So many years later----and I remember feeling like a total "misfit" at Dance Class. My dance teacher, Miss Ruby Lee, was anything but fun. In fact, over a period of four years,
she taught me to dislike her immensely. Of course, I never told her...or anyone else.
It was the era of Shirley Temple and my mother, like many mothers across
America, wanted me to look like--dress like--and act like--Little Shirley Temple. And, of course, Shirley tap- danced! So…I was enrolled in dance class and I better “like it” or else.
Too bad my mother didn’t find me a Hollywood Agent. Anyone who knew anything about talent would have told her I was no Shirley Temple BUT--- I was a child with other talents. It wouldn’t
have mattered because…my mother didn’t intend for me to have a life---beyond her. SO….I studied dancing with the only Dance Teacher in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Because of her exclusivity, Miss Ruby Lee was considered the most knowledgeable
in all areas of Dance.
From my very-first-class, Ruby referred to me as "chubby". She told me I couldn't study ballet like the "pretty and thin" girls in class---
because I was just too “chubby”. She decided I needed a dancing “workout” so she taught me to tap....and tap....and keep on tapping. I was never happy jumping up and down, jiggling my feet, playing “cute”
with my hands, and certainly didn’t enjoy making “clown” faces and always-looking so “animated”.
My dance lessons started when I
was three years old and didn’t end until I was almost seven. I endured two classes each week and an on-stage recital once every year. When you’re labeled FAT and viewed as having LIMITED TALENT…you never get the pretty costumes. Instead,
you get the frumpy costumes and ugly tap shoes that are sprayed gold—or silver—or even red—to match your outfit. The music chosen for your specific dance is never pretty music. Instead, it’s always something ridiculously-fast
or jazzy or comical….nothing memorable. AND….I was never chosen to perform a…solo. The closest I got to a solo performance was when my dance teacher “singled me out” to perform tap duets with Mary Ann Robinson.
Mary Ann was a quiet...round-looking girl…two years older than me and she was obviously-- fat. Everyone knew her family was rich because they owned the Pine Bluff Casket
Company, had a big black-shiny car, and a uniformed driver. Mary Ann never talked, seldom smiled, but always had a candy bar close by. Miss Ruby Lee thought we looked like twins and insisted on the two of us dancing together. One of our duets
was called "The Little Milk Maids”.
SHAME ON ADULTS, TEACHERS, PARENTS--- AND--- ALL-THOSE WHO INSIST ON LABELING CHILDREN WITH THEIR PERSONAL OPINIONS.
TOO-OFTEN....THOSE OPINIONS ARE LIKE TATTOOS. THEY CAN PERMANENTLY- SCAR A CHILD'S YOUNG MIND AND---IN TOO-MANY CASES---SUCH OPINIONS DESTROY A CHILD’S CONFIDENCE.