Thursday, March 11, 2010


Sometimes I get too tied up in my students' lives. I become invested. I secretly wish a select few would come over for roast chicken and conduct their strange little lives at my kitchen table so I could watch all the drama like it was my own private television show.

This wish has intensified this semester. I blame this partly on the disappointment I suffered at the hand of yet another guy and how I've sublimated a good chunk of that disappointment and decided to float something else up to the surface to cover it, and that something is an interest in things that are going on at school.

This has been easy. The student body at school is small and incestuous. My students know each other in the most surprising ways. Students who should have no business knowing each other just do. Just yesterday, in fact, I was sitting in front of the cafeteria and handing out free books to anyone who wanted them, and one of my auto boys (who was holding a Honda magazine and showing me pictures of all the things he wants to do to his car) started chatting up one of my favorite creative writing students (who had, moments before, finished writing a sestina he couldn't wait to show me).

"Wait a minute," I said. "You two know each other?"

"Yeah," my creative writing student said. "We party together."

I stared at them. I was trying to imagine what they would ever talk about while they were siphoning beer and smoking cigarettes. "How is that even remotely possible?" I asked, but they just shrugged it off like it was no big thing. It shouldn't have surprised me. That's just how this school is.

So, there's that--the incestuous nature of my surroundings--that contributes to my piqued interest, and then there's also Facebook. That, of course, is where I recently found out that one of my favorite former students just started dating another one of my former students. And while I've always been a fan of being a sort of professorial matchmaker (when I was a TA, I once noticed how much one of my students loved another one of my students, and I was fond of them both, which made me think, hey, why not try to get those two together, which led to me always sorting them into the same circles during group work), and while I have been known to just accidentally happen into intimate knowledge about some of my students, I have never actually sealed the deal. And with these two that got together, I would've never even considered sealing the deal.

I cannot count all the ways in which I adore the boy student. I do not love him in a dirty way, in a nasty way, in a way that would get me in trouble. My love for this boy is pure. What I think about him is this: If I were ever to have a son, I want my son to be exactly like this boy. He's tall and a little lumbering, sweet, charming. He's got a great laugh. You can tell this is a boy who loves his mother, who probably goes home and kisses her on the cheek and says, "Hey, Ma, whatever you've got cooking smells great." I bet he takes the garbage out before he's told to. I bet he babysat the neighborhood children. I bet he has cute T-ball pictures that show him smiling a great big missing-tooth smile. He is going to make some girl a very, very good husband someday.

But this girl? I didn't see it coming. And when I saw the news on Facebook I stared at it and--protectively, an instant reaction--thought, I could've made a better match for him. It's not that I didn't like this girl when she was in my class--she was peppy, a talker, always ready to contribute--but it is that I have developed a certain level of mania, and I feel like I am better equipped than this boy to make romantic choices for him. Which is, you know, pretty sane.

But I'm not always less-than-thrilled with my students' romantic choices. This semester I have the pleasure of having one of my favorite-students-of-all-time's girlfriend in my composition class, and she is stellar. I knew I was getting her way before the semester started because her boyfriend informed me of this, and I wasn't sure how to feel about that fact. I wondered if that would be a bad thing, if I would like her, if I would be disappointed by his choice, if I would wonder why she wasn't nearly as entertaining and darling as her boyfriend and his twin brother. But the first time she opened her mouth she said something badass and hilarious, and I thought, Holy shit. This is the world's best match. I better get invited to the wedding.

So, as you can see, this all is a slippery slope. I'm involved. I'm spending time I used to spend wondering why all men in the world besides my father are programmed with the desire to be assholes, and why I am programmed to let those men into my life in one way or the other, wondering what kinds of weird things are going on in my students' lives. And who can blame me? They let the strangest things slip out--I'm bisexual, and my father made me that way! or Do you want to see my abs because they are awesome!--and those things can stop me in my tracks, make me stare at all these bright faces that are staring back at me, and think, Dude, you guys are almost better than Dancing with the Stars. ALMOST.

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