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Love’s PhD Trilogy: Exodus

***if you are new to the trilogy, it started here.

Despite my grand illusions of who professors actually are and what they actually do (like screw around with undergrads and smoke pipes), my PhD experience wasn’t really all that I had hoped for. I liked all of my classes and I was doing fine, but the stress of having an advisor like Professor Dragon and the feeling that I would be railroaded into a field of study I didn’t even like became overwhelming. Not to mention that I was pretty sure that BD was probably getting tired of being a single father and I heard once that if your husband isn’t sleeping with you, he is likely sleeping with someone else. And I didn’t want him taking up with the cleaning lady because she wore thongs and I didn’t.

So we decided to take a romantic getaway to Napa. Because it would be nice to see each other and talk about something other than how Professor Dragon hates me or how I have to work the weekend or asking him to tell me stories about our son that was in bed by the time I got home. There were many days when I thought I had probably made a huge miscalculation about my fitness for academia, but I kind of suck at admitting when I’m wrong. And I’d already sunk almost two years into the thing, and I knew I was smart enough, so I just felt like there was no going back.

But thank God we were going to a place that was relatively warm and had wine, in abundance. I was so stoked to just drink wine all day, get loaded, have lots of conjugal relations and sleep in. It would be a great escape for three days and then it would be back to the salt mine. But we weren’t going to talk about my work this trip. We were just going to keep it light and have fun.

So off we went. Normally, I wouldn’t comment on the plane ride, because they are generally pretty boring.  Whenever we fly together, we always buy the aisle and the window in particular row, hoping nobody will buy the middle seat. I’m shocked how often this works. But alas, on this trip, some old dude did buy the middle seat, and I offered him the window and I took the middle so I could sit next to BD. The only thing more annoying than the person who buys the fucking middle seat is the person who wants to chat throughout the flight. I do my best not to ever talk to anyone ever on any plane because chances are that you will either fall in love with them or be stuck talking to them for the WHOLE FLIGHT about their god awful boring ass job or family (at least these are the only two scenarios that have ever played out in my life). Since I was already married, the first scenario would have been super awkward with BD sitting on the other side of me, which only left the latter option. And this was going to be a four hour flight, so I sure as hell wasn’t going to open up the lines of communication.

To tell you the truth, I have no idea how Old Balls Who Bought The Middle Seat managed to get me to respond to him. Perhaps he offered me a Take 5 or maybe it was a million dollars? I feel like those are the only two reasons I would decide to start talking to a stranger at the beginning of a fucking transcontinental flight. It was probably a Take 5 bar, because if it were a million dollars, I would remember that more vividly. But anyway, he started talking to me. I’m guessing after he gave me the Take 5 he said something really compelling like, “So….what brings you to San Francisco?” to which I would have rolled my eyes but felt obliged to reply through my very full mouth with teeth covered in chocolate, peanut butter, pretzel, caramel: “Spring break”.  Opening him up to asking where I went to school. And I look like I’m about 22 and this makes me salty sometimes because I really want to be taken seriously so badly that I went to get a PhD and I feel like I have to prove I’m old, so I said “I’m studying for my P.H.D. At [prestigious univeristy].” I thought this clever retort would make me sound super smart and important and he would look at me in awe and figure out how god damn important I was and shut the hell up and let me finish the candy bar that I feel sure he must have given me to talk to him in the first place.

“Oh yeah? What are you getting your PhD in?”. Fuck. Here we go.

“Marketing.”

“Oh. That’s a really growing area in business schools.” Love’s right eyebrow shoots up. Whaaat? He knows something about this? “I’m a business professor at [not a university I’d ever heard of] in Michigan. Boy, I remember my PhD days. What are you doing your dissertation on?”

“Um. I don’t really know yet. I’m just finishing up the coursework.”

“Ha! So you don’t even know what work is yet.”

“What?” He looks at BD and then at me.

“You guys have kids yet?”

“Yes. One. A two year old boy.”

“You ever see him?”

Suddenly the stale, recirculated air leaves the cabin and I feel like I just got sucker punched.
“Um. Well, its hard, but I mean, we make it work.”

“Ha!” He leans over me, taps BD on the knee and says to him, “If you think you don’t see her now, just wait until she starts her dissertation!”

I think BD was probably mad that I wound up talking to this guy, but it was too late now and we were both listening. So I said, “Finishing your dissertation was hard on you?”

“Brutal! Oh it took me a long time. That’s about the time I got hooked on amphetamines and started really abusing alcohol. It took me until I got tenure to realize I had a problem. That’s a lot of years. Actually that’s why I’m going out to San Francisco — to visit my AA sponsor. I’ve been clean for 12 years.”

“Um. Oh. Congratulations?”

