The Heart Wants What It Wants

I met up with a former student for lunch a couple weekends ago because she was in the middle of a relationship crisis and wanted to talk about it with someone who wouldn’t judge her.  She’s been with her current boyfriend for two years and is very much in love with him, but she cheated on him with a guy at summer camp this summer (which I found hilarious, because I did exactly the same thing at exactly the same age and remember how gutting it was to try to navigate the situation).  She says she’s still talking to the new guy all the time – that he arouses a kind of passion in her that her boyfriend doesn’t because they have shared goals and interests and she feels comfortable completely being herself around him.  Welcome to NRE, I say.  I tell her to try not to compare them, which she says is impossible.

I ask if she still wants to be with the boyfriend.  Yes, absolutely, she says.  He’s kind, giving, dependable.  He’s a Good Man.  I ask her if consensual non-monogamy is a potential choice for her.  No, she says – she’s monogamous (…).  I tell her, then, that she should probably cut off contact with the new guy.  She says she doesn’t want to do that – he’s intoxicating (quite literally).  And then she says this hilarious thing that I think all of us have thought but few of us actually say out loud:

“Jo,” she says.  “The thing is – like, do I really have to do the right thing?  What if I’m just okay with not being a good person?  Is being a good person really all it’s cracked up to be?  I’m not sure it is.”

Oh, sister.  We’ve all been there.  The NRE has blinded her to the fact that she’s already broken her boyfriend’s heart – he just doesn’t know it yet.  We talk for a long time and go through every possible permutation of potential action that can be taken, and I finally tell her that it doesn’t matter what I say – she’s going to do what in the end feels right for her, even if she knows it isn’t.  The heart wants what it wants.  When I was her age, I wouldn’t have listened to anyone’s advice – I would follow my cunt, because that’s where my heart lives.  I told her to be careful with the hearts of people she cares about and sent her a link to www.morethantwo.com *just* in case.  On my way home, I thought: You couldn’t pay me to be that young again.

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Another Ranty Rant About Sex Education

Near the end of this school year in San Marcos, CA (San Diego County), a middle school health teacher did an activity in class from a school board-approved abstinence-plus curriculum which involved papers posted on the wall describing different sexual activities, such as hugging, kissing, “above the waist,” “below the waist,” and “all the way” (whatever that means – not exactly descriptive language).  Students were supposed to stand near the paper that described what level they thought was most appropriate for middle school students.  I wouldn’t necessarily do this activity in my classroom (partially because of the use of antiquated euphemisms and partially because I think the discussion would be better done in small groups), but I don’t see it as particularly harmful.  It opens a dialogue among peers about what they think is right for them, which validates and gives them ownership of their feelings, and hopefully gets them talking to their parents about it. 

However, one student thought that the teacher was asking her to stand under the sign appropriate to what she’d already done; she felt pressured to self-report and told her parents, who then proceeded to vomit a shit storm of sex negativity on the school.

So, first of all, NO MIDDLE SCHOOL SEX ED CURRICULUM — especially one that’s only abstinence-plus and not comprehensive — would ever ask students to publicly, in front of alllll their classmates, discuss what they’d done sexually.  That’s ridiculous.  Furthermore, parents at this particular school have to sign permission slips in order for their children to take the class AND the curriculum is available to parents in this district to pursue at their leisure.

Second of all, until recently, these students followed an abstinence-only program; having done thorough content analysis on a few of these programs, I can say unflinchingly that they are reductive, harmful, glaringly sex negative, objectifying, and shame students if they fall anywhere outside of mainstream sexual or gender norms.  Abstinence-plus is barely a step up. 

The parents said in an interview that  “For the children to get that confused is just another reason why it [sexuality education] shouldn’t even be in the schools.” (ABC10 News, June 4th, 2014)  Wh-wh-whaaaat?  Middle school students were confused about something?  If we removed any curriculum that is remotely confusing to students who are in the middle of a hormonal coup d’etat, there wouldn’t be any curriculum to teach.  

So, parents continue to lose their shit over their children talking about sex.  Not news, but still frustrating.

Here’s something fun that’s totally unrelated to take the edge off!  It’s my favorite weekly feature on a blog.

Well Played, Grasshopper

I talked to a former student on Skype recently; she was in my tenth grade English class my first year of teaching.  She had been through a really difficult breakup and needed to talk it through.  It was one of those breakups that happen again and again and again, where you keep having the same fight over and over but can’t quite let go.  After she got everything off her chest and got some validation, which it seemed she needed, she asked how I was doing.

“I also have emotional ebola,” I said.  I explained how I’ve recently fallen into an emotional vortex and have been trying in vain to navigate my way out.  How at first I was deliriously happy, but then a month in the pain started.  (By the way, did you know that when you allow yourself to feel things, you have to feel ALL THE THINGS?  Like, you can’t just pick and choose your feelings?)  Understanding this, she said to me:

“Well, you know – there’s a reason the word delirious is there!”

Touché.  That whole cliché about the student becoming the teacher.  We erupted into peals of laughter and I immediately felt better.  She had come to me for emotional relief and had given me relief that I didn’t even know I needed.