I’m Trying to Think of A Sufficiently Awkward Title…

Hi everybody!  How are you today?

That’s how I begin every class session.  It’s not unique, but I really am curious.  The way my students respond gives me useful information about how I need to posture myself that day.  Some days I have a class full of this:

Other days my students make Lurch

look like Fraulein Maria frolicking merrily in the hills of Austria.

I can work with Buddy the Elf.  I can work with Lurch.  I mostly know how to tone it down or play it up to suit the majority mood of the class, but sometimes my students are impossible to read.

They are platypuses.  They are processed American food slices.  They are Juggalos.

In other words, they are mystifying to me, and I don’t know what to do with them.

Her belt buckle. I can’t even…

Wha. . .? Chicken? I don’t even . . .

This Juggalo tattooed his clown paint TO HIS FACE.

By the way, in case you forgot this song existed or have never been exposed to it before, you’re welcome (I’m sorry).  The first time I heard “Miracles” by Insane Clown Posse, I was convinced it was a brilliant piece of self-deprecating satire commenting on the lyrical inanity of popular music.  Alas, it was not.  Alas.

Anyway, this week my students were straight-up Juggalos and Juggalettes.  I could almost see the traces of face paint clinging to their shirt collars.  I could smell the Faygo on their breath.  It was confusing for all of us.

I could add a disclaimer here about how I’m not trying to denigrate Juggalos or Juggalettes or Juggatrans or Juggapuses (for any platypuses out there who might also listen to ICP).  I could expound upon the fact that they have the ‘merican right to express their inner clowns.  I could, but I will not.  I refuse to be politically correct when it comes to Juggalos.  I’m sure they don’t care about what I have to say anyway, but if they do, mercifully they will have plenty of Faygo, face paint and Hatchetman charms in which to drown their sorrows.

Anyway, in honor of the strange atmosphere in my classes this week, I bring to you – Five Awkward Moments with My Students, Past and Present:

5) I Like Your Eyebrows

A couple of years ago, after detailing the requirements for a new essay assignment, I asked if there were any questions.  Questions, mind you.  I did not make a request for off-topic statements.

Naturally, one student raised his hand and said, “I like your eyebrows!  You have really nice eyebrows.”

I wanted to tell him the following:

Sir, one simply doesn’t say such things to one’s teacher, out loud, in the middle of class.  That is the sort of thing one notices, observes, and then places in a quiet little mind-drawer labeled ‘Shit I Definitely Shouldn’t Ever Say Out Loud.”  Maybe, possibly, if one is on really close terms with a teacher, this could be mentioned in private after class, but really, let’s be honest, it’s bound to sound a little creepy regardless.  You’re talking about my eyebrows, friend.  That’s odd.  You might as well have said this:

“I like your eyebrows.  In fact, I’d like to shave the left one off your forehead, dip it in pâté and gently caress it with my tongue while I browse JPEGs of sexy Brony fan art

This exists. Somebody made this.

The right one I will preserve in a Riker mount so that I may treasure it for all eternity, a memento of how skeeved out I made you feel at this moment.  Also, I’m probably going to make sushi out of your  gallbladder meat at some point.”


(P.S. I kind of understand the Brony phenomenon.  I mean, what self-respecting human wouldn’t want to watch a TV show about fabulous ponies.  However, I will never ‘get’ nor will I ever support the people who draw or look at sexualized pictures of cartoon ponies in order to get aroused.  That. . .no. . .I shouldn’t even have to explain why).

4) Do You Own Pants?

I suppose students can’t help but notice my appearance.  After all, I’m pretty much the only thing they get to stare at for an entire hour, aside from my perplexing handwriting on the board and a few PowerPoint slides (with the occasional piece of bizarre clip art I throw on there, just because).  Do you remember clip art?  The animals are my favorite.  Here’s a sampling:

This bitchin’ cat.

These faaaabulous critters

These faaaabulous critters

This smug bastard.

This smug bastard.