“Thanks. Yeah, oh God I remember those days!! How could I forget? I was married back then too. But we got divorced right after I got my first job. I can’t blame her. I was an alcoholic and a drug addict. Plus, I was never around. She left me for a guy at her gym. But I can’t blame her.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. On the one hand, I could already picture BD and I re-enacting this whole conversation as we snorted wine out our noses from laughing at how inappropriate the conversation was. On the other hand, holy shit.

“Well, I’m sure it will be fine.” I said, totally NOT sure it would be.

“Yes. I’m sure it will. It takes a really strong person to be married to an academic. We’re a rare breed. A lot of stress – very cut throat. It’s hard to think about anything else when you’re trying to publish and get tenure. It doesn’t end with the dissertation. You’re fooling yourself if you think it does. The stress. It just doesn’t end. You know, I used to teach at [prestigious university] but I took the job where I’m at now just to get out of the rat race. It’s the only way I could stay sober. And then I met a nice lady and got remarried now and life is pretty sweet.”

That’s about the time when BD and I asked the stewardess for two little Jack Daniels bottles and a diet Coke. It probably wasn’t that respectful to our new friend, the talky-talky-jaded-alcoholic-recovering-drug addict-oversharing business professor Old Balls sitting next to us, but the stuff he was saying was scaring the shit out me, and the only coping mechanism that always works is drinking myself into a stupor. Oh wait….shit. Was I going to be an alcoholic soon too? I have never done amphetamines that I’m aware of, but was I just a dissertation away from that and a divorce too? I mean FUCK. I was already miserable. Was it only going to get worse?

So I told the guy I was really happy for his sobriety and I hope he had a good time in San Francisco, but I really needed to sleep because I hadn’t done that in a while. And as I was switching on my iPod to drown in my self-defeating thoughts, he says, “Ha!…Get your sleep! Do it now while you still can! They don’t just give PhDs away at [your university]!”

Eh. Heh heh? Shut up shut up shut up shut up, Old Balls! I never should have taken candy from a stranger. Here is this living, breathing person sitting next to me basically embodying my every fear in the world about what I was doing. Of all the fucking flights on all the fucking days, this mother fucker is the guy who sits next to me.

But wait…was this a sign? Was this my angel punching me in the face so that I would finally listen to what she’d been telling me for months? I can’t quit! Can I? Should I? I mean, what the fuck am I doing? I could get a great job with my MBA – I don’t need this to have a job. I don’t really need this for anything, except to stroke my obnoxious ego. If I keep going down this road, I’m going to be fucking miserable as a professor. I don’t like to do experiments! I like thinking of questions, but I’d rather have someone else tell me the answer. I don’t like doing lit reviews! I don’t like writing and re-writing the same damn paper 653 times just so some other PhD asshole can tear me a new one. I think I might like teaching, but I’ve never done it and maybe I would suck or I would hate that too. What the fuck am I DOING?

That is what was going through my head for the last two hours of the flight. But BD was going to kill me if I told him I wanted to quit. We had invested too much. So we got to our hotel and then went out to a Chevy’s or something like that for lunch and just as the nachos came, we looked at each other and BD said, “So that dude? On the plane? What did you think of that?”
“Um. Interesting, I guess.” I tried to be coy.
“I mean, what the fuck?” he said.
“Yeah.” I said. Silence.
We looked each other in the eyes for the first time in I don’t know how long.
Then I said it. “I can’t do this. I need to be done with this.”
To which, to my shock and relief and delight he replied, “I agree.”

And that was that. It was over. Thanks Old Balls!! We decided by the time the check came that I only had a quarter left to finish up classes and that I should do that and get the hell out of dodge. Just be ABD (all but dissertation). Forever.

We talked about the possibilities in our new life: we could have another kid! And financial security! And stay in Chicago! And have sex once in a while! And time at the park with our little boy that wasn’t full of guilt and tension! We could be free.  Free at last.  I didn’t realize how miserable I was until I could imagine what freedom from the anxiety and stress would feel like.

And that, my Internet friends, is the story of how I became a PhD school dropout.

**********If your eyes are tired or you’re bored, you should stop here, but for those of you hanging on every word, there is a shocking epilogue I just can’t leave out:

When I got back to school the following week, I announced my decision to my cohort. They thought I went crazy. They tried to tell me it was just miserable because Professor Dragon was mean, and maybe I should just get another advisor. But I knew it wasn’t her. Sure, she wasn’t an easy person to deal with, but it was me. I just wasn’t built to be an academic. Most of the other people in my cohort are. They’re the genuine article. Me? I’m something else. I’m a smart-ass, potty mouth blogger/US Weekly subscriber/Oprah Winfrey stalker. That’s my niche. That’s what I’m REALLY good at.

