Prologue, sort of.
Hi! I have a story, but first I need to clear, or maybe cloud up the air. There’s a guy who’s been doing a TV show, and who will soon be replacing David Letterman on late night. His name is Steven Colbert, and he invented a word he called ‘truthiness’. By truthiness he meant things that sort of sounded true, but in reality were all nonsense. The story below has an element of ‘truthiness’ to it. It was an idea outlined by a very close female acquaintance; she thought I could do something with it and I always do what I’m told when it comes to women.
I hope you enjoy it, but if you read anything that smacks at all of being political, sexist, or homophobic, or anything like that at all please don’t tear your ass over it, it’s just a story.
One modest admonition: there’s no ‘short version’ for me. If you’re in a hurry please go someplace else.
[Saturday morning in the ‘here and now’.]
Theresa Westcott sat down beside her mom, Elizabeth. It was a little after 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday in June not so long ago. Theresa, her sisters, her brothers, her mom, dad and a whole passel of grandparents would be headed out for St. Paul’s United Methodist in a few hours. Theresa was twenty-two, fresh out of college, and she’d finally landed her ‘man’; yeah, this was her big day.
Mom was just pouring herself a cup of coffee when Theresa asked, “Mind if I have a cup too?”
Mom looked askance at her oldest child, “You sure? In a few hours you’ll be walking down the aisle. You’ll be a nervous wreck as it is.”
“Come on mom, just a little. I want to talk.”
Elizabeth poured her daughter a half cup. Intent on cutting the effects of the caffeine she filled the rest with milk. She handed it across the kitchen table, “I thought we already had ‘that talk’ when you started high school?”
Theresa smiled wistfully, “No not ‘that talk’. I had something else in mind.”
Elizabeth sat down. She glanced at the clock over the refrigerator, “OK, I guess we’ve a few minutes.”
Theresa reached over and squeezed her mom’s hand, “First mom thanks again for letting me use your wedding dress, and I’m glad Marty and I are doing this on you and dad’s anniversary.”
Elizabeth smiled, “It means a lot to us.”
“Mom,” Theresa went on, “I know I’ve heard it before, but could you kind of tell me about you and dad. You know how it all started, how it happened, how you guys managed to get together, and mom, I’m an adult now, don’t pull any punches. OK?”
Elizabeth rubbed the top of her little girl’s hand. She remembered not so long ago holding this now fully grown person in her arms. She’d been so tiny, just six pounds four ounces, “No, sorry honey. That’s stuff’s special, just between me and your dad. You go back upstairs. Maybe someday you’ll want to tell me things.”
Theresa looked at her mom, “Mom.”
“No sugar. You go back and lie down. This is your big day.”
Theresa got up and sullenly trudged her way back upstairs.
Elizabeth got up and freshened her coffee. She listened out. Once she was sure Theresa had gone back to bed she sat back down. ‘Well, well’, she thought, ‘the little girl wants to know what happened’. She remembered they’d told the kids the short version, the PG version, but the long version, no that was just for dad and mom. She reflected, ‘it’d been more than twenty-years now. Twenty-two years; it was like yesterday...
[And so it was]
Elizabeth went back there...
I’d just turned twenty-four. Professionally I was working at Gaithersburg Junior High School. I’d just gotten tenure and was feeling pretty proud of myself. There were no middle schools in those days; everything was junior high, that’s seventh through ninth.
I was certified to teach Spanish, French, and Italian, but since I was still pretty new I got stuck with eighth grade French. Eight graders in those days were just a step away from Australopithecines so I knew I’d have my hands full.
I’d been a ‘wallflower’ all my life. Never dated in high school, missed my junior and senior proms. In college no sorority wanted me. I wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t a legacy, and my family didn’t have any money, but I was smart. I ended up in a dorm with all of what I’d suppose they’d call today the nerdiest girls. They were no coed dorms back then.
Well anyone could figure by the time I started my third year teaching there wasn’t going to be any ‘Prince Charming’; no hero coming around to rescue me. Heck, I was ugly, I dressed poorly, I had no money, I had a whole slew of unflattering names under my belt, never had a boyfriend, and by then I figured I’d wind up an old maid.
