More Bribes Than a Maffioso

Doing a little “Blogrolling” this morning has inspired one more entry before I leave on vacation for next week.

I want to preface this by saying, I am accountable for the size that I am. I don’t blame anyone else, and it is up to me to do something about it -- me and only me. Some people have terrible childhoods, some don’t. Mine? My childhood was somewhere in the middle – but weight… weight was always an issue.

Both my Mother and Step-dad (and now my sister) are dancers, in the professional sense. My parents had a dance studio geared to teach future professional dancers. This studio wasn’t your run-of-the-mill competition school. Dance was considered a serious profession, more so than a recreational outlet. Because it was focused on professionalism, you can imagine how much of an issue weight of the dancers-to-be was. Weight was as much an issue at home as it was at the Dance studio.

I always knew I was overweight, but I never let it bother me, because it never really limited me. My limitations were made visible to me by my parents. I’ve said it before; I’m not sure if I tried so hard to excel at everything to prove my weight wasn’t an issue, or if I did everything well because I actually enjoyed what I was doing. When I think back to some of the things that I did, I really have the think hard to give myself and honest answer.

It was in my teenage years that my family presented me with challenges to lose weight. Shopping in the “Huskies” department at Sears was probably more embarrassing to my family than it was to me. I was never a fashion plate in high school. It certainly was not because I didn’t want to dress cute and preppy like the thin girls, but my ass would never fit into a pair of Calvin’s or Jordache’ Jeans. Hey, it was the 80’s… what can I say?

Then came the bribing… My parents bribed me with everything and anything they could to get me to lose weight; pulling me out of activities, promising money or shopping sprees, etc.

In my freshman year of High School, I wanted to be a twirler. I tried out, made it – even one of the mothers custom-made a uniform for me, so I could fit-in. Once again, when I didn’t lose weight, I had to quit.

I remember when I first started auditioning for musicals. My voice truly favors ballads and music that a typical ingénue role would sing. I remember my Mother telling me I had a great voice but that I would never land an ingénue role. Unfortunately she was right, but that didn’t preclude me from landing other character roles. When I first landed a lead role the first bribe was offered. “I’m sorry, but if you don’t lose weight, you have to quit the musical.” I didn’t lose weight, and I had to quit. How I hated having to tell the drama teacher.

The second year came around, and the same thing happened again. I landed a lead role – not the ingénue role, but a lead nonetheless. Mom did the same thing. I know she was trying to motivate me because I loved doing musicals, but maybe in some way (not that I can remember now) it was turning me off? Who knows?

The pattern didn’t have a chance to repeat itself my junior and senior years because the Drama teacher caught on, and now knew me as a “quitter.” She told me my junior year that she couldn’t give me the part she wanted because she couldn’t depend on me. You can imagine how I felt. From that point on, I was known as a “quitter.” That reputation wound up following me throughout high school – even into sports and band commitments. Advisors were afraid to give me anything for fear I would quit.

At the Dance studio, I took dancing, singing and acting lessons, and while I loved dancing, singing was my passion. As a teenager and young adult, my singing skills were in full-form. My parents were staging Pirates of Penzance, and they allowed me to audition. Though my signing was good, I was too fat to land a role – and that’s what they pretty much told me. I was just too overweight.

I also auditioned for a few other staged musicals they produced, but would never get a part in them… you guessed it. I was too fat.

Without my mother knowing I prepped to audition at Westminster Choir College. I worked hard to prepare two contrasting pieces and coordinated all the logistics of my audition without my family knowing. When I landed a scholarship, my Mom’s response was, “You’ll never find steady work in the arts.” You’ll never make enough money.” I knew what she was really saying was that I was too fat and would never be hired as a singer for the type of music I enjoyed.

I can remember another conversation vividly; my Mom telling me how it was somewhat of an embarrassment to her that I was so overweight. I often wondered if she saw me overweight for a Dancer or overweight for the average person on the street. She would get so frustrated because I had natural ability, but not the body. Conversely, my Sister had the body, but had to work harder at Dance. Despite my Mom’s sincerest efforts, she would continually explain how and why my weight made her uncomfortable, and how in some strange way it was damaging to her reputation. As if people would think less of my mother because she had a fat daughter.

I think for a brief period of time, when I was 14, I got down to a size 12. The scary thing is, I didn’t even realize it, and my It wasn’t for long. I quickly moved up the scale.

Still, today, I can’t really pinpoint where/how my problem started with food. I really wish I could, because I feel it will help me in the long run. I would love to think my problem is organic in nature, and not just about self-control.

This is about what I did to myself with the choices I made, and I am in no way placing blame on my parents. I truly do believe they were doing what they felt was best for me.

You know, after I had my Daughter, I was jut 12 lbs from my pre-pregnancy weight (but still 90 lbs from my "ideal" weight). It was the emotional eating... the eating like a wrestler while breast-feeding… the eating to reward myself when I’d do something right as a first-time Mom that caused me to get even 40 lbs heavier.

It's my fault.

No one else's.

I am wholly accountable.


  1. A very brave post Donna! I'm not real big on deconstructing the past too intensively but I do want to learn from it when I can. What I try to do more is focus on the present and what I need to do with what PRESENTS ITSELF in the PRESENT!

    The program you're in is going to make approval for you ALMOST a guarantee. Have to put in a tiny disclaimer there, but you've got the best possible chance to get it. When it happens, just invite change into your life and be open to everything that's going to wash over you! If I may make one recommendation, and it's soon yet for you, think about what you hope your perspective on food WILL BE instead of what it has been. When the changes start to happen, you'll be pointing in a particular direction and ready to see what starts to PRESENT ITSELF!

    Thanks again for joining the Ring and welcome!

  2. Anonymous8:45 AM

    Congratulations and please accept my deepest admiration. What you've written took an incredible amount of bravery, self-knowledge, and acceptance. It can be very painful for people to stand up and take ownership and responsibility for their flaws and you have done it so perfectly. You've seen where there were indeed influences in your younger years (as there were in mine) that likely contributed to problems later on but never blamed them.

    I know I don't know you, but I still want you to know that I'm very proud of you. This is a huge step to take and you've done it with grace and set a wonderful example.


  3. Donna,

    I know that had to be a difficult post. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I don't think anyone really enjoys dissecting the past, but I think as a new parent, it's important that you look at the example set by your own parents and make choices about the kind of parent that you will be.

  4. You have such a healthy attitude, one that should serve you well post surgery.

    Thank you for being so open -- it's powerful to read about others' perspectives and experiences.



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