Aunt Pythia’s advice
That’s right, readers! Aunt Pythia has always wanted to be one of those “crazy old purple ladies” – although with dogs instead of cats – but she’s felt just too darn ridiculous to go it alone. Luckily, there’s a group of like-minded grannies whose goal is “the enhancement of the ridiculous.” Right on, right on. I’m wondering if I’m too young to qualify.
I have a feeling there are more people out there interested in this. Contact me and we’ll form a local chapter.
And now, on to business! Let’s go quickly to the part of Saturday morning where Aunt Pythia spouts nonsense to anyone who will listen, shall we? Homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are on the dish, help yourself. Yes, that’s right, I said oatmeal and chocolate chip. There’s no fucking law against that.
After the cookies and advice, please don’t hesitate to:
ask Aunt Pythia any question at all at the bottom of the page!
Dearest Aunt Pythia,
I have been trying on and off for almost a year to enter the word “binner” into Urban Dictionary, but it is always rejected! I’m at my wits’ end!
Below is my submission:
Binner: The inner erection of the clitoris that females get when aroused; the inner boner.
The part of the clitoris, the clitoral glans, that is seen on the outside of the body is only one piece of the clit, and it’s got all the nerve endings. However, the rest of the clit extends down into the body and is made of erectile tissue.
This part of the clitoris fills with as much blood as a penis does when males get erections, so it can be thought of as the inner boner or the “binner.”
Example the first: I got such a binner watching those smokin’ hot dudes playing beach volleyball.
Example the second: I can’t really think right now because my raging binner’s sucked all the blood from my brain.
Can you help?!?!
Blue Binnered in Indy
P.S. Hi Aunt Pythia! I’m Trisha Borowicz, one of the directors of Science, Sex and the Ladies. My web analytics led me to your post about the movie trailer. I stayed to read because you got some pretty cool, feminist, mathy shit going on here, and I just couldn’t resist asking Aunt Pythia a question. Anyway, thanks for writing about my trailer. Oh – and my question is absolutely true…and when I went to my original post about it, I see that it has been 2 years and probably about 5 tries.
Holy crap, that’s an awesome word. And we needed one for that. Next can you come up with a word for a mistress that’s a man? I’m thinking you’re gonna go with “manstress.” I can’t believe I didn’t think of that until now. You have inspired me.
I guess my only question about binners is this: how do we know if we’ve got one? I mean, I’m sure I get binners all the time but don’t know it, right? It’s not as obvious for us ladies is all. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Maybe that’s the missing ingredient in the submission?
Another possibility is that lots of different people have submit similar definitions for them to believe it’s really a word? What do you think, readers? Is this a great way to spend your Saturday mornings, or is it the best way to spend your Saturday mornings?
Dear Aunt Pythia,
What I love about mathematics is an amazing feeling of understanding what precisely someone meant, deciphering dense texts, capturing the idea someone tried to convey by an accidentally misleading example. Solving problems is not so enjoyable, but they help in the long run. The research is the worst. It’s so hard, and the results are usually boring compared to beautiful ideas already existing in the literature.
I am a PhD student at one of the top US universities, so I’ve done some research, somewhat successively, but didn’t enjoy it. I am fairly confident that I can finish my current program and eventually become a mediocre mathematician and maybe discover something awesome once or twice in my life.
Doing research to get a job and teaching calculus for thirty years is not a wonderful future, but it’s also not so bad. Am I ruining my life by sticking to this plan?
Most other careers also look bad for me in the same way. Everywhere from politics to videogames the core of success is the ability to extract information which exists, but wasn’t intentionally put there. Finding hidden patterns in the data, reading against the grain, applying ideas outside of their usual domain. All of this I don’t enjoy.
I am noticeably better than most other people at figuring what the creator of the information wanted me to understand from it. This skill sometimes help, but usually is absolutely pointless. Maybe personal relations benefit from it, but I’m not great at them for different reasons.
Should I just grow up more and accept that the world wasn’t designed to be enjoyable? But then I look at my friends who seem to really love doing original work and consider learning from books to be boring but necessary activity, and I feel that maybe I just have a different system of thinking. One where you don’t do awesome stuff and don’t earn millions, but instead, I dunno, have an inherent property of coolness in your soul. Or something. I usually avoid thinking about that. Sorry for such a long letter and a striking example of a “first world problem”.
Rather Educated Although Dumb
I’m going to rephrase what I hear you saying. You love learning math, you are good with working stuff out that you know to be true, but you dislike working hard on something that might not end up being true.
So the payoff – that moment of clarity – is joyous, but the stuff leading up to it is painful for you. Without knowing more about why it’s painful, I can only guess. Here’s a list:
- You are anxious that you won’t ever discover the truth, and the anxiety gets in the way of enjoying anything.
- You choose problems that are too hard and so you go into the process unprepared.
- You postpone the process because of your dread and then you never feel like you have the mental space to think straight.
- You feel like other people have an easier time with not understanding math and it makes you feel bad in comparison because it’s hard.
