The reason I have time to write today, on this Major American Holiday, relates directly to the title of this post. I have been pondering the deep philosophical question of whether I would rather spend today with my mother-in-law or with my most loathsome colleague (mentioned in previous posts as Professor Troll). I think I would choose the latter, though if this question about my preferred holiday companions were on a multiple-choice test, a better answer would be none of the above or cats (Figure 1).
The reason I might choose my trollish colleague over my mother-in-law for a holiday companion is that I can respond to his rude comments as I wish -- sarcastic comments without guilt, faux-innocent remarks to him about his former classmates who are now all retiring in droves, passive-aggressive mention of my recent papers or grants, etc. However, on the rare occasions I have to see my mother-in-law, I am nice to her, however not nice she is. I am nice to her in person and I am nice to her in absentia (I never say anything negative about her to my daughter, for example). I can't even be sarcastic, and that is difficult for me.
Academic families are complicated, but real families are more so. Even so, I am glad to have a few days off from appointments, meetings, and so on, before diving back into the last few weeks of the term.
9 months ago