Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Lady Speaks In Welsh

Thank the Lord, I'm going back to school! On Monday, the Spring semester starts. I am chafing at the bit. I am particularly excited about my courses this semester. Materials of Construction, Architectural Practice I, Introduction to Drawing and Perspective, Introduction to Urban Planning, Managing Construction, and Building and Fire Codes. I'd have trouble if I was asked to pick a favorite in the line-up, and even more trouble picking a least favorite. As opposed to last semester, they all look like they'll be pretty lecture-and-textbook heavy, so that will mean a lot of time spent sitting in my wee bungalow reading and taking notes. Or at Starbucks or Koffi or wherever.

Does this also mean New Clothes For School?

No. No, it does not.

Not like dressing for school isn't a Whole Thing. Now in my forty-fourth year (same age as Michelle Obama!), getting dressed has gotten trickier. I am increasingly wary of Mutton Dressed As Lamb. Perhaps that is in part due to living here in Palm Springs, where every day I am confronted with mutton-y men out for a gambol dressed like lamb-y teenagers. (Note to Ubiquitous German Bodybuilder Guy: Put some clothes on please. You know who you are.) Not infrequently, I'll look in the mirror and think, "Oh Drew, you aren't forty-two anymore. You just aren't. Change."

And these concerns are also perhaps inspired by two of my recent web obsessions, Gofugyourself, which offers scathing critiques of the fashion faux pas of celebrities I don't know about otherwise; and Hot Chicks With Douchebags, which does much the same for guys from New Jersey and such places. In both instances, the common ground would seem to be Trying Way Too Hard. And as this is also a venal sin of Mutton Dressed As Lamb, that has become my watchword.

But that's not the end of the trickiness! At my institution of higher learning, I would estimate that only about fifteen percent of the student body is over the age of twenty-three. So mostly, I'm totally surrounded by kids, likable though they may be. And there's the temptation to "just dress like everybody else does." But however strong that temptation may be it is to be resisted at all costs. Because I'm not a kid. I'm forty-four. Dammit.

So most days, there's a lot of editing that goes on before I leave the house. I want to look stylish and a little natty, but in a "Here to fix your furnace, Ma'am" kind of way appropriate to my being a construction management major. But also keeping in mind age appropriate attire. And all at the same time avoiding Trying Too Hard at all costs.

You see my plight.

I think mostly I hit it. Sometimes not. But of course, at school, it really doesn't matter, because I am viewed by my post-adolescent classmates as being a total freak.

What manner of freak?

You may well ask.

The Lady speaks in Welsh.

Back when I was in college, there were scattered about a few "non-traditional students," who had graduated high school about the time of the moonwalk rather than about the time of the Challenger disaster like the rest of us. In the English Department, there was this really wonderful woman named Georgia. Her kids had grown up and left home, and she decided to return to school and get her bachelors, an endeavor she had abandoned to marry here stockbroker husband who had a doctorate in Comparative Literature from Columbia and who would translate Flaubert and Dante and Goethe at the breakfast table while he had his morning coffee to keep his language skills sharp. Georgia was wonderful, and we all liked her.

Except for one this one thing she would do...

For example, in my Shakespeare courses, we would take one of the plays, divvy up parts, and do a close reading and discussion in class. And I think it was in one of the Henry plays where Shakespeare has some fun with one of the characters marrying a Welsh princess who doesn't speak a word of English. And so he would profess his love to her and then the stage direction given was, "The Lady speaks in Welsh." Which elizabethan audiences probably found to be a total gas, right? Well Georgia got the part of the Welsh princess. And rather than treating it like a non-speaking part, Georgia went to the library and listened to recordings of Welsh poetry in Welsh, and got a feel for the language and wrote down phonetically some words and phrases, and when the time came, Georgia/The Lady Mortimer treated us to the euphonious sounds of spoken Welsh.

When she innocently explained to us that she didn't speak Welsh, but had learned a few passages of Welsh so she could dazzle us when we read the play in class, there was much rolling of the eyes. For after all, who does that? Who spends two hours in the library learning phonetic Welsh when you could be sitting in the dorm watching MTV or getting drunk on beer or taking a bus over to the mall?

That would be Georgia, the Non-Traditional Student, who was paying for her education herself and who was taking a lot of delight in the whole experience and wringing from it every drop she could.

And so there we are in my Technical Drafting class, and several of us had finished up the assignment a couple of days ahead of schedule, and that's really cool because you don't have to show up for class and you can sleep yearly. Although several of my fellow students had a stroke when walking by my drafting table and glancing at my drawing, expostulating, "What the hell is that? Is that part of the assignment? How did I miss that one?"

No, I would answer, it's not part of the assignment. See? It's a study of fibonacci sequences and when you inscribe an arc in the little rectangles you get the same proportions as the chambered nautilus! Isn't that cool?

And they'd smile and then turn around and mouth the word "freak!". But I believe I'm well liked. Even though I am a freak who is paying for this myself and taking a lot of delight in the whole experience and wringing from it every drop I can.

And Monday begins the Spring semester, and new opportunities for the Lady to speak in Welsh.


beaver4 said...

In the new semester wishing you:


Sebastian said...

Dear Freak,

Congratulations!. You made it! Not many do. Of course, we were decimated in the 80s, and struggled through the 90s, and now in the aughts we find that many have put their minds and bodies to rest in the bad kind of mindlessness. But there are a few who grow with the decades, coming to self-realization and insight, who grow in wisdom and grace before the Lord, and perhaps more to the point, in full sight of the clueless 20 somethings. Celebrate!

Tymber Dalton said...

OMG!!! ROTFLMAO! I'm a little younger than you, but I am sooo glad to see I'm not the only one with the freak label. (Although no, I never went so far as to speak Welsh. *LOL*)

I personally think you're cool. Keep drawing those nautiluses (nautili?)!