Saturday, May 31, 2014

PSA for Men

The night started out so well.  I had an hour-long conversation with a good (male) friend about sex, love and relationships.  It was insightful and we spoke with consideration.  I was feeling pretty good, and then just after midnight I got hit with a cocknado that left me feeling the need to write a PSA.  

Incident #1:  I ran into a guy that I’ve met a few times.  We’ve always gotten on really well, had good conversations, and laughed our asses off when we see each other.  The last time we were in a bar talking, I was flirting with him a little bit, and he suggested we have a fling.  I found the idea intriguing and told him as much; we shook on it, texted  each other with a fun goodnight note later that night, and left it there.  You can imagine my are-you-fucking-kidding-me? face last night when I saw him and gave him a warm hello, and he couldn’t remember my name.  "It starts with an... wait, I know this."  Boner lost.  I wouldn’t tell him; he looked it up on his phone and then tried to hit on me later a few beers in. 

Incident #2  A male friend of mine accidentally spills beer on me; he says, “Oh, let me dry that off for you,” and starts patting my breast, laughing.  Of all the these incidents, this one actually bothered me the least because I know this guy really well.  We’ve been friends for years, and he did it without any sexual implication.  I laughed pretty hard, but I have some female friends who would have been horrified by this. 

Incident #3 Another male friend of mine calls me over to the bar - “Jo,” he says, his words slurring, his eyes glassy.  “I need to talk to you.”  This should be hilarious, I think, and wander over to the bar to talk.  He then proceeds to tell me that he really likes how honest I am about everything, and how open I am about sexuality, and how he really likes me, and then starts saying how I need to meet his girlfriend because she would really like me too, so I just need to talk to her, right?  Because she really likes girls.  THEN he starts telling me how they each made a list of people that “would be good” and I’m at the top of his list.  (Wow!  Congratulations to me!)  He’s hemming and hawing without ever actually saying what he wants to say, so I ask him: “Are you asking me to have a threesome with you and your girlfriend?”  He doesn’t answer me directly, just starts talking again about how his girlfriend is really into girls and I should really talk to her, because he really likes me and I would be perfect.  I then tell him that I think we should carry on this conversation when he’s sober; that I have good advice to give him if he and his girlfriend are looking to open up their relationship or experiment, but that right now we can’t have a real conversation about it because he’s so shit-faced.  “Am I drunk?” he asks.  Yes.  Yes, you are drunk.  I then proceed to tell him that by the way, I have no interest in fucking him and his girlfriend since I know them and see them all the time.  I try not to fuck where I eat.  He looks pretty shocked by this piece of information, so I then say: “You know that in order to have sex with someone, you need their consent, right?  Well, you don’t have mine.”  At this point, his girlfriend comes over and tells him she’s going home.  I tell him he should go home with her and sleep it off, but he stays at the bar while she leaves, obviously upset.  Two things about this scenario blow my mind: One, that this guy seems to have decided all on his own that I was going to sleep with him and his girlfriend and then told his girlfriend this while obliterated, which is the WORST IDEA EVER.  Two, that he presented it to me as though it were a gift.  Like, “We want to have a threesome, and we choose you!”  Like I'm a fucking Pokemon.  Like I’m supposed to be honored because I have the opportunity to fuck him.   

Incident #4:  This guy who I’ve seen at the bar a bunch of times (and who’s hit on me a couple of times, in the midst of hitting on all the other women there) comes over in the middle of a conversation and grabs my arm to look at a tattoo.  He then touches another tattoo on my body and says, “Oh, I really like this.  Where are you from?”  I answer, but I give him a look that says Why-the-fuck-are-you-interrupting-my-conversation? and look back at the person I was talking to.  He asks another question, which I answer curtly, and he gets it; he walks away.  Later on that night, as I’m leaving the bar, he grabs my arm, pulls me over and says, “Hey, do you have Kakao?”  “Nope,” I say.  This is an honest answer.  I don’t.  “Facebook?” he asks.  “Nope,” I say.  “I want to have dinner with you,” he says.  “Can I have your phone number?”  No, I tell him.  He looks confused, so I continue: “You’re a man in a bar who’s hitting on me.  I don’t know you.  So -- no.”  He actually asks me to repeat this, which I do, slowly.  “No offense to you,” I say.  He nods, and I walk away.

