“Are you a paedophile?”
I don’t know if facing this question is simply an inevitability in the life of any tutor, however upon receiving it I can only hope that’s all it may be.
The timing of the accusation is not fantastic either. I feel like I’ve been tricked. My inquisitor, the 9 year old girl sitting upon the bed opposite me, has – either extremely cunningly or blissfully unknowingly – made confronting such an accusation yet more awkward through a joke she’d just finished;
“Hi nice to meet you” she said, extending a hand, prompting me to take it.
“What’s your name?”
“Sam” I say, accepting her hand to shake it.
“I’m Tarzan” She says, not letting go of the hand.
“Where do you live?”
“Milan” I reply.
“Well I live in the jungle…
And where in Milan do you go when you need the toilet?”
“The bathroom” I say, growing more self-conscious of sitting on a bed with a new 9 year old student, holding her hand, while the parents are away. I glance to the door often, nervously, hoping the cleaner isn’t about to walk in to witness what she might assume makes up my first lessons.
“I go in the Jungle…” Tarzan continues, still not letting go. “And what do you use to clean yourself after going to the bathroom?”
“Well I use… this hand!” She exclaims triumphantly, and with the punchline delivered begins to laugh hysterically.
Hahaha, yeah very funny, now give me my fucking hand back. Slightly relieved to no longer be in that professionally compromising position, I use my new-found mobility to evacuate the bed and take a chair.
I clear my throat and prepare to utter my customary and trademark “Right!”, the beautiful noise that lets all my students know I’m about to commence bringing them into a glorious, uncharted and mystical world of knowledge and learnings. But…
“Are you a paedophile?”
I am interrupted.
My eyes must react quicker than my ears, as they dart straight to her face, instantly seeking to recognise if this question is serious or not. However they only come to recognise dead sincerity in hers, and this seems to happen at the same time my ears have processed exactly what they heard. My brain puts the whole picture together: I am being accused of potentially being a paedophile. By a 9 year old girl. Who currently is left in a house alone with me.
There’s a moment of shocked silence on my behalf, though I quickly realise that a prolonged silence is probably not the best way to quash the young girl’s doubts here. Hence I start my defence;
“Huh.. wha.. ?
A paedophile? Nooooo, Me?
The thing about being asked to genuinely convince a 9 year old girl that you are not a paedophile, I quickly come to realise, is it makes you feel like you genuinely are a paedophile.
“Noooo, you’re crazy you are” I say. “Wha.. Where did you… Why are you even asking?”
She explains to me an app she’s just played in which something asks you questions and you have to guess what it is. The correct answer, based on the questions it asks you, is a paedophile. I don’t really understand, but I think it could be something designed to teach awareness about cyber sex criminals.
“Do you know what a paedophile is? Because I do” she continues, “Ok then, if you know, tell me what it is”
I am about to answer quite matter-of-factly, as if I am giving the answer to a biology question that a kid didn’t understand when I sudden remember that this is a 9 year old girl, and I’m explaining paedophilia. Instead I say “No, I know, but you tell me what it is.”
I am told that a paedophile is “like a person who asks for hugs or stuff, and if you don’t hug them, then they are mean and maybe hit you.” She then tells me that she is scared of them everywhere, and thinks someone is going to grab her off the street. I fortunately now however seem to be off the hook.
The conversation ends and we continue to have a normal lesson, which she thanks me for at the end, before additionally thanking me for having taught her more about paedophiles (not that we’d discussed the matter any more than has been stated here). This leaves me in an awkward position, as I imagine this getting mentioned to the parents;
“Hey how was the lesson sweetie?”
“Yeah it was great, Sam taught me all about paedophiles”
The question now is to call the parents and get in and explain myself first, or just hope that it sorts itself out, and that Milan’s first (tutoring) son doesn’t develop a reputation for off-the-cuff explanations of paedophilia to all his new students.