Category Archives: Sexuality

The Day Flannery O’Connor Screwed Me

The Misfit

Image by haagenjerrys via Flickr

Someone really smart once said, “Kids seldom misquote; in fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn’t have said.”

In fact, that person might actually have been sitting in my classroom the day I taught Flannery O’Connor‘s short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” to a bunch of 11th graders.

I had taught the story dozens of times and found the simple premise and the unfulfilling ending always led to great discussions.

One particular day, I asked my students to take out their copies of the story. A simple directive, right? Only this time, my students started snickering.

Initially, I assumed that perhaps someone had farted or something.

(What? It happens.)

We started to discuss O’Connor’s work, and everything was going along swimmingly. I asked someone what he thought the point or message of the story might be.

Four or maybe five people burst out laughing.

I wondered if I had pit stains or if I was dragging toilet paper around behind me as I walked around the room.

I couldn’t figure it out.

The laughing flared up again. And again.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Why is everyone laughing?” I demanded.

Silence.

Of course.

I insisted, “Seriously, I’d like to know what is so funny.”

One brave girl tried to help me. “Mrs. Jacobson,” she said, “The story is called ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find,’ but you keep calling it… something else.”

She pointed at the blackboard behind me.

I turned to look at the board and sure enough, I’d even written it out in chalk: “A Hard Man is Good To Find.”

Oh. My. Holy. Embarrassing.

And did I mention that I was about 6 months pregnant?

Well, I was.

So they were all thinking about how I had gotten it on with a “hard man” and it was “good.”

Or something like that.

Teachers have to be careful to watch what they say whether in the classroom or out in public, and I have found the best approach is to assume that everything I say could be published or broadcast to the world. That way, I have to be sure what I am saying is appropriate, clear and concise. And cannot be misinterpreted.

But sometimes I stick my foot in my mouth.

So I’m guessing I was heavily quoted that night.

Unless, of course, that batch of students forgot all about my faux-pas.

Because teenagers do that.

I mean, a lot of stuff happens between 7:50 AM and dinnertime.

In her short story, O’Connor goes to great lengths to show her readers how meaningless many of the small things we concern ourselves with are in the grand scheme of things: how many of the things that we fret over are really not very important at all.

I mean, obviously, in the larger scheme, there are many worse things than jostling up a few words in front of one’s students.

So maybe that moment was not very important.

I can buy that.

So why do I remember it so vividly?

And can somebody help make that memory go away?

Done anything wildly embarrassing recently? Anyone like to predict some dumb things I’ll probably do this semester?

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Kite Drowning at Deb Bryan’s Today

I am guest posting at Deborah Bryan‘s place today. She’s The Monster in Your Closet.

I met Deb after she wrote a very personal narrative, and I fell in love with her right away.

Deb runs weekly guest posts called “For This I am Grateful.”

People have written beautiful things.

Mine is kind of dark.

Different from the stuff I post on my blog.

Brace yourself before you click on the button below to go to Deb’s.

I’d be grateful for any comments you might leave.

I’ll be there.

Be gentle. This one was difficult.

And when you are done, be sure to hang out and read some of Deb’s great stuff. Especially her recent piece on music.

Prom Gen iY: Same Thing, Just Better Dresses

Photo from jepoycamboy @ flickr.com

Recently, my family was chomping on chunks of bread at Outback Steakhouse, a place we often go after I announce that I didn’t make it to the grocery store.

As I sat in my old jeans, the thick, pine doors parted and in paraded boys wearing tuxedos with cummerbunds flanked by girls in fancy dresses with sparkles and sequins. I was bedazzled…

…and instantly transported back in time. To the mid-1980s. To my own school formals.

TB and me. Junior Prom, 1984.

I went to Junior Prom with TB, a boy I had spent most of middle school trying to get to fall in love with notice me. Lord knows, we spent many afternoons in detention together as a result of misbehaving in French class. Before he moved to Philadelphia, however, I realized we were always going to be “just friends,” which was good enough for me. I sort of figured I’d never see him again, but he magically materialized to take me to prom.

Here’s what I remember about that prom. First, let’s just establish TB looked awesome in his tux. Done. Okay, now let’s talk about my dress. Featured in Seventeen Magazine, my dress was a gauzy, white Gunne Sax for Jessica McClintock that covered me from chin to ankle; it had three layers of crinoline and 10,000 buttons up the back. I was hermetically sealed inside my dress. All I knew was that I felt like Madonna in that dress. Seriously, from the neck down, I totally looked like Madonna.

