If you find yourself called to the lowly ranks of the professoriate; and if, moreover, you find that your first call is to an all-girls’ college; and if years later you find yourself the center of attention in a tenure hearing at another institution, being asked to comment on what it was like to teach at an all-women’s college; and if by way of response you find yourself not at all against your will or better instincts saying, “I felt like a pork chop at a bar mitzvah,” you may be sure your true calling is not so much to the professoriate as to the noble duties and obligations of smartassery.
If in the same hearing you are asked about your “perceived arrogance,” and if, leaning back, legs crossed lockerroom style, you say, “well, I don’t know about ‘perceived,’ but I’m damned sure arrogance is no misdemeanor,” then you may likewise be sure you were marked long ago for—indeed, called from your mother’s womb to—the holy office of (you guessed it) smartassery.
No doubt at one point in your undergraduate career you were summoned by the dean of students, who expressed in sincere and lofty tones his worry that you were developing a “cynical attitude.” (This is because you filled out a questionnaire meant, apparently, to be taken seriously, in blue crayon with yellow illustrations.) And you, no doubt, looking him straight in the eye, said, “I’m afraid you’re a little late.”
No doubt a high school teacher, unable to put to rest your line of inquiry, once pulled out this old chestnut: “Do you think you are the only one who knows the truth?” And you, not quite able to help yourself, said, “No, sir. In fact I know several people who do. Some are in this room. It just so happens that you are not one of them.”
(The Bar Jester doesn’t aspire to autobiography. Invention is ever his principal interest, second only to his disinterest in principles.)
Now the scorn that patient merit of the unworthy takes (like the insolence of office and the proud man’s contumely) is another matter altogether; it goes by various names, including “assholery,” and it is not to be endured. This the Bar Jester acknowledges.
But who can think ill of an untenured man, sitting in a meeting with a rambling colleague going on and on once again about how she has been silenced her whole career, who breaks in and says, “yes, thanks very much for all that, but how do you square it with the fact, apparent to everyone in this room, that not a soul on earth has ever known you to shut up”?
I think you must praise him for his smartassery.