The 38 Year Old Co-ed

Friends joke that I am always taking a class.  Yoga Thai Massage, Aerial Basket Weaving, the History of the United States….you name it.  But I have taken it to another level this summer, social psychology at UCLA.  My class has kids (kids!) almost twenty years my junior-I have more in common with the professor and her references to pop culture (George Carlin’s “seven dirty words you can’t say on television” anyone?) than I do the students. 

So I try to blend in.  My comments in class are peppered with references to the latest celebrity high-jinks and I am underdressing-jeans, t-shirts, flip flops. I have started bringing Cheetos and food from the vending machine to class. (Some of you might say that doesn’t sound like anything different than I always do.)   I like to think they don’t see the grey hairs, tummy bulge, or creaky movements as I unfold my body out of those annoying chair cum desks.

Ms. Richards and Mr. Sambora

Ms. Richards and Mr. Sambora

I turned in a 3 page paper yesterday which involved me observing persuasive attempts in every day life.  I watched TV for 2 hours.  Denise Richards- It’s Complicated and Desperate Housewives were the main heady topics of my analysis.  I brilliantly argued that DR uses the two-sided persuasion tactic to innoculate its doubting audience.  Basically, by preemptively using negative stereotypes in the introduction, like Daddy’s Girl, Husband Stealer, etc,  followed by the “real Denise” as the mom who never goes out, the sweet innocent with a little quirky in her, the audience will not side with Denise’s ex-husband.  They will be innoculated from being swayed when they hear stories about her requesting her ex-husband’s sperm to make more babies and the dubious Ricky Sambora choice as the sane follow up to Charlie Sheen(??). 

For the assignment I slaved-no B+ permitted.  I suddenly had sympathy for all those students I taught at USC who didn’t understand what it took to get an A based on my essay grading system.  Sometimes based more on a feeling than anything else.  It’s experiences like this that bring out the schiz girl in me.  While I want to blend in, I also want them to know of my years of experience….so I think I come off as the know-at-all in the back of the class who overshares.  The difference is, when I was in this class twenty years ago, I would have cared more what the students think, and would have made sure I didn’t say anything that made me look uncool.  Today, I always have a comment, I think primarily to have a little dialogue for the professor to bounce off.  I do know how it feels when the class looks at you blankly.  Now they look at me blankly too.

In the end, I posit, I will learn probably even more about myself by how I operate in this class, a kind of social psychology experiment if you will!  Just as long as I get an A.

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