- You are simply impatient.
I am just throwing around ideas here. I actually have no idea what is going on for you. Even so, I have a few thoughts.
First, part of me wants to tell you to look around and imagine you left math altogether. Then what? What do you think you’d want to do? Don’t think about it as a career for the rest of your life type of thing, but rather a project you’d embark on. What project do you think is cool? Work on that one. Give yourself space to choose; if not every project, at least some of them.
Next, I’d advise you to be realistic in the following sense. There is no perfect job. You can quit one job, or one career, and then start a new one, and you’d still have problems. Take it from someone who knows. Right now I’ve got an awesome consulting gig, doing a project I totally care about and I think is important, but even so I feel like a hustler, because being an independent consultant makes you a hustler.
Finally, I’d suggest that doing research requires patience, and a certain dose of humility, and a lack of caring about other people. These are all things that you can work on. But at the same time, there are fields in which the results are faster and easier and are still important. Data science is a faster, easier field than algebraic number theory. Projects go faster, people care about minor advances, and so on. On the other hand, the questions you answer weren’t asked by Diophantus. So there’s a trade-off too.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
I am a young male professor in computer science. Being closer in age to postdocs and PhD students than other faculty, I find myself, especially at conferences, hanging out with them, going out in the evening, and so on.
While these kind of circumstances often lead to encounters and hookups, I have always been careful not to hook up with anyone, as I feel the differential of power and the scarcity of women in our field make it somewhat problematic for faculty to hook up with students (I am also in a monogamish long-time relationship, but that would not be a problem neither for me or my long time partner).
About two years ago, I found myself having a great connection with a PhD student at a conference (she studies in a different country, so I only see her at international meetings, but our fields have some overlap). We ended up talking all the time, and spent a lot of time together, nothing romantic being on the table.
Since then, every time we have seen each other, we have had incredible chemistry and end up going out a lot, in a group or not. This has been going on for a bunch of conferences now. I have no intention of acting on the situation, both because I feel it would ruin our relationship, and because I am afraid it would be detrimental to her career (though I am fairly certain we both feel very strongly about the other).
However, I am always very excited to see her each time there is a chance, and we both want to talk all the time, etc. As a consequence, I strongly suspect lots of people assume that we are indeed hooking up. I don’t want to be part of the creepy atmosphere that make it harder to be a woman in computer science, and I don’t want her reputation to be hurt by the situation, if people assume she is sleeping with older faculty. On the other hand, I really feel I am doing nothing wrong here! What should I do ?
Becoming the patriarchy
You’re doing nothing wrong, they’re all jealous. Please enjoy each other.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
As a man approaching middle age and managing people in their twenties in the tech world, I often find that I just relate better to a lot of the men. We share common interests (sports, similar sense of humor) and I am just more comfortable asking them to grab the occasional drink in a one-on-one situation.
I can’t help wondering what some of the women in my group feel about this. Would they be grateful that I am leaving them alone, or resentful of the extra bonding their male colleagues get? I do regular meetings with the women, and take them out to coffee once in a while, but the guys get that extra, less guarded time.
It also makes my job more fun, as I like drinking and socializing with tech nerds. I think I am being fair when it comes to review time, but that could be a delusion on my part. I can also see that even if it was true, it may not be perceived as true .
I think the women on the team are funny, smart people too, and I would probably enjoy the occasional drink with them as well. It just feels weird to ask them to join me for a drink. I have no such problem with female colleagues, where there is no power imbalance in the relationship. What do I do?
Mature Intelligent Man Or Sexist Asshole
Oh. My. God. I want a mimosa. With you. Right now.
OK, so I have no problem drinking with men. I’ve always done it, and I don’t think it’s weird. In fact I love it. Alcohol has the magical ability to help people find common interests. You don’t need to know what they are in advance. You don’t even need to drink alcohol; just being in a bar, ready to engage in a real conversation with another person, is enough. I think you should try it. Here are two suggestions.
First, ask a friendly, open-minded young woman you manage by saying something like, “Hey I sometimes have drinks after work with Tom or Jim, and I’m wondering if you’d like to join me one of these days? I’d love to get a chance to talk in a relaxed manner. It doesn’t have to be after work, and it doesn’t have to involve alcohol, but it could. What do you think?
Once you’ve done it with her, it will be easy for the other women to think of it as super normal.
If that seems weird – which I don’t think it is – then I’d suggest invited a small group of people for drinks and making sure the group involved one or two women. Like, make it a celebration of a project getting done or something.
The caveat is that women – and men of course – may have family duties with young children. For that reason, please never make it a spontaneous after-work drink event, or make it required. Always give people advance warning, at least 3 or 4 days, so they can arrange things.
And please have a drink for me next time!
Readers? Aunt Pythia loves you so much. She wants to hear from you – she needs to hear from you – and then tell you what for in a most indulgent way. Will you help her do that?
Please, pleeeeease ask her a question. She will take it seriously and answer it if she can.
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