These Jewish mice drilling a hole in this uncomfortable turtle's shell with a dreidel.

These Jewish mice drilling a hole in this frightened turtle’s shell with a dreidel.

So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when students comment on my face and clothing in the middle of class.  No, wait, I should.  It’s still weird.

One day a student raised her hand in the middle of class.  When I called on her, instead of asking about thesis statements or paragraph unity or whatever scintillating composition topic we happened to be discussing at that moment, she asked, “Do you own pants?” (apparently noticing my confusion, she attempted to clarify) “No, I mean like, do you have any pants?  I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear a pair of pants, just dresses and skirts.  So do you even have any pants?”

This was the same student who wanted to write an essay expounding upon the merits of McDonald’s with the goal of persuading more American diners to eat there because, you know, with ‘Billions and Billions Served’ and a 35.7% adult obesity rate in America, McDonald’s clearly needs help attracting more American customers.  One of her supporting points was going to be “You don’t have to get all dressed up to eat at McDonald’s like if you go to a five star restaurant like TGI Fridays.”

Five Star Frozen Mac-N-Cheese Wedges

I can’t remember how I responded to her question, but I do remember that it was more awkward than that Michelle Obama/Ann Romney hug.

Those strained facial expressions

3) You Must Have 2 Legs to Ride 

A few days ago in my intro to lit. class, we were discussing the Chuck Palahniuk short story “Escort.”  The story is based on Palahniuk’s experience volunteering as an “escort” (non-sexual companion for hospice patients in this story).  One hospice patient, a one-legged gay man, directs the narrator, in the event of his death, to clean the sexual paraphernalia (leatherwear, dildos, etc.) out of his apartment so that his mother doesn’t have to see it.

At one point, a student who usually doesn’t participate in discussion raised his hand and asked, “I don’t get it, though.  I mean, how can a one-legged man even have sex?”

First of all, this was coming from an 18-year-old freshman, so perhaps he’s not the most . . . experienced.  Still.  My reaction was a combination of this

and this

but with this level of awkwardness as I attempted to stammer out an answer:

2)  TWSS

Once, after I explained the length requirements for an essay, a student groaned, “Man, there is no way I’m gonna be able to get it that long!”

My mature, knee-jerk thought was

But the problem is that I didn’t keep that thought inside my head where it belonged, folded neatly in my quiet little mind drawer.  Instead, I said it out loud before I could stop myself. Thank you Steve Carell.

The cloud of forced, red-faced laughter that followed is out there still, drifting awkwardly through space, making every meteorite and pile of space garbage it bumps into sweaty and uncomfortable.

1)      Turning Wine to Water(falls)

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not a drinker.  I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with imbibing, but I’m a lightweight.  A cheap date.  An

I’m a square.  So I don’t drink that often because most of the time I don’t really want to be drunk.

When I first started teaching, I was 24.  Since I taught at a community college, most of my freshmen were not 18 – many were nontraditional students my age or older.  So it was that I ended up at a party with one of my students.  Turns out we had a mutual friend.  By the time I realized who he was, it was too late – my inhibitions were severely compromised.  Disastrous awkwardness was a certainty.  Again, I want to remind you that I wasn’t throwing back trays of jell-o shots or doing keg stands.  I was sipping mildly on a single glass of wine.  Still, the effect was the same.

At some point I mentioned to everyone that I still remembered all the words to TLC’s “Waterfalls”

and after a few rounds of motivational name-chanting, I was persuaded to perform.  Mind you, there was no karaoke machine.  This was acapella.  I sang loudly and off-key.  I danced wildly for all to see.  At the time, I’m sure I thought my dance moves looked just like this:

Instead, realistically, I probably looked more like a combination of this

and this

and this

and this



The next day when I reflected upon the experience with the perfect, 20/20 clarity of sober hindsight, I cringed at myself way harder than this guy probably cringed at himself as he walked away from the scene of his unforgivable awkwardness:

Poor guy. I know exactly how he feels.

Any awkward stories to share?


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