Sex and the Ninth Grade Ninny

The column I wrote for this weekend is a tribute to my middle school teacher who just last week departed this life at the ripe old age of 102. You can see it at right now by clicking here.

In it I told of the English class we had her for and her sweet vexed utterances at all our hi-jinks. (“What AILS you people?” she was always saying to us.) I did not tell how naughty we really were, especially my best friend Kathy and I. For example we had a music teacher named Miss Priest, a maiden lady, young and pale in a cashmere sweater and pearls who disapproved of the two of us, perhaps because we held our violins under our chins in Orchestra and those instruments just shook with our laughter the whole time we were rehearsing up under the sweltering roof of that Civil War-era schoolhouse. Kathy always got assigned the cool complicated part with many curlicues and arpeggios, while I was always given the dumb part that no matter what the tune was went basically “Uh uh, UH uh, uh uh, UH uh…” – just the two sounds, just what you could saw out for the low notes without doing too much violence to the melody. A monkey could have played my part and this was what we found so killingly funny. We laughed all through “Scenes from Carmen” and even, preparing for graduation, through the grave and weighty bars of “Pomp and Circumstance” itself

We thought we didn’t like Miss Priest; probably we had crushes on her. Anyway we found a greeting card designed for an ordination, tore out the real message inside, wrote a new message in a demented-looking scrawl and slipped it under her door. “Thou Art a Priest Forever” the real part of the card said, then in our writing on the inside, “That is, until I crush you in my arms my little PASSION FLOWER ha HAH!” We didn’t get suspended but we sure-enough got caught and so set out to compose a long and earnestly over-the-top letter of apology that made us feel wonderful connected to the side of the angels, just wonderfully forgiven if only by ourselves.

And that wasn’t half as bad as what we did when we found out the youngest male teacher in the school was getting married: We put a jar of Vaseline on his desk which carried the strong implication that of all things he would need in his new conjugal state Vaseline was uppermost – just as if we actually knew Thing One about the marital act, which, uh, we didn’t.

Back in the late-90’s, thirty years and three kids into my own marriage I remember a youth group leader telling the high school kids we both worked with that they really and truly would be a lot better off postponing sex until much later because it was, well… it was just too complicated.

“Complicated?” said one of these sweet kids, looking truly puzzled. “Why complicated?”

“Let’s just say it involves a lot of towels,” she said with a meaningful look.

Dave! I rushed right home and said to my husband, “I think we’re doing it wrong!”

Ah dear…Our old English teacher was great all right but how could she answer the pressing questions of her middle-schoolers? How could anyone have answered them when what we really wondered about was sex which of all things in this wide world is STILL the most mysterious?

4 thoughts on “Sex and the Ninth Grade Ninny

  1. Your teacher mentioned the towels while alluding to sex because in her day prudent people were expected to keep themselves from getting or spreading STDs by washing involved body parts after engaging in intercourse!

  2. Ya think we all sort of lived each other’s lives over again in parts? I played the violin the the orchestra, too drew my bow harshly across the cat’s tail or at least that’s what it sounded like. My grandfather wrote a song for my grandmother called “That’s What You Mean to Me”; we played a piano/violin duet one weekend for her. The violin, handmade in Portland, ME became a pile of splinters while I was away on my honeymoon. My Downs Syndrome brother couldn’t think of any other way to show me his disapproval of my choice for husband. Who knew how he knew things? Skipping school, costumes, not mine to experience because of the need to babysit for my mother but I enjoyed your romp.

  3. I miss the sweet childlike mystery surrounding sex; one afternoon while walking home from Eastview Elementary school I remember my friend Joey creating the ultimate excitement by having in his possession a copy of the latest “Playboy” centerfold. As Joey unfolded the pages I still recall holding my breath while the four of us beheld a Naked Woman. What a rush of emotion!
    Being a piano player, I can’t identify with your violin saga, but I do remember having to accompany Brian Balk, the nerdy son of the spinster-like 3rd grade teacher Mildred Balk, Brian played violin (sort of) and we labored through one of Mendelssohn’s “Song Without Words”

    Thanks for the mammaries!

  4. Will You are a FUNNY GUY! Sweet too of course but “Thanks for the mammaries”: there’s a phrase that sure would have found you a seat in the Naughty Chair in the ol’ grammar school!

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