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You Can Like Tea Parties and Still Be Immaturely Macho

October 9, 2006   Liberal arts students love to brag about small class sizes and the close relationships they have with their professors.  I’m no different; I had a great time last week at Professor Bahlke’s tea party.  Professor Balhke teaches a seminar on Virginia Woolf, so that would explain the tea party.  If it were a Hemingway seminar we’d probably have gotten drunk and then gone big-game hunting.  But it’s a Woolf seminar, and that’s nice because I like tea.  I also like finger sandwiches and scones, of which there were many at Professor Bahlke’s comfortable, wonderfully decorated home.

But I always worry about parties; how does one act?  What does one do with one’s hands?  What does one say?  But Professor Bahlke and his wife solved all of that with the scones. 

“Great scones,” I said, swallowing my neurosis with a sip of tea.  

It’s a wonderful feeling when cultured, fascinating, and genuinely nice people treat you as an equal.  We talked about everything grownups talk about, and it was strangely thrilling to hear the sound of my own voice when I compared Shelley to Bukowski, or when I responded to a story about a man Professor Bahlke knew who made some invidious remarks.  Later that night, as I sat at my desk and looked “invidious” up in the dictionary, I surrendered to a warm, fuzzy feeling that I usually pretend to ignore. 
But life’s not all tea parties and good company.  I was completely emasculated the other day when a ninety-pound girl creamed me on the squash courts.  Of course I smiled and congratulated her on a good game, even shook her hand (making sure to match the strength of her grip)—but a large part of me, a part that is curiously linked to my progressive, liberal- minded, and slightly effeminate exterior, was fuming.  How could a girl beat me in a sport?  Anyway, I’ve been training like a madman since; weights, cardio, I even bought myself a new squash racket (there must have been something wrong with the old one).  She’s going down next time.  I may like tea parties, but no way I’m letting someone that petite beat me in anything but a beauty pageant.  More on the results next time.