Monday, October 29, 2007

The Rhoda Files

I had the odious pleasure of digging out several emails from an old teacher today, Ms. Rhoda B. Stamell.

I befriended Rhoda during my last attempt at finishing my bachelor's degree in spring 2005, in the World Masterpieces 2 course at LTU. Most of the other students were idiots anyway, but for some reason I, and a few others, stood out immediately. First I considered her a mentor, but her lack of boundaries and the flash-in-the-pan roles she assigns various people in her daily dramas confused the interaction considerably. I ate it up like candy.

She made no distinction between teaching and acting, and, accordingly, called her classes The Rhoda Show. Students are easily bedazzled by anyone willing to perform as eloquently and immersively as she can, and what inevitably developed was a sort of Stockholm Syndrome in which we all gave her glowing reviews in post-semester evaluations in exchange for her perverse use of our attention. During the course we had passing social correspondence, but afterward it really opened up.

I read some of her short stories; I bought her fat anthology; she gave me a rough draft of her novel. She was completely raw and stripped of any social facade or traditional boundaries between friends, or at least those between people with a 38 year age difference and the huge cultural gaps we shared. Our exchanges could be intellectually hostile and mentally stimulating at the same time. I thought that meant I was accepted as-is, but I was wrong.

Apparently, I am having trouble letting go of the wreck that came of our contentious friendship. Below are excerpts from past emails in which I expressed parts of myself as explanations of behaviors or comments she'd questioned. I think they reflect something I'm beginning to see more of and don't really like. Her words are not mine to share with you, so, with small exception, they do not appear here.

A few days after these emails were passed, she ended our relationship lock, stock, and barrel with four simple words. She rescinded an invitation for her 70th birthday party. The following April, however, when her book was finally published, she didn't forget me in the blanket notice she sent out.

I suppose I'm still angry about it. Comments on this post will be read, but may result in you getting flamed. Leave your email at your own risk.

* * * * *

It's a home-grown chaos I carry, but it dictates my sense of purpose and urgency. It's a foggy night that can't be rushed through, and the high beams only make things look worse. Not much of a serve, but it's what I do.

Right now I'm neck-deep in addiction and my greatest feat would be catching up on my VHS tapes of Stargate: Atlantis and Battlestar Galactica. I'm now 4 weeks behind. Despite how it sounds, don't call Child Protective Services just yet; I'm not a complete washup.


[Rhoda said: " is important to become fully involved in learning and investigating the world. The only way to do that is to become more educated and to step outside the narrow circle we all draw to make sure that we will feel safe. We aren't safe, of course, but the circle makes us think so.]


You should know that I have no intention of coasting through life on my existing education. I throw my own blocks down, I know, but kicking myself in the teeth for not being on the ball doesn't work to keep me motivated. I just have to work hard each day to do what's important.


I don't know what exactly your tone is, but things like "Really" and "And how do you like that, Lincoln?" make one thing clear: you're not enjoying our correspondence.

It's true: I am still young, have not seen much of this world, do not have a documented formal education, grew up wanting for material possessions, and hesitate because I fear failure. I have many faults. But our differences are not so great that I can't know you. My grandmother, my PhD'd colleagues, and the 3 year olds in my Sunday School class accept me despite any presumptions I make, correct or otherwise. Why won't you?

I know by now I've pushed you far over the edge, and maybe you'll even rescind your birthday party invitation. Maybe you'll badmouth me to your composition students. Maybe you'll say you never liked me to begin with. You don't like these arguments, not when I stand up for a contradictory opinion. This much I know, because you have taught me.

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