When I was in middle school and highschool I had an English teacher named Mary Ann Duffy. She was an articulate, no-nonsense shit disturber. She was also the only English teacher I have met who had any brains at all.
I remember one of my first classes with her in grade 7. I was at a new school, hadn't really made friends yet and was nervous as hell, and she laughed at my joke when I answered her question "what kind of clauses are there other than a subordinate clause?" with, "an INsubordinate clause...?"
I remember laughing when we were reading Midsummernight's Dream and came to the line where Lysander says:
You have her father's love, Demetrius;(This is when Hermia's father is trying to convince her to marry Demetrius, but she and Lysander want to marry each other). And I remember Mary Ann appreciating that I laughed, and agreeing that it was funny (to the bafflement of my classmates who, I think, all thought Lysander was asking a question).
Let me have Hermia's: do you marry him
Mary Ann fertilised the writing seed Mr. Eckler had planted in me in elementary school, and she encouraged me in all the things I needed to be encouraged in. She thought it was important that we all speak our minds, and I think she saw it as a part of her job as English teacher to give us the tools we needed to speak our minds as effectively as possible. She taught us that it was possible to be diplomatic without compromising our message. She also taught us that sometimes diplomacy was not what was called for.
Some years after she had left the school, I learned that she had died of a brain tumor. I was very sad, not so much for myself, since it had been years since I'd seen her, but because the world needs as many Mary Anns as possible.
Then, just recently, I discovered Molly Ivins. When I saw her speaking in the Dildo Diaries, I realised that she was channelling Mary Ann (or maybe Mary Ann had been channelling Ivins). Mary Ann was exactly the type of person who would have had zero patience with the "dipshit stuff" that Ivins talks about in the video. Reading Ivins' columns, I heard them in Mary Ann's voice.
The more I read Ivins' work, the more I realised that, while Mary Ann was gone, and that was sad, we still had Ivins, and that made it just a little more okay. Watching this video that P.Z. Myers is promoting, I realised just how much Molly Ivins was standing in for Mary Ann in my mind.
At this point, the only thing I can think of to do is to make sure that when I grow old I'm as crusty and witty and articulate and funny as Mary Ann and Ivins were. When I grow old I will say precisely what I think, and I will never be too afraid.
I just hope they can forgive me if I can't do it with a Texas accent.