I Stopped Googling The Man Who Once Said I Was Fat

I had to stop typing his name into the box underneath the Google graphic of the day, because my motives sucked. All I wanted to find was a picture of him that made him look fat.  Not morbidly obese or diabetic-and-about-to-die, but something more than overweight.

Fat. I wanted him to be fat.

This search wasn’t exactly good for my spiritual development.  Plus, I was disappointed every time the graphic showed him growing ever more handsome in a Yul Brennerish way.

I met him when I was thirteen years old. I had a mouth full of braces, hair full of perm, and a tender heart that beat for a single passion: ballet.

When I walked in to audition for his company, he was sitting in the corner with two women who looked dramatic and French with their shawls and eye glasses.  The barre and the four mirrored walls were standard– it could have been any ballet studio in the world.

During the audition, he adjusted some of the dancers’ arms or offered quiet murmurs of approval.  I tried to forget that the other dancers looked more like little girls where I was all teenager-y; they were flat where I was bumpy and smooth where I was jiggly.

After the final adagio, he stared at the 25 of us, his hard black street shoes on the wooden floor were the only sounds.  He finally spoke: “If you are accepted to this program, do not gain any weight.  If you gain weight, you will be sent home immediately.”

Then, he listed the names of the chosen dancers and dismissed the rest of us.

I was sad, but I wasn’t ashamed. I knew the Boston Ballet was out of my reach, no matter how badly I wanted it.  I wasn’t smart enough to be proud of myself for “just showing up,” but I had the seeds of that self-affirming thought.

I was peeling off my leotard and tights, when one of the Madame DeFarge-looking judges stuck her head into the dressing room.  “If you want to see your score card and talk to the Director, go back into the studio.” She smiled kindly, which convinced me to join the others.

When it was my turn, I told him my name and watched him thumb through the cards.  “Yours isn’t here,” he said without looking at me.  I repeated my name, and he looked at me for the first time. “Oh.”  He reached behind him to the table where he pulled my card from a slim stack.

It was totally blank.

There was nothing written on the front of the card except my name.  None of the boxes were checked, and not a single note was scribbled anywhere.

He turned the card over.  At the very top, written in pencil was, simply, “OW.”

“Overweight.  You are overweight so we didn’t fill out your sheet.  Sorry. Maybe next year.”

It was then that I felt ashamed.  I wasn’t worth looking at?  He refused to even consider me because I was overweight.

I couldn’t wait to go home and cry in my bedroom that doubled as a shrine to Baryshnikov.  I wanted to forget him and his elite ballet program.  “O-W, O-W, O-W,” became a mantra. I internalized it so I no longer had to repeat it to myself.  After all, he was right, and that’s how ballet worked.

Whenever I retold the story, I embellished by saying that he had “a lot of nerve” considering “how fat he was.”

But he wasn’t. I just added that to the story because I like irony.

For years I followed his career, always willing the computer to show me an image of a body like John Goodman’s or that genie in Aladdin.  It was a wish born of a bitterness I stoked for decades.  I believed I was entitled to project all the misery of that comes with being fat on him.

I could have kept Googling him forever, but what was the point?  I couldn’t heal if I made it contingent on him getting fat.

So, I don’t Google him anymore. I don’t need him to be obese; I need to be free.

I wished him peace and sent him blessings, and then I got on with my life.

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81 thoughts on “I Stopped Googling The Man Who Once Said I Was Fat

  1. My eyes are filled with tears waiting to spill and I feel sick to my stomach for adolescent you. With tween & pre-teen daughters I cringe at the disparity of growth patterns from girl to girl and how acutely aware of it I am. Glad you gave up the google…I’m sure he’s gotten his due many times over. You could reward yourself with some new skinny jeans.

  2. That’s the kind of thing that can really kill kids. I know girls who struggled with anorexia that was sparked from comments like that by gymnastics (or other) coaches. I know the disease is more than just a weight issue, but in the experience of girls I know, often there was a catalyst like that. Glad that you are feeling peaceful about it! That is really horrible. I felt fat for so long, and now that I’m an adult and look back (and weigh 20 pounds more than I should) I see how SKINNY I was. Well, skinny with a butt and thighs. Always with the butt and thighs. I guess that’s why I thought I was fat? I don’t know anymore–I just know I wish I could have THOSE thighs back.

    • It’s pretty crazy how it all conspires against girls. There was a famous dancer who died of anorexia at the Boston Ballet, but of course ballet everywhere likes it’s skinny dancers. I too look at old pictures and see that I wasn’t nearly as fat as I felt. It’s so much better to grow older and get perspective.

  3. You were only 13 — the most impressionable time, not to mention the hormones. What as ass!! I may not wish him well, but I hope he understands the effect and power he had over little women. It’s sad that something so beautiful as ballet has such a dark, UGLY side to it. Thanks for sharing.

    • I can only imagine the hormone factor! Surely it was a factor. My parents were great about it and my ballet teacher was horrified though I know she agreed with him. I hope my kids don’t pick hobbies that elicit comments like that.