Word of my decision traveled fast and even Professor Bourbon – all the way from his new University – gave me a call to encourage me not to give up. He conceded that the academic world was full of assholes, but that it also had its bright spots. He told me if I could just hang in there and get the PhD, he’d give me a job and we could work together again, with normal people. Because he was only hiring people who were cool. But as tempting as that was, I know he is also the genuine article. Somebody born to be an academic. I was just faking it and he’d know it and then one day he would stop having me into his lair for chats because I was unproductive and I would lose the respect of a person who I loved to death. So I was resolved. I had to quit.

But I also had to tell Professor Dragon before she found out from someone else. I was at once completely ecstatic and scared to death of telling her I was quitting. I felt like when I told her, her head might spin 720 degrees and then she would shoot fire out of her eyes and nose and my hair would be totally singed off and that would suck for me in job interviews. I’m no Sinead.  At the same time, whatever she did, whatever she said, it just didn’t matter anymore. Because I was free.

So I go into her office with some flame retardant clothes and our conversation begins to take the normal course where she starts off kind of like she cares whats going on in my life, but then she’ll explain its only because she is trying to understand why I suck so bad. So I told her that I had a great vacation and I decided that academia wasn’t for me and that I was going to finish up my classes and finish being her research assistant and I was leaving the program in June. I was going to get a job. Probably back in sales. Thanks for everything, yada, yada, yada.

To which she replies, completely calmly, “Don’t be silly. You just came back from vacation and you’re thinking strange. Now go edit this paper, because I’m not satisfied with the lit review.  I don’t want to hear another word about this until you’ve had some time to think.”

Um. I just quit. It wasn’t a question. It was a fact. But I was quickly shoo’d out of her office and I got back to the PhD room where my cohort was waiting. I think they were as surprised as I was that I emerged from her office with hair and no visible third-degree burns.  “WHAT DID SHE SAY!?” I had to explain that though I had quit in no uncertain terms, in Professor Dragon’s world, I had simply said something crazy and that was probably the direct result of sunshine on vacation, or because I’m a moron, and if I just got used to the flourescent lighting of the business building again, I might come to my senses. Basically, she did this neat move where I tried to quit, but she didn’t really let me. There is very little drama, or satisfaction, in that.

So I worked for her for another three months. We did not discuss my pending departure. In the meantime, I filled out all the necessary paperwork to drop out and they were kind enough to give me another Masters degree as a parting gift. It’s no PhD, but two Masters degrees are cool. I could live with that.

A week before leaving, I finally reminded Professor Dragon that I was leaving. She told me that she wished I would reconsider, but she understood. And THEN — wait for it —- she planned. a fucking. party. for me. I shit you not. She pulled out all the stops and ordered in great Chinese and desserts and everything.  It was a feast the likes of which mine graduate student eyes had never seen, except for when they were recruiting the top PhD talent and we could come in later for the leftovers. Not only that, but it was a complete surprise to me. She kept asking me to come in to get some papers one day and I was like oh hellz no! and she kept insisting and I kept coming up with excuses until she was finally like “Fine. I am having a party in your honor today for all the hard work you’ve done. I hope you can come.” The fuck? And it gets even better – at the party she gets up and gives a short speech to all professors and students who came wherein, with tears streaming down her face, she said I was a wonderful person and student and that she would really miss me and that I could come back any time if I changed my mind.  I felt like somehow the time-space continuum bended and I found myself in an alternate universe called “opposite day”.

I had no idea until that point that she didn’t think I was the very worst student that she’d ever worked with in her entire life and that I hadn’t totally dishonored her by quitting. But she was more than cool on that last day, and I salute her, for throwing me a party after chasing me out of a profession I was never cut out for anyway. I have forgiven her for being from Hong Kong and showing me the kind of Chinese love that in an American context is generally experienced as torture. Now we’re tight. We still talk occasionally and I have nothing but love for her.

After that I got a job, my first son started understanding what a “mom” was, along came Baby #2 and BD and I are still married and I’m pretty sure I’m not technically an alcoholic. In other words:

THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

If you actually read this whole post and this whole quadlogy , you deserve a medal. Or a Masters degree of some sort.  You might even want to consider a PhD….

Cheers!

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Love’s PhD Trilogy: Judges

Okay, so I decide to get a PhD from a top program and then I get accepted to said program, even though I was about to have a kid and getting a PhD with kids is like climbing Everest with kids. I’m not sure anybody has ever done it.  Everest with kids, that is.  But that isn’t a totally fair metaphor. Because people have earned PhDs with kids – it just that they are mostly the men that didn’t give birth to those kids and it didn’t come without cost.  This became kind of apparent, kind of early on.  But I’m not making excuses, because people do it. It gets done. And it was my plan to be one of them.

