My best friend and I were walking home from high school – it was either Freshman or Sophomore year, I can’t remember as I’m bad with dates, times.
But where I am bad with actual dates, I can clearly remember emotions. I remember the exact place where I was when she told me she was having an affair with the cutest teacher in school. In our very small Catholic school.
We were walking along the baseball field. It was spring. An unseasonably warm day. I had thought I knew my best friend – really knew her.
And yet, when she said, “I have something to tell you. You can’t tell anyone.” I had no clue, NONE, as to what she was going to confide in me.
“Mr. W and I are having an affair.”
I was horrified.
I remember staring at the ground. Then looking at the blooming flowers. I remember the smell of lilacs.
I remember a feeling of nausea and wanting desperately to rewind time.
And you have to know that I was probably one of the craziest, zaniest, “do what feels good” type of teenagers. I usually went against the grain. I got an F in religion for “asking too many questions.” I admired Madonna (Like a Virgin) not Madonna (like a pregnant Virgin).
And so that is probably why she thought her secret was safe with me. And it was – until her mother found the LETTERS he wrote to her.
I think I was probably one of the first to be sexually active – and not because I was really interested in it, but because I wanted to be the first of my friends. I wanted to be as cool as the Madonna (the singer). I wanted to experience what the articles in the magazine Cosmopolitan assured me was my RIGHT, my privilege, my ‘power.’
Sex with teachers (in a very small town) was not something that really even entered my mind. This was pre- internet. Pre “Teacher Sleeps With Students" as everyday headlines.
And yet, I was deeply horrified.
Mr. W was a married man with kids.
Mr. W was a friend to my best-friends parents. He and his wife attended BBQ’s and parties with my BFF’s family.
I just knew, with unflinching sureness, it was horribly wrong. It had nothing to do with religion. It had everything to do with betrayal. A wife. Children. Friends.
And then, there were students. Mr. W’s betrayal of students, of the parents of students who trusted him.
She assured me they hadn’t “gone all the way” – that it was stolen moments of oral sex in our classrooms.
My BFF felt special – out of all the very pretty girls in our school – she was the one he chose.
I didn’t feel so sure about this – I felt that she was the one he chose to dupe. I didn’t envy her at all. She really believed he loved her.
But how could one believe a man would love you if he was cheating on his wife, on his children, on the school (a Catholic school!).
She came from a great family. A big family. A loving family. A mother that joked about sex and was more of a friend than a parent. I loved her family.
I could barely look at Mr. W the next day at school, or the days that followed. I had no one to turn to – no one to confide in. I remember warning my BFF that is just didn’t seem right. But a grown-up, a handsome, very popular grown up ‘loved’ her – she couldn’t see, she wouldn’t see, why this might be harmful to her confidence, to her spirit.
And then, when she was out of town visiting relatives, her mother and father arrived at my house.
Her mother asked me to please come out to the car.
It was a station wagon. I slid into the backseat, sitting on the edge. In the rear view mirror I could see the face of my BFF’s father. He had tears in his eyes. I’d never seen a grown man cry.
I thought my BFF had died. Why else would her mother and father be at my house?
They quickly assured me she was okay.
Then her mother started crying. She asked me to please be honest with her. She said she knew I was a good friend and very loyal, but for the safety of my BFF- she begged me to be honest.
“Is she having an affair with a teacher?”
I remember not answering. What do I do? What do I say?
I was angry I’d been placed in this situation. Watching parents CRYING because a teacher had betrayed them. Stolen the innocence of their oldest child.
Do the right thing. It’s what I’ve always been told. But loyalty to me was top of that ‘right’ list. Because if you don’t have loyalty, if you don’t have trust, what do you have?
And then, they made it very, very easy for me.
“I found letters. Behind her bathroom mirror. I was cleaning her room. I wanted to surprise her. I wasn’t even looking for anything. I found letters. I just need to know if it’s true.”
She couldn’t believe it. Was it some kind of joke? Was it real? How could this be true?
All at once I was relieved.
My decision was easy. I couldn’t lie to her parents in the face of evidence (and what kind of STUPID teacher writes his student love letters!!!)
“Yes. It’s true.”
There was much crying. Her father started openly crying. Her mother was sobbing. I was crying.
I dreaded what would happen when I’d have to face my BFF again. I couldn’t text her to warn her. I couldn’t even call her as she was out of town and I didn’t have the number.
Of course, she was angry and hurt when she found out I had confirmed to her parents.
Mr. W was forced to resign. He (and his family) moved out of town.
Did I mention that he was a popular, well loved teacher?