Incident #5:  I go into the smoking room to have a cigarette; I ask a friend for one, which he gladly gives me.  The guy next to him says, “You have to show us your tits if you want one.”  I hand the cigarette back and say I don’t need it.  He then says, “I was just kidding.”  “Yeah,” I say.  “Sexual harassment is pretty funny.”  “I was joking,” he insists.  Whatever, dude.  I want to go into a whole rant about how comments like that promote rape culture and hurt men and women alike; how it’s comments like that that serve as a catalyst for a privileged twenty-something kid to say, “Women owe me sex by the very existence of their being and they’re not giving it to me, so I’m going to kill a bunch of them.”  But by that point in the night, I don’t want to talk any more.  I’d be pretty happy not to see a male-identified person for awhile, period. 

A Public Service Announcement from Teachers Have Sex:

1.  Just because I’m putting a P in my V now doesn’t mean that I want to fuck you.  I don’t. 
2.  Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean that you have the right to touch me.  I’m not public property.  In addition, just because I have a tattoo doesn’t give you express permission to touch me.
3.  Just because I’m bisexual doesn’t mean that I want to have threesomes (I mean, I do, but not with you). 
4.  If you’re interested in the idea of having a threesome with your girlfriend and another woman, you need to hash that shit out in several conversations before you start looking for a partner.  Following that, don’t make assumptions that any woman you happen to know is up for it. 
5.  Actually, here’s a general rule of thumb: Don’t make any assumptions.  Period. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tell Me When it Hurts...

I have the tendency not to tell people when they’re hurting me; I just keep it in and accept it until I hit a breaking point or the pain stops.  Of course I know this isn’t healthy, but it’s so hard to break this habit once you’ve started.  I think: Maybe if I tell this person (s)he’s hurting me, (s)he will be defensive.  Maybe (s)he will blame it on me.  Maybe (s)he’ll apologize but won’t mean it.  Or even worse: Maybe (s)he won’t apologize.  Maybe (s)he doesn’t care. 

Maybe (s)he will say, “I’m sorry you felt hurt.”  Not, “I’m sorry I hurt you.”

If I’m hurting someone, I for sure want to know so that I can change my behavior / language or at least try to be more aware and more respectful of that person’s needs and feelings… so what stops me from thinking that other people feel the same way?

I’m reflecting on this because of a couple of incidents that happened this weekend, both of which are related to physical pain rather than emotional pain.  The gentleman I am currently (whatever with) was visiting; there was a point in the weekend where he physically hurt me more than I wanted to be hurt (Kink!  Look it up.), and I didn’t speak up.  The next day, I did something that caused him physical pain, and he didn’t say anything; I stopped when I noticed he was wincing. 

Why didn’t I say anything?  Why didn’t he say anything?   I can’t speak for him, but in my case, I didn’t want to ruin the moment.  It worked out well; the moment went un-ruined and carried on into a pretty spectacular night.  But it probably would have been just as spectacular had I said, “That feels good, but it would feel even better if it were a little lighter.”  Had he said something to me right away when he felt pain, it definitely would have resulted in a better night for both of us. 

This was just physical pain; remaining silent about emotional pain has far worse (often long-term) ramifications… it can be corrosive and psychologically damaging.  Two things I’m trying to learn from this relationship are a) how to be a better communicator and b) how to be more mindful; this might be a good place to start.  I’m trying to remind myself that often when we feel hurt, the person who is hurting us isn’t even aware they’re doing it. 

Tiny Buddha has a really wonderful article on how to confront people who hurt you; when I read the article, I realized that maybe I should be looking at expressing hurt feelings in a different way.  I shouldn’t focus on what I expect the other person’s reaction to be, or what I fear their reaction will be, but rather focus on honestly expressing myself with no expectations and no judgment.  A difficult endeavor, but worthwhile in the long run.    

