Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Brutal Humiliation and I

The Magic of Childhood

The magic of childhood is that we get to do lots of things we're bad at, and only after repeated failure (and the corresponding humiliation we experience at the hands of those vicious beasts we call other children) do we actually realize we're bad at them and give them up and try to stick to the stuff that doesn't make people laugh at us.

Bad at Acting

I'm bad at acting, but it took me time to realize this: many years; numerous schlocky school productions; countless hours sitting in rehearsals, watching wide-eyed drama geeks gushingly hyper-articulate the words to "Hello, Dolly", waiting my turn to mumble my line and a half.

The low point of my acting career was an eighth grade production of The King and I. I was a guard. My performance consisted of the following:
  1. Curtain opens. Guard walks downstage and stands far stage right, feet apart, arms crossed.
  2. Guard continues standing, feet apart, arms crossed for the entire duration of the play.
  3. The final scene ends. Guard exits. Curtain closes.
Just to make clear, I had no lines. I stood.

You might say, "but at least you had a lot of stage time." True, performers generally like stage time, but those performers are not eighth-graders dressed only in a red pleather vest and billowy black fake-satin pants.

Somewhere in this wide wonderful world, there might be a person who could pull off this outfit (though I doubt it). It wasn't me. I'm still of a generally slimmish* configuration, but in my younger years I was freakishly scrawny.** I looked like a tacky scarecrow.

The Calculus of Cruelty

Far stage left was another identically dressed guard, Chris, also freakishly scrawny and a fellow member of the T.A.G. class.*** I can only assume that this cruel mirroring was an experiment in social engineering. "Let's take the two skinniest, nerdiest boys we can find, adorn them in garish yet revealing clothing, stand them in front of several hundred of their peers for an hour and a half, and see what happens. I predict mockery."

"And beyond that, my esteemed colleague, I hypothesize a specific degree of mockery wherein the combination of one subject with mock-factor x with a second subject also with mock-factor x will generate a humiliation feedback loop in which the combined mock-factor grows exponentially generating a mockery vortex of unprecedented dimensions!"

Their hypothesis was correct.

* Maintained by a strict regimen of broiled skinless chicken breasts, wheatgrass smoothies, and relentless exercise. You have no idea the pressure I'm under: Got to be thin! Got to be thin! What am I going to do, change my name to "Fatbolala"?

** Sarah says the drawing isn't skinny enough.

*** It was thoughtful of the administration to name the Talented and Gifted class the "Talented and Gifted" class instead of the "Gifted and Talented" class because it so conveniently shortens to T.A.G. which so conveniently rhymes with a common derogatory term for homosexuals. One wouldn't want to make the other children (bless their non-gifted hearts) work too hard to find an abusive moniker to apply to us.


  1. Anonymous8:52 PM

    You were cute and not that skinny! I was song leader of my 4H Group. Talk about being bad at something!!! My father later informed me that I could not carry a tune in a bucket!!

  2. How funny - I think we're about even...
    I was in the King & I as well, and I even had 1 line "What is that green up there?" (pointing at the map, at Burma...) However, my costume was nowhere near as cool as yours...

  3. Anonymous7:52 PM

    GAT would have been way better.

  4. Anonymous9:35 AM

    Just surfing by and feel moved to comment, great post! Unlike you I was slow to realize realize I was a bad actress. I had no keen desire to be on stage but a lot of my friends were in the Thespian Club and I hung out on the fringes of that fun crowd so would get talked into auditioning for plays occasionally. It wasn't until I fluffed my "big" role as a maid (very few lines) in 10th grade that I finally realized, "O yeah, I stink at this! And I don't even enjoy it. Why am I doing it?" What a relief, although at that point I had to start hanging with an all new crowd. Sigh! Aren't you glad you learned this lesson so young?