Pale as an olive-skinned teen can be, she entered the chorus room and auditioned with "Flashdance: What a Feeling."
She got in.
Maybe everyone did.
She has since blocked the memory...
She practiced. A lot. And as she did she realized that, while dancing like a maniac (heh. pun.) and soaking onesself with water while backlit made for cinematic magic...her solo, trembly, please-god-don't-look-at-me-why-the-fuck-am-I-doing-this? voice was less than winning material.
So she changed her routine.
To Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Were Made For Walkin'."
Complete with audience participation.
Much to the chagrin of that poor guy in the front row.
Anyway, following the performance, the participants circled up all holdy-hands-did-we-make-it?-did-we-make-it? style as the judges announced the winners.
She wasn't third place.
She wasn't second place.
And first place went to a blind kid with perfect pitch who played guitar.
That he smacked people (on purpose!) in the hallway with his cane was irrelevant... This kid was the champion, and this lil' lady was a gogo boot-clad, blue eyeshadow wearing talent show loser.
I didn't take it well.
Losing's never been my strong suit, and my tendency to beat myself up over mistakes that have decades-since past is, ummm, legendary.
Head bowed in shame, I carried my sorry carcass home. Or Richard James did. And I hemmed and hawed about how life was unfair and about how I never should have tried as no one in their right mind would vote against a blind kid anyhow.
The next day at school, when the winners were invited to perform for assembly, my face remained in the all-too-familiar FML scowl.
My teacher, Mrs. Jordan, noticed.
She pulled me aside.
She asked me what was wrong.
My response was an eyes-down, head bowed, "They hated me."
That Mrs. J responded with, "They didn't hate you," is not really the point. What is the point is that I honest-to-gawd believed what I was saying.
One setback. One failed attempt. One crack in the veneer of my Erin facade, and I admitted that I was worthless.
Since childhood, I have had it drilled into me to perform. To be at one's best at all times. That one's worth was not inherent in one's presence alone. One had to prove themselves worthy. And I did so with grades. And accelerated classes. And dance performances. And captaining the show choir. And the Color Guard. And headlining the school musical. And serving as Vice President of the Woodstock Elves. And working a part-time job...
I graduated sixth in my class of nearly 400 and I was livid that a student's weighted grades in science kicked me out of the Top 5 in my last week of school.
I won the "Most Helpful" award in French, despite my inability to do even the most elementary of assignments, including reading "Le Monstre Dans Le Metro," and was voted "Best Tan" every year in the Marching Band.
I won Most Valuable Singer every year in choir.
Was named Best Actress and Best Lead Actress my junior year.
In my senior yearbook, I appeared in more photos than almost any other student.
And I felt fucking invisible.
Today, despite ardent attempts to give my all, I was once again voted out of the top three. Once again, I feel that sinking pit. My eyes are down. My head is bowed.
I've failed, and they hate me.
But this time...this time is different.
Because last time it wasn't the blind kid who couldn't see...it was me.
And this time I do see.
My eyes are down. My head is bowed. But they haven't bested me.