Love, Ashley

On Friday, my students had a Fall Festival. We invited all the gaymos from the surrounding schools. We did the whole fall vibe: pumpkin decorating, face painting, games, guessing how many candy corn are in a gallon-size jar (1472, in case you were wondering). I got a very attractive mustache, as did many of the baby dykes. I’m not saying I’m a trendsetter, but I was the first to get a mustache at the face painting station.

After the sun went down, as the kids settled into a haze of popcorn and La Croix, we watched Love, Simon on an outdoor screen held up by string and duct tape. I’ve watched many movies with the baby queers. They think D.E.B.S. is particularly hilarious because it’s so old. Like early 00s, which is when they were born. RENT is intended to be a period piece so it’s fine. But also it’s Gen X in every way. There is only the suggestion of hope. Today’s kids are not satisfied with the crumbs of not dying as if staying alive is some reward. They want to live.

Love, Simon is for them. It’s Gen Z from conception to execution. It’s hip adults who aren’t remotely cool. It’s the assumption that being gay is worth rejection and finding out that it isn’t (but being a shit friend is). It’s acknowledging that honesty is sexy and sex is confusing and confusion is common. Watching that movie with a group of fifty or so teenage queers is truly the only way to experience it. When the drama teacher says what we all wanted an adult to say when we were gay bashed for the first time, the kids applaud. When the VP behaves the way every adult who thinks they are inclusive behaves, the kids boo (seriously, that dude is the fucking worst). And when Blue shows up at the Ferris wheel, the kids cannot stay silent. They collectively sigh and groan and cry and cheer and cheer and cheer.

That community lasts beyond the movie, of course. As we packed up and deconstructed the screen and stacked pizza boxes, the kids giggled and teased each other, but they also checked in with each other and me. They carried every heavy piece of equipment across campus to my office at nine-thirty at night. They made sure their friends had safe rides home. They made sure we hadn’t left a mess for the maintenance crew. The parent volunteers spent more time chatting with me about how cool the event was than they did cleaning up. Because they didn’t need to. The kids had it covered.

After the last little tyke had been sent home, I waited for my wife to come pick me up at the school. And, since it’s suburban neighborhood and I look like a teenage boy, the sheriff rolled up on me. I explained that I was waiting for my wife to pick me up and I had just wrapped up an event with my students. The sheriff realized I was an adult and wished me a good night.

It was only after he drove off that I remembered I was still wearing a mustache.

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