Monday, June 18, 2012

A Sexual Education: Mr. Goldberg, Part I

One of the several reasons I started a sex blog long ago was that I didn't really have an outlet in which I could comfortably share sexual memoirs such as the ones I regularly post. This next series of three or four posts is among those I haven't felt secure sharing widely, before.


Chronologically, my sixth-grade adventures fit in roughly after and concurrently with the events in A Sexual Education: The Gloryhole, and long after the events in A Sexual Education: The Bump. To summarize, I'd already discovered that men were interested in me, and I'd put in a lot of long afternoons watching men, mostly faculty and students, having sex in one of the cruisiest restrooms I'd ever seen (and have ever seen since). As of yet, though, I hadn't gotten up the courage to join in, or to lose my virginity.


I'm applying some basic ground rules for this series of essays. You may not agree with what happens in them. That's fine. I don't agree with everything that happens in them, either. Expressing that sentiment in a rational and adult manner is okay. 


What's not acceptable is over-reacting to events that happened thirty-six years ago with fear, alarm, name-calling, and cries for someone to be lynched or castrated or prison raped. These are sentiments that have been expressed in my comments section before, and this time around, I won't tolerate them.







The first thing I remember about Mr. Goldberg, when I think about him, is his shirts. He wore white cotton shirts—always white—so crisply pressed that when he’d pass, he would still smell of spray starch and the tang of a hot iron. Their collars were sharp and pointed, and the buttons at the cuff gleamed. A tie always accentuated the planes of his broad, deep chest, and a thin belt of faux alligator showed off his narrow waist and his round, muscular backside. His hair was dark, and parted in the middle, and swooped over his ears like a perfect advertisement for The Dry Look. Mr. Goldberg was a handsome, masculine man, and only twenty-nine when he was my sixth-grade homeroom teacher. For both of us, it was our first year at Anderson Middle School.



I only saw Mr. Goldberg in the mornings, for the most part, when we kids would stumble into school before eight, sleepy and reluctant to be there at all. He’d take attendance before we'd head off to our first class. Our school was one of those new, modern buildings; it had very few closed-in classrooms and bragged about a philosophy of open learning. Kids within the half-partitioned sixth-grade science area could look across an open space and see their peers in the social sciences area, or studying math, or practicing for a spelling test. Changing classrooms wasn’t so much a matter of spilling into the halls and running across the building as it was shuffling a few dozen feet across the large carpeted enclosures. 

But Mr. Goldberg taught remedial reading, and for that reason occupied of the few classrooms with a door and a lock, and blinds that could be drawn so that the slower learners could have their privacy.

He was a guy’s guy. When he greeted other male teachers, it was with a confident, casual high-five. On the sly, he operated a running NFL football betting pool in which almost all the boys in his homeroom participated. No money exchanged hands, of course, but there was some kind of running point tally that mystified and frightened me a little, since I didn’t understand football and disliked having to maintain any pretense that I did. He played basketball on a teacher’s league and was supposed to be very good at it, despite the fact he wasn’t any taller than five-foot-eight. On warm days, when he’d roll up the sleeves of his white shirts in neat, geometrical rectangles, they would cut into the muscles at his elbows and expose his brawny forearms, covered with a thatch of dark hair.

I really enjoyed looking at him. He was handsome, and not only was he younger than most of the other teachers, but he carried some ebullient youthfulness that made my other teachers seem positively ancient. I already knew, though, that I couldn't be caught staring at him. I didn't let my eyes linger over the planes of his chest or the roundness filling out the fronts and backs of his tight pants. They'd snatch a glance, move away, and have to be content.

One of the highlights of grade school for me was the Scholastic Book Club—a racket in which the publisher would send around fliers with a selection of books for purchase at discounted prices. The offerings ranged from the supposedly-good-for-you Newberry winners to the goofy kinds of joke books that kids love. I don’t even remember most of the titles I ordered from Scholastic, but I remember that one day in the autumn I ordered Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Mr. Goldberg asked me to stay a couple of minutes after homeroom that day, when I turned in the slip. “You know, the novel Frankenstein is really not like the monster movie,” he told me, proffering the slip. I nodded, and said that I knew. I did know that the novel was less Karloff-y and more philosophical, somehow. “I didn’t want you to be disappointed, when you got it.”

