What I Hated the Least Today 142/365: Deadpan

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Dead inside out (and a curious choice of bra padding)
Dead inside out (and a curious choice of bra padding)

I cultivate a deadpan face at all times because I maintain that showing emotion makes one open to abuse. Unfortunately, my deadpan skills cause some confusion when dealing with people who are less dead inside out than me. It’s especially difficult to get my humour across with my straight face—though my sense of humour, which is often somewhat less digestible, might be to blame.

My students are incredibly credulous. Something in their education is apparently amiss since they take everything at face value. The other day when I distributed their final tests, I advised them to write their name on the paper and their student number. I added that should they fail to include their student number, I would award penalty points. There was deathly silence in response. I had to explain the joke, which made it somewhat less charming.

During oral exams, I made a point of looking encouraging, though anything that was still alive inside me was being slaughtered at the moment by the assault of incredibly bad English I was forced to sit through. This considerate approach turned out to be poorly thought through, in keeping with the law that each good deed shall be punished accordingly.

Several days after the oral exam, I received an email from a student who wanted me to explain why she got such a poor grade when I “looked content”. I doubt that I ever look content, but I can’t say, and I certainly have no recollection of this particular student—I examined about forty candidates within two days, plus I’m consciously working on suppressing this traumatic experience. I wrote a polite response suggesting that next time the student might want to raise questions on the spot.

On a more cheerful note, I learned a lot of interesting details about the students during the oral exam. One student intimated that he was looking forward to feeling the virginity of the forest in Romania, where he was going for holiday. I didn’t pry for details. Another student explained that while he thought domestic animals were sometimes abused, he couldn’t envision a cow living on its own and enjoying its freedom somewhere in the woods. I couldn’t envision it either. I managed to keep a serious face, though with utmost effort.

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31 comments on “What I Hated the Least Today 142/365: Deadpan”

  1. My philosophy has always been to keep a straight face, stiff upper lip … whatever. Showing emotions is to make oneself vulnerable. This has only resulted in people thinking I’m sour. I’m not, but if I were to walk around with a constant smile on my face, they’d think I’m feeble-minded, or high on something LOL

    Anyway, aren’t you just dying to know what he’ll find in the virginity of those forests?! Was he trying to be poetic, or what?! I doubt I’d been able to keep up the straight face there … I would have laughed my ass off. 😂

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    1. It’s funny, we seem to share the exact same view! I find it puzzling when people walk around with a smile on their face and I always wonder what they are high on. This doesn’t happen often though, as we’re a notoriously unsmiling nation.

      I think that the virginity of the forests was meant to be a comment about unspoilt nature or something, my students are not so advanced as to consciously attempt to be poetic 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I took a picture of newly fallen snow, and entitled it “virgin snow” (because nobody had stepped in it) 🙂

        I come from a notoriously unsmiling nation myself — G-d forbid you’d make eye contact with a stranger — so here in SJ, where people are friendly and chatty, I must remember that 🙂

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        1. I think I would also use virgin snow in this sense. Sometimes the connotations are difficult to get right for a non-native speaker. I probably wouldn’t use virgin forest, unless for a forest inhabited by virgins 😉

          Eye contact with stranger? That equals to challenging the stranger to fight. Friendly people make me nervous. I always wonder what they’re up to and what they want from me. I’m morbidly cynical.

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          1. No, I’d never say ‘virgin forest’ either.

            You’d go nuts here! They’re all friendly, chatty people — there’s not one day in the elevator I don’t talk with strangers about the weather or whatever. Took me some time to get used to. I’m still not, so I’m still able to appreciate it. Never thought I would. Out in the street … they nod and say ‘hi how are you’. It actually grows on you, it’s nice (believe it or not) 🙂

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          2. Hm, in one way I like it when my neighbours are friendly, say hello and smile, but colleagues at school are taking it too far and also ask how I am – not my favourite question. I never know what to say. So at the end of the day I guess I prefer to be invisible.

