That’s an Onion headline. It rung too true for me – not because I’m a devil’s advocate – but because it brought me back to when I was 16, in 10th grade, and I attempted but failed to eviscerate my Asshole Devil’s Advocate history teacher. Instead I got humiliated myself.
We all know these types. This guy – who’s last name was Mysogland (I think) – was a treat. He taught every day from standing a lecturn, had us sit in a large circle and imagined, I’m sure, that he was Little Socrates and all of us his Little Thrasymachuses, eager and waiting to sip knowledge from his gigantic orb (sick, disgusting inuendo = intended). Plus he had a more disgustingly fake orange tan than George Hamilton.
He would ALWAYS argue the wrong side – the absurd side – of any topic he was teaching. He wouldn’t teach without arguing. The earnest idiots in class would always bite, and chase him down a rabbit hole of such ridiculous logic. He would enjoy the chase. The smarter, more well-balanced ones would engage him a bit, then just laugh it off with a roll of their eyes, content to watch the idiots get steamed up.
Then there was me. For some reason I couldn’t stand this guy. I’ve always hated fakeness and…”posing”, if you know what I mean. Mr Mysogland was such a puny intellectual shit, but imagining he was Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society or Jaime Escalante in Stand & Delivery. Its a kind of Hero Teacher Syndrome that he had – lots of teachers have this, usually public school teachers. As inflated and devalued as College is these days, the caliber of average college teacher still outstrips the lower government school prison warden.
So, one day I had apparently sniped at him one too many times with my immature but developing sarcastic wit, and he sniped back. I deserved it: I called his class “a joke”. He said I was the joke, since I would never take class discussion seriously. Why don’t I come up with something creative or original, instead of just slinging insults?
As the room went silent, watching me get dressed down by Little Socrates, what incredible zinger did I deliver in return?
“Why don’t you leave me alone…”
Oh, I said it with dripping hate in my voice – as though he might get the (mistaken) impression that I was the murdering type and he shouldn’t provoke the monster.
Instead he just said “Why don’t you leave ME alone? Let me teach this class and just stay out of it if you’re so disgusted”.
That was it. I was totally humiliated. If it were prison, and we were playing by prison rules, I would be now be Mr Mysogland’s girlfriend, forced to wear makeup and fellate him on demand.
When class was over, I approached him and said the obvious: “I don’t like you, and its worth it to me to be call your class stupid, cause it is”. He said “Well that’s obvious. I guess you prefer cutting off your nose to spite your own face”.
Of course, like all heated moments, I invented the most devastating come backs and rejoinders imaginable, and delivered them all perfectly in retrospect. And I’ve been delivering them to this day.
I thought of this incident when reading about the cause of my Dad’s own mild depression. He’s had similar painful “remembrances of things past” – embarrassing, douch-chilling memories that involuntarily flood the mind without cause. This incident is one of those for me.