Monday, November 29, 2010

What's your superhero skill?

I am currently a "Reader" at work. "What does that mean?" asked my mother. "I thought you write books, not read them!" I don't know why it's called that either, but it means that I have one more promotion to go and then I'll be a professor. One reason why I want to be a professor is that I've become a bit tired of saying "That's Dr Bitch to you!", when people call me a bitch. Saying "That's Professor Bitch to you!" sounds so much more original.

Actually, the real and only reason is the £10,000 pay increase which comes with it. Even with the chunks of tax, pension and NI that'll come out of it. That's an awful lot of big bars of Galaxy.



I work in a very large university department which has loads of professors so they're very commonplace in my life. I could walk out of my office, spit and hit ten of them without trying to. I'm often the only non-professor at dinner-parties. I've always seemed to work and socialise with people who are much more advanced than me, in all sorts of ways. I guess that's one way to keep you grounded and stops you from thinking too highly of yourself.

Even when I was in infants school and so proud to be on the "top table" for the geek children who did best in the weekly test, I was in awe of Kathryn - a seven year old virtuoso pianist with a computerised brain. I think she'd now be called "gifted". All I knew was that during lunchtime she would make enormous lists of all of the past participle verbs that she knew. And once, during art lesson, I was quite pleased at my drawing of Mr Tickle. She on the other hand had drawn "a picture of Kate Bush in an inflatable space suit". None of those words or concepts meant anything to me.



And she used to tease my obsession with the Mr Men by pretending to have read new Mr Man books that didn't actually exist "Oh, have you read Mr Star? It's great!"



When I got a bit older I discovered Helen Cresswell's "Bagthorpe saga" - about a family of three genius children, and one normal child, Ordinary Jack. I identified with Ordinary Jack.

This association with much brainer people than myself has carried over into my adult life. My husband has been a professor for ages. He's 8 years older than me and makes my achievements look pitiful. He's always done everything first and usually better. So I'm very used to playing second fiddle. Gay relationships in particular can become quite competitive, and although it's toxic to keep score, it's sometimes difficult not to. Especially if you're in a job which attracts competitive people and then further incentivises competitiveness. They don't say Publish or Perish for nothing. I think I realised that I was dating a scary genius years ago when I watched him playing that computer game Civilisation. While I struggled to keep about six cities on the go, he had about fifty all running simultaneously and effectively, while conducting ongoing and highly successful wars against the other computer players. He has the brain of Professor Xavier from the X-men. He knows everything, and his other special skill is that he can impersonate anybody, which has always kept me laughing.



At least I can console myself that I'm the pretty one. My special skill is my hair.



So my bete noir is Professor Brian Cox (born 1968, only four years older than me, with his own tv and radio programs and even a pop career in his past). Unlike most other professors, he still has a full head of hair, and doesn't seem to suffer from those levelling personality disorders that Mother Nature has seen fit to award people who are very clever at one academic subject. To my knowledge he doesn't have debiliting shyness, any facial or sexual tics or an inflated ego which manifests itself in pomposity, pontificating and primadonna-ish behaviour. My sister-in-law thinks he is gorgeous, but as a gay man with much higher standards for male beauty, I think that's going a bit too far. I will concede though, that he would be a difficult person to be in a relationship with. Clever people are supposed to be freaks. That's just the way things are. By being so normal, Brian Cox throws up the possibility that real X-Men can actually exist. He's part of a mutant super-race and must be stopped!

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