As I looked around on my orientation day at the 6 people who were to be my cohort I was kind of comforted. First, they looked normal.  Second, no douchebags. Finally, I could understand all but one of them when they spoke.  Plus, there were five women and two men. The feminist in me had my hands in the air just like Miley – noddin’ my head like yeah, movin’ my hips like yeah. (Please let the record reflect I had this move WAY before Miley’s song and I do not condone references to Miley Cyrus songs. Ever. Except when you were already doing that shit when she was nine and you I want credit because I deserve it, dammit.). But I think all that movement freaked some of them out because my very large, protruding pregnant belly wasn’t making it cool. It kind of looked like maybe I had gas or I might go into labor.  I eventually stopped so the men wouldn’t pass out.  But there was one thing that stood out — I was the only person married and the only one who was going to have a kid when we started.

Two of the women just graduated from undergrad, so they were like 22.  And then there were four of us who tried the whole working for a living thing and decided to go back to school and then there was another woman from China. She didn’t speak English all that well, so I don’t know what her story was.  All I know is that she moved here from China for the program and she had this Chinese boyfriend that followed her around everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean he actually would follow her into our seminars. You know, where the 7 of us were learning how to be smart and he would just come along and sit down like he was in the class. It got so weird because at some point he was volunteering to present papers to the class and it was like, “Dude!? You aren’t even in the program. And you don’t speak English. The fuck?” but Google translator doesn’t really do a good job putting that into Mandarin.  So he kind of just hung around and while his girlfriend slept through the seminars, and he took notes and we all looked at him like “WTF?”. I don’t think the look needed to be translated. I’m guessing it was the same in China as it is here.

The least he could have done was solved the Rubik’s cube for us, but he never did.  Probably our fault for not bringing one.  But he eventually was told to get a life by the faculty and she eventually wound up getting kicked out because unfortunately she wrote English worse than she spoke it, and then there was that little problem she had with narcolepsy. When you’re in a class with 7 people and one prof who holds your future in his hands, you don’t fucking sleep through it.

I digress –  I need to stop talking about my cohort, who I  love to death because they did humor me and talk about US Weekly with me and Oprah and they are way cooler and way smarter than me, which is the kind of company I like to keep. And now they are all PhDs and professors and prestigious universities across the country and abroad, so I don’t want give their students any fodder for ridicule. No – lets just talk about fodder you can use to ridicule me.

I wanted Professor Bourbon to be my advisor.  I took some of his courses as an MBA and most of my peers found his class super strange and abstract and not applicable to being an investment banker, so they didn’t like it. But I thought he and his work rocked. He was really an anthropologist by training and the stuff he did research on was fascinating.  He was kind of a hippie at heart, but still he dressed in tweed sports coats with little corduroy patches, so we had a shared sense of fashion.  And his office was like this really dark, cozy lair because all of the walls and windows were covered floor to ceiling with books.  He told us once he read 10 books a week – and that was just fun stuff. Not the stuff for work. Oh yeah, and he was so nice about me getting preggers and all.  So see? He was pure awesomeness.

So the program requires you to take two years of seminars on marketing research and stats and math and psychology and sociology and all kinds of fun stuff, but at the same time you’re also supposed to figure out what kind of research you are drawn to so you can have a dissertation topic at the end of the two years, that you will spend the next 3 to 4 writing.  In the meantime, you have to write papers for faculty review to start your big career as an academic researcher.  Unfortunately for me, I’m the type of person who likes to be a user of knowledge, not a creator of it.  And unfortunately, it turns out that in order for professors to keep their jobs, they have to create knowledge in the form of research that gets published in journals that only about 40 people read, and those are the 40 that publish in that journal and they don’t really want anybody else to publish in their little journal.  So when you submit a paper, they read it and tell you in very academic language that you suck and hope you fail miserably in life and reject your paper.  And then you cry and get over it and try to kiss their ass until one of them will let you write a paper and put their name on it and then they’ll let you in their journal.  Apparently teaching and facilitating panels of CEOs is just what they do on the side and counts for nothing as far as their career goes.  Yep. Didn’t really know that before I signed up.

But no matter – Professor Bourbon inspired me. Compared to other academics, he was like the man version of Mother Teresa.  He didn’t seem to get the same glee that his peers did in humiliating his students and working them to the brink of a mental breakdown. At the same time, he didn’t coddle. He just told you that you sucked in a really nice way, without using the terms “suck”, “ludicrous”, “trivial”, “excrement”, or “fuck you” and then encouraged you to do it all over with some helpful suggestions, but you left feeling like you still wanted to live instead of hanging yourself, which is about the best feeling you can hope for as a PhD student.  Other professors would be more likely to yell at you for wasting their time even reading the drivel you spent that last three months on.  Then they would set it on fire in front of you and spit in your face.  Okay, no. They didn’t do that, but you could tell they would if they had a lighter and if their desks weren’t so wide.