“I’ve read Dracula. The real one, by Bram Stoker,” I told him. 

“The original? The Victorian original? With all the letters, and journals? All right then.” That information seemed to impress him enough that he nodded, and filed the order slip along with the others. 

It seems right to me that the Scholastic sale must have been part of some pre-Halloween promotion, because it was still mild and summery when Mr. Goldberg showed up in my last-period science class a few weeks later. “Just stopping through,” he called out to Mr. Hedgepert, the teacher. He then pointed to me, and then at an object in his hand. “Book for you,” he said. “Pick it up on your way out.”

His classroom was already empty by the time I dropped off my non-essentials in my locker and ran to his room. The school bus pickup point was all the way at the far end of the building, so I didn’t have much time to spare. 

“Thanks,” I told him, expecting to grab the book and run.

Mr. Goldberg held the book in front of him with both hands, not relinquishing it. “Do you know the story of Frankenstein?” he asked. “I mean, how it came to be written?” I shook my head. Missing the school bus is one of my recurring bad dreams still, even although the last one I rode was thirty years ago. The walk home from school was only a half-hour on a good day, but I was anal enough that the thought of missing the bus made my stomach twitchy. “It’s really kind of interesting.”

“I need to go,” I said, or words to that effect.

Still he held onto the book, which I remember having a lurid cover straight out of a horror movie. “Oh. Sure.” He seemed disappointed, and that made me feel badly. “Or you know. I could give you a ride home if you wanted to hear about it.” I must have hesitated. Getting a ride home from a teacher seemed like a horrible imposition. “You live not too far from the seminary, right? I go jogging around that area after school most afternoons. It’s not a problem. You wanna?”

I thought it over a moment. At that point, flying across the school with my backpack and my French horn to catch a bus would have left me a sweaty, panicky mess. If the bus were still there when I arrive, which was doubtful. Part of me still felt as if accepting would be a terrible imposition. The other half was relieved not to have to make the dash. Reluctantly, I nodded, and told him I did wanna.

“Cool,” he said, as if he drove students home every day. At last he handed the novel to me. “So. The story of Frankenstein. Mary Shelley . . . the author . . . had a father who was an anarchist and a mother who was a feminist, you know, one of those ERA types. Both were totally crazy—ahead of their time, really. And their daughter married Percy Shelley, a famous poet. One summer the Shelleys were visiting another poet, Lord Byron. . . .” As he gathered up his papers and put them into the black shiny briefcase that usually occupied a space beneath his desk, he continued to talk to me, telling me the genesis of the novel. He spoke to me not like one of the kids in his homeroom who needed to be settled down for attendance, and not even like a student he was lecturing. He wasn't dry at all. He told me the birth of Frankenstein in a way that almost made it seem as if he knew the protagonists of the English Romantic movement, and was relaying their gossip. It was such a comfortable and interesting description that I don’t think it’s any coincidence that when I was in graduate school, my master’s thesis was a study of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft.

By the time we’d reached his car in the faculty parking lot, he’d finished the story and was asking me how I liked my other classes and teachers. He drove a shabby tan hatchback, I remember, and after he pulled up the rear door, he simply took my horn and my backpack and set them within. Then he put a hand on my shoulder, escorted me to the passenger side, and opened the door. It was unexpectedly gallant; I blushed at the thoroughness of his attention. 

I don’t really remember what else we talked about that afternoon. It seems to me that mostly he dropped little tidbits of information about some of the other teachers—nothing scandalous, but I remember learning that Mr. Hedgepert had a wife who was in and out of the hospital, and that Miss Christian (or, as we kids called her at a safe distance, Miss Un-Christian) was nowhere near as mean as she sometimes appeared. 

