And, then in the 8th grade, Mr. Von Steinberg appeared as our new student teacher. Now, before you start thinking that I am going to go on to tell you how dreamy he was and how I was in love with him, let me stop you because that was not the case.
My 8th grade year was already off to a rocky start in the teacher department because my classroom teacher, Mrs. Landerfield, already called me weird in front of the whole class while on a field trip. Granted, I am weird, and I was probably doing something really weird at the time that prompted her to say that to me, but I did not (and still do not) think that a person who installs artificial grass carpeting in their living room and forgoes using a couch for lawn chairs has any right to label me as weird. Apparently neither did my Mom, who immediately flew into school to discuss this matter with her (the name calling, not the decor choices).
But, as good as my Mom's intentions were, this only made things worse. The next day when I arrived at school, my desk was attached to Mrs. Landerfield's. It seems that her way of atoning for calling me weird was to make me her "special secretary" for the day. Oh joy! Spending the entire school day secluded from all of your friends, unable to talk or pass important notes, is such a special privilege.
So enter Mr. Von Steinberg. He was a small, slender man who, according to my memory, wore the same exact outfit every day. He must have adhered to the philosophy of why ruin a good thing. The only problem was he did not have a good thing going. He was clearly a fan of black and the beatnik scene--black blazer, slim black pants in what I would describe as the Audrey Hepburn style, and black socks. Or, what had formerly been black socks but were now a faded purplish color. To complete this look he had a thin black mustache and goatee, and thick black hair that seemed to grow straight up and sort of veer to the left side of his head. My friends and I were convinced that a fly lived within this coiffure, mainly because we saw one migrate in and out on a regular basis. (Although I could never be sure if it was the same fly.)
I hope that I am painting Mr. Von Steinberg as the antithesis of what a junior high student would consider a heartthrob because that is how the girls in my class viewed him. (I'm sure that he had some great, redeeming qualities, but I was just not aware of them.)
So one day, when he pulled my Mom aside while she was working at the school, and said, "Mrs. Dougherty, I think that Gretchen may have a crush on me," she was more than a little surprised. After all, she had heard me and my friends complain about this guy on a daily basis.
"What makes you think that?"
"Well, she is always raising her hand to answer in class and...you know...I just thought..."
When my Mom relayed this information to me, I responded in the following manner, "WWWHHHHAAAATTT??!!??!!??!!" Or something along that line. I was indignant. How could a guy who had a fly colony in his hair and needed new socks possibly think I could have a crush on him simply because I was being polite and attentive in class? That's how I acted in every class! I wanted to go up to him the next day and say as much to him, but my Mom cautioned me to let it go.
Besides, I really couldn't risk being made a "special secretary" again. I would just have to suck it up and try really hard not answer anymore questions until Mr. Von Steinberg and his hair flies were gone.