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Teach the Torches to Burn Bright?

So for the past four springs, as a precursor to teaching Romeo and Juliet to ninth graders, I have stolen my colleague’s top-notch assignment of giving students the careful task of describing their perfect mate — and then, without peeking — having their parents describe what they perceive as the ideal significant other for their son/daughter.

Now my freshmen students, albeit with questionable maturity and hormonal balance, love this assignment. This is a list they feel adamantly towards. They share their lists and defend their choices. I always find myself surprised at the depth of several of their responses. And, without fail, every year as I glance over their responses, I pick up on some slightly humorous (if not utterly appalling) motifs and themes — namely the stereotypical desires separated by gender. While this is far from a scientific method, I thought I’d share some of the findings…

9th Grade Boys Want:

“Someone who loves animals.” (x2)

“Has to be confident about herself and what she wants to do with her life.”

“I don’t have anything specifically in physical traits other than them to be short. Also I would have her have sparkly eyes.”

“I want my perfect mate to care about school and focusing on having a small family, once married.”

“Likes video games.” (x3)

“Not poor.”

“Thin.”

“As tall as me.”

“Fit.”

“Athletic.” (x3)

“White or Latina.”

“Sings.”

“Hair: Long black, red, or blonde. Skin: Paleish. Height: 5’2”-5’5”. Personality: A little dorky, sense of humor, kind.”

“American or British.”

“Blue or green eyes.” (x5)

“Brown eyes.”

“Kind of tall.”

“Blonde.” (x4)

“She can be blonde but not dirty blonde.”

“Not taller than me.” (x2)

“Brown hair.” (x2)

“Small.”

“Skinny with some muscle tone.”

“Makes me food.”

“Christian.” (x4)

“Pretty teeth.”

“Not super skinny.”

“Not overweight or too skinny.”

“Skinny but not super skinny and have a nice body.”

“Doesn’t wear a boatload of makeup.”

“I would look for the type of person that would care for me, and not to have a affair with another person.”

“She can’t be drama.”

“Nice.” (x5)

“Sweet.” (x2)

“A great body.” (x2)

“Nice legs.”

“No deep man voices.”

“Sense of humor/funny.” (x6)

“Honest.”

“Smart.” (x3)

“Somewhat attractive.”

“Loves sports.” (x2)

“No tattoos or piercings.”

“Not too strong/buff.”

“Likes dogs more than cats.”

Boys think their parents want…

“My parents would want someone that would take care of me in my time of need.”

“They would probably hope that she is blonde.”

“Blue eyes.”

“They would probably hope that she is getting educated in a well paying industry.”

“My parents would want me to get some church going girl who is probably unattractive and full Assyrian.”

“Dress nice and wear enough clothes.”

“A nerd.”

“Loves the lord.”

“Wealthy.”

“Polite.”

9th Grade Girls Want…

“Acne free.”

“Athletic.” (x8)

“Taller than me.” (x9)

“Tall.” (x6)

“Killer smile.”

“A hipster.”

“Doesn’t party.”

“Doesn’t do drugs/drink.”

“Likes the rain.”

“Doesn’t always think about himself.”

“Pure.”

“Someone who would want to do what I want to do.”

“Good hygiene (no body odor!)”

“Good kisser.”

“Muscular.” (x2)

“Any race works.”

“Good driver.” (x2)

“Awesome vocabulary.”

“Loves kids.”

“Smart.” (x10)

“Football player.”

“Willing to go to parties.”

“Atheist.”

“Christian.” (x5)

“Pretty eyes.”

“Half Mexican and half white.”

“Not too hairy.”

“Thin but strong.”

“Sensitive.”

“Smells good.”

“Wears Hollister or Obey.”

“Opens the door for me.”

“Enjoys good music.”

“Able to hold a job.”

“Good with parents.” (x2)

“Plays sports.” (x4)

“Likes dogs.”

“Loves animals.”

“Strong.” (x3)

“Has tattoos and piercings.”

“Likes motocross biking or skating.”

“Someone who could deal with me as a person.”

“Blue or green eyes.” (x8)

“Funny” / “Sense of humor” (x7)

“Charming.”

“He has to be ok with me being weird.”

“Brown hair.” (x6)

“Doesn’t have red hair.”

“Dark hair.” (x4)

“Brown eyes.” (x3)

“Wealthy.”

“Someone that can be my best friend.”

“A brave person to protect me when I need him to.”

“Has similar to a Justin Bieber haircut.”

Girls think they’re parents want…

“Non-smoker.”

“Smart.” (x6)

“Good with money.”

“Someone who hunts/shoots and shakes my dad’s hand.”

“Christian.” (x4)

“Honest.” (x3)

“Motivated.”

“Good grades.” (x2)

“Extremely polite.”

“Handsome.”

“Is Armenian or Italian and has a big family.”

“Decent job.”

“Respectful.” (x2)

“My parents would write dumb things i.e. doesn’t drink.”

“Mom and Dad would write about things they find important which I do not.”

“Someone who likes coming to my family get-togethers.”

Parents of boys want…

“As I know my child, he would like a girl who is medium height, weighs less than 100 lbs, wears short skirts and high heels, and has a beautiful smile.”

“Someone who has their own goals in life and wants to share those goals with him.”

“She would be pretty, but not too concerned about looks.”

“She would dress modestly and behave with respect.”

“Good grades.” (x2)

“No tattoos.”

“Loves kids.”

“Integrity.”

“Respectful and submissive to his authority.”

“Wants children and loves to be with family.”

“Goes to the gym.”