Shut up, I did.

Sadly, we must address things from the neck up. Just a few months prior, I had butchered my long mane and had not yet figured out quite what to do with what was – tragically – a long brush-cut. Or a lady-mullet. The in-between stage lasted for years. In an effort to try to make people not notice my heinous hair, I stuck an over-sized silver safety-pin through the extra hole in my left ear lobe. Because I was that stupid cool.

JMo and me. Senior Ball, 1985.

For Senior Ball, I was slightly better prepared. First, let us establish that JMo looked awesome in his tux. Done. Now, about my dress.  As it turned out, my big poofy dress from the year before was really uncomfortable. The crinkly crinolines had filled the entire backseat; it had been hard to walk, and did I mention that I was decidedly not hot? Senior year, I decided to tone down my attire and wear a really simple yellow dress. Alas, there was no teenaged version of “Say Yes To The Dress” because somehow I ended up looking like I had been dipped first in a vat of French’s mustard and then into a second vat of Hellmann’s mayonnaise. Seriously, I had no business wearing pastel yellow. I know you can’t tell from the pictures, but I looked jaundiced. Luckily, most people were blinded by my like totally radical Sun-In highlights and my tan, both of which I had been cultivating after school for weeks while simultaneously ignoring my upcoming Trigonometry final. (That proved to be a big mistake.)

I did not do a lot of primping for either prom.

I mean, I showered. I was clean.

Not too long ago, I went on Twitter to see what people were saying about prom. Here is a sampling:

and

and

People were freaking out. About shoes, about fingernails, about limos, about dress fittings. Dress fittings?

Whaaaaat? I bought a dress and I put it on. As you can see, it fit.

(Okay, so there was a little extra room up top. What’s your point?)

Unlike the tweeps, I did not worry about prom for days in advance.

Time spent preparing my hair for Junior Prom: zero minutes.

For Senior Ball, I actually had hair, so I did use a little mousse which, thankfully, had been invented earlier that year.

I do remember some mental anguish at both dances. Even though I wasn’t dating either guy, I still wanted the romance of the evening. I still wanted my dates to ask me to slow dance.

I mean I was scared, but I still wanted to be asked.

Ask me. No don’t ask me.

Please ask me. Wait, I don’t know what I’m doing.

One year, I remember the band playing Foreigner and mouthing the words: “I wanna know what love is. I want you to show me.”

Because, really, I had no idea.

But I so wanted to know.

Somewhere between 1986 and 2011, dress designers realized that high school girls did not want to look like Victorian dolls in ginormous hoop skirts nor did they want to look like mothers-of-the-bride. Thus, the prom dress industry was born. That night at Outback Steakhouse, the girls looked so beautiful; their dresses complemented their body shapes and each dress represented a stripe of the rainbow. Each young woman looked like a contestant from America’s Next Top Model. Each had a signature walk. Each looked so confident.

For a minute, I felt envy. I mean, I was decidedly un-hot at junior prom and kind of potato-sacky at senior ball. But then I realized, to the outside world, I probably looked confident, too. Even with the bad hair. I found myself wondering about the girls at Outback – and all the girls who go to formal dances these days. They are so well-put together, so styled, so prepped. Outwardly, they appeared so mature. I wondered if they would be able to look back at themselves in 30 years with a sense of humor and recognize that they were also at a tipping point. Or had they already passed it?

I imagine some things will never change about formal dances: the grown up feeling of getting dressed up and “going out on the town” without one’s parents; the freaky-deaky feeling a girl gets in her stomach as she sees her prom date pull into the driveway; those awkward posed moments where parents hover, taking zillions of photographs from every possible angle; the worry that a zit could erupt at any moment (and often did).

I think of prom as that awkward place, a threshold between adolescence and adulthood where no one really knows what to do, so we just hold onto each other in our fancy clothes and spin around in circles for a little while.

And so we did.

And it was good.

You know, up until I learned I had failed the Trig final.

Because that sucked.

What did you wear to prom? Did you think you were hot? Were you? Really?

Lessons From 6th Grade Health Class

The Red ribbon is a symbol for solidarity with...

Image via Wikipedia

The other day Monkey came home wanting to know how old I was when I learned about HIV/AIDS.  (He’s learning a lot in his 6th grade Health class.)

