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Dear Friends,

Back in my day (someone get me my walker), we cruised around Stone Mountain Park after school.

Now the Dunkin’ Donuts is the hangout.

According to Dominic, the crowd is hit or miss.

Last Friday featured quite a crowd, though. When I went to get him and Gideon, I decided I needed an iced coffee.

Inside, I practically needed a machete to hack through the hormones in the air.

As soon as I got back in the car, I got hit with this:

Dominic: At least the thots we liked last year were cute. These are obnoxious and covered in acne. These seventh and eighth graders are awful. Gideon is more mature than any of them.

Gideon, an eighth grader: I really am. It’s true.

Dominic: He can take a hit too.

Me: Wait. What?

Apparently they went to a nearby park before DD to play football.

And that’s why they didn’t want me to pick them up too soon. And ignored my texts.

Dominic: I saw your question mark. Mama, we was out with the boys.

(Gideon informed me it’s supposed to be written this way: “We was out wit da bois.” Shudder.)

During said football game, Dominic had a run-in with a tree.

He saw it as an occasion to go into full drama mode.

I do have to tell you all that he’s been mostly great since he started ninth grade. More from Friday:

Dominic: There are three girls who said they caught feelings for me.

Me: Do you like any of them?

Dominic: Naw. I gotta get me those As.

(Not with that grammar you don’t. But I digress.)

It’s true that the notifications I’ve been getting from Campus Parent have not made my blood pressure spike.

And I made him laugh this week too. We were trying to edge into traffic, and I wanted to slide in front of a particular car.

Me: I’m going to slip in here because Drake isn’t paying attention.

Dominic: [Looks up from his phone to see my reference.]

Me: [Pulling in front and waving] Thanks, KeKe!

Dominic: [Looks at me in shock and actually chuckles.]

Me: You’re impressed I knew that aren’t you?

Dominic: Yes, because you listen to this [referencing The Pixies coming out of the speaker]!

Me: Listen: They were a seminal act of the late ’80s.

Dominic: [Exaggerated eye roll]

So, friends, I’m hoping we’ve turned a corner. (Don’t tell me it won’t last. Let me have my delusions.)

Cautiously optimistic,
Beth

 

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Dear Students Taking My Public Speaking Course,

I just met you this week, and already I’m channeling Dug from “Up.”

This semester is going to be so much fun as I help you unlock your best self — capable of any kind of public speaking. Some of you may not be the next Aristotle, but you’ll be good. Or at least better than you are today.

In return, here are some (nonnegotiable) things I ask from you:

  1. Please use my proper title in email and in person. I’m even fine with “Dr. Beth,” “Dr. C.” or even “Doc Con.” “Miss C” and “Hey” are not acceptable. I worked hard for my doctorate. (Blog readers remember.) And as my teachers said in high school, “Hey” is for horses. (Yuk, yuk.)
  2. Turn in your work on time. That’s in the syllabus, but I’m putting it here too. You may have the best excuse anyone has ever had, but you also have known what is due and when well in advance thanks to that magical syllabus.
  3. Show up to class, and show up on time. You can’t learn anything if you aren’t in class. Again, I don’t want to hear excuses — especially about traffic. We are in Atlanta: You should know to budget an extra hour to get anywhere.
  4. If you do miss class, DO NOT ask me if you missed anything important. Dear God. That’s the WORST. What am I supposed to say? “No, we just sat around and mourned your absence.” Look at the syllabus, and figure it out. Or ask a classmate. Also, I’ve put all assignments online. SIGH.

In return for following these (really quite simple) rules, I promise to make class interesting. Here are some testimonials from your fellow students:

I love you all equally. It’s true; I promise! Read this.

And I can’t imagine my life without teaching — even if it is only one class per semester.

I’m looking forward to seeing you next week when you will deliver your first speech!

Don’t panic. You’ve got this. I’m here for you.

Sincerely,
Dr. Beth

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Dear People Who Don’t Understand My Love of Bad Taxidermy:

First, you don’t have to understand. You don’t live with me. (Unless you are Eddie, who does have to live with me and spends most of his time rolling his eyes and sighing.)

Second, what’s there to understand? I think it’s funny. Maybe you don’t. Fine. I don’t judge your love of period dramas and pumpkin spice brisket. (That’s a thing, right?)

Third, if you must know, I can trace it back to early 2014. Eddie and I were chaperones for one of the boys’ field trips, and we were waiting for the school bus to arrive. BuzzFeed put out a listicle of top 10 examples of bad taxidermy. Eddie and I laughed ourselves to tears recreating the poor creatures that made the list. Like this:

It still makes me laugh.

