I read a couple of blog posts making fun of recent PhDs who put up all their diplomas on their office walls, sign their customs declaration as a 'Doctor' and have the automatic signature in their e-mails say Dr. XYZ. Of course, doing these things is silly, vain and obnoxious. But come one, people, is it so hard to understand?
Can't a person be permitted this tiny little spot of vanity after suffering through years of graduate penury, explotation by the university, contempt and abuse at the hands of senior faculty, insults from the thesis director, being told that every single word you have ever published is garbage and crap, your writing is horrible, terrible, awful, dreadful gobbledy-gook, going through several 9-month-long job searches, feeling like a total nobody at the MLA convention in your leaky shoes and the only decent business suit that you maxed out yet another credit card to buy while your well-off potential employers who have chosen to conduct inerviews in the most expensive hotel you have ever seen and where you can't afford even a stupid cup of coffee make fun of you and humiliate you? Can't a person be allowed to hang on their walls a couple of diplomas if it makes them feel good about of themselves after getting 92 letters of rejection in their first year of looking for a job and 77 in the second?
After killing themselves to deliver a great class and a great presentation during a campus visit only to discover that the job had been promised to somebody's friend or spouse all along?
After being pawed and salivated over by a vile old professor for years and being terrified to say anything because he has the power to destroy your career?
After being asked by a professor to do them small house-cleaning or baby-sitting "favors" and being terrified of the consequences when you refuse?
After being accused by an old and respected male academic at your very first international congress of having had your talk written for you by your (male) thesis adviser (the obvious suggestion being that you are sleeping with him)?
After having a male grad school colleague interrupt your presentation with "We all know, Clarissa, that compared to a man, a woman is a lack and an absence"?
After having the rest of your male grad school colleagues (except you, Oli, you are a star) spreading the most vicious gossip about all the male and female faculty members you supposedly slept with to get your perfect grades?
After moving four times in two years between different countries and states on no money whatsoever?
After seeing your mother cry and say for the gazillionth time, "Why on earth did you have to choose this idiotic academic career instead of having a real job like all normal people, like all my friends' kids who can now start helping out their parents?" and having nothing at all to respond because all she says is true?
After learning that in every intellectual discussion where male colleagues are present you have to learn to scream at the top of your lungs and actually punch them or restrain them physically to get yourself heard?
After breaking up with yet another guy who is intimidated and driven to impotence by your incapacity to pretend that his uninformed arguments are, in fact, logical and convincing?
After hearing I don't even know how many times, "You really want me to believe that you are doing a PhD at Yale? Ha ha ha. How much have you had to drink?"
After realizing that your Slavic last name makes you next to unemployable in the field of Hispanic Studies, no matter how fantastic your credentials are?
After discovering that at the age of 31 you will have to get your much younger sister to feed your for the next week because you have absolutely no money to pay for groceries and even though you received a great job offer you have to refuse it because you are too honest not to honor the agreement you entered into with your grad school?
After realizing at the same ripe age of 31 that you can't afford to take a bus in the city of Montreal because the bus fare is $2.50 and you don't even have that puny amount? And being too humiliated to confess this shameful mendacity to anybody because it makes you look too pathetic.
I didn't put up any of my diplomas on my office walls for the simple reason that office walls in my buildings are covered with some weird metal sheeting. I have no idea what kind of genius thought it a good idea to turn professor's offices into a bunker, but there you have it. I do, however, have the automatic signature in my university e-mail say Dr. "Clarissa." And when I got my first tenure-track job, I put a label "Dr. Clarissa X" on the door of my house. I know how ridiculous that makes me sound, but after everything I just shared with you about my grad school experiences, this little act of vindication made me feel so good that I refuse to feel bad about it.