Am I supposed to be this happy?

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Maria:
I am teaching at a very small, religious liberal-arts college deep in the heart of Lewis and Clark territory. The seventh week of classes starts today. I don't mean to say that there have been no bumps in the road, no angst or annoyance, but I am enjoying my job and I am happy.

We teach 12 hours a semester, but the emphasis is on teaching, and not on research, so I don't feel overwhelmed.  I will admit that I am looking forward to fall break, Thanksgiving, and then the winter break, but I am also excited about next term. I have great colleagues. Although I am middle-aged and single, the religious aspects of the place create a community, and I have felt very welcome, even though I am not of the same faith. I am developing rewarding mentoring relationships with several of my students. My only complaint has to do with the football players who sit in the back of one of my classes and act disgusted.

Anyone else happy? Advice to keep things going this way? Any advice on dealing with football players with a sense of entitlement?  

I am also a single, 40-plus intellectual woman in a small Midwestern city. Any advice about meeting men not put off by the "lady professor," or worse, "the girl who works up at the college."

Hana:
Two comments on your situation:  

First, don't worry about the football players. It is impossible to have an entire class love you (I killed myself trying to get entire classes to love me -- gradually, I realized it was foolish). Additionally, you may be very surprised at the end of the semester as you may discover that despite their expressions of disdain, some of the football players will wax enthusiastic about your class on their evaluations. Several times I was convinced that a group of students disliked me or my class -only to discover when I read their evaluations that they believed that "this class changed my life!"  

Second, if you are genuinely interested in meeting men whom you can date, I suggest that you try the usual route: personal ads, matchmaking services etc. However, I would emphasize that you should never go into a date (blind or otherwise) thinking that the person you are meeting will view you as "the lady professor" or "the girl who works up at the college."

Reading these comments I was taken aback slightly -- you may not intend this but your comment implies that academics are different from other people and that "ordinary" people are intimidated by academics. If you pick and choose the men you will meet carefully, you will never encounter this problem.  I spent three years dating via the internet before meeting Mr. Right. I went out with 38 guys (a little scary to realize this!) -- the men I met were extremely intelligent physicians, lawyers, policy analysts, etc. Many of them had attended Ivy League or similar colleges, and none were put off by my having a Ph.D. (and, in fact, a bunch of them did have Ph.D.'s -- although I steered clear of professors because I have my prejudices. Mr. Right is a lawyer with two master's degrees -- one from Harvard -- and unlike most professors, he's very well-adjusted!).

B.F.:
My advice regarding staying happy is to not get caught up in the politics at your school. When I started with my full-time position, I found that I was very happy, unlike many of the people who had been there for years and were miserable. Two years later, I can see how easy it would have been for me to get bogged down in college politics and to now be upset and apathetic about teaching. Instead, I focused on my teaching and still love my job.

Maria:
In this small, conservative town of about 10,000, it's not that I am an academic that confuses people, it's that I am single, at my age. There are only two of us on the faculty who are single. At least people have stopped asking me what my husband does.  

I have had really poor luck with internet dating.  

But I love my job.

Hana:
Maria:

Regarding internet dating, I would suggest that you do this in a very focused way. Ignore the big mass sites and use groups like The Right Stuff (this is a group which requires people to have attended an Ivy League or similar school or to possess an M.D. or Ph.D.). There are similar groups that focus on people who love reading, etc. (I think there's one called Booklovers.com). You may discover that you have to travel a little bit (perhaps an hour), depending on where you live, if you want to meet the people you will encounter on these sites.

I would also suggest that you join organizations that match your interests. You may not meet Mr. Right at one of these, but you may meet Mr. Right's cousin, who will ultimately introduce you to Mr. Right.

These things all take time -- and require a lot of effort!

I used to believe that people were taken aback and unable to deal with someone who was single while in their 30s and/or 40s, but I came to realize that it was my self-consciousness about my single state which led me to this belief. Most people are (sadly!) not that interested in or curious about other people's lives. Like you, I lived in a small town in the Northwest and I was very conscious of my single state.  No one else thought about it.

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