She had been invited to a show at NY Fashion Week – something she absolutely loves to do – and decided to class herself up a bit. Abandoning her daily skinny jean uniform, she opted for a tight black dress, black tights and her favorite pair of 3″ camel booties. After the show, she walked into a karaoke bar at 3 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. Kids welcome. A family atmosphere. Perhaps a tad overdressed, she was meeting her favorite 7-year-old and she was thrilled to see her.
There were no families, but there was a posse performing a less than stellar rendition of a Lady Gaga song. But it was Karaoke. In Karaoke-friendly zones, there is automatic approval. If you can’t sing, nobody cares. We will unify and sing with you to help you get through the song. It’s not an every-singer-for-him/herself atmosphere. Karaoke is a symbol of unification: we’re all brave and we’re all in this together.
Like their party was interrupted, they momentarily paused their song to watch her walk across the floor. She could sense the weird tension, but regardless, she walked up to the cashier and for a brief moment discussed private room availability.
You know that moment when you can feel someone staring at you? That happened, and she made eye contact with one of the pack of somewhat-tone-deaf friends. She smiled that “hi, I don’t know you, but hello” somewhat-forced smile (after living in NYC for over a decade, she’s perfected that smile) and she turned back to the cashier.
Finally squared-away, she exited the bar to wait for her favorite 7-year-old to arrive. And then it happened: supremely sarcastic and out of nowhere, spoken into the mic and directed at her, a booming voice:
“No matter how tall your pretend to be in those heels, you’ll still be fat.”
It took a moment for her to realize that the amplified voice was actually talking to her.
And then came the laughter. Like it was all a big joke.
All in that moment, she was spun back in time to 6th, 7th, 8th grade(s) when she was teased for the way she walked, the way she weighed, the way she dressed, the way she studied, the way she socialized. It was as if someone ripped off a thousand Band-Aids. They were stuck to her skin like battle wounds – there, unrecognized, but a story to tell if someone had asked. After a two decades, she’d learned to love herself no matter how she walked, how she weighed, how she dressed, how she studied, how she socialized.
It did get better.
Her adult-brain told her to march right back inside and give them a piece of her mind or deliver some snappy come-back that would leave them speechless. That would be great. That would be ideal. Except she couldn’t. Instead, her childlike-heart broke. Her stomach sank. Her throat knotted. Her eyes welled. She felt like she was going to be sick.
In a family atmosphere, the girl with the snotty remark had just broken the number one rule of karaoke bars: acceptance.
Every ounce of self-esteem that she’d earned over the last two and a half decades was gone – just like that. She wanted to call her favorite 7-year-old and cancel, go home, dive into her pillow and cry like she did when she was a kid. In an instant, she suddenly looked forward to eating the entire carton of non-dairy coconut ice cream in her freezer.
It took every ounce of emotional strength to not want to run away. But she didn’t. She couldn’t. Her favorite 7-year-old was just stepping out of a cab running at her – full speed – for a gigantic hug. “I missed you,” her favorite 7-year-old said. The words made her melt and she wanted to break down that very moment and tell her everything that had just happened inside. But she didn’t. You see, she was meeting her favorite 7-year-old that day to help the little girl take her mind off of recently being bullied because of her short hair. It was just days earlier that she’d told the little girl:
“It takes a pretty miserable person to make someone else miserable, but as long as you know there are people in your life who love you – no matter what – then the people who hurt you just don’t matter. It will always be painful. Their words will always sting and sometimes they even leave a scar, but there is always someone who will be waiting with a box of Band-Aids to help cover up your wound.”
There will always be someone who will take you to karaoke… where we’re all brave and we’re all in this together. And there will always be someone willing to jump out of a cab and run at you full speed for the chance at a hug.
Image via myschoolsigns