The first few months of having a baby was starting to take its toll on both Anne and Ann who ran on little to no sleep. Especially Ann who had to feed him every few hours. That’s why Anne had decided that Ann should have a day of rest – and she would bring Alfred with her to work – it had been rather spontaneous and may or may not have been due to Ann bursting into tears that morning from sheer exhaustion. Alfred hated the bottle but would have it if Anne tricked him into thinking he was getting the boob. So, she had brought their eight-month-old son with her to University – it couldn’t be that difficult to teach with a child on her hip. Alfred was most of the time a rather happy child – at least during the days.
Anne was getting ready for her first class, taking Alfred with her from her office to her lecture hall and she was greeted by her second-year bachelor-degree students outside, and Miss Long did a double-take,
“Is that a baby, Professor?”
“Yes, this is my son, Alfred – my wife needed a few hours of undisturbed sleep.” Anne replied her curtly, and Mr. Felton furrowed his brows,
“You’re taking Classics Mr. Felton, the concept of homosexuality can hardly be novel to you.” Anne bit – opening the door to her lecture hall with her cardkey, turning on the lights and making her way down to her desk, where she had prepared some slides for today’s lecture on viewing philosophical thinkers and their work in a new light. The students all scurried into the lecture hall – and there weren’t that many, around twenty-two – but it was good turn-up for the course.
“Now, in today’s lecture we’ll be talking about these famous philosophical thinkers, that have some of them been labelled ‘The greatest thinkers of all time’. Can anyone name one such?”
Several hands raised, and Anne pointed to the back,
“Yes, Miss Reed?”
“Renée Descartes?” She stated a little uncertain and Anne gave a nod,
“Well, yes – that’s certainly true but I was thinking during ancient times. I apologise, I should’ve made that clearer.”
Miss Reed’s cheeks became beet red, and Anne felt a little bad for the young woman who clearly had some sort of performance anxiety.
“Anyone else? - Yes, Mr Jones?”
“Why – yes, he’s one of them eh, but what’s truly fascinating with him – is that we have no remaining philosophical texts written by him personally. Most of what we know about his thoughts comes from his student – Plato.” Anne explained to them, turning her back to fix a slide on ‘Aristotle’ to show her students, a little difficult managing with Alfred on her hip, but eventually the picture appeared behind her and she turned to the students,
“Right so this is Ari…” Anne’s sentence was muffled as Alfred had grabbed her cheeks and pushed them together making her student’s laugh loudly and Anne gently removed his tiny chubby hands from her face, giving him a quick kiss on the nose,
“As you see my son clearly doesn’t want me to mention Aristotle as one of the greatest thinkers in history – and he’s right – I don’t want to mention him either but I am obliged to…” Anne paused, to shift Alfred onto her other hip for a while,
“You see – this is where it gets curious, and why I like to challenge these ideas about how we view these old men. Because what’s been consistent throughout most of history? Yes Miss McClean?”
“Patriarchy?” She looked unsure but Anne pointed her whole hand at her,
“Exactly. Excellent – yes, so. Bearing that in mind, we can ask the question of to whom is he considered the greatest thinker? Because he certainly didn’t say much that rings very true for me. He claimed that women weren’t equal to men and that it in fact was entirely right for a man to rule over a woman. And he’s to say the least, problematic in other instances – he had this idea that some people are born slaves – meant for slavery and that it is a kind of law by nature – this was later used by Europeans to legitimise the transatlantic slave trade…”
Alfred decided that he was fed up with his mother and interrupted her by beginning to cry, and Anne sighed as she bounced him gently on her hip trying to soothe him
“Shh, shh, shh, Alfred.”
Alfred pulled her hair upset and she winched slightly – feeling a little flustered in-front of her whole class.
“You know what, love… here, let’s get you down.” Anne sat Alfred down, pulled her jacket off and lay it on the floor – and put Alfred on his tummy upon it, giving him a lanyard to play with and he stopped crying immediately – wriggling on the floor, making funny noises that had her students in laughter again. Anne exhaled, laughing a little nervously, before glancing out over the class again,
“As I was saying Aristotle was problematic… is… yes?”
“But, I mean, he was a good thinker for his time – he didn’t know any better!” Mr Harris argued, and Anne ran a hand through her hair, furrowing her eyebrows,
“I always find that to be a poor argument, and whereas such an argument might sometimes explain the actions of historical figures, it doesn’t excuse them but, in this instance, – he did in fact most certainly ‘know better’ – that is to say there were more humanistic views available in his day and age.” Anne turned around to change her slide, and Alfred grabbed her leg, banging his hand on her shoe – and Anne smiled down at him,
“You want to come up to mumma again?”
