Aunt Pythia’s advice
Holy shit people we’ve got an awesome column today. Aunt Pythia shall not disappoint, and when she says that, she really means that you wonderful readers have not disappointed Aunt Pythia – your questions are surprising and rich and thoughtful as always. It brings a sweet lightness to Aunt Pythia’s otherwise heavy, snuffly head.
For you see, Aunt Pythia is suffering from a springtime cold, so nothing too terrible, but it probably didn’t help that Aunt Pythia refused to acknowledge the rain yesterday – because it was 61 degrees! – and insisted on biking everywhere.
After you all enjoy this marvelous column chock full of ridiculous advice, please don’t forget to:
ask Aunt Pythia a question at the bottom of the page!
Hello dearest Auntie P,
I just wanted to bring your attention to this calendar – sorry that it’s a buzzfeed article – and wish you the best with sexy pin-up men with various knitted objects.
I suppose I don’t really have a question, other than maybe other ideas you have for good calendar pages relating to men posing with sexy yarn?
But I hope you have a good day looking at this anyway!
Casting-on Relishly Adorable Fellows To Sex
Oh. My. God. Did you know my dear hubby is Dutch? Did you know I sometimes go to Amsterdam? This is seriously the best thing I’ve ever learned about that place, I’m not much of a smoker.
The name “Club Geluk” can be translated as “Club Happiness,” which seems pretty appropriate given this calendar. Here’s my favorite:
Also, it reminds me of my (previously) favorite calendar, which I buy each year and hand out to some baffled friends and visitors, namely the NYC Taxi Calendar:
Readers, please do send me awesome calendars, I’m officially – as of now – a collector.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
Heads-up: I’m going to try to steer this away from the classic millenial-trying-to-find-purpose-in-life story, but it could go there.
I’m a 22-year old trying to decide whether to do a Ph.D. in pure math (topology/geometry). I’m currently taking grad classes in a non-degree program and my thoughts bounce around from “What’s the point of this?” to “Omigoodness my brain is in love” to “I’mstupid-Ihatethis-I’mstupid-Ihatethis”. It’s the sort of thing where I’ll decide ‘definitively’ not to go to grad school, and then immediately solve a hard problem and get into my reach school.
Amidst all that, I’ve been looking at alternatives to Ph.D. programs – things that are still intellectually rigorous/analytical but seem more relevant to the world. I’ve even considered switching to (shhhh) applied math. So my first question is this: what options/careers would you suggest to mathematicians who want to be able to “be useful”?
My second question comes from the fact that one of the main alternatives to math that I’ve considered is journalism. I enjoy writing and loved the journalism classes I took in undergrad. I was lucky enough to go to a talk you gave recently in which you mentioned data journalism. I’m thoroughly intrigued, but I have no idea how to look into it. How does someone ‘get into’ data journalism?
Moral of the story, I’m pretty confused. I love math (and have advisers pushing me towards grad school), but I’m not sure if I like it enough for a Ph.D. (or that I like who I am when I’m doing math). Any/all thoughts you have to offer on this silly mid-life-crisis business would be wonderful.
Thank you so much!
Does \exists \phi: Me \rightarrow Career, \phi isomorphic?
I hear you, it’s tough. Personally I did a better job, when I was your age, at ignoring any possibility besides going to math grad school. I was laser focused. It’s good and bad to be that way, though, because it means you don’t hesitate to make bad choices.
Also, I don’t think I’d ever suggest not getting a degree in math. It comes in handy in all sorts of ways even if you end up doing something else. Even if it just trains you to be humble about your abilities, and know how to admit when you’re wrong, two basic and critical take-aways.
As for journalism, that’s such a tough field, and you’d find yourself hanging out with people who write articles like this (which is to say they won’t understand math enough to realize that describing Cuomo’s changes in education as a “victory” is not supported by fact). Not saying everyone in journalism is like that – in general I like the skepticism I encounter there – but there’s also real ignorance in some corners, and very few great jobs. But again, also a super rewarding job sometimes and for some people. I wouldn’t tell you not to pursue this if you’re truly interested.
