A Conversation with an Adviser

A Conversation with an Adviser

“Hi, Katie! Come on in, sit down.”

“Thanks, Professor. The upholstery on this chair is so unique – is it Turkish?”

“Persian, actually. A Tehranian Mullah pilfered it from an abandoned palace after the collapse of the Pahlavi Dynasty. He gifted it to me while I was researching the Taghribat Bani Hilal for my latest book. Have I had you read that chapter yet?”

“Uh, no.”

“Oh, well you should proofread it for me. Naturally, little proofreading will need done as I studied at Oxford and my Queen’s English is second-to-none, but the majority of my scholarly work has been done on typewriters so you may have to go through and delete the second space after every sentence. That and I just think you need a reminder of just how much my academic prowess will be a boon to your career.”

“Is that the demonym for someone from Tehran? Tehranian?”

“Yes. That wasn’t the point. Were you even listening?”

“Not really, no. You lost me at pilfered. That and I was thinking about crying again.”


“Yeah, I haven’t cried since the last time I was in this office, so I figured I was overdue.”

“Well I can help you with that. Let’s talk about this seminar paper you handed in.”


“Katie? Do you want to talk about this paper?”

“Well, yes. I mean no. I mean I really only want to talk about it if you’re going to tell me it’s the most amazing piece of scholarship you’ve ever read in your entire life and that my success as a future academic is practically cemented because the ELH is going to jump all over it like they’re sharks and my paper is a newborn manatee, fresh with the scent of placental blood. Is that what you’re going to say?”

“Far from it, young lady! I had to keep a trash can near my desk while reading it, lest I retch up the crab cakes from the departmental meeting. It is quite possibly the most deplorable scholarly work since Einstein’s six year old niece threw up on her macaroni noodle picture.”

“Oh. Well then. I guess I’ll just go tender my resignation.”

“First of all, you can’t resign a teaching assistantship. Resignations are for CEOs and homosexual congressional representatives from below the Mason-Dixon Line.  I believe the word you’re looking for is ‘abandon.’ Or ‘surrender.’ Second of all, don’t be ridiculous. You’ll never meet my unrealistic expectations, so if you just remember that this adviser/advisee is more like a loveless marriage than a meeting of minds, it’ll be easier for you to ignore everything I say and push full steam ahead into the fluffy job-filled unicorn fart cloud of your delusion-fueled future.”

“So…I should keep working on it?”

“God, no. Jesus Christ, put this thing in a drawer and never look at it again.”

“But I have to take it to a conference in a week!”

“Only simpletons and prostitutes go to academic conferences. They won’t be able to tell the quality of your paper from a bowl of Fruit Loops. Just stand up there and narrate the December 1987 collection of Hägar the Horrible. It makes no difference.”

“Is there any funding available for this conference from the department?”

“Not a chance in hell.”

“Will it get announced in the departmental newsletter?”

“Are you a visiting poet, an MFA student, or having a baby?”


“Then no.”

“Any words of encouragement to keep me from slicing my wrists the second I walk out this door?”



“Nope. Academia will never be what it was before the advent of RefWorks, iPhones, and mechanical pencils. You’ll never ever ever succeed. Ever.”

“Right. So, see you again this time next week?”

“You bet, we can talk about what a horrendous ulcer-inducing monstrosity your dissertation proposal is. Bring valium.”

“Adios, Professor. When I write my animal-themed bildungsroman, you’re going to be the one-eyed bulldog.”

“Makes perfect sense! Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris, my dear.”


Katie Sisneros‘s adviser hasn’t made her cry…yet.