My route home was mostly a straight shot down Brook Road. I directed him down the appropriate turn-off to get to my neighborhood. “Are your folks going to be home?” he asked. “Are they going to mind me dropping you off?” I withdrew the house key hanging on a length of twine that hung around my neck, and explained that both my parents were teaching, and that as long as I got home before they did, it’d be fine. “No worries there, sport.” He reached hand over hand as he turned onto my street, and pulled to a stop in front of my house. “That handle’s tricky. Hang on.”

Before I could stop him, he leapt out of the car, dashed around, and once again opened the passenger door for me like a gentleman on his best date behavior. Then he unlocked the hatch, took out my stuff, and deposited the horn on the grass and helped me on with my backpack. “Thanks,” I said. I’d felt comfortable enough in his car, but the sense of worlds colliding with a teacher standing in front of the place I lived felt as if it should be a little weird. 

“Oh hey. No problem!” He touched me gently on the shoulder blade. “Like I said, I go jogging at the track.” He pointed in the direction of the seminary’s recreational park. “Tennis sometimes, too. You play tennis?” I had to admit I did, although I secretly hated it. (Perhaps it wasn't that much of a secret. My father has long commented to this day on how endlessly I complained about my tennis lessons.) “Nice. You can give me pointers sometime. I’m not too graceful at tennis. You teach me how to handle a racket, and I'll teach you how to shoot hoops." He mimed making a shot. "All right, sport. See you tomorrow.” He waited for the oncoming traffic to pass before walking around to the driver’s side once more. There he raised a hand, and waved goodbye like me might one of his adult friends. “And hey, buddy-boy. Enjoy the book.” 

I nodded and waved, and wandered into the house, dazed and shaking a little. Nothing untoward had happened at all, but somehow I felt like I’d transgressed some sacred code of student/teacher apartheid. I’d felt the same way when once my father and I had run across my fourth grade teacher at Thalheimers buying wool for her knitting. 

Mr. Goldberg said nothing about the lift he’d given me the next day, or indeed anything out of the ordinary at all. It was perhaps a week later that I finished Frankenstein—or at least worked up the nerve shyly to mention it to him at the end of home room. “Oh, fantastic,” he said. “What’d you think? You wanna come back at the end of the day and tell me about it? Hang around a little after school? I can give you a lift home again. It's cool.”

And I, happily knowing that I’d again riding in that beat-up little hatchback that smelled of his pressed shirts and aftershave, said yes.

30 comments:

  1. OMG, the Scholastic Book Club. What a blast from the past. Way back in those pre-Amazon days, those periodic catalogs and order forms always gave me a thrill as a kid.

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    1. You and I were the same kind of geek, John.

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  2. Although I was a later bloomer than you, Rob, my ninth grade English teacher changed my life by working through Chaucer's Canterbury Tales with me. Nothing more than sitting close to one another (so I could feel his warmth through our shirts and smell his cologne) happened, but that was when I first really knew that I was wired for men!

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    1. That is pretty sexy, AC. Crushes at that age are pretty intense, no?

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  3. This was an especially deft piece about early sexual awareness. I recall being attracted to males around sixth grade. Puberty visited me early and by the time I entered junior high, I could pass for high school no problem. I wish only that I had a story of innocent attraction. Sex for me was not innocent. My mother liked to tell me that my father was a "faggot whore" selling his body to men, but this was a women who took men to the bedroom in our trailer and did them for cash while we kids were not allowed to go outside. Sorry for the ramble.
    Matthew Darringer

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  4. Oh my, such a nice piece indeed. Evious feelings are crawling in my head as we speak for not having a book club. Although my teachers praised me for reading on my own, there was no such thing as a book club or discounts on books :(
    As for your teacher I have a question regarding the use of "deep chest" as a description. I've seen it around and sadly can't comprehend it. Wide, yes, but deep? It's not allowing me to have a clear image of Mr. Goldberg.

    p.s.
    Damn, your capability of making me live your story as if I was there peeking on you is awesome.