“Funny” / “Sense of humor” (x3)

“Christian.” (x3)

“Loves cooking.”

“Independent.” (x2)

Parents of girls want…

“She would like someone who is on Facebook or texts all day. Not me.”

“Someone that sweeps her off her feet.”

“Someone who will love her as much as I do.”

“Someone who loves family and the in-laws.”

“Basically, she’s looking for her own personal Justin Bieber.”

“Doesn’t abuse his body or mind with drugs, alcohol, or pornographic things.”

“Someone who would wait until after marriage to be physically intimate.”

“Speaks intelligently – doesn’t cuss or use words to hurt others.”

“Is kind to the elderly, weak, and animals.”

“Would not be afraid to look others in the eyes, shake their hands, and keep his word.”

“Smart” / “Intelligent” (x5)

“Good sense of humor.” (x4)

“Emotionally available.”

“She’s looking for her ‘Jacob’.”

“Athletic.” (x3)

“Loves music.”

“Honest.” (x3)

“Loyal.”

“Physically, we hope he’s a healthy guy.”

“Respectful.”

“Able to financially support her and their family.”

“I wouldn’t care what he looked like as long as he loved my daughter unconditionally.”

“Family oriented.”

“Have a bright future.”

“Doesn’t smoke or drink.”

“Hard working.”

“Self reliant.”

“Able to communicate both verbally and by actions.”

Are these the answers you would have expected? I’m filing these away in their freshmen time capsules. In a handful of years, a month before graduating, these kids will open up their envelope of ninth grade work and find, among other treasures, this. I hope some of their answers change before they’re eighteen.

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Would you like to come in, out of the rest of the world?

For long moments after the bell had rung, I sat behind my desk with the door locked and pulled tight. I sat behind the door, behind my desk, behind my barrier of half-full cups. (I buy myself drinks as a coping mechanism. I get this from my mother.) I sat and I closed my eyes and I let one expectant minute slip past, and then another. But then, as I was bound to do, I got up, walked to the door, and allowed the waiting herd in. And then the bell rang, pulsating and loud, and class started. Wednesday went back to normal.

Some days, it’s like that.

I recall exactly what as a child I thought adulthood had in store for me. The dream resurfaces easily. In it, I live in a smallish house, a house with a finished attic, and have three children, two boys and a girl. I cook simple things for breakfast: oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, wheat toast with cream cheese and jam. I comb the boys’ hair to the side and cuff their pant legs. I french braid the girl’s and tuck the wispies back behind her ears. I have a bin under the bathroom sink designated for skinned knees. In my stolen time, at night before bed, I read books. I write.

At some point, time began to move faster. Life became a to-do list. Check. Check. Check.

Is this what my mid-twenties is about? Caring too much about things that don’t matter?

I spent tonight in glorious fashion. I curled up with The Smiths and a cherry limeade and alternated between surfing the internet and reading Julia Alvarez. I felt snug in my worn college sweats and cozy by the single bulb of a lamp.

I guess what I’m trying to scratch at is the knowledge (not the realization, because, let’s face it, this is the story of my life) that I need to do more of the things I enjoy and can feel stretching and warming my soul, and less worrying and hustling and bustling.

I wish I were an old woman. I wish I had more answers.

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Smells like teen spirit. And body odor.

I haven’t been faithful to you. The summer romance we had, updating two to three times a week, those days have long past.

You’ve been replaced by kids. Tadpoles. Whippersnappers. Fourteen-year old boys who don’t shower or wear deoderant. Daughters with clumped mascara and insecure hearts. Cheerleaders, band geeks, track stars. Acne-ridden adolescents with angry appearances (that struggle with alliteration).

You’ve been benched in lieu of staff development and SMART Board lesson plans. The soft clicking of late night typing, no fear of early waking, has been replaced by overstuffed tote bags of poorly-written 9th grade narratives and the looming drone of a cell phone alarm clock.

But this week is spirit week.

Spirit days are consecrated. With each comes glitter, blue jeans, and the chance to pull out all of my inner student council nerdfare. I’m not sure when my love for these sanity breaks bloomed, but there have been many, and I have loved them all.

Sophomore year, 2001. I had numchucks.
High school again. I wore my mom's old prom dress and masqueraded as Cinderella.
Girls' State the summer before I was a high school senior. I think it counts as one giant spirit week.

Many of the pictures from my high school days are buried in some deep abyss. After brief consideration, this is probably for the best. My days of dressing like a lunatic for school ended nearly a decade ago (Seriously?? For the good love.) But then I became a high school teacher, and the spirit day floodgates opened once more. Here’s a small sample of years gone by.

Two years ago, as Karl Malone. This was clearly childhood hero day.
Color day. Yeah, yeah, let's play a rousing game of find the teacher.
80's Day 2010
Musical Genre Day 2010. Ok, mostly I'm posting this for my coworker's outfits. So, so good.

…which brings us to the current Spirit Week. A Disney-themed spirit week. Much to my husband’s dismay, I am a Disney child forever. As I’m starting to feel weird with so many photos of myself littering one post, I’ll restrain my desire to post a gazillion from this week — but it was by far my favorite. Hence the need for my resurfacing.

And not a single **** was given the day I was Malificent.
But I've got spirit, yes I do.

At any rate, in case you were worried that I was six feet under a stack of paperwork, considering trichotillomania as a form of stress relief, or consistently waking an hour and fifteen minutes before my alarm and staring at the ceiling, reviewing All That Must Be Done — I am. But I’m also dressing like a complete crackpot and enjoying it.