Sherman Ave Interviews: Renee Engeln-Maddox (Part 1 of 2)
Earlier this summer, Sherman Ave editors Ross Packingham and Sir Edward Twattingworth III interviewed Psychology professor and Allison Hall live-in Renee Engeln-Maddox at Sherman Ave Headquarters. If any cultural references seem slightly out of date, it’s because that's what happens when we decide to wait to publish interviews for three months due to reasons.
Packingham: We noticed you didn’t bring your dog to his interview... Is he gonna make it, or...?
Renee: He’s visiting Grandma right now, actually.
Twattingworth: Well, all of our questions were for him, soooo...
Renee: Oh, do you want me to leave? He doesn’t really know many words, though. Plus he would get dog hair all over your apartment.
Packingham: Probably not the worst thing this apartment has been through.
Twattingworth: This is actually the cleanest it’s looked in weeks.
Renee: This is... Um. You cleaned?
Twattingworth: A lot.
Renee [pointing to where we stashed the beer pong cups]: Meaning you stashed the beer pong cups in a row?
Twattingworth: Well that cup used to be over here.
Packingham: Do you watch Game of Thrones?
Renee: Mhm, I unfortunately got really excited about the new season and I yelled to my Psychopathology class, “Winter is coming, bitches!” and a few of them were like, “Yeah!” and the rest just kind of looked at me.
Packingham: Which character are you? [WARNING: SPOILER ALERT]
Renee: I think Arya, well she’s not dead yet. Sorry, spoiler alert for everyone who hasn’t read the books. I mean, you should read the books. Yeah, she’s badass.
Packingham: Now that you’ve said aloud that she’s not dead, I’m sure George R.R. Martin’s gonna kill her off.
Renee: I dunno, I think George R.R. Martin’s working on killing himself before he finishes these books. All he’s doing is writing a food blog and traveling around and eating a lot of bacon. And he’s old.
Packingham: Have you ever heard the joke, “Why doesn’t George R.R. Martin have a Twitter?”
Packingham: Because he killed off all 140 characters.
[General uproariously laughter, high-fiving and jubilation for that well-crafted bit of humor]
Renee: But you should take the thing about Arya out, people are gonna...
Twattingworth: We can put a little spoiler alert next to that [SEE, WE DID THAT. WE’RE HONEST, TRUSTWORTHY PEOPLE]
Renee: But keep the bit about George R.R. Martin.
Twattingworth: Yeah, well he’s a Medill grad. In case you were wondering where his sadism came from.
Renee: Well there was that extra scene this season... This sorta extra sexualized torture scene that wasn’t in the books. And I blamed HBO for it, but then apparently Martin wrote that scene extra for HBO.
Packingham: Because there wasn’t enough gratuitous violence and sex.
Renee: There wasn’t enough. And Martin, he’s a bastard. He’s a dirty old man.
Twattingworth: Switching topics, if you were to make a drink called the Renee, what would be in it?
Renee: I like really girly cocktails, so it would definitely have sugar around the edge. And it’d be pink. And it’d be the kind of thing you’d be embarrassed to order.
Packingham: Like a Cosmo?
Renee: I mean, I like Chambord, like a nice raspberry flavor, and something sticky and pink.
Packingham: In an average week, how many times you just stand in the shower weepingly quietly to Stay by Rihanna?
Renee: During the school year or the summer?
Packingham: Let’s say during the school year.
Renee: Well I get unlimited hot water in Allison...
Packingham: We don’t get any hot water in this apartment.
Renee: But yeah, it’s a lot of hours. I don’t really keep track.
Twattingworth: So we want to talk a little about Freud’s theory of id, ego and superego.
Twattingworth: Specifically, ego. What’s your favorite Sherman Ave article?
Renee: My friends and I are big fans of the “Professors Getting Together To Coordinate Midterm Schedules” one. In particular because I’m friends with Owen Priest and we liked that you wrote him as pronouncing SESP as one syllable. That was the best part of it.
Packingham: We rarely pass up an opportunity to mock SESP.
Renee: And I sent him the article to tease him about it and he said, “I don’t understand, this isn’t about me,” but he didn’t read the whole thing so he didn’t see it.
Twattingworth: Wow, we’re hilarious from start to finish, okay?
Renee: Well and then we were talking to him and saying like, “sesp, sesp” [pronounced as one syllable] and he was just looking at us like, “I don’t know what you guys are talking about.” So yeah, that one’s up there.
Twattingworth: I heard a rumor that it got sent around in the professors Facebook group?
Renee: Oh yeah, you don’t know what we’re up to.
Twattingworth: Can I get in that group?
Renee [incredibly quickly]: NO.
Packingham: As long as you guys don’t know what we’re up to on Facebook.
Renee: I know too much.
Twattingworth: Do you ever have students friend you?
Renee: I have very strict rules. You can’t be a current student, you have to be out for a full year and you have to be in graduate school.
Twattingworth: So not just employed? You have to be in graduate school?
