Women’s Month Interviews: Jenise

Jenise and I will be team-teaching a course this fall on the Middle Ages. It ought to be great fun. I’ve never co-taught a course, so I’m really looking forward to this.

How do we know each other?
We are colleagues and friends.

How would you describe yourself?

I am intense, introspective, and hard-working, though lately I have been quite distracted. I was born discontented and never find satisfaction or lasting happiness. I am a high achiever and perfectionist, who feels morally obliged to follow through on promises and see a task/goal through to completion, but am finding it difficult to sustain this lifelong pattern nowadays. I am responsible to a fault and a good and loyal friend. I am probably too trusting and generous, and see the good in people, particularly those I love. I do not give my friendship to many or too easily, yet when I do it is genuine and lasting. I am honest and find it difficult to deceive others, even when it is in my best interest to do so. I would like people to see me for who I am I guess, despite my faults.

In what part of the world are you located?

Albany, NY. I like it except for the weather. I am never happy in cold dark places and prefer a warm tropical environment. I like my job and the friends I have made among my colleagues, who are some of the finest human beings I have had the privilege to know.

Where can we find you on the web?
I am on Facebook.

What don’t people know about you that they ought to know?
I don’t know really, it is difficult to see ourselves as others do. On a practical level, they should know that I have a serious hearing/processing disorder, and struggle hard to understand what others say to me in social settings. Those who do not know this may think I am snobbish because I have ignored them when I really did not hear them, or may think I am not too bright because my responses can be off base as I try to piece together what was said or asked. I miss much of what others say to me in conversation because of background noise or low tone of voice. I sometimes wear a hearing aid, but it is becoming obsolete. My condition is hereditary, stretching back several generations on my father’s side. My father has been deaf since his early seventies; one day I will be too.

What’s the most common mistake people make about you?
I don’t know really. I have been told by different people that I am distant, intimidating and come across as unapproachable. I have never understood why anyone would think these things, but I go out of my way to counter such misreadings of my personality.

What are you most proud of having accomplished so far?
I guess that would have to be my PhD and my children.

What ambitions do you have ahead of you?
I must publish at least one book; I have promised to do so, to the publisher, my adviser, and my colleagues. I must therefore follow through.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?
I have had many which I do not believe are accurate or deserved. Someone I love deeply told me I was beautiful a couple of times, but I don’t know if he meant it. I suppose that was the best, at least it meant the most to me at the time.

If something great happens to you, how do you celebrate?
I don’t believe I have ever really celebrated anything great that has happened to me, at least not that I can recall. I am not one to throw myself parties or celebrations, but I do so for others because I derive great pleasure by doing so.

What’s your best method for coping with stress?
I smoke, and like to drink wine, talk to friends, and try to maintain focus and keep working. Stress used to be a driving force that made me produce, now it is starting to wear me down because it is combined with ongoing emotional trauma.

What makes you laugh?

Many things, but it depends on my mood at the time. I am moody but try not to show it.

What makes you cry?
On a personal level, betrayal and inconsideration by someone I trusted, and also to see my children disappointed or hurt.

What do you love?
My children, close friends, humanity in a general sense. And history of course.

What do you loathe?
False hypocritical people who posture and cannot match words with actions; capitalism, fascism, racism, sexism, and injustice in all its forms.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?
I don’t know; I have been given lots of good advice over the years, and most times have not followed it.

How should people be spending their money?
I think they should be careful about spending because no one is immune to misfortune these days. Those who have money perhaps should help others who have less in other parts of the world.

Which woman/women have inspired you?
Ah, many. In history women like Alexandra Kollontai and Rosa Luxembourg, two socialist feminist intellectuals. In my own life, my mother, my dissertation mentor, my colleague Angela who is brilliant, beautiful and a wonderful mother. I admire strong women who persevere against the odds and maintain dignity in the face of adversity.

If I gave you a million dollars, what would you do?

Pay my debts off, do something to help secure my children’s future, travel on breaks, help a couple of friends in need, and give the rest to help alleviate the poverty and suffering of women and children in West Africa, probably through funding maternity clinics, education, and micro-loans.

Thank you so much for being part of this celebration: you are indeed fabulous! I’m lucky to have you as a colleague.
T’was my pleasure.