If Theresa only knew. I sure wasn’t much to look at; stringy brown hair, bottle cap glasses, and a totally unremarkable face. If someone were to call me plain I would have considered it a compliment. Thank God I never had acne, but my complexion was something akin to dishwater. Everyone knows dishwater; that’s the stuff people drain away after they’re done with the dishes.
Was I sexy? If sexy meant being neither tall nor short, not fat or thin, and a bra size that was too much for a B-cup, but not enough for a C. I was sexy. Actually I was the most eminently forgettable woman anyone ever saw. I mean no one ever remembered my name.
Then it happened. We started school. Like I said it was my third year teaching, and then ‘he’ showed up.
His name was Dillon Westcott. He was almost exactly six feet tall. He had the shaggiest light brown hair, and the biggest brown eyes I’d ever seen. He had ‘it’! He was Mr. Charisma. When he walked in that first day it was like the parting of the waters. Jesus he had to be the most beautiful man I’d ever seen.
We all found out pretty quickly how old he was; he was twenty-seven, and he was just getting over a horrific divorce. Every unmarried woman in the building started to fantasize about how they’d get his attention and mend his broken heart.
I admit it I lost a lot of sleep those first few professional days dreaming about him. Of course I knew I was just dreaming, but God what a dreamboat! It was my bad luck there were too many unmarried pretty girls in the school. I knew I didn’t stand a chance.
What could I say? There he was, the penultimate example of manliness. Those first couple days I pretended not to notice him. It didn’t matter; he sure didn’t notice me. How could he; him being surrounded by all those beautiful women.
I don’t know for sure, but I had this feeling this would be my last shot. I’d had a few chances before, but I’d always chickened out. Darn it I wanted to be a wife. I wanted to be a mother. I wanted a family. I wanted happiness. I needed to at least try. Call it an old maid’s fantasy, call it intuition, call it premonition, but Dillon somehow looked like the right one. It would take a miracle, but I had to see. Then the first of what I think were several fortuitous incidences occurred.
The school had about five hundred kids who were all distributed on three floors. The principal put the seventh graders on the top floor, the eighth graders on the second floor, and the ninth graders were on the ground floor. Each floor had its grade, and each grade it’s academic and discipline supervisor. Mr. Wonderful, being the new man on the block, was assigned the dreaded eighth grades.
His office was at the end of the hall. My room was three doors down on the right. I knew I couldn’t change the way I looked and I sure couldn’t afford any new clothes so there was no way I could compete with the babes who corralled him every morning. I had to think of something, something that would be different.
Well I wasn’t stupid; I knew there was one thing a man could never ignore, and that was a helpless female. And there I was, the ugly duckling forced to teach French to a bunch of rowdy eighth grade boys. I already said eighth graders were the classic knuckle draggers, but when it came to a hated subject nothing was worse than a foreign language, and no foreign language was more objectionable than French. In French no word sounds the way it looks. Then in terms of discipline I was weak anyway, and my reputation as a weakling preceded me. Oh did it precede me.
Whereas most of the teachers could expect about a two week honeymoon before the clowns started in, I figured I’d be lucky to get two days. There’s an unwritten rule in the public schools; ‘competent teachers’ handled their own discipline problems; only the weak, lame, and lazy sent kids to the office.
I was in and out of luck! In Maryland to get rid of a tenured teacher the administration had to prove absolute stupidity or catch someone in the actual act of a felony murder. I was neither stupid nor felonious, but I knew I’d need help. The key was to get the help and get Mr. Perfect to pay attention to me, but to do it in a way that he wouldn’t hate me or think I was a complete fool.
I was going to be an annoyance no matter what; I just had to do it in some special way where I could gain ‘points’, points I might be able to use to get ‘Mr. Right’. Wasn’t I dreaming?
Now I knew men then and today hate tedious women; they like a compliant cooperative girl. I knew when I started to send my discipline problems to Mr. Westcott I had to be prepared to be castigated and humiliated. I had to accept the trauma of professional degradation, I also had to avoid getting defensive, but I also knew I had to find a way to break through to his masculinity.
.... There is more of this story ...