Michael Moore: Why I Became Anti-War
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“What do y’all know about Teapot Dome!” she’d say, never meaning it as a question. We had no thoughts about Teapot Dome, but we knew we were going to hear a sassy story about it.
“Warren G. Harding — uh-huh! He sure was sumpin’! Scandal? Lordy, he wrote the book on it!”
Every class was like this.
“Lemme hear some sweet poetry today, children! Who’s written a poem just for me?” Oh, believe me, we were all writing poems. She had us rhyming and she taught us rhythms, and sometimes she would take our poem and sing it back to us. Every once in a while, the Mother Superior would stick her head in to see what was going on. She didn’t object, just as long as the boys were still sitting on one side of the room and girls were on the other. Her tacit approval of Mrs. Beachum’s methods made us less worried for her, and it relaxed the room to the point where on the day Mrs. Beachum proposed her Big Idea, there was surprisingly little objection among us.
“I think it’s time to teach y’all a little manners! You ever hear of ‘etiquette’?”
We had heard of it but certainly had never been practitioners of it.
“Well, boys and girls, I think it’s time we all went out to dinner with each other and learn how proper people do things! Boys, I want you each to pick a girl to be your dinner partner. Then for the next three weeks we’ll all learn proper table manners. When we’re ready, we’ll go to Frankenmuth for one of those famous fried chicken dinners!”
Of course, what she had in mind wasn’t “learnin’ manners” or “etiquette.” She was going to teach us how to date. I’m sure she had to sell this idea to the authorities without saying the word date, and I guess they saw nothing wrong with us knowing which one was the salad fork and understanding how the releasing of toxic gasses during a meal was not how God expected us to enjoy the fruits of his earth.
The twenty-seven of us in Mrs. Beachum’s class had just been told that nature’s gates could now be opened. For a few minutes we all giggled and twitched and - and, dang, we liked this idea! It was remarkable how quickly we each took to this concept of “going out” with someone else in the classroom who didn’t have our specific reproductive organs. (In years hence, I’ve wondered what this must have been like for the nonheterosexuals in the room - finally a chance to acknowledge sexual feelings! - but, damn! With the wrong gender! For them, I guess, it became an early lesson in faking it.)
The proper order of the world fell into place quite perfectly as each boy in the room rushed over to ask out the girl who was “appropriate” for him. The basketball star asked out the softball whiz. The piano player asked out the dancer. The writer asked out the actress. The boy from the trailer park asked out the girl from the trailer park. The boy with the hygiene issues asked out the girl with the hygiene issues.
And I asked out Kathy Root. I’m not quite sure how to explain the matchup, but perhaps the easiest way is to say she was the tallest girl in the class and I was the tallest boy. For my part, I couldn’t have cared less about our height – I had not taken my eyes off her for the past three years. She had long tan legs and a constant smile and was truly nice to everyone. And she was whip-smart. She was the girl most of the other boys would be too afraid to ask out – including me - so she made it easy on me and came across the room to where I was, frozen and petrified at my desk.