It started with about one hundred applications from all over the country, even a few mailed in from other countries.

We on the committee read through the CVs and multi-page cover letters, winnowing down the pool of applicants to thirteen.

With those thirteen quarter finalists, we conducted telephone interviews.

From those thirteen, five semi-finalists were chosen, contacted, and asked to come to campus for face-to-face interviews.

Over the last few weeks, those five semi-finalists have had their days on campus–put through the paces of a schedule stacked with tour, formal interview, academic council luncheon, open forum with members of campus community, and meeting with the president.

As someone on the formal interview committee, I enjoyed, as ever, the opportunity to witness the structure and whimsy of a search process and to do some fierce people watching.

Over the course of five days, the semi-finalists came to campus; at the appointed hour, each one came into the huge conference room, a place anchored by a twenty-foot wooden table surrounded by high-backed chairs, and took a moment to register the fact that there were ten people on the interview committee. Smiling determinedly and throwing back his/her shoulders into a posture of “I can do this,” each candidate then took a seat and a sip of water and braced for the first question.

Every candidate, that is, except the last one.

On the fifth and final day, the candidate came into the room and, when she was informed we would be going around and introducing ourselves to her, she said, “Great. If I may, I’d like to come around and shake hands as part of the introductions. That just feels better to me.”

But of course. Shake away.

Moving from person to person, looking each committee member in the eye and taking note of job titles, the candidate worked her way down the long table, cresting the vice president’s corner and heading into the final stretch.

I was next.

Extending my hand, I said, “Hi, Candidate, I’m Jocelyn Surname. I’m an English instructor here on campus.”

Grasping my paw, the candidate replied, “Nice to meet you, Jocelyn. I read your blog.”


Whazzat now?


By the time she finished working the rest of the table, I’d managed to pull my jaw off the conference table and explain to several of my highly-curious fellow committee members that, yes, I do have a blog, but it’s not something I publicize at work.

Then I tried to recall for a minute if I’ve ever written a post about my vagina.

Because if I had, that would color my tone when asking the interview questions.

Life rule: if someone has had a glimpse into your vagina, even through prose, you can ease up on the professionalism a notch and relax into a voice that acknowledges, “Hey, wassup? We all know my vagina, right? So how might that knowledge affect your budgetary choices if you were to get this job? Would you be willing to add in a line item for vaginal maintenance? Please explain and give specific examples of your work in this area in the past.”

Fortunately, my quick mental flipping through the Rolodex of posts past didn’t yield any with the tag “vagina.” Dickwad, however? Yes, and plenty of ’em.

Life rule: if someone knows you like to use the word dickwad in your writing, you are still obliged to maintain a veneer of professionalism, and you may not ask the candidate if she has ever adjusted her budget to accommodate dickwads.

That’s just asking for confessions of poor relationship choices, and there’s no Kleenex box in the conference room.

It was for the best, then, that my vagina-free blog allowed me to sit up straight, uncap my pen, and prepare to take notes

on everything else she knew.







27 responses to “Gulp”

  1. chlost Avatar

    Oops! That would be uncomfortable……and-I know this is likely to be read by said candidate-was it really smart to have brought that up in this context? I’m not sure that was the proper time and place, and makes me wonder about said candidate’s common sense, if not budgetary sensibilities.

    But, on the other hand……You’re famous!

    1. Jocelyn Avatar

      More than anything, I was worried the financial aid and academic counselors on the committee were going to press me for the blog address. Fortunately, and this belief has never failed yet: I can always count on people’s lack of interest.

  2. logo™ Avatar

    I had someone tell me they read my blog and I will admit to a definite fight-or-flight type surge of adrenaline as I frantically reviewed several years worth of blather, nonsense, and idiocy in my head. Had I taken down the photo of my mostly bare ass? I meant to, but did I?
    The list went on.
    I probably looked like a criminal with shifty eyes and everything.

    It was about that time I went through my archive and made sure there wasn’t any content that would make anyone’s tiny little mind implode.

    Shall I start the 15 minute timer now?

  3. Jeni Hill Ertmer Avatar

    I think I’d have looked the candidate in the eye and said “Boy, small world, isn’t it?”
    But ya know, Kiddo, it was bound to happen at some point in time that you would encounter a total stranger and then discover that person reads your blog. I’d take that as quite the honor there if I were in your shoes. Your writing is something that once people discover your prose, they do tend to become attached, attracted to it because you do it all so well! (And frequently with a whole lot of humor too!) Of course, since I too have used the word “Dickwad” at least in general conversation fairly frequently -along with a whole slew of other words that most of my female friends of my age range and in the location where I live would probably very much frown on (although vagina is one that has never entered my conversations much less my blogging -unless it was a totally medical discussion, that is). I think perhaps in a past life I may have been a sailor, probably on a pirate ship where they cursed really freely, ya know!
    Anywho -enjoy the knowledge of being notorious in the blogging world!

