by Jean Roberta
Cravings, by definition, are generally assumed to be intense but momentary and not completely rational. A desire for fame and wealth is not usually thought of as a “craving,” compared with a sudden appetite for dill pickles, heroin, or the feeling of a warm mouth on one’s most ticklish parts.
At the moment, my most pressing physical craving is even more basic than a desire for sex. In the early depths of a Canadian winter in a dry climate, I crave warmth and an absence of itchiness on my skin. I could enjoy being an olive in a delicatessen, soaking in oil.
Despite slathering myself with moisturizer after every shower, I need to slather more goop on myself before going to bed; otherwise, the feeling of army ants biting every inch of my body prevents me from falling asleep. You might assume all the slathering would make me greasy enough to slide right off the sheets, but no. In the morning, my skin is dry again.
My physical craving to be somewhere else, where sunshine and moisture in the air would enable me to feel comfortable, feels like a metaphor for my fear of being useless.
University instructors, especially those of us who teach mandatory first-year English classes, have to motivate ourselves to keep going. Responses from students tend to be inconsistent at best.
Yesterday I met a class that has thirty students registered. There were about fifteen in the room, and most had 1) not done the reading assignment, and 2) not brought their textbooks. I only had one copy of this book to lend out while I gave the class twenty minutes to read the damn short story and jot down answers to my questions about it. Two students on one side of the room had no books, so they occupied themselves sending text messages on their cell phones. I didn’t interrupt them, since I wasn’t sure what I could tell them to do instead: stare into space? I could have told them to leave, but I was afraid this would trigger a general exodus.
Meanwhile, I have several piles of student essays to finish marking. Grammatical correctness seems to be a thing unknown.
Dry skin, dry and ineffective writing.
I fantasize about having the power to intimidate students into paying attention and doing the work, regardless of whether they care about their grade point averages. Thus was born my alter ego, Dr. Athena Chalkdust, a small but scary academic domme.* In a fantasy world, she breaks all the rules and gets away with it because many students secretly crave being forced to do things that will benefit them in the long run.
I doubt whether this is true in real life. I remember being a nineteen-year-old first-year university student, and realizing that I needed to motivate myself to do whatever I thought needed to be done. How little has changed.
In my first year of university, I was raped by a man (not a student) who haunted the campus. This was predictable, and so was the aftermath: I was told to think long and hard about how I had brought this on myself, and how to avoid attracting such negative attention in the future.
In the wake of recent celebrity sexual-assault scandals (Jian Ghomeshi, formerly popular program host with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, comedian Bill Cosby), I am reminded of how little has changed in the culture of North America (or of the world) in the many years since I was young. Some of the allegations against celebrities are from a previous era because the alleged victims were afraid of the consequences of becoming publicly known at the time. They still have cause to worry.
By now, I seem to be too old to be a rape magnet. I probably seem useless to predators. Does this mean I’ve reached a safe state of invisibility? This could be a good thing in some contexts, but there are no guarantees.
My female spouse is usually a great source of comfort and validation, for lack of a clearer word (we assure each other that we are both worthwhile members of the human race), but lately, she has been going through worse upheavals in her job than I have in mine. My situation is nothing new, so I really have no right to make my usual complaints to someone who might as well be living in a court of the Italian Renaissance. (Plots, cabals, scapegoats, smear campaigns and poisonings seem to be part of the culture.)
And before long, I will be expected to summon up some holiday cheer. That’s hard to do when one feels like an itchy Grinch.
I would like to be a hibernating bear in a warm, cozy cave. That’s what I crave now. I might not be meeting anyone else’s needs that way, but I could afford not to care.
*My published stories by/about Dr. Athena can be found in these anthologies:
- She Who Must Be Obeyed, edited by D.L. King (Lethe Press, 2014)
- Slave to Love, edited by Alison Tyler (Cleis Press, 2006)
- Best Lesbian Erotica 2009 (Cleis)
- Best of the Best Lesbian Erotica 2 (2005, reprinted from Best Lesbian Erotica 2001) (Cleis)
- Best Lesbian Erotica 2005 (Cleis).