Saturday, 2 February 2013


In 2010 I was annoyed with First Great Western for not having a simple "Dr" option on their website registration, but "Dr (Male)" and "Dr (Female)". I chose the "Other" option as an ineffectual sort of protest. Now I get emails from them starting "Dear Other Rebecca Rushforth". I quite like this. At the same time as freeing me from the crushing expectations of being The Rebecca Rushforth it also suggests that I'm a bit alternative, like one of those sitcoms (Arrested Development, Peep Show, etc) which get low ratings because only interesting people like them.

There used to be a Rebecca Rushforth who played teenage league tennis in America. Now there's a Rebecca Rushforth who is Professor of Ballroom Dancing at William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Virginia. Rate My Professors has her down as "hot". Comments include: "Fantastic class! Professor Rushforth is incredibly easy going and a fantastic dancer!" I think it's quite likely that she's The Rebecca Rushforth, and she seems like she's making a good job of it.

I'm rather less fond of Virgin Media's habit of sending me emails starting "Dear null". It's hard not to feel a bit dismissed by this. But I did just phone them up to sort out a bill and a polite man in India constantly referred to me as Doctor, as in "Now, doctor, can you confirm your email address", or "please wait, doctor, while I transfer you to my colleague". I did like that. I don't go by "Doctor" in my work life. People don't seem to on the whole -- there are quite a lot of people with doctorates around, not just in the science areas, and everyone's very cool about it.

People being cool about PhDs is such a nice contrast to my previous life. It may well be that at some point I get all misty-eyed about academia, but at the moment I find that almost impossible to imagine. I used to quite like the PHD webcomic, but now when it pops up in my RSS feed I love it, because it reminds me of what I've escaped. Also LinkedIn keeps asking me if I know people whose work I used to find it hard to take seriously, and with whom I had to have dull earnest conversations at conferences -- pretending that I don't gives me a beautiful feeling of release. This probably counts as the zeal of the convert. But long may it last!

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