Last night I met one of the deans at my university for the first time. I told him one of my advisees had encouraged me to introduce myself. Upon hearing my name, he exclaimed, “You are Beth Pardoe? I thought you would be nine feet tall and have a halo!” Now, I was thrilled that this man knew my name let alone that he held it in esteem. My ego is sufficiently fragile that I will gladly take compliments wherever and whenever they come. Nonetheless, I am not so blinded that I don’t recognize the problem here. When someone refers to “my sainted mother,” it inevitably means she worked a lifetime without pay or public acknowledgement.
First, let me point out how laughable I find it that this man and over the last four and a half years a goodly number students and colleagues have referred to me as ‘a saint.’ You would have to look long and hard for someone less befitting the label. Saints suffer in silence. I am loud. Very loud. I grouse and gripe when things don’t go my way. Saints have the placid expressions of those confident in their salvation. Colleagues once concluded I would have to wear sunglasses and a niqāb in order to shield onlookers from the opinions written all over my face.
Second, if people in power misperceive me as a saint, I will never increase my monetary compensation. Saints exist outside the market economy. They work for their god and expect their payment in an afterlife. I am NOT a saint and I would like a hefty paycheck in return for my mortal toil. Just because I labor with love, do not assume I work as a labor of love. I don’t charge my sons each time I pack a lunch or bake a cake. Those are labors of love. When I read a draft or orchestrate an interview, I throw heart and soul into the effort, but I want it valued in currency. They will not allow me to deposit compliments at the bank.