  4. Wow. This is amazing. And honestly, I remember from my sister’s ballet days that things like this were definitely said. I am so sorry for that girl with a dream that someone crushed it with such harsh words. I am glad you are freeing yourself from it.

  5. I want to cry and rage after reading this and it’s not even 9 am. This is heart-wrenching and rage-inducing and so beautifully written. I love the line about already having the seeds of self-affirmation at such a tender age. Give 13 year old and 39 year old you a big hug from me. And let’s send this post to your old ballet dude and my old gymnastics coach and and … hmmm, maybe letting go is the better option. You rock.

  6. Just yuck. There has to be a special place in hell for people who crush a thirteen year old girl’s spirit like that. And the world wonders why there is an abundance of eating disorders and body image issues among adolescent girls. I’m pretty sure you should add some fabulous shoes to that skinny jeans purchase. Maybe one for each pair of jeans.

  7. Well, I have had to endure the slings and arrows of many a critic and you are doing the right thing, letting it go. Wonderfully told engaging story.

  8. How awful. This made me want to cry for you and wish all manner of plagues on that director. I know this will be a major challenge of parenting my daughter: figuring out how to instill the strength in her to withstand these inevitable cruelties.

  9. Wow. You can say he was doing his job, but there really is no way around the truth here. That guy was being an asshole. A jerk face. I mean, come on, he could have at least seen you and evaluated you an something other than your body type.
    But, you are right to move on. I, however, am going to hold on to my rage against this guy in honor of the 13 year old you. But just for today. Then I’ll let it go, too.

  10. This is a touching story. I like how you grew out of the need to see him fat. I doubt you really would have been that satisfied even if he had gotten fat. Nicely done!

  11. Two things:

    A dear friend joined the Boston Ballet when she was 15. By 17 she had quit because instead of a dancing family, she had agreed to join an eating disordered, cocaine-dominated group of backstabbers. She hated it. So I’m glad you didn’t get that far.

    This is why I didn’t go to my high school reunion. I made it through high school thinking, “well, at least I’m a good person and I’m smart. These loser will be spoiled brats their whole lives, and will be unemployed and fat by the time we’re all forty.” They’re neither. They’re spoiled all right. And rich and gorgeous. Fuckers.

    Karma is a lie. Sorry. All you can do is nurture that sweet little girl in you, tell her you love her the way she is, and teach your children to give the finger to people like that horrible man.

  12. I was an aspiring dancer too, and that’s just a cruel world. I think (hope) things are changing at least in modern dance where more muscular bodies are preferred. Anyway, what a horrible thing to have happened to you and to your passion for dance. Naptimewriting is correct – it’s a backstabbing world that breeds anorexia and drug addiction all too often, so you’re better off without it. Good that you stopped googling too – that old dude is probably obsessing over his wrinkles or some other seeming imperfection. And you are busy being clever, funny, insightful and one hell of a writer!

  13. You are my freaking hero. More than anything I hope Sadie learns these lessons from you – digest the awful shit that happens to us, reject the negativity, and accept you have the power to let it go when you are ready. My heart breaks for the 13 year old that had to endure that but I am inspired by the adult woman who wrote this beautiful post.

  14. and that’s what forgiveness, I’ve finally learned, is all about–letting go because you know you’re not being good to yourself by holding on.

  15. Stopped by because of Teresa and now I have to comment.My daughter Brooke had a coach in high school for basketball that never gave her a chance.She was fast and good, a starter on the jv team but when she went to varsity that coach just had her sit the bench,every game.I felt so sorry for her but she never complained.It was then I noticed she would curl her hair and put on make up before every game.I asked her about it and she told me if she was going to be a bench warmer she was going to be the best looking bench warmer to ever sit the bench.I was so proud of her.

  16. OW as in OUCH. This post makes me hurt, not just for adolescent you and the pain of being seen as overweight, but also for the loss of the dream. So much loss wrapped up in that moment. The lesson you learned about forgiveness, though, is inspiring, and one I’ve been working on myself with someone. I’m not quite there yet, but someday. Maybe. haha

  17. I’m so mad at him! No one should be so cruel. I’m also sad that you seem to have more than your fair share of stories like this. I hope you know how awesome we all think you are! Sadie is lucky that she will learn such wisdom from you.

  18. Coming from a girl that’s had to grow into herself since age 13, my heart really broke open for the younger you. Not to brag, but I am STILL GROWING! My body is just one massive over-achiever, what can I say? Great post, as always. Thank you for trusting us with your stories every day.

  19. Awful. Just awful. Poor young you … seriously. I cried a little, but then again, it’s also election night and I’m frustrated and drunk … No, for real, this was a tragic thing to happen to a young girl, but once again, as you always do with your incredible ability, you make this into such a terrific post by adding the perfect blend of humor and heart. ❤

  20. Oh my heavens. Let’s all start Googling him so one of us can hunt him down and punch him right in his (fat) face! I’m more into vengeance than freedom. But I admire you for taking the high road while I’m busy cultivating ulcers. . .

    • It is. It definitely is. I wouldn’t have survived all the other shit that came with it– the drugs and the bulimia/anorexia. I was just fine in my little suburb dealing with rather average shit, like growing out my perm and trying out for school plays.

