Skint for Time

It is 11 pm on Thursday and I am watching Coronation Street with my partner, enjoying a rare moment of repose. In my opinion, relaxation is best accompanied by baking, and I deliver a plateful of amost-cooled lemon bars to the living room just as Lloyd is complaining that he cannot afford to redecorate his grotty cab office. ‘But Cheryl (pronounced Ch as in cheese, then ay-rul),’ he opines, ‘I am skinned!’ Finding this amusing, I irrationally sing: ‘Those old lemons are now skinned. Your poker stash is not yet skinned, but this Bag should be skinned.’ Bag is my new name for Muffin aka Muff Warmer aka Endora aka Bag of Hammers, now stretched out along the entire length of my partner’s suppine body, like a well-fed python. [Aside: I have recently become intrigued by the history of taxidermy. Don’t worry, you’ll hear all about that in a subsequent post]. Back to the inanity: After my partner awkwardly samples one of the bars, claiming to find it delicious—I don’t bother to mention that I have replaced the butter with wheat germ and the sugar with fat-free dirt—he authoritatively pronounces: ‘It’s not skinned; it’s skint.’ ‘Bull shit,’ I respond, towering over the crumb-covered man and his furry snuggle pillow. And so it begins, another one of our British-slang-inspired debates. Previous ones have involved: which is better, a sammy or a sarny?; what the fuck is a butty and is bacon a mandatory part of its contents?; and the now infamous ‘Curly Wurly versus Wig Wag, where did it go so horribly wrong?’ That one almost came to blows. Reaching a deadlock on the latest subject, we shout in unison: Google!

After typing in the term, this is what I read aloud:

To scint: to bring a male to orgasm by rubbing your behind against his erect penis while dancing. Can also be done by the male if he discreetly humps the dancer without the dancer’s knowledge.

‘Egads! We were totally off the mark on this one,’ I shout, before reciting these illuminating examples: 1) Man I’m so horny, but my girlfriend is not around. Don’t want to cheat on her. Might want to get scinted; 2) OMG he actually fucking scinted. If he does that when I dance, how shit will he be in the sack?; 3) Oh fuck she made me scint. My trousers are soaked.

First of all, might I recommend pre-dance-party masturbation? Secondly, WTF? After recovering from peals of laughter, my partner admonishes me: ‘it’s spelled skint, not scint, you dumb ass.’ So I start the search again. ‘Skint: Having no money. To be broke. An adjective pertaining to being poor. British in origin, it is derived from ‘skinned.’ ie ‘I’m way too skint to go drinkin’ tonight, mate.’ I pause, confused, for I have never met a British person too destitute to drink heavily. I jubilantly announce: ‘So we were both right!’ ‘Oh no,’ says my partner. ‘You were wrong, very wrong, as usual.’ At this point I begin mock punching him in his man-belly. After accusing him of having a man-gunt, I send a few shots in that direction. Then things really get silly, even hysterical. For you see, I am extremely tired. If you have kids or have ever babysat a two year old, you will recognize my typical reaction to exhaustion: Irrational anger that is not directed at any target in particular, along with a refusal to go to bed, or (less often) uncontrollable fits of laughter and joviality while refusing to go to bed. Either way, it’s annoying, at least until I collapse on the floor.

For the past few weeks I have been working about 15 hours a day, and sleeping only 4 hours per night. What about the remaining 5 hours, you are likely wondering? They are divided between the gym, grocery shopping, and writing this blog. Should I bore you with a partial list of my chores? Okay, I will. Grading midterms, correcting position papers, doing course prep, taking a CPR training course, teaching revs classes, penning a short story, writing three conference papers, drafting a chapter outline, updating my cv for various grant applications, holding student meetings, trying not to be late for curator meetings, scrubbing the bathtub, scooping the litter box, looking up the word ‘gunt’ in the online urban dictionary, etc. etc. I am accustomed to continual activity, but not usually while in panic mode. The recent deadline bonanza was not my fault, for I never procrastinate, something that backfires when colleagues recognize my amazing organizational skills and attempt to take advantage of them. I nevertheless put off unimportant things, which usually involve technology. I click ‘later’ when asked to upgrade my browser, refuse to read those long notes explaining how to migrate my e-mail account to google, and cannot be bothered to learn how to check my phone messages on the new system. While in my office on campus, I occasionally look at the blinking red light on my phone, wondering if I have won a prize or something. Missing that pressing news would really suck. I have also avoided watching the DVD recording of my figure competition held in June, which arrived in the mail a few weeks ago and is still sitting, unopened, beside the TV. Photographic images of me in that blue bikini are bad enough, but evidence of my assholeness while moving about and grimacing in those plastic shoes? No thanks.

               As I obsessively rewrite my daily list of ‘things to do,’ the concept of time is foremost in my mind. I have been thinking about the nature of time, its substance, its flexible ability to move backward and forward, and how it can be experienced differently according to shifting historical, social, and cultural contexts. Don’t be afraid. I am not about to go all Leibniz on you. Ah, the fold. No stop that! Okay. I have been considering the commodification of time—hardly novel—as well as the commonplace notion that it is speeding up, and that ‘we,’ that is contemporary western people, have never been busier. Perusing a few letters written by seventeenth-century women, among other sources, will reveal what a load of crap that is. But maybe there is a new sense of, or at least demand for, immediacy. Modern consumers want everything right now, this instant! We want to see photos of your trip before you are even back home; we want to know when you are online; we want that update now, that message returned tout de suite. I think this could be a problem for two reasons: 1) there is a current requirement to display strong emotions right away, to like or even love something or someone without allowing time for feelings to develop and grow. I have a lot of single friends and they seem impatient with each other. If they don’t feel an instant connection or spark, they move the fuck on. Kids today, huh? Back in my day…. 2) there is a recent demand for snap judgments, to make quick decisions instead of exploring an issue further, doing some research, engaging in heated debate (please see above), or, god forbid, pursuing extended thought. Thinking requires time; I need to ponder ideas at length in order to produce good academic work. I respect deep and prolonged contemplation as an important kind of labour, just as I admire dedicated and loyal physical labour. I am not a snob about the kind of work that people do. I am only a snob about wine and food and coffee and scotch and opera and travel and literature and art and home decoration and gardening. For instance, I find the haphazardly unaesthetic mixture of red, yellow, and orange flowers planted on the grounds of a nearby insurance company to be an outrage. I once wrote a note advising its groundskeepers to ‘take a look at the design of the Luxembourg Gardens and learn a thing or two, you jackasses,’ but wisely avoided slipping it under their door. As usual, I digress. Where was I? Oh yes: time is of the essence, but not the need for haste; I long for extended periods in which to think deliberately, to read carefully, to ruminate about the world and my place in it, and, of course, to lift weights both more regularly and more thoroughly. Maybe in another lifetime? In the meantime, I will try to adjust my internal clock, recognizing that it will take more than one hour to write that talk, more than twenty minutes to edit that story, more than ten minutes to make that Moroccan feast for twelve guests, and more than two minutes to produce that blog post. Damn it to hell.