When I was in college, I wore a bell in my hair.
I would braid a tiny braid in the back of my hair and I would weave a wee bell into it so that as I moved, a sound would emanate and remind me that I was here, that I had a voice. And the cheery nature of it fit me so well.
It’s possible that my husband fell in love with that bell.
In another part of life, I teach high school. I love it, desperately and completely, the only way one can be a teacher, I think. I love listening to students, I love poking fun, I love introducing something fascinating to think about.
I love parsing information with them. I love my colleagues.
But the one thing no one tells you about in college teacher programs is that you will live and die according to the schedule of the bell.
One on hand, I love it– the clipped formality of our time being up; the easy parameters of being ‘on time’ or ‘late’; the sense that time passes, which is more ambiguous in the rest of life.
On the other…well, let’s just say that commodification exists in many parts of life and I do not need a reminder of another.
Also? It’s damned hard to take a bathroom break, make a cup of tea, or digest that a student wants to confess their inner truth, but not in front of others – in four minutes.
Back when one could travel, I went to London alone. It was astounding, and I learned a lot about myself. By the time I left, I knew that the church bells in Piccadilly would ring at 6pm, and part of my routine was to leave the tube at just that moment so I could listen as I walked.
There was a small park with a bench or two just opposite my place. A lovely little place. And each day after work, some chaps would all buy a pint from the convenience store and then sit and chat for an hour before they all went home.
Their eyes would dart at me, and I’m sure mine darted to them, and I was reminded of a conversation my husband had relayed recently, from back when we were first together. He had said that he had never processed then that women endlessly think in terms of a cost / benefit analysis of safety; that sometimes seemingly innocuous behavior didn’t feel as such.
After a day or two, it became pretty routine for me to ask these men how they were each day. After days and days of this same pattern, a new guy joined their squad. And when I walked by, he did a little opening cat call– the normal stuff, nothing too fancy. That’s when I heard another say, “Not her. Not that one.”
It didn’t feel quite right to stop and exchange pleasantries that day, but I did it anyway. Though this time, I inched closer to my door between each line, the church bells a foundation for our gabbing.
This morning I found that little bell languishing in the bottom of my jewelry box. So I wove it into my hair.