I remember the day I first saw my math teacher, Miss Bowmen. It was grade nine, and her class was the third period of the day. Up until that moment, all my teachers had been relatively young, with a youthful spark that comes from being happy and in charge.
But when Miss Bowen entered the room she wasn't happy. The energy went down, rather than up. She wore a knee length brown tweed skirt, and her hair, blouse, skin, and teeth were all the same colour. Buff yellow. She was carrying a bag (brown) and she took out an envelope (manila) and put it on her desk. I couldn’t help noticing that she didn’t have ankles. And while not fat, she had only soft fuzzy lines where edges should be. When she spoke, she gazed at us from droopy eyes,‘I’m Miss Bowmen.'
I was exhausted! Not only had she arrived without bringing energy into the room, but she was stealing ours. Her chest seemed deflated and I wanted to run home and grab my bike pump. Liven up Miss Bowmen!
When she turned to write her name on the board her profile resembled the letter C. Her shoulders were hunched, and the back of her neck between her beige collar and wheat coloured hair, was exposed to the ceiling. Her back was rounded, her broad beam was tucked under, and I don’t think she had any knees. I remember thinking that she looked like a banana.
Indeed, I often referred to her as Miss Banana. (Never to her face though – I just did it for my own amusement). Sometimes I referred to her as Miss C. As a teacher she was dreary, but I was obsessed with her shape and never got tired of discussing it. ‘She looks like a C’ & ‘What’s wrong with Miss Bowmen’ ‘Why is she yellow?’ Finally, one day, ‘Has anyone noticed that Miss C is getting yellower?’
And then Miss Banana Bowen stopped coming to class. Instead of a Big C standing in front of us there was another woman, completely erect and full of equations.
Several decades later, and now I am Ms C! I can’t help wondering if children giggle at me when I’m crossing a crosswalk at my top speed. Or how flat and wide my ass looks now that it’s (temporarily) tucked under. I don’t mind - my skin is thick. I agree that I look funny.
But what I also think about is this – what WAS wrong with Miss Bowmen. Jaundice? Crohns? Celliac disease? And I realize that the Miss Bowmen I met was probably not the Miss Bowmen she considered herself to be. And that maybe it took all her energy to make it up the stairs to class and that she was doing her absolute best not to keel over. And that maybe I should have said thank-you, at least once.
But I didn’t. So now it’s my turn to be shaped like the letter C.
That’s Carma. It will always get you in the end.