After a Herculean suppression of mortified giggling and a debate over how to spell it, two of my students today finally scribbled the question they wanted to ask me on a piece of paper and bolted from the room. I opened up the folded wad on my desk and read it:
“Are you pregnant?”
At least they knew how to spell it.
“I won’t be mad,” I said to C, who was cowering in the office. “Just tell me why you asked. Is it something other students are talking about?” She nodded. We walked into the hallway.
“Is it because I have to use the bathroom all the time?” I wondered.
“It’s that,” she and her accomplice admitted, but, apparently, “lately you’ve been wearing loose-fitting clothes,” they observed. I haven’t bought new clothes since October; I wear the same three pairs of slacks and four Oxford shirts every week without variation.
“And you’re real moody lately.”
I explained that I have to pee all the time because I drink, like, 27 gallons of water a day. I pulled my shirt taut around my waist and demonstrated the utter lack of a prenatal bulge.
“And the reason I’m pissy isn’t because I’m PREGNANT, it’s because so many of my students think they don’t have to turn in HOMEWORK anymore!” I cried. “You would be moody, too!”
Can’t a lady lose her patience with her errant students every once in a spring? I yell at them a few times, and suddenly I’m pregnant. I am trying not to be appalled.
When I was in high school, I “observed” my teachers in the same way: that is, with the highly subjective, solipsistic, skewering scrutiny the teenage mind is famous for. My teachers were not human, certainly not when I was a freshman; they were cartoonish, hideous, an affront to my taste, looming and alien. They smelled funny, they had terrible hair, and they couldn’t dress to save their lives.
We smelled like fruity body spray, cigarettes, junk food, chlorine, dirty-room-stink, drug store perfume, and pot smoke. We dyed our hair unnatural colors, left the stains on our foreheads, and let the roots grow for months. We bought our clothes in thrift stores, in silly boutiques at the mall, and they fit terribly. Our BODIES fit terribly.
We took our spectacular self-consciousness and painted it all over the adults who made careers out of spending more time with us than our parents. We sprayed the place.
I taught my last class of the day at 2:30. This was before the pregnancy question. The girls were all at an assembly, so I had a class of eleven boys. I spent a significant portion of the period waiting for them to suppress their laughter; they held their faces, changed seats, stood outside; nothing worked.
“I’ve got all day, guys,” I said solemnly.
“I’m good, Ms. M, I got it, I can listen now,” one would say, and the boy across from him would erupt. What were they laughing at, you ask?