Now to lighten the mood of this post: I was watching an episode of Star Trek: TNG last night in which Picard and Dr. Crusher are linked telepathically through a device attached to their brainstems (because science fiction!).  They discover through reading each others' thoughts that they’ve been engaging in an activity together that neither one of them enjoys just because each one thinks that it makes the other happy (It’s just breakfast, you pervs.  Get your minds out of the gutter.).  Further evidence that we should speak up when something really bothers us.*  What I'm getting at here is that we can look to Star Trek to learn deep life lessons.   

[This episode, by the way, has the most gutting ending.  After seven years of flirting, Picard says to Crusher something along the lines of “Now that we know how we feel about each other, maybe we shouldn’t be afraid to explore those feelings.”  Bev replies, “Maybe we should be afraid,” and then walks out the door.  WHAT.  Bev Crusher, who twice before has started to tell Picard about her feelings before something cuts her off!  How can you do this to us, son of Carl Sagan? 

Ahem.  Sorry.  Sometimes Star Trek makes me emotional.] 

*However, there is something to be said for tact and careful consideration of what we choose to say / how we choose to say it.

Monday, May 26, 2014

New Restrictions on Social Media Postings for Teachers

Pretty thrilled not to be living in Kansas right now...

From the linked NPR article:
"Under the policy, examples of improper use of social media include speech that could incite or produce violence, discloses confidential information or 'is contrary to the best interests of the employer.'"

That is wide open.  I'm wondering what constitutes "confidential information".  Pretty sure that under this policy I would already be suspended / fired / tarred and feathered... whatever it is that they do to teachers in Kansas.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Because Teacher is Inappropriate

I had this elementary student for two years who had a dark sense of humor like me; we got on like beer and chicken (in case you aren't aware, beer and chicken are partners). 

One day, we were reading a story in his class about a young boy and his grandmother called "The Raft" (not to be confused with the excellent short story by Stephen King that made it into the first Creepshow movie); there was a picture in the textbook of the two sitting on a homemade raft.  The young boy was wearing a life jacket; the grandmother was not.  When the students asked why she wasn't wearing a life jacket, the words tumbled out of my mouth before I took the time to think about them: "Maybe they just figure that since she's so old, it doesn't matter if she drowns."

This boy started laughing uproariously and said, "Teacher, you are heartless!"  "Aw -- thanks!" I replied.  Like I said, chicken and beer. 

If the other students got it, I hope they knew I was joking!



I thought it was a genius plan.  Pure, evil genius.  I’d challenge him not to masturbate for an entire week leading up to our weekend together, and I’d take on the challenge too, to be fair.  Then I’d send him dirty blog posts, videos, and pictures all week to try to make him crack.  Brilliant, right?


The upshot of my plan is that I spent hours… HOURS… looking at sex blogs, porn, and dirty pics to find just the right ones, and I can’t masturbate

Longest.  Week.  Ever. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Happy Masturbation May! (NSFR)

Hey everyone!  May is (formerly National) Masturbation Month, so get get thee to bed (or the nearest empty room, or a dark corner in an alley... you know, whatever strikes your fancy) and have a good wank.

Or do this: Walk into your corner watering hole / local public ale house, sit next to an attractive stranger, look him / her dead in the eye, and ask: "So.  What's the most interesting and / or fun place you've ever masturbated?"  I bet if you did this continuously throughout a Friday or Saturday night while bar hopping, you'd end up with some fantastic stories.  Write a comment if you do!  Consider it homework.  I am, after all, a teacher.

For me, it was on an express bus crossing South Korea.  I was on my way home, texting back and forth with this guy I'd wanted to sleep with for years; we were making plans for him to come over that night and "have a few beers."  I couldn't stop fantasizing about him; I absolutely had to touch myself.  The bus was full of people, but most of them were sleeping.  I was sitting in a solo seat and the entire bus was dark; I was silent, and as far as I know, no one noticed at all.  But hey!  At least I'm not the only one who does this.  The express buses in Korea usually stop at a rest area for fifteen - twenty minutes; I've also gone into the rest area bathroom on a couple of cross-country journeys to rub one out.  Sometimes you just need that release, you know?

