I was into blogging and then decided that the mommy/academic blog had become a self-indulgent cliché. Women in their mid 40’s trying and mostly failing to get lots of scholarship done with quirky kids and regressive Universities breathing down their neck are a dime a dozen in my world. Kids are naturally precocious and hilarious; if you listen and take a few juicy quotations, it makes for good writing. If only the dead people I’m actually paid to write about were so talkative. Where are you castrati? Come on Queen Christina just spek to me through a ouije board and tell me what you were thinking when you hired that weird castrato and I admit it I do want to know who you slept with so please share that too…The university as an institution now seems ridiculous to many and mothering has become a word. Can you imagine any of our grandmothers spending this much time talking about mothering? Mine was too busy hanging out with leather designers, and I gather that my great grandmother had to make gefilta fish swim in the bathtub. Neither of them had time to worry about whether the apples they tossed at their kids were locally grown or not. And they definitely did not email the kids teachers to discuss transition issues.
If the women in my little running group took our emails that combine University gossip with the antics of our children and slapped them into book form we might be able to make a best seller. Of course we’d get fired, infuriate everyone we know, and find ourselves sent out to an ice rock by our kids before any of us turn 50. Ms. Mentor is practically old school, and we all have dozens of unwritten emails. “Dear Sexist Colleague, thanks so much for mansplaining the piece of music that was, in fact, the subject of my first book.” “Dear Entitled Undergraduate, thanks for making me aware of your very very busy day and I’m sorry that your greek rush, intramural sports, and founding of an NGO got in the way of coming to class or office hours, but if you think there was electric guitar in a Bach cantata we really do have a problem here.” Husbands are good fodder for blogs but of course they don’t tend to like that. My husband anyway is better than most; he’s pretty clueless but he knows it and doesn’t pretend to be a sensitive new age guy. Plus he puts up with all kinds of indignities from me including being known in some spaces as “Miss Bonnie’s husband”
Even the purely academic blog seems overdone. Give us hip early modernists a current event, and we can find a pre-enlightenment parallel or relevance. Those of us who went through grad school in the 1980’s and later learned the beauty of the new historicism anecdote understand the importance of taking the seemingly archaic and making it new. A little prince was born today and it buzzed on iPhones. This is the disembodied post-modern echo of the fabulous fire words that marked the birth of even minor royalty in early modern Europe. The ghost of Princess Diana rendered in photos on every cable chanel reminds me of the glow of the gods rendered in thousands of candles every time someone fancy emerged from some poor woman who had to labor before the world. And at graduation, as hundreds of gorgeous UVa female graduates traipsed across the rainy lawn in cork platform shoes, all I could think was they looked just like the shoes worn by Venetian courtesans and patricians. Did the richer sorority girls wear higher heals? Do the shoes reclaim an erotic creativity?
Despite all of this I’m back to the blog. This fall I will be co-teaching with the fabulous Vanessa Ochs a cross college interdisciplinary seminar on writing. The course focuses on writing for the public about the public. Our seminar starts with blogs. Our theory is that we know that our grad students spend a good deal of their time writing and reading blogs, and we know that blogging is in the future for many of their classes. So we might as well all do it well. And if I’m going to make my students do a blog I better rejuvenate mine. And like just about everything else about being 40+, something I can happily admit is that, “Yup, I’m a cliché…” So this week, when I’ve shipped my eldest children off to a Waldorf-inspired camp where they drink hemp milk and feed pigs, seemed like as good a time as any to start it back up. My youngest child, whose reaction to the place was “what the hell is this place” and I are at camp Aunt Pami (my sister) for the week. She is making me green smoothies, which she promises will change my life and giving me lots of time to write. I’m hoping she’ll teach Eli to swim and get him to stop shooting. Ideally, I’ll also finish a long overdue article on sound in early modern Italy.