Fitting In… part one

I’ve thought a lot about this lately.

I’ve been determined that my kids will be encouraged to be whatever they want to be because I was so tied up in the “you shouldn’t do that, you can’t do that, what will people think” philosophy which stunted my development for sure. That is development as ME the person I really should have been. It stunted me to the point that when I go to see a musical at the theatre I cry. Regardless of the plot, I cry. People have thought I do this for a variety of reasons; I just get emotional at live music, the plot must have moved me, I’m caught up in the atmosphere, something in the plot stirred a memory, I just like bealing.

Well none of them are true, I cry (sometimes to the point of a lack of control) because that’s what I should have been. I should have been a musical theatre actress. It’s just what I was meant to be and I feel it so strongly that it hurts me because I didn’t do it.

Why didn’t I do it? Because I ‘couldn’t’. Not that I thought I couldn’t but that society and my family made me believe I couldn’t and it’s only now that I’m past it that I know I could have. We have old reel to reel audio tapes, you know the kind that used to be played on these (if you can remember that far back, gosh I loved the smell of these). ImageAnyway, we have them still today of me singing and dancing (OK so we can only tell I’m dancing by the clomping and breathlessness) but I perform song after song, my own poetry, I talk about what I’m wearing (outfits I’d made up) and I remember, I remember always singing and dancing and wanting to perform. But it was knocked out of me, that ambition.

“You’re too fat to be an actress, if you weren’t so fat you might have a chance, don’t push yourself forward no one wants to see the fat kid at the front, I was so embarrassed when you sang that solo in choir because you looked so fat next to the other kids”… hey this is my family, my mother, my siblings.

My dad tried to encourage me but he was a lone voice against a huge crowd of naysayers and society was against us too. Images of famous ladies, even then were very biased towards the slim and beautiful. I remember my dad telling me that it was possible to be fat and a famous singer, pointing out Mama Cass (of the Mamas and Papas) as an example. I remember my mum saying there was only one Mama Cass though.

Then of course she died when I was around 7 and she was only 32 of a heart attack. Everyone said that she choked to death on a ham sandwich and made her seem like an out of control glutton who deserved to die young for being such a pig. In fact a post mortem found she had died of a heart attack and cited a crash diet she had been following where she starved for 4 days a week and which had caused her to lose 80lbs as having weakened her heart as partly to blame. So yeah, fat girls didn’t get famous for singing and if they did they choked on sandwiches because they were so greedy anyway. Bless my dad for believing in me.

Image
Mama Cass 1941 – 1972 Thank you for being you

I stopped singing in front of anyone but my dad when Mama Cass died, there was no point, I’d only die choking on a sandwich anyway and as I grew older only the pretty, blonde girls who did dance were cast in the school productions even though my ears would bleed at their singing and I knew I could do so much better.

I sang in secret, I’d play my dad’s Barbara Streisand albums and I trained my voice to such an extent that one day I was in the car with my dad and I sang Evergreen to him and he had to stop with tears in his eyes to tell me how beautiful it was and how he had no idea I could sing like that. I would sing in the car, I would sing my little heart out along to the old country greats, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline and later Crystal Gayle that my dad loved.

In tears now and heart breaking, but this has to be done, I love that my last day with my dad at home it was just me and him and we sang our hearts out for hours, holding hands, knowing our life together was coming to an end, letting songs say what we couldn’t put into our own words. Gosh most treasured memory or what? Precious is not the word.

I didn’t ‘fit in’ I wasn’t ‘the type’. Just because I was fat and believe me I wasn’t even that big then, I was just bigger than some others (about 3 or 4 of us were fat in my year at school) but then I was bigger in all ways, I was taller, I wound up being 5’9 which was a good 5 or 6 inches taller than most of my age mates.

I came paternally from tall, blonde, blue eyed, broad shouldered stock, I don’t know maybe Germaic/Nordic in origins mixed with a tiny framed, raven haired, olive skinned, brown eyed maternal lineage probably southern European/Middle Eastern but my dad’s genes won out in me.

One place I did fit in alright was when I was made Goal Attack in the netball team, then I was acceptable because nobody could take a ball off me, win one in a throw or shoot as accurately and effortlessly as I could, suddenly then I was OK and invited onto the school team. I fitted in there. Mind you this was after the PE teacher had left me sitting on the side line for 4 years watching the others, assuming I was no good because I was the fat kid, assuming I’d be useless without even giving me a chance to prove otherwise. I knew I was good, I was good at all ball games, I played them all of the time at home. I’d sit as the kit girl (because I was big I could carry it all in one go) on the sidelines knowing we were a disaster as a team, knowing I could do better but not daring to say because I knew I wouldn’t be heard because I didn’t look the part, I didn’t fit in.