The way to get into it – my best guess, not from experience – is to start doing it and posting your pieces on a blog – yours or your friends – or Huffington Post, so you can develop a portfolio that you can show people when you apply. That and work with journalists on their stuff.
I guess my overall advice is to get the education you think you want, and realize it’s flexible and can be used in lots of ways. It’s not something math professors tell you, mostly because they don’t know this, but math Ph.D.’s or masters degrees impress people in the outside world.
In the meantime take programming classes, keep in touch with applied math people and data journalism projects, and dip your toe into some of those waters when you can; do some projects. Don’t worry too much that the nerds around you are laser-focused, they might have changed completely in a few years, and it’s really not a competition. And good luck!
Dear Aunt Pythia,
I’m a female undergraduate at a very good math department about to enter grad school for mathematics. I have a few stereotypically female qualities which I have found to have negatively impacted my time in undergrad. I don’t want to change who I am, but I’m also sick of the sexism in mathematics.
Just a quick background of what I’m talking about: Most of my side interests are stereotypically feminine: kids, baking, volunteering. I want to be a serious mathematician, but I also enjoy volunteering in local schools and do so quite frequently.
I also am pretty feminine in dress/in personality. I’m not that assertive, and I prefer to not answer in class, despite knowing the answer. Most of the males in my classes are much more assertive, aggressive in answering, and authoritative (even if they have no idea if they are right).
I feel that I’m taken less seriously by my peers and taken advantage of because I’m female, but I’m quite shy and quiet and speaking up is very unnatural for me. I perform at the top of my classes and have been successful in my research experiences, but my classmates don’t respect me (probably because I don’t talk about my success or assert my knowledge). I’m fine with my quiet personality, but I don’t know how to deal with my peers.
- Peers assume that I’m going to be a high school math teacher, and are surprised I’m going to grad school.
- Many people applied to REUs from my school, but most didn’t get in anywhere and I got into most of the ones I applied to. Two male students complained in the hallway that I only got in because I’m female (which is not true at all – I’ve taken much more math than them and have published before). They only knew I had gotten in because my professors had told them. They don’t know that I heard them.
- I TA for Analysis II and Algebra II and students often “bully” me for the answers. When I say “no,” they don’t respect that and just ask again. I’ve tried being more assertive and authoritative. The students don’t pressure my fellow male TAs for answers and don’t ignore their refusals to give more help after many hints have been given.
- I’ve been told by my peers that I have a better chance at the grad schools I applied to because I’m female. These are just a few examples – I’m treated differently and feel alone in my undergrad department.
I’m just generally lost! I want to be stronger in grad school and I want people to respect my mathematical abilities, but I don’t know how to be assertive without being arrogant or over-confident. I want peers to stop assuming that I know less. Do you have any advice about how I can change in grad school?
Sorry for the super long question!
Wants To Change For Grad School
Dear Wants To Change,
First of all, congratulations. Sounds like you’re killing it. Seriously, and I’m so glad that your talent is being acknowledged and welcomed by the people who admit you and recruit you to REU’s and grad schools. It tells me that you are in a better place than you let yourself think. Spend a few minutes just gloating.
Second of all, fuck those assholes. Seriously. Fuck them. I know what you’re going through because I went through that stuff too, even though I wasn’t at all shy. The worst kind of person is the arrogant young man, they are unbelievably insufferable. I knew more than my share of such men, and let me tell you, they drove me nuts, and they also drove nice men nuts, as well as all the professors. They are universally despised and tolerated only because sometimes they turn out to be human by the time they get older and humbled (see above letter).
Third, some advice:
- Stick with it, everyone gets better when they are a bit older and less insecure. The truly insecure people often self-select out of the math scene altogether because they’re afraid they can’t cut it. For the horrible ones that stay, they become less and less relevant as they are isolated and everyone hates them.
- Never bake anything for math people. Seriously, there’s something about the act of baking in a department that brings out sexism. Stick with your baking for high school kids who will simply love you for it.
- Just ignore students who ask for answers. Yes, they are bullying you because they are completely unthreatened by you. But when they learn you don’t do that, they will stop.