To women everywhere who acknowledge that they masturbate and enjoy it, I salute you. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Running on Empty

I have this student who always wears a track suit.  He has several, all in different colors.  He’s a big guy who has a buzz cut and walks like a wrestler, even though he doesn’t wrestle.  He often comes in late, clutching his stomach and looking pained, but he’s there every day.  His English level is probably the lowest in his class, but he is super confident -- never afraid to speak, never afraid to make mistakes, and always wanting to participate.  I love him for it.  He’ll often start speaking rapid Korean in the middle of telling me something, when his sentence or idea is too complicated to explain in English; I’ll listen patiently, answer or respond in English (if we’re in the classroom; if I see him in the hallway, we speak in Korean), and keep the conversation going. 

A couple of weeks ago, he missed his Thursday class; the following Tuesday, when I was walking around listening to my students answering conversation questions, he called me over. 

“Oh -- teacher!”  “Hey!”  I said.  “Where were you last week?  Are you okay?”  “Oh no, teacher,” he answered.  “Hospital.”  “Uh?”  I asked (kind of the Korean equivalent of “huh?” or “what?”), thinking he probably went because he either had a cold or was hungover.  In Korea, people don’t go to a clinic or stay home when they’re sick; they go to the hospital.  (I’d like to mention here that a majority of the hospitals in Korea are private, and they’re closed on weekends; only a few hospitals here have emergency rooms open on weekends!  Basically, if you get sick on a Sunday, you’re screwed.)

Anyway, he then proceeded to explain to me in a wild rambling of mixed Korean and English (I would love to reproduce it here, but I wouldn’t do it justice) that the reason he’d gone to the hospital was because he was so sick from drinking that he had to get his stomach pumped; the doctor told him he has severe liver damage from (and here I quote) “middle school high school drink all time.”   Fuck.  I guess now I know why he always looks like he’s in pain -- he probably always is.  And he probably keeps on drinking, joking about it, and thinking he’s invincible, as we all do in our early twenties.

Update: Today my students gave presentations; this student was missing.  His best friend came up to me and said, "S could not come to school today.  Police."  "What?!" I asked.  "He's at the police station?!"  "Yes," he said, calmly.  "What happened?  Is he okay?"  I asked.  "I don't know," he said, and walked away, unphased, like this shit happens all the time.

Further Update:  S comes to class this week and tells me he was at the police station.  I know, I tell him.  I ask if he's alright and to tell me what happened.  Apparently, his friend called him to help him in a fistfight.  S went, and the police came.  He then told me that the police have an arrest warrant (!) out for him, but that it's okay because he's "buying a lawyer."  He makes me promise not to tell the other teachers.  I pinky swear I won't, and he stands in front of class to give his presentation.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

A sampling of hilarious and delightful things my former elementary students wrote:

1.  She (a teacher) is leave because we toke all the time.
2.  My mom is my hoes wife.
3.  When we finished shop, we went to the calculator.
4.  If I will be president I will kill all the people that eat alcholes.
5.  If you don't brush your teeth you will get plague.
6.  I would travel by Car, becaus If I ride airplane, boat… I’ll throw-up and dizzy.
    I would travel by whale, because it is free of charge, and good at earth.
    I would travel by future traffic. (because it is better than now traffic).

I really miss those kids.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Science of... Love?

Disclaimer: As much as I desperately wish I were, I'm not a scientist - if there are any scientists who read this and think, "That's not right!" please let me know!

Every week, I listen to an insightful and fascinating podcast on sexuality, relationships, and dating called Sex Nerd Sandra (I highly recommend it!); this week’s topic was on how and why we pick our partners.  Her second guest, Kate Loree (a marriage and relationships counselor) talked a lot about the neurochemistry and endocrinology of relationships and sex -- what happens in our brains and endocrine systems when we’re attracted to someone, when we sleep with someone, when we date and enter into relationships. 

