Monday, October 22, 2012

Guest Lecturer in One of My Classes

One of my courses this quarter is Biology of Cancer. It's not a degree requirement for me. You will now have a pop quiz: Why would Alexis take an elective that robs her of so many of her few leisure hours each week? A)) Alexis  is a masochist. B)) Alexis is stupid. C)) Alexis really likes cancer. D)) It may impress medical school admissions committees. E)) all (or none) of the above. If your choice was  Answer D, you aced the quiz, although Answer B may give you a 100% score as well, depending upon who scores your exam.

An oncologist specializing in leukemia and lymphoma lives in the city where my university is located and will be a guest lecturer for my class this week. The oncologist who will deliver this lecture is none other than my father. This will not be the first time I've endured having my dad lecture one of my classes.

When my brother and  I took biology in ninth grade, my teacher thought it would be really fun for the class to have Matthew's and Alexis' father speak to the class. How bad could it possibly be? I asked myself. That was before I knew that someone had given my dad when he was in college a long-sleeved T-shirt with pictures of the organs of the body in places approximating their actual locations. (The sleeves had muscles.) Had I know my father owned such a shirt, I would have simply removed it from his closet a day or two before his scheduled appearance and hidden it. Hindsight is often 20/10. Surely enough, my dad walked into our biology classroom on the appointed day wearing the obscenely hideous shirt. The only thing that might have embarrassed my brother and me more than the shirt itself would have been if the shirt had matching pants. Thank God that if pants existed to go with that Godawful shirt, whoever gave the shirt to my dad was too cheap to spring for them. Otherwise (while I cannot speak for my brother) I quite possibly might not have lived through the experience to tell about it.

My dad was such a smash hit that he lectured at our school a couple times each year following his initial appearance. I don't believe he ever wore the organ shirt again, but he wore other articles of clothing with obnoxious biology-related captions. Once when he lectured on human reproduction (if anything could  possibly be more humiliating than having one's father appear on campus in an organ T-shirt to lecture, it could only be having one's father lecture to one's class on the topic of human reproduction) he came down for breakfast the morning of  the lecture wearing a tie boldly emblazoned with the slogan  "If I were an enzyme, I'd be DNA helicase so that I could unzip your genes."  I tried telling him politely that he would be viewed as a pervert if he wore that tie to my school, but he only laughed and said, "It doesn't mean anything dirty, Alexis" and went into an explanation of how helicases separate nucleic acid strands, which I already understood quite well. It was only after I threw a complete hissy fit and cried that my mother insisted he go upstairs and find something more appropriate to wear to my school that day. (Four years later he and my mom insist it was all a big joke and that he only wore the tie  to breakfast to get a rise out of me, but I'm not so sure I believe that.)

I doubt many of my classmates in Biology of Cancer even know my last name, as they tend to ignore me, and even if they do know it, they wouldn't know for certain that my father and I are related. It's not as though we share any obvious physical anomalies, or even resemble one another particularly strongly. I look more like my father than un-like him, but the two of us don't resemble one another to the degree that he and my brother do or that my mother and I do. Furthermore, this isn't high school. I don't have to pretend anymore that I was hatched from an egg or was the product of immaculate conception. It's OK to admit that I have parents. Just the same, I will go through my dad's closet tomorrow and remove any articles of clothing that possess any  potential of embarrassment to me.


  1. Sounds like your dad might be a big fan of Slim Goodbody's! I always got the creeps when he came on PBS with his skin tight leotard that had all the body organs on it!

  2. I waited until tonight (AFTER my dad lectured to my class; I certainly didn't want to give him any ideas) and asked him if he'd ever seen a TV show with someone named Slim Goodbody. "Have I SEEN it?" he asked. "I IDOLIZED the guy." He went on to describe Slim Goodbody's "awesome" suit. Thank god he doesn't own one.

  3. Clearly you missed a lot by not being raised in the 70s and 80s! I think we used to watch his show in school sometimes. Showing us PBS series was a handy way for teachers to take an occasional break.