Anne hunched down to pick him up, but his face contorted, and she put him down again,
“Nope. All right… who can tell me who these people are?”
“The sophists, professor!” Miss McClean stated loudly, and Anne looked pleased,
“Mm, spot-on. They sported a different set of values than Aristotle did, they thought women…”
Alfred disturbed her lecture again by beginning to cry and fuss and Anne sighed as she picked him up from the floor, and realising he was hungry, she took the bottle off the desk and hid the bottle part in her armpit, tricking him into taking it and he calmed.
“Maybe this is the reason why women weren’t and isn’t suited for these kinds of jobs but are meant to stay at home.” A boy, she vaguely remembered as Mr. Avery stated and she was actually taken off guard for a second – stunned by his words, but not for long.
“Oh, what a brilliant way to show some patriarchal views that still remains with us today to some extent. Well, Mr. Avery, tell me why you think it’s a woman’s job to take care of babies and not a man’s? Anne tilted her head, almost feeling sorry for the poor sod, Mr Avery looked as though he thought it was obvious and gestured with his hands,
“Because women carry them, and give birth to them – not men!”
“Mm, so, correct me if I’m wrong, but you believe that because the baby is grown in the womb – it’s the woman’s sole responsibility?”
“Well yeah. I mean that’s just how it is. I think women should be grateful to their men though for staying and working for their bread and I mean, some men help with their babies.” Mr Avery continued and if Anne hadn’t been cradling Alfred in her arms, she might have face palmed.
“Help? Oh Lord. How do you suggest me, and my wife get by then? If neither of us work because we’re women? – Should I work because I didn’t birth him? Or should we just hope that some kind man will drop in with some money?”
“Well, the father might…”
“My son doesn’t have a father!” Anne bit his sentence off, and the tension in the room could be cut through with a knife. No one else dared say a thing - you could hear a needle drop. It took Mr Avery a few seconds to argue back,
“But you’re not a man! So…”
“Great observation, Mr. Avery. But yes, if I had been a man taking my son with me to work – I would’ve been told I was a great parent, the greatest in fact – I wouldn’t have been told to stay at home. People – students would’ve photographed it and put it on social media – gushing about how fantastic I was for it. This is the problem right here – and this problem exists because of Aristotle's ideals, among others, to tie it back to the lecture… Miss Reed put down your phone – I don’t want to end up on tumblr again!”
Miss Reed became beet red as she lowered her phone, and Anne almost felt sorry for the girl - but she had had enough women 'sliding into her dm's', as Ann phrased it, on that messenger app Ann forced her to have, from last time she had been mentioned and shown on tumblr for her lecture about 'Sappho'. She was quite certain Miss McClean was the reason for it last time though. Anne was brought back to the ridiculous discussion taking place when she heard him speak again.
“I don’t think this feminist lesbian bullshit has a place in a classics course – and I don’t think the university should let its professors promote same-sex relationships and them having children – it’s unnatural!” Mr Avery huffed seemingly wanting to continue a discussion, in which he obviously thought he had the upper hand.
“Well, by all means, Mr Avery – you may leave my lecture if it isn’t to your liking! If you leave now – you might just get out in time before the gayness gets to you.” Anne told him, nodding towards the door, calmly though her eyes were dark, and threatening and although he seemed disinclined to get up and leave at first – he did so at all the dirty looks and comments from the other students – making a lot of noise as he did so.
“Mm, Where was I before I was so rudely interrupted? Right - the sophists are not unproblematic but did have…”
Anne gave up around three o’clock, after her last lecture but she hadn’t finished grading the papers that needed doing before Friday. But it was proving more difficult than she thought to teach whilst simultaneously taking care of Alfred’s needs. She packed up, and drove them home, only to find her wife and sister gone out and her aunt upstairs napping. Anne, took Alfred outside in the pram, bringing Argus with them on their afternoon walk – and for once it was rather peaceful – Alfred sat spluttering and babbling to Argus for a while – laughing at the big grey deerhound but eventually fell asleep. Anne adjusted the back of the pram so he was lying down, and she tucked him in – to shield him from the cold, wishing she could burry herself under a blanket as well – misjudging the cold wind and wearing a much too thin coat, but nevertheless enjoying some peace and quiet for the shortest amount of time. Alfred woke up just when they got inside, and Anne lay him on a blanket spread out on the floor, and Argus curled up next to him – Anne almost felt sorry for the poor beast as Alfred leaned on him, patting him rather forcefully but Argus merely turned his head and licked his hands and cheek – making Alfred laugh loudly and Anne watched them amused – wondering briefly at what she’d done with all these feelings before him, and how and when she’d become so fond of children – well her child anyways.