I have a student, a black girl with a closed head injury, who does not hesitate when it comes to giving me advice on how to live my life.
Everything she says is filtered through a mix of street sass and stroke-like slurring.
She goes to so many independent living meetings and special counseling sessions that the jargon of self-help has slipped into the formula as well.
A typical conversation with her involves lengthy instruction on how I only need to make a few changes to improve my life.
She sees how messy my car is: "You is a grown man. Your car should not be looking like dis. It lookdid like a baby's car".
After I shaved my beard: "Can I give you a compliment? You lookdid better wit your beard."
When I complain about my weight: "You not that fat. You just need to lose some of yo weight."
Many, many times she has said to me: "Do you workout? You needs to be workin out."
When I am bored and start acting silly around the students: "You is a grown man. You needs to stop being so foolish. You is posed to be an adzample for us."
I told another student that she needed to stop peeing in her pants, and my guru friend here says. "Dats inpropriate. The right word is 'bowel'."
You need to stop bowel in your pants?
She once admitted to me that she found an Indian boy in our classroom attractive. "I like tanned white meat," she loudly whispered in my direction.
The thing that sticks with me,though, is how she always tells me I am a grown man.
This strikes a nerve.
My Ladyfriend accuses me of being a grown man, too.
Specifically, when it comes to our blanket arrangements.
It bothers her that I pile the covers on myself in a manner which she refers to as "the wad".
Late at night, after I have been happily asleep, she trolls in, curses me, yanks and pulls at the covers, undoing the wad, smashing it into a flat shape that can cover us both.
I wake up trembling.
One night, she is so disgusted with the wad, that as she hammers it with feet and elbows, she mutters with undisguised contempt, "A grown man should be able to spread the blankets. You're a grown man, you should be able to do this."
I will concede that a grown man should be able to perform such a task, and would, if he so chose.
However, like so many other men, I take the abuse silently, let it roll off of me.
Like so many men, all my actions are heavy with Secret Purpose.
I suffer these abuses as a GROWN man seen only as a grown man
failing to be even a grown man.
You see, the wad is for protection.
The piles of trash on the floor of the car might be plugging rusted out chasms through which my opinionated student might otherwise crash to the road's surface.
And I act the fool so as to salvage whatever self-created amusement I can from the mind-numbing and occasionally poopy grown man endeavor called a "job" that so many of us GROWN men are pile-driven into for the entirety of our lives.