So here I am, sitting in a hallway of the Philadelphia Convention Center, at the Big Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion. To give you a fuller picture, I’m wearing a pair of black slacks (that I got for twenty-buck at Ross), a lovely blue shirt, and a sports coat that was no doubt stitched together by tiny little South East Asian fingers. By all accounts, I look like The Man.
But I feel completely different inside, of course. I feel like I’m crashing a party and wearing the required uniform. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not uncomfortable in my clothes. The older I get, the more comfortable I’ve become in grow-up clothes. It’s not the clothes as much as what they represent. What they mask, in some cases literally (for example, my tattoos). And the there’s a deep irony about the Academy, about the Ivory Tower. On the one hand, minorities, people of color, those of us from lower socio-economic classes, women, and so forth, are accepted and engaged with in dialogue and our ideas are talked about as “new” and “paradigm shifts” and all that. But we still have to talk and act and look like Old White Men.
Maybe next year, if there is a next year for me, I should show up in Converse, a t-shirt, and the comfort blanket of my blue hoodie. And deliver a paper whose title will include a colon and multi-syllabic word like “hegemony” or “hermeneutic.”
But I’m being far too melodramatic. I’m being far too bitter and cynical. While writing my entry my advisor wandered past (himself a half an hour late for the talk that I ditched out of to write this) and sat down and chatted with me briefly about my Comps and, somewhat more importantly, the failing health of his mother. The bottom line, of course, is that despite whatever bitterness I may have toward “The System” at large, the system is still made up of people. At times, some very smart, compassionate, wonderful people who are seeking to overturn the system just as a I am, who come to this thing with their own metaphorical Converse and hoodies, as masks or otherwise.
So I’m going to the book room. Books books books. Down there I feel like a kid in some kind of a store!