Scowling all the way

Lotcake


I come from a long line of scowlers. My maternal grandmother had a scowl that could peel paint (see above, scowling over her birthday cake). My uncle Primo (who wasn’t a bad-looking bloke) ranged between a frown and a scowl most days. Grandma’s father, whom I never met, had one of those melancholy Polish faces that seemed to be set permanently on “unhappy.”

 

 

This is fine with me.

 

 

I stick to the scowl as much as I can. It keeps people off-guard. I work with people who are grinny and cheerful all the time; some of them can’t say “Good morning” without giggling. I abominate this. I have worked for years on my scowl and glare, and I have it almost right; it’s nearly at Grandma intensity, and (if I live long enough) I may get it up to an even higher power level.

 

 

There have been times when I think we’re one of those families who have the gift: the Evil Eye, the malocchio. We can blight your cattle and stunt your children and make your well run dry with a single glance.

 

 

You think that’s silly? Here’s a testimonial.

 

 

A few weeks ago, as I’ve already written, Partner and I were at a play at Brown. There were two clueless women sitting behind us, passing a bag of potato chips back and forth. I turned and gave them The Scowl, and it silenced them (mostly).

 

 

A few days later, I received this email from Joe Zarrow, who wrote the play we saw that night:

 

 

Loren,

 

I was, as playwrights tend to do, googling around for review quotes I could pull on Principal Principle when I came across your blog. Thanks for your thoughtful review, but extra double thanks for getting those women with the potato chips to be quiet. I was glaring at them impotently from one of the other seating sections, and I totally saw you turn around and give them the evil eye. You are a hero.

 

Best,

Joe

 

 

 

Moral: don’t belittle the evil eye. It has its uses.

 

 


 

 

“Principal Principle,” and teaching, and teachers

2012_season_poster


Partner and I saw a brand-new play called “Principal Principle,” by Joe Zarrow, at Brown the other evening. It’s a funny / serious look at a year in the life of four high-school teachers, seen from the teachers’ workroom. Overall, it was excellent: crisp dialogue, good use of devices like the P.A. system (what would school be without one?), and (as usual) really excellent performances by the five actresses in the show.

 

 

(It was a new play, and not perfect. The ending was a little unsatisfying. Some of the moral dilemmas seemed a little too pat. And the passage of the school year – we began in September, so we knew that intermission would be December and the ending would be May – was a little too clockwork-predictable, like the passage of time in a Harry Potter novel.)

 

 

But it made me thoughtful about the teaching profession.

 

 

Firstly, it made me (again) grateful that I did not choose teaching as a career. I am not built for it. I have tried it, fitfully, over the years, in harmless small doses that did no real harm to my “students,” and I know for a fact now that I was not constructed to be a teacher. I am tough, in my lotus-blossom way, and (in the words of Elinor Wylie) I have faced out a hundred dooms, but if I’d ever tried to be a real honest-to-god teacher, I’d have been a gibbering wreck by mid-October.

 

 

This leads me, secondly, to give honor and respect to the very many good / great teachers I’ve had in my life. One of them is actually now my Facebook friend, forty years later. She was a wonderful teacher, and is now retired, and has now dedicated her life to being an all-around wonderful human being. Other great teachers – from grade school, intermediate school, high school, college, grad school – crowd to mind. They were distinctive, and authoritative, and knew their onions. Some were funny; some were stuffily serious; some were alternately remote and chummy. (I guess that’s to say that they were, in general, various types of human beings.)

 

 

This leads me, thirdly, to say that I feel vaguely nauseous when I hear people (mostly Republicans, strangely enough) talk about teaching as if it’s a well-paid racket run by crooked unions. I wonder, sincerely, if they’re playing to the fact that there’s a significant chunk of the population that hated school, and always regarded teachers as the enemy. (You know: dullards and idiots. And there will never be a shortage of those.)

 

 

So I suppose “Principal Principle” was a pretty good play after all, if it caused me to do all this deep thinking after seeing it.

 

 

(Of course, there were two women sitting behind us eating potato chips for a while. But I turned suddenly and gave both of them the Deadly Radioactive Stare a few times, and it seemed to quiet them down (although one had a nasty cough, and kept spraying Partner with dengue fever, or whatever she had).)

 

 

(But isn’t that what theater is all about?)


 

 

%d bloggers like this: