For Friday, a lighter topic than usual:
Yesterday I was talking with some of the undergraduate women in the language class I am taking. One of them asked me if all the men in my department walk around with pens in their shirt pockets, wear white athletic socks, and have 'weird hair'. I laughed, assuming she was joking. She said "No, really, aren't science profs like that?". Well, in fact that does describe one or two of my colleagues, but I said no anyway. And I certainly didn't want to get into a debate about who has weirder hair -- professors or students. Come to think of it, I didn't want to talk about the pens either. I am not a pen-carrying (P-C) person, but some of my best friends are P-C.
I was once walking on a beach with my husband (who is totally P-C, though not of the shirt pocket subspecies), and a man ran up to us and said, rather desperately, "I know this is going to sound strange but I REALLY need a pen right now. Do you have one?" My husband presented the desperate beach-guy with a choice of pens: black, blue, red, or green. It would be hard to imagine a happier person than the pen-seeking beach guy at that moment.
In the conversation this morning, my student-friend had just moved on to the observation that many science guys wear shirts that look like graph paper, a fact I cannot deny, when fortunately class started and the conversation had to end.
I suppose it doesn't surprise me that students are so aware of what we professors wear. A few years ago a colleague showed me an angry letter an undergraduate had written to the department chair requesting that professors in the department wear suits and ties (even the women? alas, he did not specify). I have a hard time believing that most students are longing for suited professors or that students care more about what the professor looks like than how he/she teaches.
Even so, I do hope that the P-C/white sock/graph-paper shirt guy not be the first-order image that students have of science professors.
Maybe I will wear a lab coat to class today, and see if anyone notices.
6 months ago