In a certain sort of way. We feel very thrown off in part because Katherine’s returning to her October ways: she has stopped sleeping for more than a couple of hours at a stretch at night–and does not want to sleep by herself even when she does go back down. In part because Sydney and I both have taken up a number of teaching duties that have kept us running; this past week, for example, I had nine hours of student conferences. And, as usual, despite our best efforts, we’re having a hard time getting dissertation work done, simple as our switching-off schedule sounds (Is there a big black hole where dissertation time is supposed to be? does it get swallowed up by Katherine feeding sessions? cups of tea? dish-washing? I’m thinking about putting signs around town: “Lost: Dissertation time. If you see it, please call. I would describe it, but I haven’t seen it myself!”).
In all of that talking with my students, I noticed that at a number of points I would ask them to explain their paper’s argument, and they would wave their hand and offer a phrase like “social structures” or “justifications.” That’s an argument? The older I get the less likely I am to assume I know what chain of thoughts is supposed to follow from such a catch-word. At the graduate-student level, you see the same thing when someone waves a hand and says, “Like [insert theorist or philosopher] says.” Yup. Uh-hunh. Maybe I’ve been married to Sydney for too long, or maybe I’m realizing that people rarely know how to fill in that hand-waving part, but I’m less comfortable now than I once was with assuming I know what on earth someone means by such a wink-nod way of talking. And as I got older and bolder I am more likely to ask, flat-out, for more explanation. And then I finally learn something.