I told him I learned about HIV/AIDS at the end of high school, that I vividly remembered the Surgeon General at the time, the white-bearded C. Everett Koop, coming on television in 1985 to talk to the American people and explain how scientists believed the disease was being transmitted.

“It was a scary time,” I said. “People were getting AIDS from blood transfusions and worrying you could get if from kissing.”

Monkey started schooling me about how HIV/AIDS was a virus that attacked the immune system, that it was not passed via “kiss-spit,” but by blood and urine and other bodily fluids, like sperm. Frankly, I was pretty impressed by what he had learned in school.

“You know,” I said, “HIV/AIDS is still a huge problem in Africa and in other communities. It hasn’t been cured.”

But Monkey didn’t want to talk about the world’s AIDS crisis. He had other designs. Squinting at me from the opposite side of our kitchen island, he turned on me.

Monkey: So when you met daddy you both knew about AIDS?

Me: Yeah, it was pretty big news back then.

Monkey: And you met in what year?

Me: We met in 1990 and started dating in 1993.

Monkey: And when did you get married?

Me: In 1997.

Monkey? So you were together for 4 years before you got married?

Me: Yup.

I could feel his wheels turning. He was going to ask me something big. I held onto to kitchen counter trying to steady myself. Was I going to have to confess that his father and I lived together in New Orleans, that we shared an apartment before we married? And where would that take us? Would he assume we had separate bedrooms? The questioning continued.

Monkey: Did you get AIDS tested?

Me: Can we talk about this when daddy gets home?

Monkey: Answer zee kveschun!

(Actually, he didn’t say it like that. It only felt like I was being interrogated by the Gestapo.)

Me: Yes, we both got tested.

Monkey: Before you got married.

This came out of his mouth as a statement, not as a question, so I didn’t feel the need to tell him that his father and I were AIDS tested about 3 months after we started dating –  waaaaay back in 1993.

But Monkey was satisfied and announced we had acted responsibly and added he planned to wait to have sex until he’d married, too.

I smiled at my 11 year-old son who had grabbed a plum and wandered off to do his science homework. Here, I thought he was about to grill me about safe sex practices and demand to know if his father and I had remained chaste until our wedding night.

I am not ready for that talk.

That same night, I saw an episode of Glee where the father, Burt Hummel talks to his gay son, Kurt, about sex. His monologue was short and sweet and brilliant.

Frankly, I think all parents should be required to memorize this speech before leaving the hospital on the day their child is born so they can use it later.

Here is what Burt Hummel said to his son (with a few gender changes):

For many people, sex is a thing we want to do because it’s fun and it feels good, but we’re not thinking about how it feels on the inside or how the other person feels about it. But it’s more than just the physical. When you’re intimate with someone in that way, you gotta know that you’re exposing yourself … You gotta know that it means something. It’s doing something to you, to your heart, to your self-esteem, even though it feels like you’re just having fun.

When you’re ready, I want you to be able to do everything. But when you’re ready, I want you to use it as a way to connect to another person. Don’t throw yourself around like you don’t matter, because you matter.

Here’s a link to the whole video, if you care to see it.

Watch: Kurt and His Dad Have a Gay Sex Talk on ‘Glee’ Video.

At some point, probably sooner than I think, Monkey might ask me to clarify the status of my virginity prior to marriage. Lord knows, that boy can ask me answer any question that might be roiling around in his brain.

I think I just bought myself a little time.

And next time, we are definitely waiting until his father gets home.

My Reading Glasses: Revisited

I’ve had my reading glasses for over a year now. At first, if you’ll remember when I posted about new glasses, I was suffering with the concept of how the damn spectacles represent that my eyes are getting older and that, by extension, I am getting older, too. I’m getting used to the concept. Some of you suggested that I try to find a pair of glasses that I really love, so I don’t feel as though I’ve lost my mojo.

Well, I’ve been trying. So here’s what I’ve got:

My actual prescription pair.

These are okay. They are kinda boring though, right? Anyway, this was my starting point.

Round?

These turned out to be some weird, unintentional tribute to John Lennon. So. Totally. Not. Working.

Do I look like a sexy librarian? Hmmmm. Not so much.

These are a vintage pair of specs from the 1960s that I picked up at a local street festival for $2.99. I like them a lot, but the burnt-orange finish is peeling off.

