After four years of non-stop nerdery (which predates both the Twins and this fine publication), I finally defended my dissertation on Friday. I know I left you in terrible suspense all weekend by withholding the results, but I’m ready to break the silence. Are you ready?
Well, guess what? I DID IT!
If you so choose, you can now call me Dr. Pseudonymous. John Pseudonymous, PhD will also work. I will also respond to “Doctor,” “Doc,” and “Hey, you with the diploma!”
To commemorate this momentous occasion, I thought I’d remind you how excellently I’ve chronicled this journey and thus, from beginning to end, here are some of my favorite PhD-flavored Twincidents, for your re-reading pleasure. If you don’t read them now, they may disappear into the Disney Vault forever, as after acquiring Star Wars, a Disney-Twinfamy merger seems to be the most logical progression.
On any given night, from about 10 pm to whenever gets the job done, you’re likely to find a single light on in my house–one in the living room by a recliner we inherited from my wife’s grandfather. And in that chair, you are likely to find a disheveled, stubbly-faced thirty-something man hunched over a laptop, cussing out a Microsoft Word document at a volume that will wake neither the sleeping three-year-olds around the corner nor a pregnant woman passed out on the nine-pillow sculpture she has meticulously perfected over the past few weeks. While verbally abusing his own abused verbiage, he’ll likely be nursing a craft IPA or a bowl of ice cream (or both)–you know, just to take the edge off.
In case you haven’t already Sherlocked where I’m going with this, the insomniac in question is me.
While sleep and I are super duper BFFs and take cute selfies with each other like every single night, I elect to stay up after corralling the kids into the bathroom so they can spend 15 minutes whining about not wanting to brush their teeth and two minutes actually doing it; after reading multiple bedtime stories and refusing third encores; after watching my unborn child kick around my wife’s uterus while taking in whatever’s on our DVR; after my wife crashes in the middle of a show and I’m fighting sleep myself even though it’s only 9:30. Yes, despite all of this, I stay up because I have unfinished bidness. Even though I’ve found a big boy job I absolutely love and am working it full-time, I still have that all important, all-encompassing, all-kinds-of-psychotic last step of my PhD to plow through–my dissertation.
I’ll admit I take weekends off, and even a weekday here and there, but since about May of this year, I’ve been on this late-night regiment for a consistent four nights a week. Come 10 pm, I’m in that chair. Thinking. Number-crunching. Writing. Chasing. Snoozing. Wiping the drool off my face. Deleting the full page and a half of letter W’s my dead hand made while I was unconscious. Taking a sip of beer. Taking another five sips. Sighing loudly. Thinking. Number-crunching. Writing. Chasing.
In mid-September I cleared the first hurdle and laid the first draft of my thesis to rest–all 229 pages of it–and turned it into the chair of my committee for his feedback. Then came revisions, which bled into October, and once that was finally done, November’s late nights have been spent tackling the slideshow for presentation at my defense.
For those unfamiliar with the process, after writing and revising your kajillion-page dissertation, you are then asked to “defend” it to a committee of faculty chosen by you. This committee reviews your thesis, and then, at the “defense,” you present your findings in person, followed by the committee asking questions to challenge the validity and thoroughness of your work while barraging you with paintball guns to break your concentration. If the committee is satisfied with the answers you provide, 99 red balloons fall from the ceiling and Bill Murray inexplicably wanders in from the street to shake your hand and congratulate you on becoming a doctor just before performing an impromptu karaoke rendition of The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.” On the other hand, if the committee is not satisfied, you are handcuffed by an enormous sluglike creature named Jabba and shuttled out to the middle of the desert to be cast into a Sarlacc pit for all eternity.
Repeated viewing of any movie allows you to catch things you didn’t notice the first time, and so when one has seen a film enough times to recite it ad nauseum, one is bound to look beyond the suspension of disbelief most viewers enjoy, dissect its every nuance, and discover gaping holes in the story’s logic. If there’s any movie that fits this description for me, it’s Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
Not only do the Twins request it at least three times a week, it was also a VHS my two younger sisters would loop at least three times a day when we were growing up. (Fun fact: When the Twins are at my mom’s house, they watch that very same VHS. It still plays perfectly.) It has recently occurred to me that–by my half-assed calculations–this incessant exposure to The Little Mermaid places it comfortably at the top of my all-time most-viewed movies list. While I’d prefer my chart-topper to be something badass like The Empire Strikes Back or Back to the Future, I guess it could be worse, right? (I’m looking at you, The Chronicles of Riddick.) Anyway, apparently watching The Little Mermaid has become my life’s work, so I feel it is my duty as an expert in this field to share the following observations I’ve made over the years, to further enhance your own Mermaid-viewing experience:
“Hey… Wait a minute… Are they… twins?”
I cringed internally while sporting a winning fake smile.
No matter where we go or what we do, people continue to be intrigued by the novelty that is having twins.
I know I shouldn’t blame them. The realist in me reminds me that twins just aren’t something people see every day, so I do my best to cut them a little slack.
However, for some reason, my having twins automatically issues an invitation for a surprising majority of complete strangers to walk up to us, interrupt whatever we’re doing, and expect me to answer questions about my kids, as if I’m rolling a mobile freak show booth through the grocery store. “Ask me anything!” boasts a Jumbotron visible to everyone but me. “It’s not like I’m trying to figure out which aisle the bastard store manager moved the diapers to while my son throws Cheerios at my face or anything. No, seriously, I want nothing more than to make small talk right now with someone I will never see again while my daughter sits in the wet diaper I need to change as soon as I check out.”
Some of the most popular inquiries I receive during these impromptu press conferences include:
“Do they play together?” (No, although they live in the same house, have the same parents, and do everything together, they do not ever play together. In fact, I don’t even think they’ve met each other.)
“Do they have their own language?” (Yes. We call it English.)
“How far apart were they born?” (Just a few feet. It was in the same room.)
And, of course, my personal favorite:
“Are they identical?” (Please don’t make me explain to you why penises are not identical to vaginas.)
It still feels strange to say this, but the Twins have started school.
While I have no doubt in my mind that my little geniuses could already slaughter Doogie Howser at Jeopardy (it would be legen–wait for it–dary), this first foray into the academic world is not related to their obviously high cognitive abilities, but instead an opportunity to begin their formal education early. You see, while they were still chillaxing in their mother’s uterine jacuzzi, we got them on the lengthy waiting list for a fairly exclusive toddler class conveniently held on my college’s campus, and we’d watched them slowly climb their way to the top ever since.
Thus, as the new school year approached, the all-important question as to whether they would be granted access to the program hung in the air like the faint, gaseous remnants of a diaper blowout. Our hopes high, we gathered with the other families in our District who had children on the waiting list for a public announcement of the class’s new students. As the odd, eccentric university spokeswoman took the stage, the tension was so thick that it needed to cut carbohydrates from its diet.
But as luck would have it, our progeny were both selected, punctuated by thumbs-up-shaped balloons falling from the rafters and commemorative t-shirts emblazoned with bow-wearing stick figures being shot into the masses. The Twins had been chosen!