  4. DuchessOmnium Avatar

    That’s a woman who does her homework. Did she get the post?

    1. Jocelyn Avatar

      Yes, does her homework, indeed. Once I sat down, I started thinking, “So, clearly, she must have known ahead of time who the committee members are…she must have contacted an admin assistant and asked for the line-up because otherwise she wouldn’t have been so knowledgeable about who was in the room.”

      I can’t say on her getting the post or not, as decisions are still in the works!

  5. lime Avatar

    i have to agree with chlost that it may not have been entirely brilliant of the candidate to bring that up in the particular context. i’d be curious to know how she found you and whether or not she got the job too.

    1. Jocelyn Avatar

      I spent some time trying to track down how she knew of me/the blog and could only come up with the fact that my former dean (and still friend) has read my blog over the years, and so maybe they knew each other? I messaged him and asked, but he’d never heard of her…yet she follows him on Twitter (news to him!), so maybe it came somehow through that.

      The college hasn’t yet announced the person taking the position, so I can’t tell you if she got the job or not.

  6. Monica Avatar

    Well good for her , displaying good taste in blog reading… Personally I Think I would have saved that information for later and more one-on-one conversations…

  7. Friko Avatar

    What, no Kleenex on the table? So how did you mop up the spume shooting out of your mouth when you heard the candidate’s offhand remark?

    Who got the job? Has it been decided yet?

    I have started to regret that there are a (very) few people in Valley’s End who read my blog. Actually, there are only two regular readers, there are others who know about it but have lost interest. This partly answers your last post: people are more concerned with their own affairs than yours. Always, anywhere. We only think that we have the attention of others when we worry about what we wear, say or do. All the same, I am a little more restrained about blogposts now. Which is a great pity for me.

    I missed your last post and now there are too many comments for me to make a difference (see, I don’t do anything without wanting attention), but, and here’s the thing, would you mind if I steal the idea and write a post of my own along your lines? I’d refer to your original idea, of course.

    Another thing, do you teach online writing courses?

    1. Jocelyn Avatar

      Gracious, yes, take the idea of the previous post and run with it. I definitely would be interested in your thoughts on the matter, so goooooo with it.

      Yes, I teach writing online, mostly our college’s Composition II, which is research writing. As well, I teach a few literature classes online, which are my very favorites, indeed. My Novels class, which is wrapping up now, remains my all-time favorite class to teach–and it ROCKS online. I’ll be teaching an 8-week Short Story (reading ’em, not writing ’em) class and a Comp II–both online–starting May 30th.

      I can’t wait to read your post!

  8. Friko Avatar

    and one more thing: What is a Dickwad?

    1. Jocelyn Avatar

      I suppose, very technically, it’s what comes out a man in a moment of great excitement, but in the vernacular, it’s more a word meaning “extreme jerk.”

      Hmm. I suppose an extreme jerk can result in a moment of great excitement for a man, too. So there you go.

      1. Deborah Avatar

        Laughing out loud over here in the So of Fr.

  9. Jazz Avatar

    Ouch, that would be uncomfortable, but as Lime and Chlost pointed out, why would she mention that in an interview… I’d be afraid it would get me onto the definitely not list…

  10. Jess Avatar

    Snicker snicker snicker. I like your definition. I am not at all surprised that you’re famous. Well, I’m a little surprised that you’re not infamous, because I could see you enjoying that…

  11. Deborah Avatar

    This is a beautifully-paced story, and like many Jocleyn posts, I couldn’t begin to guess where it was heading. (The element of surprise here is part of what keeps me coming back, but then there’s all those other reasons which would take up too much space to relate.) I often think that you’d turn out a fabulously well-plotted novel – you’re good at the straight and level, with a sudden and effective deviation at the end, as well as the twisty-turny where-the-hell-are-we-at type that is an adventure in itself, before finishing up with the mother of all twists. .
    But the thing that interests me, and which I must applaud, is that even after knowing that this person reads your blog (and I’m guessing she wasn’t the successful candidate) you were able to write about the experience, INCLUDING the vagina monologue in your head, without a whiff of self-censorship. This sort of thing would have shut me down, I think, but thank goodness it didn’t have the same effect on you.
    Ms. Mighty Undaunted, you’re terrific.

    1. Jocelyn Avatar

      I just might have to come to the South of France to hug on you, you know.