- I would suggest you challenge yourself to answer questions in class, especially if you are taking a class from someone you hope to work with. It is a great habit to have.
- I would never suggest you change anything else about yourself, except for experimentation’s sake and if you are comfortable doing so. You might find people take you more seriously in certain outfits, and I’d never tell you not to wear them, but in this day and age the idea that you have to conform to other people’s standards of what a “serious” mathematician looks like is fucked.
- Most important, remember that you’re there to be educated, and it’s all about you, not them. Their egos are crying out in pain because they are threatened, and sometimes the noise is deafening, but learn to put on a set of ego headphones.
- Also, feed yourself. You might sometimes have problems with your own ego, and you should also be able to seek support, even though it won’t come at the expense of others. Think about how you can get it. I’m imagining that volunteering is a source of that for you, in which case please think of it as an alternative to therapy, and don’t ever ever give it up.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
You’re (still) my favorite blogger, but I feel like you may have erred in your response to “Gossiped About And Hurt Humongously”.
You accuse him of claiming women are “discriminated in favor of”, which he did not. He said, “I was arguing that gender plays a role in fellowship/scholarship selection and college admissions”, which does not indicate in who’s favor that bias might be directed.
I think in this case you’ve unfairly put word in his mouth that were not there. Am I missing something here?
Sad And Disappointed
Yeah, maybe. I mean, I agree that I read into it a bit, but I’m not sure what I did was unfair. Let’s go back to what he said about the actual conversation:
I’m a guy and a grad student and I was talking to a fellow grad student, Z, about gender issues in academia. Specifically, I was arguing that gender plays a role in fellowship/scholarship selection and college admissions, and she claimed that no, an applicant’s sex does not have any detectable influence on such decisions. We started talking about affirmative action and before we had time to even discuss the implications of affirmative action, she had to go to class and I thought that was the end of it.
I took from this description that he was arguing that there existed affirmative action in admissions, and that this would promote women. I don’t think that was a crazy jump, since I’ve never heard of affirmative action that promotes men.
Readers, what do you think? The full question and answer are here.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
OK, I fucked up. He does say later in the article, that he did make the pro female bias contention. As my girlfriend just pointed out to me. I still don’t think that is by default sexist, but I have to admit I read right over that without even seeing it, which may be.
Sad And Dissapointed
Oh, what? Let me take another look. Oh right, he goes on to say, “being female sometimes helps in getting scholarships and in college admissions”.
Thanks for writing back!
Dear Aunt Pythia,
After some years of “screw it, I’m not even bothering to date,” I met someone I like a lot. He is very smart, interesting, etc, etc. I made him wait ages to spend the night at my house, and last night he finally stayed over.
So anyway, the making out was awesome. We hit the bedroom, and all the clothes come off. Then, four minutes into giving him a blowjob, he just comes. No warning, but I’m ok with that, and I apparently give pretty good ones. What I’m not ok with was that we were now done. Excuse me, what the fuck?
This guy isn’t a selfish jerk at all, and I get that maybe the mood dies for him a bit after he’s gotten his. I also seem to have an effect on some men that makes them a bit “quick.” Given all that, what the hell do I do now? I will give him another shot, but if the same thing happens, he might be getting dumped. On the other hand, he’s practically the only man I have really been interested in for a long time (like, years).
I am not interested in having a discussion about it, and I especially don’t want to make this guy feel bad if he has some medical/PE type issue. However, I also can’t let him think this is acceptable.
Anyway, what would you do? (Actually, I know you, and you’d probably just grab his head and put it between your legs. Any other thoughts for the less assertive among us?)
My Enjoyment The Optional Orgasm
Alternative, less aggressive, no-talk option: start masturbating. What’s he going to do, watch? I mean, maybe. Or maybe he will help you out. He sounds like it’s worth a try.
Although, to be very honest, that’s what I’d start doing first, before the blowjob, when you get him into bed the next time. He’s already shown you that he goes second.
Congratulations, you’ve wasted yet another Saturday morning with Aunt Pythia! I hope you’re satisfied, you could have made progress on that project instead.
But as long as you’re already here, please ask me a question. And don’t forget to make an amazing sign-off, they make me very very happy.
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