Monday, November 24, 2008






















"Can I Talk to You After Class?"

In the middle of a rousing class session, during which I assigned the persuasive essay and outlawed the topic of abortion (never a good subject for a two-page paper written by untried students who still live at home), a 19-year-old student named Mindy came up and asked me if we could have a private moment after class. Denying my impulse to shout "NOOOO, for you see I have a date with 8 ounces of raspberry yogurt up in my office at roughly 12:04 p.m.," I assured her my every breath would be applied to realizing that future meeting.

Twenty minutes later, when the room had cleared, she came bopping up.

"What I have to tell you is...well, this is hard to say to you because you're, like, who you are, but, um...I think I have herpes."

Since I don't, and I'm only her English teacher and therefore--shout out to the Marquis de Sade, Oscar Wilde, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, and Erica Jong--am only vaguely equipped to diagnose STD's, I wasn't exactly clear as to why Mindy had stayed after class to provide me with this information. Was I to hug? Apply cream? Create an Excel spreadsheet tracking her outbreaks?

The subsequent conversation unfolded thusly:

Me, after some mulling: And, so, is that why you didn't have your rough draft today?

Her, dodging the question in a rush of "logic": I went to the doc last week to have her look at it, but when I got to the clinic, no one was there. I only have an OBGYN now that my other doctor died--did you hear about that? It was in the paper. So I can only see my OB, and if she's not there, I'm done. So anyhow, I have no phone, no computer, and the fuel pump went out in my car, so I can't drive to school right now. Sure, I can catch rides with my boyfriend, but that's actually keeping me from dumping him, and he was on a one-month plan with me, and then he was going to be out. Now he's trying to find me a new fuel pump, but last time he got me a car repair, he hired a crackhead who was so high he didn't put in any calliper screws, and the car was even worse after he fixed it, and I eventually had to push it into a different place and pay, like, three times as much, and now my boyfriend has found me a $20 fuel pump, which I bet is made out of Mt. Dew cans and Skoal. Did I tell you I'm afraid my three-year-old is going to get kicked out of daycare right now because I can't pay--is it too late to apply for a state daycare grant thing for next semester?--so my baby's daddy's grandma is watching my daughter today, but the kid is all gross and dirty when she gets picked up from Nana's house, and so do you ever offer extra credit in this class?

Me, squaring shoulders and unfloobernoodling my brain: I, so, well, um, what? Oh, yes. I can see how herpes makes it hard to get daycare. So, hey, you're very good natured in the face of all these stresses. I'm sorry I'm laughing, by the way, but you're making this all kind of funny. There's something kind of charmingly carefree about you, as you relate your woes.

Her: Ah, f***, I was raised like this. We never had any money or anything, especially after my dad left, so everything's always a fight. Hey, I want to learn Spanish. Will they teach it here next term? I have a good Cuban friend and a good Puerto Rican friend--I met them when I lived at the YWCA in the Young Mothers' Program--and I learned some good cuss words from them in Spanish, but I want to learn more. I actually know quite a bit from Dora and Diego. My daughter learned to count to twelve from those shows, and now I've taught her to count to thirty in Spanish. So can I take it here? Next term?

Me: Yes, it's offered pretty much every...

Her: I actually want to learn Spanish because I want to go to San Juan, you know, like in Puerto Rico, and get my butt done.

Me: (incredulous silence)

Her: You know, they take the fat from your stomach and inject it in your butt so that it looks all perfectly round. I looked it up on the Internet. It costs $3,000. I mean, I want to have one more baby one day, and it makes sense to wait to do the butt job until I'm done having kids, so I have time to learn Spanish while I'm waiting, right?

Me, further unflagemallatinging my brain: Well, I guess it's all about priorities. Learning Spanish is a good idea, no matter your motivation. But how about dealing with what's on your plate right now? When can you go back in to deal with the herpes? I think we have some programs on campus that offer emergency assistance to students in need; would you like me to contact some people and see if we can find you the money to get your car fixed, so you can get to the doc more easily?

Her: Huh? Yea, that'd be okay, or whatever. I just wanted to know if I can do some extra credit.

Me: Oh? Oh. I got all distracted. You know your life is quite the soap opera.

Her: I know. I only ever watched one soap opera, and they cancelled it.

Me: Well, now. It seems you just can't win this month, doesn't it? Here's the deal: I don't offer extra credit, as that smacks of high school to me. College is more about doing the work to your best ability in a consistent fashion. Plus, as I look at your grade here, I see you have--against all odds--a B. That's great, so stop worrying. Just get your paper written by Wednesday. Do you have a topic for it yet? Remember, I always urge you to find a topic that you have experience with and that relates to your own interests and life so that you can draw your examples from what you've actually lived.

Her: Yea, I've got a topic, and it's a good one: alcoholism.

27 comments:

Kylie w Warszawie said...

I have that kid in my religion class. Except that it's a he, and his life is not quite the soap opera Mindy's is. He just rambles on and on and never gets to the point.

