If you were to ask any of the women in my age bracket who their celebrity crush is, you’d get a variety of answers, but I’m sure none of them carry as bright a torch for Jack Black as I do.
There’s just something about him in the role of Nacho in Nacho Libre that makes me want to pull on my own stretchy pants, lace up a face mask, and tie on my silky pink cape appliquéd with a giant turquoise lace N and fringed with green shower curtain pompoms (courtesy of Mama White). In my fantasy world, we’d go a ferocious and sweaty round or three inside the velvet ropes before he dropped to one knee and asked me to switch sides and replace El Esqueleto as his partner.
I adore that he’s such an absurd character yet takes himself so seriously. Makes a fool of himself to buy salad for the hungry orphan niños. How could you not love a man with a heart like that? Or who cuts an equally dashing figure in worn monk’s robes as a sky blue polyester pantsuit?
At any rate, The Myth of the Mighty Miss Whitey all began with that movie and a weekend visit to San Francisco with my brother and his wife, who are both actors. We were staying in the Mission District, and on the way to Cuban sandwiches for dinner, we walked past a corner store with a huge rack of luchador masks outside. I intended to purchase only one, but somehow came home with three. Of course, we all donned them and watched Nacho Libre together that night, reciting as many lines as we could remember along with the characters. My sister-in-law and I took a fierce luchadora selfie that ended up as the profile picture on my teacher FB page.
Several months later, one of my Latino students, Julio, asked me “So, uh, Miss White…what’s with the picture of you in the luchador mask on Facebook?”
I looked him straight in the eyes and lied through my teeth. “Oh! Do you remember how I told you that I taught in Michigan for a while, then I took a break for several years, and now I’m back teaching again?”
“Well, in the in between time, I went down to Mexico City and wrestled in a women’s league. I’m an ex-luchadora.”
“What was your ring name?”
“The Mighty Miss Whitey.”
“Dude, Miss White. That’s sick.”
I never bothered to set the matter straight.
Two years later, I told this story to a group of 50 freshman orientation group leaders to illustrate that people will believe pretty much anything you tell them if they perceive you as trustworthy and if you tell it with a straight face. What I was really trying to impress upon them is that they freshman would believe them if told that our school was a wonderful place. One kid in the back raised his hand. “Um, Miss White? Can we tell that story to our freshmen? That you’re a luchadora?”
Since I was slated to teach four freshman classes that year, I could immediately see the practical benefit of having a reputation as a badass. So I, who have a squirmy and persistent conscience when it comes to being deceitful, gave permission for the spread of my very own urban legend.
As it turned out, that student decided to embellish the story and told his group that, in fact, I had been an extra in Nacho Libre, but that my scene ended up on the cutting room floor at the last minute. Also, that he had goaded me to the point to requiring a thrashing and we had both suited up and I was about to kick his ass in front of his classmates when he backed down and conceded the victory.
He ended up in one of my classes, along with one the state’s top wrestlers (also a freshman orientation group leader), a serious redhead who only addressed me as Mighty Miss Whitey, and in the most respectful and sober of tones. The Urban Legend Spreader would engage me in luchador talk from time to time while everyone was quietly working, but loudly enough so the students nearby could hear him.
“So, Miss White, I mean Mighty Miss Whitey, are you going down to Mexico City over Christmas for that women’s wrestling workshop to work on some new moves?”
“No, I’m visiting family in Europe. I would have loved to have gone.”
“Oh, that’s too bad. You know, my mom was going to go, but her broken leg is still healing from when you beat her in that fight last year. The doctors say she should be able to walk soon.”
As I gave him my condolences for his mother’s broken leg and told him to send her my greetings, I could see one kid exchange a glance with someone across the aisle from him, and look at me with a new found respect and maybe just a touch of fear. He got right back to work.
They all still think I’m a wrestler. Well, except for a few kids to whom I told the truth at the end of the school year and only because they were graduating, but then swore to secrecy. Oh. And all the orientation group leaders. But I’m pretty sure the freshman class from that year all still think I could pull one of the masks off the wall above the whiteboard, lace it on and tie them in knots in front of their classmates if they step too far out of line.
I kind of like that.