Identity Crisis

As a teacher, I am constantly the wet blanket of the classroom party. "Laughter? We're reading a tragedy! RARRRR! (I'm a monster.)" Hearing cheerful noises, I scurry over to a collection of students laughing at a picture in a magazine. "Put that away," I instruct. "But Mr. [Kevin]," one says. "Doesn't this look like Yoshi*?" Yoshi is a loud, short, and stout child who gives me a good idea of what it would be like to teach elementary school. Yoshi is extremely proud of being Asian and makes references to it in nearly everything he says. In spite of his contrary statements, Yoshi behaves no differently than many of his peers, embodying the American teenage mentality to the extreme.

At any rate, when I see the picture, I cannot contain my smile, doing all I can to keep myself from bursting into laughter. Indeed, the photo of a chubby Asian looks very much like Yoshi, but it would not be appropriate to make a big deal about it. In the photo, the Yoshi look-alike sits with his arm around a blonde girl. The photo is captioned "Should Their Love Be Legal?" and suddenly, at the same time as my students, I discover that "Yoshi" is not a he, but a butch lesbian. Again, I shouldn't be laughing, but now it's painful to stifle it while my students openly cackle. All this time, the real Yoshi is oblivious to the photograph, probably off scribbling on the walls or something. Someone shouts out Yoshi's name and shows him the image; he admits that it looks like him. Though I need to resurrect order in the classroom, this photo is something everyone in the class needs to see, so I only occasionally mutter "stop" under my breath as the magazine is passed around, pretending I don't delight in seeing the similar delight on the students' faces. Finally, someone attaches the picture to the board with a magnet and again I turn a blind eye. Only then does Yoshi take a close enough look to notice that he is a lesbian, at which point he crumples it up and tosses it in the trash. Immediately, someone fishes it out and starts defacing it, adding facial hair and piercings, as well as offensive attempts at Japanese writing on "Yoshi's" forehead. After that starts circulating, I jump in. They took a perfectly funny replica and turn it into something that no longer looks like Yoshi. Do they not get the joke?

Yoshi crumples it up and puts it back in the trash. This time, I fish it out. "You just want to take it home to show your friends!" a student accuses me. "No," I retort. "I know that if I leave it in there, someone will take it out again." And that's a risk I don't want to take because of course I want to take it home and show my friends! And so I do, and we laugh a lot. Oh, Yoshi!

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