Thursday, September 4, 2008

Lousy T-shirt

As I was looking through my infrequently-opened T-shirt drawer tonight looking for a workout shirt, I stumbled across something noteworthy: a T-shirt. In college I took a class called Women in European History. I checked, double-checked, and triple-checked my graduation requirements to determine that it would count for both my history requirement and my gender studies requirement, and as I was not looking forward to either one, I figured I'd get both out of the way at once. (Later I discovered that while I was sort of right in theory, Women in European History was not a broad-enough class to fulfill my general history requirement.)

As history and gender studies classes go (I assume), it was pretty good. The instructor, Professor Levin, was very smart and really knew her stuff. She was pro-girl, but not in a militant way. (She also liked to remind us all that she was not, in fact, a lesbian, despite how many people assumed she was.) She loved her half dozen male students in the class of 80 or so. There was one flamboyantly gay guy who sat in the middle of the room surrounded by girls, and all of the rest of us sat in the back row on the right, which is generally where I sit in any class. But oh man, that was a tough class. She was a hardass, and her grader was just as much of a hardass. I tried really hard to do well at her insanely difficult tests, but if I could manage a B or a C on them I was pretty happy. I hadn't done essay tests in general, and this woman required actual dates. It wasn't enough to say that something happened in March of 1682; if you didn't know it was March 5, you lost most of the credit. I did a lot better on the quizzes and other assignments, which helped. She was also a hardass on extra credit. If I recall correctly, she offered a total of two extra credit points over the length of the class—not two percentage points, but two grade points out of a total of, say, 400. One was early in the class, and we were told about it from the start, and then the second was going to be a surprise later in the class.

The first extra credit point, which I desperately wanted given how difficult the class was, was to attend at least one out-of-class lecture at a conference she was putting on one Saturday, and bring back proof that you had attended it. I did that one. She announced on a different day that the second extra credit point was to buy a T-shirt there and wear it to class on a certain day, or wear some other T-shirt that could be related to women's history, women's rights, or European history. I really needed that extra credit point too.

I didn't want to buy a T-shirt at a women's history conference. No way, man. So, I decided to make my own. I have it here in front of me—here's what I wrote:

Front: I went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Conference on Religion and Popular Culture in the Middle Ages and Renaissance October 11 and 13 and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!

Back: Elizabeth I: King... Queen... Everything in between. REAL MEN take Women in European History with Professor Levin!

(If I recall, she really liked her some Elizabeth I.) Anyway, on the T-shirt day, I think only I and mister supergay wore shirts. She walked around the classroom and looked at what everyone was wearing. When I stood up to show her mine, she screeched with laughter. She absolutely loved it. I thought it was pretty dumb, but she loved it. She proclaimed her love to the whole class, and gave me two extra credit points, for a total of three, more than anyone else. I sat down feeling like a total tool, but a tool with one point that he really needed. Even my roommate called me a tool.

I think I ended up getting an A in the class. My grades were not quite enough for one—maybe the B+ or A- range—but she upped it to an A. I've never sucked up so much in my life, but it sure paid off.

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