Praise Me, Bitches!

Professors at my university have bitched about faculty excellence awards for weeks now, and it’s hilarious. Some of them complain that the awards committee requires too much paperwork. We have to submit a cover letter, a CV, sample publications, letters of recommendation, syllabi, blah blah blah. You know, normal stuff that most of us don’t like doing. (I personally love updating my CV.) Others whine that the university doesn’t dole out enough cash. We compete for five awards of about $2k each. That’s not enough? No. Our faculty senate’s lobbying to double the amount. I’m pissed because I’m not eligible until I’m tenured. I wrote a snotty email about that, then deleted it after I sobered up and got a good night’s sleep.

Don’t ever email your faculty list-serv drunk, btw. I’ve seen it happen. Not pretty. How do I know Professor X was drunk? You can practically smell the booze rising off those obvious typos evry few wrds, along with a free stylin’ punctuation. You don’t have to stumble around a bar like some trashed grad student. Your words do that for you.

I have a troubled relationship with awards. Somehow I acquired a trunk case full of trophies for child modeling and piano recitals. My parents displayed them too proudly above the fireplace. Some sad shrine to my potential. I won some certificates and plaques for short stories, too. Quite a nice little display there in the living room. My parents loved gesturing nonchalantly at them when company came over.

The thing about awards: the more you win, the more you want. Especially the kind that don’t matter much. The kind that come with a $50 plaque, or a $20 trophy. Or better yet, a ribbon. Those are the best. I love those six-inch ribbons that look like a torn receipt. Some gold lettering that simply says, “First Place.” I’ve heard you can buy them by the boxes. Imagine me rolling around like Demi Moore from Indecent Proposal. Except with a bunch of blue first-place ribbons.

Growing up, my parents often dragged me to some awards night hosted by my middle school twice a year. We sat among the other well-dressed, middle class families and politely applauded while awaiting our turn to receive. A few times, I disappointed them. No awards for Jessica. My mom always made things worse, ranting in the car about how half my friends received awards. “Did you see the way they looked at you? What a bunch of sore winners. You don’t need them as friends. Fuck them. You can do better.”

Everyone knows that feeling when you get overlooked. That you deserved an award, that it was stolen from you. That something might be rigged. Those are good experiences, though. Each time that I felt screwed out of an award, I felt myself grow a little more mature by not whining. Some people could practice that behavior.

Watch someone else complain about not winning an award, and tell me how you react. A friend of mine in college, quite talented, once placed as a runner-up for a major art prize at his university. We went hiking shortly after that, and he complained half the day away. “I mean, that guy’s idea wasn’t that great. I thought of doing something like that back in high school.” He showed me photos of the winning art project on his phone, asking me to rate it compared to his. If he hadn’t been such an enormous tool, I would’ve encouraged him to keep sculpting and painting. Instead, I just shrugged and began a vow of silence.  Last I heard, he now works at Verizon. Ouch.

Of course, you can feel bitter and just hide it like I do. Always the best course when it comes to awards. A department chair once played a dirty trick on me. I was making copies in the office, minding my own lame business, when he approached me and started spreading compliments over my ego like warm chocolate icing. It felt so good, almost sensual. Yeah, I’ll go there. I don’t give a fuck. Anyway, he concluded thusly: “You’re going to be at the faculty assembly tomorrow, right? We’re giving out an award.”

I nodded, my face feeling a little warm. Er my gawd. Was he coyly suggesting I was going to receive an award, after a single year as faculty? What kind of award. Would there be…a plaque? Where would I put it? Above the fireplace, obviously. I kept the news to myself. I didn’t even tell my boyfriend. Trying to sleep, I felt like a girl on Christmas Eve. So, you know where this is going…

I’m sort of addicted to plaques, btw. I can stare at a plaque for hours. They’re shiny, but they also have the kind of wood that musical instruments are made from. They’re sleek, they’re sexy, and they’re also slightly adorable. Holding a plaque is like holding a violin, a piece of jewelry, and a kitten all at the same time.

What happened at the assembly? I fucking sat there for thirty minutes through all the announcements from deans and associate deans and so on. Then the awards portion came, and our dean presented an award to…one of our full professors. Yeah, not me. It didn’t help that I’d been doing half this professor’s committee work for her, which she’d been “too overwhelmed to handle.” She was disorganized, lost her keys all the time, and generally one of those teachers that coasts on charm, and by kissing her students’ asses all the time. I’m not bitter. Really. I’m just channeling the bitterness I felt in the moment. Yeah, that. I’d gotten conned into attending someone else’s award ceremony. And I really had to pee.

The worst part? Apparently, the department chair had decided that the only way to lure my ass there was to trick me. Was my ego that huge, that noticeable? I don’t brag much, but I’m a smug little one. He could probably tell. I sure would’ve appreciated this instead: “Hey, you egotistical bitch: your slack-ass colleague, with poor fashion sense, is getting a plaque on Friday at 9 am. Show up if you want to look like a team player.” This, I could’ve handled.

Giving awards can be interesting. This past year, I created one for graduate students. If you want to de-romanticize awards altogether, I recommend this experience. The process was simple. I asked our department chair for $300 for a cash prize. I spent $50 of that on a plaque for our best graduate student writer. I know, the student might’ve liked a Starbucks gift card instead. But fuck her. She was getting a plaque. Because I liked plaques. So, we formed a small committee and gathered submissions. We pent a torturous week reviewing short stories and essays and poems. We held a final, closed-door meeting to pick the winner, and then we brainstormed what the plaque would say. The next day, I called the trophy store and dictated the lettering:

The Arnold Wilhem Writing Award

Presented To Margaret Wimbly

March 15, 2016

My conversation with the trophy store was so fucking anticlimactic. He met my bated breath with casual indifference. Oh, a plaque. Okay. How big? What kind of wood? When did I want to swing by and pick it up? By the time I’d finished, it all seemed so procedural. The worst part was my trip to the store. I’d never been to a trophy store before. I mean, craft stores usually have a trophy section. But this place was something else entirely. All these blank trophies, plaques, shiny metal objects of various shapes and sizes, waiting for an engraver. It reminded me of a sex shop, just a little bit. How? You always think a sex shop’s going to be a wonderland of lingerie models. Nope. In reality, it’s a slightly scheezy location with one or two truck drivers browsing fleshlights while some college girl, who works there part-time, reads off porn titles to some dude wanking on the phone. Or maybe the sex shops in my town just suck. Anyway, imagine a sex shop, except here at the trophy store they sell a different kind of gratification.

It made me wonder. If I wanted it badly enough, I could’ve handed the trophy store clerk $200 and had my own deluxe plaque made. How big of a plaque could I get for $200? Something the size of a small headstone, maybe? Anyway, the moral of this blog post is something like…don’t go to sex shops after 5 pm by yourself. Stay away from trophy stores. And, ladies, remember to disinfect your vibrators from time to time. If you have awards, you should probably keep them in a box. Nobody wants to see that shit on your mantle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s