Sunday, April 5, 2009

I Don't Like Mondays

For Lent, my daughter has chosen a difficult job. She is trying to understand people better. That definitely beats giving up chocolate.

This week, though, something has happened that feels beyond understanding. A former coworker has been arrested for lewd acts with a minor. The coworker is a woman; the minor is a boy (13 years old, according to the paper). The picture of her in the newspaper, which I assume is a mug shot, shows a haunted person, almost unrecognizable. I keep looking at it, wondering what she feels haunted by: guilt, lack of sleep, mental illness, upset that she got caught?

I saw that someone on a news website, responding to the story, said, "Predators everywhere." I was really taken aback by the use of the word predator. It's too simple, too dismissive. Declare her evil and move on.

From what I'm reading and hearing through the grapevine, my first hopes that this is all a horrible mix-up were in vain. Much is made of the dark humor of cops, who have to deal with very difficult situations. Teachers also have dark humor about their jobs (I still remember the look of amused shock on my brother's face when he visited my school one day and heard a coworker, talking about a difficult student, say, "See that rock on the ground. It's smarter than he is.") But there are feww jokes this weekend as we struggle to understand this.

The news is covering a mass murder in New York, a missile launch from North Korea, and the recession this weekend, so this story may not take off the way it normally would. If it does, though, we will read about the teacher's perfect family with several young children. There is the actual victim to think of, and his family. Then there's my hope that he is the only victim (I know conventional wisdom says there must be more, but conventional wisdom doesn't seem to work here). The press and the school district will respect the victim's privacy, as they should, but her children have no such protection, nor does her husband (the family is actively involved in their community. There is no hiding possible right now).

My impression of her? A little odd but with some loveliness to her. We all have things about ourselves that we take pride in. I think that she took pride in juggling a very busy life. When I would ask her how she was doing, and she would tell me about all the things keeping her busy, I would honestly tell her that I felt exhausted just listening to her. She clearly liked being seen as Supermom. A mean or maybe envious part of me would think that no one could possibly live with that much stress and be that happy. The last time I saw her was about a month ago. I had a non-student work day, and I took advantage of the freedom by indulging in a trip to In n Out, where I ran into her. After a friendly hello, I remember thinking, "So, the perfect wife and mother eats fast food. Good for her."

So, why? I doubt we'll ever get an answer, and I'm not sure it's even worth knowing. What may be more interesting is how desperately those of us who know her feel the need to understand, and how we'll all end up choosing an answer. If you read between the lines of what I've written, you can find my explanation, but it's no more valid than anyone else's.


Patrick J. Vaz said...

In 'n Out is fast food for people who don't eat fast food. It's Eric Schlosser-approved.

This is an interesting and sad case you mention. One reason it may not have gotten as much attention is that the "predator" is a woman and her "victim" a boy.

And not to defend her actions, but -- it's our culture that defines this behavior as so heinous. As with spousal violence, these are always complicated, subtle situations and unfortunately we can't seem to deal with them that way. Perhaps absolutes are just a nice way to deal with situations that are too complex.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
vicmarcam said...

PJ..I have to disagree with your speculation that this case is not getting as much coverage as it might because the teacher is a woman. In fact, the only teacher "predator" whose name is nationally known is a woman and her case is very similar to this one, almost creepily so.
I do think that gender comes into the discussion in interesting ways, though. When we went through this in our district with a male teacher (but the student was older, which makes a difference), there was very little asking why. We seem to go for simpler explanations in those cases.
Absolutes are so much easier when you don't know the people involved.