Working with someone who’s just out of college is hilarious. Okay, I’ll focus that to say that working with Kathleen Watson is hilarious. She’s right out of Augsburg College with a mind as sharp as her wit. She pretty much makes my head spin at times with an analysis here or an incredibly astute conclusion there. I can hear a 22-year-old me in her statements, though I never got to work my gender analysis into my job (until now) since my first job was working for Twin Cities Public Television’s corporate subsidiary. Her areas of study were theatre and English, but she lives the gender and sexuality aspect. It’s part of theatre and English more now than ever. One of her projects was about the “genderqueerness” of Orlando. She was steeping in cultural critique and now she’s working at Lavender.
I give Kathleen a look when she says words like “genderqueer.” The look can be summed up succinctly in the language of her generation:
WTF. OMG. LOL.
Genderqueer? No, I’m not laughing at it as a word or a concept…I’m laughing that I have no idea what she’s talking about. I’m laughing because I’m out of the loop. I’m trying to find humor in being left behind by academia.
Back in my day, we were still trying to spell “woman” as “womyn.” I don’t think that ever took hold, transculturally. It was a landslide win to see the schoolwide shift from “freshman” to “first year” students. That Introduction to Gay & Lesbian Studies existed and Women’s Studies was becoming an actual major (then to evolve to add the “Gender” and, finally, “Sexuality”) were huge. Now, with genderqueer, cisgender, and new pronouns like “ze” and “hir” (see page 28), I am left with my jaw hanging open at the new and unknown puzzle pieces in my lexicon.
Often, the only way I know how to handle being so far out of my element is to laugh…and scamper off to Google. Thankfully, Kathleen has no problem teaching me what these words mean. She doesn’t scoff or make an ageist comment—she’s a pro. She tells me about them. She teaches me.
Simply by being in an academic climate recently, she knows more. And, being that I left the academic climate in 1999, I know less.
It’s not that I know less, it’s that my knowledge is outdated.
And, by never going to college, it doesn’t mean that someone knows less in terms of experience, but it does in terms of theory.
What does theory have to do with life?
Arguably, not a whole lot. It’s good to know what has happened and why, but we’re still going to live life how we live it, whether or not we know the theoretical basis behind what we’re doing. Some of it’s history, some of it’s theory, and some of it is trivia. The world goes on turning while students have the privilege of attending classes and pontificating about the problems of the world, perhaps detachedly. But, because they may not be experiencing what they’re studying, does it mean that they know less, too? Yes.
And that’s where we come in. It’s up to us to fill in the blanks that theory left. They have a whole lot of knowledge, but they don’t have as much context or experience. Their perspective is both wide open and pigeon-holed.
This issue contains a Survival Guide for students, which also applies to the rest of us who aren’t in school. We can all take those tips and accept or reject them as applicable to our lives. But, what’s more, our columnists offer survival tips in every issue. Yes, whether attending school or not, we can all learn from what our writers put out there for us to read. Ms. Behavior gives advice; that’s a pretty easy one in which we can find guidance. Justin Jones examines love using the metaphor of a waltz lesson; his words resonate with our romantic hearts. Jennifer Parello lets us learn from her (or her girlfriend’s) mistakes. Ellie Krug pretty much broke my heart in her piece about the Envy of not becoming the person she is now…earlier.
We teach the students. The students teach us. We never really graduate.
The theoretical leaves the books and gets tested. The conversations leave the classrooms and happen organically. Everywhere.
And for that, I’m grateful.