She hadn’t realised how fit I was and how tall I was and how good I was with a ball (my dad felt it equally important that his daughters could throw and catch a ball as his sons could) and I wasn’t about to tell her. It was only when during a break at school I found they’d left the nets out from a previous session and I picked up a ball and repeatedly dropped it in the net, gradually taking a pace back, to the side, to the other side as I went and each time, plop, straight in and she had been watching from the staff room aghast, coffee in hand,  it was only then that I was invited to the team.  I spent a season on the  netball team, almost single handedly won us the regional schools championship and then told them to stuff it. I didn’t want to be a netballer, I wanted to sing and act.

Anyway all this wasn’t supposed to be in this post, this has tumbled out, what this was supposed to be about was how because of my own experiences I was determined that my kids would not EVER be told they couldn’t and they would never EVER be told they didn’t fit in and more than that, they would never want to fit in, they would be brought up to be themselves and to do what they wanted not fit in with anything. If they never had a sense of having to fit in they would never not fit and suffer the soul destruction I’d suffered, that was my theory and I wanted to talk about how it all panned out… that will have to be Fitting in… Part Two because I’ve emotionally drained myself now and the kids are back from their egg drop to the kids hospice and the lamb is sending out an aroma that is shouting at me that it’s ready for the plate.

Death and resurrection, this is what this season is all about. I have to go through this stuff that makes me angry at myself, I have to kill it off so that I can arise from the ashes as me. It wasn’t my intention but it’s strange what happens when you start to write a blog post…

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9 thoughts on “Fitting In… part one”

  1. How heartbreaking! God bless your dad for believing in you. Your children will be the benefactors of your experiences, so there is a silver lining. Today is a good day for rebirth. I hope that you and your family enjoy today to the fullest.

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    1. Haha, she’s a sweet old dear she just had no idea that what she was saying was doing such damage and stunting us and repeated her own upbrining. I forgave her for she knew not what she did. She had an Oedipus complex going on with the eldest brother too which was bizarre and remains so. The rest of us often felt like step children, I being closest to my dad was the bottom of the pecking order. I’ll never see her again, I speak to her now and then but she makes no effort to speak to me and I’m glad I broke the cycle when I raised my own daughter, my sisters didn’t have daughters thank God so it ended with me.

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        1. No doubt my kids will grow up to blame me for something, probably for being too free with them. Hardest job in the world because it impacts so deeply for so long. All we can do is our best. She was a great mother at practical parenting, we had fab food, a lovely home she was incredibly gifted with sewing, gardening, cooking, artistically but emotionally.. not a clue.

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  2. I found this a lovely and touching read and I really felt your pain through your words. It brought a tear to my eye. I think it’s wonderful that music connected you and your Dad in that special way. And, oh, Mama Cass. You probably won’t believe the coincidence, but when I was growing up my father had a Mamas and Papas record that he would put on when he’d been out having a few drinks, so I grew up listening to their music. And I remember having the exact same sort of conversations about Mama Cass, how she had such a wonderful voice but had died very young. I don’t remember being told the ham sandwich thing but the message I recall is “she died too young and so will you if you don’t lose weight”, kind of thing. But the other thing is…I sing too! Have done most of my life, everything from choirs to karaoke. 🙂 And a few years ago when I was still with T, he helped me to record a CD to give my parents for Christmas. One of the songs was ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’ by none other than Mama herself, and I don’t think I sang anything better than that one because it meant a lot to me.

    It’s so hard when you get to our age group and have regrets about things you really, REALLY wanted to do but, for one reason or another, you couldn’t. But your mother couldn’t have been more wrong. Think about opera, for a start – there’s a reason they invented that expression “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings”! Maybe not so much now, but unless you were planning on being Madonna in those days, singing (particularly the classical world) was a pretty forgiving profession for those carrying a little weight. But it sounds to me like you have made a wonderful success of teaching, and you certainly seem to have done a fabulous job with your kids 🙂 I’m sure you bring a lot of joy to others in other ways. And I do hope you still sing, because you should!!!!! I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t. It’s a wonderful gift. 🙂

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    1. Thank you for your comments as always. I think we were separated at birth haha. I agree with everything you say, I wonder if that’s why I loved opera so much only kids from my Northern working class town going to the state school didn’t like opera…

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      1. Separated at birth for sure! 🙂 Opera is definitely an acquired taste. I like some of it and some of it makes me want to run far, far away with my fingers in my ears…haha!

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