In addition to ballet, I take a contemporary dance class with my friends Ellie, Cara, and Violet. As part of our routine, a girl gets lifted up by her arms in the center of the room and carried downstage. Ellie and another girl named Renee are the lifters–they each hold on to one of the center girl’s arms and hoist her up into the air–and the girl being lifted was supposed to be Cara.
Cara was really excited to get lifted up in the center of the room. It was a pretty big moment; even if it was just for a few seconds, all the focus would be on her. The choreographer was showing them how to do the move while the rest of us were supposed to be practicing our parts. Ellie and Renee were laughing and giggling with Cara as they tried to lift her into the air. Violet and I drifted over to the corner of the room together to talk.
While Cara, Ellie and I just started this year, Violet has been dancing at our studio with our choreographer for over ten years. And she’s been getting (understandably) really pissed off about the fact that she’s gotten no featured roles in our dance, whereas Cara has been front and center for much of the routine. Violet already gets easily irritated with Cara, since Cara is an excessively perky person whereas Violet is more . . . morose. So it definitely wasn’t helping that Cara was taking such a prominent role in the routine. The annoyance in Violet’s eyes was pretty apparent as we watched the girls attempt to lift Cara again.
“I hate this jump,” I said, referencing the move we were supposed to be practicing. “I mean, I know I’m sort of in the back, but I still don’t want to, like, make a fool of myself. And Taylor [my partner for that section of the dance] is getting SO annoyed with me.”
Glancing over at the center of the room where Cara was being her bubbly and giggly self, Violet muttered, “Well, at least you’re not Special Snowflake Cara.”
We watched as Renee and Ellie continued attempting to lift Cara into the air, but they weren’t really taking it seriously, and they couldn’t get her up off the ground (not that Cara is at all a heavy girl; she honestly can’t weigh much more than I do). The teacher was getting pretty fed up and irritated with their inability to do the move, and she was saying she might just have to replace that section with something else. As her eyes were scanning around the room, looking for some inspiration, they fell upon me.
Thin-legged, prominent-boned, scrawny little me.
“Sophia!” she called out. “Come on over here!”
A few things happened at once. Ellie, not wanting Cara to be embarrassed, said, “No, wait, let us do the move with Cara again! I bet we can get it!” Cara’s face barely masked her hurt and disappointment. Violet glanced at me and said with a terse smile, “Go on up there, Special Snowflake Sophia.”
So I went over to Ellie and Renee and they hooked their hands under my arms, one on each side. The teacher counted up to three and they hoisted me up into the air.
I shot up like a cork–it was exhilarating. I couldn’t help but scream, which I realized immediately only served to draw attention to myself. “There we go, girls!” the teacher shouted. “Now see if you can walk around!”
For the next ten minutes or so, Ellie and Renee practiced parading me around the room while everyone else watched. I tried to avoid looking at Cara. She works out religiously whereas I haven’t even set foot in the gym in months. Ever since I first met her, she’s complained (albeit lovingly and jokingly) about how skinny I am.
I don’t know how she felt about the whole thing, and I hesitate to ask her. My friends never seem to like to talk about things like this with me (“How could she understand, she’s always been so skinny!“) so I don’t know if she’s brushed it off or not. But if I were her, I would be so, so hurt and embarrassed.
It probably didn’t help, either, that between each try Ellie would shout “No, wait, let’s try the move with Cara again! I bet we can get it now!” She explained to me afterward that she was just trying to help Cara save face, since she thought that her and Renee had figured out the move by then. But every single time she suggested it, the teacher just shot her down and said “Sophia’s the center girl now.” So while on one hand I’m excited to be getting lifted in the air, this whole thing presents a lot more problems than our choreographer could’ve forseen. And I’m wondering if they’re going to become something more serious as time goes on.
The first is the simplest and the most obvious: I replaced Cara as the center girl when Cara was supposed to be lifted. Cara and I haven’t really talked about it yet. Whenever someone mentions the whole situation, she sort of just glues a smile to her face and tries to change the subject. I want to say something to her, but then again, what am I supposed to say? “Sorry I weigh less than you” somehow doesn’t seem like it’ll go over too well.
The second problem is one I’m sure I’ll have to deal with sooner rather than later. Violet is so, so pissed off that she hasn’t been given any featured role in the routine. Before, at least she could rant to me. Now I am the target of her anger. And I can’t really blame her for blaming me. I’m skinny as hell–so, so many people have told me they’re jealous of me, and Violet isn’t an exception.
Which brings me to the third problem. This is a ton of pressure on me. Even though I know in my rational mind that this move isn’t really that big of a deal–I’m getting held in the air for five seconds at the most–in my irrational mind I am terrified of gaining weight.
And I know in some part of my mind that my logic doesn’t actually make sense. It’s not like I’m going to gain twenty pounds over night and suddenly become too heavy to be lifted. Rationally, I know that. But I am not always a rational person, and I am so scared that I’m going to let everyone down. That in a couple of weeks, Ellie and Renee will go to pick me up and just. . . won’t be able to.
Right now, I weigh just upward of ninety pounds. A number that most people wouldn’t even dream of, whereas for me, this number is both my heaven and my hell. It should be no problem in the coming weeks for us to execute the move easily. But if Ellie and Renee couldn’t lift hundred-and-ten pound Cara into the air, then how much room for error do I have before they can’t lift me, either?