Since my post from yesterday, two of my colleagues have mentioned that they checked themselves out on Ratemyprofessors.com - and they have hot peppers. To which I say, thanks a lot, people. Just rub it in, why don't you.
But the best part is that a student (not mine) who reads my blog emailed to tell me that he tried to give me a hot pepper, but it wouldn't show up. (I checked - his comment was there, but the pepper was not). So apparently there is a conspiracy to prevent me from getting any hot peppers.
You have no idea what this means. Hot peppers are...how to put this. Apologies in advance to anyone reading this who is older than me - I hope you know that this is entirely about me and not at all about you. It's not that I see you as old. It's that I see me as getting older. It's one of those entirely self-referential things in relation to which the rest of the world might as well not exist for all the attention you are paying to it.
There is a weird transition you make in your thirties. Thirties are still young (if you're in college right now and reading this, it won't seem that way, but trust me, it's true). There are things about the twenties that flat-out suck. For example, being in your early to mid-twenties can be a professional liability. People take advantage of your youth and you have to fight for professional respect and recognition. I remember wincing every time I heard "like" or "you know" come out of my mouth because I felt so terribly inarticulate and immature (I still say "like" and "you know" all the time, but now I try not to hang out in circles where that's seen as inarticulate and immature).
Also, being in your twenties, if you're doing the whole party/club scene, can get old fast. You feel caught between college and something more settled, and everyone's sort of looking to settle down but not necessarily admitting it, until you reach your late twenties, by which point you might start to freak out a little if you aren't meeting datable people. (If you live in South Dakota, this freak-out period will probably happen by about age 23, because most people are on their first divorce by age 28).
For me, turning 30 was gloriously freeing - I got to be finished with my twenties, which I had labelled as a fairly destructive and unhappy time (even though I got married and started grad school). And then I had a baby and finished my Ph.D., so hey, this thirties decade was looking all right! Talk about accomplishments!
In your thirties, you start to feel like you have accomplishments. If you have a real job and haven't disappeared into graduate school, you might actually be making a decent salary. Even in grad school, you might have published an article or taught a class or done something you can put on your c.v. And you're still part of the hip marketing cohort - the 18-34 range. According to What Not To Wear, you can wear a mini-skirt until you're 35 (and by the way, I'm still wearing mini-skirts and will continue to do so until further notice, thank you very much). It is entirely acceptable in the rest of the country to go out and do fun things in your thirties (and it's even a little bit acceptable here).
But then I looked up and all of a sudden 37 was staring me in the face. I don't know what it is about 37 that is so terrifying. 36 was fine. I had no quarrel with 36. 36 is easily "mid-thirties." And 36 is a nice, round, sexy number. But 37 - holy shit, I felt like I literally had one foot in the grave. Pass me the metamucil. And while I will still say "mid-thirties," or even "late twenties" (because, really, thirties are the "new" twenties) in public, I will tell you privately, just between you and me, that 37 is really "late thirties." There. I've said it. I'm in my late thirties. And that means that 40 - and my forties, at the end of which is a big FIVE O - is just around the corner.
And so I dealt with my advancing age the way anyone would - I headed to the gym, shed a lot of pounds, and started hitting the clubs. And that did make a big difference in my self-esteem, as did getting hit on by men and women who could be my...nephews and neices.
Now, back to the hot pepper. The hot pepper represents a certain youthfulness, a hipness, not just a hotness but also a coolness. On some campuses (though, thankfully, not on mine, because that would just be too humiliating) hot pepper gettage is actually very competitive. To the point where professors actually do give themselves hot peppers and not just joke about it, like I did (I am not quite desparate enough yet to give myself a hot pepper. And apparently, if I did, it wouldn't show up anyway.). In short: it matters to us, people. We need those hot peppers!
And to think that somewhere out there are students wanting to bestow upon us these virtual icons of vitality - and that some computer glitch is taking that away...
I will not go back and check Ratemyprofessors.com every day or so to see if the hot pepper ever shows up. Because that way lies madness.