i've never experienced a teenage boy so disappointed on account of me before today.
as i do on wednesdays as of late, i was teaching twelve 15-16 year old boys at a Birmingham juvenile detention center how to properly put a condom on an incredibly realistic looking fake penis. although somewhat humiliating, i go through the steps with incredible detail. "what do i do first?" i prod. "ms. sharon - tear it open with ya teeth!" ... i dodge a number of overly enthusiastic suggestions before i continue with the correct process. "that's right, push it to the side, tear it carefully, now pull it out." i've somehow managed not to turn 15 shades of red by now. we move on. eventually, every boy has to come to the front and demonstrate his ability to properly place a condom on the model.
after his turn, one of the boys was grinning at me. "you gonna give me your number, right?" i just stared at him. i'm his teacher. is he really trying this? he continued, "you're the kinda girl i ask santa claus for." i wanted to laugh. hysterically. i bit my lip to keep from howling.
and then he saw it. his face dropped as he eyed my left hand. he didn't acknowledge my wedding ring, but some gears must have finally started turning in his head because his next inquiry had an entirely different tone: "how OLD are you, anyways?" he embarassingly turned around and returned to his seat to the laughter of his peers.
i won't say that i felt bad, because i didn't. even so, it made me think. these boys have had difficult childhoods, no parental supervision or interest, and the opportunity to get into all sorts of trouble. on their own accord, they have done some terrible, terrible things to be where they are. some have killed siblings, raped friends, sold drugs... at such a young age. despite all that, here is this boy who is acting apart from his circumstances - in fact, ignoring his circumstances (he's in jail, he can't make phone calls, i'm the teacher) - to get what he wants. it won't always work - case in point. but ignoring your circumstances to achieve a goal is something so hard to teach someone. it's a tool for success. it's something these boys need to do when they are released back in their communities, back into their circumstances... it gave me hope. it really does sound dumb, but it gave me hope for them.
and - here's hoping this boy doesn't just use this denial of circumstances to pick up girls. but if he does... at least he now knows how to use a condom properly. :)