Here lies Teacher Lady. She asked the important questions in life, like:
What the hell is wrong with people?
A few causes of my most recent aggravation:
A lovely female student came to my office hours to double-check on her grade. She's very intelligent, a physics major and really did pretty well - a B+ - which, compared to my other students isn't too shabby. We chatted, had a nice conversation. Then she asked, "Can I give you some feedback about the course?" Sure. I love nothing more than to get feedback from my students. I put on my professional face. "Certainly!" She really liked my class. Her only complaint was the quizzes. What, specifically, about the quizzes bothered her? HAND-TO-GOB quote: "Well, we never really knew what you were going to ask about, so if you wanted to do well on the quiz, it meant you had to read, like, the whole chapter. If it weren't for the quizzes, I would have gotten an A." Wow. No wonder so many of my students struggle - my intent was for them to read the whole chapter. Well, duh! Shame on me!
This semester, I had another former sex worker come talk to my class. Let's call her Lauren. She was very different from Kiki. Polished. Articulate. Totally mini-van-driving soccer-mom looking young woman. Currently wrapping up her master's degree in epidemiology. In order to work her way through an expensive private college, she was a call girl for two yeas. She was neither ashamed nor apologetic. Actually, she was more interested in educating my students about sex workers in other countries in the world. Lauren was also very knowledgeable about the difference between making sex work legal and "decriminalizing" it. Then she spoke about sex workers' unions and told us that in countries where sex workers are unionized and have health benefits, rates of HIV/AIDS and other STIs (in the entire population, not just among sex workers) are significantly lower than countries where sex workers are not unionized.
And guess what? My (female) students hated her. After she left, the room became a sea of waving hands. A quote: "She was not at all ashamed of herself! And she's crazy if she thinks she's going to get me to feel sorry for her!" Luckily, for me, another student raised her hand. "I don't think Lauren was trying to get us to feel sorry for her; I think she was just trying to explain that sex workers need insurance just like anybody else." Then another (very dear) student said quietly, "I guess if she would have seemed more embarrassed or said she was sorry, I might have been able to like her. But she just wasn't sorry at all!" That was the consensus - at least from the female students - the men were conspicuously quiet. It's okay to come to a class and talk about being a former sex worker as long as you cry and thank the Lord and act ashamed and sorry. So last week, I was reading papers about students' reactions to Lauren, and the same female student who made the first comment about Lauren not being ashamed of herself wrote, "This lady should have gotten a REAL JOB and not tried to take the easy way out! I have a full-time job at a restaurant, and I have a car and I work hard so I can go to school. THAT'S what she should have done." Here's why I had to ask, "What the hell is wrong with people?" (And my answer was, honestly, I hope it's just that she's 20. When I was 20, I was judgmental and sanctimonious as all hell. I pray she grows out of it.)
I shared her writings with Mr. J., who came up with an excellent response of his own: "The easy way out? Somehow, I think risking your life and subjecting yourself to an array of sexually transmitted infections like AIDS and Herpes is probably a lot more scary than getting yelled at because you forgot the mayonnaise on some guy's sandwich. Easy way out. Ha, ha, ha. That's really funny."
And finally, we have an annoying female DJ on a local radio station who does this evening show during the week. I try not to listen to her, but sometimes when I'm flipping around on the dial, I inadvertently hear her faux-new-agey, simpering, condescending voice. This poor young woman called in and said she's like to dedicate a song to her mother, because at six in the morning, her mother was undergoing surgery for (can't remember what kind of) cancer. Let's call the DJ Leila. This poor girl said, "I just want my mom to know I'm praying for her tonight and I thought if I played her favorite song, it might make her feel better." Annoying, condescing Leila said, "Oh, honey, no. A song can't cure cancer. Nothing can make cancer better." I don't THINK the poor caller meant that the song Wind Beneath My Wings had magical properties and was going to cure her mother of cancer! So caller girl stammered and stuttered and said, "Well, you know, I just thought that maybe she might relax if she could listen to her favorite song from me." Again, stupid Leila said, "Oh, honey, no. She's going in for surgery tomorrow morning. She probably won't even sleep a wink tonight. No song is going to make her feel better."
Lady. Lady! Isn't that your JOB?!!? To play whatever the hell people ask you to play and act like you're happy to do it!? Sheesh! Shut yer piehole and play the damn song. I ask you, "What the hell is wrong with people?"