Monday, March 3, 2008

He's a Regular Barry White

Remember Ally McBeal?

The show came out when I was sixteen years old, and I was in love with it. A hard type of love. Not since Angela Chase did I identify with a main character so much. Ally was haunted by her adolescent love gone wrong and she wore chunky shoes. I was haunted by many adolescent loves (unrequited, yes, but so what?) and I wore chunky shoes, too. After all, this was 1997, and everyone was still recovering from eight pound leather sandals and thick stacked heels. Ally and I were kindred spirits.

And I think about the show from time to time, mostly in the context of, Oh my God. My life is so Ally McBeal right now. Like today, for example. Today was a very Ally McBeal day. Today I got to walk into my classroom and see the student who had written an unsigned e-mail that asked me out on a date. I thought, Okay, let's see what this is like.

I hadn't responded to the e-mail because even the space of the weekend hadn't provided me with words that I found to be appropriate. Should my response be stern? Should it be brief? Should it explain why it was considered bad form to write that type of e-mail to your instructor? If I wanted--which I most certainly did not--I could've even peppered my e-mail with anecdotes from my undergrad existence, where, for a brief period of time I had a crush on one of my literature professors. Did I throw together some slapdash e-mail that ignored all rules of capitalization and punctuation? Did I ask my professor out on a date so we could "brainstorm all we wanted to?" No, I did not. I had the decency to do what was right. I spent several months drifting off during his lectures (which were horribly prissy and snobby) and imagining a world where we drank good wine and ate expensive cheese and kissed under magnolia trees and stayed in bed on Sunday to talk about literature. Then I came to the realization he was a giant skeeze ball--the King of Skeeze, a Doer of Grad Students, a Shameless Snobby Literary Pervert--and moved on to having a more productive and platonic crush on my Yeats professor, who could have been my grandfather--if my grandfather had advanced degrees in literature and an intimate knowledge of every single word that WB Yeats ever wrote. (And let's face it--WB was a dreamboat himself. He had amazing hair.)

The point is this: I knew how to handle myself when I had crushes on my professors. This current student of mine? Not so much. Today he walked into class fifteen minutes and slanted a grin in my direction--a grin that said, Hey, baby. Sorry, baby. I'll make it up to you, baby. Later, every time I would pass by him he would look up from his serious research work and lower his eyelids in a dreamy sort of way. He'd grin that slanty grin again and give me a little nod. The what's up nod. He'd work his eyelashes and his eyebrows and his lips, and he'd speak slow, soft. A bedroom voice.

On my fourth pass around the classroom, I felt strangely icky but also nostalgic. I was thinking of Ally McBeal. I was thinking of her strange little friend--John--and how he would channel Barry White whenever he needed to pep himself up, whenever he needed to muster up the confidence to do what needed to be done.

This afternoon as I passed by my student each time, I couldn't help but think he was humming some Barry White songs to himself, and that's what was giving him the strength to look up at me like that--all wiggly eyebrows and eyelashes and lips--like it was the most natural thing, like it was actually something even close to what he should be doing.


Jason said...

Wow. That's the first second of Ally McBeal I've ever seen, and I have to say--if they did Barry White sequences all the time I'm buying that on DVD. That's hysterical.

Jess said...


Consider yourself a man who will be purchasing Ally McBeal on DVD. That show does that shit ALL. THE. TIME.