Wednesday, February 21, 2007

MYLF's and PYLF's

I guess it could be said that I'm not your typical college instructor: I hold my office hours in a coffee shop where I am on a first-name basis with 90% of the people there, and I allow my graduate students to bring their favorite "adult beverages" to class. All I ask is that they bring snacks, and plenty to share.

While I take my role as a mentor and sculptor of young minds very seriously, I don't take myself so seriously that I can't connect with my students, whom I collectively refer to as "my babies". I spend time getting to know each of them, and threaten their lives if they don't visit with me during my office hours. Of course, I have a reputation for pushing them hard and making them learn, but I am respectful and never demeaning. My basic pedagogical approach is that learning should not be punishment, and that hard work and focus in my class will be met with recognition, praise and reward. When I was an undergraduate, I longed for this sort of clarity and openness with my own professors, and I do think that the majority of my students recognize and appreciate the fact that I am approachable and capable of connecting with them.

In my five years of working with students, however, today was the most interesting. I am accustomed to hearing compliments about my "coolness" or "awesomeness", etc., but I have never once been given the compliment that I remind someone of a "mom". It went a little something like this:

Justin, one of my younger male students, came to my office hours, sporting a new, Timberlake-esque haircut and facial hair, and of course, a double-popped collar. (Honestly, if he actually knew what "sexy" was, he would still be far too young to "bring" anything "back", but I digress.) Justin is a decent writer and an engaged student, and we talked about his progress in my class and how he will be applying to law school next year. He asked if I would write a recommmendation for him at that time, and I said yes. And that's when he sat back and this happened:

"Namaste, you're so awesome. You're, like, the best teacher I've had in college. You remind me so much of my friend's mom."

Eh? A mom? Doesn't a mom mean, like, someone in her, like, 40's? Or something?

"I mean, not that you're old or anything... Just that you're so cool and smart like her..."

Oh, ok. Well, thank you, Justin. I appreciate the compliment.

"Yeah--and she was totally hot, too."

Oh, ok. (Now feeling my oh-shit-discomfort alarm start to signal.) That's very nice of you to say, but not necessar--

"Like, well, ok, only you're actually hotter than her because... I can tell that when you're old like that, you're going to look a lot better because you do yoga and take really good care of yourself...."

Oh...ok...thanks, Justin. We should probably wrap it up here, shouldn't we? (Now shuffling papers in front of me to distract anyone seated nearby from hearing any more of this conversation.)

"Yeah, and I mean, if it's, like, any consolation, my friends mom?--She's a total MYLF. And so I have no doubt that you'll be a total PYLF when you get to be her age--even though you sort of already are..."

A PYLF? Did I miss something?

"Oh, yeah, you know, a Professor-You'd-Like-To-F-ck."

Yes, folks. I'm a PYLF. It takes a lot for me to be speechless, and I could have never prepared for this one...

Justin finally got up and left, and now I'm not going to be able to hang out in my favorite coffee shop for a few days. Word instantly got around that I am officially a PYLF, and the baristas took great pleasure in this all afternoon. My tea refills were met with: "ONE FREE REFILL FOR NAMASTE, THE PYLF!!!" Then, the guys from the Seminary wanted to know what a PYLF is, which was met with laughter and applause all around. Before I knew it, half of my own department was abuzz with the news that today one of my students called me a PYLF. I got two emails from colleagues. One said, "Hey, Namaste--Congrats on being PYLF-of the-Year!" Maybe this is yet another rite of passage, I keep telling myself. After all, it is pretty funny. But regardless, this one is definitely going to take me a few weeks to live down.


I-66 said...

I'm afraid to tell you, doll, that these things don't get lived down very quickly. Especially if they're true ;)

Leaf said...

That's awesome. There certainly weren't any PYLF's when I was in school. But, if there were I don't know of any student who would openly tell them that. Good for popped collar boy, that must have taken some serious guts.

Anonymous said...

Yikes! So how about that law school recommendation?

VJ said...

Yeah, the only PYLF in my undergrad days where the guys. The married guys. Everyone else looked kinda grungy. And the babes of the Dept. were slightly under the mandatory retirement age. And militant lesbians. Lebanese Lesbo's if I recall properly. Old 'battle axes' come to mind for most of the female profs. in my time, when they weren't the twee narcissistic self involved recent creations having affairs with their doctoral advisors. Even when the latter were 'pretty' in that unconventional 'off brand' sort of way, they were pretty crazy & fairly silly too. (This was a highly selective sample mind you!)

So overall, from my experience I've seen far prettier & more comely Marines than I have University Profs. Really. So You're really something special N! And no, it'll be awhile before you live that down. But expect more propositions from your fellow married Profs. You're moving up in their food chain no doubt! Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

Maximus Doom said...

Well, one should learn something new each day and something new about themselves. Congrats??? I guess if you got it, you got it. However; with great power, comes great responsibility....LOL.

Anonymous said...

This seminarian has heard of a MILTH but PYLF is new. Gads! Lacivious Justin Timberlake look-alikes have crossed the barrier from the first- to second-person singular and have entered the ranks of academia.

I guess my seminary isn't hip enough. Which might be a good thing.