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Meg Wolitzer on Teachers

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Illustration by Adria Mercuri  

As told to Jennifer Vineyard
Teachers are prime crush material, which makes sense when you really think about it. To be a kid and have a crush on another kid allows for an assumption of a certain kind of innocence. This is even true for crushes on teen idols, whose voices haven’t changed yet and whose hair is as long and silky as a preteen girl’s. But to be a kid and have a crush on an adult means that it’s a little about desire, even subconsciously.

When I left elementary school and entered junior high, I was put into the class of a male teacher. He wore stretchy synthetic shirts silk-screened with palm trees—fashionable at the time. He also wore steel-rimmed aviator glasses, and had a shaggy haircut that gave off a distinct David Cassidy vibe; though unlike Cassidy, my previous beloved, my teacher looked as if he needed to duck into the faculty bathroom for a shave a few times a day. He drove a Corvette, a fact that the boys in our class discussed in small, urgent huddles during lunch. I suspect that many of us had a big transference toward our teacher, who taught the lower math class. He was kind to us, never making us feel bad about our limited mathematical aptitudes. We gathered around him, wanting ­something from him. He was hulking and young and patient, and we couldn’t help but be aware of his sexuality, even though he never turned its strong Corvette headlights toward us.

Not long ago, in one of those middle-aged reveries, I looked him up on the Rate My Teachers website—that bastion of honesty and cruelty—to see if he was still there, and he was. I read an incredulous comment about how once, long ago, my teacher supposedly had been “cool.” Once? I was affronted on his behalf.


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