Commentary: Staring My Way Through High School
FELICE: You may or may not have noticed, but when you were in high school there was probably a girl who sat in the front row so she could stare at an attractive teacher.
ELEANOR: Why are you looking at me?
FELICE: I was actually talking about Katie Toth, who has this commentary about love from the front row.
Braces on my teeth? Weird vegetarian salami in my lunch? Zero functioning writing utensils? Check, check, and check. That was me, on an average ninth grade day, ready to salivate over some smooth-talking educators.
Puberty had lit a fire deep within my loins for authority figures, one that I wasn’t ready to understand.
If Mr Morgan was your English teacher, you’d know what I mean.
He was this tough guy with a shaved head, who always, always, asked how you were doing. Mr Morgan hated yoga and despised Chicken Soup for the Soul. He lived in Toronto’s version of Williamsburg and wore long sleeves because he was covered in tattoos.
Then there was Mr Gajewski, whose skills in teaching pre-calculus were matched only by his ability to pull off wearing chartreuse sweaters. Rumor had it that Mr Gajewski was a part-time model. So I probably shouldn’t feel too embarrassed about the fact that, I became so obsessed with him—I started trying to hook him up with my mom. “Mom, you want to date someone smart? This guy has a physics degree!”
I’d write him little notes and put them in his mailbox. (in uptalk:) “Mr Gajewski, I am so sorry about my, like, loser dad and stepmother totally intruding on your parent-teacher interview with my attractive, beautiful, very intelligent, mom! Those two are like, the worst! Ew!”
Rumor later had it that Mr Gajewski was so uncomfortable with student harassment that he asked to be transferred to another school.
Fast forward five years to my third year of university: Professor Shannon Brownlee. This woman was—wow. Brownlee had short hair, smooth skin, and a penchant for the sexiest film topics. She was the kind of professor who might talk to you in line at the grocery store when you were completely hung over—the one who would just happen to bump in to you at an immigration rally or your best friend’s play. We’re meant to be, you’d think. We both like food. We don’t hate immigrants. We go to plays.
The people were different, but the crush, every time, was the same. I’d daydream about starting a life with someone, or splitting a pot of coffee with them in the morning. But mostly, I would just wish for them to take me aside and tell me I was beautiful. And each day it didn’t happen, I was devastated.
I wanted to figure out why students get these life altering crushes and what exactly teachers think of them. So I decided to channel my inner stalker, find Mr Gajewski’s CV on the Internet, and send him an email. He never answered.
But that’s when I heard a voice in my head—one that said, “You don’t need their validation anymore. This story’s not about them. It’s about you.”
I already knew why I crushed on these people. When you’re a hormone-filled kid figuring out her identity, every kind of emotion—Concern! Excitement! Happiness! Sadness! It all ends up feeling like this big old ball of—something. And sometimes you decide that something is infatuation.
But what I really wanted to have was Mr Morgan’s empathy, Mr Gajewski’s nerdy sense of humour, Professor Brownlee’s poise and her energy and her great haircut. I figured out myself, by falling in love with everyone else.
Morgan, Gajewski, Brownlee—these weren’t people who I wanted to be with. They were the people who showed me who I wanted to become.
BACK ANNOUNCE: Katie Toth believes in a world where we all have the right to unrequited love.