So after my first year I was going to declare Professor Bourbon as my advisor when, quite out of nowhere and suddenly, he resigned. He got an offer at his alma mater to be chair of the department and he probably was sick of the assholes he had to be around at my school and he left.  And the school he went to didn’t have a PhD program. And he couldn’t be my advisor. And my blissful PhD world came to a screeching halt.  He was leaving me? Noooooooooooo! It’s not FAIR!! I kind of had a mental breakdown about it, but it didn’t change anything. I was S.O.L. Nothing I could do.

So I had to find another advisor.  I surveyed that landscape and there was one other Professor I had as an MBA that seemed to like me alright and I liked her when she taught me back then.  Lets call her Professor Dragon.  She did completely different research than Professor Bourbon and she was very, very good and well-respected for her contributions, but none of it really interested me.  But beggars can’t be choosers.  And I knew if I could work with her, I’d be learning from the best in her field and I’d get stuff published. Plus, she said she’d work with me. So.

But after my first couple of months as her advisee, I began losing my grip on my will to live. I started working 70+ hours because no matter what I did, it was never good enough.  Professor Dragon was born and raised in Hong Kong.  She came from a culture where if you like someone, you tell them that you hate them, because that will make them stronger.  So on a daily basis I would walk into work and she would ask how my son was, and then she’d ask what I had done lately and then she said it wasn’t enough and my ideas were lame and maybe I wasn’t serious and that she was disappointed and maybe I needed to try harder or maybe this wasn’t for me and I was embarrassing her and she didn’t want my loser ass dragging her down. This is actually how she showed her love — the students she didn’t like, she just ignored completely. But her love kind of felt like hate to me most days.

It got to the point that for the Saturdays when I was physically at home, my thoughts were still at work and I would feel guilty for bringing my son to the park because I had so much work to do. BD was doing all of the cooking and cleaning and childcare when he wasn’t at work.  I never thought I’d win a Mom award, but I suddenly realized at some point that I was probably in contention for Worst Mom and Wife Award.  But I wasn’t going to quit. I wasn’t going to break because I could do this. Plus, my husband wasn’t going to let me because of all we’d sacrificed for this and plus, it was only going to be three or four more years of torture. I could probably endure it, right? I mean, I bet Dr. Phil had to pay his dues before Oprah gave him his own show.  I just had to be Dr. Phil and suck it up and get through it.  It’s not like everybody else in my cohort was on easy street. Then again, it wasn’t like anyone else in my cohort was married with a kid either.

One thing I noticed almost immediately when I started was that every single one of the tenured professors in my department were on their second or third marriages. They’d all lost their first spouses early in their career when they were working like dogs to get tenure.  It wasn’t long before I could feel myself getting on exactly the same track.  Somehow this fun “game” of mine – to get the PhD — had higher stakes than I’d ever imagined.  With this new lifestyle, more kids were out of the question for us.  We always wanted a bunch, but I had no time and no money and the situation wasn’t just temporary — there was no logical time that having other kids would make sense until after I got tenure, which would put me about about 40 – best case scenario.  So here I was in Year 2 of my bright, shiny dream to be a bonafide intellectual with papers to prove it and my advisor apparently thought I was a fucking moron and I was convinced she was right about that.

Wow! So my big, beautiful dream had turned into a nightmare and I wasn’t sure I could find a way to earn three new little letters at the end of my name without losing those three little cherished letters at the beginning of it, namely MRS.

For spring break of my second year in the PhD program, BD and I left the baby with my parents and we escaped to Napa Valley for a weekend.  Just to get away and to spend some meaningful time together  getting drunk having fun, which happened very seldomly at that point.

The life changing plane ride that happened next was kind of a small miracle and will be revealed in Love’s PhD Trilogy*: Exodus.

*Yeah, I know this is the third installment and I’m telling you there will be a fourth and it’s only supposed to be a trilogy, but they don’t have a word for a four part series, so what am I supposed to do? Blame the person responsible for making up words like “irregardless” and “moist” instead of a more valuable term like “quadlogy”.

Love’s PhD Trilogy: Numbers

I told you about how and why I came to the conclusion that I needed to be a business professor in the Genesis part of the story. That thinking deep thoughts all day and having the esteem of millions would beat working for a living any day of the week.  So I did everything necessary to get into the PhD program at the University where I was getting my MBA. I switched into their full-time program, I quit my sales job, I started having interviews with current faculty to talk about the process and the career AND I got pregnant.  YUP. Yup.  That last part wasn’t really what most aspiring PhDs do right away, but hey! Why not make it that much more difficult? You know, so when there is a movie made about my life, I’ll have even more adversity  to overcome (maybe I’m the only one who considers motherhood adversity?) on my quest to solve all of the worlds deepest, most elusive marketing questions. (And P.S., I vote for one of Gwen Stefani’s sons to play mine in the movie).  It makes a lot of sense if you think about it that way. No.  I know – it actually it doesn’t.

