Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Dragon Lady

I read in my college alumni magazine that one of my professors is retiring this year. I was intimidated by her from the beginning because she had questioned my ability, as a mere first-term sophomore, to keep up with a 300-level history course. She was stern in class and demanding on papers, which we had to write every week. I was majoring in English so I wrote pretty well but even so I received back papers bleeding corrections and suggestions all over them. I said"groovy" in a discussion once and she let me know that word was too casual for an academic setting.

I respected her, but she scared me, so I called her The Dragon Lady.

One afternoon, perhaps as class was starting (because I can't imagine the context otherwise), she walked from the window side of the room to the middle and announced, "On my fiftieth birthday, I turned to my husband and said, 'I thought growing up would be easier than this, and I thought I'd be done with it by now."

As I remember it we all looked at her, mouths agape. Not only was everyone intimidated by her, but we were all under 22 years old. At the time I was thinking it was a funny thing to say to a bunch of people half or less of her age.

Now I know that it's the most valuable thing I learned all semester. I tell stories about my professors, but The Dragon Lady is the only one I quote word-for-word.

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