Okay, this pair is a hoot. Emergency purchase. On the way to school one day, I realized I did not have my glasses. Question: How would I ever be able to read all those English papers without glasses? Answer: I wouldn’t. So, I stopped at my local Walgreen’s and snagged whatever I could find in my prescription. There were two choices. I grabbed this pair and, without ever trying them on, made my way to the register. This pair cost about $15. In the classroom, I realized the frames were completely crooked, and no amount of bending or manipulating would make them sit right on my nose. That was a long day. (These glasses now live in our downstairs library. And by library, I mean, bathroom.)

These are my Drew Carey‘s. They are quite awful, but in a weirdly fabulous way. I really like them. I mean, I know I look like my dad in 1963 – but I actually think they are kind of hot. I think I am starting to love them.

My son used these for Halloween when he dressed as Harry Potter – about 6 years ago. They are useless, of course, seeing as though as they are completely lens-less. Still, if I could find a real pair in hot pink or apple green, I might be persuaded to go for them. 😉

I’ve decided that finding the perfect pair of reading glasses is kind of like dating: While searching for the right fit, I’m enjoying all the different types out there. And who knew there would be so many different types out there?

Making Peace With Reading Glasses

 

photo by kiwikewlio @ flickr.com

 

Allow me a vanity moment. It has happened. My husband – an ophthalmologist – warned me that the day would come, and it finally did. I now have reading glasses.

It happened quickly. One day, I was churning through my students’ papers unencumbered, and the next well . . . we were sitting at a restaurant and I was complaining about the fuzzy print on the menu.

“Fuzzy print?” husband asked.

“Yeah,” I said, “Can I see yours?”

He generously handed over his menu.

It’s blurry, too. I’m confused.

“Time to make that eye appointment,” he guffawed.

Six months later, I have reading glasses stashed all over every corner of my life: the night-table drawer, the kitchen desk, in the computer room, in the library (read: bathroom), in my car, in my purse. None of these reading glasses are pretty as I purchase them in Val-U packs of three (or more) from Target. I have this one pair of thick black frames that I would never wear in public because when I wear them I seriously look like Drew Carey‘s sister.

I have to admit, I feel notably less sexy with my glasses on. I’m sorry, but it is true. I would rather look smokin’ hot in my red dress and stumble into the dessert table at somebody’s wedding than wear my glasses. And I don’t need them for distance, so I can’t wear contact lenses — and I am not a good candidate for LASIK, so you can stop right there with those suggestions. I am simply a latent hyperope. I don’t exactly know what that is, but it sounds very high-maintenance. Apparently, there is nothing for me to do except try to “make nice” with my new reading glasses.

“Eventually you are going to need to be fitted for a lovely set of bifocals,” my husband recently teased.

Alas, I didn’t know what I had until it was gone. 😉

What surprises have you learned about yourself as you’ve grown older?

Are You Cool With Coed Sleepovers

 

photo by Adri S. @ flickr. com

I have been hearing more and more about kids getting together en masse for coed sleepovers. Some parents have been very positive about these group adventures in nocturnal cohabitation and insist there is little to worry about — the kids are all just friends, no one is drinking or doing drugs or hooking up, that the kids just like to “hang out together” in their jammies; sometimes they even text while sitting next to each other on the couch!

Think I’m making this up? Amy Dickinson from Time.com wrote an article back in 2001 about a 17-year old boy who was able to persuade his parents to hold his first coed sleepover. The family eventually hosted three coed parties with 20 to 30 guests–one on New Year’s Eve! Dickinson contends that the boy and his father “established very sound party-giving techniques that [she] believes would benefit any parents who are thinking of having or letting their teen attend such an event.” And then she lists the guidelines.

More recently (in April 2010), journalist Amanda Morin wrote an article called “Losing Sleep Over Coed Sleepovers” in which she cites Dr. Linda Sonna, a psychologist and author of 10 parenting books, including The Everything Parenting a Teenager Book. Sonna says increasing numbers of parents say their teens want to attend coed teen slumber parties. For many parents, there’s no discussion about it – coed sleepovers are out of the question. For other parents whose teens who are hosting and attending these boy-girl events, it’s merely a sign of the times, a natural extension of the ever-expanding platonic relationships between the sexes. Some parents are clueless; their child simply tells them he/she is going to sleep at a friend’s house, but the parents never call to check in with the host parents, so they have no idea the event is coed.

 

How do you feel about group, coed sleepovers; they seem to be the new “cool” thing? Yay or nay? When would you allow your child to have someone of the opposite sex sleep at your house? Could they share a room? A bed? What about same-sex sleepovers? Do you let kids sleep in the same bed?