And so I started posting other examples of bad taxidermy on people’s Facebook pages as birthday greetings. Totally normal behavior. Right? Right?!

Then I got my first piece of bad taxidermy: a squirrel tail in the shape of a question mark.

It was a thank-you gift from a graduate student after she successfully defended her thesis. I was her chair. She gave it to me and said, “I saw this and thought of you because you like bad taxidermy and wrote question marks all over drafts of my thesis.”

True.

The tail led to a deer head from the 1950s, then a deer tail plaque with a thermometer (a furmometer!), then a blowfish ornament, then Hando.

Now, people see this and think of me:

And that’s fine by me. (I immediately thought, “Christmas gift!”)

You still don’t get it?

Well, I don’t know what to tell you. Many people do get it, and get me. Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) would.

Maybe you can just scroll on past. Or look away. It really only matters that I think it’s hilarious. That’s my thing. You find yours. I support you.

Yours in foam forms and glass eyes,
Beth

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Dear Friends:

As you know from this post and the followup, I’m on a health kick as I slide headfirst into the holidays. (Perhaps the worst time to start a diet. Or the best, depending on your POV.)

Despite the calculated complaining I’ve been doing on this blog, it’s been OK. Mostly OK. All but three times OK (an alumni event at a brewery, happy hour where beer cheese soup was present, and an Uno death match with friends last weekend during which chips and dip sat within a foot of me for HOURS).

My willpower is strong. When I decide to do something, I do it. I told you: I’m Tracy Flick.

Besides my crazy diet, I’ve made other changes:

  1. I’m taking the “Lyft Ditch Your Car” challenge this month. I already walk to work regularly, so it will be fine.
  2. I’m drinking so much water every day — well over the 64 ounces recommended — that I spend much of the day in and traveling to/from the loo.
  3. I’m not drinking any alcoholic beverages. (Oh don’t be THAT surprised.)
  4. I now have a standing desk at work.

Standing desk

These are all the rage in offices lately. I love mine. Added bonus: If you put on some music, you find yourself moving much more while standing.

Except I have a cautionary tale: Earlier this week, I listened to Big Freedia, “3rd Ward Bounce.”

Big Freedia: 3rd Ward Bounce

If you are familiar at all with Big Freedia, you will know the dance moves that go with bounce music.

They are not appropriate for work.

They are probably not appropriate for me any time at my age (29 <cough> forever).

I was definitely moving around a little more than usual at my desk, though. I was a little worried someone would walk in and think I was having a seizure.

But my iWatch approved.

And for those interested in my progress, there’s about 12 pounds less of me to love. (My big personality is still intact, though.)

I’m keeping this up until the last weekend in October, at least (i.e., the last weekend for Oktoberfest).

Wish me luck,
Beth

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Dear Trump, GOP and NRA assholes representatives,

I am a teacher, and I DO NOT want to carry a gun to class. I’m there to instruct, not take down a “bad guy.” (Armed teachers = unusually bad idea, even for you)

I have one goal in class: Teach. I work with college students, so they are paying my salary. My goal is to give them their money’s worth and more. I want to be the life-changing (life-saving in a different way) professor like Dr. Brightman was for me.

Part of my job is figuring out what each student needs (and I guarantee that it is not an AR-15 in their hands or mine).

Students usually come in a handful of personas. Here’s a field guide:

The Tracy Flick
Hand up first. Already has an A, but wants extra credit. “Overachiever” doesn’t even begin to encompass this student. Also can dissolve quickly if mastery doesn’t come easy.

The Ferris Bueller
Seems like he doesn’t care and isn’t paying attention, but he is smarter than the average bear. Often turns in the best work in the class without even trying.

The Jeff Spicoli
Sigh. What do you do about a student who is paying money to go to college, but is just a complete slacker? Love them anyway.

The Summer “Tinkerbell” Hathaway
This student is suspicious of you from the get-go, but you will slowly win her over if you do, in fact, know what you are talking about. And then she will try to push you to see how far she can go.

The Will Hunting
This student may appear to hate your guts during the class, but he will surprise you later on when he tells you that he learned so much from you. It is an unexpected, but joyful moment.

The John Bender
Hard candy shell with a liquid center. Seems confrontational, but is masking a deep-seated vulnerability. I love to see these kinds in five years when they are all well-adjusted and shit.

The Regina George
This student often is the most challenging because she has created a particular persona, and may resist your efforts to get her to think about anything/anyone other than herself. The trick is to help her figure out how to make assignments interesting enough to her so that she will enjoy doing them (thus learning in the process).

The Steve Stifler
Every female faculty member has this student’s number (meaning we know exactly who he is). No, we cannot have a meeting with my office door closed. No, we are not going together to the fraternity party Friday night. It’s great to see this student mature and even <gasp> get married.

