Last week, the morning I left for the AWP conference, I went to school to teach my morning class before I got on my JFK-bound plane. My morning class was creative writing, and we were covering several different chapters in our text that day, one of which happened to be on writing the erotic.I set my students to their task, and all of them bent over their notebooks. Well, almost all of them. Two didn't. For the first few classes, they'd sat on opposite sides of the room and made eyes at each other. He'd snarkity-snark something her way, and she would giggle, giggle, giggle. She would lower her eyelashes and fling her hair over her shoulder. Gross, I would think to myself every time I heard her laugh scatter across the distance between them. That's just sick.
The girl is attractive, but the boy is not. She has a lovely complexion and smile, and he has a chubby head and a dim wit. I didn't get it. I still don't.
Still, something progressed between the two of them, and last Wednesday they were no longer sitting across from each other. They were sitting next to each other. And they would not be quiet, not even during the time they were supposed to be writing.
I cleared my throat once and gave them The Look. That was warning one, but it didn't do the trick. They just lowered their voices even more and continued to giggle and lean into each other.
"Excuse me," I said. "You are supposed to be writing based on the prompt I just gave you, not talking."
"We're talking about the prompt," the boy said.
I shot him another Look.
"No," he insisted, "we are."
"Come on," I said. "Just please do the work."
"You don't get it," he said. "We're talking about the prompt. No, seriously." He cocked his head toward the girl and gave me a Look of his own--devilish, cocky, braven. "We've SLEPT TOGETHER," he said.
He announced it. Just like that. Right in class. And the girl buried her head in his shoulder and giggled, giggled, giggled.
I was appalled. I was disgusted. I was so sad for the girl. All she could do was laugh and blush and turn in closer to the boy who had just announced to his instructor--and the whole class--that they'd had sex. And then I had to tell the boy that that type of language and discussion was his business, not mine, and certainly not the class's. It was inappropriate, any way you sliced it. I had to tell him I didn't want to hear those things. Ever. Ever. Ever. And then I had to listen to him give an uncomfortable half-laugh and look back down at his blank page. And then I had to sit there and feel sorry for that girl, for the fact that she had chosen to merge her life with someone who thought it was okay, good, and normal to announce details of their intimate life to complete strangers. And it just made me so sad, the way some girls--and of course I'm thinking of me here, too--will sit through anything just to make some boy love them.