  21. OW – that must have been terrible!! how do they even do that??? and share his horribleness with young girls? I hope people see him for the blank card he is. Ohhh he makes me angry.

  22. Ugh, ballet was not kind to anyone but the super-skinny, flexible, strong, and for some reason *mean* girls. I was never good at it, but when a man took over teaching duties at our ballet school when I was in grade 8, I started punching walls because of how bad he made me feel about myself. I quit that year. Those men do not live in the real world.

  23. You told this so well, Rowmie! Among other, I loved this line: “I had a mouth full of braces, hair full of perm, and a tender heart that beat for a single passion: ballet.” You wonder if adults like him realize the impact of such words, or if they just don’t care. You were right, though, you needed to free yourself of this, in spite of him.

  24. I’m a little late in commenting (what else is new), but just wanted to say that this guy should’ve been taken out back and tarred and feathered. Preposterous! Love how you started off this post, BTW. Compelling and clever, my dear.

  25. Pingback: If My Candidate Loses The Election . . . | Outlaw Mama

  26. That is so very awful. Not just that he marked your card as OW, but that they didn’t even score you at all.

    It is a great thing that you have been able to stop googling him. It would have taken me a long time to get to that place.

  27. Fuming!!! I’m glad you’ve moved on. What really bothers me having a 22 year old girl is I spent YEARS never saying one single word about weight or what she ate. I didn’t want to risk damage to her fragile self esteem. And that asshole did it in one moment. He’s not worth it at all!

  28. My son is heavily into ballet right now. Irony. My 9 year old daughter is clearly torn, wanting to do the performances, but not the practicing. I leave the choice up to her, so she’s even more frustrated, because she wants me to tell her to do it or quit. My five year old boy is the one who is obsessed. He gets these … remarks. (I have a picture of him in this week’s post that’s from ballet. Because I couldn’t do ‘nude’ in the blog.) The dancers say they’ve never seen a kid so focused so young. (I’ve never seen him focused at all on anything except this. And this, yes, has is complete attention. The director of the company e-mailed to say he had a career if he wanted to pursue it. (No, I won’t go all dance Mom. But I’ll keep those opportunities open so that if he retains that focus holy GOD he’ll have the chance.)

    All of this is setup to say that my 180 pound ass has been spending a LOT of time with professional dancers lately. These are healthy people. Only one person in that company looks too thin. One woman was talking about her last job, where she was fired for being TWO POUNDS overweight. Holy WOW. The director in question sounded like such a diva.

  29. I’ve read this post twice now. It’s really very good. And I would like to have some sort of clever response. But all I can come up with is, “Wow. That guy was a total dick. And he should have known better.” That being said it’s good you’ve stopped Googling him. Very few positive things come out of googling “total dick.”

  30. Wow! You brought me back in time. I was obsessed with ballet for most of my youth. At about the age you write about, I was in a civic ballet company outside of Boston. Ballet was my passion until I went to college. I remember one season, we were doing Sleeping Beauty. I had finally landed a semi-soloist role as some kind of bird. The company was gathered in the studio to hear the director tell us who would be dancing which part for our next performance. She announced in from of EVERYONE that I would not be dancing that part because I had gained too much weight. No warning to me ahead of time. I was absolutely devastated.

    To this day, that was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. At least it made me feel more humiliated than almost anything else. After that, I lived with bulemia for a time. I struggled with my weight for a long time. Now I’m 35 pounds over the 98 ponds I was when I got married and according to my doctor within the weight I am supposed to be for my height. I don’t worry about it any more.

    I can also relate to the goggling part. A few years ago I goggled her name too. I found out she had moved to be near a sister and died there.

    I’m glad you got over him! By the way – I love math too.

    • I was already bulimic, so I can’t blame my guy. Sure didn’t help. I can’t believe your story. In front of everyone??? That’s heartless. I think some of the skinny imperative came from George Balanchine. I am glad we both survived that.

  31. And that was the reason I was never cast as the ingenue in a ballet — I was Captain Hook when we did Peter Pan, the Wicked Witch of the West when we did the Wizard of Oz, and one of Cinderella’s stepsisters. It’s OK, though, because being a bad-ass is way more fun than being a simpering twat waiting for a prince to rescue me.

  32. What a timely post after stumbling over the ballet terms when reading Sadie, Tallulah’s Tutu on Sunday. Argh! I’m struck by yet another fact I did not know about you . . . trying out for the Boston Ballet! Who cares what the dumb-ass old dude said . . . You are a star of the brightest kind in my book . . . today and always! Way to process and grieve an old hurt. Brilliant! xo

  33. Body image can be such an ego killer. When I look back at pictures of me as a 20 year old (over 20 years ago) I usually wonder why I thought I wasn’t good enough. Then I kick myself for wasting it on my ex husband.

  34. This just breaks my heart. To think anyone could be so cruel to a girl at such an impressionable age. I want to Google him myself and go trip him while he’s pirouetting. Is that wrong?

    I really respect you for letting it go. Very brave, very mature and very kind.

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