Friday, May 28, 2010

Tales of the Playground

My handsome, naïve and far-too-young-for-me coworker, Babe in the Woods, and I were sitting on the playground benches outside of school one day this week, chatting and idly keeping one eye on our small charges in the hopes that none of them would run away or become fatally injured. The 6th graders were across the way on their own benches, lounging around and looking bored out of their minds. I was in charge of a few of these delightful little balls of hormones, and BITW was in charge of the rest. They seemed to be paying no attention whatsoever to our conversation, but out of the blue one of them called across to BITW, or Coach, as they call him:

“Coach! You like her? Why you always flirting with her?”

Wait, what was that, 6th graders? WHO is flirting with WHO here? Have they not noticed that I am wearing snazzy new turquoise, brown, orange, purple, black and white sneakers, purchased last weekend, that match BITW's? That I ask kids to bring him superfluous notes asking for extra apples when snack runs out, or other favors? That I make up excuses why I need to talk to 6th graders who are with him, and once or twice when the snack box for my kids is already upstairs I've pretended I haven't seen it and gone down to get it from the refrigerator in the hopes that I'll run into him?

Well, apparently these 6th graders are more perceptive than I gave them credit for. I never imagined they would notice any flirting going on, given how busy they are complaining about their lives.

As my cheeks grew red, BITW replied, “She's my sister!”

“Na-ah!” the kids called back.

“Yeah, it's true. He's my brother,” I piped in. “Who do you think is older?”

There was no hesitation whatsoever. “You are!”

Well, I guess I was asking for it. “Ouch!” I replied, and BITW simultaneously broke into giggles and said, “Wow, you're an old lady.” On the one hand, yes, I am six years or so older than he is. But I was a bit shocked at how quickly they responded, given that an adult at my other school asked me if I was in 8th grade a couple of weeks ago, and BITW is a good six feet tall (which technically means I'm not allowed to date him, since my friend Slinky and I have a deal that anyone in the city of Boston who is over 5'9” or so is her territory, anyone under is for me). I didn't think it was that obvious that I'm older, but I decided to take it to mean that they see me as more of an authority figure.

At that point, Coach wandered off, either because he was embarrassed or because one of his 6th graders was picking on one of my 1st graders. Tasia, a chubby, personable 6th grader with a wide, friendly smile, who was stretched out on the bench a few feet away from me, sidled over. “You know Coach likes, you right?” she queried.

I should have told her to worry about herself, but I was taken off guard. “Really? What makes you think that?” I asked.

“Cause he's always coming around when you're here. He's always wanting to talk to you and flirt with you,” she explained.

Well, thanks for the self-confidence booster, Tasia. Maybe it will be enough to give me the push I need to ask BITW out; I've been holding off until the end of the year, but the end is now just around the corner. Or maybe I should follow Slinky's advice and sneak a flask to school with me for some old-fashioned courage. I have done much, much scarier things in my life: I have climbed the inside of a tall, hollow fig tree overlooking a waterfall in Costa Rica, even though I am afraid of heights. I have gone ziplining, twice. I have called a principal who wanted to hire me to tell her that my last principal gave me a bad rating because she was an unethical, horrible person who blamed me for the sexual behavior of one of my students in order to save her own skin. I have even eaten a scorpion, fried, and a few mealworms too. I should be able to ask out a cute young guy, right?