Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I Can't Grow Up

The Ryan family video collection consisted largely of animated features, animal movies, and musicals when I was a child. Peter Pan was one of our favorites, despite having been filmed on a stage rather than as a film in its own right. One song that made a firm impression on me was "I Won't Grow Up," and I remember dancing around in my room, chanting "I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow uuUP! Not me!" That, along with the current Toys 'R' Us campaign (I don't wanna grow up; I'm a Toys 'R' Us kid…) must have affected my psyche much more than just getting stuck in my head on the occasion. Most days I masquerade as a quasi-responsible adult, but some days I think I have the brain of an adolescent boy.

1) At Takada Junior High I was teaching the first grade. We were covering the "How many ____ do you have?" The students had a sheet with various items on it, and they were to ask each other how many of this or that their friends possessed. Each student also had to create their own question, as well. The teacher had written a couple of options at the bottom, such as stuffed animal, ball, pen, and video game. Pretty standard stuff, but every time a student asked me "How many balls do you have?" I'd giggle. Then, with all sincerity I would answer, "I have no balls." And then I would snicker some more. Eh heh eh heh eh heh. Balls. Here's what's worse: I was tempted to explain why I thought the question was funny. Don't do it, Laurel. Just don't do it.

2) I can't wake up on time. Maybe I should say that I can't go to sleep on time. Yesterday I slept all the way through every single one of my seven alarms, including the really loud irritating buzzer that supposedly can be heard in the upstairs apartment.

If I were able to ready myself in only three minutes I would have been on the bus. As it was I biked to the school instead. I'd never done this before, as it was one of the schools that I'm only visiting until Paulette's replacement arrives. First I got a little lost. I didn't turn when I should have, and so ended up on a minor highway. The sidewalk ended and I rode with the fear that I wasn't going to be able to turn off, and that I would be run over. So, when I saw up ahead that the sidewalk started again I pedaled a little faster. The dip in the curb, made for cyclists by myself, was unusually high; it was between two and three inches high. About this time my bike and I had an argument.

"Get on the sidewalk," I ordered it.

"Screw you and your business capris," it retorted, and as soon as the front wheel hit the curb the bike slide out from under me, dumping me and my stuff onto the sidewalk it so detested.

Now I don't remember falling. The memory is of the oh, no sensation, of the knowledge that I was about to be in pain, and the stomach-twisting fear that my bike or I would end up in the path of an oncoming car. I hit the ground high on my left thigh, smacked my right palm hard against the pavement in efforts to break my fall, and rolled.

"Ugh," I huffed, and flopped on my back. I wasn't broken, and I wasn't in the street. Okay. I briefly debated crying a little, just for stress release, but I didn't have time and I wasn't broken. I stood, brushing myself off as best I could, and dragged my bucking bronco bike onto the pavement. Thank you, God, for watching over me, because I wasn't bleeding anywhere and all of my school stuff was on the sidewalk close by.

Notice the tear, same height as the couch arm
Of course, you must think, this dope couldn't have fallen so hard and gotten off without a scratch. You'd be correct. I have three small scrapes on my right knee, my right hand is bruised, the inside of my right ankle is bruised from hitting the bike as I flew off, and there is a huge bruise on my left thigh. Also, my pants were torn. Yep, because I didn't go to bed on time, because I woke up late, and because I can't make my bicycle follow orders, I had to teach in dress pants that were torn at the knee and inappropriately high on my thigh. I am one classy broad.

3) My last bit of evidence is last week's visit to Betsuin Junior High. Though this may be just as indicative of my mindset as an English teacher as immaturity, I feel like a more mature person would have handled this differently. I was with the first-years, and had just finished class. They had just learned "do you like/have/want~" and so were full of questions such as "Do you like baseball?" "Do you like soccer?" "Do you like Japan?" It was super-duper cultural exchange-y.

I guess they got bored with sports-related questions. In the middle of answering a question about Japanese baseball players one boy hurried away and came back with a bookmark. "Do you like?" he asked knowingly, pointing to it.

Upon closer inspection I discovered that it was a yaoi bookmark. Yaoi, for those out of the know, is a type of manga that is usually written by women for a female audience, and features two male romantic leads. Gay comic book porn for girls, basically. The first question that sprung to my mind was Whose is this? but decided not to ask. After all, I didn't want to think any ill of my Betsuin angels, who would surely not be bringing sex-based comics to school. So I hemmed and hawed while the boys pointed emphatically at the man embracing rather than the one embraced.

"Kakkoi?" they asked. "Cool? Cool?"


In the meantime one boy, Shouma, was prompting his friends in a whisper. "Do you like sex?" he wanted them to ask me. "Do you like sex?"

I ignored him. One boy finally took pity on me and suggested bimeo. "Yes, bimeo," I said, indicating the gay bookmark. It's delicate. I really can't say.

Then they dragged me over to see an optical illusion that was hung in the classroom, and to further interrogate me on wants and likes. They pointed to pencils, to characters on folders, and to each other. Do you like Yuki? Do you like Taichi? Do you like Ryuusei?

Shouma, however, wasn't finished yet. I was talking to another kid when I heard him.

"Do you like pehneesu?"

I turned and gave him a look.

"Do you like pehneesu?" he repeated, stupid grin affixed.

I smacked him lightly on the head with my notebook, because I can do that in this country. "That's bad," I said sternly. "Don't ask me that."

Shouma's friends all started laughing and slapping his head. Hah hah, the English teacher got on to you.

Maybe because I felt sorry for inciting the slap-fest, or because I was in teaching mode, I couldn't let it lie. "And it's not peh-NEE-su," I added, making sure to speak so he understood. "It's PEnis. You mean 'Do you like penis.'"

And then I helped them translate kareshi ga imasu ka, because "Do you have a boyfriend?" totally fit in with the day's grammar point.


  1. I love your labels. Haha. How sad that you fell! And what a nervy kid. Way to put him in his place.

  2. HAHAHA! If you have the mind of an adolescent boy then those first graders probably felt quite comfortable asking you those probing questions.

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