On Potlucks and Scientists

I went to a potluck run by scientists, a couple of weeks ago. It was a Chinese New Year celebration, and I had a good time. I tried this incredibly strong rice wine or liquor---I took one shot and spent the rest of the evening making strange little wheezing noises. I tried some warm pinkish-purple rice wine, and that had a much less violent effect on my esophagus. But it was still pretty damned strong.

I went with H. (a friend of mine) and her boyfriend. They're both scientists-in-training, as were most of the rest of the guests. The thing is, I felt strangely embarrassed when people introduced themselves to me. (I'm a biochem grad student, I'm a doctoral student in in evolutionary biology.) Not only did I have to admit that I just finished my BA, but I had to explain that I'm planning to start a creative writing MFA program in the fall.

Now, in most situations I'm not even a little bit embarrassed by my decision to pursue an MFA. I'm proud of it, really---I know it's what I want. But in this party full of scientists, I found myself feeling small and somehow silly.

Probably it was just me---my own inner demons having a laugh at my expense. Nobody said anything to make me feel that way. These were perfectly nice, interesting people. But I kept convincing myself that, given the context, MFA was a rather embarrassing word.

I guess I'm more used to mingling with humanities/arts/language types like myself. I did study cultural anthropology, too---but that's a much softer, social kind of science. I admire the hard sciences, and I admire hard scientists. I mean, I took a couple of human evolution classes. Maybe it's just that I'd never felt so conspicuously impractical before.

I wanted to stand on the coffee table and yell out: You don't understand! These are serious programs! Some of them have freaking two percent acceptance rates. Two percent, you fools! Writing is serious----Mwahahahaha!

Luckily, one shot and a half glass of rice wine isn't enough to cause paranoid ranting in strangers' living rooms.

Oh, and I made rosemary roasted red potatoes. I was short on time.


Ms. Sushi said...

I feel the same way when I tell people I majored in creative writing. I'm not ashamed and I think it's valuable and interesting and important for the world, but it feels weird to tell people without explaining that I believe art saves lives and that really it's also about teaching, etc. But you can't explain your whole philosophy to someone when they just ask what your major is. I guess I feel like people who aren't artist will take me less seriously.

found said...

I guess it's a sacrifice we have to make (hand to forehead, weepingly.)

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