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    1. Thommie, we talk about guys having a 'broad chest.' I think you know what that is. It's probably easy to extrapolate what a deep chest would be—they can be big in both directions.

      Thanks for the compliments. I appreciate them.

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  5. I so relate to the football comment, I too resented having to fake interest. Nicely written!!!

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  6. Awesome story. I loved the SBC - and I think many of us had a teacher we looked at like this.

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    1. I know, right? Except The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I never got into that one.

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  7. Can't wait for Part Two...:D

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    1. I think I'll be doing one part a week, Travis.

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  8. You're sixth grade and my sixth grade were two different types. K-6 had only a couple of male teachers and we had one teacher period.

    Grades 7-8 at another school was when we first has different classes every day, but while there were male teachers, there were still the older old fashion teach with an iron hand types for the most part.

    High school was finally the time when we had young new teachers and I started to notice how some of the male teachers looked and how they made be feel.

    You were lucky, one year I spent walking home on one side of the street just in case Mister Lane wanted to stop and ask me if I wanted a lift home :-)

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    1. I think a lot of boys start noticing their teachers around that time. They spend enough time with them!

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  9. I had a strangely similar conversation with my fifth grade advanced English teacher about Frankenstein not being like the movie and me already having read Dracula. I was reading Frankenstein for a book report and she didn't think I could finish in time (and it was pretty close). We didn't have the book club, but we had the magazine you could order from, which I remember being the only kid excited about.

    All fun memories aside, I am excited to read what comes next, even though I'm reasonably sure this is one of the stories you told me post-sex last year. Your writing is always a great read.

    -Ace

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    1. I've shared this story with a handful of people, Ace, you included. I've only to decided to share it here because of a conversation I had with someone who asked me why I let the comments of others overshadow my obvious desire to share my perspective. And they were right, of course.

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    2. I know sometimes when you write about your younger years you get some backlash, and I really wish it didn't happen. I hope you didn't get much this time around. You don't deserve even a tiny bit of the shit you seem to get pretty regularly. It sucks to see a guy who I know for a fact is a great man get shot down by people who barely know him. Such are the ways of the internet, sadly.

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    3. Ace, the very first comment I got to this entry the very first one, read, "What a bunch of long-winded waffle."

      Just because you don't see it doesn't mean I'm not getting it.

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  10. This took me back.

    You had Mr. Goldberg, I had my very tall and dashing P.E. teacher who wore tiny shorts nearly all the time to highlight his amazing thighs and legs. I still can't believe that was his self-imposed dress code but I remember being thankful every time I caught a glimpse of him.

    We both shared a love for the Scholastic Book Club though. Oh, how I remember ordering tons.

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    1. That's one advantage for my generation Joey, everyone wore short shorts back them for P.E. teachers and students.

      Saw a lot of cock and balls when guys forgot their jock and didn't want to get their underwear sweaty ;-)

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    2. As a leg and ass man, I'm envious. This P.E. stud of mine was definitely retro in that sense. Looking back now, he belonged more in the 70s than late 90s. Mustache, hairy chest and all.

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  11. I love it when you write these personal stories from your past. I find them fascinating! I can't wait for the next part. I've always been a sucker for a "to be continued" tale! Thank you so much for sharing these details of your fascinating life.

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  12. This story takes me back to my brass instructor in High School. I was the only student that played the baritone so my lessons were basically he and I. I have a very vivid sense memory of a particular lesson where I had been struggling with a difficult passage, and when I finally played it right he reached over and shook my thigh just above my knee and said with a big smile, "that was great!" How I wished I could have blown something more than just that horn!

    Thanks for reminding me about this memory. I smile whenever I think about it.

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    1. That is pretty erotic, Tom. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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  13. Once again, I feel very privileged to be reading your life. I remember having slightly similar feelings for a male piano teacher in middle school. I really liked the lessons where he'd sit next to me on the bench ;) Nothing ever happened.

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  14. As always, I love the stories of your early sex education. Its fascinating as well as very erotic to me.Hal

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