Saturday, December 1, 2007

i : mathematic :: bill maher : funny

a tirade in the key of B (for bitter).
~ dedicated to ma soeur, femmeradicale ~

standing between me and berkeley is a quadratic equation. though kaplan promises that their GRE guidebook is going to "exceed your expectations; and so are you!" i continue to find my math quiz marks hovering around 40%. and i am bitter.

i : bitter :: paris hilton : famous.

it's as though here we were: blithely earning our humanities degrees, some of us having dropped math after grade 10, when it was no longer mandatory. some of us, like myself, having actually worked to excise all math knowledge so as to allow the sweet, fresh English knowledge to saturate our left-brains until our right-brains shriveled into atrophy. four, five, even six years we went on like this, chuckling as we thought "see, i didn't need math at all. i'm getting along just fine with out it. who's laughing now, huh? who's laughing now?!" well, they are. that is, the people who created the GRE to screw us. just when we thought our ticket into a top american phd program was as good as bought (or, if you prefer, earned), we are suddenly confronted with our old nemesis: Numbers. and worse still, his dark partner, Letters-That-Mean-Numbers. i am overwhelmed with bitterness.

and then there is my math tutor, who happens to be a fellow i once slept with. over the phone, he gladly offers his expertise, though not without reminding me that tutelage is a traditional pretext to sex. ya, sex, great, but that's not the service i require right now. i need math help, please – just math, sex later... maybe. not that i'm opposed. i even consider the proposal favourably when i remember that a story about how i pimped myself out to get into berkeley would be priceless at dinner parties.

the bitterness balloons after a call from my dad – an engineer, of course. he wants me to accompany him to an engineer's banquet tonight. If it weren't for the fact that this banquet is in his honour, and the high odds of free booze, i'd have said no. i spent much of my early life surrounded by engineers and i hate it. i will hate being around engineers even more tonight when they ask what i am "doing right now" and the awful truth of my mathematical incapacity is revealed. "what happened?" they will ask my dad. "how did the daughter of an egyptian engineer become a history major? and a socialist? and a feminist??" women faint. a baby cries. dinner will then be served, saving me momentarily before it comes out that i'm also a vegetarian – at which point my dad will have to pretend he doesn't know me and that i followed him here.

the rest of this process, on the other hand, is going smoothly. not realizing i would be ambushed by the math component of the GRE, i actually spent a great deal of time and effort on the part of phd applications i thought would matter: the application. all information is in order, writing sample pristine, proposed dissertation topic fitting neatly within two pages. all thanks to single space.

i am a big fan of single space these days. wrestling with quadratic equations would seem less daunting if not for my room-mate and his girlfriend, who insist on cramming themselves with me into a first-floor not handily separated into distinct rooms. this is the common area of our house, though apparently i missed the "couples only" sign by the stairs. i am sitting in the nucleus of a controlled explosion of papers, applications, draft proposals, GRE guidelines, and math exercises, and by this time i must look like my wrists are fused with my laptop keyboard. meanwhile, beyond the grad-student sphere of influence, the room-mate-girl-friend seem to be everywhere around me like a couple fog: having loud and inane conversations about college football and camilla scott bowles, baking cookies, watching movies, sucking face, and generally spending just about every waking moment with each other, most of which are also with me. it is a full-out space-war between my ever-expanding grad student zone and their hegemonic face-sucking/cookie-baking. the sound of their sloppy, spitty kissing is supposed to signal my quiet self-segregation to some other part of the house: they are The Couple here and i am the spinster space-invader. defiantly, i stand my ground. i go into the kitchen and make loud kitchen noises. i play slater-kinney real loud and watch loud episodes of project runway canada on youtube. i am taking a stand for single space.

my bitterness subsides when i remember that the math section of the GRE is mercifully short compared with the verbal section – a good enough excuse to drop the equations and turn to grammar. according to kaplan, 'couple' is singular [1], and must agree with the object as such. i look up from my guidebook. yes, the couple certainly is watching a movie. it is now playing with the cats. now it turns in upon itself in sticky, salivating convulsions. thanks, kaplan. my expectations are exceeded.

[1] thouth i did indeed find this mentioned in my kaplan guidebook, i was first alerted to the brilliance of 'couple is singular' by my friend kat.