Thursday, November 20, 2008

One More Story That Involves Strippers and My General Classiness

On Friday night, just as I was taping the last of my moving boxes closed, I decided to check my e-mail one last time. When I logged in, I saw that someone had sent me a message on Facebook, so I went off to check it.

The message was from one of my former MSU students. This particular former student was my student in the fall of '03--a member of my first-ever class--and then later in the fall of '05 when I was teaching creative writing.

It's been well documented how much of a soft spot I have for the members of my first class. I loved pretty much all of them--except for that one who wrote journal entries about how much he hated every black person that ever lived--and this particular student ranked high on the list of my favorites.

He was the class clown, a real cut-up, a boy who liked to tell stories about shaking loose a bag of flour on his roommate when he was in the shower. This boy liked to talk. He liked to drink. He liked to talk about drinking. He liked to bat eyes at one of the girls in class--a girl who would go on to become the first student to ever cry in my presence--and I later learned they'd totally made out on one of those crazy weekends in the fall semester. Once, when I ran into him outside a bar with another of the pretty girls from our class, he said, "Hey! We were just talking about you!" and I asked him just what they'd been talking about and he said, "How awesome you are!"

I was charmed by him. I was charmed enough to have drinks with him several times--some planned, some not--long after class was over. In fact, he was with us on the now-legendary night where some dirty townie standing in line behind me at the strip club trash-talked me up and down because I was chatting with the bouncer and she was in a goddamned hurry to get to the DJ booth because there were precious few minutes left before the club closed the entry list for the weekly wet T-shirt contest. She wanted a win, some dollar bills, some sweaty men waggling their eyes and tongues at her. And I was holding her up. And she didn't like my looks. And she wanted me to know that I was ugly, that I had a stupid voice, that I had giant horse teeth.

I came home and wrote about that night. It was not the first time I'd write about strippers on my blog, and it wouldn't be the last. But it would be one of the things that allowed this student to, years later, find me, find my blog, and then let me know he'd found my blog.

He messaged me on Facebook to tell me how funny it all was--he'd Googled "Mankato strippers" because it was rumored that one of his friends was dating a girl at the club, and he just wanted to take a peek, see what she looked like. Well, what he got when he Googled wasn't a picture of his friend's girl. What he got was me. What he got was my blog. And he did a little digging, and he found the things I'd written about his class, things about people he knew, things about the nights he'd run around with us.

When I read this in his message, I thought my head was going to split down the middle and fall off the stem of my neck. I was an odd mixture of amused and horrified. A student finding my blog has always been a nightmare scenario for me--let's face it, it was awful enough when some unkind person anonymously forwarded my blog on to the Wily Republican--and I was certain I didn't want any other surprises.

But, really, what does it hurt now? I let myself feel embarrassed and horrified for a good five minutes, and then I realized that if any former student was going to find my blog, I was glad it was this one--a boy with good humor and fond memories of the girl I used to be when I was a grad student trying to write her way across three years in the Midwest.

And this student? He'd written a message to me that showcased some lovely rhythm and grammar (save for a few missing apostrophes that he and I can discuss later...), and in that message he called me his favorite teacher. He said he'd never forget me. He said I had a pretty smile, no matter what those girls at the strip club said.

In the end, I guess, there are worse things than having a student find your blog by Googling strippers. After all, that note helped me pull myself up off the floor after seventy-five small tragedies slid over me, threatening to bury me mere hours before I had to load a twenty-seven foot van with everything I owned. And that was worth those five minutes of embarrassment where my cheeks burned, where I tried to remember everything I ever wrote, where I tried to recall just how honest I'd been about that first class and how nervous I was when I stood before them on the first day, my hands shaking so much I was sure my students could see the tremors in the syllabus I clutched to my chest.

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