Episode 5 review: Like a virgin: everything you wanted to know about sex, but were too afraid to ask a tough young teacher
How do you know when you're horny?
Tough Young Teachers has been a cornucopia of joy to watch for the past month, but this week, well, ambassador, you are spoiling us with these Ferraro Rocher. This week, the Tough Young Teachers brought sexy back. This week: Nicky does Knobs. Sex-ed reared its hooded head, and it was even better than you could have hoped. The fact that it was Nick, dear, devout, Nick, just gave it a wholesome dusting of joy.
Sex, desire and relationships: one of the most important topics in the human experience. Naturally in schools we make sure it gets taught and discussed in a professional way, with trained specialists and....nahhh, let's just dish it out to whomever's free on the timetable and chuck some worksheets at them. That's bound to be good enough. Poor Nick did something that I have seen so frequently from new teachers that I can only assume they train them to do it in teacher college: he got them to brainstorm all the sweariest words they could. The intention appeared- and always appears- to be to somehow 'get it off their chest' and out of the way. The outcome is, of course, a train crash of C*NT, FELCH and REVERSE DUTCH STEAMBOAT written on the board as the class literally shake themselves to death with excitement.
Nick forgot, as many do, that these are the children of the Internet age. There is nothing they haven't seen, no depravity too niche or coarse for them not to have encountered. Getting them to list sweary sex words is like asking them how many numbers they can think of. When one kid said 'Knob' it was almost touchingly sweet. Then someone said 'Coconuts!' and I searched the background for Les Dawson. What kid calls a bosom coconuts these days? Look out for a midget disguised as a pupil.
He was game, but it was hard- and getting harder for Nick. He couldn't keep it up much longer by himself, so he brought a woman in to handle the bits he couldn't. None other than Mad, marvellous Meryl, straight outta the last chance saloon. He enlisted her help with Lady Loving Learning, presumably because Men are from Mars or something. The best bit- in fact possibly the best bit of television since Logie Baird switched the first one on- was Nick and Meryl going through the post it notes with anonymous questions to answer: 'Have you ever done it?' 'Do your pubes go gray?' 'How do you know you're horny?' (Good question: how do you know? Apart from using a protractor and a set of compasses of course). It was purest, purest David Brent- you could imagine him scowling awkwardly at the camera, going, 'Puerile. No need for that.'
The Angry Dragon
Meryl assured everyone that she had 'never seen a gray pube' which I think we all can learn something from. Fortunately no one asked how deep her love was. I don't think I could have taken it.
Then they split the class up: menstrual plumbing for girls, fantasy and porn for boys. Christ, Andrea Dworkin could do a whole lecture tour just in that one moment, on the sad determinism of gender: for girls, does sex ed mean the Curse of Eve, tampons and self consciousness, while boys get to eat the banquet and leave their plates for someone else to wash? Men's plumbing is as sophisticated as a water pistol; women have to pilot the Starship Enterprise. I hope somewhere along the line, the boys have to learn about periods and the girls get a chance to discuss desire.
The Flying Camel
Caleb ('How do you do f*cking exorcisms if you don't believe in ghosts and sh*t like that?') whined a mantra that every RS teacher learns to endure: 'Why do I need to study this? to which I usually reply by hitting them over the head with a rolled up Watchtower, saying, 'Because *that*, ***.' Eventually Caleb pressed the wrong someone's buttons, and a fight outside school led him to being sent back to the PRU, like a sweary, egoistic salmon returning home. It was all sad faces and 'Oh dear we wanted him to pass,' on camera, but off screen I imagine Charles and the assistant head were chest bumping and high-fiving and lighting cigars. We give and we give, but if what we give gets used as toilet paper often enough, it's easy enough to harden your heart, especially to the ones who tell us they 'never liked you' at parent's evening. We try as hard as we can even for the Calebs- maybe especially so- but we're also human, and compassion can eventually run a little thin, if not dry.
The Red Sock
Over at Charles's house, he was hosting a dinner party in the reception wing of his parents home. Holy Mother of God did you see that house? Chloe couldn't believe her eyes and, sozzled, did what every good friend would, and had a thorough nosy around the monogrammed silver wear. I hope Charles counted the spoons. He was certainly counting his blessings, as he delivered an impassioned rationale to camera about why it was a) ok to have enough money to be comfortable and b) ok to have a party. I wonder Freddy Mercury, Elton John or Gatsby ever felt they had to justify all the gak, dwarves and swan trifle? No matter. Back at the party, the 'Parsnip crisps, and the eel terrine are going down a storm.' I bet they were. What party would be complete without them?
Claudenia was having a Hell of a time this week, and I thought I detected the gangrenous smell of ambition turning in on itself and starting to turn sour. She's so driven, so dedicated- they all are- that they risk martyring themselves. If I line managed a teacher with her symptoms, I would order- not ask- that she took a few days off, because falling asleep at your desk, getting up at 4 every day to plan lessons, and weeping in front of strangers are all signs that one is trying to carry too much water at once. We give, give, give so freely, it's important to remember to save a little for ourselves.
Oliver 'I am Mr Beach, like the seaside', prompted by Nick, suggested that what the beleaguered Claudenia really needed was a few more observations, and he was just the man for the job. By the end of the lesson he was burying her for not writing a lesson objective on the board and I was thinking what a great cheerleader he'd make, if by cheerleader you meant 'undertaker'.
And Marvelous Meryl delighted a nation tonight as she finally squeezed a 'Oh go on then' out of her observation inquisitors, escaping the guillotine of shame. She tried to pull the world's worst bluff of failure on Nicholas, but she couldn't fool a coma victim what day it was, mostly because she is an avatar of everything that is good. If she hadn't passed,we'd all have to watch her next year in Tough Young Shelf Stackers.
Mind you, she wasn't making it easy for herself. If Nick had planted a bomb under his ass with the sweary brainstorm, she went the full Fawkes and tried to put her career in a blender. Having buried her totalled car, somehow, in the school car park, she then invited out a trio of students to see it, with the solemn caution to 1. Not tell everyone her car was now a paperweight and 2. Don't laugh at my car, which is akin to mooning at a funeral and telling everyone to stay serious. She then compounded it by inexplicably putting on an ushanka and looking at the kids like 'What?' Finally she brought the kids out to salvage her bags-for-life from the wreck of her wheels and said, 'God, don't take photos of this with your phone and put them on Facebook or some thing' and by this point I'm screaming at the telly 'For God's sake woman is there a single syllable of your internal monologue that escapes expression?' She is quite unique.
They all are. I'll leave you with Nick's masterful metaphor when attempting to describe the dangers of masturbation. 'Its a bit like sweets,' he said.
I'll never look at a pick 'n' mix as long as I live.