I can remember the shame washing over me like a hot blanket, but not the yummy kind you want when you’re cold – more like the warm blanket when you’ve wet the bed and you know the heat will soon give way to cold, stark, lonely humiliation: perfect for a 15 year old on a large stage in front of several classmates.
It was sophomore year. I had scored my first big part in a school play: Rosie in Bye, Bye, Birdie. I quickly discovered, much to my delight, that I not only got to sing a solo number, but that it required a solo dance as well. Yay! I asked if I could choreograph it; at least that’s how I remember all that happening through the mists of time. So I went to work at it. And over some amount of time that I can no longer recall, but feel comfortable guessing was not insignificant, put together a dance to show to our director, who was on loan from a prestigious local theater.
The time came in rehearsal and I did my dance number for the director’s approval. I was really proud; proud to have the part, proud to have been allowed to handle the dance myself, and proud of having done it and performed it the way I wanted to. When I finished, as I caught my breath, I realized that it was pretty quiet. I looked up at the director, who was sitting on a folding chair at the front of the stage. She looked at me with obvious discomfort and said a few words that I don’t remember and then she said the thing I will always remember: “Girls like us can’t leap.” There was then some elaboration about my size, a vague reference to bustiness, and the way all of that looks in the air to other people. She even demonstrated how she looked leaping so I would really understand, made fun of herself, drew parallels to large animals. And there I stood. Not so proud anymore. Continue reading → “Girls Like Us”