Lord, was that financial aid seminar boring! Mostly, it consisted of a pinch-faced woman standing at the front of the cafeteria reading every single word in the FAFSA worksheet. Words that were right in front of me. In print. Plus, she was soft-spoken to the point of near-inaudibility. She'd make Low Talker Girl from Seinfeld look like a brassy loudmouth. Hell, I was ready to agree to wear a puffy shirt if she'd just SPEAK UP. Not that she said anything useful. I've been able to read for, oh, a number of years, and I wager I could have figured out the intricate distinctions between single, married, divorced, and widowed without her low-pitched mumbling commentary. Daniel and The Ex amused themselves by making rude observations on the other seminar attendees and snickering like 12-year-olds. I adore being the mature one, you know?
Pinch Face droned on, while several assistants circled the audience like sharks to answer questions from attendees. I was reading ahead (because I are so smart!) in the worksheet, and I got to the question about whether the student had registered for military service. The worksheet explanation stated that male students between the ages of 18 and 25 must register for military service to receive federal financial aid for college. I saw red, and my arm flew up as if independent of my brain to flag down one of the assistants. An assistant shark spotted blood in the water and rushed over, and I asked her whether that statement was accurate. "Yes," she said, looking puzzled. I was trying to keep my voice down, honestly, but I don't think I was completely successful. One clue was Daniel and The Ex whistling and feigning fascination in the ceiling tiles, clearly pretending they didn't know me. "Well, putting aside what I think about REQUIRING military service, why does this apply only to MALE students?" I asked. She looked at me as though I had suddenly started speaking in tongues and explained "Because women aren't required to register for military service." "Oh," I said. "I thought it was 2007. I guess I was mistaken." By this time Daniel was beet-red and The Ex was almost choking, trying not to laugh, so I mumbled "Never mind" and went back to studying the worksheet.
I'm still a little steamed about it, to tell the truth. I'm too lazy to go look up statistics, but from what I've seen on the news and read, a substantial portion of American soldiers don't have penises. If the military is going to continue targeting its recruitment attempts at low-income youth--because people who are rich enough to not need college financial aid have much better things to do than serve in the military, of course--why not do so without this backward, 1950s-reminiscent gender bias?
The seminar wasn't a complete waste of time, however. The worksheet is useful, and the assistants gave out pamphlets with several Web sites to check for scholarships. I found out, too, that I don't have to declare The Ex's income on the application. Considering child support stops next month, and I doubt I'll be able to count on him to contribute much to Daniel's tuition, I think that's fair. Even better, Daniel and I picked up some beautiful salmon steaks in a Dijon-herb marinade at Trader Joe's and had a mighty fine dinner. I broiled the steaks and made some rice pilaf and carrots with lemon-dill butter, and we even lit the candles on the dining room table. Just don't tell the feds! I can see my application coming back with an "Are you KIDDING me?? Rejected!" stamp on it, accompanied by a handwritten note: "If you can afford salmon steaks, missy, you don't need financial aid from us, now, do you?"