there was a talent show in 6th grade. it was at the end-of-the-year party and our teacher told us we couldn’t eat at the party unless we performed.
i was part of a trio who was going to perform lean on me. one of us would play the piano, one would sing/break it down and the other would lead the heart-wrenching clapping part in the outro of the song. i must not have pulled my weight because i got booted and replaced from the group the day before the performance. so what could i do?
obviously i went directly to the dance store because mamma was going to need a new leotard. i was in sixth grade in ‘87 so this leotard looked like black underwear with stirrups over a white t shirt that was splatter-painted and had cut-outs in the back to show of my sexy sixth grade back of ribs? anyway, i was wrecked that i got cut and felt like a bit of a loser, but i was confident that i was going to show those girls a thing or two. leotard that should be inducted to the outfit hall of fame, check. tights that had that shimmer shine sparkle to them, check. before i went to bed i went ahead and picked my song off of my Cyndi Lauper True Colors tape… oh which song… calm inside the storm. i had everything i needed so i went to bed.
the next morning my mother, sensing that this could in fact be the moment where my whole life began to turn downhill, asked if i knew how i was going to dance to which i replied “i’m going to do some of these (jumping from one foot to the other) and some awesome funky runs across the stage like this (i hope and pray to God that you are trying to envision this) and then i am going to do some cartwheels and a round off at the end for the ‘big finish’.” my mom advised me to play the song and see how long it was and then maybe try to put the moves to the song to see how it flowed. geesh doesn’t my mom know that i can quote the whole movie girls just want to have fun? i know dance-offs. to oblige, i played half of the song once and was feelin good. off to school.
well i decided to help with the stage, you know opening and closing the curtain, because i wanted to be sure that that new hot act lean on me didn’t get one second more applause than they were due. they went onstage and let me tell you: they were pretty awesome. no lie, they even painted matching t shirts the night before. each girl had a word. lean. on. me. and they even stood in the right formation! i was toast. so after closing their curtain waaay prematurely while hoping no one would notice the jealousy in my heart, my song started. this was the moment that i realized that sometimes i get stage fright. i was reminded later when i unintentionally turned our 11th grade performance of king lear at the shakespeare festival into a modern hip slang version because i remembered the point of the play, but not a single line, but this was the first time i became aware of it.
i stood there in the middle of the stage. i was terrified, sweating right through the splatter paint print on my new leotard. i tried the jump from one foot to the other thing, but someone must have put glue under my shoes because i literally could not get them off the floor. and then one of my best friends in sixth grade Ortez Hawkins who must have been feeling my pain or at least feeling the pain of boredom stood up and yelled, “DO SOMETHING!”. i was shocked into reality and i did a cartwheel and i may have finished it with a roundoff, but no one can be sure. then i ran off the stage. Ortez was the biggest meanest guy in our class, but he liked me. so he stood up and he clapped. he gave me a standing O for my horrendously embarrassing display of loserness.
i tell you that to tell you this: sometimes we freeze. we dress like who we want to be and pick the right song for the soundtrack to the movie we are playing in, but if all we do is stand frozen and watch the world go by we are not that person. be the person you hoped you would be someday. be her now.
even if it doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would i will stand up for you and clap.