I learned about ‘mob’ mentality early in life. I learned about illogical ideas, illogical people. I learned early about hypocrisy.
For the cold shoulder I got from my friend was understandable, but the anger I received from the upper classmen because their beloved teacher was forced to resign, to move, was shocking.
The football coach (and PE teacher) called me into his office.
“Why did you do that?”
I was flustered. Why did I do that?
I was at fault?
Not the grown ass teacher sleeping with an impressionable student?
“Do you think she is the first one? Do you think this doesn’t go on? Do you think I haven’t had affairs?” And then he proceeded to name some girls who had graduated the year before. Pretty, popular, girls.
I had liked him (the football coach PE teacher) prior to this beatdown I was getting. Again, I never ever suspected, nor had I even heard any rumors about girls having sex with teachers. He told me if I breathed a word, he’d make my life miserable at school.
There was no “Google” back then. No place to go to find out if this was happening to other people (teachers having sex with students, teachers threating students for ‘whistle-blowing’). Of course, I did tell my close friends what the gym teacher had said, but we were all intimidated and afraid to say anything. It was a small school. You couldn’t exactly get lost in the crowd.
I learned sometimes it was easier not to raise hell when it came to the truth if it meant the difference between living comfortably or living in fear of retaliation.
I learned that even if you have a family that seems to have it all – loving parents, great brothers and sisters, great friends, it won’t protect you.
I learned that sex is confused with love and both can destroy.
After graduation, my BFF ran into Mr. W. He was in town with the team he was now coaching.
Despite all of the heartache and pain that Mr. W had inflicted on so many people, my BFF still held a romantic idea of him. She always regretted they didn’t “go all the way.”
Well, that night, many years later, my now married BFF and Mr. W (who was still married to the woman he had cheated on) – left the bar, rendezvoused on a dirt road, and consummated what they hadn’t when she was a young teenager.
When she told me, she was a bit ashamed – more so that her husband would find out – but more than anything, I think she was proud. “He still wanted me.”
To the outside world, she is the perfect mother, wife, and friend.
I bring up this story now because I was thinking of how illogical people can be. How popular opinion can turn what is true and right (teachers shouldn’t take advantage of young kids) – a true friend wouldn’t sleep with your teenage child – into hate against the person who committed no wrong other than telling the truth.
People often criticize me for standing up when I see other people being manipulated. They think I’m crazy for going against the grain.
It took me a-long time (and many mistakes) to realize that character is everything. Thinking individually is everything.
I see the way sex is portrayed as a ‘right’ – not something to be honored between loving, people in a committed union.
And the conflict! Women are taught that using sex is powerful. That sleeping around it powerful. That being free with sex is liberating.
And then they accuse men of raping them when he doesn’t call back.
They complain that men treat them as objects – meanwhile they dress like Beyonce and leave nothing to the imagination.
In my lifetime, sex has never, ever been ‘oppressive,’ though certainly, it has increasingly seeped into YA literature, movies, tv, songs – really, there is no escape from the taunting of lizard brain desires and, just like when you’re not hungry but you see a commercial for a fabulous pizza or smell steak on a BBQ, you want it.
In a society where ‘everyone’ is openly having sex, bragging about sex; it seems to me if you want to be truly remarkable and individual, you will save your sex for the person who truly respects you. You won’t allow society to tell you there must be something wrong with you for not wanting to put out.
There are many things that happened in my past that shaped me into being outspoken and unconventional – but there is no doubt that the experience of Mr. W and my best friend; the fallout that occurred after, is one defining episode of my life.
My ‘teachers’ and my peers may have intimidated me into being ‘quiet’ when I was a teenager, but I am no longer that impressionable, and certainly no longer enraptured with what society and culture tell me I’m missing out on.
Know that as a parent, you can do all the right things, and still, if a pervert wants to take advantage of your child, he will. From experience I can tell you it is a MYTH that girls seek the attention of men if/when their fathers’ are not ‘involved.’
Girls seek the attention of men because A)It is part of nature. B)Because everything in society tell you to be of importance, you must be half of a whole.
Watch what your kids read. It is hard for me to find any Young Adult books that don’t contain sex, drugs, and violence not as a warning, but as desirable.
Don’t count on the church to give your children morals and values. Or anyone else for that matter. You need to instill that in them, and more importantly, you need to show them by YOUR action (something I learned a bit too late!).
Well, that’s all I have to say. Maybe not quite. I hope Mr. W and my old gym teacher have a constant case of genital warts. And I hope the wives’ they cheated on wised up, divorced them, and got a big fat alimony check.