Okay, so I have to beat out a lot of people to get into this program.  So I sat in front of all my MBA classes and I talked to all of my marketing professors about their jobs and they all told me it was really weird for an MBA to want to be a professor.  And that it was a lot of hard work and would take a lot of dedication and yada, yada, yada. I’m all about hard work and dedication, so what is the issue? I got the feeling that they thought the Type A, overachiever, know-it-all MBA assholes they taught most of time wouldn’t have the patience or temperament to make it as a grad student.  I couldn’t really figure out why. I mean, I was an MBA student and I really wanted to do it.  I was good at school and I loved it in a fairly unnatural way, so I didn’t understand why they all said stuff like that.

But what they were getting at (that I found out only much, much later) is that being a PhD candidate is really best suited for Type A, overachiever, know-it-all assholes who will put up with getting emotionally, intellectually and financially bitch slapped on a daily, if not hourly, basis.  It’s for people who revel in being told they are a constant disappointment and that they can barely read or write or theorize better than a retarded goat.  It’s really great for people who don’t require sunlight, like to read journal articles for 15 hours each day, act as their advisor’s bitch for another 5 (including cleaning their office) and be publicly chastised for their work by faculty during the other four.   There isn’t a whole lot of time left over for any sort of healthy, normal relationships outside the four cinderblock, windowless walls of the PhD room.  No, they can’t have that or you might come to your senses and tell them to go to hell instead of respectfully listening when they maniacally laugh as they tear apart your precious ego and illusions of future grandeur. Yes, you get all that, plus paid less than a deformed hooker at the Greyhound station. That’s why MBAs should not become PhD candidates.  Because they are used to giving and getting ass kisses for 10 to 12 hours a day, sleeping for 6 and fucking around for the rest. Oh, and making 6 figures while doing so. Trust me on this one – I know.  So the two entail fairly different lifestyles, you see?

Okay, but I wasn’t aware of any of this at the time.  So I made it very clear to several marketing faculty members that I wanted to be in the program, I filled out my applications, wrote my essays, crossed my fingers and prayed like hell.  Meanwhile, I got pregnanter and pregnanter.

May I just say that being pregnant in an MBA school like the one I went to is about the same level of offense as raising a nine iron over your head and slamming it down into a green, creating gaping three inch crater only a foot away from the hole, for absolutely no reason at all.  It’s one of those things that say a few things about you: a) you’re a jackass, b) you’ve just proved you shouldn’t even be there in the first place, and c) you’re ruining it for everyone else.  That’s kind of the way I think most of my peers felt about it, but I’m probably projecting because nobody actually said that to me. I came to the party late, and they had their friends already, so people didn’t talk to me unless they had to. They mostly just looked at me with either pity, wonder or disdain, reactions which hit points a, b and c rather nicely.  I did not win the Most Popular prize for sure.  I couldn’t go out and get wasted with them and/or talk about how many consulting firms or investment banks would be begging me to work for them in 9 months, which is what I gathered were the most common social activities. So I was a bit of an outcast. But that’s okay because I was a rebel on a mission to pure intellectual awesomeness.

Then one day I get a call from the chair of the marketing department (one who I actually feared and adored at the same time and with equal intensity – lets call him Professor Bourbon) saying they were letting me in. AWESOME! SERIOUSLY? AWESOME. Because I was so close to getting my big wooden office with floor to ceiling bookshelves and those little ladders I would have to climb to get all the books off the high shelves. Big pimpin’.  If they made maternity twill jackets with corduroy patches on it, I so would have bought one at that moment.  But the joy was short-lived.  Now I realized that I probably sort of had to tell them I was pregnant and I was pretty sure this wasn’t news that would be particularly well received.

I told myself that it should be fine, because my son was due the day I graduated from MBA school (indeed, his birthday and the date on my diploma match perfectly), and I’d have the summer off before the PhD program started.  So it didn’t really affect them at all. I didn’t need to ask for special treatment or anything, but still…when they found out I was pregnant, I could imagine them likening my pregnancy to slamming my nine iron into their little academic green.