The Sam Baker
This student is smart but can be quiet and thus overlooked. Pay attention to this one. Still waters run deep, as they say. This student often ends up being as close to you as students in the next category.

The Todd Anderson
With this student, you know early on that he/she will be in your life forever — and that is a good thing. You “get” them, they “get” you, and it is a lovely, symbiotic relationship. You start out as professor/student and morph into colleagues and friends later on. Some people in the aforementioned categories will end up in this one, and that is a lovely thing too.

I live to make a difference. And I live for notes like these:

That’s from a student who graduated five years ago. No surprise that she was a Todd.

I want to learn how to better reach every student. I do not want to learn how to better reach my gun.

I want to be accurate with grading. I do not want to be accurate with aim.

I want to get paid to carry full classes. I do not want to get paid to carry a gun.

Please, please, please find a different way to achieve the one goal we all want: peace in schools (and everywhere, for that matter). The answer is not arming teachers.

Thanks,
Beth

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Dear 1980s,

I’ve been thinking about you lately. It should be no surprise as I just wrote a post about growing up as your child. For those who did not experience you (or don’t remember because of all the crack cocaine), let me walk through your decade via all five senses.*

SMELL: Love’s Baby Soft and Polo by Ralph Lauren

Love's Baby Barf

Love’s Baby Soft, made of the tears of girls who realized they could never be real princesses, smelled like baby powder and desperation, roses and acne medicine. Every female wore it. How could our teachers stand it?

 

 

 

Polo by Ralph Lauren, made of the seeping testosterone of pubescent boys, smelled like cat piss in pine straw. Every boy wore it except my friend Rob. He wore Lagerfeld, I think. At any rate, it was something different, and I loved him.

 

 

 

SIGHT: Jessica McClintock and Bugle Boy

Little House on Central DriveFor any event — school dance, church, confirmation, scheduled pining for John Taylor, etc. — you were not a real girl unless you had a Jessica McClintock for Gunne Sax dress. Every dress had lace or florals — often both. I don’t know what kind of fever dream we all were having, but we looked like we were trying to channel Laura Ingalls Wilder. These concoctions went well with the Love’s Baby Soft, and the hope by our parents that our vaginas would stay hidden forever. I think I had the dress to the left. I remember it itched.

 

Every boy in my school, fat or thin, tall or short, wore black parachute pants. No one looked good in them. No one. So many pockets. Yet you couldn’t put anything in those pockets because the pants were so freakin’ tight. I think the boys had to tuck to get them on.

 

 

 

SOUND: Pac-Man and Rush

There is no sound as distinctive as the sound of the game in action. That and, of course, the sound of the meet-cute cut scene with Ms. Pac-Man on her version. It was what was playing in the background of every attempted hookup in the arcade when we girls had shed our Gunne Sax dresses and slid into high-waisted acid-wash jeans. The boys remained encased in their parachute pants, probably until they could be cut out of them at night by their parents (who likely were thrilled that the sperm count had to be way down).

 

Every boy in my social circle went apeshit over Rush. “Moving Pictures,” “Signals,” “Grace Under Pressure” — they dissected each album like an archaeologist examines microscopic fossil fragments. Granted, I hung out with band geeks. In this dark period, we girls were left to our own devices, mooning over Rick Springfield, Duran Duran and George Michael (we didn’t know) until the boys started paying attention to us again in 10th grade.

 

TASTE: Jell-o Pudding Pops and Cool Ranch Doritos

At this point in time, the world loved Bill Cosby, and he loved to shill Jell-o Pudding Pops. We just added it to the rest of the sugar we were inhaling every day, all day. We started off with Smurf Berry Crunch cereal, gnawed on jawbreakers, Twizzlers and Nerds all day, then ended with Jell-o Pudding Pops. No wonder we loved neon. Our mood matched.

 

When Cool Ranch Doritos came out, our collective heads exploded. We had no idea such flavors existed in the world. And God help you if you had a party and did not provide the Cool Ranch Doritos. You would feel a cool breeze from former friends come Monday. (And yes, boys and girls, that is Jay Leno hawking them.)

 

TOUCH: Aqua Net and private parts

For our hair to reach such death-defying heights as expected, we needed Aqua Net. It would coat our hair with a layer of lacquer that repelled rain, hands, sonic blasts, etc. Pity the fool who would try to touch our perms crowned by sky-high bangs.

Here’s a wee little photo of me during the Aqua Net era (because any larger would make your eyes bleed). I think I’m wearing a half a can of Aqua Net. I could have fallen on my head from a great height and been totally fine.

