At the international workshop I have been attending, I am the only American person, and as usual, I am somewhat exotic in other respects as well.
When I was introduced to a senior scientist I had not met before, we talked about scientific topics of mutual interest at first (I seem to have reviewed two of his papers, apparently positively, because he thanked me and seemed pleased to talk to me). Then he told me: “I once worked with a Female Scientist.” In fact, I think she may even have been his advisor, or at least on his Ph.D. committee.
It’s kind of hard to know how to respond to that. He was trying to make friendly conversation, and perhaps he feared that I had preconceptions about him based on stereotypes of male scientists from his country. But what can I say?
- Me too!
- How did that go?
- I’ve worked with a male Scientist.
- Do you think it will rain later today?
The challenge was increased when he added, somewhat randomly “She’s taller than I am.” Now what to say?
- Most people are.
- How did you feel about that?
I decided to avoid a direct response and return to discussing Science, including the work he did with the Female Scientist.
In the days that followed that conversation, I have found this person to be extremely friendly and good-natured and happy to discuss scientific topics of mutual interest. Even so, as usual when I have one of these FSP moments, I long for the day when such a statement would be considered too bizarre to occur in sane conversation.
14 hours ago