Bruise From A Bully
I waited in line for my turn. It was the
best part of ballet class when the entire warm ups and demi plies had been
practiced and we had done our rehearsal of the end of year concert.
The line seemed to move slowly. Each of us
was eager to take our turn to fly. Mrs Macgregor playing the piano and Mrs
Parsons indicating when we could go and correcting our steps as we tiptoed
across the polished wooden floor.
Tiny ballerina’s all of us, aspiring,
hopeful to one day dance in Swan Lake.
I shuffled forward. Soon. Soon it would be my turn.
Then I was at the head of the line the
music tingled in my ballet slippered feet and I was running faster and faster.
As fast as my little plump legs would let my. My pale pink chiffon skirt
fluttered from where it was tied around my rotund little tummy. But now the
rotund little tummy didn't matter because it was my chance to fly. With my speed as good as it was going to get
I leapt, spread my legs, feet arched, toes pointed in front and behind. Hands
forward and back in graceful curves. Two leaps and then I fell back to back to
earth, back to being controlled by gravity, the line of baby ballerinas and Mrs
Parson’s harsh criticism. ‘Not fast enough. Not high enough. You need to run
She always said that and I cringed.
But tonight even her criticisms could not
dampen my excitement. Tonight I was getting the materials for my mother to make
the costume for the end of year concert. Delicate white chiffon skirt with a
white satin leotard all decorated with sequins in a delicate flower pattern
across the front and around the neck and cuffs. Attached to my back would be a
pair of sheer wings edged with sequins and tinsel. I was going to be a fairy
and at last I would have wings to fly.
I could see my father standing with the
other parents waiting for class to be dismissed and to collect those precious
parcels of glittering goodies.
At the instant of release I skipped, hopped
and jumped to his side. ‘Come on Daddy
come and get my fairy costume.’ I tugged on his big calloused workman’s hands
and he obediently moved forward to join the queue. At last he was in front of
Mrs Parsons. She handed him a parcel.
‘Mr McFarlane here are the materials for Cassandra’s costume. Please tell you
wife that it is the elf costume. The pattern is enclosed with a picture of what
it looks like.
Panic darted through me. Elf. No that was
wrong. I tugged at my father’s jumper.
‘Daddy I am meant to be a fairy. Tell Mrs Parsons, I am a fairy not an
‘Shh I love. I am sure Mrs Parsons knows
what she is about’
‘Daddy.’ I wailed so loud that the
attention of everyone in the room was suddenly blaring at me. Now my father
stepped forward, diffidently, apologetically. ‘Mrs Burnett I thought Cassy was
to be a fairy. That is what my wife told me and Cassy has been practicing the
fairy dance every day at home.’
‘Yes well Mr. McFarlane Cassandra was
originally cast as a fairy but some of the other mothers and I have been giving
it some thought and it has been decided that your daughter does not really have
the body shape to be a fairy. There are far more nimble and delicate little
ones who are more suitable to be fairies. Cassandra is much more suited to
being an elf and besides the costume is so cheery and colourful.’
‘But Mrs Parsons I think perhaps that is
unfair. Cassandra is expecting to be a fairy. She will be disappointed.’
‘That maybe so Mr. MacFarlane but I have to
do what is best for the ballet concert and please don’t be offended but your
daughter is just too fat to fulfil the role of a fairy in this ballet school’s
end of year concert. She will just have to accept it.’
‘Then perhaps if she slims down somewhat
she can be a fairy for next year. You understand.’
I watched the exchange between my quiet unassuming
Dad and the haughty Mrs. Parsons I knew already that my Dad had backed away from the fight. He looked shattered but he wasn’t the sort of man who would argue with someone like Mrs Parsons. She had once been a ballerina herself and was married to the Mayor.’
My face burned with shame. To be called fat in front of my entire fellow ballerina’s and their parents. I had never thought of myself as fat. Never considered myself to be any different to the other girls. Never thought about being unacceptable to be a fairy. My first harsh experience was learned - the cruelty of the world I lived in. If I was unacceptable to be a fairy what else was I unacceptable for at the ripe old age of three and a half.
All week I begged my parents to reverse the decision. I danced the fairy dance all week, every chance I got.
‘See Mummy see Daddy I am supposed to be a fairy not an elf.’
But my mother just went on making that hated red and green costume. Every tingle of the bells around the zig zag bottom cut into my heart. Every tingle of that costume yelled at my; you’re too fat you’re unacceptable, you’re not good enough.
How I hated that costume and I think I even hated my parents a little – they weren't fighting for me for my rights. Was I unacceptable to them as well? Did they agree with Mrs. Parsons’s assessment of me that I was too fat to be a fairy? If they loved me they would have refuted Mrs Parsons they would have refused to make me an elf. Maybe they would have
even pulled me out of that wretched concert. Pulled me out to spare me the
humiliation of being made to be an elf. Made to accept the worlds assessment of
me; I was fat therefore unacceptable. I was an elf; I did dance in that bloody
concert. They made me and I saw it as them siding with her against me and my
humiliation was complete. Life went on but I was never the same again. Never
did I have that sense of freedom to just be. I was always on edge waiting to be
judged – to be decreed unacceptable. The
only person I felt safe with was my grandmother. She didn’t care if I was a
chubber. She loved me unconditionally.