WESTLAND, Mass. Millicent “Millie” Hawkins has been a tenth-grade English teacher at this town’s highly-ranked high school for the past twenty-five years, but before that she was a student here, and a noted “chrome polisher,” as Mike Lubato of Rocco’s Texaco on nearby state Route 9 recalls with a laugh. “Them was the girls, you’d take ’em out to a drive-in movie or to get a hamburger, they’d drain your wallet dry, and then they’d scooch over to their side of the car and ‘polish the chrome’ on the door, so youse couldn’t get any action,” he says. “Then at the end of the night, they’d give you the ‘Presbyterian hand job.’”
Asked for details on the latter sexual maneuver, Lubato says “That’s when the girl shakes your hand on her doorstep and says ‘We’ve had a lovely evening, let’s not spoil it now’–while blocking any attempted kiss like a hockey goalie makin’ a glove save.”
That no-nonsense approach has served Hawkins well in her long-time extracurricular role as chaperone at school dances, where she has wielded a six-inch ruler–the minimum required distance between dancers on slow numbers–like a fencer’s sword. “I tell ‘my girls’ that you should never, under any circumstances, have sex with a boy when you’re single,” she says in defense of her hard-line attitude. “If you do, chances are he’ll want sex after you’re married.”
“Hey–I need to see daylight between you two!”
But in this spring of social distancing Westland High’s prom has been called off, and Hawkins found herself on the outside of social networking looking in as students made connections on Zoom and other platforms far removed from the prying eyes of experienced professional scolds such as herself.
“It took an urgent district-wide email to alert parents to the risks involved in these crazy ‘social media’ sites on the world-wide web,” she says, her face a road map of anguish. “Finally we took some money out of the vice principal’s slush . . . I mean, emergency appropriations fund to get me a new computer so I could simultaneously monitor all 176 seniors when they showed up for our COVID-19-themed ‘April in Lockdown’ Senior Prom.”
“I’m sorry, Carl, I promised the next dance to Aaron, in the upper right-hand corner.”
Saturday night found Hawkins woman-ing four separate computer screens to make sure no hanky-panky took place in her little corner of cyberspace, a daunting task given youth’s perennial quest to evade adult supervision. “Michael Adamlik–I saw that!” she snapped at one young man who was moving his hand down and to the left towards the mini-screen occupied by Cynthia Twarog, head cheerleader and homecoming queen.
“C’mon Trish–wait ’til we’re in the car to give me a hickey!”
“Don’t worry, Ms. Hawkins,” the object of the boy’s affections replies. “I wouldn’t kiss that dork with rented lips.”
“Just making sure,” Hawkins says, then shifts her eyes to another screen where Carl Deems is drinking a Jell-O shot while making goo-goo eyes at Amanda Frimly, a blonde, two-time All-State volleyball “striker” whose hopes for a college scholarship have been cruelly dashed by the cancellation of her senior season. “Young man,” Hawkins intones in a voice filled with as much emotion as a flight cancellation announcement.
“What–I’m at home, I’m not hurtin’ anybody.”
“You know the rule–alcohol is strictly forbidden at all school functions.”
“Yeah, but I got an exception.”
“Which is?” Hawkins asks skeptically.
“There’s always room for Jell-O!”