Often underpaid and undervalued, high school teachers can play a tremendous role in the intellectual and personal development of their students. My 9th grade history teacher sparked my lifelong interest in international politics, my math teachers taught me it’s okay to fail, and most of all my junior year English teacher, Mr. Carlton, gave me the tools necessary to romanticize and become infatuated with ultimately mediocre white men.
In truth, I was a middling student, but Mr. Carlton saw something in me. It might have been untapped potential, or it might have been my obvious crush on him, but whatever the case, he knew I was paying attention. Also, he was unbelievably hot. Or like, he really wasn’t, but he did have most of his hair, and I wanted to pine after someone, and so I decided that he had an ineffable sexiness that only I could properly appreciate.
I’ve applied this same lens to almost all my lovers since coming of age.
I think a big part of what made Mr. Carlton and I such kindred spirits, is that we could really see one another. I saw him as older, worldly, and the ultimate authority on all matters of culture and taste. And he really was 22 years older than me! I remember how impressed yet incredulous he was when I actually read Jack Kerouac, perhaps because most of the class did not do the assigned reading, but to this day men are still impressed and incredulous when I tell them that I’ve read Jack Kerouac, and I have sex with these men!
Mr. Carlton wanted the world for his students, like in a way that bordered on vicariously living out his fantasies of being able to leave our town. And I just wanted Mr. Carlton! I loved the way he would use words that were rare to the point of being archaic and uselessly obscure. In adult life, I have been deeply in love with not one but two men who punched walls in incidents related to bar trivia.
So to Mr. Carlton, all I can say is thank you. You really set me down a path of being infatuated with nerdy white men who have huge chips on their shoulders and think the world should celebrate them more because they know a lot about PT Anderson and randomly have an Allen Ginsberg tattoo despite being totally straight. To knowledge and growth!