Packingham: Wow. So your research was recently discussed in the New York Times.
Renee: Yeah, how about that?
Packingham: First off, congratulations. Second, are you gonna send an email to Ginger Pennington just rubbing it in her face?
Renee: Why Ginger?!
Twattingworth: During work today I just went to the Psychology department website and picked a name at random... Why, do you guys have an awkward past?
Renee: No, it’s just weird cause she’s brand new. She hasn’t even taught a class yet, I just met her a couple weeks ago.
Twattingworth: This would be a good welcome to the hypercompetitive nature of Northwestern.
Renee: And her office is right across from mine but I haven’t started the trash talk yet. So it’s not that I’m above trash talk, but you should choose your imaginary targets well.
Twattingworth: This is gonna be uncomfortable for her when we publish this. [Prof. Pennington, are you reading this? Is it uncomfortable? Let us know in the comments section below!!]
Renee: She seems very nice.
Packingham: So where are you originally from?
Renee: It’s embarrassing.
Packingham: Are you from New Jersey?!
Renee: Worse... Peoria, Illinois.
Twattingworth: That’s not so embarrassing, I mean you made it out.
Renee: That’s the most important thing.
Twattingworth: I did read in some publication that you told people in the Last Lecture not to be douchebags. But I got hired for my internship while I was wearing a Lacoste shirt. So. You’re wrong.
Renee: I didn’t say that it would help you get a job if you weren’t a douchebag, I was saying that you just shouldn’t be a douchebag. For all we know, you just looked like a douchebag. You might not actually be a douchebag.
Twattingworth: Awww, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.
Packingham: We’d like to get a little personal here, and ask you to talk about your parents a little bit, but replacing any references to yourself with “Electra.”
Renee: I can’t believe that all you bastards remember about Psychology is Freud. I spend serious time in my classes telling people to stop caring so much about Freud.
Packingham: Yeah, I remember that.
Renee: Were you in one of my classes?... I meaaan, I remember you. You stood out… Okay, but talking about my parents but replacing all references to myself with Electra. You know, I wasn’t really gonna talk in the third person. When you talk about your parents you don’t really talk about yourself.
Twattingworth: I try to make all conversations about myself, soooo...
Renee: Yeah, that’s the ego we were talking about. Okay, so, my mother’s-
Twattingworth: Electra’s mother.
Renee: Oh, yeah yeah. Electra’s mother is 4’11”. Not quite the same as Electra. Electra’s 5’5”. This is creepy. Electra’s father is an engineer who lives in Chicago.
Twattingworth: What’s the meanest comment that you’ve ever given to a student?
Renee: I’m too nice I think usually.
Twattingworth: What’s the meanest thing you’ve ever wanted to say?
Renee: Sometimes I want to say, “No, you’re not an A student. You’re a B student who has just successfully badgered every professor you’ve ever had into giving you an A.” That’s pretty mean, right?
Packingham: I can’t imagine anyone at Northwestern badgering a professor over a grade. So you went to the University of Illinois, correct? Did you major in corn or swine?
Renee: Well I wasn’t in the school of agriculture. But I had a lot of friends in the school of agriculture because they were majoring in the marketing of textiles. Which makes sense that it would be in the school of agriculture because it’s sometimes related. But no, I didn’t major in agriculture.
Packingham: Did you major in, like, I dunno, psychology?
Renee: I did. I did take a tumbling course once. You could do stuff like that. You could take kinesthiology courses. It was PE.
Twattingworth: Aaaaand I just became an elitist.
Renee: If it makes you feel any better, it didn’t count towards your GPA. Also it was totally bogus because the whole gymnastics team took Intro to Tumbling. So it was the gymnastics team and me.
Twattingworth: I’ve heard Illinois called the Harvard of East Central Illinois. Do you think that’s accurate?
Renee: Well, I’m not sure the East part’s accurate. Also, you elitist little-- I’m censoring myself. Listen, you elitist douchebags, my state school degree has served me very well.
Twattingworth: Yeah, it got you all the way to Northwestern!
Packingham: And you probably weren’t in 20 years of student debt.
Renee: No, in fact I paid it with a part time job at a bar.
Packingham: Wow, nice. Could you very briefly psychoanalyze Chief Illiniwek for us?
Twattingworth: [kisses fingers, raises them to sky in a solemn, poignant tribute]
Renee: Well, I’d-- what’d you just? Did you--?
Twattingworth: Rest in peace.
Renee: [Laughs at T-worth’s clever joke] Um. No.
Packingham: K. So we want to give you the name of a person and just ask you to psychoanalyze them briefly in one sentence.
Renee: I don’t think you understand what psychoanalysis is. You’re doing word association, psychoanalysis is a huge difference.
Packingham: No, we have that later. This is psychoanalysis. Alright, so. Metta World Peace?
Renee: [blank look]
Packingham: Do you know who that is? Ron Artest?
Renee: Just transcribe “blank look.” Who? Metta World Peace?