She argued that the person you’re attracted to / the person you have passionate, lustful, insatiable sex with isn’t necessarily the person you should settle down with; that sexual attraction happens because of serotonin and dopamine, but those things shouldn't be the basis of wanting to grow old with someone.*  Sandra countered with this question: “If I can’t trust my brain chemicals, then what can I trust, and what is love if not that feeling?” 

This got me thinking a lot.  I’m struggling with the idea of sexual desire and the desire to be in a committed relationship being mutually exclusive.  I know for sure that I wouldn’t want to start a relationship -- the kind that takes negotiation, communication, and compromise -- with someone who I didn’t have great sex with.  That being said, everyone has different priorities when it comes to sex, romance, dating, and relationships.  There are people for whom finding a partner who is willing to commit, work together, sacrifice, and compromise is most important.  There are people for whom finding a good co-parent in a romantic partner is the most important thing.  In addition, situations, attraction, and people change, and there are a lot of couples who stay in committed partnerships / companionships but who no longer have sex, or who find sexual fulfillment outside of their primary partnership.  And to that I say: You do you! 

For me, good sex is non-negotiable.**  And really amazing sex takes hard work.  It takes open communication, negotiation, and compromise!  If great sex takes the same kind of hard work that great relationships take, couldn’t it be the beginning of building a foundation of a strong relationship?

Loree also talked about the role of cortisol in emotional and physical pain resulting from being separated from a partner; cortisol is a hormone that spikes when we feel stress.  When this happens because of separation from a partner, it’s akin to going through drug withdrawal since so many neurotransmitter and hormone levels elevate when we’re with someone we desire (dopamine, serotonin) or love (oxytocin, vasopressin) or both (again - not mutually exclusive).

I was ecstatic to hear this!  I know that sounds ridiculous, but I’ve spent the past few months thinking I was absolutely insane because I’m dating someone who lives in another city, and every time we say goodbye, I feel real, visceral, physical, searing pain that lasts for days.  I sometimes find myself in the middle of my hardwood floor on my hands and knees in a puddle of uncontrollable, sudden onset tears and think, “Why is this happening to meeeeeee?!”  And now I know.  So thanks for that, adrenal glands! 

It felt good to hear Sandra talking about her experiences with this, because it’s always nice to know that you’re not crazy and other people feel this way, too. 

I’ve had really great sex with people I didn’t have an emotional attachment to, and have loved people I’ve had good, but not incredible, sex with.  And once in my life, I was lucky enough to have both.  Right now, I’m struggling with this question: If I’m having mind-blowing sex with someone, but I’m also experiencing romantic feelings for that person -- real, valid, haven't-felt-like-this-in-years feelings -- do my romantic feelings just come from the hormones?  In the beginning of a relationship (with NRE working its magic), how do we know the difference?    

*She later went on to say that building a relationship should be the result of a conscious decision to be with someone who helps you self-actualize. 
**A friend said to me the other day, “I think you’re like me - your heart lives in your vagina.”     

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Travel Sex (NSFR - Not Safe for Relatives)

As in: Hey there, sister!  You might not want to read this one.

So I’m at this IRA pub in Derry, talking to the only other Americans I’d met traveling through Northern Ireland (they happened to be from my state, so we were getting on quite well) and a group of gents that had heard our funny accents and came over to talk to us.  I distinctly remember this one fellow who was telling me that he could no longer see out of his right eye because he’d gotten hit in the face with a rubber bullet.  “You’re pulling my leg,” I said, not believing him at first.  And then a split second later, I realized: he’s totally not kidding.  I’m in Northern Ireland.  