And I know everything about his life.

Vodka Mom said...

oh sweet jesus, that was HYSTERICAL. whew. oh wait. That wasn't Bitchy was It???

Jeni said...

Well, if I may answer Vodka Mom's question about her comments maybe being bitchy -most certainly, they were not! Honest yes, bitchy, no.
I chuckled the whole way through reading this post as it brought back a lot of memories of my own experiences as a returning adult student between 1990 and 1994. Having been out of the classroom for oh, a mere 28 years when I enrolled in college, I was in a state of shock much of my first semester -and the subsequent 7 semesters too though -listening to the "normal" age students posing questions to the professors about their grades, requests for extra credit (oh my yes, lots of those) and just plain denial about responsibility for completing assignments and/or simply showing up for class or not, in a class that stated boldly on the syllabus that attendance was mandatory and configured into the grade.
In one class, I remember quite well, an assignment made and noted on the syllabus was that we were to write sort of a biography about ourselves. Plenty of time had been given to complete this project and yet, the day it was due, there was this one kid -oh, about 18-19 years old -crying the blues that he didn't realize he had to do said assignment and was regretfully, unprepared, hadn't even begun it as a matter of fact but boy, he just KNEW if he had known about the assignment, his paper would have been just really excellent! My eyebrows are still arched I think to this day from my state of shock in hearing his excuses.
I'm glad on one hand you have students like this -provides for some really interesting and often very humorous reading material here but on the other hand, I'm also really sorry you or any other instructor, has to be plagued by students with thought processes such as shown in these posts. I'd be banging my head against a brick wall for sure or reaching for some form to use to do away with said student quickly -undetected too -in short order. Patience is a virtue, I know, but I am not always a very virtuous individual ya know!
Great post! Oh, and Peace too!

chelle said...

oh my goodness. I cannot imagine having to hear all that!! How do you keep a straight face?!?!?

Becky Cazares said...

Hysterical! And I believe every word of it! I'm in college for the first time at age 50 and the things you hear are just unbelievable. Makes me shudder regarding the next generation. Surely I wasn't this self-absorbed at 18, was I? Thanks for being willing to put up with it for the sake of the few who will go on to discover the cure for cancer or run for president or something! (Hopefully not Mindy!)

lime said...

oh dear me. i know you change names to protect the ....um...er... your students. could this child be the daughter of a former neighbor of mine? it was all so familiar....

Shania said...

How in the world did you ever uncombobulate your brain in time for your next class?

Anette said...

that was one funny story!

Star said...

Well. I am not sure quite what to say. I am qite amazed she is enrolled in college. And , she does have a plan. For a PR butt lift.

citizen of the world said...

Ah, there's one in every class, isn't there? I'm sure I've met her older twin.

jess said...

"Unfloobernoodling" is my new favorite word.

Jazz said...

Wow. Good thing you're a blogger, imagine all the stories that would be lost!

Jazz said...

Oh, and there's an award waiting for you at my blog.

Ian Lidster said...

I came here via Jazz and I am so happy I did. Great visitation and I shall be back.

steve said...

So did she get the loan? To get her butt done? I'm going to have her next semester, aren't I.

kimber the wolfgrrrl said...

There's a few like her that have come into the library lately. I'll have to see if any of them are researching foreign butt jobs...

Say It said...

cripes!!I'm not sure I could have stood there as long as you did. And why am I not shocked that alcoholism is the topic of choice?? I never realized what an icebreaker, I have herpes, is. yikes.

Mother Theresa said...

I am laughing my "culo" off! Tell your student that she should learn the phrase "me quiero operar el culo" and at least everyone will know what she wants once she gets to San Juan. I still don't get how you didn't end up rolling on the floor in fits of laughter. :D

Franki said...

Herpes is the new black.

I bet you were missing your yogurt.

Fantastic post.

tut-tut said...

Poor kids, is all I can say.

Pam said...

God. That's all I can say. All you want is a spoonful of yoghurt and look what the universe dishes up.

Minnesota Matron said...

Oh my goodness. The Matron will immediately send Mindy a check for that butt job!

And that circling mind? Amazing.

Steve said...

You get around, girl. Check out this link to my friend's blog in Hawaii:

http://chop-wood-carry-water.blogspot.com/2008/11/deplorable-state-of-public-schools.html

Then follow that link to his friend's blog "College at 50."

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Oy. Yikes. Lord have mercy.

I am fairly speechless.

Just a thought... I wonder if yogurt helps herpes.

cathy said...

Did you have time to eat your yoghurt?

My life is a picnic!

pistols at dawn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pistols at dawn said...

Holy effing Christ. I need to get me to a community college, stat, and start dating in order to pick up the inspiration for my first book, The Children Are Our Future: Why You Might Want to Start Idling Your Car in Your Garage For Hours On End.

That's much better than my first title, hence the deletion.