Was there ever as crazy a “love affair” as that between teacher Mary Jo Letourneau and her now husband, Vili Fualaau? She met him when he was a second grader and by the time he was 12 and she 34, was sleeping with him. Which is mind-bloggling on so many levels.
And in love with him, she says. Who falls in love with a sixth grader? Maybe another sixth grader. But an adult? That was in 1996. But then their relationship was discovered and the whole thing blew up in a public way. She pleaded guilty to two counts of felony second degree rape of a child, went to prison, had two daughters with her boy-lover (one while she was in prison) and is now married to him. She’s still a registered sex offender, of course.
Now, she’s 53. He is 31. Their girls are teenagers. Very cute and sweet. All appeared on a Barbara Walters special a few weeks ago and of course, I watched.
My thoughts were jumbled. It was absolutely nuts for this adult teacher to have an affair–and one she claimed was a LOVE affair, no less–with a 12-year-old. But the relationship has, so far, stood the test of time. Since they’ve been married almost 10 years, I had to ask myself this question:
They’re married, I thought, as I sat down to watch the show. Maybe this was some anomalous love affair. Can we let all that other stuff rest in the past?
That was how I started watching the show.
But instantly, I grew uncomfortable with what I was seeing. And hearing.
The now-married couple sat without touching in front of Barbara. That was the first thing I noticed–they were physically disconnected in an obvious way. No signs of affection. No subtle touching. The relationship seemed strained.
Mary Jo was giddy and girlish. She had her man. The facts of the case–he was 12, she was a teacher entrusted with the care of children, including him–didn’t seem to register with her. She appeared to almost enjoy her notoriety, admitting that the two had even hosted a “Hot For Teacher Night” at a local club. I raised my eyebrows. Seriously?
She talked about wanting to get her teaching career back. What?? Is there a parent alive who would let her teach their kid?
Vili seemed–depressed. He didn’t mention his love for her and the only time a smile crossed his face was when he was talking about or with his daughters. When he did speak, and it was very little, he sounded mature, but sad. He didn’t seem particularly happy about being interviewed, nor did he have anything much to say about the early part of their relationship. But here’s what he said he advises his daughters:
“A relationship could lead to something that you think you wanted back then. You don’t really want it, maybe, years later.”
“I don’t support younger kids being married or having a relationship with someone older. I don’t support it.”
This was hardly an endorsement of their relationship. It said volumes.
As I watched Barbara Walters lob slow balls at the couple, I was again reminded that her time has come and gone. There were at least half a dozen opportunities for her to ask tough questions, such as:
Don’t you think you’re making light of a serious situation by holding a Hot For Teacher Night?
How is it you think you deserve to be removed from the sex offender registry?
What parents would want you to teach their child?
Vili, is your advice to your daughter a reflection of your marriage? So have you been happy? Are you happy now?
She asked none of them and never followed up on Vili’s intriguing comments about his advice to his girls.
Mary Kay? She seemed delusional. Vili seemed depressed. There was nothing romantic or interesting about their relationship. Even after all they’d been through, the marriage didn’t seem to be healthy. While I started watching the show curious and open, nothing about this situation was worthy of respect, except that they have raised two seemingly happy girls. How this happened I have no idea.
Nothing in their case convinced me that this was a “special” situation, that Vili might have been an exceptionally mature 12-year old boy or that Mary Kay deserves to come off the sex offender registry and renew her teaching credential. If I were a parent, I wouldn’t want my kids anywhere near a school at which she taught. Especially since it is obvious that this relationship isn’t working.
I’m interested in what you parents have to say about this.