The whole time we’re having this conversation, I notice a big bald guy looking over at me (looking me over?) from a table a few feet away.  I give him a smile and keep talking to the group of guys I’m with.  After a couple of pints, they decide to call it a night and head out the door, leaving me still a bit chatty and not quite ready to leave, but with no one to talk to.  I go and sit in an empty chair next to the wall, and the bald bloke pulls up the chair across from me.  We exchange our names, say a few introductory words, and then: “So - how about we get out of here, then?”  “No,” I said, grinning -- “I don’t think I’m looking for that tonight.”  We continue talking, and I realize that maybe I am up for it.  I’m really not into bald guys (Captain Jean-Luc Picard being the exception), but he was handsome and I was traveling.  “Okay,” I said.  “Okay, what?” he asked.  “Let’s get out of here.  I have a room in a bed and breakfast down the road.”  No more needed to be said; we grabbed our coats and walked briskly out the door into the January night. 

We did have a lovely conversation on the way; he told me about the history of the area, and I asked a lot of questions.  The cold air felt good in my lungs and I had drunk just enough to feel warm and giddy.  Once we got into my room, the conversation was done.  Usually, one night stand sex isn’t great; sometimes, it’s downright awful.  But this was hot.  This guy was built like a fucking bodybuilding giant, which again is usually not the type of guy I’m attracted to, but he was perfect that night.  He picked me up like I weighed nothing and fucked me against the wall, banging me into it so hard that we knocked paintings of ships off of it and so loud that there is no way we didn't wake up every single guest.  He tugged my hair like reins and compressed my entire body against him.  He flung me all over the room like a rag doll, and I wanted more.  We rested for a little bit, soaking the sheets in our sweat, before going at it again. 

And then: “Okay, you can go now.”
“What?” he asked with furrowed brows.
“I said you can go.  Go home and get some sleep."
“You’re not going to let me stay here?”
“No," I laughed.  "I’d also like to get some sleep.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah, I’m serious.  I had a really good time, but you need to go.”

He put his clothes on, looking confused, and joked about me being cold.  He gave me his card (there once was a time before Facebook), like I was going to contact him. 

And honestly, it felt good to have that kind of power.  I walked into the B&B’s dining room the next morning, tranquil as a monk, smelling of sex and faintly smiling, and sat down in a beautiful hand-carved wooden rocking chair at a table with a doily on it next to a wall covered with sky blue and cream colored wallpaper, and I tore into the Ulster fry in front of me like a champ.    

In any case, the point of the story is that travel sex is great, you guys.  Go do it (be safe!).  And it’s okay not to be Facebook friends after you do.     

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

National Standards for Sex Education

The new SIECUS state profile on sexuality education says that 55% of high school students in my hometown are or have been sexually active.  When I was in middle school, I was in a clique of five girls (kind of ashamed to admit this, but there it is); by the time we graduated from middle school, three of the five had already gone full-on PIV.  I wasn’t one of them, but I certainly wasn’t far behind; I lost my V-card two months into high school.  I wasn’t pressured by the guy I slept with or any of my friends; I wanted to have sex.  I was a teenage girl who recognized my sexual desire and made a conscious decision to act on it  -- right after trick or treating, no less (before you tell me I was too old to be trick or treating in high school, I was collecting canned goods for a food bank!).  But that’s another story. 

Anyway, this is why it freaks me out so much that a) abstinence is still being taught in many schools as the only way to prevent pregnancy and STIs and b) when sexuality education is taught, it’s taught in a risk-avoidance framework that only focuses on pregnancy and STIs.  Like these are the only topics that matter when it comes to sexuality.  Teaching using a risk-avoidance model doesn’t allow for students’ voices to be heard or for their desires to be acknowledged.  It doesn’t help them navigate their way through the very murky waters of sexual communication and negotiation; it doesn’t even touch on identifying and talking about sexual harassment and abuse or sexual identity. 

We took a class my freshman year of high school that discussed condoms and birth control, but kind of how a top secret government agent might talk about UFOs -- as in, “these things are out there, but that information is classified.”  Obviously, this class came way too late.  Health education in middle school mostly covered ‘our changing bodies’ and issues related to puberty, and that conversation was too late as well, as our bodies were already morphing into unrecognizable and sometimes very smelly alien creatures. 

I mostly dealt with this by a) talking to my one friend* who could confide in her mother about being sexually active and therefore knew where Planned Parenthood was and how to make an appointment, and b) teaching students how to use condoms in the lobby after school as part of an HIV 101 mini-class.  I can just imagine that piece of paperwork coming across the principal’s desk: “HIV education!  That’s a great idea.  They’ll talk about the immune system.  It’s biology!”  

