Previously: After the doctor recommends that she exercise, Shevi’s mother signs her up for dance classes.
The gym was loud and big and filled with the echoes of girls whooping greetings at each other. I slunk in, the hideous dance clothes Mommy had made me bring hidden deep in the bag at my side. An extremely tall and maddeningly slim lady, obviously the teacher, was clapping her hands energetically.
“Let’s go, girls! It’s already past 5:00! Let’s begin!”
The talking, laughing crowd of girls slowly moved into some form of formation. I searched desperately for a place in the back row, in the corner, where I could hide. Slowly I squeezed next to the last girl in the row. She glanced at me and her eyes grew wide. Murmuring something unintelligible, she moved to a different spot. My eyes smarted and I blinked away the tears.
Soon music was playing, and all around me girls were joyously imitating the graceful figure at the front of the gym. Feeling like an inflated, swollen beach ball, I clumsily tried to follow along.
The next thing I knew everyone had spun around! Suddenly I was in the front row. I looked back frantically at the teacher, trying to figure out what was going on. It seemed everyone was doing the same steps, facing the opposite direction. For a moment I tried to follow along, but there was no one in front of me to watch, and tens of eyes bored holes into my back. They were all surely wondering who this little elephant, this monster of a person, was. Someone directly behind me gave a muffled giggle, and I could bear it no longer. Stifling a sob, I rushed out of formation, out of the gym, and towards the restroom.
At this hour the halls were silent. I barreled down the hallway and into the restroom, into a stall, slamming the thin door behind me and locking it with shaking fingers. Tears poured out of my eyes like mini-waterfalls and ran onto my cheeks and dripped down to the floor. Was it possible, I wondered, to feel more miserable than this?
No one needed to know I wasn’t dancing. I would wait out the class here in the silent bathroom and rejoin the crowd of girls outside afterwards. My mother would never need to know. A rush of anger surged up my chest. Why hadn’t Mommy asked me if I wanted to join this class? Why hadn’t she tried to figure out something I would enjoy? Well, okay, not enjoy. I don’t think I’d really ever enjoy exercising. But at least not be mortified, ashamed, embarrassed and just plain miserable.
“Shevi! How was it?!” Mommy cried as I climbed into the car about 45 minutes later. I’d almost wasted away out of boredom in the bathroom, but at least I hadn’t been in that awful dance class in that awful gym with that awful teacher and awful, awful girls. So I shrugged. Next week, I decided, I’d bring a book. And cookies. With marshmallows and chocolate milk in a thermos.
“Oh, c’mon, Shevs. Didn’t you enjoy it, at least a little bit?” Mommy peered out the mirror as she cautiously backed out the school parking lot.
“No, I didn’t.”
Mommy looked exasperated. I wonder why. If someone had forced her to go to a class she didn’t want to go to, against her will, I bet she wouldn’t have been too pleased, either. I tried to explain.
“Mommy…I don’t like dancing.”
“Nonsense,” Mommy said briskly. “You’re just not used to it. Just wait,” she predicted airily, “in a few weeks’ time you’ll be counting the days till Tuesday.”
Desperation prickled under my very skin. “Mommy, I can’t. I don’t like dancing. I don’t want to be there. Mommy,” I choked on the tears, “the girls laughed at me. I felt like a fool. Please don’t make me go back there.” I couldn’t believe I was saying these painful, ugly words. I felt like my very pride was being ripped away from me. I was begging – begging, really begging!
Mommy pursed her lips. “I hear you. Why don’t you give it a few more weeks, Shevs? If you still hate it after a few weeks we can discuss this again, okay? Anyway, Shevs, we’ve already paid for the first month of classes.”
My chest felt tight again. Mommy cared more about her money than about her daughter! She didn’t believe me! She wasn’t even listening, she wasn’t even hearing the misery in my voice, the pain I felt in my heart in that great big gym and small, airless bathroom. Well, if she wouldn’t let me leave respectfully, I’d just have to be sneaky and carry through with my plan. It felt wrong, it felt bad, but I didn’t see any other choice.
“Oh, and Shevi – don’t forget, we have the dietician appointment next Monday.”
As if I could forget.