February 17, 2008
When I was 18 years old and in high school, I had what I considered to be a serious boyfriend. I was head over heels in love with this guy, and thought he was wonderful. It was pretty obvious to literally EVERYONE else that this was a bad idea, except for perhaps my one friend whom he managed to convince to become his surreptitious girlfriend. Yeah. He was a great catch. What were we thinking? She and I are both well rid of that asshole. (Er, no offense to him or any of his relatives who might very well be reading this.) Anyway, during my senior year of high school, when I was besotted with said asshole, two teachers (who were at the time former teachers of mine) took me aside on different occasions to tell me that my boyfriend was a bad apple and a bad influence, and advised me that perhaps I should consider finding someone different. At the time, I simply felt awkward and uncomfortable during those conversations, and of course, I thought they had no idea what they were talking about. Looking back, it is nice to think that they were able to see that I was in way over my head in a bad relationship and tried to help me out, instead of simply looking the other way.
I bring all this up because one of my students is reminding me a lot of my high school self these days. She is sixteen, incredibly smart, very motivated, and an excellent student – one of my best. And she is completely in love with her boyfriend. I can totally understand what she sees in him: he’s very attractive, and is sixteen as well, although he looks older. He’s incredibly smart and funny, and he’s got that bad-boy thing going on that so many girls fall for. To top it off, comes from a pretty well-off family, which in a country like Kyrgyzstan can definitely be added to the plus column when rating a potential suitor. Sounds like a great catch, huh? Well, he wears this shiny rhinestone belt-buckle, decorated with a marijuana leaf, and his dream is to go to Amsterdam to “smoke the ganja” as he says. He’s also a total punk in class – smart, but much more interested in showing off in front of everyone else, making lewd jokes and whatnot. Those are pretty typical teenage boy kind of behaviors, but... Today he came into class with a video on his cell phone which he and his friends had edited and set to music. The video was shot yesterday. It was a video of him and two friends beating the shit out of another boy. Granted, the other boy fought back (the student in question came to class with an obviously bruised and swollen jaw), but he was no match for three other boys in tandem. By the end of the video, the victim was on the ground while the three others (including my student) kicked and beat him repeatedly. This was the video that they’d taken the time to edit, set to music, and load onto their cell phones. Let’s just say it was incredibly disturbing. Plus he was proud of it. I did lecture him about his behavior, but he obviously took my admonishments as some kind of a joke. I’d love to take his girlfriend aside and suggest to her that he is a bad apple and a bad influence, and that perhaps she should consider finding someone different... but I know exactly how she would react.