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          3. Here, “how are you” doesn’t mean anything. It’s part of the “hello” 🙂 In the beginning, I felt inclined to answer, but when I realised every cashier in the grocery store said it to everyone, I just took after all the others and started saying “I’m good, how are you?”.

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          4. It’s complicated here: we have the North American how are you, which is the same as hello. And then we have the actual how are you, which is a real question. I have troubles telling them apart. And I refuse to say I’m fine because I don’t want to be a liar 😮

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          5. My ex-sister-in-law got the ‘how are you’, and I guess it was one of those days when it’s just too much. She decided to answer truthfully: “My mother died yesterday, I’ve just been diagnosed with Lyme Disease and my car has blown a gasket!” The other person got just stunned 🙂

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  2. I agree about hiding one’s emotions. Balancing being authentic with keeping my mask on is tough sometimes but generally the best way for me.
    Reading student papers can be fun at times.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. Thank you for your great comment!

      I’m quite surprised but happy to hear that my approach of (not) showing emotion is used by others as well. I was thinking I was just a particularly unapproachable person.

      Students always come up with hilarious things…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, I realise there is an age gap regarding sense of humour and that I can’t expect my students to find funny what I find funny. Still, I think that most of the time they are just not aware that I’m joking 😮

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  3. I think I would find it very difficult to appear encouraging when confronted by poor performance of any kind. I was an examiner of drama performance, a wonderful job I have to say, and I had the philosophy that I was part of the audience and so I could enjoy the work if it was enjoyable. And in many cases it was, in fact sometimes so good it brought you to tears. But on the occasions where it wasn’t so good I did develop my own version of deadpan when no response was better than screwing up your face in obvious dislike. I saw many woeful performances over the years which always gave my marking partner and myself plenty of light relief as we drove away from the school.

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    1. An examiner of drama performance? I didn’t realise such a thing can be examined. My omission!

      I don’t find it too hard to smile in the face of adversity – or a very poor performance on the part of students. The other option would be to break in tears, which would smudge my mascara, hence I prefer to smile 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes I had the same issue with tears…..though more an issue with blowing my nose and a lack of tissues….drama marking was the highlight of my career I think, I was very lucky to be in a position to do so…..and it gave me so many stories to tell specially the ones prefaced: “Here’s what you DON”T do in a drama performance.”

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          1. Yes I understand that need. I have another blog friend who writes under a pen name as she worked high up in the government. I spend a weekend with her once and still don’t know her real name.
            But we do what we do to protect ourselves. Thankfully you don’t call yourself ” Pen Name”

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          2. That sounds very interesting! Even more so when you spent a face-to-face time with her and still didn’t learn her name. Is she FBI? CIA? Maybe I watch too much TV. It didn’t occur to me to choose Pen Name as my pen name, but it sounds like a fun idea. 🙂

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          3. She was someone important in govt is all I knew and her identity had to be protected. When I started blogging many people thought summers tommy was a woman so I had to come out eventually to set people straight.

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          4. Oh I see! You have a point though, when I first saw you in the blogosphere, I imagined you were a woman too – it’s hard to tell, unless the name is clearly male or unless there’s a portrait going with it! Now you have both. No confusion.

            Liked by 1 person

          5. Really you thought I was a woman? It doesn’t help I guess that I can write as a woman which I do from time to time. I look forward to your learned response to my FT today using your image. Written in my male muses words I have to say.

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          6. I assumed you were a woman at the first glance, before any language analysis took place, so my assumption says nothing about your writing really… And yes, your fairy post leaves no one in doubt!

            Liked by 1 person

  4. I understood the “feeling the virginity of the forest” statement. It was an awkward way of saying it, but it made perfect sense to me. “Virgin forest” is common term for an old-growth forest. One cannot not feel a sense of awe and amazement while exploring one.

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    1. Now that you explain it, it makes sense. I don’t think that it’s what the student really meant, but in any case, I didn’t reflect his use of this phrase in his grade. I was happy to be entertained 🙂

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