I love my job. I get to teach young adults both how to write proper sentences and how to understand complicated literature. To top off what I’d already decribe as one of the best jobs in the world, just about every day there is some sort of “life is bigger than here” teaching moment. I both love and fear these moments. I love that I get to help shape these young minds. But I’m terrified I’m going to get it wrong. That somehow I’m going to fuck up. I know whatever I choose to say, I don’t get to take it back. I’ve fucked it up before and there are moments I regret. Things I’ve said that came out wrong. I know those particular teenagers, will remember me for those moments which I look back on with utter and complete embarrassment. I should have been better. Every single day there are new obstacles, new moments where I pick and choose my battles. Where I bear witness to the ups and downs of adolescences in this cyber world.
Today I was listening in on a couple of my freshmen. These two, in particular, are best friends. One comes from a broken home and it shows in the way he uses comedy as a cover for his own fears and insecurities. The other actively wants to grow into a good man but doesn’t know where those boundaries are with friendships. What’s acceptable and what’s not. I listen as one calls the other’s ex-girlfriend a hoe.
To ignore or not to ignore, that is the question.
“Dude, you can’t call people hoes. It’s just not okay.”
“But Ms. B, she cheated on him. That makes her a hoe.”
“She cheated on him,” I point to the other student. “Which gives no one else the right to talk smack. Also, you shouldn’t call people hoes. Do you want to be remembered as the dude who called women hoes?”
“Not just women. You can’t tell me that if your dude cheated on you, you wouldn’t be calling him a hoe.”
*deep breath number two*
“I have been cheated on, twice. And you know what, it doesn’t matter. It sucks at the moment. But there are two things I can definitively say about heartache. First, you can never hold other people responsible for someone else’s actions. And two, you shouldn’t go around calling people names. It does no one any good. It only tears people down and makes you look like an ass. The reality is, if he was going to cheat, it was never going to work out. Which means, I’m glad I’m not with that person. I’m still friends with both of these dudes and you know what? I’m also super glad for the friendship. Because that’s what dating should be, especially at your age. It should be about friendship and learning what you like and don’t like. It doesn’t have to be the end all be all. Life is what you make it.”
Both dudes just sort of stare at me for a long moment. This is also when I realize that half the class is listening in on the conversation. I took the opportunity to go on. “So no, we don’t call people hoes. It’s not your place to judge. You’re not her, or him. You be the best version of you. I will promise you this, you’re going to know a lot of these kids for many, many more years. If you go around calling every person who wrongs you names, you’re never going to have the relationships you want. The reality is, you’re gonna mess up. A lot. And the thing to remember through all of it is that you don’t get to take any of it back. Whatever you do or say… it’s out there. You can’t take back your actions or your words. So be sure you’re making the right choices. When you mess up, do you want your flaws paraded around town?”
“But she’s a hoe.”
“Did you hear anything I just said?!”
The dude who was cheated on closes his eyes for a moment. “You’re saying be the bigger person. That even though she cheated, I shouldn’t treat her like crap and neither should he.”
“Do you understand why?”
They both nod.
“Fine, maybe she’s not a hoe,” the friend says after deliberation. “But she shouldn’t have done that to my boy.”
“You’re right. She should have broken it off with your boy first and then moved on. But it is what it is now. There’s no point in dwelling. And name calling is just not okay. So eat your ice-cream and move on. There are more fish in the sea.”
“Yea. Okay. I feel you, Ms. B.”
Even as an adult I’m careful with my words. Someone asked me what my greatest virtue is. I really wasn’t sure. So I asked a few people close to me. I was surprised they had similar answers. That I’m brutally honest with people. Sometimes that’s a painful pill to swallow. But that I’m also, careful in the way I explain things while holding onto my honesty. Because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
I always think of a story I read online, once upon a time. It was about a boy in high school who didn’t have any friends. He was depressed and didn’t see what the point of living anymore was. So he cleaned out his locker so his parents wouldn’t have too. At some point during this, another boy stops to help him. They converse for a bit. The new boy helps the first clean out his locker and even carry his belongings home. He was kind and he was the friend the first boy didn’t have. The first boy decides not to kill himself after all. He decides to give it all a second chance. Many years later this story is being told at a wedding or an anniversary or something. These boys stayed friends and they both went on to live fulfilling lives. Whether or not it’s true, doesn’t matter. What does matter, is the way we treat other people. I don’t ever want to be the straw that breaks someone. I’d rather be the boy who carried books for a new friend than the one who makes fun of someone and hurts them.
You never know what another person is going through. I’m a firm believer in Karma. I believe what you put out into the world, you get back. I believe that being a good person is what matters at the end of the day. Doing right by your fellow people. For high schooler’s this is a lesson they will learn time and time again. I’m happy to play my part whenever possible.
So, what did we learn today class? Let’s say it together.
We don’t call people hoes.