I think every child, at one time or another, harbors a secret ambition of being a star.
Be it a famous dancer, singer or actor, fame is one of those childhood dreams for a season.
As an obese child, I actually got my moment of fame because of my weight. It was for the third
grade pantomime production, preformed one evening in December for parents, classmates and the general public. I landed the starring role because I fit the part physically. I got to play Santa
Claus in a pantomime where all other humans played movers of various set elements. It was , in
essence, a one woman show.
Yes , it was humiliating to even be thought of as one who could play Santa Claus as a young girl
of the age of 8. First off, Santa was a man for goodness sakes. Second, when you think of Santa,
you think of fat right off the bat. It was announced to our class who would play the various rolls,
and I remember walking home absolutely crushed. Now would I not only hear the fatty fatty 2 by 4 rhyme and watch my classmates pass me by with puffed out cheeks and arms pantomiming a greatly expanded waist and be used as a threat in a fight (" I will get Diane to sit on you if you don’t say uncle"), but now I would be showcased to the parents and the community as the quintessential fat person. I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me whole.
Once I reached home I told my mom that I was going to be the lead in the school play and I needed to get a costume. All she heard was I was going to be the lead, and she was thrilled. Moments later she was on the phone to my grandmother sharing the news, and during their conversation she asked what role I was going to play. I told her Santa, and she continued on excitedly without even the slightest thought about my role. Her daughter was going to be the star- and that was good enough for her. Later that evening my father came home, mom shared the news with him, and my sisters and I were sent to our room so they could talk. There was arguing, and then my father called me out of my bedroom. He told me I had better not mess this up, or it would make a bad joke a whole lot worse. He understood how I had felt about this “honor”, and in his way was helping me make the best of it.
The night of the play came, and I was determined to give an Oscar winning performance. I may be fat, but I was going to be famously funny fat by the end of the night. You never know- some Broadway producer could have been passing through the neighborhood, gotten bored with the high life and decided to set foot in on our little production, looking for the next Shirley Temple. I would play Santa in a way that the greats like Richard Burton would have played. I did well, received a standing ovation, but more importantly a big thumbs up from my father for a job well done. Several of my classmates even said I was an excellent Santa. By the time the night was over I did not care that I was showcased for my weight. I made people laugh for a while, entertained them and that was more important than how it was done. It was a nice feeling.
It was not the only time I appeared on stage. I became involved with choir in Middle School and High School and competed in several regional competitions in ensembles and as a soloist. My weight was there, but I was more drawn to making people feel good than worrying about being the fat girl on stage. I also preformed in several high school musicals as various extras- usually as some matronly woman for background interest. I loved the experience. Making people feel good can be a very addictive thing.
Many people have said that their weight keeps them from getting out for fear that people will judge them. In my own life, had I not been obese I would have never gotten the experience of feeding people on a different level that fateful night. I give my parents a lot of credit with how they handled the situation. They could have protested, could have given into my feelings of shame , pulled me from the play to spare my feelings and my life would have turned out very differently. However, because of their response, I got to see very early that my physical self may bring me to different places, but how my internal self handles them makes all the difference in the world. Attitude is indeed everything. It’s a lesson I have drawn from many times in my life.