 

 

In addition to getting to know our own parts, we also were getting to know the parts of others — at the arcade, on bleachers, in the back of movie theaters, in cars, in AP History class. (What’s that you say? Just me? Well then.) What a wonderful time to be alive! All the bits a tingling.

 

Some say there is a sixth sense. I can assure you that we did not have it then. For example, I thought I might have a chance with Mike M. When my friend Kari asked him, though, she was told to bring me back the news that I was a “dog.” Oh. OK. Back to Andrew McCarthy for me.

Anyway, I miss you sometimes, but I don’t miss the angst associated with growing up.

Thanks for the memories.

Love,
Beth

 

*I apologize that these reflections are gender- and heteronormative. These are my personal recollections as a cisgendered straight person.

 

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Dear People of a Certain Age,

My dad used to say, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” Later I found out he pinched* that from Bette Davis.

Anyway, I’d reply, “Yeah, yeah,” and go on about my business.

So now I’m old(ish), and I see.

Except sometimes I can’t see without my glasses.

And that’s new.

Eddie calls this my sexy librarian look. What does he know? He’s old(ish) too.

Let me hear an “Amen” on these other surefire signs of aging:

  • The mind says, “Yes!,” but the body says, “Not so fast.”
  • You agree to events in the moment, and then are thrilled when there is a reason you can’t go:

Yes, I’d love to go to your cousin’s friend’s yard party, but (insert name of first family member you see) just isn’t feeling well.

  • What used to be a punishment as a kid — “Go straight to your room, young lady; you’ll be going to bed early!” — sounds like a perfect night.
  • When you do go out, you lose your mind. It’s like you have to make up for months of the above. At least you get to talk about “that time when … ” After all:

Bad decisions make good stories.

  • You wake up at 3 a.m. No reason. And that’s your ass, because you can’t go back to sleep.
  • Your friends text at 6:30 and 7 in the morning, and you’re not even mad. You’re up. You get mad at the ones who text at 10 p.m.
  • You have (or have thought about) beginning a sentence with the words, “Kids today … ” I swear to God I called some student a crazy whippersnapper Friday when he nearly hit me in his Mustang. (In my head, I called him this. I’m not quite into audible “Get off my lawn!” territory.)
  • Songs suddenly hit a nerve. Take, for example, the lyrics from “Live Tomorrow” by my new favorite band, Jesse’s Divide.

    Work today, work tomorrow.
    Before you know it, you’re 83
    Living life inside a memory.

    Work today, live tomorrow.
    Before you know it, you’re 63
    And living life was just a memory.

    That’s not depressing at all. I’m not crying. You’re crying.

  • No more catcalls on the street. That could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your ego/past/tolerance level.
  • The top thatch is thinning a tick (or a ton maybe). This is not my problem, though. Mine has gotten thicker. Downside: shedding (i.e., clogged drains, hairballs in corners, strands all over everyone’s clothing all the time). Gideon reports:

Somehow I found one of your hairs in my notebook!

  • Waistline creep. Large fries from McDonald’s now cut down to just one you steal from your kid and eat like a squirrel with an acorn. (Or is this just me?)
  • You may think you are young and hip but your pop culture references say old and outdated. Actual conversation from mere days ago:

Me, opening the classroom door: I have so many keys, I feel like Schneider from ‘One Day at a Time.’ (looking at student next to me) Uh oh. I guess that doesn’t mean anything to you.
Student: Oh I get most of your references. I watch Nick at Nite and other throwback channels.
Me, aging 10 more years instantly: Ouch (said internally where it’s dark and sad).

  • All of a sudden, parts of your body start speaking to you in an unpleasant tone of voice. I woke up the other morning, and my hip was barking at me. Why? I don’t know.
  • You see someone old and unattractive in a window and realize it’s your reflection. Rude.
  • Gray hairs appear in new places seemingly overnight.
  • If you have dry skin, like I do, then you suddenly are spending your retirement savings on various potions to beat the lines and crepiness into submission. If you have oily skin, you are good to glow (literally and figuratively).

  • For women: There’s a vast wasteland between Forever 21 and Coldwater Creek.
  • For men: Don’t complain to me. You age and get “distinguished.” Never a shortage of women of all ages who are interested. (Two old ladies felt up Eddie in the grocery store this week. He now has a #metoo story.) Women? Sorry. You’re just old. Suck it up, Buttercup. (Yet it still beats the alternative of NOT getting to age.)

In just a few short years, I think I’ll be the living version of Maxine. Horrifying.

Send a cryo pod, STAT.

Laughing to keep from crying,
Beth the Aged

 

* Yep. I’m still British.

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