All of Utah is abuzz regarding the case of Brianne Altice, the high school English teacher convicted last week of having sex with three of her male students. What we’re all buzzing about is the severity of the sentence: thirty years!
By contrast, Johnny Wall, a prominent pediatrician, will go to prison for just half as long for murdering his ex-wife—a crime that occurred just three doors down from where I live. So the question naturally arises: Is consensual sex between a woman of 34 and a boy of 17 twice as bad as murder? I should think not!
I mean, who among us hasn’t ever had a serious crush on a teacher? I know I have. Her name was Mrs. Herring, and she was my English teacher way back when I was in middle school. Mrs. Herring was older than I, but not that much older and not nearly as old as the dried-up prunes I’d had as teachers up until then. I was crazy about her; however, nothing ever came of it because Mrs. Herring wasn’t crazy about me. No, she was happily married to an ex-jock she’d met when she was in school. I’m guessing that he also drove a nice car.
Athletes and cars, that’s all teenaged girls are interested in. But older women are different—at least some of them. Older women, some of them, occasionally fall for boys, provided said boys are introverted and socially awkward. Think Timothy Bottoms in “The Last Picture Show.” Think John Kerr in “Tea and Sympathy.”
I’d been particularly moved by the romance between John Kerr and Deborah Kerr in the Vincent Minnelli film, which came out in the mid Nineteen Fifties—about the same time I fell madly in love with Mrs Herring. In the back of my mind I was always thinking and hoping that somewhere down the road she might take an interest in me. Toward that end, come graduation day, I presented Mrs. Herring with the scrapbook I’d been keeping—pictures and articles I’d written for my junior high school newsletter, for which she served as faculty advisor. My thinking was that on an unenchanted evening in the distant future she’d find herself lying in bed next to her hunky husband, feeling bored and unfulfilled. She’d retrieve my scrapbook from her nightstand and leaf through its pages. She’d think, “I wonder if that Menzies kid is of legal age yet?”
Through high school I remained shy and athletically challenged, although not nearly as spindly as before. Older women were the first to take notice. In particular, I remember a neighbor lady whose lawn I used to mow. “Richard,” she would cry from her patio porch, “It’s hot out. Why don’t you take off your shirt?”
That neighbor lady introduced me to another lady who ran a dog grooming parlor out of her home, which was up a nearby canyon, well off the main road. She, too, had a husband, but he wasn’t around the day she invited me to take a picture of her with her cocker spaniel. For the occasion she changed from her house dress into a formal black gown—not exactly ideal for cuddling a puppy but maybe just right for cuddling a randy young teenager?
Who knows? I was far too focused on my camera to pick up on any of the standard signals. However, I’m not so slow on the uptake today. Nowadays, I know very well when someone is flirting with me. For instance, last weekend when I went shopping, the young woman who works at the birdseed store went all googly-eyed over my 43-year-old Volkswagen van. “Oh, it’s so cute!” she enthused. “I would just LOVE to go for a ride in it.”
So at long last I finally have wheels that appeal to the opposite sex.
“Do you realize how easy it would be for me to pick up young girls in my Volkswagen van?” I said to my fellow geezer Sam.
“Yes,” he replied, “but at your age, how do you suppose you’d keep ‘em satisfied?”
I have no idea what he’s talking about. What could possibly be more satisfying than driving around in a 43-year-old Volkswagen van?