My brother Joey is approaching the end of his first semester at the University of New Orleans. If you’ve met Joey then you know that he is a special kid. He is hilarious, with an unusually loud voice, wild, unruly Harry Potter hair, a touch of ADHD for good measure, and the blessing and curse of having no social filter, like the time I was getting ready for a gig and he came into the bathroom and announced “Sis, you look fat…er.” pausing dramatically before adding the “er.” I nearly throttled him but he’s not malicious so I knew to take it in stride and up my game on the treadmill. That’s just Joey.
Despite my mothers protestations, the administration at UNO would not allow her to accompany Joey to register for his classes and it was with great relish that he emerged from the building and announced to her that he had selected Human Sexual Behavior as his elective. Over the years, when I return home in between tours, I always visit joey at school, picking him up, coming inside so he can parade me around, yelling at his friends to “keep your hands off” or delivering Taco Bell to his entire Study hall, Joey having texted me the classes order earlier in the day.
So I did not hesitate to accept his offer to accompany him to his Human Sexual Behavior class the day before Thanksgiving.
Kids these days don’t know how good they have it. I don’t know what happened between 2003 (the last year I sat in a classroom) and 2010, but it’s a whole different ball game now. First of all, each student is now equipped with a sort of magic-wand-remote-control-device which a boy sitting near me explained transmits radio waves to a receiver above the power point screen and is how the teacher takes attendance. Just point and click, like magic! (This same boy mercifully thought I was 22 years old when Joey invited everyone around us to guess his sister’s age and gleefully proclaimed that I was, in fact, an ancient 30 year old. Awesome.)
The teacher, a young, intelligent, brunette woman dressed in all black like a beatnik, approached the podium and began the class by stating “I think all of you are crazy for attending class the day before Thanksgiving. You will all receive extra credit.” What? Extra credit just for showing up? I soon discovered that extra credit is like candy in college now and this teacher was dishing it out like it was Halloween. Any student who voluntarily raised their hand and answered a question, not even entirely correctly, was instantly awarded extra credit.
The intended purpose of this delicious chocolate fountain of credit became clear to me as I surveyed the students, many of whom could’ve cared less about the riveting information I was absorbing from the lecture. To my right, two students (in the 3rd row!) were brazenly sleeping, their heads on their backpacks on top of their desks. A boy in my row (the 2nd row!) had one ipod earbud in his ear and was jamming out, only half listening. I guess the line of thought is that you can’t punish adults for snoring through your class so you entreat them with candy credit instead.
As the class progressed we came face to face with giant, unforgiving diagrams of the male and female anatomy. I was grimacing and could hardly take it. There were a couple students like me, half smirking, half disgusted, and, also like me, taking copious notes. But the rest were largely unaffected, as if they encountered enormous gonads on a daily basis. The subject eventually turned to sexual malfunctions, one of which could be remedied by a penile implant.
This is when Joey, with his formal manner of speaking and with his unmistakably deep, piercing voice, not unlike Dan Aykroyd’s character in the Coneheads, flatly stated, “Define ‘penile implant.’” The teacher sportingly pulled up a diagram showing a cylinder raised and lowered by a pump. I was mortified. Joey raised his hand. “May I ask… is this operated by remote control?” (Bam. Extra credit.) I buried my face in my hands, trying to muffle my laughter.
Ultimately, the aim of the Human Sexual Behavior class is to facilitate an open discussion amongst young people regarding a very confusing and sometimes mortifying aspect of the human experience, a noble endeavor if I do say so myself. And judging by the way I flinched and winced throughout the lecture, I’d say these punk kids have a greater grasp on things that probably shouldn’t be so shrouded in mystery or taboo than I do.
As I regaled the family with my experience at Thanksgiving dinner, Joey, who refused the turkey dinner and opted instead to make himself a frozen pizza, muttered moodily into his plate. This, at last, was his payback for the “fat…er.” comment. He grumbled on and on until my dad informed him that if he didn’t pipe down, he’d go find Joey’s implant remote and turn him off.
Best Thanksgiving ever.
(Me and Joey after class. Love you Joe!)