My academic adviser always says that there are only two types of women who can be successful in science (and before you jump down her throat for saying it, she is a woman in science): (1) those who are constantly chirpy and cheerful all the time, in spite of unfair treatment and (2) frigid ice queens who are cold, but assertive and ambitious (and scary).
Now, I don’t know if this is true, and in fact I do not want to wade into the debate about women in science. Being also female, and having faced the various problems associated with it and academia, I will remain mute on the issue until I have a more balanced perspective (i.e. time in academic positions other than “student”).
But when I told my uncle, a professor of economics, this little anecdote, he said, “Oh no, that’s not true at all. There is also the absent-minded professor,” and he raised an eyebrow at me meaningfully.
“What are you trying to say?” I started to reply suspiciously, then, “Oh, the pie is done!” and I rushed off to the kitchen. Later, when we were discussing something else entirely, I spouted, “I’m not absent-minded!” (which is a complete lie)
The fact of the matter is that I am not yet a professor, and I may never be one, but I fit the bill of absent-minded professor perfectly. I am easily distracted and extremely gullible. (In essence, I am the perfect combination of Doug from Up! and Dori from Finding Nemo.)
I still find comments on this site from months ago that I didn’t respond to, even though I try very hard to respond to every comment. And though I can be extremely organized and precise when it comes to my work, I am often forgetful and lax when it comes to social engagements and conversations.
It’s kind of funny how I can instantly memorize diagnostic characters on insects, and I know hundreds of plants and animals by two or three names, but when I meet a new person, I struggle to remember their name for longer than 30 seconds. Sometimes I don’t recognize people I used to know, even if we were fairly good friends! (There is a name for struggling with facial recognition prosopagnosia, but I doubt I have it because I can identify other things with ease.)
I can memorize long strings of numbers, but I can’t remember the name of that one actor in that one movie about the thing.
My mother tells a story about a scientist who was so involved in thinking about his work that he went for a walk, fell down a man-hole, climbed back out, and ended up back at home without ever noticing that he had fallen. I am rather like that. Especially now that I am finishing up and writing my thesis non-stop every day. I am having great difficulty keeping track of people, places, things, and ideas (i.e. nouns!) outside of my work.
Which is to say, the whole point of this post is that…well, I was going to say…