March 12, 2003

Minding the Gap

I think I crossed a line this morning, and crossed over to the other side. Now, I have been walking on and around this line for some time, and for the past few years I suppose I have been somewhat uneasily perched with one foot on either side. But this morning I decisively crossed that line, and am now faced with the realization that I have reached a point from which there is no return.

I'm talking about the "generation gap," if I may use such a quaint and perhaps archaic (c. 1970?) term. The existence and extent of which gap between me and my students became absolutely and undeniably clear to me this morning as I pondered the fact that three of my female students were wearing what looked to me like sleepwear and underwear.

Well, it's a 9 a.m. class, and today I gave the midterm exam (which gave me plenty of opportunity to observe my students' early morning sartorial splendour), and everyone was a little bit nutty because of the exam and the fact that after the exam we would all be free for the spring break (yippee!), and then, too, the students live in residence halls just a building or two away. So under the circumstances, coming to class in one's pyjamas is, if a bit unusual, not entirely unheard of.

So Student 1's apparel didn't really force upon me the realization of a gap. "Are those the kind of jammie bottoms that I myself like to wear in the privacy of my own home?" I wondered, as I noticed that Student 1 was wearing a pair of plaid flannel pants/bottoms that looked a lot like my own pyjama bottoms. They could be just a pair of extremely casual (and no doubt extremely comfy) trousers, to be sure. But when I noticed her feet, I saw what were unmistakably a pair of suede slippers. No question about it, Student 1 had come to class in her pyamas.

With Students 2 and 3, however, I was not (and am not) entirely convinced that they were wearing something other than street clothes to class. Student 2 was wearing a pair of jammie-bottom-looking striped flannel trousers (or, perhaps, actual jammie bottoms). With a woolen sweater on top (what the J. Crew catalog calls "the boyfriend sweater"), a chenille scarf around her neck, and a rose-printed silk scarf around her head (9 a.m. exam, no time to shower, having a bad hair day, etc.). But she was also wearing something else: on top of the jammie-bottom like bottoms, she was sporting what looked to me like a women's slip. Silky (probably silk, actually, these students have disposable income), with lace trim, in a pale seafoam green colour (though seaform probably isn't the right term, it probably has one of those J. Crew-like names: pool or foam or lake or what have you: some name that evokes water but with only a subtle hint at the actual colour). Student 3 was not wearing jammies. She had on a pair of jeans and sweater. But over the jeans, she had the same type of slip-like thing that looked to me like, well, like a women's undergarment, the kind we call a slip. Hers was a nice shade of pale beige (champagne? no that's too dated, probably considered cheesy now, so perhaps mushroom or cappucino).

Well, here's the thing: I was struck by the sheer fabulousness of these young women's outfits, I truly was. And at the same time, what they were wearing seemed incoherent: that is, it just didn't make sense to me. "Are those pyjama bottoms on Student 1?" "Is Student 2 wearing a slip? Gee, that looks a lot like a slip...Is it an actual slip that she bought in the lingerie department, or is it some new sort of overskirt designed to look like a slip but to be worn on the outside?" And "Is that another slip, or slip-like thingy on Student 3?" And "Is this what they're wearning now?" and "Oh dear lord, I sound like my mother!" And I had a real admiration for their early morning style: they are young and a little bit funky, and they can pull if off beautifully. But also, a wistful sense of loss as I realized that I am now very far removed from what it is that these young women are wearing to class. Not that I hadn't realized this before, but this morning it hit me with a peculiar force: my students belong to a younger generation and I of course belong to another, and older, one.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at March 12, 2003 06:42 PM