“So do you remember–” my mom said over Christmas; a sentence that usually doesn’t end well. “Do you remember when you applied to Carnegie Mellon [where I did my undergrad], you had to write some kind of essay about why you wanted to go there?”
I shifted around on the couch, my dad’s cat grumbling in my lap. “A personal statement, it’s called,” I said, impatient. “Yeah. I remember.”
My mom shook her head, leaning out of her recliner. “No, remember? You asked us to read it, what you wrote.” She waved her hand at my dad, burrowed into the couch next to me. “And we made some suggestions about some changes you could make. And you said–do you remember what you said?”
Dad tapped my wrist, squeezed, his eyes focused the iPad in his lap. Mom didn’t wait for an answer.
“You said,” she chirped, “that that’s who you were, what you wrote, and if they didn’t want you, the real you, then you didn’t want to go there.”
“Oh,” I said, nodding at the past wisdom of a younger me. “No. I didn’t remember. But that sounds right.”
My mom bobbed her head, pleased. “That’s how you still work, huh?”
I watched my dad scroll for a minute, the glow of my online CV reflected in his glasses as he read the details of my academic life for the first time. “Yeah,” I said. “I guess so.”
Now what’s funny about this is that my attitude on that front hasn’t changed; when it comes to my academic life, at least, I still operate on the “take it or leave it” principle, in part because hey, I write about porn, Christian women, and fanfic. I can’t hide that on my CV; hell, that stuff IS my CV. Nor would I want to. But it does mean that anybody that considers hiring me is going have to get past (or be entranced by?) my unconventional research interests.
As a kind friend once put it, if anyone hires me, it will be because of what I do, not in spite of it.
And then there’s the whole “I write porn/romance/erotica about beautiful, fictional men” thing, too.
At least one member of my committee has expressed concern (in a constructive and thoughtful way) that my extracurricular writing activities may hurt me when and if I apply for jobs in academia. I see his point, I do, and for a time, I made a semi-concerted effort to separate my two primary online hubs–this blog and my “hey world! i’m a professional” personal website.
But here’s the thing: for good or for ill, I am both of those people: the one who’s Phi Beta Kappa and the one who writes Real Person Slash. The one who can score competitive travel grants and the one who’s fond of knotting fic. The scholar and the fan writer: les deux, c’est moi. I’m cool with that. I’m not ashamed of it. And I don’t see the value in trying to neatly demarcate the two online, of trying to hide the porn writing behind my professional publications, as it were.
In fact, I feel like making an effort to do so, to cover my “fan” identity with the fig leaf of my scholarly one, would be an admission that there IS something to hide; that I should, for example, be embarrassed that I can treat Misha Collins as the subject of both RPS fantasy and rhetorical scholarship. Can I imagine hiring committees finding my Wincest fic and being horrified at the content? Of course. Can I imagine being tossed out of a hiring pool because I write and post porn? Certainly. But.
But I love what I do. I’m fucking good at what I do. And I KNOW that writing fan fic, being part of the SPN fan community–as angsty and self-destructive as it can be–has directly informed my work as a scholar and made me a better writer in all genres, academic and otherwise.
Now don’t get me wrong: when and if I apply for jobs, I am gonna play by the performative rules. My CV will be neatly organized. My cover letter will be spellchecked and utterly conventional in its design; I’ll tick all the rhetorical boxes, friends. On paper, I will behave myself. The package will be JCrew convention, four corners sharp and tidy. If I am fortunate enough to be interviewed, I won’t wear my purple knee-high Doc Martins and fishnets. Nope. I’ll wear my nice black suit and close-toed shoes. On the outside, for all intents and purposes, I will, much to my mother’s ever-loving delight, “be a good girl.”
But the content of my CV? Of my brain? Of my research plans, when and if I’m asked? Those will be mine: creative and kairotic and NSFW. I can’t change that. I don’t want to.
We’ll see, in time, if anyone wants to dance with me. And if the bravado of past-me stands.