Twattingworth: He’s the basketball player who punched a fan in Detroit then changed his name to Metta World Peace and still hit people with his elbows.
Renee: Still don’t know.
Packingham: I think that’s an insightful description, though. Alright, Morty Schapiro.
Renee: …..not doing it. No. No no no. You should never psychoanalyze someone who employs you.
Twattingworth: You should’ve said that at the last lecture.
Renee: You know, I really didn’t think anyone was listening. And a lot of them weren’t, and I didn’t think anyone was recording, and it was super loud. But let that be a lesson to all of you that anytime you say something stupid, someone’s recording it. And it’s gonna make the paper.
Packingham: Or two people are recording it.
Renee: You’re both recording?
Packingham: Yeah, both of us.
Twattingworth: So if you destroy one computer, we’ve got backup.
Renee: Yeah, I’m just not doing well on this psychoanalysis.
Twattingworth: I just wanna ask about Chet Haze.
Renee: Well, I wanna ask about him. Cause here’s the thing. Is he still here?
Twattingworth: I think he left.
Packingham: According to Facebook, he went to L.A.
Renee: Cause you guys were really mean to him. I mean, isn’t he a real person? Like an actual human being? You guys are so mean, he probably goes home and cries every night.
Packingham: No, he goes home and makes music videos.
Renee: Didn’t he do like that White and Purple? One of my students said she saw him in Norris listening, like with earbuds, clearly singing along to White and Purple.
Twattingworth: Aww, little guy’s practicing.
Renee: I’ve never met him, I don’t even know what he looks like, I didn’t even know who he was. But you guys were so mean. Is that why Tom Hanks never came to give the commencement address? Because you guys were assholes to his son? I don’t mean just Sherman Ave, I mean the University as a whole.
Packingham: But he really does put himself out there.
Twattingworth: Have you seen his videos? If you look them up you might understand.
Renee: Really? I saw something from his Twitter once.
Twattingworth: His Twitter’s just as bad. But to be fair, he is a remarkably good sport about how much shit he gets.
Packingham: Ok, but how long did you have to study psychology before you stopped giggling every time someone said “penis envy?”
Renee: I was still giggling until the first time I taught psychology of gender, so I was out of graduate school. And I think I had to say the word penis like 30 times in a class.
Packingham: I used to say penis in class all the time.
Renee: I could say penis all day long.
Twattingworth: And there’s the headline.
Renee [horrified, rage-filled silence, followed by shouting]: PLEASE DON’T MAKE THAT THE HEADLINE…. So one time a few years ago during Sex Week I gave a talk about like body image and sexual health. And there was some minor little comment in it that I said something about like that orgasms are good for your health. I don’t even know if I said that. And the headline was like “Prof. Engeln says orgasms good for health,” and now if you Google me that’s what comes up. So don’t make that the headline.
Twattingworth: No promises. So as an expert in psychology, do you ever go to The Deuce on Thursday nights and just like, cry? A lot?
Renee: I’ve never been to The Deuce. I’ve heard though, that there was a group that was trying to get the University to have a shuttle to The Deuce late night Thursdays and that they did it by claiming they had to go eat at the IHOP right there?
Twattingworth: Well there used to be the Deuce Caboose. But that was different I think.
Renee: Are there stripper poles at The Deuce?
Twattingworth: No, that was The Keg, rest its soul.
Renee: Why would I cry at The Deuce? What would I see? Like I would cry for the future? No, I think it would be good research. Get some data.
Packingham: Go to The Deuce and make everyone sign consent forms.
Renee: Let’s just not tell IRB. I’ve gone to formals, that’s not so different.
Twattingworth: Oh yeah? Which ones? Like Allison formal?
Renee: Yeah, and Ayers CCI. One year I went to Ayers-Slivka. It’s like a mating ritual.
Twattingworth: I think it’s nice that they have a formal.
Renee: Oh, be nice to Slivka! They have fun at their formal. They get all dressed up. I think it’s nice to see you guys all dressed up. All with washed hair.
Packingham: So can you explain to us the difference between groupthink and Groupon?
Renee: There isn’t one.
Packingham: So they’re the same, that’s what I thought. There’s another thing that I always thought was the same and I just wanted to double check: correlation and causation?
Renee: Totallyyy the same thing. You guys should use them interchangeably, like in papers and things.
Packingham: I’ve taken like seven Stats classes, and they all say I can do that, but for some reason I always second-guess it.
Renee: I’m glad I could clear that up for you.
Twattingworth: If you saw an informercial for a product selling Freudian slippers, what would those be?
Renee: I mean, they’d probably look like genitalia. And then they’d have a little thing that when you walked they would talk or something.
Packingham: That’s a really good answer. I put considerably time thinking about this and your answer is still better.
Renee: Did you have an image?
Packingham: Well...I had an image.
Renee: That’s okay, whatever happens in psychoanalysis is just between us.
Packingham: I THOUGHT YOU DIDN’T DO PSYCHOANALYSIS.