Happy Father’s Day Everyone!
I actually can’t wish my Dad his due happiness on the actual day because he is out in South Dakota with members of my Saint Louis church on the adult mission trip. They work with the Lakota tribe (the people who owned the sacred land converted into Mt. Rushmore- blasphemy! It would be like claiming to see Mrs. Butterworth in loaves of bread rather than the virgin Mary)
My Dad and I have a running joke about winnie the pooh. We went to see the first harry Potter movie when I was a sophmore in high school, 15, and at the beginning of my struggle with body image and diabetes and the beginning of my Harry Potter obsession. I didn’t really think my Dad paid much attention during the movie but he later sent me a winnie the pooh card where he hand wrote a Dumbledore quote that he remembered:
“It does not do to dwell in dreams, if we forget to live”
I stil have the card. I was so touched that the following Christmas I gave him a pair of socks from the disney store with little winnie the pooh’s on them. He sometimes makes a point of letting me know when he is wearing them.
I think he was hoping I would see that living in a fantasy about how I was supposed to look to be considered a perfect dancer/beautiful person and the denial about how harmful my method to achieve that look was completely destroying my life, and my more important dreams. Molding ourselves to our desired self-image isn’t always an easy feat, nor is it always possible.
I take after my Dad genetically, being slender and fair-skinned with ‘youthful features’. Hardly a day goes by in which I’m not thankful for the long-legs gene, and I know I will be grateful for my young-looking face (I still get carded at R rated movies) when I’m 50. I suppose it is a lot of our shared look- the small bone structure and pale skin- that makes it sort of humorous to me that my Dad associates so much with people that I’m guessing look so very different.
The group has been going for a few years, and I think the relationships formed have truly affected my Dad- not only in that we have a dream catcher up in our house, but in his values and sense of self. My family has always been environmentally friendly- we had the huge compost pile of vegetable and fruit peelings in a caged-off corner of our backyard (I used to tell friends that a super-giant rabbit lived there) and my Mom specifically did not buy ‘cool’ school lunch items like Lunchables or those sqeezy juice bottles one- probably because they are all incredibly unhealthy and two- because of the amount of plastic in the packaging. My Dad is pretty crazy about recycling and the environment now. I think that his being around the Lakota people has reinforced his love and respect for nature, and I think he feels connected to this group of people who share his sentiments and many core values.
When I was living in Jersey, one of my roommates looked at one of my photo albums from college and said, ‘wow, your friends are all so pretty’. It’s true, my closest friends were all dancers with amazing bodies and beautiful faces – a point that used to shallowly make me feel proud to have such an attractive entourage, and possibly even more shallowly, make me feel perpetually shadowed around them.I used to feel like I stuck out like a sore thumb- an insecurity that probably really helped my interest in writing, since I felt like there was no chance for me to looks-wise measure up, and therefore pushed myself to be the ‘smart’ or ‘funny’ one (Even if Emily is undoubtedly smarter than me in the science realm at least, Tim and John give me a run for my money in creativity, and Kevin is equally if not more-so, quick witted and hilarious).
(This is a sampling of my hundreds of pictures- in it you will see friends: Liz Ashbaugh, Emily Lingen, Tim June, Kevin Wiltz, Kaitlyn Moody, Chelsea Koenig, Sally Lepper, John Cartwright, Erin Gildea, James Kopecky, Kaitlin Madzelan, and Kimberly Page- I have a lot of ‘k’ friends)
The other day I was in Central Park and I saw a group of people practicing Hawaiian dancing. The group included white people, black people, asian people, you name it. But here they were, all dancing as one (except for one really awkward girl who kept forgetting the steps). It made me think for a moment of my Dad. Maybe it’s just my youth, but I sometimes feel stuck in the pressure of making impressions on people by my physical appearance- as I’m sure we all to some degree, do. This is especially for a dancer, whose physical self is our form of communication and our voice. It is a reason that I and a lot of dancers that I know who have been out of class for a while, fear going back. We/ I don’t always feel proud of our physical self and just think I’ll wait to get back in better shape before I go. No one wants to stand out for the wrong reason. The more I think about it, however, our bodies are the vessel for the voice- yes we use our limbs, our faces, our attack or balance to convey something, but we mentally arrange the gesture- from the way we hold our fingers to how we walk on the stage. In that sense, the image we present is in our hands. When it comes to health and presentation, that is a choice too. I will never be as tall as Emily, or have Tim’s beautiful skin tone, or Kevin’s piercingly blue eyes- there are some things I can’t change. But I can make decisions to control my image individually and it is my decisions ultimately that will make me fit in or not with my own wishes and with a specific group. We cannot chose our genes, but we have control over our choices. For me, I will try to take my Dad’s and Dumbledore’s advice to focus on the best possible reality, and maybe to not buy tacky presents from the Disney store.