When I’m about 8 months along, Professor Bourbon invites everybody who was accepted into the program for a little orientation day.  I figure it is at this moment when all of the professors and my future mentors are going to see me and be thinking, “The fuck?! I already hate her bitch ass. Is it too late to rescind the offer and give the spot to someone who is serious about being an academic?”  So rather than have my big reveal on orientation day and have it be the big surprise of the day, I decided to call up Professor Bourbon and schedule a meeting with him beforehand and tell him my dirty little secret.  It was my intention to have him as my advisor, so I thought I should just get it out on the table and give him the option to kick me out in private, rather than in front of the group that would be my cohort. You know, all the Aspergers kids from China.

So that day, I don all black to make my big belly less noticeable and because I may be going to my newest, shiniest dream’s funeral and I have what I think is going to be one of the most awkward and hard conversations ever.  Something along the lines of , “so I got knocked up, but please don’t change your mind because I’m a total geek and if I can’t be a professor then you are shattering my dreams forever and I might go postal.”

But what I actually said was:

“Thank you so much for letting me in the program and I’m so excited and I’m ready to work really hard and I’m definitely going to accept the offer but I feel like I have to tell you something that you should know but I don’t know whether or not you care or if it affects your decision or what you think of me or whatever and it wasn’t like I planned it or anything but really I think you should know before the orientation that I’m…I’m….um….I’m….kind of….um….pregnant. BUT! I’m due in June and I’ll totally be back in September and ready for school and I’ll have a daycare and everything worked out and I’m very serious and I really want to do this and….are you still okay with me being in the program and working with you?”

Little beads of sweat had formed on my forehead and on my big belly under the big gross panels they put to cover your belly on those damn maternity pants.  All I wanted to do was take that fucking thing off my stomach and let it just cool in the breeze, but I think that would have been very unwise under the circumstances.  I was about to hear whether or not my questionable family planning was going to take away my chance to be one of the smartest, well-known, famous fucking people in the universe, or at least among the 1000 or so marketing professors in the US.

I put it all on the table and I held my breath for my fate to be revealed. And this is what he said:

“Congratulations! Of course we still want you. Having children is one of the greatest gifts in the world! I have three of my own.  On top of that, I would argue that you’ll have even greater marketing insights as a parent.  Never apologize for bringing another life into this world. This is great news and you should enjoy it. Congratulations!”

Um, whaaaaaaat?? May I just say I love you more than Angelina and Milo put together, Professor Bourbon? Will you marry me? For real? For really real? Oh wait, that is what got me into this predicament in the first place.  For the record, I should tell you that this was one of those pivotal conversations that I will remember my entire life and why I will love Professor Bourbon like Take 5 bars and TiVo forever.

Whew. So I was in. And my advisor was going to be kind of kick ass. He thought I was even cooler for having a kid.  So now I just had to meet my new classmates. I was pretty sure they’d probably all be a lot fucking smarter and less cool than me. But that would be okay because maybe I’d learn something.  I just hoped they weren’t d-bags. And that they were US Weekly subscribers.  And that some of them were Americans or Canadians, because my Mandarin really sucks. Oh yeah, and maybe someone there would also count Oprah as their personal savior too.

I actually think I got a little of everything…

To be continued in Love’s PhD Trilogy: Judges

Love’s PhD trilogy: Genesis (also, Why it’s just “Mrs.” instead of “Dr.”)

This is the story of how I was almost a doctor. Not the kind that actually helps people, but the kind that everybody listens to, because if you have PhD at the end of your name, people think you are an authority on any and all subjects.  Which is kind of my dream.  To have everybody listen to me and feel like I have some credibility, even if I have no idea what I’m talking about.

Do you know they give out PhD’s in marketing? They do.  I suppose a PhD in physics is probably higher on the totem pole than marketing, but I’m pretty sure you can’t have ADD and get a PhD in physics. I think you need to have Asperger’s for that.  So I’m S.O.L (does everybody learn that acronym from their dad at age 6?).  So marketing seemed like a reasonable alternative. Plus, after you get a PhD in anything, you’re a PhD. Nobody knows or cares after you get a PhD  what it is in, so I figured I could kind of be like Dr. Phil.  He has a PhD, albeit probably from an online university, but nobody questions his credentials any more. So what if it’s in marketing? I’d be Dr. Love and suddenly, the editors at O would be busting down my door begging me to write a monthly column. But instead, Oprah found Dr. Berman, PhD, a hot blond who loves to talk about sex and suddenly my dreams are shattered.

But I digress. Here is the story:

So I’m in this job that is kind of boring. And the people I work with are really nice, good people, but I had the suspicion that they weren’t as intellectually superior as I was.  So to stave off my boredom, I decided to go back to school part-time because my company would pay for it.  But it had to be something relevant to my job, which only gave me a single choice, which was MBA school.  So luckily I live in a city that has about 6 trillion universities/colleges that offer part-time MBAs.  But going to just any MBA school would have been too easy and wouldn’t have inflated my ego to the levels I crave.  I had to pick one that was prestigious and where I would meet a lot of intellectuals so I could have an intelligent conversation about the current events I read about in US Weekly.  And I am very lucky, because the top two MBA schools in the U.S. are right here in Chicago.

