joke, invariably) say "good for you!" like a am a potty-training toddler that just waved bye-byes to mr. poopy. so proclaiming expert status, whether i wanted to or not, would prolly result in something equally horrifyingly humiliating like someone trying to change my diaper and/or burp me. like you don't wear a diaper. anyhoo. my point is that you don't always get the response you are looking for which is why i am less and less inclined to discuss my dissertation topic at parties.

for those of you who know me, and those of you who don't cause i keep telling you, i am an attention-whore. this results in interesting choices such as dramatically changing my hair and then disdaining of anyone who draws undue attention to it or choosing ridiculous things to study and then reacting with horrified anger when they say things like "you got a master's degree after spending a couple of months on a nude beach," "sociology is a nice hobby but you can't feed yourself with it," and my personal favourite, "well what is your phd actually in? online datingology" (followed by guffaw, guffaw, guffaw). most people's reactions, are by and far, very positive. so positive, in fact, that i often get advice on how to do my doctorate. the standard party conversation goes like this:

stranger: "so what do you do?"

me: "i am student, which basically means not gainfully employed in any meaningful way."

stranger: "oh yeah? that's cool."

me: "actually, i am a graduate student. i study sociology. but it is basically equivalent to unemployment and poverty-like conditions."

stranger: "you're doing your m.a.?"

me: "nopers. i'm a phd student."

stranger: "GOOD FOR YOU!!!"

me: "gee. thanks."

stranger: "what is your thesis on?"

me: "i study online dating."

stranger: "no you don't!"

me: "yeah. really. i do."

stranger: "well that's interesting!"

me: "not what you were expecting, huh?"

stranger: "NO! i didn't even think you could study that!"

me: "yup."

stranger: "so how successful is online dating? i mean how many people that you talked to get together?"

me: "i don't really study that."

stranger: "cause i mean, if you algorithmically calculated all the components of a good match, well then, you could -"

me: "i could sell my work to an online dating company?"

stranger: "YES!!! all it would take would be crunching the numbers and then putting together a detailed proposal -"

me: "are you an engineer?"

stranger: "yeah! how'd you know!?!?!"

this exact situation has happened to me twice. the exact same thing. and i wasn't at an engineering convention about how to sell your work in the marketplace. swears.

so since chatting about my dissertation isn't getting me the popularity i feel i want and deserve (read: need), perhaps i will start talking about it more on here. cause all ya'll can't talk back.

and all of you certainly can't be engineers. (not that there is anything wrong with that).


Shells said...

C'mon, tell the truth. You don't talk about your dissertation at parties because all those non-sociologists don't understand all the words you make up! ;)
But seriously, I am quite happy to talk about your dissertation anytime, any place. (I love made up words ;))

Beth said...

Conversations about my thesis usually went like this: Them: "What do you study?" Me: "The effects on the fetus of drinking alcohol while pregnant." Them: "WHY would you study that?? We already know it's bad." *sigh*

jacks said...

@shells - who are we kidding - i TOTALLY still talk about my dissertation at parties! mainly because most parties i attend are full of my lovely fellow sociologists, like, well, YOU! and i promise to try not to make you rue the day you said "i'll talk about your dissertation anytime!" because i will hold you to it. oh yes, i will. and, just know, i basically deem anything written in my blog comments section to be written in stone. or baby's blood. or whatever is more binding.

@beth - shucks. i have to concede the win for the worst reaction to a dissertation topic to you. but i'm not happy about it.