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.