I've been watching my girls do trapeze for three years at this point. Around a year ago, I realized I that I watched with a hint of longing. I knew from the moment I heard of Canopy it was something I would have loved as a kid. I always wanted to dance but I don't think there was even a dance school in my little town. Not that we likely would have been able to afford it had there been one. Plus I was never built like the dancers, I saw on television. While not a fat kid, I was not a thin kid either. Solid was the word I heard used and it fit. Strong too. I loved sports. Loved riding my bike. Loved climbing trees. And I loved spinning upside down. Watching the girls do trapeze showed that dancing didn't have to belong to one kind of body. In fact, the body I had as a girl, the ones my girls inhabit now, actually seemed fit perfectly. My girls are strong. Strong like I was when I was ten.
One day I realized it wasn't just a nostalgic longing I felt as I watched my girls climb and soar. I wanted to be out there on the mat.
But I was fat. Fatter than I'd ever been in my life except when with child. All the woman I saw out there were decidedly not fat. Yeah some weren't skinny but none of them mirrored my proportions. I've done a lot of things outside of my comfort zone this year in terms of moving the body. I tried belly dancing. I ran in front of about fifty Jr. High students. I refused to shun the pool because of who I looked in a bathing suit. But this idea, to take a class in aerial dance, pushed all my anxiety buttons.
Overtime I started to see that some of the younger kids were big too. And I watched the instructors treat them with the same respect and care as they did all the other kids.
So I just watched. I thought about taking a class. Talked about it a lot with Ann, Camille and Jude's amazing tutor, whom I trust with my feelings about my body. She encouraged me. Assured me I could do it.
"I'm not strong enough," I told her one day.
"The whole point is to get stronger," she said.
"I'm fat," I finally confessed the real reason I hesitated.
"So what? Trapeze is for all bodies."
I didn't really believe her. Didn't believe her for me at least. I believed her when I saw those big kids soar and work. Believed her when she worked with Jude and her low muscle tone. I just couldn't believe her about me because I didn't believe it about myself.
And then one day she talked to me about body positivity. The studio wanted to make sure they were getting it right. That moved me. Pushed me a little closer into that circle of trust. See my trust issues don't come from me not trusting my body. I don't trust many other people with my body. Especially exercise people. I am not unaware of how people feel about fat bodies. They think they're weak, and they mock them when they move. I always kept to exercise that didn't expose me to the gaze of others. No group classes. And if it was a group class, I tried to stick with things that seemed to fit my body. I don't knock this inclination because it's about being safe. My relationship with my body already fragile rests on a precarious line between loathing and acceptance. Ann, already stuck out in terms of trust because she's a thin woman. I don't usually feel safe with thin woman. But Ann disarmed me. And when she came to me to talk about getting it right, I felt myself wondering again if maybe just maybe I could give into the urge to get on that damn bar.
Maybe what pushed me over that line came from watching my girls. Camille worked harder than I've ever seen her work this fall. Determined to do her routine with all the difficult moves, she put herself in Ann's hands and went over the moves again and again. Jude's sheer joy from trapeze reminded me that I once knew the joy of spinning and swinging. Jude trusts Ann as well. Completely with great love. Maybe I needed to trust them too. Trust that they would be okay with my fat body out there trying to do these things.
I signed up. My class starts next week and I'm equal parts terrified and excited. A very fat girl on a bar seems like an unlikely thing to me. But I am going to push away from the loathing to the accepting. Push through to trusting that my body can do some of these things. Perhaps people will laugh at me, doubt me. That's okay. I'm not doing this for them. I'm doing it for me. But I'm also doing it to say "fuck fear."