One has a reputation for being really fun and one has a reputation for being really not fun. So it was a really hard decision, but I eventually settled on fun.  I took the GMAT to prove to myself and the admissions group that I was as brilliant as I fancied myself.  I didn’t get a perfect score, but there is math on that test instead of celebrity trivia, so it doesn’t really test true genius. But I did alright. So I applied to the part-time program and they let me in and it lived up to its reputation. I was having a good time.  The people I was going to school with were very smart – maybe some were smarter than me — which then made me feel kind of average and inadequate, but that was probably good, because sometimes I need to be taken down a notch.

So while I’m in MBA school I decide that I need to get into health care sales, so I could do something that helps people and still make lots of money. (Please stop laughing — I was just very naive at that point. Who knew the health care industry is even shadier than the financial sector?).  So in order to network my way into the health care industry, I go to this health care conference being held by my business school.  And they have CEOs from some of the top pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers on this panel discussing sales strategy and management,  and the conversation is being led by this professor at my business school.  He keeps throwing out pretty good questions and the executives answer but they always finish up their answers by looking at the professor expectantly, like they needed his approval for what they just said.

And then it hits me.

OMG. I should be a professor. I want to get paid for thinking about whatever I want to think about!!  I want to facilitate discussions between people who work for a living and I’ll be the big PhD at the table who everybody listens to and respects even though all I do is teach a class here and there and maybe write some books and get quoted in the New York Times every other day. Yes! It is my calling. I’ve found my life’s work!! Elation!

I was a newlywed at the time. My husband asked me to marry him a couple of weeks before I started my MBA adventure. I have to assume he thought that I would pull my own weight in our marriage at least financially because I was going to a great school and that should guarantee me a solid place in the career world, right?  Maybe he could be a house husband if he felt like it because I would be making wads of cash as I scurried quickly up the corporate ladder. Because I was the very definition of a future baller and we’d be big pimpin’ (spending Gs).  So I run home from this conference and I announce to BD that I am going to be a business professor. Fuck sales. Fuck working for a living. It was so simple! Why hadn’t I thought of it before!! I’m going to be a professor. And now I could finally earn the right to wear cardigan sweaters with little patches on the elbows and start smoking a pipe. I already had the scholarly specs. All I had to do was get a PhD and how hard could that be, especially with me being such a genius and everything?

So that night I shattered BD’s illusion of having a responsible, rich, hard-working, baller wife.  I told him I was going to finish my MBA and apply to the PhD program.  I wasn’t really sure what PhD school was about, but it couldn’t be that different from MBA school, right? I mean, I knew what the 4 Ps of marketing were, so I was practically halfway there.  And in the PhD program, you don’t have to pay tuition and they even give you a stipend to live on while you think all your deep thoughts.  See?! They were already paying me to do what I loved doing anyway, which was being a geek and tricking people into thinking I wasn’t as clueless as I was and collecting degrees that I could hang in my future big office with leather chairs and floor to ceiling bookcases.

Since the PhD program wouldn’t cost anything and I would actually be bringing home some money, BD got on board and supported the decision.  So I quit my job and started going to school full-time so I could finish the MBA faster.  Of course, that blew up the whole plan where my employer pays for my education. I actually had to pay them back for everything so far and then shell out the money for the rest of the MBA, but no matter! I was on a mission. An intellectual journey. And what is money anyway? Bah! It is clearly only important to the bourgeois as a method to keep the peasants in their place (or something like that. All you need to remember is that I used the term “bourgeois” in a very dismissive and authoritative way, which is very academic of me, don’t you think?) As you can see, I was already starting to ask the deep questions required of a professor.

When you have a dream, you have to go for it, right? So now I just had to get into the PhD program. The odds were kind of bad. They accepted 8 people a year and there were probably close to a thousand applicants. And some of them were from China, where I think you need to know how to solve Rubik’s cubes in 14 moves, in 10 seconds or less just to pass 6th grade.  And they can do some fucking mad math, even without being Aspergers.  And all I have is ADD and a dream.

But when Love wants something, Love gets it.

That fall,  about six months after my epiphany at the healthcare conference,  I started MBA full-time and I started getting busy applying to the PhD program for the following fall.  Apparently that wasn’t the only thing I was getting busy at, because that’s also when I got preggers.  Awesome.

Another very well thought out plan by Love is put into motion…

Part II, Numbers is up next…

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I don’t know if I’ll get back before Christmas….so if I don’t, Merry Whatever-you-might-celebrate-at-the-end-of-December!