Monday, April 04, 2011

From the Vault III - The Circus Edition

4th grade.

My elementary school was small - one classroom for each grade K-6 and one classroom for a handful of special ed kids - probably around 140 students all told.

I'd already become known for having some artistic talent by then. I'd been playing the piano for a few years and had already had parts in a couple of community productions of South Pacific and My Fair Lady.

The part in South Pacific was as Ngana, the half-Polynesian daughter of the hero, Emile de Becque. I had lines and sang a duet at the beginning of the play with my stage half-Polynesian brother, Jerome (as played by Cory Tafoya). For the record, neither of us are one ounce Polynesian. Also, for the record, I had a huge little girl crush on Cory.

In order to win the part, I auditioned in front of what seemed like a hundred college-age and older men and women who'd also come to open auditions. I sang a medley from Annie accompanied by Blind Betsy who'd also arranged the piece. I probably danced. I thought nothing of it. It was just, you know, singing, and I liked to sing.

What I'm trying to say is I had experience performing. I liked it. I thought I was good at it. No sweat.

So, when some of the teachers at my elementary school decided to have the upper grades put on a play about the life of one Circus Tycoon, P.T. Barnum, a play with a solo, it wasn't much of a surprise that the solo was assigned to me.


I was 10. I'd not only graduated from baby fat to full on pudge, but I'd already started developing and had recently received both glasses and braces. Lucky me. Body image hadn't been an issue up until then. I don't remember any playground nastiness or feeling at all self-conscious about my body prior to the play.

But the part...the solo...was the part of Jumbo, the African elephant, Barnum purchased from the London zoo.

And the firestorm of childhood teasing, bullying, and outright mean girl taunts was unleashed.

From then on, I was Jumbo the elephant. And not in a good way. What began as an honor, a reward for talent, dissolved into daily torment from my classmates. I remember thinking during my performance in front of the whole school and parents that they were laughing at me, thinking I really was an elephant. I'd spend most of the rest of my elementary school career ostracized, friendless, different.

As an adult, I wonder about that now. Surely the teachers had to have known what would happen by giving me the part of the elephant. Right? I mean, surely the idea - that any benefit I would receive from what should have been a self-confidence boosting honor would be negated by stupid mean kids - had to have crossed their minds. Right? I don't get it.


I really hated school.

Swiped from Peej's Facebook. I have no idea where she finds this stuff.

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