Friday, March 5, 2010

Flashback Friday: How Twins Are Made

When I was teaching high school, I had this problem with freshmen and sophomores. Seniors I could kind of deal with because they were a lot like regular people in some ways. But underclassmen were like feral cats. No matter what kind of dog-and-pony show I put on, no matter how many empty threats I issued, no matter how much public humiliation I meted out, they could not be drawn out of their world of adolescent intrigue. Somehow, I started talking about my wife one day (in the context of achieving some state-mandated standard I'm sure), and they started asking questions: "Why don't you have kids?", "Have you ever cheated on her?", "Aren't you gay?" When I realized that this was a way I could get their attention, I began to make it a regular reward. Do some work and don't scream for 15 minutes, and I'll tell you about our wedding. That kind of thing. I felt a little bad about doing this instead of "teaching" until I read Teacher Man by Frank McCourt. It turns out that all he ever did as a teacher was tell stories about himself, and he was like the best teacher ever! So I'm applying this strategy here in hopes of keeping your attention in case I have something important to say.

How Twins Are Made

My wife and I first met at a Mudhoney concert in a smokey bar in Charlottesville that smelled like stale beer and vomit. We had a mutual friend, and it turned out that we also had a religion class in common at the local charm school, UVA. The class was called "Faith and Doubt" which becomes funnier later, since she was brought up to be faithful and I was brought up to be doubtful. We recognized each other from class. I had had some filthy thoughts about her for which I was profoundly ashamed, and she had noticed me asleep at my desk. From then on, we chatted after class, or at least after the sessions that I attended.

It was 1990. She was a second-year (can't say freshman, sophomore, etc. at UVA for some stupid reason) student in an honors program called Political and Social Thought, and I was a four-and-a-halfth year garden-variety English major with two years of pre-college soul-searching (trying to be a rock star) under my belt. We both felt bad for the TA leading our silent and disinterested discussion group, and hated the one guy who always spoke up in class. I was attracted to her, and why shouldn't I have been? She was 90 lbs of coquettish Asian sexiness, with her modest brown jeans, asymmetrical hairdo, sensible 3-eye Doc Martens, and oversized tortoise-shell glasses. But because she seemed so young, innocent, and serious, I never imagined that she was interested in me.

There were a number of factors that made it seem unlikely that we would ever get together. The first was that I was a 24-year-0ld man of the world and she was a virtuous and young-looking 19, barely cut loose from her mother's apron strings. I had fully planned on moving to Prague after graduating, where I would teach English and date artsy expats, and she had two years of college left to go. And then there was the inexcusable fashion crime that would come to be known as the Sammy Hagar pants. I had a friend who held a lot of sway over me even though he didn't have my best interests at heart. He convinced me to take bodybuilding supplements, grow a scraggly goatee, buy a bb gun, and he probably delayed the long-overdue demise of my mullet by at least six months. There were other, even more tawdry things that he encouraged me to do, but the worst of them was to invest in several pairs of boldly patterned baggy drawstring pants of the type favored by gymrats who wear bandannas on their heads. Oh yeah, I also sometimes wore a bandanna on my head. How could any woman fall in love with a man dressed as I was? On top of all these social and sartorial impediments to the fulfillment of our destiny, we were both dating other people.

One weekend toward the end of the semester, I was playing rollerblade hockey and got knocked on my ass. I had bought knee and elbow pads, but was still saving up for the wrist guards. It turns out that I should have gotten the wrist guards first. I broke a teeny little bone, the scaphoid, that takes a very long time to heal, and I had to finish my college career left-handed. Momma Doc and I had started sitting next to each other in class (again--when I could make it there), and she took pity on me as I scrawled notes with my clumsy meathook. She suggested, or maybe I asked, I can't remember--but in any case, arrangements were made as the final approached for me to go to her apartment and study her notes. Of course, I couldn't drive my car since it had a stickshift; so the young woman I was half-heartedly dating, kind of a militant feminist biker chick, who had been chauffeuring me around for weeks, dropped me at my future wife's pad, jokingly admonishing me not to get up to any funny business, lest she have to kick both of our asses. Ha ha ha ha ha. Yeah. Ha ha.


  1. I totally knew babies were made at late-night "study" sessions.


Don't hold back.


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