There are a lot of organizations that are working hard on comprehensive sexuality education for middle and high school students: Advocates for Youth, SIECUS, answer, and Scarleteen to name a few.  The first three listed worked together recently with a bunch of health / health education networks and organizations to develop national standards for teaching sex education, which is super exciting!  If core subjects have national standards, health education should have them too, no?  I mean, having to include standards on lesson plans sucks, but having a list of national standards for sex ed not only normalizes the subject but gives teachers guidelines to help them work toward a more inclusive and comprehensive sexuality and relationships education model, rather than the risk-avoidance model that is so commonly taught now. 

*This is the same friend who first took me to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and for that I am forever grateful.

Friday, May 2, 2014


I have this student who always sits apart from the rest of the class... off to the side, next to the wall.  This particular class is a cohort of students who take all of their classes together and basically spend all of their time together.  They’re tight… except this guy.  He always wears a leather jacket; he’s a little pudgy, and he’s got a little bit of a unibrow going on.  When I talk to him, he always smiles, and he’s smart -- he doesn’t always do his homework, but when he does, it’s really good.  He gets jokes that the other students don’t get.  His answers are more creative. 

We were doing partner discussion a couple of days ago, and one student was missing, so I took the opportunity to be his partner.  Usually, when I do this, my students freak out a little; they’re scared to speak in English to the instructor for the duration of class (which I understand -- speaking in a second language for that long can be exhausting if you’re at a beginner or intermediate level).  But he looked happy. 

We were asking and answering questions that contained idioms related to the body: Do you know someone with a heart of gold?  Did you ever put your foot in your mouth?  What do people do that gets on your nerves?  In the middle of these questions came: Do you know someone who always keeps people at arm’s length?  “Yes,” he said.  “Who?”  I asked.  “Tell me about this person.”  “It’s me!” he replied, and laughed.  Suddenly, I was curious. “Why?” I asked.  “Why?” he repeated.  “Yes.”  “I have a disease,” he said, confidently.           

“Oh,” I said, matter-of-factly.  “Like Asperger’s?”  He didn’t know what that was, so I wrote it down for him.  He looked at it and said, “No.  I have schizophrenia.  Do you know schizophrenia?”  “Yes,” I said.  “I do.”  My heart breaking a little, my face trying to remain neutral. 

In South Korea, there is a serious social stigma against mental illness and physical disability.  I have seen parents not get the proper care or medication for their child because they won’t admit that (s)he needs help.  Families who have differently-abled children often hide them away from society (watch the movie “Oasis” for a dramatic example of this), so it was really surprising that this student so readily admitted this to me, smile on his face. 

I asked if he was seeing a therapist.  Yes, he said -- twice a week.  Was he on meds?  Yes.  Then he said, “Don’t worry -- it’s not bad.  I just think that my face is changing.”  I made a questioning sound, so he repeated: “I just think my face is changing all the time.  This is my only problem.”  Oh, okay. 

My coworkers think that this kid is an outcast, or maybe a 왕 타 (victim of bullying).  They crack jokes about how he’s the kind of kid who you’d see on the news for school shooting if guns were legal in Korea.  I always just thought he was an introvert.  I would never in a million years tell them about his schizophrenia (he didn’t say to keep it confidential, but it’s the right thing to do), but I will certainly make a quicker and stronger defense of him if he comes up again in conversation. 

After the body idioms discussion and a short film, we moved on to questions involving relationship idioms and largely agreed on our answers.  Neither of us believes in soul mates, we both think that open and honest communication is the best way to patch up a relationship, and neither of us is interested in settling down.  Maybe I feel a kinship to him because I’ve always felt like an outsider too, even from the inside. 

My favorite moment in our whole conversation was this one, though:
Me: Do you believe in love at first sight? 
Him: Yes! 
Me: Why?
Him: Because I fall in love with every girl I see!