You know, I signed up for pottery class because I thought it would be a nice break. Four hours (including transportation), every week, when I am not with my toddler. The first week, it felt strange to be away from her for such a big chunk of the day, but the second week I don’t know if I thought about her at all. (Why yes, I am a candidate for Mother of the Year, thank you for asking!)
It’s definitely a break from my usual daily routine of extreme parenting, but I don’t know how nice of a break it is. The truth is, pottery class stresses me out. I feel horrible about this – I took a chance, signing up for something completely new and outside my comfort zone (of spending what little free time I have with my ass in a chair, either reading or writing snappy emails and wordy blog entries); I spent what was, for me and my husband, a lot of money on this class; I was really, really looking forward to the entire experience. And while there are parts of it I honestly do like, my teacher stresses me out so much the experience has been sapped of much of its enjoyment.
I feel like a wuss admitting this. Really, it’s unlike me to be offended by anyone else’s brusqueness. I am a fairly straightforward person myself. I’m not easily overwhelmed. I don’t like being coddled, and I don’t want or expect false praise. But when you’re a beginner at anything – and I am a beginning potter in the true sense of the word, never having touched raw clay before this class – it is really not helpful to have someone standing over you, saying things such as “What do you think you’re doing?” and “You know I cannot do this for you.” Oh, and my personal favorite: “You may feel like a retard now, but you’ll get it eventually” (yes! Direct quote! I know, it’s almost impossible to believe that someone hasn’t given this woman her own children’s show on PBS).
As in any abusive relationship, there are apologies afterwards (“I know I can be kind of cranky or bitchy sometimes, I hope you understand that I really do think you’re doing well, and that’s why I’m pushing you”), but overall it’s just way more anxiety than I care to admit into my life for what was supposed to be a nice break. When I know the instructor is watching me, I feel jumpy and nervous, and inevitably make more mistakes than I would otherwise. I feel like one of those kids who has trouble reading aloud in class, whose teacher berates her so much that even after she learns to read satisfactorily, she probably has a lifelong stutter and paranoia about reading anything out loud.
If you’re still with me, and haven’t ditched this entry after four solid paragraphs of whining, let me just add that our instructor also answers and talks on her cell phone at least twice during our three-hour class sessions. I know we all lead very busy lives and all, and she has a job apart from teaching pottery classes (probably a good thing, in her case), but really – unprofessional, right?
We’ve also had a few rather bizarre conversations about my ethnicity, of all things. We’re three for three so far. In our first class, she asked me where I like to go for authentic Chinese food. I replied that I’m not Chinese, but named the restaurant where we usually go – which I figured she wouldn’t like, since she said she preferred this gross pan-Asian place that has since closed (good thing; it made me sick the one time I went there).
In our second class, I happened to be wearing this shirt, and she asked, “Are you Korean?” I answered in the affirmative. “Oh!” she said. “My doctor is Korean.” Uh-huh. Bringing your Korean acquaintance count up to…two, apparently.
In our third class, she showed us the stencils we would be using to carve our initials into the bottom of our pieces, so we knew which were ours. She saw me writing “NC” on the bottom of one of my bowls, and suddenly exclaimed, “You know, you should write your name in Korean!”
I think I just gaped at her for a second or two, because, you know, my name is “Nicole” – and she knows it. Nicole. Greek, French, definitely Western; there’s no direct Korean translation. Then she said, hilariously, “I could ask my doctor how to write it if you don’t know how.” I was just like, oh, yes! Please do that! That would not be awkward at all (for you)!
(Actually, because all Koreans do, in fact, know each other, I happen to be acquainted with her doctor. I think she speaks a little Korean; I’m not sure if she writes it. Either way, wow. Just wow.)
So, pottery class stresses me out. I do not come home feeling refreshed and relaxed and stimulated; I come home feeling exhausted, a little bit stiff, and annoyed as hell. And do I really need more stress in my life, from something that was meant to be my fun, lighthearted break from toddler-chasing? I don’t think of myself as a quitter, but right now I’m of two minds about the whole thing. I like the bowls I’ve made thus far, and I want to glaze them next week and actually see a finished product the week after. I want to spend more time at the wheel and also try some hand-building. I still love pottery, and I’d like to learn more about it, irritating teacher notwithstanding. But honestly, when I think about going back next week, I don’t feel any real anticipation, just dread.
It’s a tug-of-war between my curiosity and my impatience, my stubbornness, and my “to hell with you” impulse. At this point I’m really not sure which will win out.