Carole and Jenny, best friends and Senior II girls who like to talk with me during English Corner, dropped by my office to say hello one day last week instead. To my usual question of “How are you?” they both answered, “Not wery well. Our boyfriends broke up with us.”

“Both of you?” I almost laughed. Solidarity. I minimized my gmail screen and welcomed them further into my cubicle. “Tell me all about it.”

Carole had been forced to break up with her boyfriend because her parents found out about him. Her parents are divorced and so they are both, she says, overprotective. I remembered during the New Year’s festival, Carole had found me as I waited for my turn to perform. Her class had already chanted poetry while stamping their feet in formation. As she ran up to me, boys with swords were tumbling around the stage and slashing at the air. They were all wearing red except for one large boy in yellow. “That’s my boyfriend,” she had whispered, smiling, pointing to the leader. I had teased her. “I thought you couldn’t have a boyfriend!” She shrugged, half coy, half shy.

When her parents found out, they called the school, sic’ed two security guards on her, confiscated her cell phone, and forced the split. “Because this is China,” Carole sighed. “We’re not supposed to–” she paused.

“Be distracted from school?” I offered.

“Yes. But–” she sounded outraged for a moment, as if about to launch into a tirade against that particular system of thought. Instead she changed her mind, and the subject. “But for Jenny it is worse,” she said instead.

I looked now at Jenny, who was smiling from her round face as if she didn’t have a care in the world. “My boyfriend is, how you say, gossip about me.”

“Oh,” I said, raising my eyebrows. “That’s not good.”

“No,” Carole agreed. “He is saying things and giving her a bad character.”

“That’s awful!” I was half out of my chair, ready to hunt the dude down.

“Yes, but it is okay.”

“No, it’s not,” I interrupted. “He shouldn’t say things, and you shouldn’t listen to him. It’s not fair and it’s not true.”

“No, he is wrong. But it is okay. Because we have our friends and our study.”

I eyed them suspiciously. I mean, it’s true, of course, but it’s still propaganda. And teens should not be that self-controlled. It’s eerie.

“That’s a very good attitude to have,” I said lamely. They knew it was. We all know exactly what we’re supposed to be thinking in these situations. I thought about sharing with them my theory that the human race will eventually evolve to the point where the few young males left in existence are kept in cages as exotic pets and the females reproduce spontaneously–if they feel like it–after reaching biological maturity, but I didn’t think it would translate well.

Apologies to my male readership–but control your own, eh? Then I wouldn’t have to get sassy.

Love to my dear ones at home and elsewhere, as always! Just over two months before I fly into DTW.


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