      Interestingly–not surprisingly since you and I seem to align a lot–I was thinking about the same thing, with regards to self-censorship. Since my previous post, I’ve been mulling over where each commenter’s boundaries are, from the healthy “If I won’t say it at a PTA meeting, then I don’t blog it” to being aware of family reading their blogs, etc. All of this has contributed to my own self analysis and continuing realization that I find it exhausting not to be totally frank. I know my mom reads this blog. I know my mother-in-law often does. I know job candidates do (at least those savvy enough to find out who’s on the search committee ahead of time). And certainly, I do censor quite a bit of my most-blunt thinking (all hail The Byron, recipient of such stuff), but my overriding feeling is that if people come here of their own accord, then that’s their choice. If tone or material rubs them the wrong way, they shouldn’t come anymore. If they disagree with my version of events, then that’s their chance to reflect on point of view and “what is truth?” and to realize that everyone is entitled to his/her perceptions and feelings. Were someone to read my version of a moment and think, “That’s not how it happened at all,” then that person should exercise his/her right to write and sit the hell down to record his/her own stories in his/her own way. Tangentially but relatedly, I’m still mad at Oprah for calling out James Frey and giving him a public dressing down after claims of “foul” were lodged against his Million Little Pieces. For heaven’s sake, memoir is always fiction, on some level; and fiction is always non-fiction, on some level. Frey took liberties to create an effect in his book. Isn’t that a huge piece of being a writer?

      I’m also realizing that my thrumming internal need to just say what I want to say is part of maturation (my maturation; not for everyone) in that I was such a scaredy people pleaser for decades and now I feel more comfortable with not needing everyone to like me (that makes it easier for me not to like everyone in return, by the way). For example, if I were ever to see the job candidate again, and if she walked up to me and said, “I cannot believe you blogged about that moment in the interview,” my response would be, “It was all fair play, if you ask me.”

      1. Robin Preble Avatar
        Robin Preble

        Yes, yes, yes. I agree with your response here and I am cheering you for it. I don’t want to live in a world where we all avoid talking about the things that really happen in our lives for fear of what someone else might do or think or say about it. That leaves all having boring, dull conversations that would send me screaming into the wilderness for escape and stimulation. Kudos to the candidate for being honest and kudos to you for continuing to do the same. I have had these same internal debates and could easily rationalize not doing what I do in my blog, but I’m tired of crossing my legs and folding my hands in my lap and waiting for someone else to engage me first — on their terms. Who says my terms aren’t just as legitimate? Love it.

  12. magpie Avatar

    Oh, how peculiar. The little moment of going round the room shaking everyone’s hand kind of marked her as a big extrovert – so I guess saying that to you made total sense.

  13. Jenn @ Juggling Life Avatar

    I like her–the whole shaking hands and blog comment says “willing to take a risk.”

    Plus, obviously she knows good writing if she reads your blog.

  14. Secret Agent Woman Avatar

    Oh. My. God. I read, “Then I tried to recall for a minute if I’ve ever written a post about my vagina.” and I started laughing so hard I thought I might choke. Wow.

    But once I walked into a show at a book store with a local musician singing and she yelled “Hey! My favorite blogger!” But at least my colleagues weren’t around.

  15. Green Girl in Wisconsin Avatar
    Green Girl in Wisconsin

    That would’ve thrown me, too. It’s happened to me before and I always frantically try to think of what I’ve last posted… and what I’ve posted that they’ve read that might embarrass me…
    So, has your following increased since this was made public to your colleagues?

    1. Jocelyn Avatar

      I don’t think it has increased–as I noted in a different reply, I can always count on others’ lack of interest!

      I can’t think of anything embarrassing you’ve ever posted…even the pictures of you pre- and post-make-up just show you’re gorgeous no matter what.

  16. geewits Avatar

    That happened to Magazine Man when he spoke at a college. (One of the students came up afterwards and said, “I read your blog, you’re Magazine Man!”) It freaked him out big time and I guess it did you too. The fact that it has happened to two of the blogs I read makes me think it may be more common than we would like. I’m glad: 1) I stopped mentioning where I eat lunch every Friday and 2) My readership has dwindled and 3) most of my readers are Canadians.

  17. Bone Avatar

    That is a gulp.

    Then I tried to recall for a minute if I’ve ever written a post about my vagina.

    Made me spit out my lemonade.

  18. Mother Theresa Avatar

    I personally would have waited to make that comment until after the interview, but hey, to each his own. In any case, she’s gutsy, which may or may not be a good thing. Now, what I’m curious about is if she was already a reader of your blog before she ever decided to apply for the job, or if she found it while researching the possible interviewers. It’s not hard to find people, and their blogs, with a little detective work. If it were the latter, I’d be a little more uncomfortable. Anyway, I really don’t think you should censor yourself, because you can’t worry about what people think. If you did that you might as well just stop blogging, which you absolutely can’t do…we need you. So, just be yourself. And now I should probably go take my own advice and write about the lint plucking incident (which incidentally was a bit north of my nethers, but still a sensitive area), and to hell with who might read it!

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